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Tuesday, 21 December 1993
Page: 5430


Senator BISHOP (4.08 p.m.) —There is absolutely no precedent, and the minister knows it very well—no precedent at all that says that one Australian can be preferred or receive different treatment in a court on the basis of race. It is a brand new principle and it is offensive. There is no basis for it in the Mabo decision. It derives from the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) decided that he was going to mix up the problems that flowed from Mabo No. 2 and the need for certainty with the very valid question of reconciliation, which need to be two entirely separate issues.

  By trying to merge the issues, we get this sort of disgraceful principle being placed into our legal system. The idea that a court is entitled to differentiate in its treatment of individuals on the basis of race to me is abhorrent. My view of Australia is that every Australian shall be treated the same, that we are a single nation, the best country in the world. I want all Australian to have the opportunity to reach their maximum potential. That means Aboriginal Australians; it means Italian Australians; it means Malaysian Australians. It means whatever sort of Australians—because they are Australians first.

  I said this morning that we are seeing separate development with this legislation, and a nation split and divided. This is a prime example. I asked the minister for the reason, and the reason he gave me is not satisfactory. The second question I asked the minister related to privilege. He has not addressed that. I will give him a third question to answer relating to hearsay evidence. For the minister to simply say that it not a problem to allow hearsay evidence to be admitted is, simply, again, a misunderstanding of how that affects the rights of individuals. It, in fact, impairs the right of appeal, because it limits the number of grounds for appeal that can be established.

  Will the minister address the question of privilege and the question of hearsay evidence, and inform us of the basis upon which he thinks people are advantaged by having their right of appeal limited by that.