21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Report of the Committee of Privileges.
Pursuant to the resolution passed by the House on the 9th June -
That Raymond E. Fitzpatrick and Frank C. Browne be notified that at 10 a.m. tomorrow the House will hear them at the bar before proceeding to decide what action it will take in respect of their breaches of privilege.
The Serjeant-at-Arms having informed Mr. Speaker that Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick and Frank Courtney Browne were in attendance on the House,
– Inform Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick that the House will now hear him.
Mr. Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick having appeared at the bar of the House,
– Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick, the House has adjudged you guilty of a serious breach of privilege by publishing articles intended to influence and intimidate a member, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), in his conduct in the House and in deliberately attempting to impute corrupt conduct as a member against the honorable member for Reid for the express purpose of discrediting and silencing him. Have you anything to say in extenuation of your offence before the House determines what action it will take? You may now speak.
Mr. Fitzpatrick. I would like to apply for permission for Mr. Mason, my counsel, to act on my behalf.
-The resolution of the House entitles you to speak personally, not your counsel.
– Mr Speaker-
Mr. Fitzpatrick. ; I would like to apologize to the House for what I did. When the article was published in the newspaper I had no idea that it was against parliamentary privilege. I humbly apologize.
– Have you anything further to say ?
– Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick, you will withdraw from the chamber while the House deliberates.
Mr. Fitzpatrick having withdrawn,
– I suggest we hear the other person charged.
– Serjeant-at-Arms, inform Frank Courtney Browne that the House will now hear him.
Mr. Frank Courtney Browne having appeared at the bar of the House,
– Frank Courtney Browne, the House has adjudged you guilty of a serious breach of privilege by publishing articles intended to influence and intimidate a member, the honorable member for Reid, in his conduct in the House and in deliberately attempting to impute corrupt conduct as a member against the honorable member for Reid for the express purpose of discrediting and silencing him. Have you anything to say in .extenuation of your offence before the House determines what action it will take? You may now speak.
– Mr. Speaker and honorable members, I have something to say in extenuation and mitigation of my offences, but it must remain a slightly impersonal plea, because I have been convicted of an offence which, according to Australian justice, has not been fully proved. I base that on .this: It is considered the right-
– You will take your hands off the bar.
– It is considered the right of every Australian citizen charged with an offence that he, first, must be charged ; and secondly, he must have legal representation. That is denied to me even here. He must have the case against him proved, and he need not answer incriminating questions. Then there is the fact that he must have the right to crossexamine his accuser. And lastly, he must have the right to appeal. There is also another inherent right which is always observed in every court in this Commonwealth, and every court where there is any reasonable conception of justice - that he shall present his case in an atmosphere which shall not have had the effect of prejudging him before he comes in.
Now, Mr. Speaker, let me ask you how what has happened to me this week squares up with that. First, I have been convicted and never charged. Secondly, at no time have I had legal representation. Thirdly, the case against me has not been properly proved. Fourthly, I have never had the right to cross-examine my accuser. And fifthly, I have no right to appeal. As far as the last is concerned, it is the inherent right for a man to have his case taken in an atmosphere that does not allow him to enter the court-room with the hatred, not only of spectators but of practically every one in the courtroom, including the jury, stirred up against him to a point where, if this was a community of another type, I doubt very much whether he would get into the court at all; he would be lynched on the way in.
I come to that last point. Last night, the right honorable the Prime Minister, the greatest orator in the history of this country - and you can put Alfred Deakin in, too - and, I suggest, one of the most vindictive men in the history of this country, rose and, in the way that only he can do, poured scorn on me. It has been done before, I know that, but never quite under these circumstances. In effect, last night he acted as a stage manager, and the purpose of his stage management was one thing and one thing only - “Bring Browne in here to grovel 0 for mercy, and if he does not grovel for mercy, put him in for life
Sir, I am not asking for any rights for myself. I know very well that I have made personal enemies of members on both, sides of this House in the course of doing what I believe to be right, no matter what other people think about it. There is no question about the attitude of the right honorable the Prime Minister, sir, towards me - none whatever. There is no question about the attitude of my erstwhile great and good friend, the right honorable the Treasurer, towards me. There is no question, sir, about the attitude of some of the members on the Opposition side of the House. I have been facetious at least about some of them; I have been more than facetious about some of them. But that is by the by.
I am not asking merely for myself. J am not standing here as Frank Browne. What happens to Frank Browne in this assembly does not matter very much. He is an obscure and inconspicuous figure in the community - not a newspaper baron, sir, not a man who can command a mighty organ with which really to intimidate a member if he tried. No, I cannot do that. I produce an obscure suburban newspaper of four sheets of foolscap a week, so I am not a very big figure. You might say that I am a worker - a phrase that is frequently bandied about - which I think I can claim to be classed as. So that I am asking not for myself, sir, but for those who may follow me, that this House does not seek to impose very strict punishment, but that it will delegate my trial to a body, a legal tribunal, in which I will have my rights, and if I am then shown to be guilty - well, the hardest gaol in the land is too good for me. And there would be no appeal. I would not plead mitigation. I am prepared to take my chance under those circumstances. All J ask for is that the general public be shown, sir, that you do not bring people here to Canberra to deprive them of their rights, that the law-makers do not set themselves above the law, and do nol place their good name better than thai of the constituents they represent. Surely that is not too much to ask, sir. _ I say that, if this Parliament establishes a precedent and takes the right of punishment into its own hands, the rights that have been fought for since 1215, and even before, are seriously endangered. The right of free speech is endangered. You talk about intimidation, sir. You visit exemplary punishment - or, for that matter, the degree of punishment does not matter to me - and what happens ? There will not be a journalist in the land, not a newspaper proprietor in the land, who will feel free, because once you establish a precedent you might say, “Oh, yes, Browne did an awful thing “. But you will not wait for some one else to do an awful thing. You will get a borderline case and inevitably in a borderline case you get somebody who says, ‘’ Throw him to the lions ; crucify him “, and they crucify him. That has been the lesson of tyranny in every country. There is not a thing that Hitler did that he could not justify - not a thing.Read MeinKampf and you will wonder how he ever went to war and, when he did go to war, how we could ever reconcile it with our consciences to fight.
The law of this country has ample provision for any punishment that I have earned. I ask that this House will not take a final step of inflicting punishment, because with any move in that direction, however tempered - if it consists of an apology - the principle has gone. Sir, it establishes the fact that here is not only a court, but a court which absolves itself of every idea that we have had inculcated into us on the score of natural justice when a person is charged with an offence - in fact, a court that is prepared to convict him without charging him. Even the Star Chamber, that body which is bandied around every time somebody wants to justify himself as a true blue democrat, did not go that far. I say this, and I say it quite sincerely: That what you do to me is of no moment, perhaps, in a physical sense to anybody but meno moment whatever. But you are exporting locomotives and other things to those countries that are struggling towards democracy in South-East Asia. If you export thelocomotives and you neglect to export some of the elemental principles of justice which they know nothing about, well, it will all be in vain. Your Colombo plan will be nullified. Everything you give them they will misuse, including the rights of legislative bodies.
Now, sir, I do appeal to you. It is not a question of the merits of the case, and it is not a question of the rights of the case. I know that you have unlimited rights. If I were tried for murder and convicted after due trial, I suppose I could look forward to being out in about fifteen years, if I were good. But, sir, I do not know what 1 can look forward to here. You may say, in effect, “Put him away and shut him up “, and what welcome news that would be to some of the members present! Sir, if you fall back on your rights - and your rights are 300-year old rights - to deal with me here, you will have forfeited any right - not you personally, but every member here - to stand at next election time on the stump and sing hymns about liberty, equality and fraternity.
– Have you concluded ?
– Frank Courtney Browne, you will withdraw from the chamber while the House deliberates.
Mr. Browne having withdrawn,
– Mr. Speaker, 1 propose that, these addresses having been made to us, you suspend the sitting for half an hour so that we may take them into account.
Sitting suspended from 10.19 to 11.10 a.m.
– I propose to submit two motions to the House in due course, but in making such remarks as I desire to address to honorable members, I shall speak about both motions together, because the circumstances are common to both. It is necessary on this occasion, which is without precedent in the Parliament, to refer to the foundations of the rights of the Parliament to protect itself and its members. Section 49 of the Australian Constitution reads -
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
Therefore, the right of this House to declare and protect its privileges is clear and is founded on the Constitution itself. The Commons House of Parliament, at Westminster, has for centuries exercised its powers to protect itself and its members on the very sound principle that, unless the Parliament itself remains an institution in which members are free to speak, it ceases to perform one of the greatest of the functions of the Parliament, which is the free expression of opinion and the free debating of ideas concerning the public good.
A right to punish for contempt is not peculiar to the Parliament. The courts of law have a right to punish for contempts of court. Indeed, I remind honorable members that, in the case of a contempt of court committed in the face of the court, the judge who is at the time presiding over the proceedings deals with the matter himself there and then and has power instantly to commit for contempt the person guilty of it. I mention that very well-known fact merely to point out that some of the remarks about trials to which we listened this morning are entirely misconceived. In the case to which I have referred, the court is a Judge, if one likes, in its own cause. Parliament, if one likes, is the judge ih its own cause, because no one except the Parliament can protect the Parliament. The case with which we are now dealing is a perfect illustration of the differences that must be kept clearly in mind not only by us here in this place of privilege, but also by people outside this chamber. Criticism of the Parliament, of course, is well justified by experience and well warranted in point of right. Violent criticism anil attacks, perhaps of a highly personal sort, on individual members of Parliament are not unknown. No parliament has ever taken action to prevent those things, and I do not think any parliament will ever do so. The freedom known as the freedom of criticism is something that neither the Government nor I suppose, any member ;of this House proposed !to touch.
If this were merely a case of criticism, even of violent criticism, and if the matter had followed what one might call the pattern ‘of controversial journalism, it would never have engaged the attention of the Committee of Privileges, or if it had done so, would never have been made the subject of a finding by the committee in the terms in which a finding has been made. This happens to be a case in which “the committee has found, in substance, a conspiracy to ‘blackmail a m’emb’er of the Parliament into silence. ‘Let us be perfectly clear about this matter. If these tactics had succeeded, and if the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) had not invoked the consideration of the House on this matter but had been silenced and forced to conceal what, no doubt, would be his views, this conspiracy would have succeeded. A member of th, Parliament would have been silenced. Something that, perhaps, ought to have been made known and ought to have been discussed would not have been made known and would not have been discussed. Here we have something that L= completely outside the realm of criticism as we understand the term. It is a conspiracy to black-mail a member into silence. If that objective can be achieved, that member’s capacity to represent his electors has, to that degree, been destroyed ; he has been silenced. And, then, one has only to silence enough people by those methods to reduce this Parliament to impotence. I have emphasized that matter .because, in some minds, there is always a little disposition to be sceptical about the Parliament as if it were an odd place in which only odd people were to be found. I am proud to say that this institution is the representative body of the nation. It is the flower of Australian democracy, and the degree to which this House preserves the freedom of its members to speak and to think will be the measure of its service to democracy.
I have described very briefly the matter with which we are dealing. May I invite honorable members to refresh their minds on ‘the contents of the report of the Committee of Privileges? Nothing that appears in that report is qualified or affected, to the faintest degree, by the remarks that we heard from this man Browne at the bar of the House this morning. Ear from seeking to qualify or to retract anything, he gave us an exhibi4lon of unparalleled arrogance and impertinence, ‘and exhibited his contempt for the Parliament even more vividly than his writings and reports might have done. Here is the central fact in this matter: An attack designed to silence the honorable member for Reid has ‘been published and republished repeatedly in a journal Owned for this purpose by Fitzpatrick and “e’dited tot this purpose by a freelance journalist named Browne. This was merely an incident in his life, and for the services that he rendered in writing all this material he was paid. That appears to be his business. One of the things that was said in the course of the attack was that they had the proofs and, indeed, they would come to Canberra to produce them. The committee, in paragraph 11 of its report, has said unanimously -
No evidence was brought before your committee to substantiate the charges in the Bankstown Observer against the honorable member for Reid. When questioned on the final section of the article appearing in the Observer of the oth May, 1055, viz. - “We will go to Canberra and we will take with us proof of the charges against Morgan “, Mr. Browne replied that he did not have the proof with him nor did he possess the proof at the time the article was written. Mr. Fitzpatrick, when asked “ Have you any personal evidence of any charges against Mr. Morgan “. replied “No”.
So, you see, here are charges preferred - [ am not, nor is the House, sitting in judgment on issues between individuals - but here we have charges designed to close the mouth of a member of Parliament. They are made, in the one case, with complete knowledge that he had no material to substantiate them, and in the case of the other, the hired pen of malice, he has no proof, he had no proof, he could 11Ot care less. It was a job of work to be done for £30 each week.
Sir, I do not want to labour this matter.
– Is the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) moving, so far, in one case only?
– I am proposing to move precisely similar resolutions in the ease of Browne, but if the right honorable gentleman would like me to move them now, and it is permissible, I shall do so.
– I think they should be discussed together. The right honorable gentleman has discussed them together. Will he move the resolutions?
– I am happy to do that. I hope it will be in order.
– I do not mind. We have done it before.
– They are in precisely the same terms as in the case of Fitzpatrick. I move -
– The question is that the second motion be agreed to. I call the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) - on the two motions, I presume?
– Yes, I propose to deal with both. I want to state, at the outset, that I have never regarded this question of the exercise by Parliament itself of its jurisdiction in the case of contempt of the Parliament - because that is what this amounts to- as involving party considerations at all. It has always been the practice that the Committee of Privileges be constituted from all sections of the House, and on no occasion has any question of privilege, either about to be put before a committee, or in the course of being considered by a committee, been discussed even at party meetings. I say that, Mr. Speaker, because I think that is an essential approach, and it is an approach which must he taken for this reason: That to-day, this assembly, this House of Representatives, must approach these matters judicially, just as a court would. The court has inherent power, in certain cases, to protect its proceedings against abuse, and a great body of law has grown up because of the development, by the courts, of the law of contempt. Of course, the great difference between the courts of law and this assembly is that, from the courts, there is the ordinary right of appeal to higher courts, and so forth. But I say, at the outset, that the function of this House of Representatives to-day is to look at this matter judicially.
It is perfectly true that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has pointed to the constitutional power in section 49. That constitutional power clearly contemplated that there would be a declaration by the Parliament of its powers and privileges. That has never been done, because there has been no occasion in the history of this Parliament, so far as I am aware, on which any person has been recommended for punitive action by the Committee of Privileges and such person has appeared before us, as has happened today. That is not because there have not been contempts committed in relation to this Parliament. My colleague, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), illustrated the type of thing that takes place in attacks made on the House, and on members of the House, by the press. Many of them have occurred. One case came before the House in the ‘thirties. That was in relation to a proposed increase of the salaries of members, and one newspaper, denouncing the methods by which the legislation was approved, headed an article, “ He cometh like a thief in the night “. In other words, it was obviously, from every point of view, a contempt of the Parliament, because it was a condemnation of the methods that were adopted, and I have no doubt it could be regarded as a most serious interference with honorable members in the discharge of their legislative duties. Many other instances could be given - many of them are within the recollection of honorable members - that have come before the Committee of Privileges, and in most cases what has happened has been this: Where the committee has thought that there has been a breach of privilege - which I prefer to call a contempt of the House, or a contempt of the Parliament - the committee has recommended that it would be more befitting the dignity of the House to proceed no further in the matter, or at any rate, not to proceed towards punishment. Of course, all of this illustrates certain aspects of the matter to which I shall refer separately.
