29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The following petition has been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Townley.
Calling of Person to the Bar of the Senate
Debate resumed from 16 July.
– I move:
-Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, Mr President.
– I have moved that motion because of the deepening mystery as to what part the so-called Adelaide contacts have played in the loan arrangements which the Government and its Ministers have tried to enter into with overseas loan sources through the agency of Mr Khemlani. In a brief speech which I made to the Senate yesterday I referred to the references which are made in the documents which have been tabled in the Senate officially by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt). The first reference- honourable senators will find it in their files- is contained in a telex communication to Mr Connor and Mr Cameron from Mr Khemlani on 1 December last year. A relevant paragraph states:
I have already informed my associates in Adelaide and given a message to them to convey to you and I shall take this opportunity to repeat the message to assure you that everything possible is being done to expedite this matter as early as possible.
That is the first official recognition that I can find that there were significant Adelaide contacts between Mr Khemlani and the Federal Ministers, Mr Connor and Mr Cameron. The second reference in the tabled documents comes from Mr Connor himself. It confirms that he must have been using the Adelaide contacts in some form of communication with Mr Khemlani, because his telex includes a reference which reads:
We have also asked through Adelaide whether draft documents could be sent out in advance of your visit andwe hope for an early response to that enquiry.
As 1 said, that is confirmation from the Minister that Adelaide contacts were involved in the negotiations. This matter was further referred to by Mr Khemlani on 3 December when, in a further telex to the Minister, Mr Connor, he said:
I shall be in touch with my associates in Adelaide and also keep you personally informed of the developments.
So there can be no doubt that both sides to the negotiations were using contacts in Adelaide. They are the official references, which of course would not be denied. They were voluntarily placed before the Senate by the Minister last week. Since then there has been a certain amount of publicity concerning the Adelaide contacts. I refer to an article of 7 July in the Adelaide Advertiser which is headed: ‘South Australian Builder linked with loans’. It has the by-line of 2 senior Advertiser reporters. It says:
Adelaide builder Mr Gerry Karidis, of Medindie, is understood to be one of the many people involved in the Federal Government’s attempts to raise petrodollar loans from abroad.
He is a friend and associate of one of the central figures engaged in the search for such loans- Pakistani financier Mr Tirath Hassaram Khemlani.
The office of the Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition (Mr Lynch) was told several weeks ago that Mr Karidis had been introduced to the Minister for Minerals and Energy ( Mr Connor) last year by Mr Cameron, the then Minister for Labor.
The article includes one other relevant paragraph, which reads:
It is understood Mr Khemlani recently stayed in the executive suite of the International Motel, Anzac Highway, Glenelg, on his way to Canberra.
So there was public reference there to the existence of a contact and a name given- that of Mr Karidis. There was also, prior to that, speculation as to what would be the commission paid to the various agents upon the successful obtaining of the loans. This was discussed in the Age and the Advertiser of 4 July. The Advertiser of 4 July carries the headline: ‘Australia may have faced payout of $US 1 80m ‘. The article states:
The Australian Government would have paid a commission of $US 1 80m on a $US4,000m loan which the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) was attempting to raise last December, according to documents in the hands of the Age.
The documents include five cheques for $US20m each, made out to ‘bearer,’ to be drawn on a London branch of the First National City Bank.
A sixth cheque in our possession, to be drawn on the same bank, is for $US 1 5 m and made out to Mr G. P. C. S. Bajius.
It goes on to say:
There is also an original letter, signed by Tirath Hassaram Khemlani, manager of Dalamal and Sons (Commodities) Ltd and addressed to a finance broker.
It goes on to list the cheques thus: two for $US15m, five for $US20m and one for $US5m.
It then states:
Neither they nor Mr Khemlani ‘s letter give any indication of the identity of the people who were to receive them. Nor is there any explanation of what was to happen to the $US45m which would have remained out of the total commission of $US180m
This obviously raises a tremendous question of who was benefiting from the deal. It is an unorthodox arrangement, as outlined in the papers tabled by the Minister. There is no reference as to who is to receive the commission in this quite secret arrangement concerning huge amounts of money to be paid into secret bank accounts, I take it, in Switzerland. This is one of the many aspects of this loan inquiry. It is not, of course, the totality of it. Other matters were referred to yesterday, and I believe that all honourable senators on the Opposition side are extremely disappointed that at this stage the House is no better off for information than when it was when it started this inquiry. I believe that the refusal of the Government to allow its senior public servants to testify here yesterday forces the Senate into this action of going to private individuals who may have information. This is starting at the other end of the inquiry. If it is a little less highly principled than asking senior Government advisers for information, it is the Government which has forced the Senate into this position. Its first refusal to countenance a judicial inquiry has led the Senate to take the only next action it can take, and I congratulate the Opposition on doing it in the high minded manner in which it has done it. Now there is no other way to go but to the private people who have information as to who was to benefit from the loan itself. As honourable senators opposite protest, it confirms what many of us are thinking, that the Government is hiding something sinister behind the wall of silence that it has built around this inquiry.
I would think that you, Mr President, would be disappointed with yesterday’s events because while in Tokyo you supported a move for a judicial inquiry. You were reported during your visit to Tokyo at the beginnings of the moves to recall Parliament as saying that you supported Opposition calls for a judicial inquiry. You said that the matter involved the fate of the Government and its Ministers and you believed that there were forces at work other than those on the surface. I agree with you, Mr President, as I believe all honourable senators here would agree with you. Even the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon), who made such a spirited and somewhat comical speech here yesterday, was quoted in Adelaide on 5 July as saying:
The Labor Party will have to act honestly to correct anything it may have done wrong if we have done anything wrong.
Even the Minister, who gave this spirited defence of his Government’s blanket prohibition yesterday, could not say that it had not done anything wrong. He said ‘if we have done anything wrong’. They are the Minister’s own words which he used in Adelaide, now quoted back at him.
– Order! May I have a copy of the notice of motion so that it can be made available to the officers at the table?
– It is a simple motion. Copies will be available to everyone directly. The person’s name is Mr Gerasimos Karidis of Medindie, Adelaide. If honourable senators opposite think that on the surface of that motion there is any complication their fears will soon be put at rest. Mr President, you expressed disquiet about matters which you understand are beneath the surface. I hope that your Party will agree here today to furthering this inquiry by calling the person I have named. I understand that if this motion is passed the summons for Mr Karidis ‘s attendance here will need to be served urgently as I believe that he is about to travel.
In conclusion, let me say that it would be unfortunate if the motion were passed and the Senate were called back here on Tuesday fruitlessly. If it is passed I will seek leave to move a further motion which I understand could not be connected with the initial motion I have moved and which in the proper form would empower you, Mr President, to delay the calling of the Senate in the event that Mr Karidis ‘s attendance here was not possible. I would certainly facilitate such an arrangement by the correct motion if the initial motion should succeed. I make that point now so that honourable senators will not be under the misapprehension that they would be called back on Tuesday fruitlessly if the witness were unavailable to attend before the Senate. I have moved the motion and I hope that the Senate will support it as it is one of the few courses left to it in this inquiry.
– I rise on behalf of the Opposition to support Senator Hall’s motion. I do so because it is interesting to note that Mr Clyde Cameron, the honourable member for Hindmarsh, referred to a Mr Gerry Karidis as being one of the personalities involved very early in this whole shady, shonky overseas loans deal. I refer to the House of Representatives Hansard of Wednesday, 9 July at page 3654. I quote Mr Clyde Cameron where he says: 1 was the mastermind. 1 was the one who discovered Mr Karidis and if it had not been for me finding Mr Karidis the Government would never have got near the point of being able to raise enough money to give Australia ownership of its own natural gas. ownership of its own uranium enrichment plants … I was the one who discovered Mr Karidis and without Mr Karidis, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, would never have come into the picture and the Prime Minister would never have had the satisfaction which he must surely enjoy of having been present at an Executive Council meeting which formally authorised the borrowing of the money which came solely as a result of my enterprise . . .
That enterprise dug up a certain Mr Gerry Karidis. With regard to the timing of the matter we find that on page 3655 of the same Hansard Mr Clyde Cameron stated:
Some time in September 1974 a Mr Gerry Karidis of Adelaide told me there that he believed that it would be possible for the Australian Government to raise a long-term loan of a substantial amount at about an 8 per cent interest rate.
Further down the same page Mr Clyde Cameron said:
In the second week in October Mr Karidis sent a telex message addressed to me and the Minister for Minerals and Energy care of my Adelaide office, because the Minister for Minerals and Energy at that time did not have a telex machine and all the messages that had to come by telex had to come through my office in Adelaide or my office in Canberra.
That in itself involves Mr Karidis very heavily. It goes further than that. It is a clear admission that there is evidence of further communications having taken place between Mr Connor’s office and Mr Karidis and no doubt through to Mr Khemlani in London. We have talked about tabling all documents. The words of Mr Clyde Cameron, the honourable member for Hindmarsh in another place, make it perfectly clear that there is further documentation. Much has also been said about an association with a certain Mr Khemlani. I again quote Mr Clyde Cameron as reported at page 3656. He involved Mr Karidis right in with Mr Khemlani when he said:
Mr Karidis subsequently indicated that he had made contact with a Mr Khemlani who claimed to be in a position to make direct contact with Middle East oil interests who had large sums of money to lend.
Further on Mr Clyde Cameron stated very clearly that he was the one, with Mr Karidis, who introduced Mr Khemlani to Mr Connor in the first place. By his admission in his statements as reported in the Hansard of the House of Representatives for Wednesday, 9 July, Mr Clyde Cameron has made it perfectly clear that this Mr Karidis has played a very important part, a very early part and an initiating part in the association of Mr Khemlani in this whole deal. Hence for those reasons alone I support Senator Hall in his motion.
We have tried all methods to get this Government to come out into the open and to place the facts before this country. But this Government has done all it possibly could to do a complete shonky cover-up deal with the whole of the facts of this issue. The Government has given the people of this country only what it has wanted to give them- all that the people need to know, as Senator James McClelland said on television recently. The people of this country want to know much more. Rather than continually covering up, if it has nothing to hide it is time that the Government came out into the open and gave all the facts to the people, because the people of this country are still waiting for all the facts. If they were to come out no doubt the facts would totally embarrass this Government.
– I was completely unaware of the motion which has been moved by Senator Hall this morning. I indicate that the Government will not oppose it. Yesterday we took a very firm stand on a matter of principle- the principle of the Public Service being protected against interrogation by this Parliament. Now that the matter has extended into the area of private citizens we have quite a different proposition in front of us. I hope that we all realise that the matter need not stop with the gentleman whose name, I understand, is Mr Karidis. This was the very sort of thing which I was hoping the Senate would not get down to. I think we got low enough yesterday, but now we are compounding the situation again and we are going to make this the star chamber.
I think that Australian citizens have as much right as Australian public servants. However, that is for the future. If Senator Hall, with the support of the Opposition, decides to bring this gentleman before the Bar of the Senate, it is his responsibility and the responsibility of those who support him. I must say that I am concerned at the remark he made about the possibility of Mr Karidis being available. Are we to assume that Senator Hall is already aware that this gentleman may have left the country? Senator Hall obviously knows something about the gentleman’s movements. Is Senator Hall aware that the gentleman will be leaving the country? Therefore, is Senator Hall in fact possibly misleading the Senate by moving a motion which he knows cannot come to fruition in the next few days or weeks? If that is the case I believe that Senator Hall should state now whether he knows Mr Karidis will be available to appear before the Senate.
We should be very careful in all these precedents that are being set here today. I am quite sure that the great majority of Australians would not wish to see a whole series of private citizens brought before the Senate. We must realise that many people have involved themselves publicly in statements about this whole question of overseas fund raising. As we accept the principle now that these citizens may be brought before the Bar of the Senate we would expect the same principle to be adopted in regard to any further names which may be raised in the Senate for consideration by honourable senators. I am sorry that we have to debate a motion of this nature- that we even have to respond to it. However, it is quite obviously the will of the Opposition and of Senator Hall, who have the numbers in this place, to proceed with the motion. We accept that. We will not oppose the motion. But I hope that in proceeding with this motion all members of the Opposition are mindful again of just how much they are getting the Senate further into this morass.
Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader Liberal Movement)- in reply- In response to the remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) that I may be misleading the Senate I assure you, Mr President, and the Senate that I am not. The information in my possession is that Mr Karidis is in Australia but is likely to travel soon. That is all I know about his intentions in regard to his whereabouts. I assure the Leader of the Government in the Senate that I most genuinely would like to have Mr Karidis attend here, and I am sure that if he does he will receive the same courtesies which the other people who attended here yesterday received.
– Is the address given his place of residence?
– Yes. If the Special Minister of State (Senator Douglas McClelland) would like me to do so, I can give another address concerning Mr Karidis’ place of work, his business address, but I think that one address is sufficient at the moment. I remind the Senate that it is not unusual for witnesses to attend hearings of select committees of this House. It is a normal procedure. I can remember that recently that one committee, the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, met for a very long time. All honourable senators know of the very great number of witnesses whom I believe attended mainly upon request, but I think some may have attended under summons. This is not an unusual circumstance at all in that regard. All we are doing is extending the size of a Senate committee to the whole of the Senate. In closing my remarks in support of this motion I point out that the motion, of course, is not simply something that the Opposition or I have dredged up. This is something forced on the Senate by the Government’s strictures and its blanket prohibition on any information reaching the Senate or the public.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Examination of Persons Called to the Bar of the Senate
– Yesterday there was some concern about the position of Mr Whitelaw. Senator James McClelland, as Minister representing the Attorney-General, made a statement in respect of Mr Whitelaw. May I suggest that he make a further statement this morning which elaborates the position in respect of Mr Whitelaw ‘s place in the Public Service and in respect of the ministry.
