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Thursday, 27 June 2002
Page: 2985

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (2:13 AM) —I would like to respond to Senator Brown's amendment and throw myself at his mercy because it is true that I missed the fact that the Senate had passed an order that certain documents be tabled no later than 2 p.m. this day.

Senator Faulkner —It's already 2 a.m. the next morning. You're 12 hours late, Senator Hill.

Senator HILL —Not only were the documents not tabled but an explanation was not given to the Senate within that time frame explaining the default, Senator Faulkner. I did think that Senator Brown was a touch unfair, however, when he characterised what followed from the grievous failure to comply with the Senate's requirement—that was, when he brought it to my attention, I acted promptly and sought advice from the Minister for the Environment and Heritage on how this failure to comply could have occurred. What I was told—I have informed Senator Brown of this and have received more detail as a result of following up further discussions he and I have had—is that each of the four documents, which are basically this year's reports on a series of different things, are still in draft form. They are expected to be completed before the parliament resumes. I am told by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage that they will therefore be available for tabling on the first day of sitting in the next session.

It is not normal practice of course—and I think Senator Brown would accept that—to table documents whilst they are still in draft form and have not yet been approved by the minister. But as I said to Senator Brown, as I understand it, each of them will be made public in any event, so if they are made public in the meantime, obviously we could make an effort to specifically bring them to Senator Brown's attention. But certainly I am instructed that I can give the undertaking that they will be available for tabling on the first day of sitting in the next session. I hope in those circumstances Senator Brown might be prepared to accept that as a reasonable outcome, notwithstanding the fact that we should have made such a statement before 2 p.m. this day.