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Wednesday, 23 April 1980
Page: 1793

Senator MASON (New South Wales) -by leave- I will speak very briefly. I must make a couple of points. There is talk of a crisis of confidence in the Parliamentary Library. The Australian Democrats share that view. We feel that we cannot be absolutely sure that when we go to the Library to gain information on a matter about which we might be critical of the Government we will be guaranteed impartial information. I put that forward with complete seriousness. I take issue with Senator Knight's remark that this matter has become a political football. I think it is wrong to assess it at that level. The Australian Democrats think the matter goes far deeper than that. We are concerned at what is said in the second paragraph of the President's statement. I relate it to the statement which Senator Evans made concerning the alleged offence of Mr Harris in which certain sections of his book were typed.

After all, that is a fairly trivial matter and could have been dealt with at a lower disciplinary level. Certainly it is not a matter to be paraded before the nation when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast. I think this matter begs attention. I implore you, Mr President, perhaps tonight, briefly to tell us whether in fact this is Mr Harris's only offence; when it happened and whether any disciplinary action was taken against him at that time when it was first known, or whether it has been held over until now; whether it was discussed with him and what is the full statement he made on the matter to the permanent head of the Department. These matters having been publicised tonight, I feel that it would be wrong for the Senate to allow them, as it were, to sit in mid-air.

I think Senator Evans's comments beg for some response. I respectfully seek from you a brief statement before the debate is concluded on whether you are aware whether this indeed is the offence. Subsequently we might then ask you to look at the Hansard, consider the questions that have been raised by all three parties and perhaps make a statement which would clarify the position. In Mr Harris's interests it is necessary for us to have some elaboration on the offence he is said to have committed.

The PRESIDENT - As you know, Senator Mason, I replied to questions on this matter put by Senator Grimes. The replies were based on information which was given to me. I am not in a position to give you further details at present. I shall obtain further details. I feel that the matter now requires further deep investigation, as has been indicated by honourable senators tonight.

Senate adjourned at 1 1.57 p.m.

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