– The statement which I propose to make is similar to that which I made yesterday but is an elaboration and refinement of the points which I attempted to make then. Mr Whitelaw, who was and is an officer of the Australian Public Service, was granted leave under the provisions of section 72B of the Public Service Act with effect from 14 April 1975 to take up duty as Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund. He had occupied the position of First Assistant Secretary, Overseas Economic Relations Division, Department of the Treasury, for a period substantially exceeding 12 months immediately prior to the date on which he was granted leave to take up his appointment with the International Monetary Fund. An officer of the Australian Public Service who is granted leave by the Public Service Board under section 72 B of the Public Service Act is, by virtue of the section, an unattached officer of the Australian Public Service during the period of his leave. Mr Whitelaw, therefore, was and remains a member of the Australian Public Service by virtue of section 72B of the Public Service Act and section 10 of that Act which declares that the Public Service includes ‘persons who are unattached officers’.
The right of the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) to give a direction to Mr Whitelaw in relation to a claim of privilege in respect of answers to all questions upon matters contained in the resolution of the Senate of 9 July 1 975 and in respect of the production of documents, files and papers relevant to those matters is clear. The privilege is that of the Crown, not of an individual officer or person. The claim of privilege is, therefore, to be made by or on behalf of the Crown. The Treasurer, as the Minister administering the Department of the Treasury, is the appropriate Minister to claim privilege or to direct that privilege be claimed on behalf of the Crown in respect of information and documents relevant to the matters contained in the resolution of the Senate that came to the knowledge of or into the possession of Mr Whitelaw in his official capacity as a First Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Treasury. With respect to information and documents relevant to the matters contained in the resolution of the Senate which came to the knowledge or into the possession of Mr Whitelaw in an official capacity, the direction to Mr Whitelaw and the certificate included in the letter addressed by the Treasurer to the President of the Senate specifically in relation to Mr Whitelaw, dated 16 July 1975, constitute an effective claim of privilege on behalf of the Crown.
– I ask for leave to move a motion arising out of the statement which Senator James McClelland has just made in respect of this matter.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Without accepting the validity of the statement, and without prejudice, the Opposition quite understands the position which Mr Whitelaw would be in. We may not accept this advice. I understand that he certainly would. Therefore, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reference to Privileges Committee
– I seek leave to move a motion that intervening business be postponed until after consideration of General Business, order of the day number 36, relating to the examination of witnesses and papers in regard to overseas loan raising activities. That is the motion I moved yesterday, namely, that the Senate take note of the papers, being letters from 3 Ministers tabled by you yesterday, Mr President. I also seek leave to add to that original motion. I understand, by arrangement with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt), that after I move my amendment the sitting of the Senate will be suspended until 2.15 p.m. and that we will debate the matter at that stage. In that way the Government will not be taken by surprise. So, first, I seek leave to move my motion. No doubt the Leader of the Government in the Senate will then propose that the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 2.15 p.m.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek to add certain words to my original motion so that it now reads:
That the Senate take note of the Papers (being letters from three Ministers presented by the President on 16 July 1975) but the Senate resolves that:
1 ) The action of the Government in directing public servants called to the Bar of the Senate not to answer any questions is a massive cover up of the Government’s involvement in the attempted raising of overseas loans; and therefore the Senate renews its call for the Government to appoint a royal commission consisting of at least one judge and with proper and adequate terms of reference.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, there be referred to the Committee of Privileges:
The Direction of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Minerals and Energy that Public Servants claim privilege;
The further direction of Ministers that notwithstanding any rejection by the Senate of such claim of privilege the Public Servants summoned were not to answer any questions or produce any documents; and
The further claim of privilege made by the Solicitor-General.
That the Committee of Privileges report by 30 September 1975.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Privileges Committee for the purposes of its inquiry and report shall have power to send for persons, papers, and records.
I take it that, having so moved, if the Leader of the Government in the Senate seeks the suspension of the sitting I shall get the call to speak to the motion at 2. 15 p.m.
– I suggest that the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 2.15 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 11.3 a.m. to 2.15p.m.
Calling of Person to the Bar of the Senate
– I wish to advise the Senate that I have received the following telegram from Mr Gerry Karidis:
Hindmarsh, S.A. Urgent . . . The President The Senate Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T.
I will attend Tuesday I desire to be represented by legal counsel as I believe is my light -
With the concurrence of Senator Hall, I read the remainder of the telegram:
Please convey to Mr Steele Hall that his sinister imputations about my leaving the country to avoid attendance leave me very upset.
Copies of this will be circulated to honourable senators.
– by leave- Mr President, to clarify the position as a result of your reading that telegram to the Senate, I wish to indicate that we on the Government side have no objection to the gentleman concerned having counsel with him in the Senate on Tuesday.
Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition)- by leave- I would indicate likewise that that is the Opposition’s view so that Mr Karidis may know that before he comes here.
– by leave- Mr President, I would approve the general feeling of the Senate, expressed by the Party leaders, that Mr Karidis should be represented by counsel.
– I think the Leader of the Government said that Mr Karidis would be accompanied by counsel, not really represented. He will come here accompanied by counsel.
– Counsel would be here with Mr Karidis.
– He would be here with him, yes. In effect, counsel is not coming to take over the conduct of the Senate. Mr Karidis will come with counsel to advise and assist him. Senator Hall said ‘represented’, and the only reason I raise this is that in legal proceedings often when a party to the action does not have to be present in person he may be represented by counsel. We would not want counsel coming along here and not Mr Karidis. Mr Karidis would certainly be accompanied by counsel to assist him, as has been the practice in committee hearings.
– Counsel cannot appear.
– No, senator. You have been on committees where this has been done.
– To overcome this problem, perhaps the Leaders in the Senate could get together before next Tuesday to work out the conditions under which Mr Karidis may be accompanied by legal counsel. His representation or accompaniment here by counsel will require a resolution of the Senate and that should be done, perhaps next Tuesday before those gentleman enter the Senate chamber.
Reference to Privileges Committee
- Mr President, I move:
Mr President, I will be very brief in speaking to this motion. I know it is the desire of the Senate to lift at the normal adjournment time, which on my understanding of the sessional order is 5 p.m. I know also that a number of honourable senators on both sides of the Chamber wish to contribute to this debate, and speakers will get a slot in the speaking system only if everybody, starting with myself, is short, sharp and to the point.
– The first is easier to comply with than the third.
-I thank the Minister for his interjection. I do not know whether to give him one out of 20 for it, or more. I think that one out of 20 is 5 per cent. The first paragraph of the motion basically speaks for itself. It states:
The action of the Government in directing public servants called to the Bar of the Senate not to answer any questions is a massive cover up of the Government’s involvement in the attempted raising of overseas loans.
The Opposition parties both in this place and in the other place have been saying- the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Mr Malcolm Fraser, has been saying this continually over the recent months- that the Government ought to come clean on the whole of this business. There has been evasion during question time and there have been questions not answered. In spite of the Prime Minister’s claim that there is ample opportunity within the parliamentary system to investigate this matter by way of questions, urgency motions and adjournment debates, I state quite frankly that those procedures are not sufficient in a matter of this substance.
We believe that the allegation that we have been making for months- when I say ‘we’ I mean the Opposition parties in both Houses of this Parliament- that the Government has done something of which, if it is not ashamed, it ought to be ashamed and that it has done something which it does not wish to have brought into the public gaze, has been proven. It was proven yesterday and it was proven the day before. It was proven, firstly, on Tuesday by the school boy trick of writing letters to you, Mr President, at the death knock before the Senate sat, claiming privilege. When, as a result of the debate that afternoon the Government was put on notice that perhaps what it had done initially was not sufficient, it had to rush in a second set of letters on the next day forbidding the public servants to answer questions. The Government had 2 bites at the same cherry. Of course, that is typical. It does not know what it is doing from day to day. It makes ad hoc decisions in haste and they tend to come unstuck. Why should the Government go to all this trouble if it did not have something to hide? The Government is convicted by its own actions. That is what the Opposition is saying in the first sentence of paragraph 1 of the motion.
If what we believe to be true is true- and we believe it is- then surely for the sake of the Government, for the sake of Parliament and for the sake of the Australian Labor Party itself, as well as the taxpayers and the nation at large, the Government ought to appoint a royal commission, consisting of at least one judge, with proper and adequate terms of reference to investigate the whole of this matter. The call for a royal commission is not just a call from the Opposition. I suppose that, if a secret vote were taken on the matter in the Australian Labor Party, the majority of its members also would opt for a royal commission. As Senator Hall said this morning, you yourself, Mr President, called for it very early in the piece. As I recall it- I hope my memory serves me correctly- I heard Mr Hawke, the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, saying the same thing upon his return to Australia from Greece. I think he said it on the radio program AM. I did not personally hear Senator Wheeldon call for an inquiry; but 1 understand that he was reported in the Press as saying that there could be something to be said for an investigation. I hope I am not quoting him out of context; but I do recollect seeing a Press report to that effect. The Press report has never been denied by the honourable senator; so I take it to be true. This has been the case right throughout the Labor Party.
I recall hearing what was said by Mr Egerton, one of the Federal Vice-Presidents of the Australian Labor Party, on the radio program AM this morning. In spite of the fact that a sort of window dressing resolution was passed by, I think, the Trades and Labor Council of Queensland last night in Brisbane, there was certainly a sting in the tail which said, in effect, that the Australian Labor Party or the Trades and Labor Council- I suppose they are not that distinguishablein Queensland certainly is unhappy about the whole of this business. This is not, as has been alleged by some Government speakers, a plot of the Opposition and the media working separately or together. Only recently the West Australian newspaper stated in its editorial that what has happened could almost be predicted. As soon as the Government gets into trouble, generally through its own actions or inactions, and as soon as the improper or wrongful activities of the Government tend to be exposed one can almost bet that the Government- I put it on the basis of any government- will do what the Government predictably has done in this case. It will blame some capitalist media plot. Newspaper sensationalism! The media is always a good whipping boy for politicians. However, this issue has not erupted just out of the media. It has not erupted just out of the Opposition Parties. I believe, for what it is worth, that if the Labor Party and those who study the Gallup polls or the Morgan polls, whichever they may be, want to seek one of the many reasons for the Labor Party’s standing being so low, as shown in the latest polls, they ought to look at this operation to see how far it has affected the Labor Party. I am certain that sitting opposite there are a number, if not the majority, of honourable senators who also would like to know the full facts of this matter. I doubt whether Cabinet knows them and I am fairly certain that Caucus does not; but it is absolutely certain that neither the Parliament nor the nation knows the full facts. Therefore, there ought to be a royal commission to expose them.
Paragraphs (2), (3) and (4) of my motion are self-explanatory. There were claims to privilege made here yesterday to you, Mr President, by Ministers by letter and by the Solicitor-General by letter and in person. I think it is fair to say that the Senate neither acceded to nor rejected those claims. I believe it did the proper thing and put those claims to one side. However, those claims to privilege cannot be left to lie in limbo. They must be investigated. We cannot investigate in a heated Party partisan debate in this chamber whether some person has privilege or is entitled to claim privilege, or the problems of the waiver of privilege and who is entitled to waive it. These are matters which ought to be resolved in the calmness of the committee atmosphere. They ought to be resolved by the commitee calling before it evidence from those in the public who are well versed in this field. There are both practising and academic lawyers who could be called. There are distinguished people in both fields. There are people who write in the political science field who have views on this subject and who have made a great study of it. One at least has written a book about it. It is from these people that advice ought now to be sought because to date we have had but one side of the picture painted here by what one might term a nonpolitician within the Senate. I refer of course to evidence tendered yesterday by the SolicitorGeneral.
It is fair and proper that the claims made by the Ministers and the Solicitor-General be tested. If they stand up under test the Senate certainly ought to have that knowledge and make a decision thereon. However, if they do not stand up under objective independent test by those well versed in the field, the Senate will have to reconsider its position for the future and how far it will deal with these claims. For those reasons the Opposition has moved also paragraphs (2), (3) and (4) of the motion.
I think I have taken as much of the Senate’s time as I said I aimed to take. I indicated that I would attempt to finish in under 15 minutes so that those honourable senators who follow me, if they take about the same amount of time, will be able to conclude the debate within a reasonable time. This is a serious matter. The first part of the motion is serious for the nation at large. Paragraphs (2), (3) and (4) also are serious both for the Senate as a chamber of the Parliament and for the public at large because the Senate is here to represent the public.
– I take up the words of Senator Withers who said that paragraph ( 1 ) of the motion represents a serious matter for the nation. Nothing could be more true than that because that paragraph is the one which deals with the essence of this whole matter of overseas borrowings by this Government. I wish to indicate initially, Mr President, that on behalf of the Government I move the following amendment:
Omit paragraph ( I ).
The whole question of overseas borrowings by this Government was a stated policy of the Labor Party long before it came into office. We agreed with a very prominent member of the Government of the day, Mr Jack McEwen, who was the Leader of the Australian Country Party at the time and who is on record as criticising the Liberal Government of the day for selling the farm and for giving away Australia’s natural resources. We said when we were in Opposition that we would try to do something about this if we became a Government.
