23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer him to the report of the former chairman of Trans-Australia Airlines received by him in December last. 1 point out to the Minister that nine weeks have now elapsed since, on 17th March, he said that it would be about a month or six weeks before he would be in a position to supply the document to the Senate. Is he in a position to make the document available now, or before the Senate rises for the recess? If he is not in a position to do that, will he give an undertaking to make the document available to each senator as soon as possible after the Senate rises?
– When I answered the question to which Senator McKenna refers - it was asked1 by Senator Kennelly - he will recall that, having regard to the circumstances at that time, the question was directed towards obtaining certain comments made by Mr. McDonald in connexion with the exchange of aircraft deal. In fact, I think that on reflection the honorable senator will agree that I more than fulfilled my undertaking, if it could be described as such, inasmuch as I made a section of the report available to the Senate so that it could be referred to in the discussion which took place on a motion of urgency. As to the rest of Mr. McDonald’s report, I have made it quite clear that it contains a number of things which require the closest examination before I shall be prepared to release it. I have not yet had an opportunity of examining it, and I do not know when I shall have such an opportunity. I cannot give the Leader of the Opposition any undertaking at all.
– I shall read a statement on the matter which the Acting. Prime Minister made this afternoon in another place. It is as follows: -
According to our latest information, the heads of the three Western Governments have issued the following statement in Paris: - “ The President of the United States, the President of the French Republic and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom take note of the fact that because of the attitude adopted by the Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers it has not been possible to begin at the Summit Conference the examination of the problems which it had been agreed would be discussed between the four chiefs of State or Government. They regret that these discussions, so important for world peace, could not take place. For their part they remain unshaken in their conviction that all outstanding international questions should be settled, not by the use of threat or force, but by peaceful means through negotiations at a suitable time in the future.”
The Australian Government greatly regrets this turn of events. A meeting, on which millions all over the world - in no sense limited to free countries - placed their high hopes, has collapsed before it had begun its work. After all the careful preparation by many governments, after the visits exchanged between the four leaders themselves, after serious consultation by Mr. Macmillan with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in the preceding two weeks, the disappointment is the more profound, even though the extensive preparatory effort is, we hope, not completely wasted. The Australian Government had hoped that the summit meeting might bring a new atmosphere in international relations, in which, instead of tension and threats, we would see established the practice of reasonable negotiation of their differences by East and West. We still believe this is essential, and we still hope that in time it may occur. We know that the Western governments share this view, and are ready to continue working towards its realization. One fact is clear in this unhappy situation. It was Mr. Khrushchev who walked out and broke up the conference notwithstanding the fact that he had stated in Moscow on 12th May, 1960, that despite the plane incident he was still ready to participate in the conference. The events in Paris yesterday have demonstrated the unfortunate truth that there are to-day two worlds, the Western world and the Communist world, lt is clear to the Australian Government that the well-being of the Australian nation is inseparably bound up with the future of the Western world.
The Australian Prime Minister will, of course, be keeping very closely in touch with events in London and I do not think that there is anything more than I can usefully add at this stage.
– by leave - To-day, the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party considered its attitude to this matter. We, too, deeply regret the fact that the Summit meeting has not proceeded as we hoped it would. We deplore what has happened and the events that precipitated it. We join with the Government in hoping that personal considerations will be swept aside by world leaders in the interests of the peace that is so badly needed in the world. It horrifies one to think that whether there shall be peace or war might depend upon the conduct of one or two human beings. The leaders have a vast responsibility, not only to their countries but also to the peoples of the whole world, who want peace more than they want anything else. They want to be able to look forward to a period in which their children can be raised in security without the fear of atomic annihilation hanging over their heads.
I regret that I have not before me, to put immediately before the Senate, the text of the statement that our leader, Mr. Calwell, has issued, but the Australian public will have an opportunity to peruse it.
– I direct to the Minister for National Development a question that relates to iron ore deposits in Australia. Does the Minister recollect that more than three years ago the Government of Western Australia placed before the Commonwealth Government a proposition to export iron ore from Western Australia to Japan which, if approved, would have led to the substantial development of the iron and steel industry in that State? Does he recollect also that the Commonwealth Government refused permission on the ground that iron ore reserves were required by the Commonwealth of Australia for its own purposes? Does the Minister recollect that the amount of iron ore available in Australia was the subject of controversy, this Government’s information at that time being sketchy and very indefinite in respect of quantity and quality? I therefore ask the Minister: Have there been any further requests for approval for the export of iron ore from Australia? If so, from what sources have such requests come? Is the Minister in a position now to give definite and specific information in relation to iron ore deposits in Australia, including information regarding the quantity or iron ore deposits in Australia, the areas in which the deposits are located, the extent of the deposits in such areas, the classified quality of the iron ore in the various deposits, the deposits that are being operated at the present time, and the deposits that have been located, surveyed and examined in respect of quality, and recorded as of commercial value but not yet put into use?
– The honorable senator has certainly taxed my knowledge. I well remember the application from the Western Australian Government and the decision of the Commonwealth Government upon it. I am not aware of any recent applications for approval for the export of iron ore. The Commonwealth declined to lift the existing embargo some six months ago. I mentioned in reply to Senator Cant a week or so ago that comparatively recently an examination of the iron ore deposits in Australia was completed by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. I said in reply to him that I had some difficulty in making available the information collected during that survey because a great deal of the information was obtained from the actual holders of the leases. In other words, they spent their -money in making a survey and doing drilling, and it was their private information; they held the leases and had the knowledge about them, but they willingly made the information available to the bureau so that it could build up an Australia-wide picture. But it is one thing to obtain information on those terms and another thing to make it public, perhaps to competitors of those who hold the leases. I think I should say that the review which the Bureau of Mineral Resources has made shows a different picture from that which was disclosed when our iron ore resources were last surveyed some twenty years ago.
– A different government is making the application.
– Do not interrupt. The review shows quite a different picture. The professional officers of the bureau record iron ore deposits in various classifications. What they call demonstrated iron ore reserves almost certainly exist or have been actually proved by drilling and geological surveys. Such reserves are currently used by the Australian steel industry. These include the reserves in South Australia and at Yampi Sound. The survey shows that demonstrated reserves are greater now than they were twenty years ago, when the last investigation was made - despite the fact that very substantial quantities have been used in the meantime. As people familiar with mining would know, this is because in the course of mining operations new reserves are found.
The picture has also changed in another way. In the past it was believed that the demonstrated reserves were the only ones that we could accept as being in existence in Australia, but it is now believed that there are large deposits of iron ore not included in the demonstrated reserves. Whether these ores are of high or low quality remains to be proved. The deposits are not being worked, and therefore they are not being investigated.
There is a further factor which materially affects the situation. There is apparently a more confident expectation at the present time - and I emphasize that it is expectation, not realization - that by processes of bene.ficiation low-grade ores can be stepped up in quality and treated as high-grade ores, thus adding materially to our natural resources.
– I wish to address a supplementary question to the Minister for National Development. It arises from the Minister’s statement that there are large quantities of low-grade ore that can be used after beneficiation. Has the Government taken any steps to restrict exports of scrap iron and steel that could be used for beneficiation?
– Yes. The export of scrap iron and scrap steel is controlled. I do not recollect offhand the details of the control, but the purpose of it is to ensure that no scrap will be exported which is needed for the local steel industry.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of statements by leading educationists that Australian universities must have more money, especially for research, will the Government consider allowing donations and bequests to universities for research purposes to be deducted from the incomes of the donors for income tax purposes, be they individuals, associations, organizations, firms or companies?
– The question is, to a large extent, concerned with a matter of policy which is considered each year at or about Budget time. I can only tell the honorable senator that I will bring his question to the notice of the Treasurer.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation tell the Senate whether the Government is contemplating any alteration in the control, management, or government-owned character of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, or any interference with that company’s present independence or operations? Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not, within the next twelve months, alter the control, management or governmentowned character of Qantas, or interfere with its independence or operations in any way?
– All I can say to the honorable senator is that the Government has not at any time during the last four years even considered altering in any way the management, control or operation of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. As the honorable senator is, I am sure, well aware, Qantas operates as a company registered in Queensland. The Commonwealth Government now owns all the stock in the company and appoints directors to the board to conduct the business organization of Qantas. I repeat that, to my knowledge, no consideration has ever been given to such changes or interference as have been suggested by the honorable senator.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in his capacity as Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that coal exports from the port of Newcastle are being seriously restricted because of poor port facilities, including loading facilities? Is it also a fact that, some years ago, the owners of the northern coal mines offered to spend more than £1,000,000 to improve loading facilities at the port railhead, if the New South Wales Government Railways Department would improve rail services, and that the New South Wales Government did not take up the offer? Is it correct that the New South Wales Government recently decided to purchase two new coal mines in the area at a cost of £3,500,000? Is the Minister aware that the New South Wales Government also has decided that it will spend a certain amount - stated to be approximately £1,000,000 - to improve the port facilities? Does the Minister agree that it would be logical to improve the loading facilities and the port facilities generally before embarking on the purchase of additional coal mines and socializing them? Will he ask the New South Wales Premier to treat as urgent the proposal for the improvement of the port, in the interests of Australia’s overseas trade balances and of those good Australians who earn their livelihood in the coal industry?
- Senator Anderson has asked a question about a matter the circumstances of which are quite fresh in my mind, with the qualification that I am not quite sure of my recollection concerning coal-loading facilities at Newcastle. I know that for years we were trying to get the New South Wales Government to provide adequate loading facilities, but we could not persuade it to do so. We could not get that Government to perform the task. My recollection is that we eventually arranged with the Joint Coal Board to provide £1,000,000, I think it was, from its own resources, for the installation of temporary loading facilities.
On the general question of port facilities, I made, at a meeting, a statement to which the Premier of New South Wales has replied. I read his reply with very great interest. It was his first public statement upon a matter which I regard as one of the greatest problems that face New South Wales at the present time. I am glad that he has acknowledged the position and has said that he contemplates doing something about it. Let me point out some weaknesses in the Premier’s statement. He said that the work would require the expenditure of millions of pounds. With all respect I say to him that he should speak in clearer and more definite terms. It is well known in coal-mining circles that the cost involved is £6,000,000. If the Premier proposes to go ahead, he should say so, and also state the extent of “the proposed expenditure; but what is more important, he should say when he proposes to go ahead. We who come from New South Wales know that that State is littered with works that have been started and not completed. The work of improving port facilities should stand very high indeed on the list of priorities for works that need to be carried out in New South Wales.
I noticed that the New South Wales Minister for Mines had stated that the State Government was not finding the money; it was being found by the Electricity Commission of New South Wales. That seems to me to be avoiding the issue, because last year the State Government had to finance the Electricity Commission to the extent of some £10,000,000. Whether it comes from the Electricity Commission or the State Government matters about as much as does the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee. The main thing is to get the money and carry out the work. That is all I have to say. If my comment has resulted in galvanizing the New South Wales Government into some activity, I take great pride in it. The only other comment that I make is that unless the work goes ahead I will keep at the State Government to the best of my ability, because 1 believe that the completion of this work is basic to the prosperity of the New South Wales coalmining industry.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware of the statement made by Admiral Hopwood in Perth on Monday last, on a television programme, in which he warned Australians not to plan on American naval aid in the event of attack from the north? The admiral said -
I do not think that you should plan on the American Navy coming to your aid. I think you ought to have the defence necessary to stem any potential aggression in the north.
The admiral said that Australia was vulnerable in the north, and that her long coastline could be best protected by a balanced force. He said that Australia was discharging her responsibilities in national defence in an admirable manner, but he pointed out that in the event of war it would be a great asset to have a strong naval base in Australia.
In view of the present state of Australia’s defences and having regard to this on-the-spot statement by such an eminent and experienced authority, will the Minister confer with other defence Ministers and with responsible service chiefs on the advisability of establishing a naval base on the west coast of Australia as an urgent and immediate defence measure?
– I have seen only press reports of what Admiral Hopwood is alleged to have said in Western Australia. I gathered that the general tenor of his remarks was that Australia should not depend entirely on American naval aid, but should take some action herself towards establishing a naval defence. I think it would be wrong to draw the inference that we could not depend on any aid from the United States. I gathered that Admiral Hopwood said that a strong naval base in this country would be a great help in our defence. He did not state that the base should be in Western Australia.
– Those are my words.
– I am sure that the admiral was referring to what is a reasonably strong naval base, and one that is growing in strength, namely, that in Sydney. Nevertheless, the subject of an additional naval base in Australia is one which, from time to time, has occupied the attention of defence planners of all governments.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, refers to the drought conditions recently experienced in some parts of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the River Murray Commission was able to meet the full demands of those three States during the irrigation season just ended?
– I have some information that I can give to Senator Wade. I recently saw a document published by the
River Murray Commission in which this problem was discussed. I was very interested in that document, which said that despite the fact that the inflow of water into the Hume Weir last year was about half the average over a period of years, the commission had been able to maintain a full supply of water down the Murray River. In other words, with half the usual inflow of water, the commission had been able to maintain supplies. It had been necessary, of course, to draw upon the store of water in the Hume Weir, and to use water from the Murrumbidgee River and the Darling River. I read that document with great interest, and I could not but reflect on the tremendous value to Australia of the Hume Weir and similar water storages.
– I ask the Leader of the Government a question. Has he seen reports of a broadcast by the Premier of South Australia in which he criticized the Commonwealth Government’s overseas loans policy as a reckless mortgaging of this country? The Premier likened that policy to the policy of the 1920’s, which, was largely responsible for the depression of the I930’s. In view of the Minister’s frequent boast that the Government receives considerable support from trade unionists, I now ask him whether his advice is to ignore the criticism and regard it as personal political grand-standing by Sir Thomas Playford, or conversely, to recognize it as representing the considered view of the responsible leader of the Liberal and Country parties and therefore warranting a review of policy by the Commonwealth Government.
– Mr. Deputy President, our newcomer is finding his feet in the Senate! I did not listen to Sir Thomas Playford’s broadcast, but 1 have heard about it. The reports I have heard are similar to that which the honorable senator mentioned. I would like to read a report of the broadcast before committing myself to a criticism of it. I find it difficult indeed to see anything to substantiate the argument that, particularly on the governmental level, we should not borrow overseas as much as we can obtain at present. There are many things that must be done in Australia if we are to maintain the present rate of development, and we must look in all directions for the capital resources with which to carry out our task. I do not have the figures in my mind, but I direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that overseas borrowings represent a very small proportion of our total borrowings or our total governmental expenditure. The total amount that we borrow on public account overseas is small indeed in relation to our total expenditure. I find no point of agreement with critics of the policy of borrowing overseas.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Has the Bureau of Agricultural Economics made a recent investigation of the cost of canning fruits? If not, would it be possible for the bureau to conduct such an inquiry in the near future?
– The department has not as yet carried out such an investigation, but a proposal to do so is currently under consideration in the department.
– I direct to the Minister for the Navy a question which is supplementary to my previous question. In view of the vulnerability of northern Australia to aggression from the north, and bearing in mind the distance of this danger spot from Sydney, will the Minister for the Navy again consider the advisability of establishing a naval base on the west coast? Such a base would be more accessible in some respects than the Sydney base, and could service ships from the vast Indian Ocean and from the waters to the north of Australia.
– Senator Tangney again reverts to the subject of a naval base in Western Australia - a subject that is, of course, dear to the hearts of all senators from that State. If one looks at a map of the world, one realizes that a naval base in Western Australia would be of great assistance to us in the event of attack from certain directions. However, the naval base that we have now is closer to the areas in which hostilities took place in the last war and closer to the bases of our ally, the
United States of America, in the Pacific Ocean. I think the matter can be boiled down to this: If and when this country grows sufficiently, and is prepared to make more money available for defence, the building, of a base in Western Australia, additional to the base in Sydney, can be discussed. At the moment, however, in view of our size in terms of population and in view of the money available, it does not seem to be feasible or desirable to build such a base.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is he aware that Dr. Westerman, retiring chairman of the Tariff Board and incoming head of the Department of Trade, is reported in to-day’s Melbourne “ Age “ to have told the Government-sponsored National Export Convention that he recommended special tax measures to reduce the cost of exports and to help industry to finance from within itself its future growth? Can the Minister have these imaginative statements by Dr. Westerman thoroughly examined and elaborated for presentation to the Treasurer when he is considering the next Budget?
– I did not see the statement to which the honorable senator referred. I should think that any representations to the Government upon a matter of such importance would more appropriately come from the Minister for Trade than from one of his officers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the growing stature of Australia as a nation, the high and growing percentage of European continental people in our population, and their great desire to learn the English language as thoroughly as possible, will the Minister initiate action to have produced by the Australian National University a uniform, authorized dictionary of the Australian usage of English to which ready reference could be made by those people who at present have to refer to several dictionaries that are not in full agreement on the meaning of many words? The lack of such a dictionary renders more difficult the task of mastering a difficult language.
– The Australian National University is, of course, primarily a research establishment. I do not feel any enthusiasm for the proposal that the honorable senator has made. A variety of dictionaries is available. It would be difficult to set up a new standard such as the honorable senator suggests.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I preface it by reminding the Minister of the number of people who, according to the press, have flown from South Africa to seek political asylum in different countries. If any of these freedom-loving people who have found it necessary to flee from South Africa to protect themselves from brutality, or perhaps from death, should apply for permission to emigrate to Australia, will he give such applications sympathetic consideration?
– The Minister for Immigration gave a comprehensive answer to a very similar question asked in the Senate only two or three days ago. If the honorable senator refers to “ Hansard “ he will obtain the information he requires.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Is it a fact that the International Tin Agreement will expire on 30th June, 1961? If that is so, I should like the Minister to give me the opinion of the Government on how the agreement has worked in the interests of tin producers in Australia. If it has worked satisfactorily, will the Governm ent support a new International Tin Agreement and if so, will the Government send a representative to participate in discussions which are to take place on the new agreement?
– The principle on which the International Tin Agreement works is a limitation of production in the producing countries tuned to world demand. The net result of the agreement has been to maintain the price of tin throughout a period in which there have been some very heavy falls in the prices of other metals, particularly base metals, to the great detriment of the mining industry. Australia does not produce all the tin that it needs. It is of great consequence to us that we should encourage tin production, but it is not an easy task to do so. The best encouragement is, of course, a reasonable price for tin,, and the International Tin Agreement hastherefore helped in that way. The agreement is running to an end. Its provisionsare under review. An international conference will be held shortly at which the Australian Government will be represented by an officer of the Department of National Development.
– As salt is a commodity used in every horn, in Australia, I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether it is a fact that all salt supplied in Australia is subject to sales tax except salt produced at the Geelong factory. If the answer is in the affirmative, can the Minister say why all salt produced in Australia is not exempt from sales tax?
– I ask for notice of the question, because I cannot quite comprehend a situation in which some salt is subject to sales tax whilst salt produced at another place, presumably for the same purpose, is not taxable. 1 should like to examine the question before I attempt to answer it.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health any reply to a question I asked on 31st March, last regarding the availability of the drug rastinon under the new pharmaceutical benefits scheme?
