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Monday, 11 November 2002
Page: 5880

Senator FERGUSON (3:11 PM) —by leave—I am very surprised that Senator Cook would be so precious as to raise this issue again on receipt of your report, Mr President, looking into what he complained about when we were tabling our report. I am surprised Senator Cook is so precious when, as those of us who have been in the chamber for a long time know, parliamentary language—or unparliamentary language—is something that Senator Cook should feel quite comfortable with. I distinctly remember chairing a Senate estimates committee a couple of years ago when, at one o'clock in the morning, Senator Cook used some of the most unparliamentary language I have ever heard and then tried to get out of it by saying he believed in what he was saying. I cannot believe that Senator Cook would be that precious when in fact he knows, as well as those of us who are on the committee know, that it took 2½ months to write a chairman's draft report, which we never saw in its finality before it was tabled. He had 2½ months to write his report and, at the very meeting when we were asked to endorse the report, it was not in its finality because there were still changes being made to it. That was after 2½ months. Those who were writing the government senators' report had a couple of weeks to do theirs, once they got the bulk of the report that had been drafted by Senator Cook. I am absolutely amazed that Senator Cook would be so petulant as to get up and claim that government senators have used unparliamentary language in a report which in fact was only describing what was put together in the majority report, as he claims it to be, and we all know that that report, which claimed to be a minority report, was actually Senator Cook's report. If you read the Hansard carefully, when I was making my contribution on the tabling of the report, Senator Cook interjected twice and said, `It's my report! It's my report!' If you read Hansard they are exactly Senator Cook's words and I took note of them. He said, `It's my report!'

Senator Cook —Mr President, I raise a point of order. There ought to be a rule in this place that honourable senators accurately report matters. It was the report of the committee—and a majority of the committee— and any allegation to the contrary is untrue.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order, Senator Cook. Senator Ferguson, I will review the Hansard but I do not believe there is any point of order.

Senator FERGUSON —Mr President, had I known that Senator Cook was going to raise this, I would have brought along the Hansard where Senator Cook interjected when I was speaking on the tabling of that report. When I said it was his report, he said, `No, it's a majority report'. About one page later in Hansard, he interjected and said, `You're talking about my report!' Twice he said, `It's my report,' which is exactly what it was—it was Senator Cook's report, which was skimmed over very carefully by Senator Bartlett. I am not sure whether Senator Murphy ever read the lot but, in fact, they decided that they could agree in principle with most of what was being said anyway. For Senator Cook to get up in this parliament and suggest that unparliamentary language was being used in our report for any motives other than describing accurately what took place, when much of the hard work in that report was done by Senator Brandis—the report was written by the senators themselves and Senator Brandis and Senator Mason spent many hours making sure that the government senators' report was put in place—is hypocritical. For Senator Cook, a senator who himself has been guilty of using the worst parliamentary language I have heard in this place, to be so petulant on this occasion as to suggest anything otherwise is very hypocritical.

The PRESIDENT —Thank you, Senator, but I think you would understand that unparliamentary language, however it appears, is against the standing orders.