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Tuesday, 12 November 1974
Page: 2266

Senator MCAULIFFE (Queensland) - It is true, as Senator Baume has said, that before the suspension of the sitting for dinner he made certain statements and accusations which I interpret as reflecting on the members of Senate Estimates Committee C and on myself as chairman. He reflected on his own colleagues Senator Laucke, Senator Scott and Senator Guilfoyle and also on honourable senators from this side of the chamber, namely, Senators Coleman and Melzer and myself. I regard the honourable senator as reflecting on them because he said that he was stifled by not being allowed to ask questions. Before Estimates Committee C commenced its questioning on the estimates of the Department of Tourism and Recreation, Department of the Media and Department of Education I laid down guidelines for the procedures which would be followed regarding questioning. It was unanimously agreed by the members of Estimates Committee C that we would deal with the Estimates division by division, that we would go around the table commencing clockwise and afterwards we would go anti-clockwise. After the members of the Committee had been invited to ask any questions regarding the division or subdivision it was agreed that we would then invite to ask questions any other honourable senators who were present at the hearing. This procedure was agreed upon unanimously by the Committee. At no time did the Committee ever deviate from this procedure.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - That was the previous practice.

Senator MCAULIFFE - As I am prompted and reminded it was a procedure which was introduced by previous chairmen when honourable senators opposite were in government. Senator Baume was not present at any time during the discussion on the estimates for the Department of Tourism and Recreation. He came in at the latter part of the discussion on the Department of the Media. When Senator Guilfoyle had asked many pertinent and intelligent questions of the Minister and of the departmental representatives Senator Baume endeavoured to get on the bandwagon. I broke the procedure and allowed him to ask a supplementary question following a question asked by Senator Guilfoyle. Senator Baume came in again at the latter part of the questioning on the estimates for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and on the latter part of the estimates for the Department of Education. In all he asked 5 questions and received 5 answers. Never at any time was he refused the call if he wanted to continue his questioning. He was completely exhausted because he had no knowledge or expertise with which to ask the witnesses or the Minister for any information. Some of the gems which fell from his lips by way of questioning are these:

Senator BAUME - On the point Senator Guilfoyle was raising, is this question of technical equipment going to be a recurring item? Are you going to require $270,000 every year?

Mr Connollyof the Department answered the question. Senator Baume asked:

Shall we then see this item decreasing?

Mr Connollystated:

One would hope so.

That is the type of question which was asked by Senator Baume. This is the gem which fell from Senator Baume 's lips in the discussion on the estimates for the Department of Education:

Senator BAUME - What are the levels of the consultation fees payable?

Mr Scutt;The standard rate which applies to all Australian Government Committees. I think it is $35 a day.

Later on Senator Baume asked:

What is the variation in those figures from the year before?

This followed a question asked by Senator Laucke. The departmental officer answered:

I have not got that comparison with me, but I could make it available to the Committee.

That information has been made available to the Committee. I wonder whether Senator Baume has displayed interest in going to the Committee secretariat and asking for a copy of the information. I shall let him answer that question himself. As chairman I cannot be blamed if Senator Baume found himself at the questioning as a preliminary boy among the champions. If he felt out of his depth he should not blame me. Somebody said that he should change his mentor and replace Senator Greenwood with somebody else. I believe that the action of Senator Baume in reflecting not only on his own colleagues but also on other honourable senators who were members of that Committee was a most despicable act. The worst part of all is that the honourable senator who is a johnny-come-lately reflected on the integrity -

Senator Marriott - Mr Chairman,I raise a point of order. It is offensive to me for Senator McAuliffe to say that Senator Baume took part in a despicable action. I ask for that statement to be withdrawn.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Webster -I think that in the parliamentary sense we must accept that statement. I do not uphold the point of order.

Senator McAULIFFE -I am amazed to think that an honourable senator with such short experience in the Senate should have taken it upon himself to reflect on colleagues who have greater experience. Senator Baume should have congratulated the members of Senate Estimates Committee C who got on with the business for which Senate Estimates committees are constituted. They sought information from the Minister and from the departmental representatives. Unlike other honourable senators in this chamber on other committees the members of Committee C did not put the departmental representatives through an inquisition. They did not start questioning in order to embarrass them for political advantage. This Committee, to the credit of Senator Laucke, Senator Scott, Senator Guilfoyle, Senator Melzer and Senator Coleman got on with the business of the Estimates. Because they attended to the business before Estimates Committee C they were able to complete their questioning by 9.30 p.m. They did not engage in useless political manoeuvring. If there is any doubt about how the members of the Committee felt in regard to the conduct of Estimates Committee C let me read to the chamber the unanimous resolution that was carried by members of that Committee. It reads:

The Committee wishes to express its thanks to the Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland, and to the departmental officers for the full and frank response which the Committee received to its questioning.

Senator Poyser - Was Senator Baume there when they carried that motion?

Senator MCAULIFFE - It is hard to know how long he was there. He made 2 fleeting appearances. I do not wish to reflect on you, Mr Chairman, but I must say that I was surprised this evening that a senator of your experience and one who has shown fairness over a long period of time should have allowed Senator Baume to continue. I hope that you were not smarting from being rebuffed today from the Chair when you really did endeavour to breach the Standing Orders by attempting to speak twice in the same debate. It was so out of character of you this evening when you were in the Chair to allow Senator Baume to continue reflecting on his colleagues and other senators by saying that he was denied the opportunity to ask questions at Committee C. I forgive you on this occasion because I know that you were preoccupied with an earlier happening and I hope that will never occur again. After all, Senator Baume did reflect on the Committee and you did make me withdraw for having called Senator Carrick a phoney. As I told Senator Baume early in the piece in this chamber, when new senators come here, irrespective of what side they sit on, the senators in this place are willing to make available to them their experience and to give any advice or help to them in any way. I have met Senator Baume many times in the lobby and we have had a discussion. If there was any way in which I could have offered advice about some place or something else I have endeavoured to help him. I will give him a word of advice: Next time before he engages in irresponsibilities as he did today, he should check the facts and have his facts right.

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