– My colleague, the Minister for Health, has advised me that rastinon tablets have always been available as a pharmaceutical benefit, but only to pensioners. Under the new pharmaceutical scheme, as from 1st March, 1960, they will be available as a pharmaceutical benefit to the community as a whole.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following replies: - 1 and 2. For the year 1958-59 the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories made a profit of £212,007.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Acting Prime Minister has furnished the following replies: -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to limit the interception of telephonic messages in their passage over the telephone system of the Commonwealth so that such interception can take place only in clearly defined circumstances and on clearly defined conditions. At present, conversation on a telephone service can be intercepted solely on the authority of the Director-General of Security if the Director-General is satisfied that that telephone service is likely to be used tor espionage, sabotage or subversive activities. In doing this, the Director-General acts within a purely administrative directive given first by Mr. Chifley when Prime Minister and subsequently slightly limited by the present Prime Minister, who directed that where it was desired to intercept the telephone service of a political figure or a senior public servant, the Prime Minister’s approval should first be obtained.
Thus the decision to intercept communications over a particular telephone service has rested with the Director-General of Security. One purpose of the present bill is to provide express limitations on the way in which he can exercise this function. Another purpose is to give statutory authority to what has hitherto been done by administrative discretion.
The common law on the subject of telephone interception was stated in the White Paper presented to the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1957 by a committee of Privy Councillors appointed to examine the subject. The committee found that the prerogative of the Crown extends to cover intercepting of telephone communications. The same view of the law has been taken in Australia, as evidenced by the directive or the Prime Minister to which I have referred.
In regard to official interception of telephone communications, one difference between the present practice in the United Kingdom, and the present practice in Australia is that the area within which interception may take place in the United Kingdom is wider than it is here, in as much as interception may be used in the United Kingdom for police purposes and for customs purposes, as well as for security purposes, whereas in Australia interception may be used for security purposes only.
I have pointed out that the present practice with regard to interception rests on the inherent administrative power of the Government. This Government has decided that that practice should be strictly controlled by statute, so that the conditions under which telephone services may be intercepted are governed by legislation and are there for all to see. Turning to a consideration of the limitations themselves, clause 4 of the bill defines “ interception “ as listening to or recording any communication in its passage over the telephone system. Interception does not, however, include accidental overhearing of a conversation due to a technical defect such as a crossed line, or using an extension switch. Clause 5 of the bill prohibits such interception, subject to specified exceptions. The exceptions are set out in sub-clause (2.) of clause 5. They are -
an act or thing done by an officer of the Department in the course of his duties for or in connexion with -
the interception of a communication in pursuance of a warrant.
In effect the exceptions mean that interception, except in the circumstances I have just quoted, or use of any information gained, is subject to heavy penalties. An officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department who, in the course of his duties is required to listen in, whether it be in the course of installation, operation or maintenance of the telephone system or in the course of tracing the origin of a call, where a subscriber complains that some person is using indecent, abusive or threatening language on his telephone, or is otherwise contravening the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act or of the Telephone Regulations, does not commit the offence of interception. Paragraph (b) means that the prohibition does not apply to the interception of a communication in pursuance of a warrant.
There are two procedures, and only two procedures, by which a warrant authorizing interception can be obtained. The main procedure is described in clause 6 and provides for the issue of a warrant by the Attorney-General. The Director-General of Security may make a request to the Attorney-General seeking a warrant to authorize the interception of communications passing over a specific telephone service. His request, which must be reduced to writing, must contain a description of the particular telephone service, and the name, address and occupation of the subscriber, if any, and the number, if any, allotted to the service. It must also - to quote the precise words of clause 6 (2.) (b) of the bill - specify the facts and other grounds on which the Director-General of Security considers it necessary that the warrant should be issued and, where relevant, the grounds on which the DirectorGeneral of Security suspects a person of being engaged in, or of being likely to engage in, activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth.
Clause 6(1.) sets the only circumstances in which the Attorney-General may grant a warrant, namely, if he is satisfied that-
the telephone service is being or is likely to be -
the interception by the Organization of communications passing to, from or over the telephone service will, or is likely to assist the Organization in carrying out its function of obtaining intelligence relevant to the security of the Commonwealth.
In other words, the Attorney-General must first be satisfied that a telephone service is used or is likely to be used in the course of activities or for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth and that the interception of communications passing over it will or is considered likely to assist the Australian Security Intelligence Organization in carrying out its function of obtaining security intelligence. The expression “ the security of the Commonwealth “ is defined in the bill in like manner to the way “ security “ is described in the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1956, that is to say, it means both in the bill and in that act the protection of the Commonwealth and its territories from acts of espionage, sabotage or subversion whether directed from or intended to be committed within the Commonwealth or not. In the second place any warrant issued by the Attorney-General must specify the period for which it is to remain in force, but that period cannot exceed six months and the Attorney-General may revoke the warrant before the end of the period specified in it. As a further protection clause 9 of the bill requires the Director-General of Security to terminate the interception which the warrant authorizes even before its expiry where the grounds on which it was issued have ceased to exist.
A second method of obtaining a warrant which will be in reserve against the urgent occasion is provided in the bill. That is that where the Director-General has made a request to the Attorney-General containing the particulars and facts which I have already described, and he is satisfied that the facts of the case would justify the issue of a warrant by the Attorney-General and that, if interception does not commence before a warrant can be issued and made available by the Attorney-General, the security of the Commonwealth will be or is likely to be seriously prejudiced, he, the Director-General of Security, may issue a warrant to authorize interception of communications passing over a specified telephone service. There are a number of important qualifications to this power. First, a request for the Attorney-General’s warrant “ in respect of the particular service must have been forwarded or made to the Attorney-General. Secondly, the AttorneyGeneral must not have made a decision on that request. Thirdly, the Attorney-General must not within the preceding three months have refused a warrant in respect of that telephone service. Fourthly, the DirectorGeneral of Security must not himself have issued a warrant in respect of that service during the preceding three months. Fifthly, the warrant issued by the Director-General of Security must specify a period for which it is to remain in force and that period must not exceed 48 hours. Again the Attorney-General may revoke the warrant of the Director-General of Security before the expiry of the period.
The Government has realized that some material without any security significance may be recorded in the course of a telephone interception. The bill accordingly provides in clause 10 that the DirectorGeneral of Security shall destroy any record of an intercepted communication which will not or is not likely to assist the Australian Security Intelligence Organization in the performance of its functions: that is to say, that the record of a communication which has no security significance shall be destroyed.
At this stage, I think I should mention that there may be cases where it is appropriate to continue the interception of a telephone for a longer period than six months. If such a case arises, the bill allows the Attorney-General to issue a further warrant or warrants but only if the whole of the procedure required by clause 6 is repeated. There must be a new request, the facts must be set out anew and must therefore be up to date and the Attorney-General must be satisfied of the likely benefit to security as a result of the= continued interception. Sub-clause 5 of.’ clause 6 produces this result. 1 would! emphasize, however, that the DirectorGeneral of Security may not repeat his warrant - that is to say, a warrant issued by him instead of by the Attorney-General - in respect of the same telephone service until more than three months has elapsed from the issue by him of a warrant in respect of that telephone service. Thus, there could not be successive warrants each for successive periods of 48 hours. Three months at least must intervene between warrants by the Director-General of Security in respect of any particular telephone service.
The bill by clause 11 sub-clause (2.) provides that the Attorney-General shall endorse on any request which he has received, his decision, be it for the grant of a warrant, or for the refusal of a warrant. All warrants, requests, instruments of revocation and the like must be preserved in the records of the organization. Clause 12 provides that the Director- General of Security must inform the Attorney-General of the result of the interception in pursuance of each warrant. This means that the Attorney-General should be able the better to evaluate the requests of the DirectorGeneral of Security for warrants.
Honorable senators will have observed that there is no group in the community whose telephone services are exempt from the operation of this bill. In particular no exception is made in this case of members of Parliament.
In this connexion I remind honorable senators that before an interception can take place, first the Director-General of Security must be satisfied either that the telephone service is or is likely to be used by a person who is or is likely to be engaged in activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth, or that the telephone service is being used for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth, and that by interception of communications passing over that service information is likely to be obtained which would assist the Australian Security Intelligence Organization in carrying out its security function. The Attorney-General must be personally satisfied on the facts ;hat those conclusions are right.
This means in the case of a telephone service of a member of parliament, that on the known facts the Attorney-General and the Director-General of Security must be satisfied that the member’s telephone service is used or is likely to be used in aid of subversive activities, and that interception Under a warrant might yield significant security material. There can be no reason, in these circumstances - and they are the only circumstances in which the question can arise - for treating the member of Parliament any differently from any other member of the public. Accordingly this bill makes no exception.
The Government has decided that there should be no use of telephone interception either for police or for customs purposes. This bill does not, therefore, authorize interception for such purpose.
It is right to point out to honorable senators, in conclusion, that the Government has no reason to criticize either the previous directions for interception or the manner in which the directors-general have carried them out, but it prefers at this time to place the system on a statutory basis for the reasons I have outlined.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17th May (vide page 994), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill will not be opposed by the Opposition. Its purpose is to bring under legislative control the movement and parking of vehicles on airports throughout Australia. A certain amount of control has been exercised hitherto under regulations, but this bill will bring under direct legislative control all motor cars and other vehicles at airports, particularly with regard to parking facilities and infringement of laws connected therewith. As I have said, the Opposition does not oppose the bill, but there are one or two minor matters on which I should like to expand.
The Minister has stated that the Government will rely to a large extent on existing State and territorial laws for much of the necessary control of vehicles. In this connexion, let me mention one matter that I think should be brought to the attention of the Minister. At the Sydney airport at the present time there are no special facilities for the parking of cars of State Ministers. It is obviously not the wish of the Commonwealth Government that State Ministers should be left without such an amenity. This appears to be one.of those matters that have been handled at a low level and with little imagination. As a result, a State Minister who drives to an airport has to put his car in a public parking place. There are spaces set aside at r.ll aerodromes for Commonwealth cars and cars of the diplomatic corps, and I believe it would be a small but appreciated gesture to extend the facility to State Ministers in Sydney, or at any other airport where a special parking place is not at present set aside for State Ministers.
The Minister spent a good deal of time in explaining the owner-onus provision that will be applied at airports in the future. This provision, as we know, is in operation at the present time in most States. There is one aspect of the matter that I would like to bring to the notice of the Minister, in view of the fact that he is endeavouring to align this legislation as far as possible with State laws at present operating. Let me suggest that the fines imposed for breaches of the legislation at the various airports should be in line with the fines imposed under State laws for similar offences outside those airports. We may provide a fine of £2 for a breach of the legislation with respect to parking, under the owner-onus provision, at the Sydney airport, while for a similar infringement in New South Wales, outside the airport, the fine would be only £1. I believe in Melbourne the fine for illegal parking is £2. and it varies from State to State.
– In Brisbane it is £1.
Kendall now tells me that in Brisbane the fine is £1. I think the department could look at this matter and provide for fines having a direct relationship to those that are already imposed for similar offences, outside the airports, in the various capital cities. A person fined £2 for illegal parking at an airport, in a State where the fine would normally be £1, might be inclined to think that the Commonwealth Government was setting out on a revenueraising scheme. That is something we must avoid. If it is thought that the Commonwealth Government is using its powers in this field to collect revenue unreasonably, the legislation will fall into disrepute, and harm will be done to the Commonwealth and to the Department of Civil Aviation.
Provision is also made for the introduction at airports of the tow-away system. Cars and other vehicles may be removed if an officer of the Department of Civil Aviation considers they should be removed. This brings us into a field in which New South Wales has had a great deal of experience. In that State, the tow-away system was brought in with brutal force. The legislation provided that the system could operate until nine o’clock at night. In many cases cars that did not have the slightest influence on the movement of traffic were towed away. I have seen cars towed away at seven or eight o’clock at night, when there was practically no traffic in the city, because they were within 15 feet, not of a traffic crossing, but of a pedestrian crossing. In the parts of the city concerned and at those times of night, not more than a handful of people would use those pedestrian crossings. That is how ruthlessly the tow-away law was applied in New South Wales. The reaction was so great that heavy pressure was brought to bear on the Government, and six or eight months ago the legislation was amended to eliminate the tow-away system in the evenings and on Saturday afternoons. There is strong public feeling in Sydney that the system should be abolished altogether. This arose from the fact that from the first it was applied harshly and unnecessarily. If the tow-away system had been conducted with reasonable caution, and simply with the idea of keeping the streets traffickable, by removing vehicles parked at bus stops and other strategic points, there would not have been such an insistent public outcry.
The Commonwealth now proposes to make legislative provision for the towing away of vehicles at airports. I think that power in that respect should not be taken from the proper authorities. Such measures should be applied in the most reasonable manner. It is better to err on the side of generosity than for the Department of Civil Aviation to earn the reputation of having introduced the tow-away system and other parking measures in order to derive greater revenue from the airports of Australia.
It is pleasing to note that the bill provides for an annual report to be made to the Parliament each year regarding the administration of the Air Navigation Act. The report will include a statement setting out details of prosecutions for parking infringements. I should say that that provides a very good safeguard. The day is rapidly approaching when there will not be enough space at airports for the parking of travellers’ vehicles, let alone those of persons employed at airports. - As each year goes by, the provision of adequate areas for parking becomes more difficult. The motor car has now become an adjunct of air services. It is common practice for people travelling interstate to drive to the airport, leave their cars there for a day or two, and pick them up when they return. The provision of suitable parking facilities is therefore an important and necessary function of airport authorities. I suggest to the Minister that we should now be surveying the airports of Australia with a view to ensuring the provision of sufficient parking space in the future. The Opposition does not oppose the bill.
– I am glad that Senator Armstrong, on behalf of the Opposition, has made such a constructive speech and has indicated that the Opposition does not oppose the bill. I support the measure and congratulate the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) on the imaginative approach that he has made to the problem of providing for vehicular traffic at airports. I am glad, too, that the Minister has decided to allow the Parliament to consider the detailed control that he proposes. It should be remembered that one of the air navigation regulations deals with this matter of the control of motor vehicles which travel on the roadways within airports, although perhaps that is not strictly a matter of air navigation.
I agree that traffic density at airports presents a great problem. At the West Beach airport in South Australia there is only one gate, and possibly, because of the geographical features of the area, there will never be more than one gate. Consequently, traffic control at that airport is a very important matter. It must be borne in mind that there is always great traffic congestion at airports at certain times. It is perhaps a pity that the comings and goings of aircraft cannot be better spaced. Under the system of rationalization, of which the Minister speaks so proudly in the Senate from time to time, aircraft on the major routes leave Adelaide within a few minutes of 7 o’clock in the morning and within a few minutes of 3 o’clock in the afternoon, while three or four aircraft arrive at Adelaide within a few minutes of 9 o’clock at night. There is, therefore, great traffiic congestion at those times.
It is interesting to note that, whereas once upon a time airline buses carried large numbers of people from the city terminals to the airports, nowadays the buses are virtually empty because so many people travel by private transport. About two years ago, when I was in Hong Kong, I was surprised to see motor vehicles travelling across the airport runways. The Hong Kong airport has become so congested that, from time to time, between the arrival and departure of aircraft, motor vehicles are permitted to move across the runways. We in. Australia may have to resort to a similar practice. I think it is a good thing that the Parliament should take legislative action to control traffic at airports before the position becomes too acute.
Of course, the present policy in this respect is rather ridiculous. The regulations provide for the imposition of a fine of 2s. an hour for wrongful parking. It is not difficult to appreciate that strict policing of the regulations would be very costly. The bill before the Senate deals with the subject of parking offences in what I believe to be a more realistic way. At the present time, there is no obligation on a person who has committed, or is committing, an offence under the air traffic regulations to divulge his name to an officer of the Civil
Aviation Department. I can understand that difficulty would be experienced in this respect. There will be no such difficulty when this bill becomes law.
I invite the attention of the Senate to an aspect of the measure that I do not like. I refer to the expiation of offences. It will be possible for an offender virtually to buy himself out of a prosecution. This unfortunate provision for expiation of offences has taken firm root in State and municipal law and is also, to my knowledge, to be found in certain rather quiescent portions of Commonwealth law. For instance, under the Electoral Act, if a person commits an offence by failing to vote at a compulsory election he is given the opportunity to make a contribution to the Treasury and thereby avoid prosecution. In connexion with income tax legislation, the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation in the various States have power to impose very heavy fines, as it were, for taxation offences. In some cases, the fines or penalties that the deputy commissioners may inflict amount to thousands of pounds. As we know, for certain offences the penalty is added to the tax. Consequently, such matters do not go before the courts. Senior civil servants - no doubt proper safeguards are provided - actually may fix the penalties.
The penalty provided for in the bill thai we are considering has been fixed at £2. As Senator Armstrong has pointed out, in the city of Sydney the expiation penalty is to be £1. Yet out at the airport it will be £2. In Adelaide, I believe, the penalty is 10s., but under this bill it will be £2 if the offence is committed on the airport. I think the Minister will run into trouble over the penalty as fixed in this bill. He should consider this matter carefully. I am obliged to Senator Armstrong for inviting the attention of the Senate to this matter, and I should like to hear the Minister’s comments on Senator Armstrong’s remarks.
The penalties provided in the bill for parking offences are a departure in Commonwealth law. In his second-reading speech the Minister referred to the merits of the proposed new procedures to be taken for parking infringements, but T do not think that he can claim much merit in this regard. Senator Armstrong claimed that the new proposals could be regarded as a way of obtaining revenue for the Department of Civil Aviation. In his speech the Minister laid great stress on the cost of prosecutions. In South Australia, the cost of prosecutions need not be high. No doubt the Minister is thinking of the case in which the inspector who detected the parking offence must absent himself from his ordinary duties and must wait outside the court ready to give evidence. If the prosecution is successful the inspector will get witnesses expenses, which will go back into revenue, and the department will thereby recover some, but not sufficient, of the cost of the prosecution. But I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that in South Australia, and probably in a number of other States, if a defendant notifies in sufficient time that he proposes to plead guilty, the attendance of witnesses at court is not necessary. If that course were adopted in respect of parking offences under Commonwealth law I feel sure that the cost of prosecutions would be reduced. In many cases I think it is better for the law to take its course, and for a magistrate to consider the facts as presented to him. A magistrate is the right person to inflict penalties. I do not like the idea of allowing a person to pay a fine of £2 without going before a court. The Minister may reply that a person accused of committing a parking offence may go before a court if he wishes, but I regret that this system of fines without court action has been introduced.
I am somewhat concerned at the provision in the bill whereby persons committing a more serious offence or a repeated offence will not be given an opportunity to expiate their offence by paying a fine of £2. Who decides what is a more serious offence? Who decides what is a repeated offence? Is a second offence a repeated offence or would it be necessary to commit, say, four offences before the offence became a repeated offence? A Commonwealth civil servant - possibly a not very senior civil servant in the hierarchy of the Department of Civil Aviation - will decide whether a person who has parked his car for too long may expiate his offence by the immediate payment of a fine or whether he must go before a court. I invite the Minister to consider those aspects which, on my examination of the bill, I feel need further explanation.
