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Wednesday, 9 October 1985
Page: 906

Senator GEORGES —by leave-My statement is in the form of a personal explanation. I am pleased that Senator Chipp has made his statement because the nature and timing of the questions he placed on notice further complicated a matter that arose in the Senate. That matter was my response to a question by Senator Siddons naming Dr Edelsten as Dr X. I do not intend to apologise for that; I will merely give the reasons for my naming him at the time, having received the question. Every member of parliament has the right to serve and defend the public interest and individuals who come under pressure within the community. The knowledge I received after putting down the statement in the House and prior to the question being asked by Senator Siddons was that the first of a number of writs had been issued by Dr Edelsten's legal advisers in some way to prevent information from coming forward.

We in this place have a powerful privilege and we have to use it wisely. If we do not we will have to answer to the Senate Privileges Committee. There is also an obligation on those who are powerful and wealthy and who have that great privilege also to use it wisely. We were to discover that that was not the case, so I do not apologise for the naming. I did not take any action in any way to restrain Dr Edelsten or any media reporter from making comments about me. I have already made a statement about that before the Public Accounts Committee. The comment that hurt most was an editorial in the Australian which accused me of McCarthyism. That was fairly savage comment in the circumstances. The newspaper did not investigate the situation in which the question was asked and the answer was given, but subsequently an article in the Australian Financial Review exposed the real nature of the manner in which the question was asked and the answer was given. Further, a letter was published in the Australian which said that `parliamentary privilege makes cowards like George Georges'.

I still insist, Mr President and honourable senators, that we have a privilege which must be used to counter the powerful. Here was an example of an exceptionally powerful individual who, through his legal advisers, was in the process of intimidating. I am not certain whether Dr Edelsten was aware of what was going on, but when a young reporter in Canberra faces a $500,000 writ for making a comment concerning the entry of the Edelsten style of medical practice into Canberra there is an obligation on every senator knowing that to take a countermeasure. I do not resile from the fact that I identified Dr Edelsten as Dr X, he having previously been almost identified in the Senate. Nevertheless, I am grateful that Senator Chipp has put down this statement and explained and perhaps in some way corrected an injustice by making his comments.