Senate debates

Wednesday, 21 March 2007


Community Affairs Committee; Reference

4:03 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

I indicate on behalf of the Labor Party that we also opposed the motion. I thought it was going to come on for debate, but we seem to be having the debate after we have defeated the motion—but so be it. I just want to indicate that we also opposed the motion on the basis that we did not think it was an appropriate exercise of the Senate’s powers to inquire into a particular organisation. We had this debate last year. We think the concerns—some of which I share—about any activities of the Exclusive Brethren need to be investigated by the appropriate authorities, pursued in places like the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or through the courts, as has been done by a number of members. We do not think a broad, wide-ranging inquiry into an organisation or their leadership is necessarily the best use of the Senate’s powers. I fear that people like Senator Abetz might well use the precedent in a way that I would not be comfortable with, given the government’s views about organisations that do not support the government view. But I also point out that the motion, in part, says:

Allegations that the Exclusive Brethren, including its leadership, may have been involved in:

…         …         …

(g)   any related matters.

Really, if it were a motion moved by the government into an environmental organisation, it would be rightly described as a witch hunt. Clearly, it is not a precedent that I would like to see set, and that is why the Labor Party opposes it.


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