I compliment the Minister on preserving State traffic laws within the confines of the airport enclosure. That is an excellent idea because the people who drive in and out of airports are people who reside, in the main, within the particular State in which the airport is situated. In 99 per cent, of cases they will be people possessing driving licences issued by that particular State and they will be aware of the traffic laws of that State. It is right and proper that the traffic laws of the State should apply on Commonwealth property such as airports. Also, it is vitally important that the State law of negligence should apply. In a collision within the compound of an airport great damage to life, limb and vehicle could result. Damages claims amounting to £20,000 or more could follow. I am glad that the Minister has preserved intact the .State law, because, as honorable senators will appreciate, the breaking of a State law could be the foundation of a claim for damages arising out of negligence. In this regard the Minister has acted wisely.
I will not detain the Senate any longer. I commend the Minister for introducing the bill. I like the provision that offences are no longer to be dealt with under regulations but under legislation. I congratulate the Minister on introducing a detailed bill rather than a short bill foreshadowing regulations to be presented at a later date through his department. I support the bill.
– It is gratifying to honorable senators to find in this bill that offences will be dealt under legislation and not under regulations. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) should be commended on taking this step to deal with the traffic problem at public airports. We must face the fact that the traffic problem at airports is becoming a major one and will probably be aggravated as the years go by. As the living standards of the Australian people improve, and as the popularity of air travel increases, the present areas allocated for the parking of cars will become too small. I can remember that ten years ago at Perth airport one could count on the fingers of one hand the number of cars at the airport in the evenings. Now, there are literally dozens of cars at the airport in the evenings and sometimes the number would run into hundreds. This indicates, of course, that air transport has increased in popularity and also that many people who once could not afford motor cars are now using them. That being so, I can understand the Minister’s decision to introduce this legislation.
I was interested in Senator Laught’s remarks concerning the owner-onus problem - it is not a new one, of course - in relation to traffic offences. The question of payment by expiation, as he called it, probably has been debated in every parliament in Australia. Senator Laught has a lot of followers in holding that this process of fulfilling the demands of the law is not desirable. Many people, including Senator Laught, would like to see a return to the old process of law whereby an offender is charged forthwith. A summons is served on him personally and subsequently he is called upon to face a justice and is either acquitted or convicted. Although we have used that process for some years, it has not always been the process applied in trying a person accused of a simple offence. The process was far more complicated 100 years ago. In those days, there was the prospect of a person charged with a simple offence being personally taken before justices and charged, then remanded, and subsequently tried in a very long-winded fashion. The procedure now takes only two or three hours. The processes have been changed because of modern, practical problems associated with simple offences. Nowadays, a person charged with an ordinary simple offence is not obliged to attend personally either to be charged or to face trial. He can merely write on his summons a note to the effect that he pleads guilty and send it to the magistrate, and in due course he is advised that he has been fined. That is a serious departure from the old idea of trying a person for a simple offence.
I suggest to Senator Laught that this procedure is merely a modification of the existing practice, just as the existing practice was a modification of the old practice. There are two points to bear in mind. First of all, because of the practical difficulties associated with trying large numbers of simple offences - the cases are hardly ever defended- the law says that the person who is apparently guilty of the offence is deemed to be guilty of the offence. That proposition is not new in law. The thrusting of the onus of proof upon a defendant is not new. Normally, the onus of proof rests on the Crown, but in many different types of case - hundreds, in fact - the onus of proof does not rest on the Crown. I can readily bring one to mind. In prosecutions under the health acts, invariably the onus of proof is not on the Crown, but on the individual. When a man is charged with selling milk not of the required standard and quality, the onus is thrust on him to prove that he was not selling such milk. The principle has been adopted in legislation of this sort, under which the person who is apparently the owner of a car which has been left standing for too long is deemed to be guilty of the offence until the contrary is proved. That is nothing new in law.
The application of this principle to people who break the law by leaving their cars too long in the streets has apparently brought this aspect of criminal practice to the minds - and the pockets - of many thousands of people who otherwise would be quite ignorant of it. In certain cases, due to practical difficulties associated with prosecutions, it has always been a justifiable principle to transpose the onus, as is done in this bill. We must always remember, of course, that both the prosecution and the party being charged have a right to demand that the very long-winded normal processes of law shall take place. The accused can demand the issue of a summons and he can also demand to go before a magistrate. That right is not being taken from him, nor is the right being taken from the authority preferring the charge to use the normal processes of law and demand that the accused be taken before a justice. To that extent, the law is not being altered.
As we have not altered fundamentally a process of law, but have merely, as it were, speeded it up, and as we have preserved the right of the individual to go before a court, I do not think that in respect of these cases it can be argued that the owner-onus provisions are objectionable. In fact, I would think that a very large majority of people who are guilty of these offences are quite happy about paying the penalty without having to bear the unnecessary expense of a police court hearing. This is a factor that we must take into consideration when deciding whether the objection to this process is valid. 1 feel that as there is no great departure from principle and from legal practice, much weight should be given to the present provisions of the bill. Therefore, I disagree with my learned friend, Senator Laught, who raised this objection. I feel that we are only bringing ourselves into line with the ordinary legal practices, which are very carefully guarded by the Attorney-General’s department in the various States. If any party feels that he will be prejudiced in any respect, he can always resort to the older practice of law and have a full trial. He has that protection. If that protection were not retained, I would object to the new procedure, but it is of the essence of this legislation that that protection should be preserved. For that reason, I support the bill.
– in reply - I express the gratification of the Government for the reception that has been accorded to this bill by all members of the Senate. I am particularly grateful to my colleague, Senator Vincent, who has relieved me of a task which, for me, would have been one of some consequence - that of answering the portion of Senator Laught’s remarks relating to the serving of parking infringement notices and the procedure which flows therefrom. The practical aspect of this, which is of some interest and importance, is that while the practice is employed almost universally now in large centres of population where traffic is dense, in some cities of Australia the practice is only quite new. I am familiar with what has occurred in my own State of Western Australia. Some apprehension was expressed when this practice was introduced, but I am interested to be informed that of the infringement notices served for parking offences in the city of Perth no less than 95 per cent, of the people affected prefer to take advantage of the opportunity to expiate their offences by the payment of a fine direct to an office rather than appear in court.
I have been further informed that the figures for Melbourne are more substantial than that. Of the offenders so notified, over 97 per cent, pay their fines to an office rather than appear in court. I think that in all the circumstances, apart from the important legal aspects of this matter, those figures do, in fact, make out a very strong case for this being an administrative procedure which on the one hand is convenient for those who have the task of administering traffic control, and on the other hand is one that is readily - almost eagerly - availed of by the offenders themselves.
I was delighted that Senator Laught referred to the length of this bill and commented on the fact that a bill of this nature will not require the making of a large number of regulations because so much of the substance of the law is contained in the bill itself. I was delighted to have that comment because I recollect that during the preparation of this measure both my officers and myself - more particularly my officers - waded through pages and pages of State traffic regulations which were attached to acts of the shortest possible character. Naturally I appreciate the fact that our desire to bring into the main legislation all these points of substance rather than put them into regulations has not passed unnoticed.
Senator Armstrong commented on the amount of the fine to be inflicted and said that in the City of Sydney the fine was £1. This bill provides for a fine of £2 for parking offences. A number of things were taken into consideration when the measure was being framed. First, we considered that if we were to follow the very desirable practice of providing for a fine in the act rather than in a regulation - I do not think there will be any criticism on that score - it must be recognized that those charged with administering the matter will lose a certain amount of flexibility by virtue of the fact that the provision is contained in the act. If it is in the act it cannot be altered except by another parliamentary enactment, whereas a regulation can be amended in a quicker way than that. Another factor was kept in mind. In Melbourne, for example, as distinct from Sydney, fines for parking offences have ranged from £1 to £3. But more particularly we were impressed by the fact that the average fines imposed by courts range between £3 and £5. The courts obviously, and 1 suggest quite understandably, take the view that a parking offence committed on an airport was likely to have, in some cases at any rate, rather more serious consequences than an infringement of parking in a city or suburban street. Having regard to those factors it was considered that a £2 fine was an equitable and appropriate fine.
Senator Armstrong referred to the provision in the bill of a power to tow away. That power was transferred from the regulations. It has been there since 1954. I think it has always been administered in a most reasonable way because it has not come to my notice ministerially in the last four years that there has been any abuse of this authority by any of my officers. The provision in the bill is different from the tow-away provision in the New South Wales Traffic Act inasmuch as there is no fee charged for the tow-away service, and there is no fee charged for obtaining the release of the vehicle from the area to which it has been towed away. Incidentally, in this measure provision is made for the vehicles to be towed away to an area within the airport; they are not moved any great distance.
– Supposing an officer puts a sticker on the vehicle, would not the owner have to pay a £2 fine?
– Yes, there is provision in the bill for that to be done if a parking infringement occurs.
– The vehicle would not be towed away if it was parked in a proper place?
– Certainly not; the parking would have to be an infringement of the law. All in all, in view of the fact that the power has existed in regulations since 1954, and in view of the fact that there has not come to my notice, at any rate, any complaint as to the manner in which the regulation has been carried out, it can be assumed that this tow-away provision will continue to be administered with sympathy and reasonableness. 1 have referred to Senator Vincent’s remarks about the expiation of the offence by payment to a specified address of the amount of the fine. Senator Laught raised the query as to who should make the decision as to who was a more constant offender in cases where the opportunity was not to be given for payment of the fine to a specified address, but where the offender was to be taken to court on summons. We considered that point, and having regard to all the points which Senator Laught raised, particularly that the decision might devolve upon a junior officer, it was decided, as provided in clause 16 (1) of the bill, that no charge of this nature shall be made without the approval of the Director-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- It is provided in clause 6 that areas and positions in which, and days and hours during which, persons are to be permitted to park vehicles, and the fees - subject to statutory limit - are matters for determination by the Director-General. I join with those who applaud the spirit that elevates these laws from the low level of regulation to that of statute, but it must not escape our notice that giving the DirectorGeneral power by statute to determine these matters seems to be giving the DirectorGeneral final power that may not be subject to control by either House of the Parliament.
Will the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), tell us whether such a determination by the Director-General can be disallowed by either House or whether there is any provision for bringing it to the notice of the Parliament? As we know, either House may disallow a regulation. 1 raise this point because it has been my experience that, when an official has power to allocate areas for parking, officials are very special people in the eyes of the authority and there is constant encroachment by officials upon the areas set aside for the public. I think that members of the public are entitled to expect that we shall ensure for them a fair share of the hours and places for parking. I realize that this is not an important matter. 1 hope that it will not be thought that in referring to it T am detracting in any way from the merits of the bill, but it is a matter on which T should appreciate information.
– We hope and indeed expect that, largely as a result of this legislation, it will be possible to solve the problem to which Senator Wright referred, namely, that it sometimes occurs that rather too much space is made available for vehicles of officials and rather too little for those of the public. Generally, the management and administration of airports are matters in which the Department of Civil Aviation, active department though it is, is learning as it goes along. 1 do not think that, except in isolated cases, there is room for real complaint.
In any event, the honorable senator may be assured that this matter will be closely watched. It is important that the Department of Civil Aviation does not create foi itself a reputation for being the kind of government department that thinks first of officials and secondly of those members of the public who are, in effect, its customers. It will be noted that in clause 6 (2.) a limit of 2s. an hour is placed upon the parking fee that the Director-General may determine. That amount has been chosen because it is the amount now charged. Any increase of that amount would need an amendment that could be disallowed by either House of the Parliament.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to enable the citizen to sue the Commonwealth of Australia in contract or in tort not merely in the High Court or in the Supreme Court of a State or Territory, as is now the position, but also in any other State or territorial court of competent jurisdiction.
The Commonwealth is rarely sued for sums of money which would ordinarily be recoverable in the minor courts of a State. But there are rare occasions when a matter in dispute cannot be resolved by negotiation, as is the Commonwealth’s general endeavour, but has to be resolved by a court. I think it is now time to provide for the Commonwealth to be sued in a court which, having regard to the amount in issue, is appropriate instead of compelling a subject to sue in a superior court.
Ordinarily, for the purposes of government, the Crown acts through its servants. Originally, no action lay against the Crown at the suit of a subject in respect of a wrongful act or omission of a Crown servant. Over the years, however, the Crown has come to have less immunity.
Before federation, each of the six Australian colonies had provided a statutory procedure for bringing actions against their governments. Some of the colonies allowed suits in tort as well as in contract but others did not. For the most part actions had to be brought in the superior court of the colony.
In 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia came into being. In 1903, Parliament made the Commonwealth directly liable to be sued in both contract and tort in section 56 of the Judiciary Act passed that year. At the time, the Commonwealth could rightly claim to have set an example in overcoming obstacles in the path of a subject seeking redress against the Crown. Nor was the Commonwealth out of step with the majority of States in limiting to the superior courts jurisdiction to hear cases against it.
However, the limitation as to courts, which was reasonable enough in 1903, is, in the view of the Government, no longer in keeping with modern thought and practice and it is appropriate now to expose the Commonwealth Government or, strictly speaking, the Commonwealth, to suit in appropriate courts of competent jurisdiction. This will avoid the possibility of a citizen being put to incommensurate expense in having to pursue a small claim in a superior court or, indeed, refraining from suit because of the cost involved in suing in a superior court, where compromise has not been possible. It will also mean that a superior court will not be occupied with a minor matter when time is badly needed for the trial of more substantial issues.
The task of amending section 56 of the Judiciary Act to give effect to the Government’s decision has proved to be no simple matter. When the basis of jurisdiction of the minor courts throughout Australia was reviewed, several difficulties cropped up. Usually, jurisdiction is defined in terms of the place where the cause of action arose. At the same time, most inferior courts in Australia also have competence on the basis of the place where the defendant resides or carries on business.
So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, real difficulty arises where jurisdiction rests in whole or in part on the place where the defendant resides or carries on business. In one sense, the Commonwealth may be thought to be ubiquitous - to reside everywhere - but another view is that the Commonwealth does not have a place of residence and strictly does not carry on business as private individuals or companies do.
A person wishing to sue the Commonwealth in contract or in tort should not, we feel, be deprived of a forum because the Commonwealth is not to be regarded as a resident of a particular place. On the other hand. it does not seem right that the Commonwealth should be exposed to suit in some out of the way place simply because it should be regarded as residing or perhaps carying on business everywhere. After a good deal of consideration, the Government has decided that the best course of action, in these circumstances, is to treat the Commonwealth as a resident of the capital city of a State, or in the case of a Territory, of the principal city or town of a territory. Thus the plaintiff who wishes to invoke the jurisdiction of a State court on the ground of residence of the defendant will bring his suit in the appropriate court of the capital city of the State. In return he has the assurance that the Commonwealth will be treated as a resident of that city. I wish to make it clear that what I am saying relates only to the case of a litigant who seeks to sue in a court which, in the circumstances of the case, has no jurisdiction except that based on the defendant’s place of residence. Usually, of course, a court hearing an action against the Commonwealth will have jurisdiction on other grounds, as for example, jurisdiction based on the place where the claim arose. Thus a litigant need not resort to the court of a capital city if there is some more convenient court which has jurisdiction on other grounds.
The provision needed to give effect to the Government’s decision is more complicated than it would have wished, but this is not a large price to pay in the interests of achieving justice as between the parties. The amendment to section 56 is contained in clause 4 of the bill. Sub-section (1.) entitles a subject to bring his action in any competent inferior court of a State or Territory in which the claim arose as an alternative to the High Court or the Supreme Court of the State or Territory in which the claim arose. Paragraph (a) of subsection (2.) then deals with the question of jurisdiction insofar, and only insofar, as it is based on the place of residence of the defendant. It takes an inferior court exercising jurisdiction in a capital city of a State or the principal or only city or town of a Territory. It says in effect that if the court would have jurisdiction in relation to the particular claim against the Commonwealth if the Commonwealth could be regarded as a resident within its jurisdiction, then the Commonwealth is to be treated as such a resident. The court on that footing would be competent to entertain the suit. The court may, of course, have jurisdiction on other grounds, but the section is concerned to deal only with the problem of residence.
Paragraph (b) contains the words of limitation. It provides that no other inferior court of a State or Territory is competent insofar as its competence depends on the place where the Commonwealth resides or carries on business. The two paragraphs fa) and b) proposed to be inserted as part of sub-section (2.) of section 56 by clause 4 of the bill amount in substance to saying that the Commonwealth is for relevant purposes to be regarded as having a residence in a capital city or principal town as the case may be but that it should not be treated as having residence elsewhere. Honorable senators will know that section 64 of the Judiciary Act stands untouched by this amendment. It provides that in suits against the Commonwealth, wherever brought, the matter will be adjudicated upon and the rights and the remedies determined in the same manner as in a suit between subject and subject. I think this is a very notable reform, and I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
State Grant (Special Assistance to South Australia) Bill 1960.
Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Bill 1960.
Debate resumed (vide page 1022).
– Although this measure was introduced into- the Senate only earlier to-day, the Opposition is prepared to proceed at once with the debate. The title of the bill is-
A bill for an Act to prohibit the interception of telephonic communications except where specially authorized in the interests of the security of the Commonwealth. 1 make two comments on that. The first is that this is not the first time that interception of telephonic communications has been prohibited in Australia. This is not the initiation of that principle. The Telephone Regulations from 1935 have contained a provision, in regulation 16a, that any person who, without the authority of the department, indulges in anything of the nature of telephone tapping or the recording of conversations by means of telephone tapping, commits an offence. A penalty of £25 is provided for that offence. I confess that this is a prohibition in a very weak form. It does imply that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is free to authorize telephone tapping if it so wishes.
– On what terms is the department entitled to authorize it?
– Regulation 16a provides that any person who, without the authority of the department, proof whereof shall lie upon him, authorizes, permits or suffers any other person directly or indirectly in connexion with any telephoneline or apparatus to use a telephone for thepurpose of listening to or recording any conversation, signal, or any form of electrical communication passing or being received over any telephone line, or of interrupting any telephone line, commitsan offence. I have mentioned only one of the particular heads of offences that are prescribed by this regulation. At all events, there was a prohibition from 1935. That regulation was amended and strengthened by this Government in 1950. I need not particularize the special amendments.
The second comment I want to make upon the title is that the bill goes further than its title indicates, because although there is in the bill a general prohibition of the interception of telephonic communications, there are two exceptions, one in favour of Post Office officials in the course of their duty connected with the installing and the operating of the telephone service itself, and the second relating to the issue of a warrant for the benefit of the security of the nation. When one looks at the bill one finds an adequate enough prohibition imposed in clause 4. The rest of the bill is devoted to authorizing telephone tapping, as we generally call it in this country, subject to the conditions that are specified in the bill. To refer to the procedure in more precise terms, probably the primary function of the bill as conceived and presented may be described as spying on telephone conversations. That is really what it is.
