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Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Page: 52

Senator FAULKNER (3:55 PM) —I present the 121st report of the Committee of Privileges, entitled Possible unauthorised disclosure of draft reports of Community Affairs References Committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator FAULKNER —I seek leave to move a motion relating to the report.

Leave granted.

Senator FAULKNER —I move:

That the Senate endorse the findings at paragraph 1.36 of the 121st report of the Committee of Privileges.

This report involves references relating to the unauthorised disclosure of two separate draft reports of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee. The matter of particular concern to the Committee of Privileges was that each report had been leaked to a favoured journalist before either of them had been considered by the community affairs committee as a whole.

Notwithstanding the potentially serious nature of the disclosure, in the first case only two of the members regarded the issue as so serious that it should be raised as a matter of privilege. Although the second matter was referred on behalf of the community affairs committee, several members, when asked directly by the Committee of Privileges, did not regard the unauthorised disclosure as constituting substantial actual or potential interference with the operations of the committee. These attitudes brought into focus a matter which has concerned the Committee of Privileges for some time: the question whether unauthorised disclosure of committee deliberations and draft reports should be regarded as constituting a substantial interference, thereby constituting contempt of the Senate.

As a consequence, and also because two members of the privileges committee were, because of their membership of the community affairs committee, unable to participate in its deliberations, the committee has decided that it needs to examine the whole question in isolation from consideration of individual cases. For this reason, at the end of my statement in support of the motion I have just moved, I intend to seek leave to give a notice of motion to refer the question to the Committee of Privileges. In the meantime, for the reasons set out in the report, particularly at paragraph 1.34, the committee has decided that it should not find contempts in respect of the matters referred. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.