What in fact was the position when we took office in December 1972? We found this picture of overseas ownership and control of our resources: In the case of coal, 80 per cent of it in Queensland was foreign-owned and controlled. In the case of iron ore, Mount Newman was 40 per cent foreign-owned and controlled; Hammersley, 80 per cent; Mount Goldsworthy, 85 per cent; Robe River, 60 per cent; and Savage River 87 per cent. The Mount Isa copper mine was 53 per cent foreign-owned and controlled. In the field of bauxite, Alcoa was 51 per cent foreign-owned and controlled; Nabalco, 70 per cent; Comalco, 81 per cent; and Queensland Alumina, 92 per cent. In that very important area of uranium, Pancontinental was 55 per cent foreign-owned and controlled; and Central Pacific Minerals, 75 per cent. Petroleum refining was 90 per cent foreign-owned and controlled. With regard to exploration, Gippsland was 59 per cent foreign-owned and controlled; the North-West Shelf 85 per cent; and Barrow Island 86 percent.
These figures are the genesis of the debate that has taken place here today and which has been taking place over the past few weeks. No allegations concerning false documents, telexes and photostat copies by a whole range of individuals who did not do their homework adequately are going to falsify the true picture. This is what the debate is all about. Are we as Australians going to defend what is our own or are we going to give it to somebody else to control? This Government made a commitment before it came into office that it would endeavour to develop, by whatever means available, our own resources. As Mr Connor pointed out, the estimated value of those natural resources is not just $4 billion, it is $5,700 billion. The $4 billion is correctly described as peanuts when we consider the magnitude of the wealth of resources which we have in this country. That is the essence of the matter. I hear someone groaning on the Opposition side because he does not want the Australian people really to understand what this is all about. That is the essence of the matter. Honourable senators opposite want to cloud the issues with talk about the so-called subterfuges and dealings which were under hand and so on. But despite all the invitations to produce the evidence, they cannot produce it because they know it does not exist. This has been the situation we have found over the past few weeks.
I ask honourable senators to recall the decision which had to be taken by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development only last year. This group of nations, under the auspices of the United Nations, was compelled to establish a special fund- a financial support fund of $ 1 8,000m- for the purpose of preventing any one of those nations from falling into terrible economic difficulties as a result of the shift of the capital resources of the world to the Middle East countries. They took this step because they realised the magnitude of what had happened with the change in oil prices. We are a member of that group. This did not preclude any one of the members of that group from taking unilateral action to protect its interests.
We, as a genuine Australian Government, took individual action to protect our interests. Was there something wrong about that? Was there something wrong in the principle of looking after Australia’s resources ourselves? Is anyone prepared to say it was wrong? The real question that arises is whether we as Australians want to control our own destiny. That is what it is all about. I am not going to argue the case whether we should have used intermediaries such as Mr Khemlani or should have adopted Treasury advice and used the normal sources. I am not going to argue that case.
– That is what it is all about.
– I believe, as I said before, that this is an arguable position. Senator Greenwood interjected: ‘That is what it is all about’. I would say that that interjection reflects precisely the attitude of Senator Greenwood. He is more concerned with this political point than he is about the future of this country and who controls it. I have no doubt that if the Opposition parties were back in power tomorrow they would allow the same situation to go on as I have outlined in the figures that I gave initially to the Senate. The Opposition parties would let overseas interests come in and take control of our natural resources as they have done down the years. That is what we are trying to stop because it concerns the future of Australia and of Australians.
Let us look at one example of what has been termed the terribly inexpert way that the Government went about these matters. I repeat that at no time did the Minister for Minerals and Energy ever give an authority to anyone to negotiate a loan on Australia’s behalf. Good arguments can be advanced as to why in the changed circumstances of the world’s capital markets new avenues should be explored. Included in the papers that I tabled here last week on behalf of Mr Connor was a draft agreement. That draft agreement with the Seattle First National Bank (Switzerland) came from the Minister, Mr Connor, himself. I challenge any lawyer or other person on the Opposition side to read through that document and show me where there has been any inexpertise in its drafting. I issue that specific challenge to honourable senators opposite.
This document was carefully drafted with proper legal and Treasury advice. I will quote one paragraph from it, because I believe that it ought to be said and said again. I refer to paragraph (3) of what is, remember, a draft agreement. Paragraph (3) provides:
Our agreement in paragraph (2) abovementioned is, of course, given on the understanding that it does not in any way whatsoever commit the Australian Government to any costs, fees or other liabilities, and it is further understood that your bank, in acting as a trustee bank, will obtain funds from the lenders in a sufficient amount to pay all operational charges or other expenses or commissions and be in a position to transfer to the Australian Government the total amount of four billion United States dollars.
There in writing is proof positive that every step was carefully measured before anything was placed in writing. Despite the challenges to the Opposition to bring forward documented evidence as good as the documented evidence to which I have just referred, to prove that the contrary is the case, that evidence has not been forthcoming. It has not been forthcoming because it does not exist. Had there been any such document it would have been produced at some time in this Parliament, even before we rose at the end of the previous session.
The Government will not support the first paragraph of the motion. I accept the point made earlier by Senator Withers. I know that there are several honourable senators who want to speak in this debate. I am not going to go over all the details again. I believe it is critically important that the Australian people are not fooled by all this controversy about overseas loans, that they understand clearly what we have been trying to do. Perhaps we have not been successful at this stage in obtaining those moneys but as long as the Australian people can understand that the alternative is a government that is trying to ensure that we have control of the destiny of our national resources, as opposed to an Opposition which would give those resources away to people overseas, they will know the key issue that we are talking about. For that reason, we do not see the need for a royal commission to be appointed. It is quite obvious that before a royal commission can be brought into operation there needs to be clear evidence or a prima facie case that we had acted not in the best interests of Australia or, as the Royal Commissions Act itself says, that there was action not related to or connected with the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth. If anyone can suggest to me that trying to obtain control over our own destiny is not good government then I do not know what is. We do not oppose the other 3 paragraphs of the motion. We believe that this matter ought to go to the Privileges Committee.
The last point I make is one that I touched on yesterday- the exhibition we saw yesterday of public servants being brought before the Bar of the Senate. Neither side- Labor of Liberal- has a clean record in this respect. When we were in Opposition we made certain demands of a similar nature and I believe that we were as guilty then of trying to undermine the integrity or the independence of the Public Service by so doing, but we live and learn. It seems that we have to experience events, such as those which we saw yesterday, to bring home to us the sort of fires with which we play. We play with them when we were in Opposition. It does not matter what political colour we are. I hope that from the deliberations of the Privileges Committee a guide can be given to this Parliament to ensure that we do not see a repetition of what happened yesterday. I hope I can speak for all Government members in saying that if our positions were reversed in this chamber that we would hope never to see a repetition of yesterday’s events. Despite our differences in policy, one thing we must have- we have had it in this country over the years- is an honest and conscientious Public Service. We have to keep it that way. lt does not matter if we have to sink political differences to have it. Once the Public Service is undermined it is of no use talking about parliamentary democracy because it would be a shell without an honest, effective and impartial Public Service. I am sure that anybody who has had ministerial responsibility in government must understand and support that point. Therefore I hope that from the information which will come back to this Senate from the Privileges Committee we might have a guide as to how we can achieve that end. It is critically important. I again formally indicate to the Senate that the Government does not oppose paragraphs (2), (3) and (4) of the motion but will oppose paragraph ( 1 ).
-The National Country Party supports the motion moved by Senator Withers. The various parts of the motion are such that there could be a good deal of discussion by Opposition supporters. I believe that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) branded his Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as untruthful. I regret that that should happen. The core of what Senator Wriedt had to say concerned something that perhaps this Parliament did not know previously- that the one intent of the $4,000m loan was to buy back Australia. The Prime Minister lent his name to an Executive Council minute which purported that the money was for temporary purposes.
– That is a new point.
– It is not a new point for those who think. It is very interesting that Senator Wriedt now admits that that statement was a lie.
– I take a point of order. I think that in fairness Senator Webster ought to be asked to withdraw that statement. He knows it is not true.
– I have had a request that you withdraw that statement, Senator Webster.
-What is it you wish me to withdraw, Mr President?
– The words to which Senator Wriedt objected.
– I would like the words to be put down in writing, Mr President, because -
– I cannot be expected to take down words. I could ask Senator Wriedt to write down the words but I think that would be time consuming.
– In view of the time that we have available in which to speak and if the word ‘lie’ upsets Senator Wriedt, I say that it is nationally abroad that the statement which was put down in the Executive minute was completely misleading and, in that case, I withdraw the word ‘lie’.
– Order! Senator Webster has withdrawn the word ‘lie’.
-A complete misconstruction and fabrication was put down by the Prime Minister and his Ministers in that
Executive minute. The public is aware of this. Senator Wriedt attempted to say that he hoped the public would be aware of the clarity of the action of the Government. I am unable to believe the Prime Minister. In 1972, on behalf of his Labor Government, the Prime Minister stated:
We want the Australian people to know the facts, to know the needs, to know the choices before them. We want them always to help us as a government to make the decisions and to make the right decisions. Australia has suffered heavily from the demeaning idea that the government always knows best with the unspoken assumption always in the background that only the government knows or should know anything.
Over the whole range of policy at home and abroad this corrupting notion of a government monopoly of knowledge and wisdom has led to bad decisions and bad government. The Australian Labor Party will build into the administration of the affairs of this nation machinery that will prevent any government, Labor or Liberal, from ever again cloaking your affairs under excessive and needless secrecy.
The thrust of the motion which has been put down by Senator Withers is an attempt to establish just the facts in relation to this matter. In the first paragraph of the motion we have the suggestion that the action of the Government in directing public servants, called to the Bar of the Senate, not to answer any questions is a massive cover up of the Government’s involvement. Senator Wriedt emphasised that. He has declared in that great idea of nationalism that Australians should own everything. The Government without telling the people gave authority to some Minister- certainly not to a Treasurer. We have seen that 2 Treasurers have been moved out of their position since that fateful day. A former Treasurer has had sufficient courage to say that Australia did not need this level of borrowing and that Australia should not be involved in that type of operation. He has criticised his own Prime Minister for putting Australia into a situation where it may have to repay $ 1 8,000m on borrowing.
Where is the economic sense within the Labor Party? For the benefit of anyone who is listening, I will take the simple matter of a commercial operation where the directors of a company may be required to look after the economic and financial management of a corporation. Guidelines are laid down. If borrowing is to take place consultation with the various directors is needed. Always the accountant of the day would be brought into the matter. If there were any variation from that practice it would indicate that something untoward was being done. Senator Wriedt emphasised this matter. Prior to December last year there was no mention in a policy speech or in a statement in the House that, on behalf of the people of Australia, this Government would attempt to borrow the largest amount of money that has ever been sought on behalf of Australia with the idea of buying back parts of Australia. An Executive Council meeting was held. An absolutely untruthful minute was put on the books stating that the borrowing would be for temporary purposes- a lie now produced by Senator Wriedt when he says that this was for the buying back of Australia.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Senator Wriedt has now left the chamber. A few minutes ago he was accused of lying by Senator Webster and the President asked Senator Webster to withdraw that remark. Under the cover of Senator Wriedt’s withdrawal from the chamber, the same comment is made.
- Senator Webster did withdraw the remark.
– He did withdraw.
– I rise on a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- What is your point of order?
– I am speaking to the point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The one that was raised by Senator Button?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I know now; you did not tell me earlier.
– I am about to tell you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Senator Webster previously implied falsehood on the part of Senator Wriedt. What he said on this occasion was that the expression ‘for temporary purposes’ which appears in the document referred to was a lie. I submit that is incontrovertible and is perfectly proper argument.
-Mr Acting Deputy President -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have got to rule on that point of order. I am guided by the position taken by the President when he asked Senator Webster to withdraw. I heard both statements and I feel that they can be connected. I think that in the interests of the dignity of the Senate the honourable senator might withdraw the remark.
– If it is a matter which disturbs the Senate, I will withdraw the remark. If honourable senators read Hansard tomorrow they will find that on neither occasion did I suggest that Senator Wriedt lied. If that is the situation, I withdraw the remark. However, I do say that the wording in the document is a lie, and I have no intention of withdrawing that particular comment. The wording in the document is completely misleading. Mr Acting Deputy President, you must agree. One of the important points which came out in the debate during the last week is that an untruthful comment has been put into that Executive Council minute.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Whatever the statement is and whatever interpretation may be put on it, you did ask Senator Webster to withdraw the implication. He got to his feet and said: I have no intention of withdrawing it’. That is in complete defiance of your ruling and I would ask that appropriate action be taken as a result of that defiance of your ruling.
– Speaking on that point of order, this is a completely separate matter from the earlier matter. This is concerned with the authenticity of a document. Senator Wriedt was not a party to that document. This has nothing whatever to do with Senator Wriedt, and I suggest that there is no reason for connecting the 2 matters.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- In the interests of the dignity of this chamber I suggested that Senator Webster might withdraw his remark. I thought he indicated to me that he agreed to do that. I accepted his withdrawal, but I must admit that he then continued to repeat the statement. I again appeal to Senator Webster, having in mind the dignity of the Senate, to withdraw the statement and then continue with his speech so that the debate can continue in an orderly manner.
-At your request, Mr Acting Deputy President, I withdraw the statement. When the Senate meets each day we pray that the Senate will act in the interests of the true welfare of the people of Australia. I hope that we will continue to do that. A great variety of points are associated with the discussion that has taken place in the past 2 days. The Government’s cover-up has resulted in the Leader of the Government, Senator Wriedt, telling the Senate in the speech which he has just delivered that if there were further documents related to this matter I think I heard him correctly- they would have been presented prior to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) presenting them in another place. I believe that further documents which are important in this matter will come forward. For instance, we have been told that the extent of the borrowings was to be this enormous figure of $4,000m. We have not seen any document which indicates how that money would be spent. Senator Wriedt made the statement today that it would be spent in buying back parts of Australia. Certainly that could not be construed as being a temporary purpose, and I think that every Government member would agree with me on that point.
