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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3270

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Did the Attorney-General or anyone acting on his behalf change the Hansard typescript of an answer to the question that I asked him on Friday concerning ministerial responsibility over the Australian Secret Intelligence Service incident at the Sheraton Hotel by the addition of the word 'always'?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As I recall, I did make a minor amendment or two, as is common--

Opposition senators interjecting-

Senator GARETH EVANS —As is perfectly common for all honourable senators in this place, provided that, in doing so, one does not change the meaning, the substance or the context in which the answer is given.

Senator Chaney —A very good proviso.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am very puzzled that there should be indignation on this subject. It is a well known practice in this place to be given 'pinks' for the very purpose of clarifying some things which get confused from time to time. I thought it was perfectly clear, and if honourable senators will refer to the answer in question in Hansard, they will see that the answer that I gave with respect to this was perfectly clear, that it is and was my belief that the principle to which Senator Sir John Carrick was referring did have application, and that whenever an issue arose possibly justifying an application of that principle, it would be appropriate for the Ministers concerned, in those situations, to look to the circumstances of the particular case and to give anxious consideration as to whether the principle was breached. That was the point I was making. The context in which I was making it was perfectly clear, as I indicated in my personal explanation on Friday, and in reading that personal explanation I was reading from an amended copy of the Hansard in question.

Senator Chaney —Yes, you sure were.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The punctuation, as I recall, because I made a particular point of it in my personal explanation, was somewhat obscure in this particular respect and in fact it obscured a context that was perfectly clear in the language that I actually used and in the hearing of all listeners except those ill motivated points-scorers opposite who seek to derive more than can possibly be derived from the record.

Senator Chaney —You are a disgrace.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I take the opportunity, in between Senator Chaney's interjections, to make the point--

Senator Chaney —Cheat!

Senator GARETH EVANS —As I made it on Friday--

The PRESIDENT —Order! I would ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw that remark.

Senator Chaney —I withdraw, Mr President.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I make the point, as I made on Friday, that there is no question whatsoever of a belief or a skerrick of a belief in my mind that this is an appropriate case for Mr Hayden even to consider resigning. The nature of the blunder in question, spectacular as it was within the organisation, was not of a kind comparable with earlier occasions that have given rise to debate, hypocritical as it may be on this occasion, from honourable senators opposite. Moreover, the point needs to be made, and needs to be reiterated very forcefully , that Mr Hayden's reaction to those circumstances when they came to his knowledge was swift, effective and sensible in the extreme, and, indeed, has not been challenged on either side of this place and has, moreover, been specifically endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Peacock, who said that he found Mr Hayden's reaction absolutely impeccable in all the circumstances and one that he would have followed himself.

I cannot see the force of the point that is endeavouring to be made on the other side. It is a demonstration of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy, not to mention the political bankruptcy, of what honourable senators opposite have to offer.

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Does the Attorney-General assert, from his answer, that the addition of the word 'always' to his answer was a minor and inconsequential change that did not change the meaning of the words, and not an alteration--

Government senators interjecting-

The PRESIDENT —Order! I cannot hear the question.

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —I ask the Attorney-General: Did he, by his answer, assert that the addition of the word 'always' to his answer last week meant only a minor and inconsequential amendment which would not alter the meaning, and not a substantial alteration which did in fact alter wholly the meaning?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Yes, I do so assert, vigorously and strongly. There was no question of the meaning, the substance or the context in any way being altered, and indeed, were there such a suggestion, I would have expected the Hansard reporters or supervisor to come to me and say: 'To do this is not in accordance with the practice of this place'. Some of us are less honour bound than others when it comes to these matters, but all of us are honour bound to observe the conventions of this place and not to amend the written record in any way.

Senator Lewis interjecting-

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Lewis.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Senator Lewis has something to withdraw, I understand, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Lewis, I ask you to withdraw your remarks.

Senator Lewis —What did I say, Mr President?

The PRESIDENT —I shall not repeat it. I ask you to withdraw.

Senator Lewis —Whatever it was, no doubt it will be recorded in Hansard. I withdraw.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I think I have completed the point I wanted to make. There was no change whatsoever in substance. Had there been a change of substance or something as to render the context or the impression to be derived from the answer different, I would have expected that matter to be drawn to my attention. It was not.

Senator Lewis —I raise a point of personal explanation, Mr President. I have recalled that the expression I used was 'Rubbish'. I now withdraw the word ' Rubbish', but I do not think it was unparliamentary.