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Tuesday, 30 May 1989
Page: 2975

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(2.06) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the statements.

I indicate that I do not intend to promote a protracted debate at this time. I do, however, indicate that the Opposition regards this matter with great seriousness as a situation which warrants the most careful examination by the Senate and as a matter which may or may not give rise to a matter of privilege, but which almost certainly involves censurable behaviour.

On behalf of the Opposition I welcome the fact that as soon as the matter was drawn to your attention, Mr President, you took the matter up and that you have taken the matter up with the other Presiding Officer. I welcome your positive statements that action will be taken to ensure that abuses do not occur in the future. As soon as you call for notices of motion this afternoon, I will give notice of a motion, which we will seek to have dealt with at the latest tomorrow morning, calling upon Senator Schacht to leave his pathetic present position of denying the source or refusing to divulge the source of the document from which he quoted yesterday. That is a matter on which there will no doubt be debate when it is brought on tomorrow.

To the Opposition, it is apparent on the face of the statements which were made by Senator Schacht last night that there has been a gross breach of confidence in this building and that Senator Schacht was purporting to quote from a document and to give direct quotes from conversations held between senators--

Senator Walsh —This has never happened before! Party meetings are not leaked in this building!

Senator CHANEY —I hear the intervention of Senator Walsh, who talks about leaks from party meetings. Of course there are. There is a great deal of chat and gossip and passing on of information to people who are not strictly supposed to have it. But we are not dealing with that; we are dealing with the honourable senator coming in and purporting to quote from a document in the form of a transcript. It is of a totally different nature, in a building which is extensively wired for recording, if rooms in this building cannot be used with confidence that meetings are not being taped. This is a very serious matter in terms of the operation of this institution. It is a matter which the Opposition takes extremely seriously.

I make no challenge at this time to the view you have expressed, Mr President, that this is not a matter of privilege. It would be too early for me to do that, given that your own opinion has had to be based on an assumption as to the facts which is not proven. Senator Schacht has declined to table the document from which he quoted. Unfortunately the Senate was equally divided on the vote on the motion to have the document tabled yesterday.

Senator Robert Ray —Did you read his speech? He did not quote once.

Senator CHANEY —Senator Robert Ray should read Hansard and see the direct quotations from conversations. That was an absurd intervention.

In any event, Mr President, may I say that the appropriate course would be for Senator Schacht to indicate to the Senate, without there being any need of formal order, how it is that this detailed record of this meeting occurred. In the interests of the whole Parliament this matter should be dealt with on a voluntary basis rather than an enforced basis. That is a matter that is in the hands of Senator Schacht. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.