– What does ‘temporary’ mean?
-Senator Cavanagh would agree with that.
– What does ‘temporary’ mean? It is a legal question.
-Senator Cavanagh has some difficulty in understanding what ‘temporary’ means, but I think if he referred to his friend Jim Cairns or one of the other Treasurers he would know what it meant. It means for a short term. Senator Wriedt says that the money is wanted for long term purposes. Indeed, the borrowing was to be for a 20-year period. The illegality of this was that the Executive Council met and it attempted to subvert the Loan Council. In the words of a legal opinion we had presented in this Parliament, it was an illegal act.
– Who said that?
-One of the witnesses before us yesterday. Whilst saying that he did not view it as being illegal in the lawful sense, he viewed it as unconstitutional. Are honourable senators opposite anxious that their administration should break the Constitution. That is what took place and if honourable senators opposite read Hansard they will find that that is emphasised. Certainly the Opposition does not know all the facts. My constituents ask me many questions. I addressed students at one school at the end of last week and the main question arising from them was: ‘What can it be that the Government is attempting to hide in this matter?’ I think that is what will be emphasised as we proceed from now on. One of the greatest queries that comes to my mind is what was to happen with those blank cheques for $20m apiece. I had hoped that the Leader of the Government, when he spoke, would make that clear. When has a Government ever issued blank promissory notes?
– We know about your integrity.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Order! I ask the Senate to come to order and assist the conduct of the Senate by allowing Senator Webster to continue his speech. I also appeal to Senator Webster. He does excite honourable senators on the Government benches by speaking to them instead of addressing the Chair. If he addresses himself to the Chair I think he will avoid a lot of the unnecessary interjections.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I am sorry if I excite the Government on matters such as this. If I were one of the Government members, I would be very excited myself. I think that Senator Poyser and others might well call out because matters will come forward and I think they will be most embarrassing for the Government. I say that the Opposition is not in possession of the facts. The Australian public is not in possession of the facts. Are we to believe what the Prime Minister said in his 1972 pre-election speech? I would imagine that most Australians thought that the statement to which I referred earlier would perhaps mean open government. We have not seen it in the silencing of public servants when they came before us yesterday. Indeed, their silence, in my opinion, is graver in that it revives the question of the power of the Executive over the Parliament. My great concern arising from yesterday’s episode was that if one found, for instance, some great defalcation in the Government and there was a loss of enormous amounts of money to the Australian public, could an Executive or a Prime Minister demand the silence of public servants? If so, the public would never be able to learn the facts of the matter. No matter which government happens to be in power, that will be one of the most pervading matters that the Senate will ever have to debate, and we as a Senate must overcome that.
I fully agree with the second part of the motion, which is to the effect that notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders there be referred to the Committee of Privileges the direction of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) and other Ministers that publicservants be silenced. I think that it was a most unusual step for the Prime Minister to take and I am not prepared to believe that it was in the public interest that those instructions were issued.
I would like to read one or two paragraphs from the Special Report of the Senate Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force, the members of which were all Australian Labor Party senators. The present President of the Senate was one of them. The words which I will read from page 13, paragraph 42, are most applicable to our situation today. The report was signed by that most respected senator, Senator McKenna. It says:
Having established the point that certain witnesses refused to attend, while others by their discourteous silence signified their intention of ignoring the letters asking for their attendance, the machinery of the Parliament could be put in motion for the punishment of the offenders. But the Committee feels that it is the members of the Cabinet who are primarily culpable in this matter. It was they who issued the directive upon which some of the officials acted as they did.
The conduct -
I will delete the words ‘and in certain cases most discourteous conduct’ because we did not witness that- of the officials cannot be allowed to pass, lest by their inaction the Select Committee, and with it the Senate, permit a most dangerous and undesirable precedent to be established.
It goes on to say:
The action of Cabinet and the resultant conduct of the officers cannot help but create in the minds of public servants a false conception of ministerial hegemony in matters of Parliament. It can only be in the general interest to put these matters in their right perspective.
It has often been said, by members of all Parties, that ‘The Senate is master of its own affairs’. That maxim would be well served by resolute action by the Senate of a kind which will manifest to public officials generally that, in a democracy, the institution of Parliament is still paramount: that Cabinet derives what powers it may have from the Parliament, and not Parliament from the Cabinet; and that Parliament’s rights are, in essence, the rights of the citizen. It is in the national interest that public servants should understand and act upon these precepts, even if they themselves are required, by a misguided Ministry, not to give expression to them.
So, it is with the greatest pleasure that the members of the National Country Party support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise to support the amendment to the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). At the outset I would like to deal with one or two monumental irrelevancies that have been raised in the course of this debate. We must have heard half a dozen speakers now on the Opposition side refer to a book written in 1972 by Mr Jim Spigelman on the subject of secrecy. Of course, it is very interesting to refer to that book; but I would be grateful if any Opposition speaker could tell me the relevance of that book to this debate. Whatever one might say about the proposed loan transactions of the Government, is it seriously suggested that Mr Spigelman or anybody else concerned with open government suggests that it should extend to negotiations prior to any loan involvements at all actually taking place? Is it seriously suggested that the people of Australia should have been told by anybody that we are seeking, through intermediaries, to find out whether funds are available overseas to be loaned to Australia? If anyone can tell me the relevance of that argument to this debate I would be grateful and better informed.
The second expression which concerns me and which Senator Webster raised again is the repeated reference to the Government’s involvement in the loan raising. Nobody on this side of the chamber would seriously contest the view that the Government is involved. Of course the Government is the primary party involved in the loan raising issue. To mention this question of Government involvement as if the Government was some appendage to somebody else who had actually been involved in loan raising activities is again an irrelevance and quite misleading in the context of this debate. The essential question with which we are concerned and with which we have been concerned in the last two or three days in the Senate is whether public servants who are employees of the Crown can claim privilege before the Senate against disclosing professional advice and other material which they may have made available to the Government. The principle to which I wish to refer at a later stage is that the public servants fall within a class who ought to be protected from making such disclosures simply in the interests of government itself; that is to say, in order that they may give advice and be involved in policy formulation and the like in an atmosphere of candour and frankness which will not prejudice them at a later stage. All these issues of course have been raised to distract attention from the very real issue of this debate.
Many speakers at various stages have been asking: What is it really all about? If one reads the Senate Hansard of Wednesday last week one will find what it is all about in Senator Withers’ speech when he introduced the first motion, because he concluded that speech with the following words: ‘Now we embark on the great adventure’. That is what Senator Withers said last week. That is what it is all about. The words ‘now we embark upon the great adventure’ display Senator Withers’ characteristic originality of* expression which makes him one of the greats of Australian politics! When did we previously hear the expression ‘now we embark upon the great adventure’? We heard it at the time of the last great adventure in 1974 when the Opposition in this place threatened to refuse supply to the
Government. That of course is what the Opposition is all about. In between periods of vast tedium and periods when it totally fails to set itself up as a credible alternative government the Opposition enters periods of great adventures to break that tedium on behalf of all.
The expression ‘embark upon a great adventure’ suggests two things. It suggests that we are embarking upon something such as Penelope the Platypus or The Adventures of the Magic Pudding & great adventure indeed! We have heard that expression on two occasions from Senator Withers. Yesterday and the day before we were subjected to a sort of boring tutorial from former practitioners in the courts of petty sessions and the law relating to this matter. We heard the Opposition’s equivalent of the British Law Lords, now out of practice, on the question of the law involved in this matter. I am very surprised that the Opposition embarked on that exercise because I would have thought that the law, whether it be the principle of the common law or the practice of the House of Commons and the practice of this Parliament, is really pretty clear.
The practice of the House of Commons, which dates back at least to 1858 in the Cagliari case, established quite clearly that it was a settled practice that neither the opinions of law officers nor the papers upon which they are based should be produced to the House or requested by the House. I accept the line of authorities which extends from that view in the Cagliari case in 1 858 down to the opinion of Senator Greenwood and Mr Ellicott which was given in 1 972. 1 accept the line of authorities as being greater than the line of authorities which was cited by Opposition senators as to the view expressed some years ago by a committee of this Senate which was composed of Labor senators. Senator Wriedt in the House today has referred to that matter.
Let me refer to one or two other matters which I believe illustrate the principle. I refer first of all to the Grosvenor Hotel case and the judgment of Salmon, L. J. This was a case in which the question was whether Crown documents of the kind we sought in the Senate yesterday could be produced in a court. Admittedly the courts have changed their view about this to a degree in recent years, but the essential principle remains the same. It is the principle which the Government asserted yesterday. The principle was expressed by Salmon, L. J., in these words:
It is well settled that, in the public interest, such documents should be written with the utmost candour and freedom of expression, that such candour and freedom of expression might be impaired if such documents could be ordered to be produced in an action, and that accordingly their production would be so much to the prejudice of the public interest, that, however pertinent they might be to the issues in an action, they ought not to be produced.
That is the principle which has flowed through the common law and which still exists in the common law except that the courts now say, as a result of the decision in Conway’s case, that the court may from time to time determine that question itself. But that has never been said in relation to the practice in the House of Commons and it has never been said prior to yesterday in relation to the practice of this Parliament in Australia. That is why I think Government senators have been absolutely accurate in saying that yesterday was a unique proceeding in the life of this Parliament.
The line of authorities to which I have referred seems to be the essential principle which the Government relied on yesterday. It is probably, as it has been pointed out, nowhere better stated than in that summary of views of Mr Ellicott and Senator Greenwood, particularly in paragraph 147 of the document which they prepared. They themselves, after examining all the relevant material, came down with the conclusion in paragraph 147. It has been read to the Senate but I shall read it again.
– Why do you not read the earlier paragraphs?
– Time and time again Senator Greenwood and people like yourself have been claiming that this should be put in the context of the whole article. What sticks in your throat and in the throats of all members of the Opposition- you could put this in a marshmallow and you still could not swallow it- is that Senator Greenwood and Mr Ellicott said quite clearly, as a summation of their view, in paragraph 147:
On this matter it is not easy to express a view which will satisfy the varying points of view on the question of the desirability of making executive information available. However, against the background of a system which is based on party Government and the responsibility of Ministers to Parliament, we think the preferable course is to continue the practice of treating the Minister’s certificate as conclusive.
That is what the Government did yesterday-
We think the preferable course is to continue the practice of treating the Minister’s certificate as conclusive. If a House thought that a Minister was improperly exercising his power to grant a certificate it could, of course, withdraw its confidence in him.
That is the simple point, basically, of distinction between the attitude of the courts, as expressed in Conway’s case and the attitude in relation to parliamentary procedures as practised in the Commons and as expressed in that article written by Senator Greenwood and Mr Ellicott.
Finally, there is of course the authority of the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, in the statement which was quoted in the Prime Minister’s letter to the President of the Senate on this very subject matter. The former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, made his view quite clear in that matter which was quoted in the letter to the President. What a tragedy for the Liberal Party that it does not sometimes hearken to the great voice from the distant past of Sir Robert Menzies, because on these matters he had about him a sort of essential grandeur which enabled him to conceal the essential shoddiness of the Liberal Party. That grandeur is now unfortunately missing. On 2 occasions that voice from the past has spoken in vain- a voice of essential principle and genuine liberalism on these constitutional issues- both in 1974 and again in relation to the question now before the Senate. Instead of that essential grandeur, that voice of true democratic liberalism and the view of a great constitutional lawyer, we get the sort of remarks which were made by Senator Greenwood in this chamber and on television about conspiracies, criminality and all the things of that kind which exist in the mind of that senator. Of course, there are 2 views on conspiracy. There is the strict legal view and the view which Senator Greenwood has which might be expressed in these terms: Wherever 2 Labor men are gathered together there must be a conspiracy.
– Against whom? Do you mean against each other?
-Maybe against each other. We accept the realities of political life. We hope that Senator Hall does too. The point is that that has been Senator Greenwood’s view as expressed in various ways in this chamber. The Cabinet is a conspiracy of twenty-seven. The Government senators are a conspiracy of twentyseven.
– You could not get together and agree long enough to form a conspiracy.
-That may be Senator Missen ‘s view. The point I am seeking to make is that familiarity with Senator Greenwood’s views breeds contempt. His view of conspiracy is an extraordinary one indeed. What I find most offensive about this sort of view is the suggestion that the Government in some way has set about in criminality and conspiracy to deceive the Australian people. I find it offensive as a view coming from somebody like Senator Greenwood who participated in the greatest government deception of the Australian people of all time- the deception on the decision to enter the Vietnam war.
There is documented evidence now about the degree of that deception. All of us are fully aware of that evidence. If ever there was deceit of the Australian people, if ever there was an attempt to conspire, it was by the Liberal Party Government in relation to our entry into the Vietnam war. That is consistent with a long and shabby record in government which involved a variety of attempts of this kind about which I would not use the words ‘criminality’ or ‘conspiracy’. Perhaps ‘dirty tricks’ would be a more appropriate appellation. I want to come to the question of the loans issue.
– That is good.
- Senator Missen does not know yet whether it is good. He should listen for a minute and tell me afterwards. I was in England at the time that the first intelligence on these loans problems reached me. The English Press, with its traditional subtlety, if one may use that term, or its traditional care for reportage, treated the whole question somewhat differently from the way it has been treated by either the noisy Opposition in Australia or certain sections of the Australian Press. For example, it was written about in this general tone: Perhaps the way the Australian Government had gone about things was a little unusual. I think that is probably a fair comment. Perhaps it was a little unusual, even irregular, but times are different now. The centres of great borrowings are no longer London or New York. Perhaps they are somewhere else. If the Australian cricket team had played only a little more irregularly in its Prudential Cup match against the West Indies, in the same way that these loan borrowings are said to be irregular, Australia may have won. That was the general perspective in which the British Press put this issue.
