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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2605

Senator MISSEN —The Minister representing the Attorney-General is aware, no doubt, that yesterday the Attorney-General tabled in the other House the annual report on freedom of information. It was not tabled here today because no papers were presented. The report is five months overdue. Three weeks ago Mr Bowen explained to me that he did not know why the report had not been tabled. Is the Minister aware that there is one roneoed copy of the report in the Senate Records Office which honourable senators can look at but cannot take away and that, despite the fact that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs now has a reference to deal with this matter, neither members of that Committee nor the public can obtain copies of the report apparently until after Christmas? Is this a deliberate insult to the Parliament?

Senator WALSH —I want to separate the question of an insult to the Parliament from the question of an insult to the Senate. As it so happens it is an insult to neither, but one would certainly be entitled to insult the Senate on this question since it decided that it would take control of outlays out of the hands of the Government by disallowing a regulation on freedom of information.

Senator Chaney —Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. The Minister in his answer so far has reflected on a vote of the Senate. It is clearly out of order and should be withdrawn.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The Minister is reflecting on a vote of the Senate. I ask him to cease that line of reply and to answer the question in another way.

Senator WALSH —Mr Deputy President, if you say that I am reflecting on a vote of the Senate, I accept your admonition and I withdraw. However, the fact does remain that it ought to be a matter of very serious political concern in Australia that a group which is not responsible in a fiscal sense has control over fiscal policy and expenditure. That ought to be a very serious item, high on the political agenda. As for the other part of the honourable senator's question, I do not know whether there is only one copy in the Senate Records and Table Office.

Senator Teague —What is the Parliament for?

Senator Tate —What is the Government for?

Senator WALSH —I distinguish between the Parliament and the Senate, because the House of Representatives is quite different from the Senate, and just as well too. If the same level of irresponsibility that normally prevails here prevailed in the House of Representatives, the country would be in an even bigger mess than it was when Mr Howard was the Treasurer. As for the question about how many copies there are, I will refer that to the Attorney-General and obtain an answer.