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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4277

Senator BOB BROWN (Leader of the Australian Greens) (10:40 AM) —by leave—I will not reflect on that vote, but I want to have it noted that I treat the matter of the exclusion of the purview of the Privileges Committee to senators—that is, to any of us, if that is what we have seen—as a very serious matter. We are not, in access to the Privileges Committee, above other citizens. We are not a law unto ourselves—

Senator Parry —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I know Senator Brown started by saying he is not reflecting on the vote that has just been had but I ask you to really consider whether that is reflecting on the vote.

The PRESIDENT —You are in order, Senator Brown. Continue, but I advise you not to reflect on the vote.

Senator BOB BROWN —Nor would I. That is why I said at the outset that I would not. However, we must not be gagged from debating the seriousness of any ability of the Senate to protect senators from the reach of the Privileges Committee. The Privileges Committee is there to defend the Senate itself. We know that from time to time citizens complain about the behaviour or the statements of senators in here. Very often the Privileges Committee looks at that and rules in their favour without asking the senator before the Privileges Committee.

There are very serious matters being debated in the public arena at the moment. I am concerned that the Senate not be put in the position of appearing to be shepherding, defending or protecting any of our number as against the rights of other citizens. I believe that it must be put on the record that senators should not use their numbers to protect themselves from a matter being referred to the Privileges Committee.