Having regard to what we have been told by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) - that telephone tapping has gone on from 1949 to the present time - we can only conclude, looking at the prohibition in Telephone Regulation 16a, that the power of the security service must have been such as to over-ride the Postal Department and require that department to co-operate. That would appear to be the position. I gather that the tapping is not done by postal officials. They would, no doubt, make the connexions, but an answer given by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in the Parliament yesterday indicated that the listening and recording are carried out by officers of the security service.
Of course, spying on telephone conversations is only one aspect of the much wider question of interception of communications at the instance of the executive government. We have before us a report by the committee of Privy Councillors appointed in 1957 to produce a report for the British Parliament. The report was presented by the Prime Minister in October, 1957. The three Privy Councillors were Sir Norman Birkett, Lord Monckton and Mr. Gordon Walker, a Labour member of the House of Commons. They made a most comprehensive report. They addressed themselves, first, to the origin of this power exercised by the executive to intercept communications, and made a most interesting survey. I think it is important, in order to get the question of telephone tapping into perspective, to see how the power came to be claimed by an executive to intercept messages, telegrams and telephone conversations. I am referring now to paragraph 31 on page 12 of the report of the Privy Councillors -
The Ordinance of 1657-
That is an ordinance which set up the Post Office - recited in the Preamble that one of the advantages of erecting and settling one General Post Office was that it “ was the best means to discover and prevent many dangerous and wicked designs which have been and are daily contrived against the peace and welfare of the Commonwealth, the intelligence whereof cannot well be communicated but by letter of script “.
There we have the extraordinary acknowledgment that one of the reasons for the establishment of the Post Office was to enable the executive government to spy upon communications between people. It is given as one of the good reasons for the establishment of the Post Office. The post developed as an agency of the King with what were known as the posts, and presently those who operated it began to carry private letters and usually to keep the fees they got for doing so for their own purposes. It was not until the ordinance of 1657 that the Post Office was established, with the opportunity for spying prescribed as one of the purposes of its establishment. In paragraph 9 on page 7 of the Privy Councillors’ report we find the following: -
The first public reference to the warrant of the Secretary of State authorizing the opening of letters is in the proclamation of 25th May, 1663, which forbade the opening of any letters or packets by anybody except by the immediate warrant of the principal Secretary of State. But long before this date the practice of opening letters had been followed.
The various Post Office statutes down recent centuries have never conferred the specific power upon the executive to intercept letters, telegrams or other matter passing through the Post Office, but those various statutes, from the way they are drawn, all recognize the right of the executive, or the principal officer of State, to intercept by the issue of his warrants any communications in any case in which he so directs.
Let me now come to the report of the Privy Councillors on the subject of communications. I am referring now to page 13, and I propose to paraphrase paragraphs 40 and 41. Until the year 1937 the United Kingdom Post Office acted on the view that as the owner and operator of the telephone system it had the right to intercept conversations if it thought fit. These interceptions were made directly for the security service in Great Britain, for the police authorities and for the DirectorGeneral of the Post Office when he thought they should be made. But in 1937 the Home Secretary reviewed the whole practice and provided that in and after that year there should be no telephone interception except on a warrant of the Secretary of State. So that for the first time in Great Britain it was provided that telephone interceptions could be made only on the authority of a warrant issued by the Secretary of State.
– Something like the provision in the bill before us.
– Something like it, but, let me say to the honorable senator, with vital differences, even in the safeguards. I do not want to go into that at the moment. I shall refer to it in detail presently.
I have recounted this history to show that the executive’s claim to authority to intercept communications of any kind really reaches back into the dark ages. No one can find the origin of the power. In other words, it was a power assumed by the executive at a time when kings were kings and subjects were really subject, and when the rights of the individual apparently received rather scant consideration.
– Surely that was before the time of the telephone.
– I was speaking of communications, and the principle is exactly the same, whether you refer to the interception of letters, telegrams or telephone conversations. They are all interceptions of communications, and the same principle applies to the lot.
I conclude what I have to say at this stage upon the practice in England by saying that interception is possible only on a warrant from the Secretary of State. It can be granted in favour of the police for the protection of the community against crime, in favour of the customs and excise authorities for the protection of the country’s revenues, or, finally, it can be granted in favour of the British security service under strictly defined conditions, to which 1 promised Senator Vincent just now I would advert in due course.
The first point I want to make is that there is no proper comparison between the United Kingdom and Australia in this matter of security and security needs. The Privy Councillors, to whose report I have adverted, recommended a continuance of phone tapping for the three authorities I have mentioned, but there was one dissentient. Mr. Gordon Walker dissented and recommended the virtual extinction of the practice in favour of the police and of the customs and excise authorities, and indicated that the security service should be far more restricted in the matter of telephone tapping than his fellow councillors proposed.
I submit to the Senate that, for a number of reasons, Australia’s position is very different from that of the United Kingdom. That country is right in the cockpit of Europe, one of the great turbulence centres of the world. I suggest that it has far more security risks and State secrets than Australia has. There is scarcely an aspect of our defence, whether it be the strength of our armed forces, their location, or the types of defence equipment, that has not been the subject of public debate in the Parliament and in the press. The location of our various defence works is known and discussed, and so too is the strength of our armed forces and even the type of equipment that is used. All those matters are freely discussed in this country. 1 suggest that they are discussed with less freedom in the United Kingdom.
The one great exception in Australia is, of course, the Woomera rocket range. That is in a special position, and I digress slightly for a moment to point out to the Senate that that establishment was specially protected in 1947 by the Labour Government of the day, when there was a threat to boycott work at Woomera. The Senate may recall that the Labour government introduced the Approved Defence Projects Act which provided for a maximum penalty of £5,000 or two years imprisonment, or both, for any boycott or any attempted boycott, or any kind of essay at all to interfere with the promotion of that work. The act spilled over to afford the same protection and impose the same penalties in respect of any other defence work deemed to be an approved defence project. It is not within my knowledge that that protection has been extended to any defence project other than Woomera. Even Woomera, where there are secrets, and where protection is necessary from the viewpoint of security, is in a highly specialized position. It is located far from the ordinary centres of population.
– Does that prevent a spy from trying to obtain secret information?
– No, but it enables counter-espionage to take place very much more easily. I suggest that that is one of the factors that distinguishes Australia from the United Kingdom. I am not denying the need for security in this country when I say that. In a mad world, in which people are continually spying on each other, we regard security as a very unpleasant necessity. We recognize the need to provide security for a place like Woomera, and I have indicated just how far the Labour Government was prepared to go in assuring that it was not interfered with.
Australians are brought up in a different tradition from that of the people of the United Kingdom. We lack their veneration for tradition and antiquity. We have our own traditions. I should say that Australians, with quite a different outlook, would never tolerate telephone tapping, at the instance of an executive government, if they were aware of its implications. I think they would have no appreciation of the divine right of kings principle upon which, apparently, executive government has rested, its origins being lost in antiquity.
– Who in Great Britain to-day believes that? The Queen does not.
– I am afraid I do not know all the people in Great Britain, but I am prepared to express a view upon the outlook of the people of Australia. 1 repeat what I said previously: That they would not tolerate, as has been tolerated in Great Britain all these years, the continuance of a practice which has rested purely on executive act and which was not even put on any kind of a firm basis until 1937.
It is amazing that the people of Great Britain have acquiesced in that type of thing down all the centuries. The mere fact that they have done so shows the danger of initiating practices of this kind, because people become used to the thought; it becomes part of their daily lives, and before they know where they are, telephone tapping is an accepted establishment in their midst. There was a comment in an editorial in the Sydney “ Sun “ newspaper on 28th March last in relation to this bill from which I propose to quote two brief extracts, with qualified approval. The first extract is as follows: -
All such prying systems start in this modest fashion. Invariably they end by converting the country which tries them into an official listening gallery. Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini filled their gaols by the use of this weapon and they also, they said, were actuated by a desire to protect national security. All finally developed it into a monstrous system of thought-control from which the peoples of the afflicted countries are still not entirely free.
The second extract reads -
Granting anyone the right to eavesdrop is to grant a power which becomes uncontrollable through use and repetition.
I would not agree with the word “ uncontrollable “. I should be prepared to substitute “ acceptable and readily extended “. Presently,,! shall show the Senate how that power has been accepted and extended in a country other than our own.
Subject to all the conditions that are laid down, in the final analysis the decision whether or not a telephone will be tapped will rest with the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. We may have to-day an
Attorney-General who is acutely conscious of the importance of preserving civil and personal liberties, and the very next day we may have an Attorney-General whose prime motive is security at all costs.
– Have we had one in Australia?
– I am just putting forward that thought.
– Well, who should control the matter of interception?
– If the honorable senator will let me develop my theme he will know-all that I have in mind by the time I have concluded. In this country we have a democratic form of government, but we are much nearer a dictatorship than most people think. We have a Prime Minister who selects his own Ministers - every one of them - unlike the procedure that is followed by the Australian Labour Party, whereby the Prime Minister is given his Ministers by all his colleagues, his duty being to allocate portfolios amongst them. The anti-Labour parties have a system under which the Prime Minister not only appoints Ministers but, without scruple, removes Ministers the moment they displease him. Despite the form of democratic government that we have in this country, under the present parties in office we are well on the way to a one-man government.
Under this bill, one man - the AttorneyGeneral - will confer with one other man - the Director-General of Security - and determine whose telephones may be tapped, subject to the conditions of the bill, all of which I cannot enumerate just now. That will enable the telephone conversations of anybody in this country, from the highest person to the lowest, to be intercepted. Those are thoughts that we should have in mind. I suggest that the matters I have mentioned give us occasion to think.
I recall the introduction of the very contentious Communist Party Dissolution Bill in 1950, whereby the Attorney-General of Australia at that time sought power to declare an individual a Communist, with certain grave effects on his employment, future and status. He was offered the opportunity of going to a court in the matter only provided that he was prepared to go into the box and submit to crossexamination. That was offered in the name of security, as this bill, with its lack of safeguards, is offered to the Parliament to-day. What happened? After the High Court rejected the bill - every line and every word of it - the matter went to the people by way of referendum and the people smelled in that legislation the beginnings of the police State. The people had the very good sense to reject the legislation. I venture to say that if the people of Australia could to-day have an opportunity to express their views on this bill they would reject it also.
I found some profit in referring to an article written by a person named G. Dobry 1 do not know who he is. His title, &c, is not set out, but he has written an article entitled “ Wire-tapping and Eavesdropping: A Comparative Survey “. The article appears in the Journal of the International Commission of Jurists, Volume 1, No. 2, dated Spring-Summer, 1958. That is the only date that I can see on the publication. From the article it appears plain that what began in America as an attempt to snare gangsters soon spilled over in to a grave scandal. The article states that law enforcement officers in the State of New York were intercepting telephone conversations not in the course of their duty, but so that they might use what they heard for purposes of extortion. At page 324 the article states - . . evidence of entirely unauthorized wiretapping by law enforcement officers, i.e., even without the formal authorization from the Court under Section 813a, especially in the “plain clothes divisions “ of the police. Furthermore, the oral evidence of Mr. Julius Helfland, formerly Assistant District Attorney of King’s County, revealed “ that large numbers of plain clothes policemen were installing wire-taps at will, sometimes with Court orders, fraudulently obtained, and more often with no orders at all . . . These illegal taps were used not for law enforcement, but for criminal purposes such as extortion “. 1 am not suggesting for a moment that anything of that nature will happen in this country. I merely indicate how far telephone tapping may go in a civilized country like the United States, and in a highly developed state like the State of New York. In addition, the article indicates that there are organizations of professional telephone tappers. One person in America was convicted in J 956 on sixteen counts of telephone tapping. It was discovered that he had been tapping the telephones of the chairman of the Pepsi-Cola Corporation. It was also discovered that the telephones of the big chemical concerns, such as Bristol-Meyers, had been tapped. The person involved had received a fee of 60,000 dollars for his services from an individual client. I understand that the physical act of tapping wires in the United States, or in New York at all events, is very much easier than it would be in this country or in the United Kingdom. But the article that I have just quoted illustrates the kind of thing that can happen once people accept telephone tapping as a normal incident of their daily lives.
– Do you say that this is happening in the United Kingdom?
– No, at the moment I am talking about the United States.
– You said that this was happening in the United Kingdom.
– No, I have not said that and I do not say it. One cannot read of what takes place in America without being disturbed, even though it is provided that a court order must be obtained in that country before telephone interception may take place. However, the provision for obtaining a court order is often ignored. To an extent, the idea of telephone tapping must be accepted by the people before it can be done at all. As I understand the position, the federal law in America prohibits the tapping of telephones and the disclosing of information. Apparently, in America, the security organization has the right to tap telephones, but does not have the right to use or disclose what it picks up. In other words, anything that it may hear cannot be tendered as evidence in a court.
I have referred to what takes place in a civilized country like America, not with any intention to exaggerate the position, but in an endeavour to point out to honorable senators just how these things can develop. The article from which I have quoted deals also with wire tapping in other countries. I did not find in that article reference to one country where the preliminary right to authorize telephone tapping is not vested in a court. In quite a number of countries a court order is required before telephone tapping may take place. This is so in Denmark and Sweden, which are countries well within the danger zone of the Communist bloc. In Norway, which is in what might be described as the firing line, no power exists to tap telephones. Norway has not found it necessary to join the stream of countries which have entered the mad race of espionage and counter-espionage.
Now let me refer in some detail to what the bill proposes. I agree that the early part of the bill imposes a complete prohibition on interception and provides for a fine of £500 or imprisonment for two years for infringements of the law. The Opposition does not object to that provision. Nor would the Opposition object to the exception in favour of officers of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs insofar as telephone interception is essential in their formal work of installing and maintaining a telephone service. The Opposition would not object to interception in the relatively rare case where a complaint is made by a subscriber that somebody is calling his number and making offensive or indecent remarks to the people who answer the telephone. That kind of action originates at the instance of a subscriber, and the action that is taken is intended for the protection of the subscriber against some pervert or some misguided person.
Then we come to the nub of the bill, which gives power to issue a warrant to intercept telephone conversations. The warrant is to be issued by the AttorneyGeneral before any telephone tapping may take place. Under the bill the AttorneyGeneral must have a request, which in the first instance can be oral, but which must eventually be made in writing. The request must be made in writing as soon as possible after the oral request has been made. The Attorney-General eventually must have a request in writing from the Director-General of Security. That request need not be supported by a sworn statement. It can be merely a request setting out the things that are required to be set out under the bill. The bill provides that upon receipt of a request for a warrant in respect of a particular telephone service, the AttorneyGeneral may issue such warrant if he is satisfied that the telephone in question is being used for purposes that are prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth or that it is likely to be used or is being used by a person engaged in subversive activities or reasonably suspected by the DirectorGeneral of Security to be so engaged or of being likely to engage in such activities.
The provisions of this bill may impinge harshly on the civil liberties of people. The telephone tapping that may be authorized could affect conversations not connected with subversion at all. It is unthinkable that a warrant should be issued in those circumstances on an unsworn statement, setting out suspicions and, perhaps, the grounds for those suspicions. Surely if the Government were concerned about civil liberties it would have made sure that a request for a warrant was made on oath.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I had made an approach to the provisions of the bill. The Government claims that it has provided adequate safeguards in the measure to protect the civil liberties of the people of Australia. The Opposition, on the other hand, is gravely concerned at the absence of very obvious and very important safeguards. I have made the point, that a matter of such major importance as a request for a warrant to intercept telephone conversations there should be an affidavit by the DirectorGeneral of Security. The request should not be made on a mere application form, even if it complies with whatever conditions are laid down in this bill.
I come now to a most important omission. The Government acknowledged that it had before it the report made in 1957 by the Privy Councillors on the United Kingdom security system. One of the requirements that the Home Office in the United Kingdom insists upon, before a warrant is issued, is that there shall be a major subversive or espionage activity that is likely to injure the national interest. I emphasize the word “ major “. That means that a warrant may not be invoked for any matter of minor consequence. The authorities in the United Kingdom - which has far greater security risks than we have - will not issue a warrant unless that action can be justified by the existence of a major subversive or espionage activity that is likely to injure the national interest. Why, with that example before it. does this Government discard that welltried test? It was available to the Government and it might well have been written into this bill. The only conclusion the Opposition can come to is that this power is sought not only for matters that are major but also for matters that are minor - that it is sought for matters in connexion with which the United Kingdom Government would not issue a warrant.
The second material point that has to be considered before the security service in the United Kingdom can get a warrant to intercept telephone messages is this -
Normal methods of investigation must have been tried and failed, or must, from the nature of things, be unlikely to succeed if tried.
In a matter that can so gravely affect the privacy of the individual, and with the example of the practice in the United Kingdom before it, why did not the Government write that in as a condition for the issue of a warrant to permit the tapping of a telephone in this country? Does anybody argue that our position is graver than that of the United Kingdom?
– From what paragraph of the report is the honorable senator quoting?
– I am quoting from paragraph 64, which deals with police and customs. Paragraph 68 states -
The same provision applies to the Security Service as to the Customs and Police about the failure of normal means of detection.
So in every case, whether for the police about crime, for the customs and excise authorities about revenue, or for the security service, it has to be established beyond doubt, first, that there is a major espionage or subversive activity, and secondly, that all other means have been tried, or it must be made clear that, if tried, they could not succeed. If the Government is concerned about the civil liberties of the people of Australia, why were not those fundamental safeguards written into this bill? There must be a reason why, with those examples before it, the Government rejected them.
There are other aspects of the matter that disturb us appreciably. There is the question of the review of the warrants that are outstanding. The Home Office of the United Kingdom reviews every warrant at least quarterly. The recommendation of the Privy Councillors, in paragraph 74 of their report, is this -
We therefore recommend that there should be a regular review not less than once a month both by the Home Office and by every authority that is granted a warrant to intercept. This review should be not only of the numbers of warrants outstanding, but of each particular warrant.
Where in this bill is there the slightest provision for a review by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of any warrant that he has issued? There is no provision, as there is in England, for the warrants to be numbered. He gets a request and he issues a warrant. Under this bill, he is compelled to send both the request and the warrant to the Director-General of Security. He washes his hands of the matter. No obligation is cast on him by this bill to keep, as they do in England, notes of the serial numbers of the warrants issued and a summary of the reasons for which they were issued, so that the Home Office and the Chief Secretary for State can keep these matters continuously under review.
– You are not implying that, as a matter of discretion, they would not be reviewed?
– I am saying that this is so obviously a necessary precaution that it should have been written into this bill. That is the thing that disturbs us. The opportunities to provide proper safeguards of this nature were there. They were before the Government in this Privy Councillors’ report. If the safeguards are discarded, they are deliberately discarded. That adds to the fears that the Opposition has in relation to this measure. There has not been enough appreciation of the need to safeguard the liberties of individuals.
