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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5166

Senator BRANDIS (12:36 PM) —Mr President, might I at the start indicate that I completely agree with what Senator Macdonald said, in particular the last observation he made. That is incontrovertibly so. If a minister says, ‘I am not going to answer this question,’ then, whatever else they may say, it is not an answer to the question. Can I direct you, Mr President, to the penultimate paragraph of your statement. Might I respectfully suggest that, although the distinction between relevance and responsiveness is a real distinction, the manner in which it is expressed by you in this statement is so broadly cast that it seems almost to define the possibility of irrelevance out of existence.

So, Mr President, what I request of you, having regard to the argument developed in the penultimate paragraph of your statement, is for you to come back to the Senate with another statement in which you define ‘irrelevance’. If ‘relevance’ means what you say it means in the penultimate paragraph of this statement it is almost inconceivable that you would treat any answer as irrelevant. And yet we have a standing order requiring that answers be ‘directly relevant’. So would you, Mr President, by way of example, give the Senate some guidance on what would be considered to be irrelevance.