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Thursday, 22 August 1985
Page: 215

Senator WALTERS(8.26) —I rise only because of the interjection by Senator Giles who said that she thinks we do protesteth too much. I believe that if Government members are backing the action of Dame Roma Mitchell we need to hear that from them. I can only take it from Senator Giles's interjection that there are members of the Australian Labor Party-

Senator Giles —I agree. Let us have her side of the story.

Senator WALTERS —Senator Giles says that there is another side to the story. I beseech Senator Giles to put that other side of the story. The side of the story I know is that Neil Brown, as shadow Attorney-General, visited the department. Indeed, officers of that department welcomed him and gave him a gift, as he left.

Senator Tate —I rise on a point of order. Many of us have come prepared to debate the papers that have been presented to the Parliament. We are now getting into a debate on something which is not before us as a result of the presentation of papers. We are getting into a general debate on something that occurred in relation to a period following the period covered by the report which we are considering. I think it is a damned cheek for some senators to come in and turn this into that sort of forum.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Commentary on it is not required.

Senator Harradine —I wish to speak to the point of order. I acknowledge the point that Senator Tate made. We have before us the annual report for 1983-84 of the Human Rights Commission. It is now August 1985. I thought that we would have had the 1984-85 report by now. There is not only the matter that is being talked about now but also the question of the Human Rights Commission's activities of investigating the abortion issue in Queensland that I would have liked to have addressed. I believe it is proper for members of Parliament to discuss the activities of the Human Rights Commission if a report of that Commission is tabled, whether or not reference is made in that report to the issues that have arisen as a result of the Human Rights Commission's activities in the last year.

Senator WALTERS —I was going to suggest that it would be quite within the Standing Orders in debating the annual report of the Human Rights Commission for me to debate and bring to the attention of the Senate any action taken by the Human Rights Commission of which I am aware.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The question of relevance is very difficult for the Chair to rule on as the particular document is not before me. As a matter of principle, debates should be confined to the actual document before the Senate. There are other opportunities in the Senate's procedure for debating general issues in relation to organisations. If the debate became wider than merely consideration of the actual paper before the Senate it would be a very wide ranging debate. I am not in a position-

Senator Tate —I am not asking for a ruling; I am just appealing for general common sense.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I was merely going to say that the time for the consideration of papers has expired. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that later when we are considering General Business it would be in order to move a motion concerning any of the papers on today's list about which no motion was moved.

Senator WALTERS —I seek leave to continue my remarks later on the Human Rights Commission.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.