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Thursday, 5 April 1984
Page: 1258


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(12.15) —I rise briefly to support the amendment moved by Senator Lewis. There is patently an urgency that this debate should continue and the motion be put to the vote. Indeed, the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) has indicated that it is important that the Senate debate and the expression of the Senate should be made known to the State Ministers when they meet tomorrow. I ask the Attorney-General, as a matter of imperative need, to ensure that the Hansard of the whole debate be made available for perusal by the State Ministers before they reach their conclusions.


Senator Gareth Evans —What were we doing all day yesterday? There was a cognate debate all day yesterday.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —The Attorney-General asks, by way of interjection: ' What were we doing all day yesterday?' All day yesterday we were under the impression, which was clearly given by the Attorney-General and the Whip to me, that we would have a full debate and that we would vote on the issue. So we know what we were doing yesterday; we were debating an important subject that had an urgency to it, an urgency which is implicit in Senator Lewis's amendment, that the expression of the Senate should be given to the State Ministers. There is now even more urgency because the debate has opened up a series of problems far wider than the two hasty clandestine amendments that were sneaked in last night by the Attorney-General.


Senator Gareth Evans —There was only one and it was not clandestine. It was the most open exchange of views we have had in a long time.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —On the contrary, at no stage yesterday did the Attorney-General have the courtesy to inform the Senate in a debate that was proceeding that he intended to take steps which would be imperative to the substance of the debate. That was a grave and gross discourtesy to this chamber. Let it be known: The amendment was certainly clandestine; nothing else. If there is a duty of a Minister to this chamber it is to respect the substance of the debate. To do something that is an insult to this chamber is, of course, part of the pattern and par for the course. To now say that there is no need to have a continuation of the debate and no need to put the matter to a vote is to imply that State Ministers are to draw a conclusion that the Senate is satisfied by the expedient amendments of last night. Fundamentally, the debate itself could not have shown in any way that by those two steps, whatever their merits, that is so. I give an example of that because I want to direct myself purely to the urgency aspect and not to the substance.

The question that was implicit throughout the debate was a statement by the Attorney-General that there would be some absolute values and sanctions, and that a line would be drawn in a particular place. But the public outside had been arguing that the line might be drawn somewhere else; that, in fact, this is a wider and much more important subject. I wonder whether the Attorney-General and Senator Mason are interested in rejecting, for example, the views of a body called the New South Wales Women's Advisory Council. That body was set up by Mr Wran. It is scarcely some kind of prudish body; scarcely some body that is not representative of people. That body said fundamentally one thing; that the categories excluded were not good enough by far. The Council did not direct itself only to the word 'extreme' in terms of extreme violence. The Council said that material showing 'sexually explicit subordination of women, including showing women as things, commodities or objects' ought to be excluded. That is a pretty important kind of subject, is it not? What is happening is that the Senate is being invited to say to the Ministers meeting tomorrow: 'We have tidied this up. We had a debate and a couple of factors emerged'--


Senator Gareth Evans —Back to the Middle Ages.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Including a very garrulous Attorney-General, who is in retreat as always. We have tidied it up in terms of the word 'extreme' and in terms of making something compulsory. But, fundamentally, making a category compulsory does not enforce it. Indeed it does not get to the very heart of this .

What is the Government doing to prevent video tapes, which parents would reject as inappropriate for juveniles, getting into the hands of those juveniles through corrupt measures? Nothing has happened. That is the very essence-the very guts, to use an Australianism-of the debate. Nothing has been resolved. The Australian Democrats can take no pride in this because they have failed to get to the important point: How do we protect juveniles in this situation? Secondly, how do we draw the line between what should and should not be excluded? Thirdly, how do we enforce those decisions? None of those questions has been asked or answered. In order to get what looks like an expedient result to save the face of the Attorney-General, there has been a compact between them to close the debate. It is a disgraceful tactic on the part of Senator Mason and his people. Let it be said that throughout the whole of this debate they have not directed themselves to the substance of the material. They are now, by a form of larrikinism, trying to force the people of Australia to believe that what they have done is good and wholesome and solves the problem. It does nothing of the kind. There is an urgency today that we express to the State Ministers tomorrow the grave concern of the Senate not only about the word 'extreme', not only about the compulsory or voluntary methods, but also about the whole range of matters. By this device of adjourning, the Democrats are trying to exclude that.


Senator Mason —Do you want to pre-empt that meeting?


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Senator Mason, in one of his usual inane interjections , said: 'Do you want to pre-empt that meeting?' He asks that now. The fact is that what we want to do is to bring the views of the Senate to that meeting. Do the Democrats not want to bring the collective views of the Senate to that meeting? Do they want to pre-empt a situation in which that is so? Let me test this. I will ask the Attorney-General to give an assurance to the Senate that the whole of the transcript of this debate be made available to the State Ministers in time for them to read it before they actually come to their deliberations. I ask him to acknowledge that that will be done. I hope I do not have to take procedures in this place to see that it is done. Could I have his assurance on this?


Senator Gareth Evans —Certainly. No problem. I have already made arrangements for yesterday's Hansard. Whether they will get today's in time I do not know.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —The Attorney-General will acknowledge that to this point in the debate I have tried to keep the substance of this debate non- combative. It is a great pity indeed that the intervention of the Democrats has made it into a form of warfare. They can take no credit for this. What was a very important debate on human values which was imperative to the understanding of the State Ministers tomorrow-it should not have been a debate on a word or two words but a whole debate on the philosophy of human values which was to be expressed to the State Ministers-has been denied to the Ministers by the action of the Democrats. When they vote against this amendment, it does not get them off the hook. They have not solved the problem.

The aim was to have the status quo restored until a new situation had been developed. It is the normal practice of a parliament, and the Democrats must know this, that when something is being challenged, when it is shown to have grave defects as this has been shown to have grave defects, one resorts to the status quo while the new initiative is planned and implemented. What is happening is that instead the Democrats have refused to do that. They have taken part in a snide arrangement resulting in a patched-up situation.


Senator Mason —It is still under review.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Here is another interjection from Senator Mason. My goodness, the brain fever birds are busy in this community. Those who know the habits of the brain fever birds can understand how the Democrats get their candidates. Senator Mason, by interjection, said: 'The fact is that it is still under review'. How much more important is it that the yeasting should have been allowed to go on, that the problems that still remain should be brought to the surface and a message sent to the Ministers? But no, none of the yeasting, none of the bringing out of the other points is allowed because the gag will be applied.

The fact is that the clear understanding of the Democrats, given and accepted in good faith, was that this debate would proceed to a conclusion, there would be a vote and the expression of that vote would be conveyed to the State Ministers. Let this be on the heads of the Democrats. At least the Attorney- General has given an undertaking, and I respect it, that the transcripts will be made available to the Ministers so that they will have an understanding of it. Let it be understood by those Ministers that the Senate is far from satisfied that what happened last night is in any way an approach to the totality of this subject. It is looking at pimples and not looking at the body politic itself. In my judgment, the action of the Democrats is a disgrace. I therefore support Senator Lewis's amendment. (Quorum formed)

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Lewis's amendment) be left out.