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Wednesday, 11 September 1985
Page: 462


Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(3.38) —Mr President, I dissociate myself and my Party from Senator Missen's attack on the Clerks of the chamber. I totally support what you have just said about them. I join Senator Haines, Senator Durack and Senator Gareth Evans in complimenting you on the action you have taken.

I enter the debate very briefly simply to explain an interjection I made during the speech of Senator Durack which he was good enough to answer. As a Victorian non-laywer I asked why an obscure Supreme Court judge should be able to put in doubt overnight a tradition or a convention held for centuries and then this Parliament not be able to debate it. I find some injustice or something silly about that. When I used the word `obscure' about the judge in mind I was not in any way being offensive. I was saying simply that the think seemed to be totally out of balance. The more I hear Senator Missen speak on this matter the more persuaded I am as to the justification for my interjection and my concern and the more persuaded I am that, notwithstanding events before the appeal court at the moment, this Senate ought to give urgent consideration to Senator Macklin's Bill, which will enshrine in law what has been the convention for centuries. I find it absolutely amazing that Senator Missen is saying it is a shocking thing to amend the law simply because we think it is wrong. I find that an incredible proposition. That is what we are here for all the time. I would have thought that one of the functions of Parliament was to correct laws which are found to be faulty or bad. Having been a member of several parliamentary committees in my career, I view this statement by you, Mr President, as very disturbing:

The judgment and the subsequent conduct of the proceedings before Mr Justice Cantor also appear to indicate that evidence or documents given by a person to a parliamentary committee, including unpublished evidence given during in camera proceedings, may subsequently be used against that person through cross-examination in criminal proceedings in which that person is the defendant.

Senator Missen, as is his wont-I commend him for it-came to the aid of the underdog in this respect. Surely a person who has the guts to attend voluntarily a Senate committee to give evidence should not be put in jeopardy by finding that he has no protection before a court of law before which he might be a defendant. If Senator Missen says that that is the law and it should not be amended, I find myself totally at variance with his views. In conclusion, I repeat what was contained in my interjection on Senator Durack, to which he generously responded; that is, I hope there may be some way in which this matter can be referred to the Privileges Committee or some other committee in the meantime so the work can proceed within this Parliament to correct the kind of apprehension that you, Mr President, quite rightly and properly, on the advice of your Clerks, made in your report.

Debate (on motion by Senator Robertson) adjourned.