Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 15 October 1974
Page: 1720

Senator MISSEN (Victoria) - I want to raise with the Senate a matter which I think should not go beyond this day unanswered. It was raised this morning when the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs was put down in the Senate and when a motion was moved that the Senate take note of the report. I shall not speak about the report to which I am happy to be a signatory. Nor shall I speak about the debate. But remarks were made this morning by Senator Greenwood in relation to the procedures which had been adopted by the Committee. I think those remarks should not go unattended this evening lest there be-

Senator McAuliffe - Unrest in the camp.

Senator MISSEN - This is a matter on which I am expressing my view. This morning Senator Greenwood, quite rightly, pointed out that he had not read more than 2 pages of the report. Obviously he was uninformed about the nature and details of the report. But 3 things were said then which I think should not go uncorrected. In the first place Senator Greenwood asked whether there would be a sufficient number of the report available for people to see. I am sure I speak for all members of the Committee when I say the Committee realises that the report will be of considerable public interest and that there will be a requirement for a considerable number of copies. The Committee is aware of this and it has taken steps to see that there are such a number of copies. I am assured by the secretary of the Committee that copies will be kept ahead of demand and that they will be available for the public.

In addition it was suggested by Senator Greenwood that copies of the Bill would not be available. I know that on one occasion copies were not available and this was unfortunate. Of course copies of the Bill certainly are available with this report because, as honourable senators will have noticed, a copy was annexed to the report. Therefore it will be quite simple for people to consider the report and the Bill. So I think the feeling which Senator Greenwood had is answered because of the fact that the Committee had these matters very much in mind.

Perhaps the second matter which the honourable senator mentioned is of a more serious nature. He expressed the view that it was unfortunate that the Senate Committee had not dealt with the inquiry generally but that in its report it had dealt only with the clauses of the Bill. Senator Greenwood also said that the Committee limited itself to the clauses and that it had too narrowly construed its role. I think when one looks at the report one will see clearly that that is not so. In fact, the Committee has already brought down an interim report in which it dealt with and quoted from the general submissions. It summarised those submissions and the various proposals which had been put up by members of the public.

Senator Devitt - How many submissions did the Committee receive?

Senator MISSEN - The number is set out in the report. It is something like 109. We received a large number of letters and quite a considerable amount of public information. Or course, the interim report was brought down so that honourable senators could read the submissions which had been considered and studied by members of the Committee, including the new members. I believe that I have read all the important submissions and all the evidence which was given before the Committee. I believe that while considering the clauses of the Bill we had very much in our minds the inquiry generally and the submissions. Of course, the fact is that when one looks at the 3 Bills which have been presented to the Senate on this subject and if one reads the submissions, time and again one will see that the submissions and ideas have gone into the Bills. They have come in and varying Bills have shown the varying results of the submissions.

In its whole consideration of the Bill the Committee has looked at the submissions. It has kept them in mind. I believe that it has produced results which will satisfy the great bulk of the submissions which were made. I suppose we could have given a general treatise on the submissions which were made. We could have presented to the Senate perhaps a report of 140 pages instead of 40 pages. But we believe that what we have submitted is really succinct. It covers the submissions which have been made. So I do not think it can be said that the inquiry has not been reported on.

The third thing which Senator Greenwood said was that people feel let down because this Committee did not ask for further general submissions and did not advertise. Or course the Committee did not advertise. When it was formed immediately before the recess it was given instructions. It was told to report back in a month's time. It was well publicised and well known that the Committee had been re-formed for that purpose. The Committee knew that it had the general submissions and that it would get detailed submissions on the Bill from various groups and organisations. It did that. When the secretary of the Committee was asked he encouraged organisations to write to the Committee. They did this and every such submission was looked into and taken into account by members of the Committee

I think there was some mild criticism because the Committee had a number of lawyers before it and because it did not invite or seek out witnesses while it was carrying out this stage of its investigation into the clauses of the Bill. The Committee had before it a number of people of very capable ability who are lawyers. They are familiar with the material involved in family law. They assisted the Committee in the work which it was really doing. That was the purpose for which the Committee was formed. It did that. The background submissions which had been made were in the minds of all members of the Committee. Finally, it was said that there was blame lying on the Committee for not having done this. If there is any blame I am sure I and any other member of the Committee will readily accept it. We believe we have done a pretty massive job in a matter of weeks. We believe these things ought to be brought to a head at a reasonably early stage. We believe indeed that it is better to put an end to investigations and to come forward with suggestions that might do something to take away some of the heat and shed some light on the public controversies about this subject. I feel that before this night ends we should clarify those criticisms, which I think are illfounded.

Suggest corrections