A job of work - a difficult and responsible job - was given by the House to the Committee of Privileges. The members of the committee were appointed as representatives of all parties, and they had a difficult job to perform because they were hound by the precedents of such committees. They followed those precedents. They came along with a report based upon the evidence, which they included in their report, and, on the face of the report, and no doubt in accordance with the evidence, they are justified in saying that there has been a serious breach of the privileges of the House. They leave it to this House - and that is the point I make - to take appropriate action. What action should we take? If we take action as suggested by the Prime Minister, this will be the first occasion in the whole history of the Commonwealth in which action of that kind has been taken. In fact, I do not think that even a fine has been imposed. The Prime Minister says dogmatically that there is no power to impose a fine. I do not accept that, but if there is no power to impose a fine, that is no reason for imposing imprisonment, when the two Houses are given by the Constitution express power to declare what the powers of the Houses are - not to indicate by new legislation in the ordinary course of the exercise of a constitutional power but to declare. The two Houses are empowered to notify by declaration, not necessarily by act of Parliament, I presume, though perhaps by act of Parliament, what are the powers and privileges.
We get this astonishing position: If the appropriate remedy is a fine - a substantial fine, or a very substantial fine - because the Parliament has not been interested enough to deal with this matter from an Australian point of view in accordance with modern conditions, according to the Prime Minister the only remedy is imprisonment. But that begs the question as to what is the appropriate remedy. The committee recommends that appropriate action be taken. I will refer to that later on from the point of view of what our duty is. But I accept the statement made by the members of the committee. A house of Parliament has clear constitutional power to act. There is no doubt about that. That is stated in 3ect.ion 49, but we get the constitutional power by referring to the musty precedents of another country, and looking up what is done in another country under circumstances that are quite out of keeping in many respects with what is demanded by basic democracy and basic justice in this country. Consider the difficulties of the Committee of Privileges. What happened in this case is an illustration. Although I deprecate the tone in which one of the two persons concerned, Mr. Browne, spoke from the bar of the House, I can easily understand that, in that situation, the tone of voice might not express the full point of view; but he was correct in saying this : Two witnesses were summoned to the committee, no charge was levelled-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman cannot debate the report of the committee, which was agreed to by the House yesterday.
– I am not debating the report of the committee. I am only describing what the committee’s report was.
– Order ! The right honorable member is perfectly out of order on that.
– I ask you on this occasion, at least, to allow a full discussion of the matter I was going to raise.
-Order ! The House will comply with its normal precedure. The report of the committee was before the House yesterday. It was open to debate, and the right honorable gentleman spoke on it. He is not now able to debate what was agreed to yesterday.
– I am not debating it in the sense of controverting it at all. I make it perfectly clear that I am describing what took place, as the procedure with which we are faced.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman will not do it at this stage. I am laying that down.
– I was going to make this point and I will attend carefully to your direction so far as I am able: The Prime Minister referred to section 49, which gives power to both Houses to declare privileges. It is perfectly in order for me to show that those should be declared and we should not have this type of case where, if, in the opinion of the majority of the House, the remedy is a substantial fine, we are compelled to award imprisonment. I have said that the procedures also should be laid down under the same constitutional power, and we should not have a case, under any circumstances, in which a person concerned as a witness suddenly finds after the hearing is completed that he is in the position of showing cause why he should not be dealt with. There should be some procedure more in consonance with the procedure of courts of justice. Suppose the Supreme Court of a State, say the Supreme Court of New South Wales, were dealing with a matter of this character. What would we find? There would be an application to the court for a preliminary order to the persona concerned to show cause why they should not be dealt with. They would be represented normally by counsel before the court. Then the day would come for the argument. Both sides would be heard as to whether there was a contempt of court. That is the type of procedure that could be adopted under section 49, and it would end procedures such as have been adopted to-day in the absence of that legislation. [ say that that should be done.
Take first the case of Fitzpatrick. He came to the bar of the House obviously in a condition in which he could hardly state a sentence. He wanted counsel. I rose in order to move that that request be complied with so that the House could determine it, and immediately you, Mr. Speaker, ruled - and I am not questioning the ruling - that he must speak for himself. He could not. Obviously he could not say more than the few sentences that he then uttered apologizing to the House and stating that there was “no intention of interfering with the privileges of Parliament. I am not dealing now with the extent to which that has to be accepted or to which it might be regarded as a mitigating circumstance; but it is not the proper procedure where there is no charge, no hearing of a charge, and the fact is accomplished before the witness comes to the bar of the House. The fact fa accomplished because the very fact of guilt has been pronounced in their absence. Certainly, yesterday we debated the report and I have no doubt again that’ the Committee of Privileges, acting in accordance with precedent, did not depart in any way from the rules laid down; but we still have to act judicially and see what is the right thing to be done. I feel that this must be dealt with from that point of view. The Prime Minister says that in certain cases the judge is a judge in his own cause, where the courts deal with the subject of contempt, hut is that so? It is only so in the limited sense of an offence in the presence of the court, such as some disturbance created in the court, but when the matter comes to the judges they deal with it judicially. The judges are never in any real sense judges in their own cause, and if they are wrong on law or on fact there is a right of appeal.
I differ from the Prime. Minister inthinking that the measure of democracy in this country is the extent to which, the members of this House are protected. I do not agree with that at all. We are reaching a stage on privileges in which even expressions of views in this chamber by honorable members are regarded or sought to be regarded as breaches of privilege. In other words, the exercise of a privilege is sought to be regarded as a breach of privilege and a contempt of the House. I, therefore, would ask the House to look at the position this way because the finding of the committee itself is a very serious finding; it is stated tobe a serious contempt, but it is thefirst occasion in Australian history where such a situation has arisen, notwithstanding the occasions which might have invited or compelled - apparently compelled, the exercise of this jurisdiction. I think this House will be judged itself by the measure of its judicial independence when it is acting judicially,, rather than, the eagerness or alacrity with which it deals with any particular matter in a case like this, the first case in which the powers of the Parliament have been exposed to the public gaze so openly, and in which a sentence of imprisonment for three months is proposed to the House. There is no appeal from it. Supposing a court of law thought that the sentence was, in the circumstances most unjust, this being the first occasion of the exercise of the power, there is no remedy, and there are no conditions about it. The two persons concerned are to be sent to gaol in the Australian Capital Territory or elsewhere, with no right of redress, even though a court might think the sentence unjust. It is unique. I say that it is out of keeping. The absence of the right to appeal, or to have a chance of checking the matter, is quite contrary to all that is best in the traditions of Australian justice, and I say that the action proposed is not the appropriate action to take in this case. I point out also, Mr. Speaker, that this is quite outside the ordinary course of the law. None of the normal safeguards is present. The two people concerned came before the House to-day. and, instead of Mr. Speaker reading out the resolution of yesterday, he read out a statement of his own making, practically like a judge in a criminal court directing the prisoner to answer before sentence was imposed on him. That might, in a sense, be the effect of the resolution, but that was not the intention of the House, E am sure,, yesterday. The intention of the House was to have these people come to the House and to give them an opportunity to express their views, but not to be treated as they were treated his morning. I do not think it was right. I do not think people conversant with the law would disagree with the proposition that,, even in the case of the most serious crimes,, the judge should scrupulously and carefully hear everything, that can be said. I think that Fitzpatrick must have had some more to say than he did *ay, but he was obviously under great nervous tension and strain.
I am not in any way justifying the act of which he has been found guilty by the committee. Nothing of the kind!. I just want this chamber to act as a court of justice, and say what is the just and proper thing to do. I say that it is a serious thing that, when the first case of this kind comes before us, it is proposed to impose a sentence which seems to me to be out of all proportion to the circumstances of the case. I say it is out of all proportion. The only way in which this matter should be dealt with is by an amendment of the act to put jurisdiction, in the ease of contempt, in the hands of some authority, under parliamentary direction, of course, with some indication of what the appropriate sentence -should be. In all criminal law that is basic. In the present circumstances, there is no limit to the severity of the sentence which may be imposed by this Parliament. The Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, has. proposed that the sentence be imprisonment for three months. It might easily have been two months, or one month. So these people must go. to gaol. It is wrong, and it is excessive, and I think that if there were a review of what was’ d’one- in the light of the proceedings, in relation to an ordinary matter sent to the Committee of Privileges, alternative action would have been taken which would have protected the dignity of the House. That action would have been a warning to any person who might offend in a like case again.. For those reasons, and in relation to each ease, since both cases are being dealt with at once, I intend to move -
That, all words after “That”, first occurring, be left out with, a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words. - “ this House is of the opinion that the appropriate action to be taken, in these cases is the imposition of substantial fines, and that the amount of such fines, and the procedure for enforcing them, be determined by the House forthwith.”.
When I say “ substantial I mean exactly that, because the offence concerned is not a minor offence. It is a serious offence. I also meet the Prime Minister’s view, and I shall try to explain what it is, in regard to the power to impose a fine. He has said, without qualification, that there is no- power resident in the House to impose a fine. In the House of Commons, the power of fining has certainly not been exercised over a great period of time. That, however, does not, in itself, prove that the power does not exist. It has fallen, as lawyers would say, into disuse or desuetude. But I do not agree that it has necessarily gone, and I say that if the Parliament is of the opinion that it is desirable, it could declare that there is power to inflict a fine. In other words, in the absence of an appropriate remedy, the law of Australia should not be used to inflict a punishment that otherwise would not be inflicted. I think that point is quite clear to honorable members1. I hope it is. [Extension of time granted.’] The argument advanced by the Prime Minister is in three parts. First, an apology is not adequate. We can accept that. Secondly, he says that there is no legal power to impose a fine. The only punisment remaining, therefore, is imprisonment, and, therefore, imprisonment must be awarded. I meet that by pointing to the power of the Parliament to declare - not. to start afresh with a Taw having effect in the future - but to declare what the powers of the Parliament, and either House thereof, are. Quite obviously, the declaration should include the power to fine, and should also include procedures for the hearing of cases: of this character. I think there can be no escape from that.
I think that the Parliament must do that, because this case makes it necessary. The public will insist that this be brought into the realm of law, and that the ordinary legal procedures, so far as is practicable, be adopted in cases like this. Therefore, I say that in the present circumstances that is the appropriate action. The Committee of Privileges has asked us to take the “ appropriate action “. I know that there is authority for the view that there is no power to fine, but I hold that that power can be given, and would be given. I submit that the sentence proposed is out of all proportion to the offence in one sense. I admit that it is a serious offence, but this is the first occasion on which this power has been exercised in this way by the Parliament, I believe we would be consulting our own dignity, and more properly exercising our own judicial authority, which is being exercised now for the first time, notwithstanding many instances that could be pointed to where action might have been taken, and that it would be more in keeping with the dignity and restraint that should mark the exercise of judicial functions, if the course that I suggest were taken. I also want to say this - and I think it is important, because reference has been made to it - that the committee’s report, which has been adopted, constitutes a complete vindication of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan).
When this matter was referred to the Committee of Privileges it was not, in my view, a party matter. I supported the reference of it to the committee. I make 110 attack on the committee. I think that it has acted in accordance with the procedures that have been adopted in the House ever since I can remember. But I do not think that they are the best procedures for the administration of justice. [ emphasize again, that to-day we are not acting as a legislature protecting itself in the sense that a person protects himself against another person who attacks him in the street. We are acting as a court of law. We are acting judicially. I! have had considerable experience over the years in cases of contempt of court, as a member of the Bar, and subsequently, and I know how the courts approach matters of this kind. It has been laid down over and over again, even where there are most flagrant attacks on a court, that imprisonment is reserved for the most serious offences that can be imagined.
I cannot remember any case in which the Supreme Court of New South Wales, over the past 30 years, has awarded imprisonment for such an offence even in the most flagrant cases. In all cases it has awarded a fine - a heavy fine in serious cases, and a lesser fine in less serious cases. The court does not do that out of any regard for the particular person or persons brought before it. Ii looks ahead. It knows that once itf jurisdiction is understood, the powers of the Supreme Court will be remembered by persons who might be inclined to offend in that way. I think that we should do the same. In the period of nearly 55 years since this Parliament came into existence it has never found it necessary to declare Parliament’s powers of punishment in such a case as we now have before us. Why? Because there has been no case where such powers have been exercised, and there has been no declaration of these powers, notwithstanding all the instances that could be given of contempts of the Parliament. I therefore submit to the House that tinappropriate action called for by th, Committee of Privileges is the action that I have suggested, that is to say, th,imposition of a substantial fine. I ha/e included in the draft of my amendment a provision that the House shall determine the appropriate penalty. It should bo substantial, and, I think, very substantial. If that action is taken we shall vindicate the position of the House, because that is what we are primarily concerned with, and there will be no likelihood of any conduct resembling this occurring in the future. Therefore, in relation to the motion before us I move, as I intend to move also in relation to the subsequent motion -
That all words after “That” first occurring lie left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ this House is of Hie opinion that the appropriate action to he taken in these pases is the imposition of substantial fines, and that the amount of such fines, and the procedure for enforcing them, bc determined by the House forthwith.
– Is the amendment seconded ?
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [11.52 j. - I second the amendment. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was speaking, I felt that in the opinion of the Government if we had the power to fine he would have preferred a fine to the terms of the motion he has submitted. I may be wrong in that, but he ruled out the question of a fine by saying that the Parliament had no power to inflict that penalty. He, very rightly, said that the acceptance of an apology delivered by Mr. Fitzpatrick, but not delivered by that man Browne, would have held the Parliament in contempt of itself, or words to that effect. We cannot accept apologies from people of that sort. The second man, for a long period, has been .maligning- members of this Parliament in the most scurrilous fashion, accusing them even of lecherous conduct, and making the foulest charges against them, stirring up the very cesspools of his disordered imagination in order to depict members of this House and other persons in this community, all good Australians, as completely unworthy persons. But he did not even apologize. He merely read us a lecture on liberty. I like to hear lessons and lectures on liberty, but I like them to fall from the mouths of people who believe in liberty. I do not believe in tolerating observations from people who believe only in licence. He wants a licence to continue to malign this Parliament and its members. The offence of which these two people have been found guilty was aggravated only yesterday in the Bankstown Observer. Two days after the report of the Committee of Privileges was presented to the Parliament, that newspaper returned to the same foul libels that it printed earlier against the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). I felt a sort of human sympathy for the plight of Fitzpatrick. He seemed to me to be just an illiterate lout, just a. stand-over bully who had made his money by corruption, in the State of Kew South Wales principally, and had involved in his activities quite a. number of persons som» of whom were false to the high offices that they held in other years. In the case of Browne, I saw an arrogant rat, just a character assassin, and 1 have no better description to apply to him than that of my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who protested against the Australian Broadcasting Commission employing him to write scripts. He wrote a script about the late Captain Albert Jacka, V.C., concerning which the former honorable member for Corangamite, the late Mv. McDonald, made a deserved and spirited protest. Supporting the then honorable member for Corangamite, the honorable member for East Sydney said -
If I have identified the gentleman correctly, he is responsible for the printing of a news sheet that circulates, fortunately, only in a very limited field in Sydney. My opinion, and the opinion of all other decent-minded people in Sydney, is that the journal is neither more nor less than a blackmailing sheet, lt is used for the purposes of blackmailing decent citizens. Knowing what kind of a man Frank Browne is, I ask the responsible Minister to have an investigation made in order to ascertain who was responsible for engaging a mau who is nothing more than a blackmailer to pre pare scripts for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Those are the characters who have set out to bring the Parliament into contempt. If they are allowed to escape without some punishment, obviously there will be other people who will continue to do what they have been doing. But they are not the only offenders. This Parliament itself is at fault because for 55 year.’ it has never passed a law of privilege, so we are driven to-day to make a decision with no law before us stating principles, and with no opportunity, if the Parliament desired to insert such a provision, for an appeal against the decision of the Parliament. I know that the Prime Minister’s statement, that the Arbitration Court can commit persons for contempt immediately, was completely true. I know that the Federal Judge in Bankruptcy can commit persons to prison for long periods, and I know some persons who have been in gaol for a period of a year or more at the will of the Federal Judge in Bankruptcy because they held the Federal Court of Bankruptcy in contempt by refusing to disclose their assets.
