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Wednesday, 18 September 1985
Page: 687

The PRESIDENT —Order! Yesterday afternoon Senator Michael Baume made a personal explanation on the basis that he had been affected adversely by the Hansard staff attributing to the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) two words that in fact were not said by the Minister in an answer to a question without notice recorded at page 543 of the Daily Hansard of 16 September. I told the Senate that I would discuss the matter with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and report to the Senate. I did discuss the matter with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, who confirmed that, as Senator Baume said and as a senior officer of the Hansard staff had acknowledged to Senator Baume, the two words were not said by the Minister for Finance. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter also confirmed that neither the Minister nor any member of his staff had asked for any changes to be made to the Hansard typescript of the Minister's answer.

The Principal Parliamentary Reporter informed me that, in fact, the two words were inserted by the Hansard reporter in the course of transcription of her shorthand notes in order to make the words actually used into a sentence and that the words so inserted were consistent with words used in two other sentences in which the Minister said that a stockbroking firm became insolvent. I do not doubt that the Hansard reporter acted in accordance with traditional and long accepted Hansard reporting custom and practice in making the change that she made. However, having listened to a tape recording of the relevant part of the proceedings, I am of the view that the words that were actually used by the Minister were open to the interpretation which Senator Baume placed on them and which justified him in asking at the time that the statement be withdrawn, namely, that he had become insolvent-an interpretation which he claimed was offensive to him and on which the Chair ordered withdrawal. Accordingly, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter has agreed that the record should not be allowed to stand as it is in the Daily Hansard and he will ensure that the two words are not included in the official weekly Hansard.

Also yesterday afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) asked me to report to the Senate on the rules that govern Hansard alterations. The editorial instructions issued by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter for the guidance of members of the Hansard staff state:

The aim should be to produce a rational verbatim report-a report which, in terms of the definition given in May's Parliamentary Practice, `. . . though not strictly verbatim, is substantially the verbatim report, with repetitions and redundancies omitted and with obvious mistakes corrected, but which on the other hand leaves out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates the argument.'

They also set out some of the basic principles to be followed in the reporting and editing of speeches, namely: As far as possible, use the words used by the speaker; be able to justify every change you make; many difficulties can be overcome by changing the order of the words; and the report should reflect the style of the speaker rather than that of the reporter and the supervisor. The rules in relation to alterations by senators to the Hansard typescripts or `pinks' are set out quite succinctly on the slip that accompanies the typescript, as follows:

Necessary corrections may be made, but alterations of sense or the introduction of new matter are not admissible.