– Perhaps it has become accustomed to Labor Party irregularities there.
– Yes. While I was there one paper had an article which referred to the leaks which flood Australian politics. I thought that was a very good caption. The authors put these issues in a little more subtle perspective than anybody from the other side I have heard speak in this debate has been able to do. I tried to telephone home to find out a little more about this but the lines seemed to be very busy. I assumed they were occupied by Phillip Lynch, Graham Perkin and others sending good money after bad, if I might coin a phrase, in trying to gather up some more documents for publication or presentation to the Senate.
– What about the loans? You were going to tell us about the loans.
-What would Senator Martin like to know about the loans? That has been a question that has been in my mind for a long time. What would the Senator really like to know about the loans which she regards as tremendously important? I just mention those matters because I think we should try to get them into a little better perspective than we have so far. The real perspective is that the Liberal Party is still intensely irritated by not being in government. There has been a sullen resentment about that over a period of time, which from time to time erupts into wage- erupts into rage -
– Wages of sin.
– Yes, wages of sin, as Senator Primmer points out. The rage manifests itself in instances like the rage at the acceptance of the appointment by our present Ambassador to Ireland, a former most honourable senator. There was rage about that leading to the refusal of Supply, an action which was once described in the Liberal Party as a denial of popular democracy. Now again in 1975, in the winter of their discontent, the Liberals are again enraged by the fact that they are not in government and that certain information which is appropriately available to government was refused them yesterday, for example, in the proceedings of this chamber. I think it is very important that when considering this matter people should distinguish between the allegations and the innuendoes that have been made. One was made by Senator Hall in this chamber this morning about the Greek witness which apparently aroused some resentment.
– It was completely unfounded.
– It is not. You get your facts right before you interject.
-We will be able to ask the witness about that on Tuesday. I think it is very important that we should distinguish between the innuendoes, the documents which were splattered all over the newspapers, full of sound and fury signifying nothing, and the noise which we have received from the Opposition in the course of this debate- a sort of desire for corroborative detail for a pretty unconvincing story on the material which it has been able to put to the Senate. For those reasons I support the amendment and I oppose the motion.
I think in referring to the motion moved by Senator Withers I should perhaps make one other comment. If the Opposition thinks that it is important in the interests of government- having had a principle established by Mr Ellicott and Senator Greenwood and argued for by them, having had a position established by the witnesses yesterday, and having had the instructions from the Ministers- that we again go through this exercise on the Privileges Committee, as Senator Wriedt has indicated we are quite prepared to do so. Of course we are concerned- we must be concerned- that at some stage in 1975, as was not recognised in 1974, the Government might be able to get on with some reasonably important matters and the Opposition might then have to deal with reasonably important matters such as the very serious difficulties which face this country in respect of inflation and the like, and the implementation of various policies of the Government. The Government urges that the Privileges Committee should not be turned into a sort of Blue Hills of inquisitorial endeavour and that it should deal with the matter and report back to the Senate as quickly as possible.
In moving the amendment for deletion of the first paragraph of the motion, Senator Wriedt pointed out the Government’s reasons for opposing that paragraph. The Government has consistently opposed a royal commission into this matter, and of course it consistently opposes the view that there is a massive cover-up of the Government’s involvement in the attempted raising of overseas loans. I hope that as time goes by and honourable senators like Senator Steele Hall are able to deliberate on the matter at greater length they will see that there is a distinction between taking a position on a question of the privilege of Crown servants and dealing with this particular question of the loans. I do not regard the Government’s handling of the loan issue as an example of the highest administrative competence, if I might put it in those terms, but I think it is quite a distinct matter from the question which the Senate debated yesterday. For those reasons I support the amendment and oppose the remainder of the motion.
– Today the Senate is summing up the proceedings of this week, and in terms of the motion by Senator Withers the Opposition is affirming that the action of the Government in directing public servants not to answer any questions is a massive cover-up of the Government’s involvement in the overseas loans scandal. Therefore the Opposition renews the call that the Government should appoint a royal commission. It is not necessary for me to say anything on the subject of privilege, other than that it is an outrageous abuse of privilege that we have witnessed on the part of the Ministers concerned. It is the final blank wall in this long protracted cover-up. And why? Because the Government is conscious of criminality as between 4 leading Ministers in regard to this transaction.
I propose to direct the attention of the Senate to the opinions of 3 leading Queen’s Counsel on this matter. The first opinion is that of Mr William Deane, a leading and eminent counsel at the Sydney Bar whose opinion has been given professionally and laid on the table of the Parliament. The second opinion is that of Mr Ellicott, Queen’s Counsel and former Solicitor-General, and the other opinion is that of Senator Ivor Greenwood, Queen’s Counsel and former Attorney-General. Referring to the Hansard where Mr Deane ‘s opinion is set out, it will be seen that he quotes the Financial Agreement, which states: . . money shall not be borrowed by the Commonwealth or any State otherwise than in accordance with this Agreement.
Mr Deane then states:
It follows, in my opinion, that the projected borrowings could only be lawfully authorised if they would, if effected, come within one of the exceptions . . . temporary purposes.
The learned counsel then states:
It is clear that if the proposed borrowings had not been borrowings ‘for temporary purposes’ they would have been in breach of the Financial Agreement and illegal. It follows that the restriction of the authority conferred by the Governor-General in Council to borrowings ‘for temporary purposes’ was essential if the conferring of the authority was not to amount to a purported authorisation of an illegal act.
It also follows that if, in fact, it was intended to expend the moneys borrowed for other than temporary purposes, the proposed borrowings would have been illegal as being both beyond the authority conferred . . . and as being in contravention of clause 4 (4) of the financial agreement.
So I was surprised yesterday when I asked Mr Byers, the second law officer of the Crown, whether he was aware of any allegations of illegality that he should blissfully say: ‘I cannot think of any’. Mr Whitlam tries to pretend that he has had no charges of illegality when at the close of his speech last week he said that there had been no allegation of breach of law. I refer to Mr Ellicott ‘s statement in the House of Representatives, as reported on page 3645 of House of Representatives Hansard of 9 July 1 975, in which he said:
I do not want to be discourteous to a Justice of the High Court, nor do I want to be discourteous to somebody I served under. But that is not the son of advice that honest men would seek on an occasion like this with this extraordinary loan in their minds. It is not the sort of advice that honest men would seek if they were going off to the GovernorGeneral to tell him that this was a loan for temporary purposes.
Honourable senators will remember that the Prime Minister has blithely said that the former Attorney-General had advised orally that in the exceptional circumstances outlined the borrowing could probably be regarded as a borrowing for temporary purposes within the meaning of the Financial Agreement. Mr Ellicott goes on to say:
I have given this matter the most careful thought but 1 cannot believe that any honest man could advise the GovernorGeneral to approve of that minute if he knew that the borrowings were for 20 years and were to meet the long term energy purposes of the Government. I do not believe an honest man could do it. I believe it was an illegal and unconstitutional act.
Later on he says:
The action was unconstitutional, unlawful and based on deception.
Yesterday in addressing the Senate, Senator Greenwood- I remind honourable senators that he was a former Attorney-General- made this statement to the Senate -
– They are political statements.
– Men of Senator Greenwood’s and Mr Ellicott ‘s reputation in the legal profession do not come into the legal scrum and forget their reputations. Senator Greenwood stands by this statement and backs it with his reputation. He said: . . what has been disclosed so far prima facie represents criminality. There has been an attempt by unlawful means to subvert the Constitution, to by-pass the Parliament and to raise, so that one might govern without Parliament, $4,000m.
He then went on to quote a well known definition of conspiracy, as follows:
If two or more persons agree together to do something contrary to law … the persons who so agree commit the crime of conspiracy.
I will read that again:
If two or more persons agree together to do something contrary to law … the persons who so agree commit the crime of conspiracy.
Those persons commit a crime. What has happened in Australia at the moment is of far greater significance than what happened to President Nixon in the United States of America. We have the enormity of people in government raising billions of dollars without telling the Parliament or, indeed, their fellow members of Cabinet. Using that as a means of subverting the Constitution and by-passing Parliament is criminality in the highest degree. When we go from there to consider what a false pretext it was to insert in the documents that this was for temporary purposes, just note how it was introduced. I refer to what Mr Connor said in the House of Representatives. He said:
The full list and cost of urgent energy items was presented -
He was speaking’ of the Executive Council meeting- not only to my co-signatories of the Executive Council minute but also in the presence of the Secretary of the Treasury and the Governor of the Reserve Bank.
Mr Connor then referred to the suggestion having been made to the Secretary of the Treasury that the Treasurer should be included in it and said:
The Secretary of the Treasury then said ‘No’ and objected strongly, and it ‘was agreed that my name should be included.
That is, Mr Connor’s name. Then to show what was meant by temporary purposes, Mr Connor described them. First, he mentioned the natural gas pipeline from Cooper Basin, Palm Valley, Dampier to Perth. Secondly, there was the provision of 84 miles of submarine pipeline from Dampier to the North Rankin production platform. Thirdly, there was the petrochemical plant at Dampier to extract the natural gas liquids for conversion into motor spirit and other derivatives. Fourthly, fifthly and sixthly, there was the cost of 3 uranium mining and milling plants in the Northern Territory. Seventhly, there was the electrification of the heavy freight rail areas in New South Wales and Victoria. Eighthly, and of current significance, there was the further provision for the upgrading of 4 major exporting coal ports. Temporary purposes?
The other documents that have been tabled show that in respect of the loan proposed by this group of 4 Ministers, the Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, former Senator Murphy and Mr Connor certified over their signatures that for Australia these documents constituted a valid obligation; in other words, they positively affirmed that their acceptance under the specious pretext of temporary purposes gave validity to these documents, thereby escaping, as they hoped, the Financial Agreement. Among the documents is a promissory note sent to the bank at Zurich and the total amount to be repaid on the face value of the note is $ 19,000m. It says expressly that it is for a term of 20 years. So the massive cover-up that we have seen today is that they do not want to get closer than that to the law. I forbore to ask any of the witnesses yesterday whether there were any tapes in this matter but we do not need tapes in the case of this high ranking conspiracy. Here we have these documents and an account of why the false and fraudulent statement ‘for temporary purposes’ was included in the loan as a pretext for its validity. I think it is right that we should declare the position and refer the question of privileges to the Committee. It is also proper that the Senate should examine its powers to appoint a special prosecutor, as was necessary in order to penetrate the cover-up in the United States last year.
I hope Sir Lenox Hewitt is listening to this debate somewhere because he might be informed that the Loan Council, as well as consisting of the Commonwealth, consists of the 6 States. They constitute the Loan Council- the mechanism for borrowing constituted by the financial agreement to which they are parties. They have the strongest interest in maintaining the protection of Australia’s credit in accordance with that agreement. I hope that the States, either singularly or together, will consider appointing their own royal commission of judges. It might be reassuring to the Senate that Federal officers would be subject to their jurisdiction with possibly some territorial limits. Unless the States prefect their position under the financial agreement, they are threatened with a repetition of the conspiratorial attempt to evade the Constitution.
The opinions of three Queen’s Counsel with the highest reputations at the Bar are clearly on the record in the documents that have been incorporated in Hansard. They are that there have been involved in this conspiracy- this illegal conspiracy- the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), Dr Cairns, the former Senator Murphy and Mr Connor. That is the charge. The persons whom I have mentioned are the people to whom the charge is directed. It deserves the utmost careful scrutiny by a commissioner or commissioners with qualifications to determine the validity of that charge as to whether or not there is a prima facie case of crime. It seems pretty clear that there is a fundamental illegality vouched for by these Ministers by using a false and fraudulent pretext as to the true nature of a 20-year loan to finance all the huge developments I have mentioned at the ultimate cost, not of the original principal of $4,000m but, as stated in the promissory note to the Zurich Bank, $ 19,000m which would be the total obligation for Australia. That is why the Senate should affirm that this last facade of the Government is its very last act I hope, in a massive cover-up. It behoves the Government to appoint a royal commission. In its wisdom, it might do that this week- even at this late time.
-I suppose the first thing I ought to try to do is to answer some of the arguments put up by Senator Wright. He sounded to me like an applicant for a position either on the High Court as soon as a vacancy is available or to appear before a royal commission with the fairly substantial fees which are paid from time to time and which he got in the Hersey case. As he proceeded with his argument, he degenerated more or less into the aged senator’s role of quoting a lot of political waffle. I am quite sure that he did not convince the Government or the Opposition. I doubt whether he understood what he was saying himself. I want to quote, with minor alterations, a statement from Old Fitz’s Unparliamentary Handbook. It is:
This so-called Opposition is hell bent on reducing us to a regimented, multinational banana republic. It is also intent on centralising power in the hands of the multinationals. The Leader of the Opposition, with an unbelievable egoism, makes Hitler appear like a benevolent aunt. Every member on this side of the chamber is dedicated to two things- to the preservation of the great Australian freedoms and the high quality of life which is now the envy of the world, and to the breaking of the grip which the arrogant, irresponsible and un-Australian group of jackboot tyrants in the Senate Opposition temporarily have on this magnificent country. God give us strength to restore to the people the way of life they deserve, and to bring back decency and respect . . . which have been taken from this country by the Senate Opposition. With the exception of five or six words, those words are not my words. They are quoted from page 7 of a publication entitled Old Fitz’s Unparliamentary Handbook and they are credited to Mr Katter, that man of many parts and many parties, when he was criticising the present Government in a speech in the other place.