Clause 10 of this bill states that matter gained by interception that is not of use to the security service has to be destroyed. We are left with that bald statement. There is no provision that it shall be destroyed immediately. It can, under the terms of this bill, be destroyed at the leisure of the security service - at a time selected by itself and its officers. There is no sense of urgency about these things in this bill, and that disturbs the Opposition appreciably.
I repeat that in England extreme precautions are taken. The Home Office is the repository of the requests and of the warrants, but in this country the home of all the documents relating to the issue of warrants for phone tapping will be the security service. There is no provision whatever for a review - for constant oversight or a constant check. These warrants are capable of being issued for a period of six months. That is a very long time. The report states -
We recommend that warrants should no longer be valid until they are cancelled, but that their validity should be for a defined period.
– No longer be valid?
– They could run for an indefinite period, until cancelled. The Privy Councillors said that their validity should be for a defined period. Apparently they are issued to run until revocation. That is an open check, and the commissioners said that warrants should be for a defined time. What was their recommendation, which this Government had before it? They said -
Normally this should be for a period no longer than a month and in no case should it be for a period longer than two months. If an extension of the validity of the warrant is desired, the reasons for this should be sent to the Home Office for their consideration before any extension is approved.
What are we asked for in Australia? We are asked for a warrant for up to six months - rejecting the practice in the United Kingdom, where their security risks are much greater. We in Australia must be able to issue warrants for six months.
– You said it was the United Kingdom practice. Did the United Kingdom adopt that recommendation?
– I cannot answer that; I am not informed on that. Its practice is in the terms of the report of the committee. All applications for warrant are considered by officers. They are reviewed, I can say, periodically. There is a quarterly review of outstanding warrants by the permanent Under Secretary, but there is an earlier review if it is believed that the warrant has not been cancelled after a reasonable period. The authorities concerned are sent for and asked to justify its continuance. Even at the time the committee made its report, the practice in England was to make a review every three months or oftener; but at least there was a constant review. In this country there is no provision for a review by the controlling parliamentary authority, the Attorney-General, lt is all very well for somebody to say, “ Of course, he will do it “. These mailers that affect civil liberties should not be left to chance and hope. It is an obvious precaution thai should have been written into this bill.
– What comes first, security of the nation, or freedom of the individual?
– How could thai question be answered one way or the other? I say to the honorable senator that it is a question of how far security is affected. It could be affected to an infinitesimal degree or to a major degree. Unless it is affected to a major degree, the vastly important matter of the preservation of personal liberty should be upheld. When I say that, 1 am supported by the fact that Australia was one of _the nations which, on 10th December, 1948, subscribed to the universal Declaration of Human Rights in the United Nations. One of the most important articles in that declaration is Article XII., which reads -
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family home or correspondence nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
That is my answer to Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan. Everybody has the right to the protection of the law, and I say that this Government in putting a bill of this nature before the Parliament has shown a disregard of that right and a lack of appreciation of the vital importance of that fundamental human right.
That right exists apart from the declaration; the declaration is only a recognition of it. This type of bill allows privacy to be invaded to the utmost degree. Let me put the position that a spy is suspected. He will not use his telephone at home, nor will he use the telephone at places he normally goes to. He may use it at his office where perhaps scores or hundreds of people are employed. In order to trap him that one line is tapped and the telephone conversations are recorded over a period. What will come over that telephone in the case of the private affairs of those people? You see where it leads? T say deliberately that spying is foul and dangerous from every viewpoint, whether it is spying on telephone conversations or letters. We have had a classic example in the last few days of dangers, not foreseen, that could arise out of it. Just consider where the spying of one aeroplane has led the nations of the world to-day. lt has led to the very brink of atomic war. That is not a normal consequence, but 1 simply say you cannot see where it will end. 1 talked to the Senate this afternoon about what happened in the State of New York. We all say that it cannot happen here. The fact is that it is possible; it is open to extortion, blackmail and the other things I indicated. My complaint is that adequate safeguards have not been written into this bill.
– Have not taxation officers the right to enter your home and look even into your bedroom to find assets that they suppose you have acquired and failed to include in your return for income tax purposes?
– The honorable senator will have to refer that matter to his legal adviser. I have never had occasion to consider that particular matter.
– What safeguards do you consider are necessary?
– I thought that I had been busy for the last hour indicating some very obvious and tried ones that are completely absent from this bill. With six minutes left, 1 regret I cannot indulge in a side debate right now. It is said that the Attorney-General is a responsible Minister. That is true; but it is not true in the matter of security. He declines and the Government declines to give information about security. That may be right. The security service is a secret organization engaged in a secret task. It has a right up to a point to do that, but the people of this country need an assurance that its great powers are not being abused.
My submission is that this Government could quite easily have provided for some kind of a report by the Attorney-General, giving for instance the percentage of warrants issued to warrants refused or to requests made, or the percentage of warrants issued by the Director-General of Security to the total number that were issued, or the percentage of cases where useful information to security is obtained and where no information is obtained. In England where the risks are greater, figures are given. The security tappings are wrapped up with the police and customs tapping, but a picture is given to the people of the United Kingdom that carries some assurance that there is no undue tapping. The people of Australia are entitled, not to detailed information, not to the names of agents or results, but to a’ great deal more information than they are to get. They are entitled to it when their civil liberties are in such danger as they are in, under this bill.
The Opposition recognizes quite plainly the need for a security service. It, in fact, established it. It is necessary not only to secure our communications and to look after our security risks, but it is obviously essential to retain the confidence of our allies by letting them know that their communications with us are safeguarded. I am prepared to say that it is necessary to have telephone tapping in times of war. We see the need for it in a number of circumstances where there could be a grave emergency. We are prepared to say that, but we oppose this bill for the reasons I have given - for its lack of safeguards, its disregard of the principle laid down in article XII. of the Declaration of Human Rights, and the absence of a provision for an affadavit as a condition precedent to the issue of a warrant by the Attorney-General I have already referred to the dangers that can flow from spying. It is an irregular and illegal practice in human relations and one cannot expect much good to come out of ill. It is an indecent, horrible practice.
– Why is it indecent and horrible to try to find out whether people are about to attack you?
– I am talking about spying at large. I have conceded its use in certain circumstances. The Government’s own Attorney-General has indicated how abhorrent it is in its nature. With that one statement I can agree. Why not therefore adopt the great precautions that are taken in relation to security in the United Kingdom? The Opposition asks very bluntly: Why not restrict this to major matters? Why not insist that all other avenues of investigation are completely exhausted? Why refuse to make any report to the
Parliament? I am not asking for security to be breached. Why is there no provision for review of these warrants at least once a month as the Privy Council recommended? Looking at the dissentient report of Gordon Walker, one finds that telephone tapping in favour of the police and customs authorities produced much fewer than 1 per cent. of the total number of convictions.
– But it gave them 47 convictions for major crimes in one year.
– That may be. I am pointing out, as did Gordon Walker, the completely insignificant percentage of the convictions that were ultimately obtained. One must weigh that against the dangers of interception. This bill betrays the Government’s lack of appreciation of the impact of the measure upon the civil liberties of the people, and it fails to uphold article 12 of the Declaration of Human Rights to which Australia was a party. We oppose the measure.
– The vitally important feature of this bill is that it is a bill to restrict a practice that was introduced by the Chifley Government. It is significant that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) who led for the Opposition tonight in this debate, was a member of that Government, and it is significant also that the Opposition is opposing the restriction of interception of telephonic telecommunications. This Government says that telephone tapping is abhorrent and is contrary to the character and the will of the Australian people. We believe that the privacy of citizens should be guarded at all times, commensurate with the requirements of the security of the country. The bill prescribes heavy penalties for telephone tapping. Clause 5 provides that - (1.) A person shall not -
Penalty; Five hundred pounds or imprisonment for two years.
The Chifley Government in 1949 authorized the then Director-General of Security to intercept telephonic communications. That was a far-reaching authority, and no real safeguards were provided. I felt a little distressed to hear the Leader of the Opposition mouthing about the Declaration of Human Rights when I remembered that in 1949, before the ink was dry on that declaration, the Labour Government introduced a telephone tapping system without proper safeguards such as those that are incorporated in this bill. This Government is providing safeguards. By opposing the bill, the Labour Party comes down in favour of unrestricted telephone tapping. That is virtually what the Opposition means to do. Senator McKenna clearly had no heart for his work. I suggest that he was the victim of the Labour caucus, and that his opposition to the bill was forced upon him by a decision of that body. For the first 30 minutes of his speech he gave us a college debate. He ranged from antiquity to the divine right of kings, and he even reached the point of discussing the respective merits of the Liberal and Labour systems of electing a leader. He spoke about Hitler and North America. He talked of all sorts of things, but he did not discuss the bill.
The fact is that the Leader of the Opposition knows in his heart that this is a good bill. In the other place, against the background of the recent election of a new leader and a new deputy leader, the debate for the Australian Labour Party was led by the member for East Sydney, a man who had not succeeded in attaining either the leadership or the deputy leadership and who had, in fact, been doing everything possible to undermine his leader and deputy leader. I suggest that the reason is very simple to find. The leaders of the party had no stomach for the job, and they were led along the path of the member for East Sydney and those others who, because of their inbred suspicion of everything other than socialism, had to oppose the bill.
The Chifley Labour Government authorized telephone tapping without restriction, and it was put into effect. When the Menzies Government came into power in 1950.. the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) immediately placed certain restrictions upon the power of the Director-General of Security to engage in telephone tapping. Those restrictions were significant. The first thing that the Prime Minister did was to require that there be a specific case for interception. That was a very important restriction. No specific case was required when the Chifley Government introduced the practice, and there was then no talk about freedom of the subject. Under the Chifley Government, telephone tapping was not required to be related to espionage, sabotage or subversion, as it was under the Menzies Government. This Government’s hands are quite clean in relation to this matter. It immediately placed restrictions upon the practice. The Prime Minister decided that telephone tapping in relation to any political figure or public servant had to be authorized by the Prime Minister before the Director-General could proceed. Surely that was a clear indication at that stage of the Government’s intention that the interception of telephonic communications would be safeguarded and most carefully controlled in the interests of the privacy and inherent rights of the citizen.
This bill provides for the control of interceptions. “ Control “ is the key word. A restraint will be imposed. It is to the ever-lasting shame of the Labour Party that it is opposing the bill. There will he complete prohibition of interception of telephonic communications with two exceptions. The first is in relation to interceptions by officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department who, in the course of their duties, need to monitor or interrupt a telephone call or do something else in connexion with installation or maintenance which may, prima facie, be an interruption or tapping of a telephonic communication. We all know of the cases in which odd people, for reasons upon which we need not reflect now, develop the dreadful habit of using telephones for indecent purposes. In those circumstances, at the request of a subscriber, interceptions may be made to try to bring the culprit to book.
The second exception relates to interception of a communication by the DirectorGeneral of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization or by persons specially authorized by him on occasions when a Minister of the Crown - the AttorneyGeneral - is satisfied upon facts placed before him that the telephone service in respect of which the interception takes place is being used, or is likely to be used, for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth, and that the intercep tion would be likely to assist in the performance by the organization of its statutory function of obtaining intelligence relative to the security of the Commonwealth. In short, this second exception is related to those occasions when the listening would be likely to assist in the protection of this country against espionage, sabotage or subversion. Where are the people who in all conscience can object to such a situation as is related there?
Within that second exception which I have mentioned there are many safeguards. The Director-General must seek a warrant in writing from the Attorney-General. It must be specific; that is to say, it must be for a specific telephone service and for a specific period, and the Director-General must make a specific statement that the warrant is sought on the ground of security, as I have intimated. He must assert, in other words, that the telephone is being used or is likely to be used for espionage, sabotage or subversion against this fair land of ours. The Attorney-General has to satisfy himself in regard to the DirectorGeneral’s submission. Be it noted that the Attorney-General himself - indeed, the Prime Minister or any member of another place or any senator - cannot himself instigate a warrant. This warrant, which is a prerequisite to any tapping under this heading, must in fact come from the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. The Attorney-General can revoke a warrant. The bill, by clause 11 (2.), provides that the Attorney-General shall endorse on the request that he receives from the Director-General his decision, be it for the grant of the warrant or the refusal of the request. Sub-clause (4.) of clause 11 provides that all warrants issued by the Director-General and all warrants and instruments of revocation received by him must be preserved in the records of the organization.
When speed is the essence of the contract, the Director-General can issue a warrant and operate upon it. Such a warrant can operate only for 48 hours. This provision also has very strict safeguards written into it. First, there must be a request for the Attorney-General’s warrant in respect of the particular service, and it must have been actually forwarded to the Attorney-General’s office. Secondly, the Attorney-General must not already have made a decision refusing the request. Thirdly, the AttorneyGeneral must not within the preceding three months have refused a request for a warrant in respect of that telephone service. Fourthly, the Director-General of Security must not himself have issued a warrant in respect of that service during the preceding three months. Honorable senators will appreciate that when, because of the necessity for speed, the Director-General exercises his prerogative pending the receipt of a warrant from the Attorney-General, the Director-General’s warrant can in fact be operative for only 48 hours. Also, it is subject to all sorts of conditions in relation to the Attorney-General. So, the very essence of the bill is a negation of what Senator McKenna said; the very essence of the bill is to write protection and security for Australian citizens into this procedure of phone-tapping.
The Labour Party opposes the bill. It is extraordinary that it should do so. The Government is proposing the bill for the peace, security and good government of Australia, and it comes as an extraordinary decision that the Government’s action should be opposed. If honorable senators want to have some appreciation of the extraordinary way in which the Opposition has been led along the path in its stand against the bill, may I be permitted to quote from a question that was asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh in another place as far back as 21st November, 1957. This question, asked of the Prime Minister, will show the extraordinary change that has taken place in the approach of the Opposition to this matter. It is pertinent because it relates to the study by the Privy Council of the United Kingdom to which the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) referred so freely during his speech. The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked the Prime Minister this question:
I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the recent reports of a committee of Privy Councillors on the practice of telephonetapping in the United Kingdom, and in particular to the conclusions and recommendations of that committee, ls the right honorable gentleman prepared to give an undertaking that, in accordance with those recommendations, telephone tapping will not be carried on in Australia except in cases of suspected criminal or subversive activities, and then only upon the issue of a warrant for a specified period, which warrant, at the end of the period, will have to be renewed before the tapping can continue? Will he also undertake that the name of any person, the tapping of whose telephone has been authorized, will be supplied to the Prime Minister, personally? Will he introduce legislation to make it a criminal offence for any person to tap a telephone, or to open letters in the course of their transit through the post, other than in accordance with the proceedings to which 1 have referred.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), a very senior member of the Labour Party. Indeed, in different circumstances, he might now have been figuring in the leadership of the party. Honorable senators will see in that question virtually the story of this bill. One could not get anything closer to the bill. Yet, because the Labour Party is riddled with this inbred doctrine of suspicion, it fears that if it is not of their doing it is wrong and something unpleasant might happen some time in the future. Here we have a bill to protect the inherent rights of the citizens of this great country; yet it is opposed by the Labour Party, which postures as the friend of the working people and wants telephones to be used freely. We even had the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) almost canvassing - I say almost because I do not want to misjudge him - the proposition that telephone tapping could be used for police purposes. Indeed, the honorable member for Hindmarsh actually advocated telephone tapping for police purposes.
The Labour Party talks about the Declaration of Human Rights. It does not know its meaning. This Government is trying to protect human rights and at the same time do all those things that are necessary for the peace, good government and security of our Australian people. We need the help of the Labour Party to do these things. Why do you not come out of the morass and help us? Why do you not play your part in trying to provide security for Australia, instead of opposing it in every direction? If you did that, your chances of assuming government would be far more rosy than they are at present. The people of Australia know what is happening. The facts of life are that there is a cold war and that our very existence depends upon security. Any government that has any semblance of decency and pride must do all acts that are necessary to preserve our freedom. This is just one of those acts that we are doing to-night. We need the Opposition’s support in these matters. We regret and deplore the fact that honorable senators opposite are opposed to this measure. The Government, however, will do its task, and I am convinced that it will have the people of Australia behind it when it passes this legislation.
– I have not very much to say about the speech of Senator Anderson. I merely say that his speech made clear the reasons why the Australian Labour Party is opposing this bill. His contribution to the debate was nothing but an attack upon the Labour Party, against whom we believe the provisions of this bill are directed.
– Why should you say that?
– I noticed Senator Wright’s name on the list of senators who will speak on this measure. He can have his say in a few minutes. Senator Anderson has said that this bill is designed to restrict a practice introduced by the Chifley Government. [ do not deny that there was some condonation of telephone tapping by the Chifley Administration, but I do want to deny that telephone tapping ever took place under the Chifley Government, and I say that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in his speech last night in another place, was quite unable to produce evidence that it had taken place.
– But your erstwhile leader, who was Attorney-General at the time, did not deny it.
– For the information ot the honorable senator who is so ignorant, let me say that any warrants issued during the regime of the Chifley Labour Government were issued by a Supreme Court judge, who was trained to decide whether it was fair that warrants should be issued or not. The decision was not left in the hands of a political figure who might gain some political advantage for his own party by making a decision in a certain way - and that is the kind of thing that is happening in this country to-day, and it is the kind of thing that has kept this Government in office for a number of years. I remember, as honorable senators opposite remember, the Petrov circus. What came out of thePetrov circus? Nothing but another six or nine years in office for the reactionary parties of Australia - that is what came out of the Petrov circus, and nothing else. lt has been said that Senator McKenna was a victim of the Labour caucus. Let me tell honorable senators that I do not get my information from the newspapers,, or from Mr. Alan Reid, who is paid by the Government to blast Labour at every opportunity; 1 get my information from the caucus room, and 1 can say that there was not one member of the Labour Party - not even the leaders who were referred to by Senator Anderson - who was prepared to support this bill in its present form. We of the Australian Labour Party believe in democracy. We believe in majority rule. We took a vote on the question, and the majority voted to oppose the bill at every turn - and we intend to do that.
Senator Anderson also said that it was the intention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to place restrictions on phone tapping. If you care to read the reports of questions asked in another place - and Senator Anderson did not have the decency to give the answer to the question he read out - you will find, that on every occasion on which a question has been asked about phone tapping, the Prime Minister has denied that phone tapping ever occurred. Yet honorable senators in this place are prepared to say that the Prime Minister is placing restrictions on the practice. It is only when this bill is introduced that we are given the information that phone tapping has been going on. It is only now that we know that there have been 182 instances of phone tapping in the last decade - and I say the last decade because I do not believe there was any phone tapping under the Chifley Government.
Let us then have a look at the provisions of this bill. We want to know, first: Who is this Brigadier Spry, who is the only man in Australia who is free from the possibility of having his telephone tapped? Let me remind honorable senators that Brigadier Spry may issue a warrant, which may remain in force for 48 hours, to tap the telephone of the Attorney-General himself. Do not forget that! I do not know whether
Sir Garfield Barwick has fallen for that one. This Brigadier Spry, who can issue warrants valid for 48 hours, is the only person in Australia immune from telephone lapping.