To bring the Parliament into contempt is one of the worst offences which can be committed. It is true, as Browne said, that if this decision is made other people will feel that the liberty of their press proprietorships is involved. Some of those people have abused the liberty which they have in this country, the liberty of a free press, by using it as a licence to defame honorable members of this House. You, Mr. Speaker, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and I, have been victims of injustice because we could not get justice in the courts of this land after we had been scandalously and scurrilously attacked. No poor man, or no member of Parliament, can stand up against great corporations and take cases from one court to another seeking vainly for justice. Therefore, there ought to be a law under which, in the future, offences of the kind I have mentioned will not be allowed to pass. Perhaps we were derelict in our duty in those other days to which I have referred in not committing persons who offended then. Nobody has a right to hold up members of Parliament to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, if they honestly do their duty, and nobody has a right to damage a man in his trade, occupation, or calling, in the manner in which members of this Parliament have suffered over the years because of the unrestrained hate and venom of other people.
We have to try to be very judicial in this matter to-day, no matter what our personal feelings are. If I had been left to myself, I do not know what I would have done to some of these people, but I do know the thoughts of a few of my colleagues about what should be done to people who write as this hired assassin has written. I should like to have tried to deal with the two cases separately because, in some ways, I think Fitzpatrick’s offence was less heinous than that of the other man. He was the instigator of the offence, but he had engaged in long controversy with the honorable member for Reid. I assisted the honorable member for Reid in 1946 when Fitzpatrick financed Lang’s campaign to enter this Parliament. The brawl, if I may so call it, had been going on for a long, long time, but Fitzpatrick’s actions overstepped even all the bounds of decent brawling in this instance. I think that there are standards - rough and ready though they be - of political controversy, but the manner in which the honorable member for Reid has been treated in recent times, and right up until yesterday, has been scandalous in the extreme. However, Fitzpatrick could not have done so much about it if he had not had a man who was prepared to sell himself for 30 pieces of gold a week to do the heinous things that he has done. The Leader of the Opposition is a former justice of the High Court of Australia. Naturally and properly, he pays regard to the traditions of the high office that he once held,, and to the principles of jurisprudence. He, and the other members of the legal profession who are members of the Labour party in this Parliament, have considered that the best penalty that should be awarded in this case is the penalty of a fine. They believe that a fine can be awarded properly and justly, and that the Australian Constitution does not forbid such a penalty. Their argument is that the Parliament, before it imposes a penalty in either of the cases before us, should make the declaration referred to by the Leader of the Opposition; and after that it would be permissible to impose a penalty of a fine.
– What if the fines are not paid?
– If the man who is dealt with does not pay the fine, then he can be further dealt with by this Parliament because he cannot avoid his responsibility by not paying a fine, even “although in the case of Browne it is understood that when he is placed in a certain position, he says, “ I have got nothing. I have assigned everything to my wife. So you can sue me to your heart’s content, but you will get nothing “. The only other way to deal with such a man is to charge him with criminal libel, but no State Parliament will so charge him; and I doubt whether we ourselves have the power to do so. Therefore, I suggest that if we fine them we should throw on these two persons the responsibility of taking their cases to the High Court as to whether the action determined by the Parliament be declared ultra vires. If that were done, we could then make provision in the legislation that the Leader of the Opposition envisages for a penalty, and, within the provisions of that hill, lay it down that persons who do not pay fines imposed under the measure will be imprisoned for whatever period is determined. If Browne will not pay a fine imposed on him, I am quite sure that Fitzpatrick will. I feel certain that Fitzpatrick has made enough by crooked dealings over many years to pay even more than the fine that the Leader of the Opposition had in mind. The Leader of the Opposition is not trifling in this matter. He is not suggesting a small fine. He is suggesting a substantial fine; and a substantial fine to my mind means anything from £2,000 to £5,000 in respect of each of these men.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has based the amendment which he has proposed on the fact that the present is the first occasion on which we have had a matter of this kind before the Parliament. I have carefully considered the advisability of strengthening and clarifying the law so that we may have a proper code under which to deal with offences of this character in the future. I believe that there i3 a very strong case to be made out for doing that; but the point is whether we should proceed to deal with the case before us now, or whether Ave should defer it until we have had an opportunity to strengthen the law.
I am well aware of the finer points of the law, and I appreciate them; but I believe that we, the Parliament, must take such action as we feel to be expedient in order to protect ourselves. One of our members has been intimidated, and he has brought the case before the Parliament. The fact that he has suffered grievously is a matter for regret; but it is not a matter of which we need take so much notice as of the fact that any one or a number of members may be similarly attacked in the future. We have heard the two offenders, and we are now required to state what we think should be done with them in order to prevent further intimidation, and in order that the public might be guided as to what will happen to those who offend in a similar manner in the future.
A case has been put before us which we must answer now for our own protection. If we’ fail to answer it now, we shall shortly be subjected - any one or a number of us - to attacks similar to those made on the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). I therefore reject the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. We should now consider the Government’s proposal that a sentence of three months imprisonment should be imposed on these men. The demeanour of the two men is quite different although their offences are of the same nature. Fitzpatrick has apologized, and his demeanour gave me, and I believe many other honorable members, the impression that he now realizes the gravity of the offence. The Government’s proposal to sentence him to three months imprisonment appears to me to be not unreasonable.
In the case of Browne, it appears to nic that to talk about restraint at the present time, as the Leader of the Opposition has done, is completely out of place. This man has shown no restraint at all, and to show restraint in return for his attitude would be merely to assist him in the work that he has been doing. It now has to be recognized quite clearly that Browne wa3 paid money to intimidate a member of this House, and it is a very serious thing that he accepted that money and did something to prevent the honorable member for Reid from exercizing his rights as a member of the House of Representatives. That was a grievous wrong to the honorable member for Reid
Browne is a very dangerous man to all of us at the present time, and some action is justified now and should not be deferred. The proposal of the Government to sentence him to three months imprisonment ,is not unreasonable. In fact, I believe that it is an extremely lenient punishment in the circumstances. I support the proposal of the Government.
– I rise to indicate very briefly that the Government does, and I believe other honorable members must, entirely dissociate themselves from some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). He made an attack on the character of these men, other than for the purposes for which we are gathered here to-day. We consider that those remarks should not be taken into consideration by this House. Whatever the character of the men concerned might be at other times and in other matters, that is not the concern of this House at the moment.
We are considering a matter that has been agreed to by both sides to be a conspiracy to blackmail. That is the matter that this House should consider. The fact that a man has a record in other respects is not a matter for this House at present. The matter before us is the finding by the Privileges Committee on certain matters that were referred to it. Therefore, the opinion of the House should not be coloured by remarks other than those that deal with that particular matter. Indeed, honorable members on both sides of the House consider that this is a matter of conspiracy to blackmail, and I, personally, know of no occasion on which a fine has been imposed by a court in respect of the offence of blackmail. We consider that a fine would not meet the requirements of the House in a matter of this kind that the only way in which this matter can be determined satisfactorily, and within the dignity and powers of this House, is to see that a penalty commensurate with the offence is imposed.
– By way of preface, I stress that this is a matter in which each of us is required to exercise his individual judgment. We are dealing with the life and liberty of a citizen of this country. We are assembled here this morning, not as a parliament operating under the twoparty system, but as a court - the High Court of Parliament - dealing with the rights of this place and of each individual citizen of the Commonwealth. Therefore, this is not a party matter. I would not feel ashamed, and there would . be no cause to feel ashamed on a matter such as this, to he in a minority of one, because each of us here is required on this occasion above all others to speak in accordance with his individual conscience, and sense of duty and right. So it would be completely wrong if a party decision were made on either side of the House in this matter. It is perfectly right for members to discuss with their colleagues the best thing to do, and thus inform their minds upon it, but no man here ought to feel himself bound out of loyalty or any other consideration to vote for a course, which in his heart of hearts, he does not believe to be correct.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has rightly stressed that the Parliament has a right to protect itself from intimidation. That is obvious. The Parliament has, moreover, a duty to protect itself from intimidation, because unless it is so protected itself, this institution would cease to exist as a free institution for the carrying out of the popular will; so there is no argument about that. And the Parliament must use such machinery as is available to it at the time of the offence. There can be no question about that, even though many other honorable, members, like me, may be very unhappy and doubtful about the actual nature of the machinery that we are employing on this occasion. It is the machinery available to us and we must use it, because we have the duty to protect ourselves. But we do not have only a duty this morning to protect ourselves as an institution - the institution of Parliament. We have a duty to protect Frank Browne - not Frank Browne as a particular individual, but all the Frank Brownes and all the Raymond Fitzpatricks of this community. We are dealing to-day with a matter which could affect, for example, every individual in the public galleries at this moment as well as every member of the press galleries.
Here is something quite historic. We have not previously had an issue of this kind before us. How we conduct ourselves to-day will have a considerable effect upon the future, in such cases. How we conduct ourselves to-day will also have a very considerable effect upon the public reputation of this institution. It is so important not only that justice should be done, but also that justice should appear to be done.
Frank Browne is a def amer. We know that, lt has been emphasized this morning in the debate. It is something which, unfortunately, we cannot altogether put out of our minds, but I agree with the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) that it is our duty and our obligation to put it, as far as we can, out of our minds this morning, and have regard only to the particular report presented to us by the Committee of Privileges. In every other respect, these two men, in my opinion, are to be dealt with as though their conduct up to this point had given no offence whatever to the Parliament. Of course, they have offended many of us individually. I can see around me members of this House who have been most cruelly and bitterly attacked. I have been attacked myself by Frank Browne. The leader of the corner party, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) said that because M!r. Browne had exercised no restraint, wc should exercise no restraint. That is completely wrong.
Honorable MEMBERS, - He did not say that!
– I am sorry. L understood that those were his words, but on this occasion particularly I do not want to misrepresent anybody. This Parliament should this morning, exercise the utmost restraint.
– I did not mean restraint in the sense that we should be lenient with him ; I meant restraint in the matter of time.
– I understand, and I thank the honorable member for that explanation. Certain very important things, from which we may take satisfaction, have occurred. For the first time in 55 years an attempt to intimidate this Parliament has met with resolute action on the part of the Parliament. That is very important. Secondly, the man whom these- people attempted to intimidate has not been intimidated; on the contrary, he has been vindicated and those who attempted to intimidate him have been exposed to the public gaze for what they did. Those things are all very important.
Now we come to the question of penalty. This is largely a matter of feeling and of instinct. I feel that it is wrong, in view of the manner in which this matter has been decided, to impose the penalty of imprisonment to take away from a man his freedom; to take control of his body and shut him up. It is sacrosanct. We should have the utmost certainty that what we are doing is entirely in accordance with the principles which we seek to uphold in this place. Frank Browne spoke from the bar this morning, and with much of what he said I found myself in agreement - not because Frank Browne said it, but because much of what he said, to my mind, was largely correct. I cannot vote for the imprisonment of a man when that man has not. first of all had the right to have the charges against him specifically stated in open hearing, the right to be represented and the right to cross-examine - all the rights which we give to men charged with the most horrific crimes in this community. These men have not had those basic and elementary rights, and in those circumstances, I feel that it is incumbent upon us to give to them the benefit of our mercy and our restraint, and to recognize quite frankly that we ourselves have been at fault in not establishing long ago some better machinery for dealing with these cases. It is true, Mr. Speaker, that this machinery is glorified and honoured by the fact that it is embedded in tradition, but that is not enough for us. We have to be satisfied that it is in accord with to-day’s understanding of what are the rights and privileges of a man accused of an offence for which the penalty can be imprisonment. It is not enough to be able to say merely that this machinery is centuries old, comes down to us out of the hoary past, and springs from a time when basic human and individual rights were not nearly so important as they are or ought to be to-day in the eyes of the community. I say “or ought to be” because to-day there is a growing failure in the community to appreciate the importance of basic individual democratic rights. These things are being attacked to-day in all parts of the world. We are the guardians in this country of those basic rights. Therefore, I say that, being dissatisfied - and who among us can be really satisfied - with the machinery available for the proper trial of these charges, we should certainly hesitate before using it. For my part, I could not agree to take a man’s liberty from him in such circumstances. Yet I agree that Parliament must protect itself, and that it has a duty to protect itself. Parliament must use the machinery, defective though it is at present, that is available to-day. There fore, the Parliament must impose a penalty. For those reasons I find myself in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition. I say that not simply because lie is my leader, because this is not a party matter, and I recognize the right of any man on either side of the House to differ from me in this matter and to express his own personal view. But for all the reasons that I have given I believe that this House will do justice, will meet the needs of the case, and will establish a fitting precedent for the future, if it imposes a substantial fine.
Let us remember that this is not the first occasion, by any means, in the history of this Parliament on which an attempt has been made to intimidate members of the Parliament. “What more vicious method of intimidation is there, exercised by some newspapers to prevent a man from speaking freely, than the method of taking out of context a few sentences that he uses and placing them under large headlines, so that he is afraid to speak for fear that he will be immediately misrepresented and that his meaning will be distorted? That is a form of intimidation which is continuously practised by many great newspapers in this community.
I say one final thing to my colleagues opposite. I hope they will not regard this as being in any way disrespectful, because I do view this as a matter of extreme importance. Let them ask themselves this question before they finally give their vote, if they are now determined on imprisonment: Would we, in similar circumstances, feel exactly the same if the people who had been at the bar this morning had been Mr. Frank Packer or Mr. Warwick Fairfax? Let us dissociate ourselves entirely from consideration of the character or reputation of these men. Let us look at the matter us dispassionately and calmly as we can. Let us agree that the machinery of this
Parliament for dealing with such matters is unsatisfactory and that we should remedy it. In the meantime, let us confine ourselves to a penalty which will be, I should imagine, a deterrent for the future. Penalties are imposed according to the nature of the offence and according to the number of times the offence has been committed. If an offence is repeatedly committed and it is found that a fine does not meet the case, then imprisonment is imposed. This is the first time in 55 years that the Parliament has used this machinery. Therefore, let us impose a fine; let us .then improve the machinery for dealing with these cases, and then let ns deal with each case as it arises.
– After hearing the way in which the previous speakers has sought to dramatize this situation and the predicament of the men concerned, I think it desirable for the House to replace in their proper perspective the issues before us which we are called upon to determine. I would first say that I welcome the remarks of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) about all members of Parliament approaching this matter without any inhibition caused by party allegiance. We, as a Parliament, adopted unanimously yesterday the report of our Committee of Privileges. That committee consisted of members from all sections of the Parliament. Nothing has been said, nor could anything have been said in the circumstances, challenging the substance of the report of the Committee of Privileges. We decided yesterday that, having adopted the report, the recommendation and the findings of that committee, we should provide an opportunity for the two men concerned to come to the bar of this House and address us if they chose, before we determined what action should be taken in regard to the findings of the committee. An important development from their appearance here is that no attempt was made by either of the men concerned to challenge any of the statements, of the Committee of Privileges. There was no denial of what had occurred. There was no attempt made to assert that the committee has misrepresented in any way what the two persons concerned did or said. There was some comment about the manner of the interrogation, but no challenge to the substance-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman cannot go into the question of what happened before the committee.
