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Tuesday, 29 August 1989
Page: 470


Senator TEAGUE —by leave-Mr President, I claim to have been misrepresented. I wish to make a brief personal explanation. On Friday, 18 August, the last sitting day of the Senate, the Adelaide Advertiser had the gall to publish an editorial about my conduct in the Senate in referring to you a matter for consideration, which led to the Senate giving to the Privileges Committee a reference with regard to the alleged breaking of Standing Orders in relation to the publication of a Senate committee report prior to its being presented in the Senate. The gist of the editorial is that I wished to be a secretive politician and to stop the public dissemination of a Senate committee's report, which is nonsense. I wrote a letter of reply, which the Advertiser published last Wednesday. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard that editorial and that reply, as I believe they touch upon matters which will be considered by the Privileges Committee.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows-

EDITORIAL OPINION

Friday, August 18, 1989

State safety comes first

South Australians have a right to know if safety is endangered by nuclear ship visits. A State representative, Senator Baden Teague, seems to think otherwise.

The Senate standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade, of which he is a member, produced a report recommending that nuclear ships be banned from Port Adelaide until safety could be established.

It is possible that the report is based on outdated information, and is unacceptable to the Government; but its thrust is a matter of public concern here, and The Advertiser published relevant findings.

Following our publication, the report was tabled in the Senate, and the President, Senator Sibraa, accepted Senator Teague's argument that the privileges committee should investigate whether there had been an unauthorised disclosure.

There is, of course, a monumental hypocrisy involved: politicians will leak furiously to the media when it suits their purposes.

And if there is any breach of parliamentary privilege it is surely to be found in the committee members or whoever released the information-not in the press which published that information in the public interest.

However, our real concern is not the games Senator Teague wants to play but the safety of the State.

We look, then, to the State Government. And what do we find? Marine Minister Bob Gregory admits he hasn't actually investigated the matter but, yes, the Government would be ``reluctant'' to allow into Port Adelaide ships which were nuclear powered or carrying nuclear weapons.

This is head in sand. In principle, there is no reason to retreat from the official Australian position that hosting warships from Britain and the United States is part of our defence alliance. We do not ask whether they are nuclear powered or carry nuclear warheads.

Last year, however, we saw the apathy of the State Government in an emergency services exercise which showed there were no credible plans for coping with any nuclear emergency at the Port.

We have yet to be convinced that such plans are now properly in place.

The Senate committee should be thanked for raising the matter; but, while it now seems to have become something of a game to the Canberra politicians, the citizens of South Australia will be getting on with demanding some action for their safety.

The Adelaide Advertiser, Wednesday, 23 August 1989

Letter to the Editor

Courtesy and respect

In the editorial (The Advertiser, 18/8/89) you have the gall to accuse me of hypocrisy and indirectly of being secretive and irresponsible as well. None of the charges is correct.

I am an active member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and closely pursued our inquiry into visits to our ports by nuclear-powered ships.

Our 640-page report is now published and it is the most thorough inquiry of its kind ever undertaken. I support all 39 of our recommendations including our call for all safety plans to be publicly available.

Despite the thrust of your editorial (like Don Quixote, single-handedly protecting South Australian citizenry) I should point out that no nuclear-powered ship has ever visited South Australia and no visit is planned.

Our recommendation with regard to the safety plan already in place for ship visits to Port Adelaide is solely that recent land-use developments in the vicinity of the Port be specifically reassessed to ensure the safety plan is operating as intended.

As for my motive to refer to the Senate Privileges Committee a clearly unusual and serious breach of Parliament's standing orders, I make no apology. The motion is of concern to all senators and was adopted without dissent.

Courtesy and respect are still to be expected of the press. I am a member of the Privileges Committee set up to protect the rights of citizens to give submissions to Parliament and the right of the Parliament to consider matters and publish findings in an unfettered and responsible way.

I will not be deterred by this unusual press behaviour or by your false accusations from serving the people of this State in a careful, open and responsible way.

BADEN TEAGUE,

Senator for South Australia