Senator Anderson also said that our very existence depends upon security. Well, if our existence depends on the kind of security force that we have in Australia at present, our existence is pretty shaky. The security service has developed into a snooping machine for all kinds of purposes, and it is of no use for any one to try to tell me that any legislation brought down here will alter that fact. We on this side of the House know that many workers have been injured, with respect to their employment by information that has been given to employers, and particularly to the Government, by the security service. We know that these reports are made, and that as a result of them certain people are regarded as security risks. But let me say that the greatest security risk in the Commonwealth to-day, if one can judge from the thinking of Government supporters, is the trade union movement. I have recollections of the Prime Minister in 1950 reading out a list of names of persons in Australia who were considered security risks. I remember that within nine days the Prime Minister had to withdraw that list and correct it, and that he had to correct it again two days later. This occurred on 9th and 11th May.
– But he got his information from Mr. Chifley’s Director-General of Security.
– The information was given to him by an inefficient security service.
– The leaders of which were appointed by Mr. Chifley.
– It was an inefficient security service because it had been sabotaged by the likes of you. This is your own statement - “ Spying is not abhorrent to me “. That is what you said.
– And I stand up to it.
– You people opposite are the kind that sabotaged the security service that was set up by the Chifley Government. There is no question about that. Why are the trade unionists made the butt of the security service? It is alleged by honorable senators opposite and their supporters that it is because there are certain Communists in executive positions in the trade unions in Australia. I would remind those honorable senators that in 1949 the Liberal Party regarded the Communist Party as a subversive element, and that it contested the 1949 elections on a promise to ban the Communist Party from Australia if it was returned to office. Has the Communist Party been banned? Of course it has not. You tried to do it and the Australian people turned you down. The people told you, with no uncertain voice, that the Communists were not a security risk, but still you go on saying that they are a security risk. The Communists are the ones against whom this legislation is directed. Is it directed against fascists? How many telephones were tapped recently in Melbourne and Sydney when there was an upsurge of anti-Semitism? Have we been told anything about that? Of course we have not.
I say that this measure is a complete denial of the basic human freedoms of the Australian people. Yet the Government has the effrontery to tell us that the purpose of the measure is to place restrictions upon telephone tapping. The people have not been told the correct story, the real story, which is that this bill is designed to make telephone tapping legal. Government members creep up on the people with deceit, saying that this legislation is designed to restrict when it is really designed to legalize. We on this side of the Senate are not completely ignorant. We are aware of the regulations made under the Post and Telegraph Act. We are aware that telephone tapping is illegal at present under the provisions of Telephone Regulation 16a. If telephone tapping is illegal now, we want to know why legislation should be introduced to make it legal.
– It is not illegal now.
– In 1935, a government of the same political complexion as that to which the Minister belongs, but perhaps not as bad, introduced regulations to prevent telephone tapping, but like all Liberal governments, which live on legalisms, when it suited it, it disregarded the laws it introduced.
– It did not make telephone tapping illegal at all.
– It has been claimed that the Prime Minister had the right to issue warrants and that he placed restrictions on the procedure - if Senator Anderson knows what he is talking about.
The words used in regulation 16a of the Telephone Regulations are: “ any person who without the authority of the department “-
– Quite so.
– ls the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the Postal Department? Of course he is not. Yet, we have the Attorney-General telling us that 182 telephone tappings have been authorized. The Prime Minister apparently has committed illegal acts against the Telephone Regulations introduced by the Government of which he is a member. The Prime Minister has never had the right to issue warrants. Yet, he has done so, if we can believe the Attorney-General, and I do not know whether we can. I have not met the gentleman, but if his performance when he was under attack in another place was any criterion of how he stands up to attack, I do not know whether it would be of much interest to me to meet him.
– I think you perform in the true name of cant when you start to criticize the Attorney-General.
– That may be so, but if Jimmy Sharman had you in a tent he would make a fortune around this place.
We believe that the introduction of this legislation by the Government has only one purpose and that is to create a police state.
– 1 told the honorable senator the other day what I thought of his rubbish. We believe that the Government desires to introduce a police state in this country. The Attorney-General, in the opening remarks of his second-reading speech, said that eavesdropping was abhorrent to the Australian people. Nevertheless, he went ahead and introduced legislation to legalize eavesdropping. That being so, the only conclusion to which we can come is that the purpose of the bill is to create a police state. I ask honorable senators opposite: Which peoples of the world have introduced police states?
– Your friends the Communists, for a start.
– The honorable senator may choose his friends and I will choose mine. The Nazis introduced a police state, and so did the fascists. I look around the chamber to see whether 1 can see any fascists. The Communists also have introduced police states. We in this country thought that, as democrats, we would be reasonably free from that type of thing, but we find that police state methods are becoming the weapons of the Liberal Party, which desires to set up a police state for political purposes. In 1950, the Prime Minister said -
I see no distinction between the ultimate objectives of the Communist Party and the ultimate objectives of the socialist party.
In essence, that statement means that every member of the Australian Labour Party - not only the people who represent the party in this Parliament - is a Communist, a subversive element and a person who would commit sabotage and espionage.
– That must be your guilty conscience.
– I am allowed to have a guilty conscience if I want to have one, and you can put security on to me if you wish. The fact is as I have stated it, and the second-reading speech of the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), earlier today, practically said as much. I want to tell the Senate that, in the first instance, this legislation was drawn up with an exclusion of parliamentarians, and that that was subsequently taken out of the draft.
– Nothing of the sort.
– I have made the statement. That was done so that you could gel at the parliamentarians in this place.
– That is a pretty vile statement to make. Now support it.
– The bill provides that telephone tapping can take place for the purpose of espionage, sabotage and subversion.
– No - for the purpose of stopping those things.
– 1 do not know to what use the legislation will be put afterwards. If the Government’s past performances are an indication of what it will do in the future, I think the legislation will be used for political purposes and not for the prevention of espionage, sabotage and subversion. What do those terms mean? One would think that if people were to be charged with such crimes, those terms would be defined in some way in the bill, but the subject is left completely open. The Government is at liberty to call any act an act of sabotage, and in fact, on many occasions when trade union organizations have gone on strike they have been accused of sabotaging Australia’s industrial effort. Have the illegal provisions that have been used in the past also been used against the monopoly capitalists who have continually sabotaged the economy of this country? Of course not. But they would be used against the trade union movement, and that is why we object to them.
SenatorMattner. - We have never used troops against the trade unions.
– Perhaps you did not have the say as to whether troops should or should not be used.I believe you would use troops against anything.
When the Minister is replying to the debateI should like him to tell us, if he can, the acts that are to be regarded as acts of espionage, sabotage and subversion. I do not think he knows. Who does know? Does Brigadier Spry know, or does Ron Richards? Are they to be the judges of whether people are committing acts of espionage, sabotage or subversion? Clause 5 (3.) of the bill states -
A person shall not divulge or communicate to another person, or make use of or record, any information obtained by intercepting a communication passing over the telephone system except -
in or in connexion with the performance by the Organization of its functions or otherwise . . .
What other functions has the security service got? Obviously, its other functions are political functions. There can be no question of that.
Clause 6 of the bill refers to a telephone that is likely to be used by a person engaged in or likely to engage in activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth. Who will judge whether a person is likely to use a telephone for such a purpose? Under this legislation each of the 3,000.000 telephone subscribers in Australia could be suspect. In his second-reading speech the Minister said that nobody was excluded. Everybody is suspect, and who is to judge whether a person is likely to engage in these acts? Would it be Brigadier Spry? At the time of the Melbourne Peace Conference we had a sample of the way he acts.
– Read us a bit about unity tickets.
– I think I can leave that to the honorable senator.
– Tell us something about voting for the Communists in preference to the Australian Democratic Labour Party.
-I did not propose to say anything to the honorable senator who has interjected, but since he has butted into this argument perhaps I should remind him of a previous occasion when he had the temerity to say something about the Australian Labour Party. In 1959, he said that Western Australians who sat in this chamber would recall the deep and increasing concern that was felt within the Australian Labour Party at that time. He said that Mr. F. E. Chamberlain was known in some circles not as Chamberlain, but as Mr. Joe Zanni.
– Who is this?
– Senator Gorton can read it in “ Hansard “. Surely he does not expect me to educate him all the time. I challenge the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to repeat his statement from a public platform. I would like to know where he got his information. Did he get it from the so inefficient security service? The Minister had no foundation for the statement that he made. I refute the allegation that Toe Chamberlain was ever known as Joe Zanni.
– I would not advertise that if I were you.
– Senator Cole should keep out of this argument. His fascist organization is likely to be sabotaged by this legislation, and he should be endeavouring to protect it. When Senator Paltridge made the statement to which I have just referred, he took advantage of the privilege he enjoyed as a member of this Senate to attack an Australian citizen who could not defend himself. The Minister has not been prepared to repeat his statement from a public platform or elsewhere.
– Or to apologize.
– 1 would not expect an apology from him. I challenge him to repeat his statement from a public platform during the next elections and to suffer the consequences. I feel confident, however, that he will not accept my challenge.
– Are you a mind reader?
– I am not a mind reader. I know that Senator Paltridge cannot substantiate his statement. He went on to say that the name of Joe Zanni was associated with a party that had no affiliation with the Labour Party in Western Australia at that time. The Minister was suggesting that the Communist Party was associated with the Australian Labour Party in Western Australia.
– Only in respect of unity tickets.
– The Government has united with the fascists in introducing this legislation. I advise Senator Gorton to keep out of this argument. I challenge Senator Paltridge to repeat his statement from a public platform. We all know, of course, where he got his training in these matters because we know that he was brought up at the back of an hotel-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order! I ask the honorable senator to relate his remarks to the bill. He has deviated considerably from the contents of the bill.
– I believe that this bill is designed to perpetuate the type of politics that has been engaged in by honorable senators opposite. The Minister for Civil Aviation should keep out of the argument if he wants the protection of the Chair when I attempt to answer him.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The Minister did not seek the protection of the Chair. I have given a ruling, and I ask the honorable senator not to reflect on the Chair.
– Say something about the bill for a change, Senator.
– There is nothing that I can tell the Senate about the bill. It stands condemned in its own right. It is the worst piece of legislation ever to come before us. It will go on the statute-book because the
Government has the numbers, but we will see what the people of Australia have to say about this legislation at the next elections. We believe that they will repeat what they said about the legislation designed to abolish the Communist Party. I condemn the bill. It is designed to abrogate the rights of the people and permit the Government to create a police state, which is what other dictatorial governments have done in other parts of the world.
– In common with most other Australians 1 have a feeling of repugnance at the thought of what might be termed eavesdropping. But as is often the case where the security of our country is concerned, we must be prepared for certain curtailment of our liberties in order to prevent those who would disrupt our way of life from succeeding in their aims. If we curtailed the activities of the security service in the way suggested by the Opposition we would be unfit to represent the Australian people in this place. We know that as far as the security service is concerned, secrecy is essential. Surely it is obvious to all of us that the more people who are let into a secret, the greater is the chance that the secret will not be kept.
Under the bill now before us, two people will be responsible for any interception that may be necessary. We have seen, almost from time immemorial, the importance of a good security service. Whether or not we agree with spying, it is something that we have always had to accept and which, I am afraid, we always will have to accept. If one country commences a system of espionage against another country, the obvious remedy is counter-espionage.
I remind honorable senators that the record of the security service in the United Kingdom stands very high and is well deserved. Reference has been made during the debate to-night to the existing provisions in the United Kingdom regarding its security service. By and large, the restrictions that p.re imposed in the bill before us are more stringent than those in the United Kingdom.
When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, he said - if my memory serves me correctly, and I heard him clearly - that Norway does not indulge in espionage. That comparatively small country, at least tor a very long time, has not been involved in a war. Therefore, I do not think that the comparison carries much weight.
– What about the 1939- 1945 war?
– I was mistaken. Norway has had to rely on her allies. There is no doubt about that. In fairness to Senator McKenna, I must say that I do not feel that he is genuinely opposed to the measure that has been placed before us. I have too high a regard for his patriotism, his sense of fair play and his legal knowledge to accept the idea that he is violently opposed to this bill.
I should like to congratulate the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) on the most efficient manner in which he has drafted this measure. It is typical of the service that we have come to expect from him. I congratulate him’ very sincerely indeed. As the Attorney-General said in another place, he has gone to the extreme in order to prevent any abuse occurring under this bill. I ask those honorable senators who are opposing it to pause and consider that the Director-General of Security is not just a callow youth, subject to the indiscretions and actions of such a person; he is a man who carries great responsibility. Coupled with that is the fact that the Attorney-General must give his consent before any interception can be made. I think that that is a sufficient safeguard against any of the abuses that the Opposition feels could happen.
Sir, I have mentioned that the AttorneyGeneral’s consent to the issue of a warrant is necessary under the bill. I acknowledge that the Attorney-General may not always be a member of the anti-socialist forces. No doubt at some time in the future the wheel of fortune will turn and the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth will bc a member of the socialist forces. In spite of that, I still feel quite satisfied that the safeguards against abuses will remain effective.
Some people have advocated that instead of the Attorney-General having authority to grant permission to the Director-General of Security to intercept telephonic communications, that power should be vested in a judge. As the Attorney-General explained in another place, that is not pos sible, because this is an executive function, not a judicial one. For that reason, it would not be possible to vest this power in a judge. However, let us assume that it is possible to authorize a judge to act. I remind honorable senators, with very great respect to the judiciary, that our judges make mistakes. Almost weekly we read of appeals being lodged against judgments that have been delivered, and very often those appeals are upheld. So the judges are not infallible. We have the safeguard that the AttorneyGeneral is subject to the judgment of the electors at the end of his term of office - three years or sometimes an even shorter period - and if they feel that he has not measured up to his position but has let them down, they have an opportunity to show their disapproval through the ballotbox - in other words, to sack him. That course is not open to them in the case of a judge. Apart from that, I feel that the elected government of this country is directly responsible for the country’s security. By vesting this authority in the Attorney-General, we are entrusting its exercise to a man who is a member of the Government that is directly responsible for the security of the people.
Doubts have been expressed about the need for the security service to obtain information by tapping telephone communications. Surely to goodness we are realistic enough to acknowledge that unless we give the security service all the assistance it needs, it could very well be hampered in its efforts to keep this country free from subversive action. This measure is designed to give that service some help. Without a doubt, there is a complete dossier of every member of this Federal Parliament, containing particulars of his family life, his weaknesses, and an assessment of whether he may at some time unwittingly render a service to those who wish to disrupt our country.
– Did you say that there is a dossier on every member of Parliament?
– I said that we should realize there is a complete dossier on each one of us.
– I will tell the honorable senator where I think it is. I think it is in the hands of those people who are out to disrupt our way of life, and 1 think that if Senator Aylett is honest he will agree with me.
– You do not mean that dossiers on us are kept by the security service?
– No, I am not suggesting that for one moment. We have to realize that eternal vigilance is the price we must pay for our security. It is no good fooling ourselves by thinking that although these things may happen in other countries, they cannot happen here. They can happen here. We would be foolish in the extreme to allow people who are illdisposed towards us to get all the information they can about us and not to try to prevent that information from reaching their masters. We have heard from time to time over the last few days since this bill has been before the Parliament a lot of praise bestowed by the Opposition upon its own security policy in the past. 1 should like to remind honorable senators opposite of some of the consequences of that policy which they have been praising. Did it not cause the United States of America, our great and friendly ally, to withdraw the co-operation that should have existed between our two countries and to refuse vital security information to Australia because it felt there was a big chance that such information as it passed to the Australian Government then in existence could easily fall into the hands of people who were ill-disposed towards us. That statement cannot be denied. What happened when the Menzies Government displaced the Labour government? Almost overnight the complete co-operation of the United States of America and the friendly relations that should have been in existence were resumed.
As true Australians we should give all the help we can to our security intelligence organization. If we do not we shall fail in the duty we owe to our country. I should also like to remind members of the Opposition that 92 per cent, of the security officials at present in the security organization were appointed by Labour when it was in power. I condemn the attitude and the language of the Opposition in referring to the security organization. Why such extravagant language has been used, I do not know. I do not believe that it reflects the views of all Opposition members, because we can cast our minds back to the war period and recall how th£ Australian people faced a common foe anc? fought as one nation. Therefore the” language that has been used by honorable senators opposite in this debate is somewhat extravagant and does not represent their true feelings. In another place honorable members said that they regretted that this bill violates the parliamenatry privilege. The majority of us have no qualms on that score at all. If telephone tapping is necessary for the security of this country, we should be willing to suffer some temporary infringement of the liberties we normally enjoy. Surely we should be prepared to make that small sacrifice for such a purpose.
Under this bill records must be preserved. I refer to records of conversations of those who have engaged in subversive activities. The bill therefore provides a means of keeping a valuable record of what has happened. I regret that Senator Cant is not present. I was not surprised to hear him voice the views that he did. If I understood him correctly he said that Communists were not a security risk. I do not know whether he really meant that, but in view of his statements on 4th May last I wonder whether he did mean it. The statements to which I refer are to be found in “Hansard” of 4th May. Interjecting when Senator Cole was speaking, he said that communism was the lesser of two evils in relation to the Democratic Labour Party. Senator Cole said, “ I know that the honorable senator would much rather support the Communists “; and Senator Cant replied, “The lesser of two evils “. Senator Cole then said, “ That is what the honorable senator believes? “ And Senator Cant answered, “That is right “. Senator Cant is prepared to support those people who publicly avow that their aim is the downfall and overthrow of the Commonwealth of Australia. Therefore I was not surprised to hear him speak in the strain he did to-night.
– At no time did he say he was prepared to support the Communists. He said that if he had to choose between the two evils, he would choose the Communists.
– I have read what he said. This Government does not say that every member of the socialist party is a Communist, but I remind honorable senators opposite, particularly Senator Aylett, that every Communist is a socialist.
I do not propose to take up the time of the Senate any longer. AlthoughI may be accused of imperialism and flag-waving, I want to quote a few lines that are just as true to-day as when they were written. Those lines are -
Never the Lotus closes,
Never the wild fowl wake,
But a soul goes out on the east wind
That has died for England’s sake.
.- I shall endeavour to bring the minds of honorable senators back to the bill. Senator McKellar has driven nearly all of them out of the chamber. I should like to correct the honorable senator and also Senator Anderson, who both implied that our leader’s heart was not in this debate. That is the excuse they make when they are completely at a loss to reply effectively to the unanswerable arguments that he put forward in opposition to this bill. For that reason the Government has left to its backbenchers the task of carrying on the debate on its behalf. I do not want to betray any party secrets, but for the information of the two honorable senators who implied that the leaders of our party are not, in fact, opposed to this bill, I state unequivocally that not one member at the Australian Labour Party meeting offered any support for this measure. Every member of our party was opposed to the bill. Yet we have this sniggering and sneering at our leaders. From what source did Government supporters get their information? Or did they manufacture it?
