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Thursday, 21 September 1972
Page: 1125

Senator O'BYRNE (Tasmania) - by leave - Mr Acting Deputy President, appreciate your ruling and your explanation on this matter, but I think that we are making things difficult for ourselves. For the last 70 years this Senate has been able to get by with having things incorporated in Hansard without their being scrutinised by the President. 1 do not think that the President, who is one of our equals, should have any discriminatory power to supervise or to have surveillance over the business of the Senate as to whether things are incorporated in Hansard. When the Senate decides that something will be incorporated in Hansard, it should be incorporated in Hansard without there being any supervision from some other person who imposes himself as the arbiter or the censor.

I.   am objecting to this precedent being created whereby someone has to delay the business of the Senate in order to give his view on whether something should be incorporated in Hansard. Honourable senators assembled should be able to judge for themselves whether they should accept or refuse the incorporation of something in Hansard. I would have liked the President to be present when I expressed these views. I object to this new procedure which is being introduced into the Senate under which someone sets himself up as the boss. The President is an equal of all of us. He has been appointed by us to be an arbiter but he is also an equal. I do not think he has any right whatsoever to peruse some thing and delay the business of the Senate while he exercises his judgment on what should or should not be incorporated in Hansard.

I want to put on record my disapproval of this growing practice whereby someone establishes himself as being the censor of what goes into Hansard. Things have been incorporated in Hansard for a long time and Hansard has been good or bad reading. The. Senate has proceeded along its way. 1 do not think that this practice should be accepted, whereby someone suddenly has decided that he has to peruse all material that is incorporated. 1 am expressing my disapproval and I do not think that it should go on any longer. I hope that you, Mr Acting Deputy President, will not carry on the practice while you are in the chair.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Honourable senators, I do not want to engage in a debate on this matter. I just set out what I understand to be the position which arose from a certain incident. I do not think that any President would veto anything that was of a reasonable character.

Senator O'Byrne - What is reasonable?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - We have to recognise the fact that if something is incorporated in Hansard when somebody asks for it to be incorporated without any other honourable senator having the opportunity of seeing it, there can be risks. There was an incident recently in which I do not think Senator O'Byrne would have agreed to the statement being incorporated in Hansard if he had seen it. J understand that the President has the power to excise from Hansard anything that he feels runs counter to the decencies in the publication of Hansard. I am not the President, and I am just giving to honourable senators what has been given to me by others. I feel that if the President has power to eliminate from Hansard things of an objectionable character it is quite in keeping that he should have some authority to view what is sought to be incorporated in Hansard without the material being viewed by anybody else. I do not want there to be a debate on this question. I thought that I would clarify the position for honourable senators so that they would know. The President has power in regard to publication involving technicalities and things of that nature and I think we must recognise that nobody will be unreasonable about matters such as this.

Senator O'BYRNE(Tasmania) - by leave - 1 just want to make it quite certain that I am opposed to the procedure under which the business of the Senate can be delayed while the President peruses something. He is not a quick reader, and a lot of Presidents have not been quick readers; some of them could only read. I do not think that the Senate should accept this principle whereby the business of the Senate should be delayed so that the President can be the arbiter and the censor.


Whom would you suggest should do it?

Senator O'BYRNE - We should get leave of the Senate itself.


How would the Senate know what it was?

Senator O'BYRNE - It does not matter. The President has the prerogative afterwards to delete it from Hansard.

Senator Hannan - That is nonsense.

Senator O'BYRNE - It is not nonsense. Things have been incorporated in Hansard for 70 years and there is nothing in Hansard to which anyone could take exception. I strongly oppose the creation of a precedent whereby the President becomes the censor of what goes into Hansard. Hansard is a record of what goes on in the Parliament. Someone says the 4-letter word 'fuck' should not be in Hansard. This is the point I am making: It is an accepted word. I am just saying what is happening in society today.

Senator Little - Go out and use it on a street corner in Canberra and you will be arrested for using indecent language.

Senator O'BYRNE - What rubbish. You have been using it yourself for years.


I ask Senator O'Byrne to withdraw that remark.

Senator O'BYRNE - What remark?


That remark you have just made.

Senator O'BYRNE - All right, 1 will withdraw it.

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