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Tuesday, 17 September 1974
Page: 1137


Senator CARRICK (New South Wales) - Honourable senators on the Government benches have, I think, deliberately misunderstood the whole issue. The simple fact is that what Senator Murphy and his Government supporters saw as a virtue when in opposition they now see as a vice. We are talking about 7 Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees that were set up, with the wholehearted endorsement of all Labor senators, to cover the whole of the legislative program that could come before the Senate. Now we are asked to agree to cover five-sevenths of that program, and to cover it for only a time so that the 5 committees can be killed, because those 5 committees are to be limited to considering the references before them. Two-sevenths of the number of Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees which were previously set up are not to come into existence again.


Senator Steele Hall asked: What is the need to have 2 kinds of defence and foreign affairs committees? I make one point to him, and it is that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence can receive no reference from the Senate. So if, by act of voting, we exclude from our Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence we will exclude our right to make submissions for the holding of inquiries by committees on foreign affairs and defence, because we have no power to send a submission forward. The important thing to remember is that the only references that come to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence come from the Government and by decision of the Government. So nobody can pre-empt that.


Senator Wheeldon - Are you sure that is right?


Senator CARRICK - Those of us who have sat on both the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence- and indeed Senator Wheeldon who interjected will know that I have sat on both of those Committees- will know quite clearly that the great bulk of the work of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence is taken up- and rightly- with meeting our ambassadors and others and informing ourselves. A great deal of the Committee's time is taken up with getting confidential information from our own Department of Foreign Affairs and from others. The Committee does not operate in the normal committee formulation.

What in fact will happen if the Government's motion is carried in its present form is that it will destroy the committee system as it exists in this Parliament. Temporarily there will be fivesevenths of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees which operated previously. It will deny the right of the Senate vitally to submit references on perhaps the most important subject that the Senate should consider, and that is foreign affairs and defence. As in America, so here we should regard the foreign affairs field as being our pre-eminent field. We would have the situation in which the Minister for Foreign Affairs would be a member of this chamber but we would have no committee of our own to which we could make references. It would be ridiculous for this to happen. If Senator Murphy's motion is carried it will be an indication by the Government that in Government it seeks to destroy the committee system.







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