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
Monday, 20 December 1993
Page: 5235

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —by leave—The substantive issues that Senator Vanstone raises were ones that I was perfectly prepared to debate again and anticipated having to debate when we dealt cognately with clause 11 and the proposed new section 196A—and that holds.

  Senator Vanstone has reminded me that I did promise to table the advice that was given to the committee by Mr Robert Orr from the Attorney-General's Department, which dealt with various precedents for the kind of language that is contained within clause 11 and which goes further than the particular precedents that I put out the other day. So I table it now, and that is available for circulation immediately. While tabling that, I also table for circulation information about reservations in state statutes. I was asked for that by an honourable senator on the other side on a completely different subject. But I said I would dig out that information and make it available, and I do so now.

  As to the larger constitutional question that Senator Vanstone raises, the situation in short is this: I am advised that a quite major piece of constitutional advice was prepared which goes to all the major constitutional issues that were involved in this legislation. The difficulty the government has about making that advice public, of course, is that it was advice given in anticipation of litigation. There is a very familiar principle that applies here about the advice that government takes from its advisers, particularly when produced in contemplation of possible challenge, not normally being made available.

Senator Bishop —So you are asking us to pass legislation that—

Senator GARETH EVANS —Senator Bishop, please. So I do not think it is appropriate to table that particular document. In the light of Senator Vanstone raising this issue now—and because it is some time yet before we get to this particular clause—I will, however, seek advice as to whether or not it might be possible to put together a piece of paper which deals, at least succinctly—but hopefully effectively—with the basic question of constitutionality: why we think clause 11 is constitutional, and the principles upon which we believe that.

  I will see whether it is possible to put together something like that in the next few hours. I do not make any firm commitment about that because everyone who is most involved in this whole issue is scrambling about doing other things, and it is very difficult to do these things on the run with the degree of precision that one might like. But we will do our best. It is a fair point, as I acknowledged when we debated the constitutionality issue the last time around, and I will do my best to give those opposite some more information as soon as I can. But, beyond that, I cannot comment further.