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Thursday, 17 December 1992
Page: 5357


Senator ALSTON —by leave—What Senator McMullan said in referring to me was that I have been making fanatical efforts to put something on the record that would damage the Speaker.


Senator Robert Ray —By way of interjection you did.


Senator McMullan —It wasn't in your speech.


Senator ALSTON —The honourable senator is compounding the allegation, and that is why I want to clarify the position.


Senator Robert Ray —It wasn't in your speech.


Senator ALSTON —I just want to explain this.


Senator Robert Ray —I take a point of order, Mr President. Senator Alston has used one part of the Standing Orders to make an explanation whereas in fact the intervention by Senator McMullan was to his interjection. There is nothing in the Standing Orders that allows Senator Alston to get up and explain his interjection or someone's response to it.


Senator ALSTON —I take a point of order, Mr President. Nothing was said by Senator McMullan using those words to suggest that he was only referring to an interjection on my part. He made a broad statement, which clearly is taken to refer to my speech, and I therefore seek to respond to it.


The PRESIDENT —Order! I think Senator Ray is technically right, but I find it very difficult to remember every single thing that was said. That is the problem that I have.


Senator McMullan —Before dealing with Senator Alston's right to speak on this matter, can I speak to the point of order? There was not the slightest doubt in the circumstances that I referred to a further question which Senator Alston sought to drag across the trail by way of interjection. If he wishes to have leave to explain why he made that interjection, we will give it. That is the only matter to which I was referring and, therefore, the only matter to which properly he might respond now. If he wants leave to explain why he made that interjection, we will give it to him.


The PRESIDENT —I am not in the position of remembering whether it was an interjection or whether it was part of his speech. I think that in the circumstances it might be better if your contribution were very brief, Senator Alston.


Senator ALSTON —I simply want to say that we are not seeking to prejudge anything. We seek for all of the relevant material to be put on the record, including material that will go to the matter raised by Senator Hill. It is impossible for anyone to make a sensible judgment not just on the process but also on the merits of the argument.

  I say again that $50,000 for general damages, on the face of it, suggests a very generous award. We do not want to say that it was not something that could ever be given to someone by way of settlement. We simply say that, faced with what appears to be a very high offer, the Government ought to provide the material to substantiate and justify it. That includes the material that would refute the matter that Senator Hill raised. Senator Hill suggested that a statement was made by this woman to the effect that there had been a complaint and that, indeed, the Speaker went and saw someone else who was unaware of it.

  In those circumstances, I would ask that you, Mr President, go through the file and make this material available by way of tabling so that proper and sensible judgments can be made about the merits of the claim.