– I am merely saying, Mr. Speaker, that there is before us, therefore, the issue of what we, as a House of the Parliament, should decide is the proper penalty to be imposed in circumstances such as these. Before I proceed to that, please let us get clear in our minds again, as the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made it so abundantly clear, that we are not dealing here with intimidation of the kind that the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has just described to us. We are not dealing here with some distortion by the press in the normal course of journalistic business, nor even with a malicious and sustained press attack under ordinary circumstances. We are dealing here with what was cogently described by the Prime Minister as a conspiracy to blackmail in order to frustrate or intimidate a member of this Parliament in the carrying out of his functions in this, the seat of our national democracy. I have not heard any honorable member who has spoken this morning challenge that as a statement, in substance, of what was done. Therefore, let us distinguish, with all the clarity that we can command, the normal press attack which we have come to accept as part and parcel of the operation of democratic institutions in this country. It has been said repeatedly, in the course of these discussions yesterday and to-day, that if that was all that was before us, it would not have engaged the time of the Committee of Privileges at all. Therefore, a conspiracy to blackmail having been established, and that conspiracy having had as its purpose- the silencing of a member of this Parliament in order to prevent him giving expressions to views that he might hold or statements that he might wish to put before this Parliament for action, what is the proper remedy for us to take?
The honorable member for EdenMonaro found something entirely exceptional in our proposing to sentence to a term of imprisonment a man who had not gone through the normal judicial processes. But he has completely ignored what happens in a court of law in these matters. A court of law has an inherent power to protect itself so that it may function properly. If contempts are committed in the face of the court, the court may determine there and then that certain things should be done, irrespective of whether counsel is present, and irrespective of whether the person concerned seeks some delay in the determination. It has been accepted as part and parcel of our legal processes for centuries that this should be so without anybody being unduly concerned about the infringement of private liberties. A judge sitting in bankruptcy has frequently been known to state to the person under examination, if he refused to disclose where his assets were, “I commit you to custody until you give the court the information it seeks “.
– That is contempt in the face of the court.
– The Leader of the Opposition, who has interjected, has confirmed what I am putting to the House. Where contempt has existed in the face of the court, there has always been power to punish it by immediate sentence to a term of imprisonment. In this case, there has been a contempt in the face of the Parliament. The Parliament has its own powers, which it has enjoyed for centuries, for the very good reason that the Parliament, as the high instrument of our democracy, must have the power and authority to protect itself against attack which would prevent it from functioning as the true voice of the people who elect their parliamentary representatives. We have the power; what is the remedy?
All honorable members who have spoken in this debate have accepted the view that an apology is not an acceptable remedy in the circumstances. In this connexion, I do not refer to honorable member;! on “both sides of the
House” because I believe that there are no different sides in discussing this matter. Honorable members who have spoken against the Prime Minister’s motion have said that a fine is a more appropriate remedy in the circumstances. Has there ever been recognition or acceptance by the people of Australia that a suitable penalty for blackmail is a monetary fine? Does anybody imagine, for one moment, that a monetary fine, however substantial, would be adequate to meet this particular situation? In effect, an attempt has been made to sabotage the institution of Parliament, because once activity has been started on the scale that has been disclosed, we cannot see where it will end. If the matter is disposed of leniently or nonchalantly by an institution such as the Parliament, where will the process conclude?
If a man had been charged with sabotage of a defence plant, we should have had no difficulty in considering that a serious offence, calling for a severe penalty, had been committed. Surely, to sabotage the institution of Parliament is 110 less heinous an offence than to sabotage some vital defence instrument? Therefore, I say that a fine cannot be accepted as a suitable remedy in the circumstances, quite apart from the fact that it is not certain that we have the constitutional capacity to impose a fine. According to the findings of the select committee which inquired into the powers of the Committee of Privileges in 1907 and 190S, there are very real doubts whether the Parliament has any such power. It was pointed out that the House of Commons did not exercise the power to impose a fine, even in the days in British history when it used its powers in the most arbitrary way. I put all, that on one side because I believe that, in the circumstances, a fine is entirely an unsuitable remedy.
We come, therefore, to the question whether the term of imprisonment that has been proposed is reasonable. I believe that we would have been justified in imposing a very much longer term of imprisonment, having regard to the nature of the offence. The men concerned acted completely recklessly. They had no regard for the reputation of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) or the damage that might be done to his standing in his electorate. I remind honorable members -
Who steals my purse steals trash; . . .
But he that filches from me my good name,
Bobs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
These men cared little for the significance of their actions in regard to the honorable member for Reid. The instruction from one to the other was to “get stuck into him “ for the purpose of destroying his reputation and to silence him in the Parliament. Having regard to the attitude of these men to their offence, and the arrogant, truculent, brazen manner in which it was pursued, I should have thought that the proposed term of imprisonment would be far too short, but I believe that in fixing it as the Prime Minister has moved, the House has taken into account the fact that this is a novel offence in Australia and that, while it calls for serious treatment, the punishment should have some regard to those circumstances. For myself - and I believe I speak for the majority of honorable members of this chamber - I am convinced that an apology is not acceptable, that a fine would be a truly unsuitable penalty in a case such as this, and that the motion submitted by the Prime Minister proposes a penalty which, in all the circumstances, dispenses justice to all those concerned in this sorry episode.
Mir. HAYLEN (Parkes) f 12.37]. - I confess to feeling deeply troubled in my mind upon the issue that is before the Parliament, and I am sure that that condition is to be found in the minds of many other honorable members. I feel concerned deeply as a citizen because of the historic implications of this matter. I feel it deeply as a journalist because my mind is working along a line in which I have been trained to think and work. Finally, as a member of the Parliament, I am faced with a position and a decision that has to be examined free from hatred and malice or concern for anybody who is a personal participant in” this case. This matter must be resolved and resolved only on the basis of what is best for the Parliament and for those who sent ‘us to this place. Therefore, my troubles begin early in my consideration of the questions that have been raised in this House is to what action we should take having agreed upon a certain course. I know. Mr. Speaker, that you will not allow me to discuss the actions of the Committee of Privileges-
– Order! The honorable gentleman may quote from the decisions of the Committee of Privileges, but he cannot deal with its proceedings.
– The point is that this House unanimously reached a decision on this matter, but we have no adequate machinery to deal with it. One of the real tragedies of the decision facing the House is that we shall make it with inadequate machinery and inadequate preparation to face the problem, ft is quite clear that shocking damage has been done to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) and the Parliament. The privileges which could be invoked in his favour have moved in his direction, fairly and justly, in my opinion. Then we come to the proposition : Who will impose the necessary punishment upon these men?
It is not a matter of what they said tit the bar of the House. It is not oven what has been canvassed outside or written, in their newspaper. It is a question of how we are empowered to act under archaic, fustian laws which have not oven operated in this country. We are definitely at a loss. If we were not at a loss, the Australian Labour party, to which I belong, would have had a party meeting to discuss this matter. Instead, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), decided that this was a matter for a man’s own conscience, and that each honorable member who supports the right honorable gentleman should vote to-day as he sees fit, because we consider this to be a judicial matter and not a question of political parties. We held no party meetings, nor did we intend to do so, because we realize the complexity of this issue and the effect that the actions of the Parliament in connexion with it will have upon the lives of the citizens. I never anticipated, in coming to this Parliament to represent the electors of Parkes, that I should be called upon by the motions, orders unci forms of the House to vote on the question of sending a man to gaol.
I am not trained in a judicial approach, to these matters. I am an ordinary citizen with, perhaps, other qualifications, and I have been shocked and horrified to find that the ordinary legal processes need not necessarily apply to a parliament when it takes upon itself the judicial function of making an inquiry and imposing a sentence.
The procedure tha’t has been adopted seems to me to be completely out of order. The House, having decided yesterday that these men were guilty, has called them to the bar in order to make whatever explanations in extenuation of their offence they might desire to make. In doing that, the fullest liberty was extended to them. But when honorable members returned to this House after the suspension of the sitting in order to decide what they should do, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made another speech in which he referred to the report of the Committee of Privileges.
– Order ! The Prime Minister, or any other honorable member, is perfectly entitled to quote from the committee’s report.
– I am not stating that the Prime Minister breached a standing order. I am referring only to the odd approach that has been made in this matter. Surely, after the situation had resolved itself into a question of penalty, the subject of penalty alone could have been discussed. I do not wish to speak at any length, but I am deeply concerned about the sort of morass we are putting ourselves in as parliamentarians, and for what purpose. Is the purpose to punish because we have been hurt, aggrieved and dishonoured as a parliamentary institution? If that is so, we should remember the statement of tho committee to the effect that we would best consult our own dignity by ignoring the fact that there has been a breach of privilege. In the resolution that it adopted yesterday, the Parliament approved of that statement. Then we come to the position of the individuals concerned, which is clear and has been debated for so long. A question arises concerning the maturity of the Parliament, in more than one sense of the word, and the machinery that we have to handle this position. In speaking after the suspension of the sitting, the Prime Minister said that only two courses of action could be taken. The first was that of a reprimand. He said that that would not meet the case. The alternative, he said, was imprisonment. I know nothing at all about the law except the information that I have been able to garner here and there, but I have always understood that, in dealing with fundamental matters unassociated with the law, we are bound by the fundamental principles of British justice. Whatever may be the absolute penalty prescribed by law, an implicit penalty is also provided. This is a most, important matter for the citizens of thi3 country. If an offender can he imprisoned he can, alternatively, be fined. If the utmost penalty is a fine, then the offender can, alternatively, be reprimanded. I believe that every legal authority would concede that to be so.
The powers of the Parliament in connexion with a matter such as this are derived from section 49 of the Constitution and from the procedure of the House of Commons. With this power, we are entitled to do certain things, but we have decided, in the past, not to do them. We have decided not to set up any machinery to deal with a. case such as this and so, we have no court. There the trouble lies. We have to protect ourselves from libellous statements. I have recently been the victim of most disturbing and distressing libellous statements, not only about my war service, but also about my position in this House.
Sitting suspended from 12.4S to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was referring from a personal point of view to the perplexity that assails all of us in this matter. During the debate, several honorable members have referred to the provisions of the Constitution. I wish to do so, also, in order to indicate the greatest difficulty that arises in my mind. Section 1 of the. Constitution provides -
The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament-
Then, there is the much-quoted section 49 of the Constitution, which by implication, gives to the House judicial as well as legislative power. That section reads -
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committee of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall, be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom . . .
First, there is the general structure of the Constitution; and secondly, the judicial power which has not yet been fully effected. Section 71, which falls within Chapter III., which deals with the Judicature, reads -
The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in u Federal Supreme Court . . .
I point out that that is where we have fallen down in the past. We have not done anything to implement the judicial bracket of our power under section 49, if it is not cancelled out by section 71. With humility, as a layman, I have stated the position as clearly as I can. If these provisions do not conflict with each other, at least that view is contestable. We must decide whether we have accepted a power that comes to us because it is based on the powers of the House of Commons, although we have no legal machinery to support it, or we must measure up that power against section 71, which puts the judicial power of the Commonwealth in the hands of the Judicature rather than in the Parliament. That has been the spirit of our anxiety in regard to this matter. As one looks at these things, they continue to be disturbing.
If I may do so, I wish to refer, not to the Committee of Privileges itself, but to the repeated complaint that Fitzpatrick and Browne were not given permission to have counsel appear with them. We have to remember, in relation to the investigating committee - the Committee of Privileges - that there was a Queen’s counsel and a practising solicitor included in the personnel of the committee, but these two men were, by a decision of the committee, refused the right to have counsel.
-Order! The honorable member may not debate the proceedings of the committee.
– I mention that in passing. The conclusion is that if the proceedings of the committee constituted their trial - wherever their trial occurred - these men have not been tried by their peers and have not been allowed counsel. The same perplexity occurred when they were summoned to appear at the bar of the House. By your decision, Mr. Speaker - not by a decision of the House - they were not allowed counsel. That is not the spirit of democracy. Another complexity has arisen because as a legislative body a judicial function has been thrust upon us before we have evolved the machinery to carry out that judicial function. In those circumstances we find the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the position of a judge advocate. The right honorable gentleman judged the matter, and a party decision was made before he moved the motions now before the House. That is a perplexity. Something must be done in the future in order to protect not only our interests but also the interests of people outside the Parliament.
All my sympathies have been with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) as I have been the victim of attempted intimidation which did not come off because a man in public life realizes that he must put up with severe, crushing, and cruel criticism and can have recourse to the courts of the land. I was not intimidated; and I have no intention of being intimidated. I merely mention that matter by way of illustration. The remedies I applied were my own. But when a man goes to the Committee of Privileges and seeks to have some grievous thing adjusted; that it may come under the survey of the machinery we have, we run into the intolerable situation that has arisen in this case. The average man in the street - the voter - will, I am sure, consider that it was wrong to deny to these men the assistance of counsel; and, Mr. Speaker, without being discourteous to the Chair, that your approach to the people who came to the bar of the House to-day-
– Order! My conduct cannot be discussed.
– I shall leave that aspect to your own sense about how you conducted yourself in that matter, and return to the question of counsel not being available to these men.
The decisions of the House also come into question. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) said that these men had been found guilty of contempt of the Parliament. He is a lawyer, and I should be at a disadvantage in debating this matter with him. I should not attempt to do so were it not for the intolerable situation with which we are now faced. We know that punishment might be inflicted on a person for refusing to answer a question in the Bankruptcy Court, but that is entirely different. That is a matter suddenly arising; it is not a parallel to this case. The Government must be as anxious about this matter as we are. In these circumstances, I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), which is designed to enable this matter to be dealt with by the imposition of a fine of a punitive nature and, subsequently, establish a formula and machinery to obviate such a situation recurring in the future.
Another thing that must concern all honorable members is the haste - a parliamentary cliche is the indecent haste - with which the Government is attempting to deal with this matter. I would not say indecent haste, but unguarded haste, with honorable members in an unreceptive spirit, because, but for the fact that this business had to be settled to-day, the House would have gone into recess yesterday.
The Australian Labour party regards this matter as being so important that it has asked its members not to consider it from a party point of view, but to speak and vote according to how they see this matter, because we believe that history is being written in this House and we want to come down on the side of democracy as hard as we can. To resort to dramatics at this moment would be to worsen the position for both the Government and the Opposition. Surely, it would be logical, in view of the number of occasions on which consideration of the subject of parliamentary privilege has been deferred and later resumed in this House, to think this matter out in calmness. Otherwise, we may later be forced to the opinion that we took a leap in the dark. Having decided that a grievous injustice has been done to the honorable member for Reid, and these men having been called to the bar of the House, we find that we have no legal machinery to deal with this matter properly. The Government, therefore, is handling this case with undue haste. In the future, we may have to say to ourselves, “We could not have that happen again”. We must resolve the division that now exists between judicial procedure and democratic procedure. The Government has been caught up in this situation and should not deal with this matter with undue haste. Goodness knows, I am deeply conscious of the injury that has been done to my colleague, the honorable member for Reid, but there is a difference of opinion about the method of performance of the democratic job that we were sent here to do. Despite all of the horrible gaggle that has taken place about our democratic way of life, the Government’s approach to this matter is completely unjudicial. The outside public will think that this is an ancient piece of fustian and that the Government should have exercised more caution. I am sure that not only the members of this House but also the people outside would sleep much, better at nights if they knew that this matter had been passed over to people more) capable of making a judicial decision, that is to the members of the judicature. Parliamentary privilege is one thing, but the punishment attaching to it is another.. I think I have illustrated from the Constitution itself that each has its compartment,, and cannot be taken from it. No matter how much we kid ourselves upon this Constitution, we are not judges. The performance’ of honorable members’ in this House to-day has- shown that because of party affiliation, we have- not a judicial mind. I return to my former point that the trouble in the minds of honorable members about this matter is that it is establishing a precedent. It will be a matter of history - parliamentary history - and we should be careful about what is done.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has. expired.
