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Wednesday, 11 September 1996
Page: 3260


Senator ELLISON(1.31 p.m.) —I rise by way of personal explanation in relation to a matter that Senator McKiernan raised a short time ago in the chamber. He referred to a speech I made in the Senate on 22 August this year, wherein I mentioned the interim report of the royal commission in Western Australia, which had not yet been delivered. At the time, I said:

There are those in Western Australia who simply are not happy with the interim report of the royal commission which cleared Cheryl Edwardes, the Minister for Family Services, and her husband of any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Of course, that was a slip of the tongue, a mistake made by me. When one looks at the context in which it was said, one can readily see that that was so. I had been talking about an address that counsel had been making to the commissioner and the fact that the counsel assisting the commissioner, and the commissioner himself, were not able to defend any comments made about them because the matter was still continuing. Indeed, what I meant to have said, or should have said, at that stage was that there were those in Western Australia who simply would not be happy with an interim report of the royal commission which `would clear' Cheryl Edwardes, the Minister for Family Services, and her husband of any wrongdoing whatsoever.

It is indeed a long bow to draw to imply that I had any knowledge of what the commission's finding was going to be. If there is any implication to that effect, I reject it out of hand. That implication, indeed, would be to imply that the royal commissioner had collaborated with me, which is totally untrue. It would imply that there was, indeed, some corruption on the part of the commission and myself, which I reject entirely. If a slip of the tongue is the best that the opposition has to hang its hat on in this matter, then I am indeed sorry for them.

I am grateful to Senator McKiernan for giving me notice of the fact that he was going to make mention of me in this matter. I must say that I refute entirely his comments. One only has to look at the press in Western Australia to see that Cheryl Edwardes and her husband were cleared. The public of Western Australia believe that, and it was a matter that the state government was indeed confident in. It called the royal commission. The Premier has stated on a number of occasions that he was confident that Cheryl Edwardes and her husband would be cleared, and it was a confidence which I myself always shared with the Premier.

That was the situation, Madam Acting Deputy President. There was nothing more or less to it than that. To imply anything further as a result of some slip of the tongue is indeed stretching things too far, and I reject any implication whatsoever that there was any collaboration or collusion between the royal commission and myself in this matter or that I had any knowledge of what was to come. I may have been confident as to the outcome—as I have indeed been in a good many cases that I have observed and been a party to—but I have also been not too confident on some cases which I have been a party to and have observed in the past. But the evidence in this case was indeed strong. As eloquently put by Narelle Johnson, the counsel assisting the royal commission, the evidence was undeniably there which led to the clearing of Mr and Mrs Edwardes.

Sitting suspended from 1.35 to 2.00 p.m.