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Tuesday, 1 October 1974
Page: 1491

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question in his capacity as AttorneyGeneral. By way of preface to that question I want to refer to an article which appeared in last Friday's 'Sydney Morning Herald' in the name of a Mr Ray Watson, Q.C. Mr Watson was responding to a letter in the 'Sydney Morning Herald ' by another lawyer, a Mr Gormly, in relation to the Family Law Bill which, as we know, has been referred to a Senate committee. It is anticipated that that Bill will come before the Senate during this session for debate. I ask: Is Mr Watson a consultant engaged by the Australian Government in the drawing up of the Family Law Bill, as is suggested by the newspaper editor? Has Mr Watson received any professional fees for his consultative services up to this point of time or is it proposed that he should receive fees for services during the passage of the Bill?

Senator MURPHY -I think the broad answers to the honourable senator's questions would be yes. I will not precisely spell out the situation but Mr Watson has been a consultant in connection with the drawing up of the Family Law Bill and the various amendments. In relation to the question of whether Mr Watson has received any money, I am not sure whether he has received it. He certainly would be due to receive fees if he has not received them yet. I should explain that Mr Watson, or any other person similarly placed, is entitled to speak his own mind on a matter such as this. Mr Watson certainly has not been engaged by the Government as an advocate for any particular proposal. If Mr Watson appears on television or writes letters to the newspapers, as he has done, and points out things about this matter, he is entitled to do so. He is not engaged by the Government to do that.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - But he does receive a fee.

Senator MURPHY - Not for appearing on television or writing letters to the newspapers. In modern times we have seen a development whereby not merely consultants but also persons who have been engaged by the Government on a permanent basis, have expressed viewpoints and often have explained legislation. For example, the Commissioner for Trade Practices, with my permission and perhaps with the permission of previous Attorneys-General, has talked to businessmen and explained what the trade practices legislation was all about. It may be a little different when one is dealing with proposed legislation, but even then I have had officers of my Department- I think with the approbation of everyone- go and tell businessmen all about the trade practices legislation as it was before the Senate and have had them get a viewpoint from those businessmen, and so forth. In doing that they were engaged in the course of their work and I think that everyone would approve of that.

Senator Greenwood - They were members of the Department.

Senator MURPHY -That is right, and everyone approved of those officers doing that. I think that such assistance has been requested by the Parliament and by the community at large, or by those interests that might be affected. When one comes to the question of actual advocacy of legislative proposals as distinct from an explanation of them, whether that be by a departmental officer or by some consultant, that person is doing that off his own bat.

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