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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 959

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It refers to the tabling of documents in the Senate yesterday by Senator Walsh which has already been the subject of questions by Senator Chaney. Will the Minister say on behalf of the Government whether the purported copies of cheque forms and butts provide the basis for any suggestion of impropriety or wrong-doing by any of the individuals or organisations allegedly named on them?

Senator BUTTON —I am unable to say at this stage whether they provide substance to any innuendo or allegation against any person-I forget the exact expression that the honourable senator used-

Senator Durack —Impropriety or wrong-doing.

Senator BUTTON —Yes, but I am trying to recall the category of person identified in the question. If it is confined to members of parliament, I am unable to say at this stage whether any conclusion can be drawn about impropriety or wrongdoing on the part of any person. I wish to have further discussions with some of my colleagues on that matter.

Senator DURACK —I ask a supplementary question. In view of the extreme importance of this matter which concerns the tabling of documents by one of the senior Ministers of the Government, I ask the Leader of the Government whether he is going to make his inquiries and provide a statement to the Senate in relation to my question before we get up today?

Senator BUTTON —I think the answer to that question must be no, because I would want to make thorough inquiries, not the sorts of inquiries which Senator Durack talks about. I just make the point that there is nothing in the Standing Orders which requires any senator, including a Minister, to vouch for the authenticity of documents.

Honourable senators interjecting-

Senator BUTTON —If I could complete my answer. I will repeat what I said. There is nothing within the Standing Orders which requires any senator or Minister to vouch for the authenticity of documents. I would not seek to rely on the Standing Orders in respect of this matter. If I had been given the courtesy of being allowed to complete the answer there would not have been a need to have this answer expanded. Indeed, people complained about this practice yesterday. Of course, people in this place rely on the Standing Orders. However, I do not think in this case that it is necessarily appropriate to do so.