The statement I have just made is also an answer to Senator Anderson’s attack upon the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). That honorable member put up an unanswerable case. He is a senior member of the Australian Labour Party and he led the Opposition attack on this bill in another place. With all due respect to our leaders, and I hold them in the highest esteem, I doubt whether they could have made a better address than did the honorable member for East Sydney. That is not to say that all members of the Australian Labour Party are not of exactly the same opinion as the member for East Sydney in regard to the bill.
I should like some information about the bill. It is said that the bill will enable the Government to combat subversive acts by the agents of any foreign power. If that were the main object of the bill, there might be some merit in it. But the bill does not stop there. That is not its only object. Is the bill to be used against leaders of the trade unions of this country? A previous government of the same political colour as this Government accused those leaders of subversion and espionage in 1914 or 1915. Later on I shall refer to interpretations of the words “ subversion “ and “ espionage “. That previous government was not thinking about foreign powers when it talked about subversion. It was thinking about trade union leaders.
Is the bill aimed at political opponents of the Government? Is it an attempt to ascertain what the Government’s political opponents are doing? We must be given a definition of “ subversion “. In another part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, namely in the Union of South Africa, a government of the same political colour as the Menzies Government regards every man opposed to it as being engaged in espionage and subversion. That government has treated such men brutally and thrown them into gaol without laying charges against them. Some of these men have been in gaol for two or three years without being charged. Is that in accordance with this Government’s interpretation of “ subversion “ and “ espionage “? How far-reaching are those words?
The freedom of every person in Australia with the exception of one - the Attorney-General - is at stake. The present Attorney-General may be gone to-morrow and we could get somebody of exactly the same calibre as the AttorneyGeneral of South Africa. Such a person would not be hard to find in Australia. A senior Minister in the Senate would adequately fill the bill, if one may judge by some of his remarks. We have to guard against many things. The Australian Labour Party is very suspicious of legislation of this nature, that infringes the freedom of virtually every citizen. In future, one will be unable to have an open telephone conversation in the spirit of the four freedoms of the United Nations. Everybody will know that a record may be kept of his conversation. What might be regarded to-day as a patriotic conversation could be considered a subversive conversation in ten years’ time. During World War II. we applauded the victories of our great allies, the Russians. In those days any telephone conversation in praise of the Russians would have been regarded as patriotic, but a recording of such a conversation could have resulted in the speakers being called before the Petrov royal commission and mud being thrown at them, just as slurs were cast on innocent members of the Parliament by that propped-up circus of a commission.
– You had better not speak about the Australia First Movement and what your Attorney-General did.
– That movement would have had a pretty gallant leader if you had been at its head.
– That is a statement of fact.
– It is a statement of fact. Let him get out of it. Senator Wade will have his turn. What is hurting him now is that he is hearing a few facts and not stories such as he makes up. Let us come back to the one man who will be free of telephone tapping. To-day it is Sir Garfield Barwick. To-morrow it could be Mr. Menzies, Senator Paltridge or anybody else. If the Government had to make an ally of the splinter party in the Senate, in the same way as the Liberals have mad-; an ally of the Country Party, one of the members of the splinter party could become the Attorney-General. What would happen then? We have evidence about them. As Senator Cant said, if he ever made a choice between the splinter group and the Communists he would choose the Communists.
– He said nothing of the kind.
– I was sitting in the chamber when the interjection was made, i want to deal with issues that are far more important. Warrants will be issued not only on the advice of the Director-General of Security, who cannot be everywhere, but also on the advice of his subordinates all over Australia. On their say-so the Attorney-General will be issuing warrants, which may be renewed every six months. They could be effective from one year’s end to another. It would not be difficult to have a warrant issued for political purposes. We remember a statement by Senator Paltridge about the President of the Australian Labour Party, which was shown to be false. lt could easily be said that Mr. Chamberlain would be likely to do the things that the bill mentions, and that it would therefore be fitting to tap his telephone.
– What about those th:e or four persons that Menzies maligned He had to withdraw his statements.
– That is so. On the advice of the security service and other persons, the Prime Minister named four or five persons as members of the Communist Party. In fairness to him let it be said that he had the decency to withdraw h’s remarks and apologize for his mistake, after it was pointed out to him by members of the Opposition. What could happen in the future in similar circumstances? Upon request by the Director-General of Security, the Attorney-General could issue a warrant for the tapping of some one’s telephone for at least six months, lt would be done if the head of the nation said that the person was likely to commit subversive acts or engage in espionage. No one can tell me that there are no dangers in this bill; the dangers of it have been demonstrated in this Parliament, even by the leaders of the Government themselves, who have infringed upon the privacy of individual citizens of this country. Do honorable senators want any better proof of its dangers than that?
In South Africa trade unionists or anyone else who oppose the government are branded as subversive and are regarded as committing espionage against their country. The law there does not say that these people prejudice the defence of the country, nor does this bill concern itself with subversive acts against the defence of this country; it merely says “ against the country “. There are some very notable lawyers in the Government of South Africa which is akin politically to the party that is in government here and their interpretation is that any trade unionist who dares oppose the government commits an act of sabotage and espionage against his country. They declare also that any political opponent of the Government of South Africa, any one who dares speak in opposition to it, commits an act of sabotage and espionage against that country. This is not hearsay. These people have been gaoled; others have fled the country, and the Government of South Africa is demanding their return so that it can wreak its brutality upon them as it is doing upon others. Even ministers of religion dare not return. Earlier to-day I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) whether sympathetic consideration would be given to giving them political asylum in this country if they sought it.
In Rhodesia, which also belongs to the British Commonwealth of Nations, clever lawyers in the government have declared the opposition of their opponents, who are in a position similar to those who are in opposition to this Government, to be illegal and subversive. The leader of those who oppose the government in that country is still in gaol. What would we say if we woke up in a week’s time and found the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) in gaol because our party was outlawed and we were all declared to be subversive? Exactly the same thing was done in South Africa and Rhodesia, and it can be done in Australia if we have in government men who care to take that attitude. We have bad them in the past, and one or two of them are in the Government to-day.
– Name them.
– I shall presently. I am working up to that point. I propose to trace carefully the history of those men in government who have taken similar action in this country. Let me go back to the early days of the Liberal Party. It has been known under many different names, such as the United Australia Party, the Liberal Party, the Nationalist Party, and again as the Liberal Party; but the personnel were never changed. It is still the same party. Sir Earle Page has been through all of them. He is still there. In 1914 or 1915. some of the trade unionists in Sydney stood up against the Commonwealth Government. What was their penalty? They were declared to have committed espionage against their country; they were branded as members of the I.W.W. One gentleman, who was imprisoned for six years, was later released and exonerated as the result of the finding of a royal commission. He spent many later years as a very useful senator, though he had been branded as a saboteur by the Liberal Party because he was a trade union leader.
A similar thing happened a little later when the Hughes Government was in office. Johnson and Walsh were put on a ship and were to be deported for committing subversive acts against the country, though what they really did was to stand up for the rights of trade unionists. The trade unions got the lawyers on the job, and the Government had to release Johnson and Walsh. However, they had been branded by the Liberal Government, which was similar to the Government now in office, as having committed subversive acts against their country.
Going a little further into history, what happened when the Bruce-Page Government - another Liberal Government - was in office? Sir Earle Page is still here with us. What happened when the workers were fighting for better conditions and striving for a shorter working week than the 48 hours and 50 hours that they worked during the depression? The secretary of the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne was charged with committing subversive acts against his country and the government enacted legislation which resulted in a penalty of a fine of £50 or six months imprisonment being imposed upon him. He paid neither penalty. He contested the action of the government, just as this legislation will be contested before the electors of Australia in the blue-ribbon seat of Flinders. The result was that Mr. Bruce was unseated as Prime Minister, and the action which brought about his downfall was instituted by Mr. Jack Holloway, who served in this Parliament as a responsible Minister when this country was facing the crisis of war, though he had been declared by a Liberal Government to have committed subversive acts. People who will take action against innocent people on the ground of subversion have been in governments all through the past, and we still have them. Senator Cant mentioned to-night what the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator
Paltridge) said when he tried to smear another honorable gentleman because he belonged to the Labour Party. 1 shall quote from “ Hansard “ what the Minister for Civil Aviation said, so that there cannot be any mistake. The Minister made a scurrilous report on this gentleman in this Parliament under the protection of Parliamentary privilege.
– You use it.
– If I am given cause to use it, I will use it. With all the innuendoes imaginable, the Minister made a statement from which it could be inferred that this man was tied up with Communists. Liberals, the l.W.W. or any other organization in the past. The Minister said -
The story that had great currency within the Labour Party, if nowhere else, was that he was known in some circles not as Chamberlain but as Mr. Joe Zanni and that that name was associated with a party which had no affiliation at the time with the Western Australian Labour Party.
Following his previous attack, the Minister implied that the federal president of the Australian Labour Party was committing, could have been committing or was likely to commit subversive acts or acts of espionage back in those days. Therefore, there is one man, according to the Minister for Civil Aviation, who would be suspect in his view and, on his say-so here, would be suspect by the security service.
This is where I come to the political issues involved. We find that the Minister uses these statements just for party political purposes. Could this legislation be used by one’s political opponents the same as similar legislation is being used in other parts of the world against political opponents? Here we have a member of tho Senate who, according to his own statements, would be prepared to use it to put his political opponents into oblivion. Thank goodness, Mr. Chamberlain had an adequate reply. He made a straight-out denial; and he has challenged the Minister to make his statement publicly, outside. I also challenge him to make a public statement or to repeat his statement outside this chamber.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I do not know how the honorable senator is relating this statement to the bill before the Senate. I think he is getting a little bit off the line.
– I will connect up my remarks in this way: I am saying that there is no person who may not be described nr- subversive if the bone is pointed at htm, anc the bone was pointed at the federal president of the Australiaa Labour Party by the Minister who sits on the other side of the Senate. If the Minister had been the Attorney-General he would have pointed the bone in exactly the same way. We have seen this kind of thing happen with previous Liberal governments, and by their own statements it is obvious that honorable senators opposite are prepared to carry on in the way that members of previous Liberal governments have done in the past.
– If you stopped judging people by yourself you might get somewhere.
– If I judged people by you I would get nowhere. The honorable senator has made no contribution to this debate as yet, and although I have listened to him in many other debates I am still waiting to hear something worth while in any of his speeches.
In matters such as the one we are discussing it is the freedom of the people that is at stake. On an earlier occasion it was Walsh and Johnson who were concerned; another time it was Holloway, and on another occasion it was Chamberlain. All those people were innocent. Who will it be to-morrow?
– I would noi doubt you, because Sir Garfield Barwick made the statement that no member of Parliament had had his telephone tapped.
– That is right.
– Well, I know a gentleman who is “now a Supreme Court judge in Tasmania, and who said he knew of one such telephone that was tapped. Who is telling the truth, Sir Garfield Barwick or the Supreme Court judge? Honorable senators opposite are trying to shout me down. Well, they asked for it, and I ask them again: Who is telling the truth? I do not want to be the one to decide whether it is Sir Garfield Barwick or the Supreme Court judge who is telling the truth.
This bill is designed to legalize phone tapping.
– No, it is not.
– Phone tapping is not legal to-day.
– Yes, it is.
– This bill is designed to legalize it. 1 have read the bill, not only forward but backward, so that I might make no mistakes about it. 1 am not like back-bench senators opposite, who did not read the bill at all until they came here to-day, and who took up the time of the Senate by reading the bill to their fellow senators. This bill is designed to legalize phone tapping.
– No, it is not.
– Well, there is no legislation on the statute-book to-day that legalizes phone tapping, but this bill will legalize it. If there is no legislation to say that phone tapping is legal, then it must be illegal, but once this legislation goes through it will become legal.
The first part of the bill is not objectionable. No one could object to it, because we know that wires become crossed occasionally, and we know that telephonists sometimes cannot help overhearing a word or two on the telephone. But that part of the bill is merely the sugar coating that covers the poison to follow. The Government says, “ If you oppose this bill you oppose security “. We do not oppose the security service. We say that a strong security service is essential for the defence and welfare of our country. We have never opposed the security service, so do not start arguing that because we are opposed to an invasion of the freedom of the individual by phone tapping we are opposed to ensuring the security of the country. We are definitely not. But* honorable senators opposite suggest that the security service cannot carry on without tapping phones. It is admitted that phone tapping has been going on for ten or twelve years. Has the security service prosecuted anyone on evidence arising out of a telephone conversation? Has it brought to light even one spy in Australia during that time? Has it prosecuted anybody? Of course it has not.
– How do you know?
– Goodness gracious, you would not keep it a secret, would you, if we had a spy in our midst? The honorable senator amazes me more and more every time he opens his mouth. He is now implying that if there was a person in the country whom we knew to be a spy we would not bring him before the courts. He says, “ How would we know? “ The whole world would know! Of course if the Government was covering up spies, in the way that they covered up Petrov, I could understand the honorable senator’s interjection.
What countries have indulged in phone tapping? Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Communist China, Communist Russia. Shall we say that because the police in those countries can invade the people’s freedom by tapping telephones, the security service should be allowed to do the same in this country? Why line up our methods with those of the Spanish dictatorship, the French dictatorship, the Russian dictatorship and the German and Italian dictatorships of the past? In countries that are governed by a dictatorship the people are afraid not only to have a telephone conversation, but even to have a conversation in their own homes. That is the kind of situation that will develop in Australia, particularly with regard to trade unionists, if legislation of this kind is allowed to go through. The trade unionists will be afraid to go out and talk honestly and fair dinkum to their fellow-members, as they are doing to-day
We can see the lead-up: we can see what this is all about. Look at the penalty clauses that are in force in industrial awards to-day. If we have any kind of industrial upheaval the first persons that will he pounced on will be the leaders of the unions. Their phones will be tapped and they will be branded as persons who commit acts of espionage. It has happened in the past, and we can see the danger of if occurring again. That is the basis of the Australian Labour Party’s fears concerning this legislation. We hope and pray that the Government is not out to attack the trade unions, but we can judge this Government only by the actions of pas: governments of the same political complexion. We can judge it only by the past actions of its leader and his Ministers. So we have every reason to be fearful of the results of phone tapping, involving as it does an invasion of the freedom that the people enjoy to-day. Do we stand by the United Nations Charter and the freedom ot the people or do we not? We cannot have it both ways, and there is no freedom when a person cannot have a private telephone conversation without the fear ‘.of some person hooking on to the line to find out what he has to say.
I will not accept the statement made by Government members in another place, thai there has been no tapping of telephones of members of Parliament. I am confident, and as sure as I stand here, that many members of Parliament have had their telephones tapped, and persons have listened in on telephone conversations that members have had with people outside Parliament House.
– You have no evidence.
– Let me tell the honorable senator that on many occasions I have had difficulty in carrying on a conversation on the telephone, and I have said to the caller, “ Just hang on until the person listening in gets off the line, and then we will get through “. On one occasion Senator O’Byrne was in my office, and he said, “ I sometimes think that a record is made of our telephone conversations “. I was having difficulty with a telephone conversation, and I said to the caller, “ Hang on a minute; they might want to get a record of the conversation “, and a voice came back immediately, “ Don’t you dare say that”. I ask honorable senators: Who would have made that remark? It was not the person who was calling me.
– The honorable senator was insulting the telephonist.
– How did I know whether or not it was the telephonist? Senator McCallum is accusing the telephonist, but I am not. I do not accuse people unless I know the facts. Again, we see how the freedom of the people is involved in this matter. Innocent people may be blamed, just as the honorable senator was quick to blame the telephonist, although he did not know whether or not she should be blamed.
We are afraid that this Government will interfere with the freedom of the people by legalizing this procedure, with the result that nobody’s telephone conversations will be safe. Who is to say whether a man may not change his political views or his line of .thought in ten years or fifteen years’ time? A member of the security service could say, in respect of such a man, “ I know that chap’s family history. He might go the way that some of his cousins or ancestors went. You can tap his phone any time you like. You have a warrant to do that.” Honorable senators will see from that example how simple it will be to abuse this legislation.
I say, therefore, Mr. Deputy President, that if this legislation is passed by the Parliament it will be abused. Even if this Government is lily-white and does not abuse it, how long will it remain in office? Will it be there for ever?
– I hope so.
– 1 know thai the Minister hopes so, but a turn of events could lead him to believe otherwise. After all, history has a habit of repeating itself. How do we know that one of the Government’s splinter partners will not form the next government, or that the Communist Party will not do so? Of course, it is much more likely that the Australian Labour Party will form the next government, and I assure honorable senators opposite that if it does so it will repeal this infringement of civil rights the moment it attains office. It will do so because we of the Labour Party would not leave such an imposition on the people, something that could be used at a future time by splinter parties which have not a policy of their own, by the Communist Party or by any other party that might become a government with the support of the Liberal Party. We know that the Liberal Party will make alliances with anybody to implement its legislative programme. We know also that it is on the cards that if one of the two members of the splinter party in this Parliament is left here and the Government is short of supporters on a future occasion, that splinter party member might be made a Minister and given the responsibility to administer this legislation. What administration we would get then!
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) [10.31.- The bill before the Senate proposes to modify substantially the existing power of the Crown in relation to the interception of telephone communications. The measure is being very vigorously opposed by the Opposition. Senator McKenna tonight set forth the reasons why the Opposition is opposing the bill. I have listened very carefully to the succeeding speakers from the other side of the chamber but have not yet been able to ascertain from their remarks why they are opposing the bill. I gather that they are opposing it very vehemently, but they have not stated their reasons clearly. Senator McKenna, on the other hand, did state his reasons clearly, and 1 propose to occupy a minute or two of my lime in referring to some aspects of his speech.
In the first place, I want to congratulate the honorable senator in regard to one aspect of his remarks. He alone of all the Labour speakers to date, both here end in another place, did not deny his dead leader, Mr. Chifley, in regard to this matter. The honorable senator is the only person who has had the courage and the integrity not to deny that the powers that are inherent in the Crown in this connexion were used by the Chifley Administration. He was a responsible Minister of the Crown at the time, and in fact, at one stage he was acting Attorney-General. Because he is the only Labour supporter in either chamber of the Parliament who has not denied that the Chifley Administration used this telephone tapping service, I admire him and I congratulate him. The AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) gave details of that matter, so far as security would permit, in another place, but responsible members of the Opposition have flagrantly denied that accusation by Sir Garfield Barwick.
Having said that, I want to turn to the major thesis of Senator McKenna’s argument. He did not go so far as to say that he would reject the necessity for a security service or the necessity for that service, in certain circumstances, to be entitled to intercept telephone conversations. He did not go so far as many of his colleagues have gone, and he was putting the official Labour viewpoint in this chamber. He said; however, that the measure we are now introducing does not go as far as the British policy in relation to this matter, and he referred to the report of the committee of Privy Counsellors which purported to set out the British ideas in regard to interception of telephone communications. Briefly, the Privy Council committee recommended that telephone tapping would be permissible in cases of major subversive or espionage activity. The bill before the Senate, I admit quite frankly, does not go quite so far as that. It proposes to permit telephone communications to be intercepted in cases in which the security of the Commonwealth could be at stake. There is some difference in the two policies.