.- The things I have to say may, conceivably, have been said already in this debate and I may not have been present to hear them. If they have been said before, I believe that they can bear such repetition and emphasis as I can give them. I am not at all sure that members of the Australian public generally understand what the word privilege “ means. Members, of Parliament understand it because it is almost the bedrock of parliamentary procedure. I shall not attempt to give a precise definition of the word, but as I understand it, “ privilege “ means the ability of any honorable member of this House or of another place to say what he pleases in this chamber or in the other chamber without fear of any process being invoked against him. It is not opening one’s mouth too wide to say that that is a foundation of democratic government. Honorable members must have the right to say in this place, or in another place, what they think, whether it he wise or foolish. We have to abide by the consequences of what we say, and we can he called to account by our electors or our party. But that is our affair. While we are in this place, we can say what, we please and that privilege has to be preserved at almost all costs. Part of the business of parliamentary privilege is that honorable members have to be very watchful and careful that there, is no interference by violence, intimidation, bribery, or in any other way with their ability to say what they please.
The Committee of Privileges did not. attempt to. sit in judgment on the past conduct of Fitzpatrick, or on the allegations against the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). It set out to discover whether there had been, in effect, an attempt made to close the mouth of that honorable member in this Houses Why was the Committee of Privileges obliged to do that? The point that has not been sufficiently emphasized up to the present in this debate, so far as I know, is that the articles published in the Bankstown Observer did not arise out of the blue. Fitzpatrick did not rise one morning,, and decide that he would have written for him a scries of articles in the Bankstown Observer. There was a history behind it, and the relevant point that needs to be stressed is that the honorable member for Reid had been attempting, in a variety of ways, both inside and outside this House, to have a royal commission appointed to inquire into the conduct of “Fitzpatricks business and otherwise over the years. He made no secret of it. He has shown it in this House perfectly openly as a member, and also outside. He believed, in his wisdom, rightly or wrongly, that things that had been done by Fitzpatrick needed to be inquired into publicly and in a proper manner, and as I remember it, he recommended the setting up of a royal commission for the purpose.
It was as a result of that attempt to bring Fitzpatricks alleged misdemeanours to light that these articles were published in the Bankstown Observer, in an effort to vilify, intimidate and close the mouth of the honorable member for Reid. That was admitted by Fitzpatrick before the Committee of Privileges. That point needs to be stressed. There was a cause and an effect.
The circumstances of this grievous case, which is the first that has come to light in the history of the Australian Parliament, could be repeated. Any honorable member of this chamber could be subject to similar treatment, and as the Prime Minister said, it needs to happen in respect of only :a few honorable members - almost a handful - to result in .the end of free and untrammelled debate in this Parliament. That suggestion is beyond dispute. All honorable members can, each one, see themselves in the place of the honorable member for Reid, and realize that .what happened to him, or what was attempted in his case, might happen to any individual honorable .member of this chamber. It is no exaggeration to say that such a thing would be a grievous blow to the business of parliamentary representative democratic government.
It has been suggested that the motions submitted by the Prime Minister may be the “ thin edge of the “wedge “ and that if this House agrees to them, it might be the end of the freedom of the press. 3 cannot conceive of a more ridiculous exaggeration. Every honorable member is subject to criticism in the public press. Not one of us in this chamber or any member of another place is immune from it. We expect it, and although nobody likes it, nobody suggests that there should be any reasonable limitation of criticism in the press. But to speak of the action proposed by the Prime Minister as being “ the thin edge of the wedge “ is to use the language to express a rather senseless exaggeration.
As to the punishment to be meted out to each of these individuals, there are only three alternatives. One is to admonish them and no honorable member in this House would suggest that such would be adequate. Another is to fine them; but honorable members know that that cannot be done, because no legal power is available for the Parliament to impose a fine. It has been suggested that legislation should be enacted to provide that power, and that it should be done at once. But no matter how quickly that was done, it would be retrospective legislation, and I have yet to learn that any honorable member on either side of the House would agree to action which none of us likes, and which every party in this Parliament has studiously avoided over the years, that is, to legislate in respect of some alleged past misdemeanour. If that were to be done, the implication would be that another grievous blow would be struck at the future of democracy.
This chamber, consequently, has to resort to the only remaining alternative that is practicable and reasonable, and that is to impose a term of imprisonment on one ot both of these men. There is no reasonable alternative open to the House. To suggest that the period proposed id the motions submitted by the Prime Minister is too long is again fantastic, when the importance of this case is taken into -consideration. It is the first case in 5.5 years, and it is important that the Parliament should guard itself and the country, whose affairs we are here to administer, from any possible repetition of this sort of treatment. I emphasize that the publication of ‘the article was an act of retaliation for something that had been done already, and presumably was still to be further pursued by the honorable member for Reid. He has had the courage and the character to stand up to this and give us the opportunity, I think, to do something that will defend our rights in the Parliament for the future.
.- Members on both sides of the House and of all parties are unanimous that the two men who came before the bar of the House have been guilty of contempt, and of serious contempt. Where honorable members differ is as to the manner in which such acts should be adjudicated upon and the manner in which this particular act should now be punished. I do not apprehend that any member of the House would deviate from the enunciation - the very eloquent enunciation - by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the right honorable the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) of the privilege of Parliament. That is the enunciation of the principle that through the ages, and no less to-day, it has been and is essential that members of Parliament should be able to speak their minds and their opinions in this public place and convey their information freely, without fear or favour. Where any man is intimidated, or where it is sought to intimidate any man from expressing his view in this place, then that is contempt of this House. That always has been a contempt of Parliament, and it will, we all hope, continue to be a contempt of Parliament. The only distinction is how it should be dealt with.
In making that remark one does not advert in any unfriendly or critical fashion to the proceedings of the Committee of Privileges. The committee’s proceedings were conducted according to the traditions of such committees. They were conducted with every propriety as far as tradition is concerned. The committee unanimously arrived at its decision and this House unanimously endorsed them. There is no question therefore that parliamentary tradition has been scrupulously observed. But we do say, with respect, that the time has come when the traditional methods should be modified. This position has arisen for the first time in over half a centry of the National Parliament of Australia. All that is required according to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is that this House should now declare that it is possible to fine, as well as to imprison, for contempt. By that I mean an appropriate fine, a substantial fine. That is the whole point of dissension in the House at the moment. Nobody is canvassing the decision of the committee, nobody is canvassing the right of the committee, according to the age-long laws of the Parliament, to deal with this matter in the way it has. But we do suggest with respect, that it is possible, and proper, to declare the law now - not to pass a retrospective law, with great respect to the right honorable the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), but to declare the law as provided by section 49 of the Constitution.
As has been pointed out by honorable members, this question of privilege and contempt is not a matter purely of the personal dignity of members of Parliament. It is a question of the proper functioning of Parliament itself. Parliament’s power, to deal with contempt is beyond question and of great age. All we say here is that although the method adopted to-day is sanctioned by age, it is certainly not hallowed by usage. It was a dead letter ; it had fallen into utter desuetude. Now we should not be deterred by the fact that it has not been tried before, from now applying a more appropriate method.
Offences may be age old, but the methods of trying them and punishing them may alter. This offence is of great age, but the method of trying it and the method of punishing it is also of great age, and we say of too great age. The question is not, as some honorable members have said, one of punishing a person for defaming an honorable member. It is not a question of punishing a person for black-mailing an honorable member. It is not a criminal offence of that type. The law of all the States is perfectly adequate to cope with defamation or black-mail. But what is here being taken notice of is the use of defamation and black-mail to intimidate a member from carrying out his duties as a member. However, is this a matter which should be any longer dealt with by Parliament at all? Is it not a matter which should be dealt with by the ordinary courts? I submit, with respect, that this is a crime of such gravity that if it came before the courts the penalty imposed would be considerably heavier than that which has been proposed by the Prime Minister. There can be no dispute that in this matter a serious contempt has been committed. It is a matter where we say that imprisonment is inappropriate. It would revolt the general conscience in Australia to imprison. But a fine would be appropriate. The courts are constantly fining people and fining them substantially in these matters. Fines of £500 are quite common when newspapers have been found guilty of contempt of court.
– What does the honorable member think £500 would mean to the defendants here?
– It is approaching this problem in a completely unjudicial manner to consider solely how best to punish the offender. The important thing is bow best to preserve this institution of Parliament. We are not punishing these offenders in order to victimize them; we are doing it to vindicate this institution. We are not looking after ourselves, but we are seeing that this institution is not impaired by these attacks, that they do not become so commonplace that nobody can ever adjudicate on them. The only question is: What is the best method of adjudicating on them ? We say this age-old one is too stale and too inappropriate. In this case, one must be particularly careful, and I regret to say that somehonorable members, including the deputy leader of my own party (Mr. Calwell), have not been as careful as they should have been to make it plain that we are not influenced by any animus against any one of the mcn who appeared at the bar of the House. They are not on trial for their general manner of life. Their general character is not in question. The whole question is : What did they do on this occasion? There is no question that on this occasion their conduct was sufficient to justify a serious penalty, a heavy fine.
It is true that the House might well have taken a different view of this matter if a different attitude had been adopted by the persons at the bar. The conduct of one was abject, but the conduct of the other was most provocative. But even if he was unrestrained, there is no reason for members of this Parliament to be unrestrained. It is a great pity that the first man at the bar did not express not only contrition, but the intention to repair the damage which he most unjustifiably did. He should have offered to publish the findings of the committee, to publish the report of the debate in this House, and see that every man in the division of Reid received a copy through the post. If that had been done,, if some amende had been made, the House might have taken a more lenient view in his case.
The attitude of the man, Browne, was consistent with the attitude he took before the Committee of Privileges, and consistent, as honorable members well know but should forget, with his conduct over very many years. He adopted the attitude that, because he is a journalist, or claims to be a journalist - a lot of journalists would disown him - he is above the law and immune from criticism. It cannot be too strongly stressed that members of Parliament are not immune from criticism, and neither are journalists. Members of Parliament are not above the law, and neither are journalists. It has been said that he was a. mercenary. To that extent, every person who earns his living is a mercenary. To the extent that every journalist writes for pay he is a mercenary. Every member in any profession is a mercenary to that extent. In this case, he seeks to provoke honorable members, and it is regrettable that he has succeeded in provoking some honorable members into taking an unjudicial attitude towards him. He, on one hand, would probably like his news-sheet to be regarded in the same light as the Letters of Junius or the editorials in the North Briton. He says, on the other hand, that his is an obscure suburban paper. He hopes to play on the feelings that people very naturally have, on this side of the
House in particular, against the big metropolitan daily papers. But an obscure paper can do a very great deal of harm to the members for the district in which that obscure suburban paper circulates.
It is to be deplored that the man Browne did not express some contrition for the admissions that he made before the committee. He did not refer in his speech here to his admission that he had made statements in this obscure suburban paper without any foundation. Though he said in that paper that he would come to Canberra armed with proof, he did not come to Canberra armed with proof. Although he said to the committee that he had, by a piece of sloppy writing, incorrectly implied that there was still improper conduct on the part of the honorable member for Reid, he still offers no explanation for it. He expresses no contrition at all. One can only pointout, however, that if he had been represented by counsel the- things that were urged on his behalf would at least have been more relevant and less obnoxious. But, Mr. Speaker, we must put out of our minds any of these pieces of conduct on his part. The principle in this matter is how best to preserve the standing of Parliament, and to hand’ on the traditions of Parliament now that they have been grievously attacked.
We regret on this side of the House that the Parliament has never evolved in its half century of life a better method of dealing with contempt. Where contempt has occurred, it should be dealt with. It has been dealt with in the House according to traditional methods. It had to- be dealt, with, there is no question of that. It had to be dealt with severely. But we do say that, though it has been dealt with up to this stage by traditional methods, at. least we can now declare the law in such a fashion as to punish more appropriately this first contempt of which we have ever taken cognizance. Do not imprison these people. Do not deny them their freedom for three months, but fine them. Fine them substantially, even if, as Ave know, the journalist will probably have his fine paid by the man who employed him. What [ propose is a traditional and appropriate method in cases of contempt. Cases have been cited here of what the courts do in matters of contempt. Admittedly courts sometimes do imprison for contempt. They sometimes imprison for some years for refusal to answer questions; but. before doing so, they give notice to the person who refuses to answer questions and he is heard on this point by the court, and somebody is heard on his behalf. That has not occurred here. Up till now it has not been possible for that to occur here. Let us take our lesson from this, and see that in the future some method for that to take place is made available. At all events, now that this matter has been dealt with, it should bc dealt with in the manner that the Leader of the Opposition has suggested.
It is a very easy matter. I am surf there are few honorable members in the House who do not think that this contempt can he quite adequately dealt with by a fine. Let it be a substantial fine, the proper way to deal with it. Newspapers in Australia are always punished for contempt by fines. The companies cannot be imprisoned, but the editors-, who can be imprisoned, are also finedThat is the traditional method of dealing with contempts of court in and by publications. The traditional method of dealing with contempt of court by insulting words to the court or obstreperous conduct in the court may be by imprisonment, but the traditional method of dealing with contempts of courts by writing about them in newspapers is to fine the owner of the newspaper, even if not a company but an individual, and to fine the man who wrote the article or the editor of the paper. That method should be followed in this case. We have already set ourselves sufficiently apart from normal judicial processes in following this traditional manner- of dealing with contempts, but now the way is open. We can deal with it this afternoon.
There is a perfectly simple amendment to be carried, and then we can put. at rest the Prime Minister’s doubts, which, coming from him, one respects. It may be that at the moment we cannot fine, but agreeing to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, we can so deal with the matter. We can deal with it forthwith; we oan. deal with it appropriately, fairly and in accordance with what are now accepted methods of dealing with contempt. Whatever was the practice in the past, there is a more appropriate method of dealing with this matter now. The real principle at stake here is the prestige of Parliament - not just the personal dignity of individual members. It would be better preserved and better respected by the community if we would all vote for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and enable this House to fine, and fine substantially, instead of imprisoning for the serious contempt which has been committed, and for which only one of the persons involved has expressed any contrition.
I am opposed to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and I am also opposed to the original motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It has been pointed out that the power on which the Parliament is acting is section 49 of the Constitution, and I should think section 50 also. Section 49 reads -
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and o£ the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
Whether Parliament ought or ought not to have legislated on its own privileges, the fact is that it is operating, according to the Constitution, on those that were in existence in the House of Commons at the time of the formation of the Commonwealth. It is no use referring to those things as fusty, and as if they had fallen into disuse. That is not true. The House of Commons has been most active in the defence of its privileges. It has expelled members of Parliament, and it has punished many people over a period nf time. The suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition is that we should fine and not imprison. Personally, I think his suggestion is more dangerous, if there are dangers in the procedure that we are adopting, than is the procedure of straight-out imprisonment. If there is any reason why we have not followed this procedure before in 55 years, 1 should think it is because the punishment of imprisonment is so drastic. I have heard many debates and I have heard many members of Parliament on both sides of the House speak of journalists who have attacked them. Those members spoke in such a way as to indicate that they would be quite prepared to see the journalists fined, but they would not so readily agree to the imposition of terms of imprisonment, a punishment which, apparently, the Parliament can inflict. The very drastic nature of the punishment has operated as a means of ensuring that this power is rarely exercised.
