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Wednesday, 1 September 1993
Page: 786


Senator CARR (4.13 p.m.) —I support the report of the Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration. Senator Campbell has just made some reasonable points. He said that he was not in agreement with all matters going to a public hearing, which of course is a position that we take. Essentially he was saying that it is a matter for judgment. What has been demonstrated here today is that there clearly is a difference of opinion on what ultimately is a matter for judgment.

  The conservative members of the Senate took the view that this matter should go to public hearing; the Labor members said that it should not. In essence, that is the point. I think that for Senator Watson to suggest that there has been some impropriety by the committee's chairman—that there has been a concocting of a report, which is what he said—is totally wrong, and I take some offence at that.

  In all the meetings in which I have participated Senator Coates has acted with the utmost courtesy and consideration for the views of the other members of the committee. At all times he has sought to involve members in proper discussions. In my experience, he has taken his responsibilities very seriously. He did not misuse his vote. On the question of the amendment, the motion was lost because it was a tied vote. He used his casting vote on whether or not the report should be tabled in this chamber. If he had not, there would be no report at all; no decision would have been made.

  In essence, we are talking about the proper use of the chairman's vote, not the improper use, as has been stated by Senator Watson, who said that there had been a concocting of a report. I think that is totally wrong. Senator Coates wrote to all members of the committee and pointed out that there were a number of sound reasons for the decisions that had been taken in terms of the fact that the written submissions had provided all the necessary material. As Senator Campbell indicated, it is possible for that process to legitimately take place. In Senator Coates's view—which I accept—all the necessary material was before the committee: the matters of law had been determined by the courts in Queensland; the whole process had demonstrated that the use-by date for this inquiry had expired; and, finally, the Queensland government had taken actions because, essentially, this was a matter for the Queensland government to resolve.

  I am a bit of an angler and I enjoy a bit of fishing but it is reaching the point where we are finding requests for fishing expeditions being made almost on a daily basis. In this place, I suggest we probably have better things to do—such as passing a few pieces of legislation and occasionally addressing some of the problems confronting the people of this country—than engage in these politically motivated fishing expeditions which are in fact a misuse of the Senate committee system. I suggest that some people, unlike Senator Coates, are not acting entirely with clean hands in this matter.