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Friday, 16 June 1989
Page: 4293

Senator GILES(3.49) —I present the eighteenth report of the Standing Committee of Privileges entitled Possible Interference with witnesses in consequence of their giving evidence before the Senate Select Committee on Administration of Aboriginal Affairs, together with three volumes of relevant documents. A list of the documents tabled is included at appendix A to the report. A limited number of copies of the documents is available from the Senate Tables Office.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator GILES —I seek leave to move a motion relating to the report.

Leave granted.

Senator GILES —I move:

That the Senate endorse the findings contained in paragraph 66 of the report.

This report of the Committee is made in response to a resolution of the Senate on the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Chaney, on 3 November 1988, referring certain resolutions passed by the Aboriginal Development Commission in May and October 1988 and the transfer of Mr M. O'Brien from the position of General Manager of the Commission to the Committee to establish whether those actions constituted a contempt of the Senate in that they involved an improper interference with witnesses. As the report and the extensive documentation accompanying the report indicate, the matters before the Committee were extraordinarily complex, requiring considerable and detailed examination of the material that the Committee had available to it.

The Committee's findings, which are summarised at paragraph 66 of the report, are as follows:

66. In relation to term of reference (1) (a) (resolution of 23 May 1988), the Committee has found that the resolution was not passed by the Aboriginal Development Commission with the intention of interfering with witnesses proposing to give evidence to a Senate committee. Therefore, no contempt of the Senate has been committed. (paragraph 39)

In relation to term of reference (1) (b) (presentation of papers and submissions), the Committee has found that, on the basis that members of the Aboriginal Development Commission were not sufficiently aware of the implications and ramifications of the resolution, no contempt of the Senate has been committed and that the explanation and apology, contained in a further resolution of the Commission tabled by the President of the Senate on 20 October 1988, should be accepted. (paragraph 41)

In relation to term of reference (1) (c) (resolution of no confidence in Mrs S. McPherson), the Committee has concluded that, in the particular circumstances of the case, a finding that a contempt of the Senate has been committed should not be made. (paragraph 57)

In relation to paragraph (1) (d) (proposed transfer of Mr M. O'Brien), the Committee has found that no contempt of the Senate has been committed, in that any penalty or injury caused to Mr O'Brien was not inflicted in consequence of his giving evidence to the Select Committee. (paragraph 65)

The reasons for the Committee's conclusion in relation to the terms of reference may be found in paragraphs 33 to 65 of the report.

Honourable senators may recall that the Committee of Privileges has reported on six other references since we received the matter on which we have reported today. This extra workload on the officers of the Senate and on the Committee has not in any respect retarded the completion of this particular reference, which has been dealt with at each of the approximately 20 meetings held over the last eight months. All Committee members have been acutely conscious of the fact that we had a duty to all concerned with this reference to deal with the matters as expeditiously as possible. We are tabling the report immediately upon its completion.

I wish to pay a sincere tribute to the Deputy Clerk of the Senate, Anne Lynch, and to her staff. As Secretary to the Committee, her meticulous and tireless efforts have made it possible for us to deal thoroughly with the mass of material which we have tabled, every piece of which had serious significance. This was a formidable challenge to which Anne and her assistants, Christine McDonald and later David Creed, rose magnificently. The Committee is also very grateful to the Clerk, Mr Harry Evans, for his prompt and scholarly response to requests for advice and to Mr Theo Simos, QC, whose counsel was of great assistance to our deliberations. I commend the report to the Senate and seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave not granted.