The point is that we are acting in a judicial capacity, and I admit that 1 have not the qualifications for that because I have heard of at least one of these men over the last seven years in connexion with all sorts of rumours about his conduct in relation to war expenditure and so on. Many of the allegations have been made by the honorable member whom he has counter-attacked in hi? journal. So I have in my mind all sorts of feelings about this man, his political associations in New South Wales and all sorts of things which might be regarded as prejudices. The other man, who runs the journal Things I Hear, has also obviously hit and hurt many members of Parliament, as some of the speeches that have been made this morning show. I do not agree that there is an analogy between the conduct of this man and what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) called intimidation practised by great daily newspapers. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) was singled out as an individual. Allegations were made against him, and there is no pretence that they were true. It was admitted that the attempt being made was to silence him. I do not believe that any criticism of us on the Banking Bill or the Communist Party Dissolution Bill constituted intimidation in the same sense as in this instance. In -point of fact I have heard raised in this House, as a question of privilege, the attempt of outside people to govern the conduct of members of this House. I have heard references t0 instructions issued bv party executives, not members of Parliament, which would determine how members would exercise their votes in this House. If honorable members like to press thai matter and raise it in the House, they would very probably find that it constitutes a breach of privilege, because there is an element of intimidation in the suggestion that a man will lose his party endorsement.
This question of privilege is, I think, as everybody has said, a vitally important one. I do not believe that such a question can be determined in the courts. It has been suggested that the proceedings instituted under the present machinery involve some difficulties, in that a man is accused and he is not represented by counsel. I am not quite sure about that position, but I am sure that in the proceedings before the committee no man could have been more honest in his answers, or more open in his declaration of intention to intimidate, than one of these accused. Perhaps if he had been more subtly advised by counsel it would have been more difficult to discover what his intentions were. But Parliament alone can be the judge of what parliamentary privileges are, and the question cannot be passed to the courts. I submit that the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) will involve the passing of these questions to the courts, so that they will have to determine, not whether a breach of privilege has taken place, but whether the punishment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition is a punishment envisaged under the Constitution, which cites the powers of the House of Commons at the formation of the Commonwealth Constitution. If it is true - and there is strong legal opinion that it is - that at that time the House of Commons had not declared its power to fine, and if there is litigation in the High Court designed to establish that the action of the Commonwealth Parliament is contrary to the Constitution, and there is a declaration that a fine is unconstitutional, then there will be a general impression in the mind of the public that in some way or other the High Court has vindicated people convicted by the Parliament. There will be the usual confusion that always surrounds constitutional cases, when people cannot look at the precise constitutional point.
References have been made to the conduct of the two people who were brought before the bar of the House. One man apologized. I think it would be quite competent for this Parliament to confine itself on this occasion to inflicting a reprimand, because it has been made perfectly clear to the public what drastic powers this Parliament has. I do not think there will ever be another blatant attempt to single out a member and intimidate him, as was done in this case. But in any event if any damage has been done to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) - and he has fired a number of shots at Mr. Fitzpatrick over the years - then such damage has been completely nullified by the apology given at the bar of the House, and also by what transpired during the investigation by the Committee of Privileges. Mr. Fitzpatrick’s abject apology at the bar of this House follows completely naive admissions of an intention to intimidate and silence the honorable member for Reid, a complete admission of his faults and of the fact that there is no substance in. the attack that he has made on the honorable member. The important thing to the honorable member for Reid is that he is vindicated. The important thing for all people to realize is the power of this House and the right of members to speak here without being intimidated, which is an essential part of the democratic process. I think the apology made by Mr. Fitzpatrick will achieve that. The publicity associated with this case should sufficiently indicate to all people who might be concerned in the future to do something contrary to the privileges of this House, that the House has wide powers. That knowledge will prevent such people as Mr. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Browne from acting in a similar manner in the future.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is time that this Parliament defined its own privileges, but I do not think that the time to start defining them is during consideration of one of these cases. The Constitution states definitely what our powers and privileges are. They are those which were in force in the House of Commons at the time of the formation of our Constitution. We have been content to leave them, not more precisely defined, as the right honorable gentlemen himself, although he was Attorney-General for eight years, was content to leave them, so I think there is at least consistency in acting upon what were defined as our privileges in 1901. That is why I disagree with the proposal to impose a fine. At the same time. I think the punishment of three months imprisonment is very drastic indeed. I believe that Mr. Fitzpatrick, a crude individual, simply thought he was hitting back at a man who has been consistently hitting him, and that he did not see in his action anything more important than engaging in a personal dispute. I believe that he did not recognize in any way the fact that he was infringing the right of a member to speak freely. For that reason I think that the motion of the Prime Minister is also unacceptable.
– This House is debating a very serious matter, and it is interesting to see the doubt and anxiety that many honorable members are feeling. I think the debate has been approached on a high level, and there is only one aspect of it that I have regretted. That is, the fact that an element of political controversy has been introduced into a subject which should have been dealt with on a consistently high plane, completely regardless of political division. It was most unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) did not make it perfectly clear at the outset that no party meeting of his supporters had been called, and that they were perfectly free to vote on this matter as they thought fit, according to their conscience and judgment.
– The right honorable member did say so, and I repeated it.
– The honorable member for Parkes at a later stage did make that remark, but it was not made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Those were the remarks that I made.
– The. right honorable member says that he made those remarks. I did not hear him. If he made them, he did not place much emphasis on them. It is regrettable, because this question of parliamentary privilege is one which should not be debated on a party basis.
I thought it regrettable that speaker after speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, then senior members of the party, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), the honorable member for Parkes and others, should all have adopted the same line. They all criticized the suggestion made by the Government, and they all supported the amendment which was moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I was very pleased when one speaker, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), deviated from that line and put forward a different point of view. It was a point of view with which I do not agree, but at least it was different from that advocated by other honorable members on his side of the chamber. That was the first occasion on which this debate departed from rigid party lines.
In the speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Parkes in particular, attention was directed to the fact that no counsel were present when these men were before the Committee of Privileges, and to the fact that they had no right of appeal - in short, that there were no safeguards of law. There were also references to proceeding judicially. Those speakers drew attention to what they claimed were deficiencies in the machinery for dealing with cases such as this, and, by implication, their speeches had the effect of suggesting to the people that there was some miscarriage of justice, or that justice was not done because of the absence of those safeguards. One would have thought that the honorable gentlemen would have been consistent and. would have gone on to attack the findings’ ‘ of the committee. If no counsel were present, and it was such a serious matter, and if these other safeguards that they suggested were not provided, then they should have attacked the unanimous findings of the committee, which was an all-party committee. But instead, there was an attempt to create an atmosphere which would raise doubts in the minds of the people, and an attempt to introduce a political element and gain political capital out of this matter. There was an attempt to make it a political issue, which it is not. It affects this Parliament as a whole, and not any section of it. By introducing those elements into the debate, an attempt has been made to gain political capital out of the whole affair. I wish to emphasize and reiterate the fact that the Committee of Privileges made a unanimous finding, and that this House unanimously accepted that finding. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) had an opportunity to speak on that matter, and he did not dispute the finding. He did not then raise the point that counsel was not present, or that the judicial functions or judicial processes that he mentioned were not carried out. He accepted the finding, and so did every member of this House.
I think that it is as well to refer to the finding, and to consider its nature, so that we may determine whether the suggested penalty, which this House is considering, is just and fair. In my opinion, it is a just and proper decision. T ‘agree with the remark that was made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) to the effect that if this matter had been considered by a court of law, ;:rid all the facts and circumstances had been taken into account, the penalty would have been much more severe. When one considers the background of this matter-, ;one cannot conceive a more blatant attempt to intimidate a member ivf this Par.liam.ent into mot carrying ‘out fractions that are absolutely vital to the continuance ‘of democracy in this country.
The beginning of the matter was an outrage which occurred in a suburb of ‘Sydney. Some building or other was blown up - the sort of thing that does no’t happen in this country very often. There was a. bomb outrage and a building was deliberately blown up by some one. The honorable member for Reid (Mr.. Morgan) had some knowledge of affairs in that particular suburb and said tha’t a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into this matter and into -some of the current allegations of graft a-nd corruption, which are freely accepted “as being very prevalent in the
State of New South Wales. In making that request, the honorable member for Reid was rendering a real service to the people of this country. He was carrying out his task as a member of this Parliament in accordance with the highest traditions of British parliamentary practiceand I think that every member of this House and of the public are indebted to him for the fearless manner in which he carried out that task. He said, “ This is an Outrage. If something is not done about it, it will corrupt and over-throw democracy, and I demand that some action be taken. I demand that a royal commission be set up “.
We know the background of the matter.. Some of us heard these witnesses giving their evidence. They set out to prevent the honorable member for Reid from pursuing the public-spirited attitude which he had adopted, and to prevent him from continuing his demands for a royal commission of inquiry into gangsterism, rackets and corruption in the State of New South Wales. This Parliament must regard that as a most serious offence, and as the type of thing that would make Parliament unworkable if it were allowed to continue. I could not conceive any more serious matter ‘affecting the privileges of this Parliament. These people said, “ We are ‘going to stop this man. We are going to intimidate him quite brazenly and openly”. The witness Browne was quite clear that the allegations he made were false. He knew that they were false and he admitted quite openly that -he had tried to incite the honorable member into taking legal proceedings against him because that would, he claimed, help to lead to his destruction and would also shut up the press, for they would not then be .able to continue their campaign to bring these matters into the public eye. There it is- - .an attempt to silence the honorable member and dissuade him from doing his duty; an attempt to stifle the press so that there would not be free discussion of this matter. This Parliament rightly said, “ This is an offence -of the most serious nature, and as such, deserves the most serious punishment “.
I shall now discuss ‘the question of punishment. If it is a serious offence - and every speaker has agreed that it is - the punishment also should be serious. Et is a matter for ,a reprimand, a fine or imprisonment. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr.. Beazley) very effectively disposed of the question of a fine. It appears .that because of the practice in the House of Commons, which is the criterion in this matter, the Parliament has no constitutional right to impose a fine. If a fine were imposed while that serious doubt existed, it would probably be upset, and these people would go scot free. I believe that a serious offence has been committed, that a serious penalty is called for, and that the penalty proposed by the Government does not meet the situation.
That statement does not mean that I think the matter should be left where it stands. There are other serious implications which this Parliament should consider. Having decided that a serious breach of privilege has been committed and that’ an effective punishment must be awarded, the Parliament should go a step further in order to allay the fears of other people in the community, such as newspaper editors and writers, who may now feel that they have .grave reason to fear that their freedom of expression and right to criticize may be limited and inhibited as a result of ‘the decision of the House in the matter.
I agree with honorable members sitting behind the Leader of the Opposition that it is essential that in the next session of Parliament there should be legislative enactment to define this .question of privilege, to -set out exactly what is involved in .it, :and .to .say what .things we .as a Parliament, -and as members, are M» be protected against. Further, it should set out .the penalty to be awarded for a breach. “While .the freedom of a member of Parliament to express hi3 views without fear is vital to the continuance -of democracy, it as also vital that the freedom -of the press to criticize should ‘.remain untrammelled. I suppose that the public is entitled to say that the freedom, of the press is abused at times. “No doubt it is, just as, (perhaps, the freedom of members to ‘speak in Parliament is abused at times. I think chat each of these matters is important.
While -considering our rights and privileges, we must also bear in mind that we /must preserve the right of other people to criticize this institution legitimately, and properly. The remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr,. Allan Fraser),, with which I disagree, emphasize the necessity for some such action as I have suggested to define the extent of parliamentary privilege, the type of thing that constitutes a breach, and the penalty that may be incurred. The honorable member referred to intimidation of members of Parliament - the sort of intimidation practised on the honorable member for Reid. against which we must jealously protect ourselves. He said that .attacks by the press on a particular government or a party, on a matter of policy, constituted intimidation.
– That is not so.
– I understood that was the gist of the honorable member’s remarks. He mentioned bank nationalization and said that attacks by the press -on members of the then government constituted intimidation.
– The honorable member completely misunderstood me. I did not refer to the attack, but to the nature of the attack.
– I accept it as the honorable member now puts it, namely that, .on .a matter of policy, a serious attack by <a newspaper in the course of its public ‘duty amounts to intimidation. If that .sort of -strange idea were .accepted by any government in this .country, it could regard a legitimate and proper attack .by a newspaper as intimidatory because some question of policy was involved. It could then invoke the powers of privilege and perhaps bring the editor of the newspaper to trial and punish him severely, because, in the view of the Government, which commanded a majority in the House, a serious breach of privilege had occurred. I suggest that that is an entirely fallacious view. The fact that it is put forward shows the necessity for us to take cognizance of the fact, firstly, ‘that when a serious breach of the privileges of this Parliament occurs, it should be adequately dealt with and that people who act in an outrageous manner, such as these people, should he adequately punished ; and secondly, it also points to the fact that legitimate and proper freedom of expression, legitimate and proper criticism of members of this Parliament, whether they be senior members or junior members, and legitimate and proper criticism of the institution of parliament and of what goes on here, are just as important and just as essential to the continued functioning of our free democratic institutions as, perhaps, the privileges of Parliament.
I put it to the Government that that matter should be given thought, and that in the coming session, we should have some legislation to define the privileges of the Parliament, not merely for our own protection, because there is already adequate power to protect members of this Parliament from the abuse of privilege, but also because, by defining the limits of our rights, we should to that extent determine the rights of people outside the Parliament, particularly Hie rights of the press to indulge in legitimate and proper criticism of this Parliament and members of this Parliament.
I should like to put one other thought before the House. A serious breach of privilege has occurred. It should be adequately punished. For that reason, I propose to support the Government. I suggest, not only that we should define the limits of privilege, but also that we should go a step further. Perhaps this is not the proper occasion to discuss the subject, but I suggest that, in our position as legislators in this Parliament, we should consider some of the matters underlying this breach of privilege, some of the matters which have brought this case before the House. I should like to refer to the transcript of the evidence given before the Committee of Privileges.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not do that.
– I accept your ruling on that point, Mr. Speaker. I should have liked to refer to the transcript of evidence. I should have liked the transcript to he placed on the table of the House so that it would become public property, because the facts that were dis closed indicate that there is an appallingly serious situation in this country. There are some things, apart from communism, which threaten the continued existence of our democratic institution. To my mind, one of those things is the existence of graft and corruption among public men - graft, corruption, gangsterism and racketeering among men in high places in the community. The evidence given before the committee indicates-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not refer to evidence which has not been disclosed to the House.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. As a result of those proceedings, it is clear that graft and corruption, are going on in a big way. We have been able merely to lift the lid, and perhaps to see just a little-
– Order ! If the honorable gentleman is basing his statements on something that was disclosed to the Committee of Privileges but which has not been put before the House, he isout of order.
– I appreciate the difficulty of discussing this subject. I shall leave it there, merely making the point that this is another matter that the Parliament should do something about. 1 defer to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and 1 shall not discuss any of the details, but I point out that this Parliament has certain powers under which it could follow the matter up. Under the Royal Commissions Act, the Parliament has power to appoint royal commissions, but a royal commission appointed by the Commonwealth Parliament can deal only with matters which relate to, or are connected with the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, or any public purpose, or any power of the Commonwealth. That provision is rather restrictive, and it would not meet what I regard as the urgent necessity of this case. I believe that this Government should ask the New South Wales Government to confer upon it the necessary power to appoint a Commonwealth royal commission, vested with powers under the Royal Commissions Act and vested with additional powers granted bv the New South Wales Government. With those additional powers, an independent inquiry could be conducted by a judicial body, appointed by this Parliament, into matters which must be causing grave public concern. I refer to the allegations of graft and corruption about which I am not allowed to speak now. “ I feel that there is a clear and definite duty-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Like most other honorable members, I find myself, on this occasion, in a difficult, unwelcome and unasked for position. Like the great majority of us, I am not a member of the legal profession. Therefore, I have never put myself in the position of one who wishes willingly to judge, commit or condemn his fellow citizens for any of their misdemeanours. Nevertheless, I realize that we have a dual duty. As we are members of the Parliament, we have a duty to protect the honour and integrity of the institution to which we belong.
