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Monday, 20 December 1993
Page: 5238

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —by leave—I certainly cannot give that undertaking because many such communications are made in confidence by the government concerned. If an individual state or a territory government wants to put on the public record the nature of any communication it makes to us, that is entirely a matter for it. We would not resist that, of course. But I cannot possibly give an undertaking in a blanket way to put out anything which is the subject of intergovernmental communication. That would be utterly at odds with the way things are done. States seem cheerfully willing to get into the public domain on this issue at the drop of every available hat. If there are any doubts, worries, anxieties or formidable arguments about any particular matter that we still have to debate, I guess we will hear about it sooner rather than later. Can I suggest, Mr Chairman, that it would be appropriate now to get back to the substantive issues.

Senator Bishop —I wish to speak by leave.

Senator Gareth Evans —In the light of Senator Bishop's previous contribution, before leave is granted, it would be entirely reasonably for me to be given some assurance that this is a technical and procedural issue.

Senator Bishop —Don't be so supercilious.

Senator Gareth Evans —Under those circumstances, leave is denied.

Senator Bishop —Petulance!

Senator Gareth Evans —No; I have just had one experience of Senator Bishop this morning dropping a bucket when everybody else has—

Senator Bishop —Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. It is not up to Senator Evans to cast aspersions upon the reasons that I want to ask a question, neither is it a matter for him as to whether or not you announce that leave has been granted. His simple statement that he did not like what I said to him before, which is the basis for his not granting leave, is a reflection upon me and I ask him to withdraw it. I also simply indicate that Senator Evans wished to obfuscate in this matter and pretend to give us the complete constitutional advice when it will be some sort of botched up job which will purport to be the complete advice. That is a dishonest way to proceed. I want to put to Senator Evans that it is not reasonable for him to put together some sort of excerpt from the advice he has and not share with the Senate the legitimate concerns that he must already be aware of as to the lack of constitutionality of the amendment which he is proposing to support. If that is not a question of substance, sir, I would like to ask you for your definition of same.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! There is no point of order. Senator Evans is able to make a judgment of his own whether he wants to grant leave or not.