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PARLIAMENTARY REPORT


use of CCTV noting that “it is inconceivable that the use of CCTV information to identify persons providing information to senators and members could ever have been sanctioned as a permissible use of CCTV information when the system was first installed, given the inherent threat such monitoring would pose to members’ and senators’ freedom to go about their business without obstruction”. Dr Laing noted that “the identified circumstances reveal that parliamentary employees have used the CCTV system to obtain information about persons providing information to senators. It is irrelevant that the information obtained and used may have been incidental to the investigation of an alleged code of conduct breach. Disciplinary action has been taken against an employee on the basis of CCTV information that also shows the employee providing information to your office. The latter forms part of the evidence in the disciplinary action”.


Dr Laing concluded that “if


the taking of disciplinary action is in this sense indistinguishable from the provision of information to the senator, then there is a reasonably strong possibility that a contempt of the Senate may have been committed by the initiation and conduct of disciplinary proceedings against the employee and by the unauthorised surveillance of your office. At the very least, the use of the CCTV system to conduct surveillance on a senator’s office and to identify persons providing information to that office could be seen as an attempt to deter the senator from pursuing matters of public importance by restricting the flow of information to the senator”. In relation to whether a contempt has been committed, Dr Laing noted that “there is a strong case for proposing a


AUSTRALIA


Privileges Committee inquiry, not least because such an inquiry is conducted with heightened regard to the rights of witnesses and may be a more satisfactory way of establishing the facts of the matter”.


Dr Laing commented that a difficult aspect of any contempt inquiry is the establishment of culpable intention. Dr Laing noted that “in appropriate circumstances, it may be that reckless ignorance or indifference on the part of officials whose job it is to serve the Parliament is a sufficient indicator of culpable intention for the purpose of establishing whether conduct represents improper interference and may therefore constitute contempt”. On 18 June the Senate


resolved to refer to the Senate Committee of Privileges an inquiry into the use of CCTV by officers of the Department of Parliamentary Services. In particular, the inquiry will seek to establish whether there was any improper interference, or attempted improper interference, with the free performance by Senator Faulkner or any other senator of their duties as a senator.


New President of the Senate On 7 July Senators elected to serve from 1 July and Senators appointed to vacancies thereafter were sworn in by His Excellency the Governor-General, General the Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove, AK, MC. Territory Senators were sworn in on 12 November 2013. Following the swearing in of Senators, the first item of business was the election of the President. The Leader of Government


Business, Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz nominated Sen. the Hon. Stephen Parry. The Leader of the Greens, Senator Christine Milne nominated Senator Scott Ludlam. In the ensuing ballot,


208 | The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three


Senator Parry was elected President 63 votes to 10. Senator Parry had previously held the position of Deputy President for three years.


Senator Abetz congratulated Senator Parry commenting that “I note that, apart from being our 24th President, you are the fourth to come from the state of Tasmania. You follow John Blyth Hayes, of the United Australia


impartiality need to be brought to the position you now hold. I know, from working with you in your previous role as Deputy President, that you hold a deep respect for the role the Senate has in the nation’s democracy. On behalf of Labor senators, on behalf of the opposition, I congratulate you on your election”.


Senator Milne noted that


“we came into this Senate at the same time, and I have observed the service that you have given to the Senate, the Parliament and the Australian people over that time. I wish you all the very best in serving the Parliament and working with the Senate. I particularly welcome the remarks that you have made about standing up for the Parliament against the Executive”.


Sen. the Hon. Penny Wong


Party; Justin O’Byrne, of the Australian Labor Party; and Paul Calvert, of the Liberal Party. I know that in a former life you served as an officer of the law. I also note that President Hayes had a prison named after him in Tasmania. I interpret all of that as a signal that we should all behave in the Senate because the President might know what to do if we do not! And, just in case that does not work, I note that the other occupation that you held before entering this place was that of an undertaker”.


Senator the Hon. Penny


Wong, Leader of Opposition Business, commented that “the Senate is the chamber where there is much greater scrutiny applied to legislation, to policy. It is the chamber where committee work that is important to consideration of a legislative agenda is done. It is the chamber – let us be frank – where executive government is held to account in a way it cannot be in the House of Representatives. Because of that, fairness and


Composition of the Senate On 1 July the composition of the Senate changed as Senators elected at the Federal election on 7 September 2013 and the Western Australian Senate election of 5 April 2014 commenced their terms. A range of minor party senators were elected. Of the 76 seats in the Senate, the Coalition has 33, Labor 25, Greens 10, and The Palmer United Party (PUP) has three seats. The Democratic Labor Party, Liberal Democratic Party, Family First, and the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party all have one seat each. Senator Nick Xenophon was elected for another term as an independent senator. This diversity of senators


presents a challenge to the government as it cannot be assured that it can deliver on all its election commitments and budgetary reform. Whereas in the 43rd Parliament the focus was on the House of Representatives with its minority government, the focus has now moved back to the Senate.


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