I wish to quote now from another document which I believe is relevant to this debate. It is an extract from a broadcast by Professor Wheelwright on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program Notes on the News on Monday, 14 July 1975. The last two or three paragraphs read:
Much more sinister are the allegations of political assassinations (successful and unsuccessful) currently being investigated.
Those allegations were made before the Rockefeller Commission in the United States of America, investigating the Central Intelligence Agency. Professor Wheelwright goes on to state the names of a number of persons, around the world, who were mentioned, including President Diem of South Vietnam. He continues:
Directors of the CIA have admitted destroying crucial files, and only last week its complicity in destroying the Chilean Government of former President Allende was admitted. This kind of activity is now called ‘destabilising governments’. If this kind of thing can happen in so many countries, one cannot help wondering whether it is going on in Australia right now over the current loan crisis, with letters springing up out of the ground in the most unlikely places, such as the Australian Embassy in Washington; people admitting to sending false telex messages, and newspapers offering large sums of money for information which could help to bring down the Labor Government.
As a footnote to this whole incredible loan affair, my attention has been drawn to the activities of a well known Sydney real estate agent, Mr Charles Cameron, back in 1930. At a time when the then Federal Treasurer, Mr Theodore, could not raise any loans overseas, Mr Cameron was able to raise a cool two million pounds in New York. For his pains, he too was investigated by the police, but he gave them short shrift and is still alive to tell the tale.
I would mention that Mr Theodore was another Labor Treasurer.
It appears to me that the quotations that we are getting from people on the other side of the chamber are not quotations of their own choosing but quotations which they make at the direction of people in other places and in other areas and, if necessary, in other countries. I believe that much of this current dispute has its origin with people who are opposed to the Australian Labor Party being in government. Those on the other side of the chamber making these utterances are merely the fall guys for these people. I quote next from the Brisbane Courier-Mail of 6 July 1975:
Mr Peter Rogers gave further details yesterday about meetings he had in New York and Sydney with Dr Jim Cairns.
Mr Rogers is a Sydney businessman with a legal background specialising in international commercial contracts.
In the one meeting I had with Dr Cairns and Mr Harris, Dr Cairns was at pains to ensure that, under no circumstances, would any person or company be empowered to negotiate on behalf of the Australian Government. Harris’s function was strictly limited to reporting back to the Treasurer’, Mr Rogers said.
Asked whether he thought letters he had seen constituted a contract with Mr Harris, Mr Rogers replied: ‘No. That was neither the intention nor the effect of the letters shown to me.’
We have had this great call for political integrity. It has come from our political enemies on the other side of the chamber, who are speaking, as I said a few moments ago, on behalf of those people who manipulate the world economy. At the election after the double dissolution in 1 974 it was apparent that, in particular, the Country Party- as it then was- and also the Liberal Party had up to 20 times the amount of cash to spend on their campaigns as the Labor Party had. This situation was repeated last year in the Queensland State elections and has been demonstrated in other elections elsewhere. These Parties make the dubious claim that they have raised this money from their own pockets. They never did that. These funds were given to them by people associated with big business because it was in the interests of the multi-nationals and the combines to make sure that the Labor Party was not returned to office in any State or in the Federal sphere in Australia. This has come out in the inquiry into sand mining on Fraser Island. Whilst there have been denials and counterdenials, I think that on the evidence it is fairly safe to say that large sums of money were given to the National Party on that occasion.
It is all very well for people on the opposite side to claim that they are lily-white. We know about the Jetair Australia Ltd scandal. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) went to some pains yesterday to name a number of persons associated with this matter in trying to expose it to public scrutiny. We know that somebody on the then Government side, at the instigation of a sitting member of Parliament, got a rake-off of many thousands of dollars and it was effectively covered up. We know that big deals were made with America while kids from this country were being slaughtered in Vietnam in a war in which we should never have been involved. The moment the killing of the kids on America’s behalf finished, the big deals were off. Yet we hear members of the National Country Party today crying out about this Government not doing something about long term beef arrangements. When they were in government they could not afford to have such arrangements because they were dependent on the number of Australian kids whose blood was being spilled in an illegal war.
Of course, that great upholder of Australian integrity so far as a politician is concerned, that great lily-white of commerce, that great handmaiden of everything that is good in society- Mr Phillip Lynch- is quoted as being one of the people who are exposing the so-called loans scandal. Let me again refer to Old Fitz’s Unparliamentary Handbook and quote what Dr Patterson, the Minister for Northern Australia, said in the other place. It reads:
If I may, I will give the House my own personal experience.
He was referring to Mr Lynch-
When I was young my grandmother had a recipe consisting of rum, sugar and onion juice and it was guaranteed to kill all worms. Looking at the honourable member who asked the question (Mr Lynch) I should point out that sugar is also reputed to be a cure for baldness.
– I raise a point of order. These are offensive personal references to the Deputy Leader of my Party. I ask you, Mr President, not to permit the Senate to be made the vehicle to transmit them. They are offensive personal references.
– Speaking to the point of order, I remind Senator Wright that in his speech earlier this afternoon he made most offensive references to 4 Ministers when he said that 4 Ministers were criminally involved in this matter. We did not raise objection. The honourable senator has made these offensive remarks. It amazes me that his skin is so thin that he can now rise on such a petty matter, because he did imply that 4 Ministers were involved in criminal activities. We did not raise a point of order. Let the pot call the kettle black. On any future occasion on which he does this sort of thing- he does it so often- we will consistently raise points of order.
– Speaking very briefly to the point of order, I point out that the quotation appears in the Hansard of another place and there was no repudiation of it by the honourable gentleman concerned.
– Speaking on the point of order, I point out that Senator Keeffe wants to read from this old joke book which of course came out long before the matters we are dealing with today became matters of public knowledge. Not only do I take the point that Senator Wright took but also I suggest that this is totally irrelevant, as the whole of the speech has been, to the matter under debate. It has no relevance at all.
– I ask Senator Keeffe to delete from the quotation those references that are offensive.
– It is a quotation from the Hansard of another place.
– If it is a quotation, the honourable senator will have to use his discretion.
– I will not read the last line, because it says that a certain thing is also an aid to virility and I am not making imputations in that regard. I think the honourable senator on the other side, Senator Missen, who referred to this book as the ‘old goat book’ might have to apologise to Alan Fitzgerald who was the author of the book.
– He was their candidate, a member of the Liberal Party.
– I do not want to create a division within the Liberal Party or anything like that. There are some problems so I shall leave the quotation as it stands because I think it is very effective.
– Have it incorporated.
– I have already read it into the record. I must refer to the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in another place, the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), who is allegedly upholding the political integrity of all the people associated with him. I recall that when I was in Adelaide a week or two ago I picked up a morning or afternoon newspaper. There was a photograph of this fine stamp of a man jogging along the sand. I think he was probably running up and down on the spot- I could not imagine him jogging any distance. He was wearing a Chesty Bond singlet with ‘Time’s Up’ on it. He was saying how good he was and how his Party would really clean up the Labor Party in South Australia. Of course, all that happened was that the Liberal Party got cleaned up by the Liberal Movement.
– Did he not buy some documents or something?
– I have some other little things to come about this great upholder of political integrity in this country. I shall have a few other things to say in a moment. They will not be as offensive as were the words used by Senator Wright. We know that when the special sitting of the House of Representatives was called last week Mr Lynch had to cancel his overseas trip. He said he was going off to London or somewhere to get some more documents to prove that there was something crook about the loans deal. From what I can gather he apparently intended to do some rather sticky searching in the Waterloo Bridge area in the hope that somewhere, under or in some bed, he would pick up another letter, forged or otherwise. He was determined to get more evidence. In upholding the integrity of this great Australian politician I refer to question number 149 which appears in the Senate Hansard of 14 May 1968. It was a question directed by myself to the Minister in this chamber who represented the then Prime Minister. I was forced to put the question on notice. I asked:
Is it a fact that a Supreme Court writ has been issued against the Minister for the Army - that was Mr Lynch- for allegedly disclosing to a rival firm the methods he learned whilst an employee of another firm? If so, will this restrict him in his intentions to use his knowledge of business administration in the reorganisation of the Department of the Army?
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. All that Senator Keeffe is doing now is raising scurrilous and untruthful matters in an endeavour to denigrate a former Minister of the Crown who is not present and who is not a member of this chamber. I take objection to that. I suggest that it is not relevant to this debate and that it is not proper.
– The honourable senator is quoting from Hansard. It is an answer which was given to him. I cannot prevent him. He has every right to do that.
– Thank you very much, Mr President. If the honourable senator is offended about this I shall apologise to him personally, but I am quoting a truthful statement from Hansard of 14 May 1968. The reply which I received from Senator Anderson at the time was in these words:
The answer to the first part of the honourable senator’s question is: Yes, such a wm was issued in November 1966. The answer to the second part is that the Minister will not be restricted in the administration of his portfolio.
The matter involving the writ was a very sticky show. If that had happened to somebody outside the chamber who was not protected in the community because of his prestige as a politician, undoubtedly he would’ be in very serious difficulties, probably on the common charge of theft. Again I refer to the integrity of some of the people associated with raising murky things in this so-called loans scandal. I refer to a friend on the other side of the chamber who is not here. I shall again quote from parliamentary questions in Hansard We know that Senator I. A. C. Wood has a long history as a speculator in mining companies and in various other operations. Again the reply to this next question was received’ from Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. I asked him as Leader of the Government in the Senate ‘question No. 1 779 in these terms:
Let me tell the Senate what the Leader of the Government in those days said in an endeavour to cover up a dishonest operation of a mining company.
– I rise on a point of order. I suggest that the expression ‘endeavour to cover up a dishonest operation’ is an imputation against the Minister who gave the answer and it should not be permitted under standing order 418; otherwise the standard of this place will become worse than that of a disorderly house which is prohibited under the Police Offences Act. To say that a. Minister gave an answer in order dishonestly to cover up is not in order in parliamentary debate unless that is the issue.
-Standing order 418 provides:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I am afraid that Senator Wright is quite right in raising this matter but there has been a considerable amount of non-observance of that standing order over a period of time, and I would like to see its terms implemented very rigidly. A custom has grown up in this place, but perhaps it is time we took stock of ourselves and observed that standing order much more closely. I am giving the warning now that in future I will attempt to see that that standing order is observed. I call Senator Keeffe.
- Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is still a member of this Senate. He is a distinguished and respected backbencher on the Opposition side. The accusation that he gave an answer as a cover-up for a dishonest operation is offensive, and I am sure that Senator Keeffe on reflection ought to withdraw it. I ask you, Mr President, to ask him to withdraw it, consistent with what the standing order provides.
- Senator Greenwood has requested me to ask you to withdraw that remark, Senator Keeffe.
– If the inference is that I said that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was responsible, I withdraw it, because I did not intend it to be taken in that way. My intention was to say that the government of the day was indulging in a cover-up. If that is offensive to Opposition senators, let me read to them the first few lines of the amendment which Senator Greenwood moved to Senator Withers ‘ motion:
The action of the Government in directing public servants called to the Bar of the Senate not to answer any questions is a massive cover-up of the Government’s involvement in the attempted raising of overseas loans;
If that is not hypocritical and under-the-counter I do not know what is. When something reminds honourable senators opposite of their political sins of the past, they are so thin-skinned and so weak-gutted that they cannot take it. I propose to continue with my speech in this debate, although I note that I have taken a little more time than I expected. I hope that you will bear with me, Mr President. I said that Senator Ian Wood- I have said this to his face in this chamber previouslyhas a long history as a speculator. I want to go back to this company that the former Government refused to investigate. It said that it would not investigate it. The answer to the first part of my question on that occasion was:
I am informed that the information concerning individual companies is available from the offices of the Registrar of Companies or the Corporate Affairs Commission, as the case may bc, in the State or Territory in which the company is incorporated.
The Government would not even supply me with that information and I had to go to sources outside this House to get the information, and I did get it, as I will subsequently show. When I asked whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate at that time would take appropriate steps to have these 2 senators called before a Senate select committee, he said no. If that was not a cover up by the former Government, what is? I am not saying that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was responsible for it. He was merely a tool for the people around the Government of the day. Let me quote again from Senate Hansard page 1768:
So there is a postponement there which 1 have not noted in any journals covering the finances of this country or the finances of mining companies. Another significant aspect is a photostat copy of an envelope which I have -
I still possess it- which was posted in Perth to people of the eastern States. The postmark on the envelope is 22 December.
It was therefore impossible for anybody to go from the eastern States to Perth where that board meeting was held because it was held on 21 December, the day before the notice was posted. So nobody could go to the meeting and criticise the directors of that company. The Hansard report goes on to state:
Item 3 of the company ‘s business sheet states:
To consider, and if thought fit, to pass the following Resolution-
That as from 1 July 1970-
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order.
-Come on, do not back down. Listen to the argument.
– I rise on the ground of relevancy. This is a debate which, of its character, can be far-ranging, but with all respect, Mr President, it is not relevant to quote the internal dealings of a company which are dealings which took place many years ago and which relate to a senator who is not here, who happens to be from the Opposition. I submit that it is not relevant to a debate which, even in terms of cover up of Government activities, will permit a wide-ranging debate but which will not extend sufficiently to cover the private activities of an Opposition senator who is not even here.
– I am expecting the honourable senator to connect his remarks with the main theme of the debate.
-Thank you, Mr President. I will merely quote one more paragraph and I will leave good old Nickelfields and everybody who lost money in it alone. Item 3 of the company’s business sheet stated:
To consider, and if thought fit, to pass the following Resolution-
That as from I July, 1970, the remuneration payable to the Directors, pursuant to Article 74 (a) of the Company’s Articles of Association shall be at the total rate not exceeding $7,500 per annum.
