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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6300

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (9:51 PM) — People have said to me that I should answer Senator Stott Despoja's question. I really was not being difficult, but I do not have the authority to tell COAG what to do. I said that I would make sure that COAG was aware of the Senate's request that the document be made public and given to the Senate. One of my staff has already put a note in his pocket to write a letter to the Prime Minister—a letter which we hope not just the Prime Minister will see but which will go to the Prime Minister and then to COAG, saying that that is the intent of the Senate. I was not being dismissive of Senator Stott Despoja's request, but I was going, in the politest possible way, through the Prime Minister, to ask COAG to make the document public. I cannot instruct them to do that.

I think that is sufficient. Obviously, other people in the chamber will not think that is sufficient, but I believe that I made my response clear to Senator Stott Despoja. Senator Stott Despoja is nodding that it was clear, that I did answer her request. She can speak for herself as to whether she agrees, but I thought that was a reasonable response and I intend to write to the Prime Minister to draw his attention to the chamber's indication that it would like COAG to present the document publicly and to the parliament. So I believe I did answer the question.