Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 17 August 1989
Page: 228


The PRESIDENT —Pursuant to the procedures provided by the resolutions of the Senate of 25 February 1988, Senators Hamer, Teague and Newman have written to me raising a matter of privilege. The matter raised is an alleged unauthorised disclosure of a report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade before the presentation of the report to the Senate.

Under the Senate's resolutions, I am required to determine whether a motion to refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges should have precedence over other business. In making this determination I am required to have regard to the following criteria:

(a) the principle that the Senate's power to adjudge and deal with contempts should be used only where it is necessary to provide reasonable protection for the Senate and its committees and for senators against improper acts tending substantially to obstruct them in the performance of their functions, and should not be used in respect of matters which appear to be of a trivial nature or unworthy of the attention of the Senate; and

(b) the existence of any remedy other than that power for any act which may be held to be a contempt.

In making determinations in the past, I have indicated to the Senate the way in which I have interpreted and applied these criteria. I have given precedence to motions relating to matters which are capable of being regarded by the Senate as meeting the criteria in paragraph (a), provided that there is no readily available other remedy.

The matter raised is clearly capable of being regarded by the Senate as meeting those criteria, if the facts are as alleged. The unauthorised disclosure of a document confidential to a committee, which includes a report not yet presented to the Senate, is declared by the Senate's resolutions to be a matter which may be treated as a contempt. The Senate has in the past treated such unauthorised disclosure of committee documents as a contempt. There is no readily available other remedy.

I have therefore determined that a motion to refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges should have precedence over other business. Any of the honourable senators who wrote to me may now give a notice of motion.