So it would appear that if the shareholders lost their money the directors did not. Let me come back to last week. I refer to page 2597 of Hansard of 12 June. It shows that I interjected and said:
I raise a point of order -
The debate related to a motion that Senator Wood be ordered to table certain papers from which he quoted during question time. The point of order was this:
While the Minister has been speaking to his motion the Leader of the Opposition walked across to Senator Wood and Senator Wood immediately proceeded to mutilate the sheet of paper from which this quotation was made. I draw attention to this fact.
The President then intervened and said that he had not seen it and there was no point of order involved. Senator Withers then interjected and said:
Senator Keeffe ought to be hit on the head.
It was obvious that while he was threatening physical violence from that side of the chamber he was at great pains to make sure that a certain sheet of paper did not get into the hands of the Government.
– So you should be.
– I do not mind Senator Missen threatening physical violence; he would not be capable of carrying it out. A little later in the debate Senator Wood referred to his own service and experience in financial affairs. He said:
I have been here for 25’A years and I do not think that I have ever been afraid to vote for or oppose in accordance with what I considered to be the right thing. When 1 refer to these matters I do not do so with a lack of knowledge. 1 happen to have had contacts with people who have been associated with this loan development, first in America and then amongst the Arab people. I was the person who arranged the interview with Dr Cairns for one of these people, so when I speak I do not do so with a lack of knowledge of the whole process.
Then I was rude enough to interject and ask what commission he was paid. He assured me that he was not paid any commission, and I accept his word. He continued:
I can tell the story of this whole business from the beginning to the end. In my opinion, authority was definitely given to raise this money.
If the Opposition wants to keep on calling people before the Bar of this House it ought to arrange to cut short Senator Wood’s trip overseas and ask him to come back. Maybe he knows more than anybody else about the so-called loans incident. Perhaps he could clear it up. There are 50 other things I could say that would expose the lack of integrity of people on that side of the chamber but, as the time for debate is limited, I conclude by supporting unequivocally the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
-After that pathetic and miserable catalogue of irrelevancies in this debate it is obviously essential to remind the House of the matters we are debating. We are concerned with and are debating a motion which deals with the massive cover up which the Government has created and which we have observed this week. The Opposition calls on the Senate to refer to the Privileges Committee the matters which have been the subject of frustration here this week. Let me remind honourable senators that this sitting of Parliament came about because the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) called together the House of Representatives so that it could discuss the matters. Let me use his own words, of course without his inflections, in the opening sentence of that debate. He said:
This House has been recalled so that once and for all the people of Australia may hear and judge any allegations of impropriety, illegality, malpractice or malfeasance against the Government or any Minister.
Of course, he called together the House over which he had control, in which he had the numbers and in which he knew he could bring a certain number of selected documents before honourable members and then send them away.
But it was the Opposition in the Senate chamber that brought this chamber into the picture because it recognised that honourable senators have the same rights of investigation as have members of the House of Representatives. We have found an attempt by the Government to frustrate that investigation, an attempt which is temporarily successful. But we will not allow the matter to go away. It is like Watergate, which kept on and on, and ultimately the facts came out. In the same speech the Prime Minister went on to say:
The inquisition by innuendo is over. This is the tribunal in which the Opposition as much as the Government will be judged- in the highest court, by the jury of the people. We are all on trial now.
I do not accept the latter sentence. That was a piece of hyperbole which is not to be accepted. Then he said:
There is a special and overriding reason why this Parliament is the proper place.
We on this side do not say that it is the best place because we have consistently maintained that the proper place for investigation is an impartial source, namely, a royal commission. But we have said that this is the second best place- that matters can be investigated in a House of Parliament. What the Government has done is to see, as far as it can, that there is no such investigation. The very demand of the Prime Minister was a piece of hypocrisy. It has been demonstrated in the actions of the Government in stopping witnesses from giving evidence. Today we have heard further examples of this. We have of course had some admission on the part of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) because we know now that the money was to be used to buy back the farm, to buy back the properties of Australia, with all the alarming effects that that would have had on our economy arid our future.
Nonetheless the Government said that that was the temporary purpose of the loan. If anybody in this country believes that now I cannot imagine who it would be. Nobody in his right senses would say that it was a temporary purpose but everybody knows that it was described as a temporary purpose for the reason of tricking the States and of avoiding the Loan Council. On the oral advice of former Senator Murphy that it was probably all right, which we can still hear him saying today, the Government proceeded with this mad scheme. It was such a mad scheme that this Government could be described as a Marxist government- not a Karl Marx government but a Groucho Marx government. The Marx Brothers over yonder are turning the Parliament and the Government into a farce. We would laugh about that if it were not for the fact that as Australians we know that we are all suffering by it.
Even today in this Parliament consistency is not to be found in the record of the case which is put before us by the Government. In opening the debate the Leader of the Government in the Senate said the Opposition was clouding the issue and that the people do not know what the circumstances are. Yet only a couple of nights ago in all the glory of television Senator James McClelland said:
The people have been told all they need to know, all they ought to know.
Let the Government make up its mind. Do the people know all that they need to know or do they not? Sometimes Senator James McClelland speaks to us in an honest and truthful fashion, saying what he really believes. He said that the Government wants to see that the people get only the knowledge that the Government determines is useful for them. Of course that is the first step on the road to dictatorship.
We remind ourselves that this resolution deals with the powers and rights of the Senate not because we want to seek them for any personal reasons but because we recognise that we have obligations to maintain the position of the Senate as a protector of the people of this country. Under section 49 of the Constitution we have in the Senate and in the House of Representatives the privileges as they existed in the House of Commons in 1901. The House of Commons was noted for many generations as the grand inquest of the realm. We inherited that right as an inquest of the realm and it is our obligation to try to carry it out. If we look at Mr Odgers’ book, which is the authority on this matter, we find that at page 566 he says that the House of Commons, amongst other powers, had the right to institute inquiries and to require the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents. Does it not follow from that that it must be an effective right to do those things? It is no good just having a charade whereby witnesses are called and refuse to answer, because that power was essential to the House of Commons and is essential to and must be maintained by- as is stated in this resolution- this House of the Parliament.
I wish to refer to another document of significance in this regard. I refer to the Kerr report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee in 1971. That is an authoritative document and we all know of the authoritative nature of the man who was the first member of that committee. Paragraph 343 of that document deals with the disclosure of documents with reference to courts, but does anyone doubt or challenge that the same rights apply to each of the Houses of Parliament? The paragraph states in part:
The position as to disclosure of official documents before the ordinary courts has been defined by the House of Lords decision in Conway v. Rimmer (1968) A.C.910. Broadly speaking, the view was expressed that the administration of justice should not be frustrated by the withholding of public documents. Where the possible harm to the nation or to the Public Service is so grave that no other interest should prevail over it then, of course, a document should be withheld. But where there is a clash between the public interest in nondisclosure because of possible harm to the nation or to the Public Service and the public interest in disclosure for the fair administration of justice then the court must balance the two conflicting interests.
As a House of Parliament we are entitled to balance that interest and we are justified in saying that we should make this decision and that it is part of our powers. It is not for the Government to tell us what shall be in the public interest and what shall not be in the public interest. So there is at this stage a cover-up operation in regard to the facts of those vital charges that have been made and have been repeated and detailed this afternoon by Senator Wright. These are matters of the gravest importance concerning the good order and government of this country. They should not be fobbed off or kept from the people’s knowledge.
-Tell us about the FI 1 ls.
-Senator, I could not tell you anything because I am afraid you would not notice and you would not understand. If you listened to speeches this afternoon -
– You are crawling back to your Party to get pre-selection.
– No, I am not crawling back to be pre-selected. I have long since been pre-selected. So do not worry about that; do not worry about me.
– Well, Senator, perhaps -
– You can save your voice because I have no intention of wasting my time by replying to you.
– Order! Please address the Chair, Senator Missen.
– Let us see why there is a cover-up and why these things are being done. Three things seem to be in decay today so far as this Government is concerned. One is the open government claim which helped it get to office. Open-ended government is all one can call it now; everything falls out at the bottom. What has happened to open government? What has happened to these ideas that there should be a freedom for public servants to make comment? We have seen now that public servants are not to have that freedom when it is essential in regard to mighty important matters.
In regard to freedom of information, do honourable senators recall that only a few weeks ago I asked Senator James McClelland what had happened to the freedom of information Bill. He answered, again in his honest way: ‘I do not know. I have been asking this same question in my own Party. I will find out’. Has he found out? No, he has not. Why? Because today we have heard from Senator Button that the Government is backtracking on these questions of open government and freedom of information. He tells us that a public servant should be free to be frank and to give his advice and he should not be brought forward and have to give evidence. So we can see a return to the pre-open government, freedom of information period. We have been told occasionally in debates in the last few days that we should rely on answers to questions being given in this Parliament. Any person who has been here for 5 minutes realises that in fact questions get very little information and that Ministers find it very easy to fob off any question with a piece of general knowledge.
- Senator Missen -
– I will give you an example, Senator.
– It is no different from what we got from your Ministers, including Senator Anderson who would never give answers. So do not give us bloody lies.
– Order! Senator Mulvihill, I am sure that you regret having said that in the heat of the moment. I ask you to withdraw it.
– I do not regret it but in deference to you, Mr President, I will withdraw it. If other honourable senators can throw muck consistently into debates like this individual across the aisle from me I will give it back with interest.
– It is clear that questions are dealt with in this way. Only a few weeks ago I asked a question- it had been on the notice paper for some period- as to the number of staff that Ministers have. I finally got an answer to this question giving me figures up to December 1 973; I asked for figures right up to the present day. Obviously the answer was of no use and I have complained about it. This is the way in which members will be treated. It is no answer to a real inquiry on this subject to rely on questions in the Parliament.
I make the contention that there are at least 4 false claims in respect of Executive privilege which ought to be investigated by the Privileges Committee. The first of these is the statement and the claim that there is privilege in the Executive Council proceedings of 13 December 1974.
The documents in respect of that have already been public knowledge for some considerable time. They have been tabled. They have been dealt with. Today Senator Wright referred to some statements which Mr Connor had made in the debate in the House of Representatives. Mr Connor talked about how his name was inserted in the Executive Council minute and what the discussions were. He understood the minute itself was drafted jointly by officers of the Treasury, the Attorney-General’s Department and so on. Are we expected to accept his version, his ideas and his comments on the dealings in regard to these Executive Council minutes and not to investigate further things? Is this a right only of government, or is it a right which the people have and ought to exercise through us? I say that this should be shown to be no ground for witnesses refusing to answer.
The second matter- I will not expand on this because it was mentioned by me yesterday in questioning- is the reliance which the Government has placed in the last couple of days on the excellent document which Senator Greenwood and Mr Ellicott have produced. I am indeed touched by the way in which the Government clings to the opinions of Sir Robert Menzies and Senator Greenwood whom I did not always think the Government held in such high regard. I am glad to see that change of heart. That document has been entirely distorted and misused by Senator Button and Senator James McClelland. There is not time to read at length the relevant parts of it. The Government has taken not the descriptions which the learned authors of that document made in respect of the existing law but their suggestions at the end as to what ought to be the situation. So they distort, for the purpose of causing a complete deception in relation to the article. I wish to read paragraph 122 of the document written by Senator Greenwood and Mr Ellicott. It states:
As stated earlier each House of the Commonwealth Parliament may be regarded as exercising both a legislative and an advisory function. For these purposes it can inquire into the administration of Departments of State and into any aspect of the execution of laws of the Parliament. To exercise these functions it will, from time to time, need the evidence of informed public servants and of relevant documents. It may also need this evidence and relevant documents in relation to proposed legislation not directly connected with or aimed at departmental administration.
The document stated further that the right to call for documents was unquestioned. I wish to quote paragraph 1 38, which has not been read by those who seek to rely on this document. It states:
The power of each House of the Commonwealth Parliament to call for documents and oral evidence from the Executive is as wide as that of the Commons at 1901 whose power, although not exercised to the full in practice, was at least in theory unlimited.
Honourable senators opposite should not try to distort the situation by putting the opinions of the authors as to whether the certificate of the Attorney-General should be conclusive. One may not agree with that. They were matters of opinion. Honourable senators opposite should have quoted from the document the matters which stated the law.
The third thing that I say is a false claim of privilege relates to the law officers and their opinions. Today Senator Button once more went through the same dreary track. Nobody is suggesting that the law officers’ opinions and their surrounding documents generally should be required by this Parliament to be produced, but there are many matters as to whether the facts were given to the law officers and when advice was sought. There are many other surrounding facts which ought to be the subject of investigation and on which one could then judge the decisions of the Government in accordance with advice. The fourth matter is the constant attempt to obscure the distinction between policy .questions, which the Government originally indicated it did not expect to be answered in this place, and questions of fact for public servants that are not policy questions. The Senate would easily have been able to distinguish those things. It has been denied that opportunity by the unilateral action of the Government.
I support Senator Withers and the other speakers who have said that a royal commission is the right and proper body to deal with this matter. That is an opinion which you, Mr President, have expressed and which Mr Hawke expressed when he returned to Australia. They were proper judgments on the way in which this matter should be handled. It is not too late now. Unfortunately, the newspapers have had a slightly schizophrenic view in recent days. They have not noted altogether the fact that here we are endeavouring to do what is best in the circumstances. We call, as the Age does today, for the appointment of a royal commission. That newspaper stated today:
This means nothing more or less than honesty with the people, for only by being frank and honest can the Government start to re-assert its right to govern.