In the few remarks that I shall make, I shall deal with the points of agreement between all members of the House on this subject, and then have a look at the very minor matters, as it seems to me, which separate us. It is clear that some effective action must be taken, both to punish those who have committed this offence and to discourage others from committing similar offences in the future. AH that I am concerned with really is the most effective way in which to achieve those two results. This sort of thing constitutes a very real danger. This form of black-mail can happen to any one of us. I am most unimpressed by the defendant Browne’s remark that, after all, he is only a little man representing a local paper. We all know that it is the small local papers which could ruin any one of us here if they were prepared to proceed as these two people have proceeded, telling lies without any foundation, for which there is absolutely no redress. That was the situation, apart from privilege, which confronted the honorable member for Reid .(Mr. Morgan).
Therefore, I start with the premise that some effective action must be taken, and some punitive action must be taken. The point of disagreement is whether we should deal with these people by fine or by imprisonment. I shall consider, first, the effects of a fine. As we all know, Fitzpatrick is a very wealthy man. How much should we fine him? The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) mentioned £3,000 and some one else mentioned £500. I am in favour of a. fine if, in a sense, it fits the crime. But as Fitzpatrick is a very wealthy man, I say that certainly it should be something that he cannot easily shrug off - £20,000. But do we imagine that that would be generally supported by the public? Do we imagine that people would so understand the gravity of the offence, and the capacity of this man to pay, that they would regard such a fine as a reasonable proposition? Suppose we imposed a fine, and the men did not pay. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has come out very strongly in favour of a fine. I know very little about the law, but this I do know, that all fines must be backed by the tacit assumption that if they are not paid, the person concerned will be committed to gaol. He may pay with money or by having .restrictions placed upon his movements. Therefore, I cannot see, in all honesty and without trying to take any points, that there is a difference of principle amongst us there. If the Leader of the Opposition is in favour of a fine, he must realize that, to be effective, it must be very great. If it is very great, will the person concerned not refuse to pay it and wait to see what will happen? That is exactly what he would do. If the fine is to be effective, it must be collected, and we all know that if it is to be collected it must be backed up by the threat of imprisonment. For the life of me, I cannot see any real difference of principle between us, assuming we are all trying, as I know we are, to find a satisfactory solution of the problem brought about by the claim for a fine as against the claim that the men should be imprisoned.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said that the matter should be referred to the courts. Without wishing to go into the background of these two men, I think it is fair and proper to state that the courts have been tried before - at least in relation to one of them, Browne. He has libelled people and has been taken before the courts, but the courts have been quite unable to punish him effectively for what he has written, or to restrict his activities up to the present time. As he went along in the past, so he goes along still. Therefore, as we wish to stop this practice, it is quite foolish to talk about taking this man before the courts again. They have been ineffective in the past, and they will be ineffective in the future. It seems to me that the only thing that is likely to impress him is to carry out the suggestion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and shut him up for a while.
Reference has been made to the behaviour of these two people. Here I am at odds with some honorable members. One of them adopted, it has been said, an apologetic attitude, or an attitude of contrition or regret. I do not know whether that is so. He merely said nothing. The other man was defiant. For my part, I prefer defiance to the attitude of the other person, who we know is a very wealthy person and who deliberately set out, not by doing it himself but by hiring another person, to blackguard one of our number. I cannot see how a pin point could be placed between them in relation to their offence, nor do I prefer the behaviour of one as against the behaviour of the other at the bar of the House. Rather, I give more credit to the man who at least had the manliness to try to defend himself here before us.
As I said at the outset, I have never had the desire to place myself in a situation where I would be a judge of my fellow citizens. I am not trained in law, and I have not an understanding of these things. Each of us is in the position of being a judge who will either set the men free or send them to prison for three months. Frankly, to me it is a very serious proposition, and I have given great thought to the matter. In looking for some guidance from past experience in such matters, I remind myself, as I believe the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) has reminded himself, that in times past, without having sought the occasion, I have had to sit in judgment upon fellow-citizens and fellowsoldiers. The honorable member for
Ballarat has probably had to do what J have done, and has sentenced people, not like these men, but brave, good and decent men, to longer periods of imprisonment for the purpose of punishment and for the purpose of setting a deterrent aird an example for the future. That is the situation in which we now find ourselves. It is not a light thing but, as I have stated, this sort of conduct, if indefinitely exaggerated and continued, could threaten the proper working of this House. 1 believe that now every honorable member should,, as he has done in the past, face up to the matter. If he does so, he will. I am sure, agree that these men should be punished,, and that others should he discouraged. The only effective way to do that is to agree to the motion submitted by the Prime Minister.
.- In view of the manner ‘in which the debate has developed, and because of the misgivings of honorable members both on this aide of the House and on the side on which the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) sits, I feel that, in view of the part that I have played in this matter. I should say a few words. Towards the end of my remark’s I hope to make a suggestion that might meet the situation, and which might provide a formula that would satisfy every honorable member. No one regrets more than I do the fact that any person should have to be punished on my account, and especially be required to go to gaol. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, that probably I am the saddest man in this place. I am sure the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will appreciate that I am not gloating to-day. That remark is addressed, too, to both persons principally concerned in this matter, although, apparently, one of them does not want any sympathy, but prefers to be martyred and restored to the good graces of the profession to which he has belonged.
I think that anybody who knows me knows that I would help any lame dog over a stile. I am not vindictive towards my worst enemy, and I have no desire for revenge against anybody. When I became a member of the Committee of Privileges, the first task with which I was entrusted was to try my old political enemy, who, I know, has had some part in this transaction over a period of a few years. Certain honorable members said to me on that occasion, “Now is your opportunity to get even with him “. After the proceedings had concluded, he thanked me personally, and the other members of the committee, for the fair and impartial hearing that he received. I am quite sure that the men who appeared before the bar of the House to-day received similar treatment at the hands of the present committee. Another honorable member from this side of the House, who was a member of the committee, and I were not present at its deliberations, but I remind the House that five out of six members of the committee were members of the parties opposite. The manner in which the committee handled the proceedings says much for the impartiality and integrity of the members.
I feel that I should also refer to what i regard as a vicious and unwarranted attack that has been made to-day upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It was most unjustified. Since the commencement of the present sessional period some weeks ago, I have not had one word with the right honorable gentleman about this matter. However, I have made inquiries about what his attitude might be, and I have formed the opinion that any action that he has subsequently taken has been taken with the greatest reluctance, and only with a deep sense of his responsibility and a deep sense of justice. We all know that the Prime Minister is a hard and tough fighter politically. Of course, we have fighters on this side of the House who are just as tough. But I am in a position to know that there is a just and generous side to his nature, and I am quite sure that it has been a factor in these proceedings. I think it is only fair to say that. I remember a little incident during the last days of the late John Curtin in which I played a small part, and which gave me a little insight into that other side of the Prime Minister’s nature. I am quite sure that on this occasion there is no vindictiveness on his part or on the part of any other honorable member. Certainly there is nono on my na rt. I do not intend to vote on the question of the infliction of any penalty on these particular men. 1 brought the matter before the House merely to vindicate myself in relation to certain things that were happening and in relation to certain attacks that were being made upon me in the electorate that 1 represent. I wish merely to be able to get on with the job for which I have been elected by the voters of Reid, and not to be mauled about by bullies.
The procedure by which a matter may be referred to the Committee of Privileges was not laid down by me. As ii has been stated, this is an ancient procedure. Parliament is an ancient institution, and many of its procedures also are ancient. I venture to suggest that many people who live in other parts of the world would wish that the methods used in their own country were as ancient and as impartial as are our democratic procedures. In this matter, there were three choices open to me. First, I could have instituted proceedings for criminal libel. The very fact that I did not d:0 so indicates that I am not vindictive. I do not wish any penalty, certainly not a. gaol sentence, to be inflicted upon any one. irrespective of the damage he might have done to me. Secondly, I could have taken civil proceedings for defamation. I am aware that the suggestion that my opponents were trying to provoke me into that course of action was being bandied about openly. The persons who are behind the attack upon me long ago retained their legal eagles for that purpose. I am well aware, also, that certain people in New South Wales who should uphold the law have been urging the individuals who have attacked me to endeavour to provoke me into taking legal proceedings, with the object of making the_ matter sub judice, and thereby preventing any discussion or criticism in this House or in the columns of the press. They hoped to gum the matter up. as it were. The only other course open to me was to appeal to the Committee of Privileges. I might say that when I first raised the matter, and asked that it be referred to the committee, I did not know what penalties might be inflicted, because I had not studied that aspect of the matter. I did not know whether a fine or any other penalty could he imposed. I was surprised to learn, on later investigation, that there was considerable doubt about the question whether a fine could be imposed. Honorable members and the Government are in a dilemma. If a fine could not be upheld in a court of law, we might just as well exonerate these men and allow them to walk away and snap their fingers at the institution of the Parliament.
I should have preferred a more expeditious determination of the matter by an independent tribunal of the sort envisaged in a draft measure that was submitted to the Australian Government in 1.934 by Sir John Latham, in which it was proposed that a High Court judge should constitute an independent tribunal to settle these matters expeditiously, and that he should have the necessary power to take appropriate action. I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) that perhaps the time is now ripe for a declaration of privilege to be made in statutory form. Only yesterday, the day after the Committee of Privileges had made its report to the House, the attack on me was repeated. It is wholly unjustified, and is based on a tissue of falsehoods. If there were any substance in the charges that have been levelled at me, I could be struck off the roll of solicitors in New South Wales for unprofessional conduct. These attacks have continued week after week, and I do not want to be placed in a position in which I shall have to take up the time of the House in repeated references to these matters. I prefer that they be referred to a tribunal of the sort that has been mentioned, which could deal with them effectively, and take appropriate action.
A question of privilege is concerned. It is not my privilege: it is the people’s privilege. This privilege derives from the times of the absolute monarchs and tyrants of centuries ago who tried to impose their will on the people and the representatives of the people. We all know that, in British countries at least, absolutemonarchs no longerexist and that the monarch ismore of a figurehead than was formerly the case. However, morepowerful andirresponsibleforces havetaken the place of the monarch in attempting to impose their will on the people and the people’s representatives. Privilege must be maintained to protect honorable members from the forces that might wish to dictate to them how they should conduct themselves in theplaces to which they have been elected by the people.
I might point out - I think the Prime Minister mentioned the fact - that the newspaper in question was established for a particular purpose after I was defeated at an election in 1946 by foul tactics similar to those that have been in evidence on this occasion. In 1946,I was not able to counter the blows that were delivered at me, because they were last-minute blows of the rabbit-killer type that one might sometimes see at the Sydney stadium. On this occasion, I have merely appealed to the referee to intervene and to enforce the rules. So far as I am concerned, my opponents may continue to attack me for the rest of my political life, but let them play the game according to the rules, and let one who is closely identified with the attack upon me act according to the code of ethics observed in his own profession. The newspaper with which we are concerned was established in order to increase the influence of one individual, and to intimidate and silence people like myself who might wish to support the interests of people in the area which I represent in this House, and in which I reside. As the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has said, the real reasons for the attack upon me date back many years. The attack has recently been revived. I should like it to be known now that I have not attacked Mr. Fitzpatrick, publicly or in the Parliament, for nearly ten years. On this occasion, the first attack was made by him in his newspaper.Up to that time, Mr. Fitzpatrick’s name had not been mentioned by me. I did refer to certain elements and to the need for a publicinquiry,perhaps by royalcommission,intocertainactivities were intruding into the daily lives of thepeople of Bankstown - activitiesthat are foreign totheAustralian way of life.I spoke upabout those matters,butI did not mentionthenameof Mr.Fitzpatrick.It may be that he had a guilty conscience, or that the forces behind him prompted him to adopt his present attitude and to attack me publicly in his newspaper through the medium of Mr. Browne’s pen.
This is not the first occasion on which I have been mauled about by bullies. There are in the community people of a bullying type, who seem to regard as a weakness a peace-loving disposition on the part of any one else. However, they usually go just a little too far, and they then receive a shock when those whom they have bullied fight back. The dictators to whom Mr. Browne referred this morning were of that type. People with those characteristics bully every one else, and push them about just because all the people are not always wanting to fight them or to oppose them in the manner in which the bullies conduct themselves. In the long run, the bullies usually get their deserts. I should like to see established a tribunal or some form of procedure for dealing expeditiously with attacks of this sort in the future. My main regret is that, in the present instance, the real culprits will not be punished, whatever decision the House might make. The real culprits behind the scenes have bolstered one individual, and obtained for him favoured treatment and immunity from punishment for certain wrongdoings. They are the ones who have been bolstering him in the past, and I think that if some of those who hold high positions in the community - and one of them holds a high judicial position - had been faithful to their duty and their oaths of office, this matter’ would not have continued, as it has, over the last ten years or so. Unfortunately, this House will not touch upon that matter, and the real villains will go unscathed. I endorse the sentiment expressed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), that the whole of the evidence of the proceedings be tabled in the House, so that the press, and indeed the world, may see it and obtain an idea of the whole picture of this sorry state of affairs that has existed in my electorate in New South Wales. That state of affairs is related to the war, when some people who had been small-time pilferers became big-time war profiteers. Their activities have carried over into the peace-time. I hope that the House, at a later stage, will consider the question of tabling the proceedings, which may lead to a further inquiry beyond thescope of this committee.
I wish to say - and this is really why I rose to speak - that although I do not profess to be any great authority on the legal position, after all, the law is only a matter of common sense, and as this matter is being dealt with on a non-party basis, I make’ the suggestion, for the benefit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and in view of the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), that, because of the doubtful legality of the imposition of a fine, the position be reversed. As the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) pointed out, the usual procedure is to inflict a fine which, if not paid, leads to a certain term of imprisonment. Why cannot the position be reversed, and the House, if it decides upon a penalty of imprisonment, attach certain conditions? For instance, assuming that these people are to be sent to prison, ] suggest that it would be competent for the House, or perhaps the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General, to release them on certain conditions. That would be an indirect way of imposing a fine, and other conditions by way of penalty, that would meet the case. That method has been adopted in Victoria, where, instead of calling the penalties so imposed fines - after all, a rose by any other name smells as sweet - they are called “ fees “ or “ costs “.
I submit, for the consideration of the Prime Minister, the suggestion that he confer with the Leader of the Opposition, even at this late stage. I wish to apologize to the. House, Mr. Speaker, for the time that has been taken up in dealing with this matter, and for the fact that the Parliament has had to sit for an additional day. However, in view of the seriousness of the matter, and its grave importance, not only to the Parliament, but also to the people generally, I think that, even now, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition should confer. I am sure that the House would not mind suspending proceedings for half an hour or so in order to allow the right honorable gentlemen to confer., with a view to seeing whether the terms of a motion could be agreed upon that would really incorporate the ideas of honorable members on both sides of the chamber. Perhaps the penalty suggested by the Government could be imposed, on condition that certain matters be complied with, and certain payments made. Perhaps, in the case of Mr. Browne, he could be required to give certain undertakings, to apologize, and to be prepared to abide by the code of ethics of his profession in the future. In the case of the other man, who owns a newspaper, perhaps if he distributed a certain number of copies of that newspaper throughout the electorate, setting out the findings of the committee, that could be a part of the penalty. If conditions of that nature were imposed, I am quite sure that that would meet the situation and that everybody would go away in a much happier frame of mind, feeling that they had done their duty, and that justice had been done at the same time.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out(Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . .36
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (concerning R.E. Fitzpatrick) (vide page 1629) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 43
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Dr.
Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the questions,
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 36
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (concerning F. C. Browne) (vide page 1029) be agreed to-.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Ma jority . . . . 44
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick having been brought to the bar of the House,
Serjeant-at-Arms, place Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick in custody.
Mr. Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick was accordingly placed in custody and removed from the bar of the House.
Mr. Frank Courtney Browne having been brought to the bar of the House,
Ser jeant - at - Arms, place Frank Courtney Browne in custody.
Mr. Frank Courtney Browne was accordingly placed in custody and removed from the bar of the House.
In committee (Consideration of
Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 2 (Appeals from Supreme Courts of States).
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out clause 2 and insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ 2. Section thirty-five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) of paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) the words ‘Three hundred pounds’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ One thousand five hundred pounds
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
The amendment that has been sent to us from the Senate is designed to postpone, until the next sessional period of the Parliament, the clause of the bill that will apply to the right of appeal. Representations have been made from sources that the Government considers should be given consideration before it finally proceeds with this matter.
– The Opposition accepts the amendment. We consider that it is a wise one, and that perhaps certain proceedings would be affected by it. Therefore we support the amendment that originated in another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Resolution reported; report adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 2 (Appeals from Supreme Court in civil cases).
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out clause 2 and insert in lieu thereof the following clause : - “ 2. Section fifty-one of the Principal Act if amended by omitting from paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (1.) the words ‘Three hundred pounds ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ One thousand five hundred pounds’.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is a complementary amendment to the amendment of the Judiciary Bill 1955, and there is no need for me to explain it any further.
– For the same reasons that I indicated when speaking to the Senate’s amendment of the Judiciary Bill 1955, we offer no opposition to this amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
The following bills were returned from the Senate : -
Without requests -
Moat Export (Additional Charges) Bill 1955.
Without amendment -
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Bill 1955.
Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill 1955.
Meat Agreement (Deficiency Payments) Bill 1955.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Retirement of the Clerk of the House. Mr. Frank Green.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I feel that this House should not adjourn,
Mr. Speaker, without placing on record a tribute to the Clerk of the House, Mr. Frank Green, who is making his last appearance in this chamber as an officer of the House. I have no doubt that Mr. Green will look back upon this occasion as a red-letter day because, after many years of experience as mentor, father and friend of honorable members of this House, he has witnessed the making of history in this place to-day. Every honorable member is indebted to Mr. Green. Ministers at the table no less than other honorable members. The procedure of this House is very complicated. Its procedure requires, from time to time, a complete understanding of the Standing Orders and rules of the House. When honorable members are in difficulty, there is only one source to which they can apply for succour and advice, and that is the Clerk of the House. Mr. Green has always instantly, unselfishly and, sometimes, with great trouble to himself, satisfied honorable members in the requests that they have made to him.
One of the greatest pleasures that he will have in his retirement, as he looks back to a life of service in this House, will be the knowledge that he has given his service also to the nation and to the people of this great democracy. I am certain that as Mr. Green sits back and reminisces over a very full life, and as he relates some of the excellent stories for which he is noted, he will spare a kindly thought for those of us in this House who are still labouring in the vineyard. I hope that the great hospitality and understanding that Mr. Green has always shown to honorable members will still be extended to us from time to time, so that We may refresh ourselves mentally at the fount of wisdom. I believe that the House should place on record its great appreciation of the wonderful service Mr. Green has given, not only to the Parliament, but also to the great democracy of Australia.
– I join in the tribute that has been paid by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) to the Clerk of the House, Mr. Frank Green. I, and other honorable members, have already paid a tribute to Mr. Green at a function that was held elsewhere. Mr. Green has been a great public servant and a worthy servant of the Parliament. He understands the spirit of the parliamentary institution better than does anybody I know. He understands how the machine must work, and how the life of the whole parliamentary institution depends upon something that cannot be found in May’s Parliamentary Practice and other parliamentary authorities to which reference is made during the debates in this chamber. It is perfectly true, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council has said, that when honorable members are in trouble, whether they are in opposition or as supporters of the Government, they fly to Mr. Green for advice. My only regret is that the advice given’ by Mr. Green has not always been followed, t hope the time will come when Mr. Green will place on record his views on the proceedings of this Parliament over the years. In the meantime, I suggest that his resignation be not completed until the written consent of the Leader of the Opposition accompanies it, in which case that consent will not be given. I wish him well. I wish Mr. Green and his wife all happiness. I hope that both will understand fully how much we appreciate their contribution to the life, not only in and around the Parliament, but also in Canberra.
.- I wish to add a word of appreciation to what has been said about the Clerk of the House, Mr. Frank Green, who has given me valuable assistance in my capacity as Chairman of Committees. I am sure that I speak also for all those who have preceded me in that office. As Chairman of Committees, I am a layman controlling procedure, and the help that has been given by the Clerk of the House has been very valuable. It has helped me and my predecessors to act correctly on behalf of the institution we- serve in the parliamentary system. I am convinced that the approach Mr. Green has made to the problems of the Chairmen of Committees has always been that so ably expressed by Shakespeare - the good that he can do is the only thanks that he desires. Mr. Green has performed his task very well. He was the first to understand my many imperfections, and the first to give me very valuable help. I wish to thank him, not only on my own behalf, but also on behalf of the Chairmen of Committees whom he has assisted before me.
£4.33]. - I join with the Vice-President of theExecutive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) in his tribute to the Clerk of the House,. Mr. Frank Green. I wish to place on record my endorsement of his remarksand the thanks and congratulations of myself and my supporters to Mr. Green,, who has done magnificent work for the people of Australia. His experience has enabled him to impart to us all a great stability in the somewhat difficult times that we have experienced in this House from time to time. It has been a great comfort to know that we have a man of long experience who will assist us in seeing that the forms of the House are always followed. I join with the right honorable gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in their expressions of goodwill towards Mr. and Mrs. Green. I hope they have a very happy retirement.
– I am happy to associate myself with theremarks that have been made by honorable members on both sides of the House upon the pending retirement of the Clerk of the House, Mr. Frank Green. Accent has been placed upon Mr. Green’s efficiency as an officer of the Parliament. I wish to pay my respects to Mr. Green, as a man and a friend. I recollect that when I came to this place in 1949 as a newly elected member of Parliament, the first hand of friendship that was extended to me was that of Mr. Green, and the first indication of what wasexpected of a new member was given to me by him. I am very grateful to him, indeed. As one who appreciates thevirtues of luring the wily trout to the surface, I extend to Mr. Green my best wishes for the years ahead, and hope that they will be years of peace, happinessand good fishing for him. I hope that from time to time, he will return to this place and regale us with some of the many reminiscences that he can recount so well. I wish him well and I hope that he will continue to sustain the citrus industry by devoting himself to the daily drink of lemon juice.
.- As a humble back-bencher from Tasmania, I should like to add my tribute to those which have been paid to Frank Green by other honorable members and to wish him well in the many years of his retirement. He has been part of the federal story. He has grown up with it and he has seen its weaknesses and its idiosyncrasies. He has often smiled to himself at the mistakes that we have made but, all through it, he has remained a friend of every honorable member. In saying that, I speak for all those who have been but are not now members of the Parliament. He has been a custodian of democratic, parliamentary government. He has toured Australia, speaking to young people and others about democracy, and he has jealously guarded the democratic system of government. He seems to have humanized the observance of the Constitution by this Parliament. With his kindliness and his humour, he has been a friend to us all. Not only was he born in Tasmania, but he was born in my electorate of Wilmot at a little place called Mole Creek. That town has had a worthy son in Frank Green, who has risen to the high position in the parliamentary life of Australia of Clerk of the House of Representatives, a position which he has held for more than twenty years. So Tasmania is proud of Frank Green and his work in upholding parliamentary government in Australia. I hope that he will write a book. He must have a tremendous fund of knowledge.
– He will probably be charged with contempt of Parliament if he does.
– This day, of course, will serve as an intelligent warning to Mr. Green about contempt of Parliament. [ do not think that he would fall for that. He would have in his memory facts and incidents that no one else could possibly record, and I hope that he will write a book on his experiences in the federal sphere. In wishing him and Mrs. Green the richest blessings in future, I should like to wish his successor every possible success in the responsible position that he will take over from his present chief.
– I desire to support the general sentiments that have been .expressed concerning Mr. Frank Green. I shall do that briefly, but I am sure that he will understand that in being brief I am not being discourteous. On behalf of the younger members of this Parliament, I wish to acknowledge the tremendous debt that we owe to Mr. Green. All of us have come into this Parliament in our time knowing very little about it. The knowledge that we now have is really a tribute to the kindly advice which has been so willingly given by Mr. Green. He has a. quality of attracting young men as well as his contemporaries, and that is a great quality indeed. I think it fortunate that he will be residing close to me. Because I shall see more of him, there is no need for me to say good-bye, but I wish him the happiest of possible retirements, and the same for his very good lady, Mrs. Green.
.- I should like to join, in a personal manner, in the tributes that have been paid to Mr. Green. In his last day in this Parliament in his official capacity, I should like him to think that the number of members in this House is not representative of the feelings that we have for him. The House has thinned, but there are honorable’ members in trains and aeroplanes, and waiting for both of those forms of transport, who think in the liveliest way of “ good old Frank “ and the asset that he has been to the Parliament. If Mole Creek has done nothing else it has produced a great public servant and, I suggest for the future, a great author. I suggest that the fact that Mr. Deeds went to Washington will be but a small circumstance compared with the fact that Mr. Green went to Canberra. Mr. Green has lived the story of the progress of the Parliament. If he brings to the writing of his book the same humanity, charm, decency and fundamental kindliness that is Frank Green, it will be a book worthy of preservation - a book, first of all to be read, and then be preserved. I hope that his royalties will be of a coruscating kind and that he will be able to obtain all the necessary equipment to cast the delectable fly across the waters of the countryside in order to tempt the trout and bring them to the surface outside Parliament as well as inside.
I am very happy to have been associated with Prank Green and I feel more than a tinge of regret at his departure. We all admire his successor and know that he will have the opportunity to develop in the same way as Frank. But Frank Green is a unique character. In our view, he combines all the desirable attributes of a good Clerk of the House. We all have asked for his help and we all have had that little look over his glasses when we have mucked up an amendment. He has dealt with all our questions with patience and sincerity. His quietness in this House has been no indication of the valiant role that he played as an infantryman and an officer in World War I., a role for which he was decorated. Then he came to this House and did a great job as a public servant. I hope, in the words of Keats, that his leisure will fall on him like a benediction and that the peace that he has not found in this House will come dropping slow, to accompany him to a great happiness with his wife. I hope that he will look back upon a field of endeavour in which he has not attempted to shine, but in which his attempt to hide his greatness has made it shine all the more clearly among his friends on either side of the House and in every section of the community. On behalf of myself and my friends in the Opposition I wish him and his wife well and hope that all that he wishes himself will come about in full measure.
– On an occasion such as this. o::e rises with very mixed feelings because we hate to be parted from a man with whom we have been associated politically in this House for so long and who has given such valuable service in the position that he has so honorably and meritoriously filled. I speak, not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of the Government because although, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), has said, the House has thinned at this juncture, I can assure Mr. Green that each and every honorable member of this House has the greatest admiration for him. We have a great appreciation of the twenty years’ valuable service that he has rendered to this
Parliament, service which those of us who are discerning have recognized at all times as having been carried out while he was suffering from a great physical disability. At times, our friend, Frank, has been almost crippled with rheumatism. A period of 28 years is a large proportion of a man’s life; in Frank’s case, it has not been, or seemed to be, shorter, due to the onerous duties that he has performed here. The Clerk of theHouse requires to possess not only basic, fundamental knowledge, but also a considerable degree of tolerance and perseverance, because in that capacity, one has to sit in this chamber throughout the day, and frequently into the early hours of the morning when the House isin session. That, alone, is a great ordeal.
Coming now to the personal aspect of this occasion, I want to say that I have greatly appreciated my friendship with Frank Green, which commenced on the day that I entered this Parliament and has endured ever since. It has always been a great pleasure to me to be associated with him,, because, in addition to possessing an acute sense of humour, hihas always had a new yarn to tell which I looked forward to hearing. He is a good mixer and, as the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has said, he has always exhibited a very intimate, active, and generous interest in the younger members of the House. As we know, Frank will soon retire officially, but I am> sure that he will not retire entirely, because a man of this spirit, outlook, and humour will find-
– Fresh fields.
– Yes, fresh fields; and I am sure that he will be able readily to adapt himself to condition? different from those that he has experienced during his 28 years in the service of this Parliament.
Frank, if I were to speak for an hour. I could not do more than to wish, you happiness and pleasure during your wellearned retirement - in short, all that you wish yourself. I hope that you will be long spared to enjoy the happiness and companionship of your good wife, who has been a real mate to you, and who has obviously been a victim of the sacrifices that your lon gr hours of duty in the service of the Parliament have entailed. We wish you well, sir.
– I should like to add a few words of farewell to Frank Green, whom I have known for many years. My father, who was a member of this Parliament before me, also knew Frank very well, and had a great respect for him. As much has been said already about Frank’s valuable and long service to the Parliament, I shall not speak for very long. His warmth of friendship, his ability to retain friends, and his kindness and generosity know no bounds. With those few words, [ wish Frank Green and his wife all happiness and God speed, and may we go down - all of us at one time or another -and stay with them in Tasmania.
– I, too, would like very briefly to pay a meed of tribute to Frank Green, a member of the old and bold, who is about to retire from th, parliamentary service. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said a moment ago, Frank was a “ digger “ in World War I., and earned a great reputation during his unit’s campaigns in Belgium and France. As we know, he was decorated for bravery. Frank Green has always been a very stout member of the parliamentary service - like most of us, perhaps, he is stouter than he should be. Even at the time that he transferred, as I did, from the State service to the federal sphere in the early days - I think I am correct in saying that he did so in 1921 - he enjoyed a very high reputation. Frank Green has been a member of the parliamentary service for a considerably longer period than has been stated, although he has not always served in the chamber itself. However, the period from 1921 to 1955 constitutes a grand record, particularly as Frank Green served with the Australian Imperial Force for four years during World War I. On my own behalf, and on behalf of all your First Australian Imperial Force comrades, may I wish YOU, Frank, happy fishing and a very pleasant and long retirement with your family. I take this opportunity, also, as one of the newcomers to this House in 1949, to thank you for the assistance and helpful advice that you have given me.
.- I just want to place on record the fact that I was present on the occasion of this valedictory. I endorse all that has been said about Mr. Green, and I wish him and his wife happiness in the future. Mr. Green has borne the heat and burden of the day in the service of this Parliament, and, if I may say so without intruding on his privacy, I know that his wife has shared his sacrifices with him. J hope that, in his retirement, he will continue to think kindly of his fellow men; and I wish him success. In the lighter rein, Mr. Green, if at any time in the future you consider publishing anything about this Parliament or anything else. I hope that you will consult me because, as a result of a long experience, I am an authority on the law of libel.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.52 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following answers: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 June 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550610_reps_21_hor6/>.