QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS Australian Human Rights Commission


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:18): This debate so far today has lacked a couple of inconvenient truths—inconvenient to the Labor Party. Senator Conroy today in question time was asking about the role allegedly offered to Professor Triggs. If Senator Conroy or Senator Cameron had been in the hearing, they would have understood what happened.

Senator Bilyk: I was in the hearing.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Then you would know, Senator Bilyk. Here is what happened. The Attorney said, 'I'd like to tell you this,' and the secretary said, 'I'll tell you this.' At that moment in the committee hearing Mr John Reid, who I understand is the senior officer in the International Law Division of the department, lent across and said to both the minister and the secretary, 'Don't say it'—I do not know that he said that, but he gave advice. As a result of that advice both the Attorney and the secretary said, 'Sorry, we've just been advised we cannot mention this.'

Further to that—in another inconvenient truth for Senator Conroy—Professor Triggs indicated that she knew what the position was. That is why she did not ask the secretary and that is why the secretary did not tell her. She knew what the position was. I do not know what the position was. The secretary, the minister and Professor Triggs know what the position was, but nobody else does. The minister and the secretary and, I assume, Professor Triggs were advised by Mr Reid not to make that public.

Senator Brandis indicated that he did offer a private briefing to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Any substantive and serious Leader of the Opposition in the Senate would have accepted the invitation so she could have found out what it was all about. I have to say that the behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate in that hearing was absolutely appalling. On no fewer than four occasions did I as chair of that meeting have to ask Senator Wong to remove herself from the hearing because of her continual and continuous interjecting. And the same, I might say, went for Senator Hanson-Young. In this whole hearing it was very evident that there was a concerted attempt by Senator Bilyk, Senator Wong, Senator Collins, Senator Hanson-Young and Senator Wright to shout from each end of the Senate table and interrupt the testimony of witnesses and people asking questions.

Another inconvenient truth that Senator Conroy and the Labor Party have glossed over—and senators on the other side who were there should be aware of this—is that the evidence to the committee was that Professor Triggs actually asked the secretary to ascertain what Senator Brandis and the government thought about her chairmanship of the Human Rights Commission and about the Human Rights Commission. She asked the secretary to go and ask Brandis what Brandis thought about her. Brandis responded to the secretary, and the secretary then told the President of the Human Rights Commission. So it is an inconvenient truth for the Labor Party that Professor Triggs actually initiated this and asked for it. As Senator Reynolds has been mentioning, one of Professor Triggs's comments related to—

Senator Bilyk: I rise on a point of order. The senator seems to be—

Senator Conroy: Confused.

Senator Bilyk: confused because what was actually asked by the professor was why the 28 day of—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: No. This is a debating point. Senator Bilyk, resume your seat. There is no point of order.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Professor Triggs allegedly said that the information was drying up. I cannot understand that because, as chair of that committee, we had had umpteen different inquiries into various aspects of the migration legislation. At every one, I venture to say, we would ask the department how many kids were in detention, how many had been released and when they expected the kids to be out of detention. This is the crucial point: this government has got rid of the kids out of detention. The whole incident is an indictment of the Labor Party.

I want to conclude by telling something to good old Senator Cameron, who I do not think has ever bothered to bother about the truth of anything. He calls me a bovver boy of the Bjelke-Petersen regime. Senator Cameron might like to know that I was one of Bjelke-Petersen's greatest opponents.

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