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Wednesday, 7 November 1973

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise) - A question was raised tonight by Senator Greenwood. He raised the same question last night on the adjournment at 7 o'clock. Following that adjournment debate there was a meeting of the Estimates Committee which dealt with a number of matters relating to the Prime Minister's Department and I think it did not finish until about half past 10. I was present. Senator Greenwood, although a member of the Committee, I think was not there. No doubt he had other duties to perform. Today, I was in this Parliament House at about 9 a.m. and I have worked throughout the whole day. I have had an officer actually wanting me to deal with some questions, the answers to which had been drafted by the Department, and the officer is still waiting because he has not been able to get my attention to the questions as I have been engaged on other matters all day except for the one brisk walk that Senator Turnbull suggested; I have also adopted his other advice about diet.

I think we must be a bit sensible about these things. If Senator Greenwood wants to speak on the adjournment motion every night, then he is welcome to do so. I have said that as to certain questions it seemed to me a matter to be considered whether answers should be given while the Select Committee was investigating the subject. In relation to some of the matters in question, I know that evidence has been given before the Select Committee and the honourable senator has been attending the Committee by proxy or, I trust, by now he has access to some record of the evidence before the Committee. He could see what evidence has been given to the Committee about various questions- searches and so on- by the New South Wales police and by the Commonwealth police, and how these matters arose. Maybe it is appropriate that some of those questions not be answered. However, I said I would give some consideration to that matter.

As to other questions, I think that probably they could be answered and I will endeavour to answer them. The honourable senator must be aware that a great number of things are happening in regard to the legislative program. I have duties to attend to not only in the Department; I have to deal with my own affairs and also give advice to other Ministers on other questions which arise. It simply is not always possible to drop everything to attend immediately to what the honourable senator suggests.

Senator Greenwood - Five months is not a reasonable time to remain silent.

Senator MURPHY - I know that the honourable senator has referred to 5 months andI know that I said last night that I would do my best to attend to the questions, some of which I think could well be answered. He made a point of saying that the record was not very good, but in defence of what I said I should remind him that I referred to questions and said that all except a very small fraction of them had been answered. I was not speaking only of questions on notice but also of questions without notice, and I especially referred to the enormous number of questions which had been answered on the subject matter which the honourable senator is still pursuing. I will do my best, as I indicated last night. If I can get some answers to questions tomorrow, I shall do so. However I must inform the honourable senator that when I look at what I have to do tomorrow I am also horrified at the amount of time which has to be spent on other matters. I think the honourable senator would much better serve the dignity of the Senate if he were not to get up every night when the adjournment of the Senate is moved to complain about the subject matter. I have listened to what he has said. I see that there is a certain amount of force in it and will do my best. If he wants to speak on the motion for the adjournment every night, if he thinks that that is the way that he should conduct himself, that is a matter for him.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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