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Thursday, 25 November 1993
Page: 3752


Senator McKIERNAN (5.23 p.m.) —There is a reference before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs relating to the Australian Securities Commission. As Senator O'Chee said, the committee is still receiving submissions relating to that inquiry. As a member of that committee, I still have an open mind on the reference that the parliament has directed to that committee. I am not so certain, after hearing Senator O'Chee's comments, that the same could be said for him. On reading the submissions, I do not think all of them have come from, as he said, victims of the ASC. Most definitely not all of them have. I have not read each and every submission yet as there are over 100.

  We should be a little more careful when we rise in this place before we pre-empt the decisions of committees. If we are going to do that, why bother giving committees references of this nature in the first place? The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is one of the busiest committees in this parliament—not only in the Senate, but in the parliament itself. Senator O'Chee well knows that as a member of the committee.

  Earlier this year the committee got involved in the budget debate which, on one particular occasion, involved four full days of hearings on matters that the Senate chose to refer to the committee. As I recall—and I may be corrected on this—the committee has six other specific references; they are not minor references. Off the top of my head, I recall the very large inquiry into the cost of justice; the inquiry into gender bias in the judiciary—another one which has evoked a lot of media and public attention; and the inquiry into the rights and obligations of the media. There are but three references, all of which are very extensive and all of which have attracted a great deal of attention and a great deal of submissions from the public generally and from interested organisations.

  I heard Senator O'Chee say that the meeting the committee was to have next week in Brisbane has been put off because of other matters. I do not know as yet whether a decision has been made; I know that there is some speculation that the native title legislation may be referred to this committee. The native title bill has attracted some controversy, not only in my home state of Western Australia but also in other parts of Australia. It is right and proper that standing committees of the parliament look at legislation which is attracting some attention; certainly nobody can say that the native title bill is not attracting attention.

  How many sitting days are left in the rest of the year? This chamber is having a week's break followed by two weeks of sitting. This Senate standing committee has to fit in references given to it by the parliament. If that means that next week—instead of being at home looking with admiration on my new granddaughter—I will be in Brisbane or Darwin or Perth or Melbourne or somewhere else, that is the obligation I have as a member of parliament, and every other member of that committee has that obligation. That is unfortunate, but we know those things when we apply for the jobs that we have.

  I rose only out of concern about the manner in which Senator O'Chee spoke. He has reached conclusions on this inquiry when we have not—as he said from his own mouth—started the public investigation. We all have our biases and our prejudices, but we should contain those to some degree prior to formulating final conclusions in a public manner such as Senator O'Chee has done. If there is truth in what he alleges, I have great confidence that this committee, which has acted in a very bipartisan manner in the past, will reach the correct conclusions and will make the right and proper recommendations to the parliament in order to correct any wrongs that may be there. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

  Leave granted; debate adjourned.