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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6287

Senator HARRADINE (8:21 PM) —If that is the way the minister wants to treat the committee stage of the bill on a very, very important matter, so be it. I intend to stand for parliamentary democracy.

Senator Patterson —Do not imply I do not; I find that offensive. Do not imply that I do not.

Senator HARRADINE —You were not even in my mind when I said that, but now you are. In fact, I believe to reject Senator Bishop's motion is to deny parliamentary democracy in this particular case. This is the problem with COAG. We requested the basis upon which COAG supported the destruction of human embryos for their stem cells. We said, `Give us the evidence as to the papers that were used and the reports that were used to provide that.' Frankly, we were not given them. We were refused permission to obtain them. Clearly, we will also be refused when it comes to a request for information provided to a private review of a very public issue. That is what I am concerned about.

I support the proposal by Senator Bishop. There is no problem about having the matter sent to parliamentarians or the parliaments of the various states. They can engage with this joint committee of the federal parliament. This is one of the problems that you are faced with in respect of those states that already have legislation—these decisions have been made thus far by the executive governments. The parliaments of those states have not really had a say in it. They have not had a say in the development of the COAG process.

I am talking as a parliamentarian now and under those circumstances I believe it behoves us, as parliamentarians, to support the proposal by Senator Bishop. If that is not supported, or even if it is supported—and it could be running in tandem with another inquiry—I will be proposing, in addition, if the minister is insisting upon proceeding with that private inquiry, to make certain amendments to that to ensure that it is public.