That is the position. The Government, by its cover-up, is endeavouring to avoid these matters coming out. It is not able to govern in those circumstances. I suggest that it is high time the Labor Party back benchers in this chamber realised these facts and realised that we cannot walk out of this morass, as Senator Wriedt described it today. We must step into it. We have seen it developing on the other side. We must not flinch from our duty. We in the Opposition will continue to fight for these things.
– In the last sessional period between February and June about 115 divisions were taken in this Senate. Of this number 107 were won by the Opposition and 8 of them were won by the Government. Those figures might give the Australian public some idea of the type of frustration, the deep seated frustration, that this Government, duly elected on 2 occasions by a mandate of the Australian people, still has had to suffer at the hands of the combined Opposition parties in this chamber. We all know that in the last sessional period not only in this chamber but also in the House of Representatives an enormous amount of time was taken up on this subject of overseas loans. Questions without notice were asked of all Ministers day after day, week after week, month after month in both Houses. There was the use of questions on notice, urgency motions, motions for the suspension of standing orders and all other forms that could be used in both Houses of Parliament. Now we have the spectacle of the Senate, having been recalled last week and been recalled again by the Opposition this week, and now being recalled by the Opposition again for next week just to go on croaking just as rusty wagon wheels moan and groan wherever they might be wandering.
Senator Webster said that in December 1972 there was included in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on behalf of the Labor movement this passage:
We want the Australian people to know the facts, to know the needs, to know the choices before them. We want them always to help us as a government to make the decisions and to make the right decisions. Australia has suffered heavily from the demeaning idea that the government always knows best -
We adhere to those remarks and we hope that the real facts will be sheeted home to the Opposition and to the Australian public.
I turn, with great respect, to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, in this place yesterday. In an impassioned speech he mentioned, amongst other things, that on 1 November 1967 the then Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy, gave notice of the following motion:
That the Senate considers that the Government has failed to give any proper explanation or excuse for the untrue statement on VIP aircraft and accordingly that:
the Secretary of Department of Air be called to the Bar of the Senate, by summons under the hand of the
Clerk of the Senate, to give evidence upon the matters contained in the resolution of the Senate . . .
We all know that never was the Secretary of the Department of Air called to this chamber. Why was it that the Secretary of the Department of Air was not called to this chamber? Senator Withers knows that it was simply because the matter was never debated. Had Senator Withers looked up the record he would have seen that the motion debated at the time and on which he stated I, amongst others, voted was that the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the motion of which notice was given earlier in the day by Senator Murphy to be debated. So the vote that Senator Withers said yesterday that we dealt with to bring the then Secretary of the Department of Air to the Bar of the Senate was not any motion that. was ever determined by this Senate.
– And Senator Wright read from the Hansard that he voted with it.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Wright asserted yesterday that he had voted with the then Opposition to bring to the Bar of the Senate the Secretary of the Department of Air for questioning about VIP aircraft. The simple fact of the matter is that Senator Wright voted with the then Opposition to suspend Standing Orders.
– I did not.
-Have a look at the record. Go back and look at the record. Senator Wright voted with the then Opposition to suspend Standing Orders to enable the debate to take place. But the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders was not carried and the debate never took place. Indeed, when the matter was called on the next day in the business of the Senate the question was asked formally by the then President, Sir Alister McMullin, whether Senator Murphy’s notice of motion to bring Mr McFarlane, the then Secretary of the Department of Air, before the Bar of the Senate was formal or not formal. The then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Gorton, declared the matter not formal, and so it went to the bottom of the business paper. I instance that in relation to the first matter alluded to by Senator Withers in his remarks yesterday to indicate, with great respect, that he was misleading the Senate.
The Senate can see what this Government has done so far as the production of documents is concerned. The Government. still stands by the statement in the Prime Minister’s policy speech that the people are entitled to know. If one looks at the House of Representatives Hansard of 9 July last one will see that there are some 67 finely printed pages of documents which were laid on the table of the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister, by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and by the former Treasurer, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), to explain fully the transactions that are the subject of discussion. All these documents have been tabulated and detailed. Doubtless they have been scrutinised by the Opposition but all that members of the Opposition can come up with as a result of those documents being produced, are questions about what was done and how it was done. They do not make any specific charges. They make the general accusation as Senator Greenwood did yesterday and as Senator Wright did today, the assertion of criminality on the part of Ministers. If it wants to be specific, the Opposition should name the person and name the charge.
It is about time that the Australian people realised that the Opposition is vilifying and traducing, living by way of innuendo after innuendo, day after day, dragging senior public servants, and now individual members of the Australian public, to the Bar of this chamber. The mud-slinging has been going on and the Opposition is working on the old principle that the more mud you sling the more likely it is that a certain amount of it will stick. In fact, the Opposition has placed the Government in the dock. It has charged the Government with nothing. It is producing hearsay evidence upon hearsay evidence, week after week, without any charge being made. The Government has produced the documents that are available. Senator Webster made a number of accusations today, but the Prime Minister, when he spoke on this matter on 9 July, asked the Leader of the National Country Party in another place, whether he wanted any documents tabled in relation to negotiations that might have been entered into with a company called Transia Corporation Limited, of which, from recollection, Sir William Gunn was the chairman of directors. Again I pose the question to the Country Party: Do you want those papers tabled in this Parliament? I hear nothing but silence from the Country Party. The Prime Minister said, as reported at page 3600 of House of Representatives Hansard of 9 July 1 975:
Papers relating to Transia Corporation could be tabled, but I would be reluctant to publish them. Many financial institutions are mentioned. People in the financial world are named and their standing commented on. The papers relate to transactions in a delicate area of business, and companies and individuals are entitled to feel, in dealing with the Government, that the normal confidentiality will apply.
I will repeat that statement: . . companies and individuals are entitled to feel, in dealing with the Government, that the normal confidentiality will apply.
The Prime Minister continued:
Surely there has to be an end to the attempted destruction by the Opposition of the country’s good name and reputation and to these insidious imputations against Ministers, companies and individuals. Does the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) want Sir William Gunn’s papers to be tabled? Does he make any charge against Sir William Gunn?
– Why are you anxious to table his papers but not Khemlani ‘s?
– I remind Senator Wright that some 67 pages of documentary evidence have been included in the House of Representatives Hansard of 9 July 1975 by this Government in response to the assertions, accusations and innuendoes made by the Opposition. But certainly, there are still no charges. I have looked at Mr Lynch ‘s speech which he made on that day. He has been the frontrunner for the Opposition in this matter. He has certainly asked for a lot of interogatories and sought a lot of information. He has been given all the information that he has sought, yet he has never laid a charge.
– A Minister was dismissed because of the information that was given.
-He was not dismissed because of any information that was given. The Minister was dismissed by the Prime Minister because the statement that the then Minister had made in the House of Representatives was at variance with the document that had subsequently come into the possession of the Prime Minister. He was not dismissed, his commission was not withdrawn as a result of any action on the part of the Opposition.
We are to have a certain person brought before the Senate next week. 1 wonder who else will be brought before the Senate. I wonder, for instance, whether Mr Nagy will be brought before the Senate. Mr Nagy has sworn a statutory declaration that was tabled in the House of Representatives by Dr Cairns. Mr Nagy has gone on record as saying in relation to a conversation or conversations that he had with Mr Harris:
He further said -
He ‘ being Mr Harris- that during the meeting of the same day wilh Mr Lynch he had passed over the names and addresses of banking people we had dealt with in Europe, whom he believed will he able to supply Mr Lynch on his forthcoming trip to Europe with plenty of ammunition concerning the Khemlani loan affair. After questioning, he further informed me that it was he who passed to Mr Lynch the photocpopy of the telex that was published previously in the media concerning the Moscow Narodny Bank. Mr Harris said to me, ‘Cairns is finished. The government is finished. Mr Lynch said he will take up the loan when he becomes Treasurer’.
I returned to Sydney and on my arrival I arranged with Mr Hanna to see me at my home the following morning and I explained to him what had transpired between Mr Harris and myself. He said this sounds so fantastic, I can’t believe it. My wife was also present. I said to Mr Hanna, if you don’t believe me, ring him right now.
Mr Hanna then dialled Mr Harris and had a conversation with him. When he finished he said that he was now forced to belief in that Mr Harris had confirmed all that I had said about the Lynch-Harris meetings.
I then chewed over this matter and later I placed a call to Mr Harris. He was out. I spoke to Mrs Harris who assured me he would ring me back the following day. On Thursday, 3rd, I rang Mr Harris again and was told he had left for Adelaide and would not be back until Sunday evening. I asked that she ask him to phone me. I have not yet received any reply to my calls.
If the Opposition, through the form of inquisition it has conducted over the last week, is anxious to seek the truth, I wonder whether it intends moving a motion to bring Mr Nagy before the Senate because we have reached a situation where, by way of a motion moved by Senator Hall, next Tuesday a Mr Karidis is to be dragged before the Bar of the Senate to answer questions. We have now reached a stage where, I assume, it is anticipated that more people are to be dragged before the Bar of the Senate because a form of motion with a space left for the name and address of the person to be filled in has been roneoed.
On all the facts that are available to us there is no justification whatever for the Government embarking on the costly and expensive course of conducting a royal commission into the airless and wild assertions, accusations and innuendo that have been flung around here day after day. Therefore, as Senator Wriedt has said, the Government rejects the first portion of the motion moved by Senator Withers. As to the other parts of it, we can see a case for the consideration of the question of privilege by the Privileges Committee of this Senate, especially having regard to the way in which members of the Opposition conducted themselves in this place during the interrogation of witnesses yesterday. The Government opposes the first portion of the motion but is prepared to allow the matter of privilege to go to the Privileges Committee of the Senate.
– There has been a number of Government speakers this afternoon on a clear and unemotional motion moved by this side of the chamber. I suppose the best way that one could allude to what has been said on the other side is by scoring as though one were scoring a debate. If I had to give them a score for matter they would get none out of ten. For manner they would get two out of ten. They were excessively emotional, noisy rather than expressive and gave an impression of agitation and covering up, so for method I think I would give them three out often. They covered lack of facts with bluster very ineffectively and I suppose the normal adjudicator’s comment on what they have said would be that with a little more control and a little more candour they may improve as a government but they would certainly need to work at it. I think that sums up the whole of the debate.
– You are a funny fellow.
– The honourable senator did not make 5 per cent. At no time did they attempt to answer or advert to the charge that they have been involved in a cover-up. That is the basic charge. Senator Douglas McClelland made great play of the fact that I said yesterday that on 1 November 1967 he and a number of his colleagues voted basically to summon a certain public servant before the Senate. He took the very technical point that it was a vote on a motion to suspend Standing Orders. That is true, but one hardly votes for the suspension of Standing Orders if one does not intend to vote for the subsequent motion. But what is more important -as I said yesterday and to this Senator Douglas McClelland did not allude- is that on 8 November, the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) moved exactly the same motion. It was not for a suspension of standing orders, but was an amendment to a motion in another place. Who voted for that motion but the Prime Minister, Mr Connor, Mr Hayden and Mr Enderby? So, irrespective of taking a very technical point here this afternoon, the simple fact remains that the Prime Minister was party to an operation to bring before the Parliament a member of the Public Service.
I think it is fair for me to say that I am pleased that the Government is certainly not opposing paragraphs (2), (3) and (4) of the motion because this is a matter which must be resolved. It must be resolved not only for the Senate, not only for the Parliament and not only for the Public Service, but also for all witnesses who may be called in future either before a committee of the Parliament or a House of the Parliament. It is a matter of great importance and has been part of our policy which was put before the people last year at the double dissolution election.
As to the first paragraph of the motion, the Government can bluster, it can make innuendoes, it can run about dragging red herrings and it can talk about buying back the farm. It can talk about all those things. But no matter how noble the motive, if the method of achieving that noble motive is improper, illegal, unlawful or unconstitutional, the method is not made noble because the original aim is noble. It is as simple as that. It is no use trying to cover up what we allege have been improper unconstitutional and illegal methods adopted by the Government by bringing in the red herring of the noble purpose. For those reasons the Opposition will be voting against the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt). We will then be voting for the motion as put by me in its entirety.
That the paragraph proposed to be left out (Senator Wriedt’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. JusticeO’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the motion (Senator Withers’) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-by leave-Mr President, by arrangement between the Whips in the Senate, Senator Rae will not vote in divisions this day to compensate for the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Milliner.
– Order! It being after 5 p.m., under sessional orders I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.3 p.m. till Tuesday, 22 July 1975, at 2.30 p.m.
The following answer to a question was circulated:
As PRG forces approached Saigon the dangers of flying into Tan Son Nhut airfield, which provided the only point of departure for Embassy officials, increased, not only from artillery but also from ground to air rockets. The timing of the evacuation was therefore determined by the Government’s wish to ensure that it was undertaken safely using Australian facilities. The need to ensure the safety of the staff of the Embassy in those difficult circumstances was, of course, paramount.
The processing of applications for entry into Australia in the period prior to the evacuation of the Embassy was a slow one because of the deterioration of communications in South Vietnam and because people wishing to leave the country could not obtain the documents such as passports and exit permits without which they could not leave the country. The authorities in Saigon maintained their attitude regarding exit permits up to and, indeed, after the evacuation of the Australian Embassy staff. Vietnamese nationals not in possession of the documents were denied access to the airport area, and were turned back at road blocks and check points manned by local police and army personnel.
Approvals given for Vietnamese to come to Australia have not lapsed by virtue of their not being evacuated by RAAF transport. Any approved person who has secured departure from Vietnam by other means and makes his way to any place where there is an Australian diplomatic mission or consular officer will be immediately granted authority to enter Australia.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 July 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750717_senate_29_s64/>.