Senator McKenna failed to establish two things. In the first place, there is no legislation in Britain which governs or sets out British policy in regard to this matter. Instead, there is a pure statement of the Crown’s decision in relation to the matter. It is not in any way governed by legislation. In fact, Australia is the only country which proposes to have legislation to curb the right of the Crown in regard to telephone tapping. The Crown in Britain still has absolute power in this respect. The recommendations of the Privy Council committee were not even adopted by the British Government, which has absolute power to tap telephones whenever it likes, for any purpose at all. As a matter of practice and policy, it does not do that, of course, but it has the power to do so.
The measure before the Senate proposes to whittle down or restrict that power so far as Australians are concerned, to matters connected with security, and to those matters alone. This country is the only country in the world which proposes to have such legislation.
– How would the honorable senator define “ security “?
– I think that the honorable senator understands the meaning of “ security “ just as well as I do. He cannot draw me from my theme, but if I have sufficient time I shall mention the matter later. I suggest that the aspect to which I have referred is the fatal weakness in Senator McKenna’s argument. We are attacked on the ground that the policy as enunciated by the Privy Council committee goes somewhat further than this bill proposes to go; but the British Crown is not in any way restricted or controlled by legislation. In that respect, therefore - and I think that Senator McKenna will agree with me - the Ministers of the Crown in this country will be very much more restricted when this bill is passed than are their corresponding numbers in Great Britain.
Senator McKenna also referred to another weakness that he saw in this measure. At an early stage of his speech he mentioned that there was far more security risk in Great Britain than there is in Australia and that therefore the principles governing the decision of the Privy Council committee in this matter, though all right for Britain, should not apply to Australia. I challenge the Leader of the Opposition on that statement. I am not talking about Woomera, which he excluded, but I suggest that there are just as many security secrets in this country as there are in Great Britain. Those secrets are just as important to our security as are the corresponding secrets to Great Britain’s security. Senator McKenna well knows that, in relation to defence, highly secret documents pass between Great Britain and Australia every day of the week. Highly secret defence plans pass between the two countries. This Government knows a great deal more than it will ever publish about the defence plans of Great Britain. They are somewhere in this country to be read. Does Senator McKenna suggest that we should not have an effective security service to protect British security in this country as well as our own? Senator McKenna’s argument with regard to security matters is specious. He knows as well as I do that security is just as important to Australia as it is to Britain. He knows that there is just as much subversion and espionage in Australia as there is in Britain.
I turn now to the bill, because that is more important than Senator McKenna’s objections. The first question that we should answer is: Do we want a security service at all? The unjustifiable attacks by some honorable senators opposite - I do not include Senator McKenna in this category - on the worthy, efficient and effective security service would lead one to the inescapable conclusion that some members of the Labour movement object to the existence of the security service at all. We all know that the Summit conference in Paris has broken down. The repercussions of that abortive conference will be felt for many years to come. Now more than ever before we should take security precautions. But the Opposition says that Australia does not need a security service. Alternatively, the Opposition says that if we must have a security service, it should not be allowed to carry out its duties effectively.
I submit that a security service could not carry out its work efficiently if it did not have the right to intercept telephonic communications. I propose to quote from the report of the Privy Council committee that inquired into telephone tapping in the United Kingdom. Senator McKenna has already quoted from this report, and I think it is profitable to have the English view on this subject. Paragraph 113 of the report reads -
As we have pointed out in paragraphs 105 and 106, the obtaining of arrests and convictions is not necessarily a major objective of the Security Service. It is therefore not possible to measure the effectiveness of interception as used by the Security Service by reference to arrests and convictions. The evidence we heard overwhelmingly established the following facts: -
There are continuous organized and dangerous efforts to spy out secrets of the State.
Similar organized and continuous efforts are made to spread subversion and to penetrate the apparatus of the Government and work of high security.
The weakest link in this highly skilled and trained chain of espionage and subversion is communication between the agents and persons concerned.
I will repeat that finding of the committee. It is a finding relating to interception of telephonic communications which Senator McKenna says is not necessary.
That is the British view, and I suggest that it should be our view also. Undoubtedly it is the view taken by many Australians listening to this debate to-night, including many members of the Australian Labour Party. The report continues -
If the Opposition genuinely believes that the security service should not have the right to intercept telephonic communications, it must subscribe to the view that we should not have a security service at all. The British report from which I have quoted clearly states that a security service cannot operate efficiently without the right to do these things. The finding of the Privy Council committee was signed not only by two non-Labour members of the Privy Council, but also by Mr. P. C. Gordon Walker, the Labour representative on the committee.
The interception of telephonic communications is not a new practice. It was instituted by Mr. Chifley, and interceptions were, in fact, made under his authority. I do not criticize him for that. Since the introduction of the practice some attempt has been made by this Government to narrow the field in which interceptions can take place. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) attempted to narrow the field of security precautions and the rights of the security service to intercept telephonic communications. Now we are taking the matter a step further and providing by legislative enactment that the responsible Minister shall not authorize interceptions without going through a fairly rigorous and watertight procedure. Anybody who criticizes our security service for its possible misuse of power should remember that 92 per cent, of the personnel of the service were appointed by Mr. Chifley. Ninety-two per cent, of the people now employed in the security service were appointed by a Labour administration. It is cowardly to suggest that this group of men, whose integrity is beyond dispute - this was exhibited on many occasions during the Petrov inquiry - would abuse the right to intercept telephonic communications. Every power that the Government has can be abused if the responsible Minister is a liar, a rogue or a criminal. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who is listening to me, has ministerial powers that he could abuse if he were dishonest. It is a poor argument to say that a power may be abused. Of course it can be abused, but it is the purpose of responsible government to stop it. The Opposition. gains no .marks, in my mind, or in the minds of the people who are listening to the broadcast of our proceedings, by suggesting that these men, whose integrity is beyond reproach, would from now on use this right - a right which is restricted - for a cheap political purpose. We are getting pretty low in the political sphere when that is the only argument that can be put forward against this measure.
There was a very good reason why this bill should be introduced because, as I have said, there was absolute power to intercept telephone messages at one stage. There is no doubt about that. Senator McKenna has referred to it. Then restricted power was granted, by way of regulation, to the Postmaster-General’s Department. As Senator McKenna read that regulation, I shall not reiterate it.
– Is there any basis for the view that the prerogative existed after that?
– I do not think you can argue for a moment that that qualified the Crown’s, shall I say, ancient common law right of intercepting telephone communications. I do not think it did. But I suggest there was a danger in that regulation.
– What was wrong with it?
– I shall tell the honorable senator if he is patient. It gave to the department - it did not say to which official the power was given and it did not stipulate the circumstances under which the power could be used - the power to tap telephones. I suggest that a very grave situation could have arisen if, for example, a Communist, by subterfuge, obtained the right to tap a telephone. That was a possibility, because this was a departmental responsibility. It was not necessary for an application to go to a Minister, and the case did not necessarily have to relate to subversion. It could be a case relating to the pursuit of a criminal, for example. That power, given by regulation, is being curtailed in this legislation, under which only the Director-General of Security can ask for a warrant, and then only on matters relating to security. So the absolute power of the Crown - which still exists, in.-point of law, at - this very moment- has r Been restricted to matters appertaining solely to subversion. But even so, the Opposition objects to this bill.
Perhaps we might have a look at what other nations do. lt is common knowledge, Sir, as 1 have already indicated, that the Government of Great Britain uses this method to catch spies. It is common knowledge also that this happens in America. It happens in all democracies. Although objection to this power could be raised in any of those countries, I think I am right in saying that there has never yet been an objection raised to it, in respect of subversion, in any one of the English-speaking democracies by any political party except the Australian Labour Party in this country. That is a record of which the Australian Labour Party might well be proud! Not one political party party in Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand or America has objected to this power being given in respect of espionage, yet the Australian Labour Party objects to it being given here.
Why is the Australian Labour Party opposing this measure? I think that is something that we might well have a look at. It is pretty obvious that the Australian Labour Party is opposing it for the same reason as it endorsed a foreign policy which in this country is acceptable only to the Communist Party. It is opposing the measure for the same reason as it refuses to take any proper action to abolish unity tickets, lt is opposing the measure for the same reason as it vehemently and vigorously objected to Australian troops being sent to Malaya, and for the same reason that it objected most violently to the setting up of the Anzus pact and the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. Those are the reasons why the A.L.P. is now opposing this measure. In plaint, blunt terms, it is opposing the measure because it is not game to fight the interests who say they do not like it - and every one knows what those interests are. It is a terrible thing that at this critical time, when a calamity has occurred in the world, the Labour Party says, “ We do not want a security service in this country. Our cobbers do not want it, and we are afraid to buck them “. That is why the Labour caucus decided to oppose the bill.
I know that some good Labour men sitting opposite do not, in their hearts, oppose it.
This bill will be passed. Of that, there is no possible doubt. It will be passed, however, not only because we have the numbers, but also because it has the approbation of the great majority of Australians, both Liberal and Labour supporters. I think that the whole of the country is applauding the Attorney-General for having the ability to bring down this piece of legislation, which is unique in this field. It will preserve the right of the security service, of which we are all so proud, to continue its great work. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– When this bill was mooted, I expected that there would be very little opposition to it. It behoves me to state the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labour Party to it. Nobody really wants a security service in this country, and nobody really wants telephone tapping, but we accept the necessity for them, because we see what is happening to-day in the world. We hoped that, as a result of the Summit conference, it would be possible to do away with espionage, but the Summit conference was a dismal failure, as most people really expected it to be.
We do not like these things, but in the world in which we live they are an absolute necessity. Any person in this country who advocates that we should not indulge in counter-espionage - and phone tapping is a means of helping that activity - does a great disservice to the country. Senator McKenna spent quite a long time - and I listened to him very carefully - telling us about the bugbears of telephone tapping. I agree with him that there are bugbears, but the point is that telephone tapping can happen in a country whether there is any law against it or not. What happened in America and other countries in the case of gangsters and criminals? They would have engaged in telephone tapping whether there had been a law against it or not. Senator McKenna said that we need to educate the people to this sort of thing, but I am sure that criminals in America found out that telephone tapping was a useful source of revenue irrespective of whether or not there was a law against it.
The security of this country is of vital importance. I would have been very disappointed if the Government had attempted to do away with the security service. Certain members of the Opposition have said that the calibre of our security service is very poor, but a great number of people in this country would be against any attempt to do away with such a service. The Government has allowed the Russian Embassy to be re-established in this country in spite of what we learned about Russian espionage from the Petrov case. It is no good anybody trying to say that the Petrov case was a party political stunt. I am sure that Government senators who had anything to do with what happened during that period, and who know some of the facts that are contained in the files of this Parliament, will agree that espionage is a very serious thing. I was disappointed when the Government allowed the Russian Embassy to be reestablished in this country and to become again a centre for espionage.
– You did not want the Summit conference to succeed. Be honest about it.
– Nobody wants peace more than I do, and I have a much bigger stake in this country than the honorable senator who has just interjected. I have five children who have to face their future in this country and therefore I want to see peace maintained more than does the honorable senator. Seeing that the Government has allowed the Russian Embassy to be reestablished it must take precautions, and I hope that the precautions it will take will be adequate. I know that the Government received the approbation of members of the Labour Party when it allowed the Russians to return. The Democratic Labour Party was the one party which said that the action of the Government was wrong. I believe that in their hearts members of the Government believed that what they were doing was wrong, but they thought it was a diplomatic move. The Government has made its decision and it is up to it now to see that the security service under Brigadier Spry, whose name has been mentioned here to-night, is brought to its highest peak. I believe that he is a man capable of bringing the service to that peak.
Telephone tapping, as we call it, is, of course, against the wishes of the people, but it is not against the wishes of the people if it is used to tap the telephones of those who engage in subversive activities. What would happen if telephone tapping was not controlled by legislation and the Government brought in a law prohibiting tapping of any kind whatsoever?
– That has been the law in this country.
– It has never been the law in this country; but I will come to that in a moment. Just what would happen? The people know, and espionage agents know, that certain telephone tapping would take place. If the Government were to bring in legislation which provided that in no circumstances could the security services tap a telephone, what would be the result? There would be an open go between espionage agents in Australia and their principals in Moscow.
– What would they find out? Only that we have no defences here at all; and they would not need to tap a telephone to find that out.
– Why do you think they have their channels here now?
– I do not know.
– I do not suppose you do; you are not very interested in fighting them in any case. You would give them an open go and allow them to use the telephonic services, and even the cable services of this country, to forward all the information they desired. Do not let us think that the information espionage agents wish to forward relates only to defence. They want to know other things as well so that when the time is ripe for what people call the revolution, they will be able to point to certain persons and say, “ You will join us or else “. These agents want to know all these things; yet Senator Hendrickson wants to give them an open go.
I do not understand why the Labour Party is opposing this bill. The measure at least does away with the objectionable features of telephone tapping. If this bill is not passed, we will go back to the old style of things.
– What was the old style? Explain it to the Senate.
– I am afraid I have not the technical knowledge to explain just how a telephone is tapped.
– As you do not know what the position was, why refer to it?
– I do not know anything about the technical aspect of the matter, but in another place the number of times telephones were tapped was mentioned.
– Ministers do not tell the truth. Former Labour Ministers denied that telephone tapping occurred when the Chifley Government was in office.
– The Attorney-General told the House the number of times that telephones were tapped in this country during the last two years. We know that telephone tapping did take place for certain purposes, and that it was done under direction. All this bill proposes to do is to legalize telephone tapping under special circumstances which are set out in the bill. If this bill is defeated we will go back to the position that existed under the Chifley regime when telephone tapping was permitted.
– When was it used?
– Ask your former Ministers.
– You are telling us of these things, and you are also speaking to the public.
– I am sure the honorable senator is not going to deny that it was used.
– When was it used? You were a member of the party then.
– I have not access to the files of the previous Government. I shall have to wait a few years until my party is in government in order to get access to those files. Then I will be able to inform the honorable senator when telephone tapping was used by his party. He wants to go back to the system that existed under the Chifley regime. At least the Government is being honest when it says, in effect. “ This is what we want, this is what we are putting before the people of Australia. This is what we want the Parliament to agree to.” The Government is seeking to impose telephone tapping under specific conditions. What is wrong with the bill? It is said that anybody’s telephone could be tapped. I do not mind who taps my telephone. Any one without subversive instincts will not worry about whether or not his telephone is tapped. Even if indications were heard that somebody was engaged in a shady deal, that could not be used against him, in view of the provisions of the bill. That is a very important point. In other countries recorded telephone conversations were used in evidence against persons, which led to the introduction of legislation which prohibited this practice. Nothing like that could happen after the passage of this bill. It is an important bill because it emphasizes that telephone tapping is to be used only against subversive elements.
Labour senators have said that unions will be destroyed. The only unions affected will be those which are foolish enough to have subversive persons as their leaders. One senator said that the telephone of the president of the Australian Labour Party could be tapped, a Minister having said that this man had been known in his early days as Joe Zanni. It is true that he did use that name in his very early days, when he was not attached to the Australian Labour Party. Only the telephone of subversive persons will be tapped. Let no one tell me that Thornton and Sharkey were not subversive elements. A Labour government dealt with them as subversive persons, and it dealt with certain unions as subversive elements during the coal-miner’s strike. Unions will not be destroyed if the telephones of some of their leaders are tapped. Tn fact, a great service may be done to unionism if the fair-dinkum unionists are shown where their leaders are leading them.
I have stated our attitude to the bill. I cannot understand why the Labour Party is opposing it, because it will do away with such happenings as Senator Aylett and Senator Cant related from personal experience. If the bill does not become law, we shall be hearing more clicks on the line under the system operated by Labour governments. The Democratic Labour Party believes that this is a sensible and necessary bill for the preservation of the security of this country, which comes first with us.
.- Like Senator Cole, I express my utter amazement that there should be opposition to this measure. Judging by the speeches that we have heard from the other side of the chamber, if Labour ever again forms the government of this country, it will be a case of “ God help the country’s security, because nobody else will “. I was reminded of a statement made at about the turn of the century by a very great Tasmanian, who forecast growing intensity of the party system in Australia, and said -
These feelings of distrust and disapproval are, if I do not mistake, almost entirely occasioned and generated by the accursed system under which the party on one side of the House is always striving to murder the reputations of the party on the other side, in order to leap over the dead bodies of their reputations on to the seats of the Treasury bench.
– Who said that?
– Carrel Inglis Clark, who was a very great Tasmanian. He expressed a dread of the feelings that could be generated by the intensity of the party system as he saw it developing 50 years ago. I cannot help thinking that we have seen an example of opposition for the sake of opposition. I believe that the bill is opposed simply because Opposition senators think that some political capital may thereby accrue to them. Senator McKenna, with his great ability, is able to state a case for either side, but he was compelled to drag all the red herrings from the sea. He disagreed with the manner in which telephone tapping is to be implemented. He went to a lot of trouble to compare the procedure in this country with the procedure in the United Kingdom. I join issue with him on his statement that we in Australia are in a very much more secure position than are the people of the Mother Country. That may have been true 30 years ago or even twenty years ago. It may well have been said then that we were infinitely more secure than was the United Kingdom.
Surely it is not necessary for me to remind the Senate that the world situation has changed so rapidly and will continue to change so rapidly that very soon one will be able to say with truth that not one part of the world is more secure than any other. The days are gone when we could seek safety in the isolation of Australia and boast, because we are so far removed from the danger zone, about our security and claim to have no need to take any measures to safeguard it. lt well may be that, with a hostile Communist China to the north of us and the upsurge of nationalism in most of the other countries of eastern Asia, our position to-day is no more secure than that of any other country. It certainly behoves any government to take whatever action it considers necessary, such as the action taken by the previous. Labour Administration under the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, to ensure that the security of this country is amply safeguarded.
It has been said during this debate and ever since the bill was first mooted that Australians are 100 per cent, loyal and that therefore there is no need for this measure. I have heard it said that there is positively no need to apply these provisions to Australia because of the outlook, the feeling and the loyalty of the Australian people. I believe that they are more loyal than most other peoples, but if they are 100 per cent, loyal they are something new in the world. Indeed, they are new in history, because no other country has ever been without its potential fifth column. Honorable senators should not forget that this country, as well as the United Kingdom and every other free country, has its potential fifth column. Twenty years ago, we were afraid of the Nazi influence. The previous Labour Administration had some experience of that, but to-day it is crystal clear that the great potential threat to the freedom of the world lies in the Communist fifth column.
It has always seemed ironical to me that in this country and the other free countries these people can use all the facilities of a free democracy, including the postal and telephone services and the newspapers, to further their propaganda. They can even publish their own newspapers to undermine that very freedom that allows them to do it. Yet the Labour Party in this Parliament says that the security service of this Commonwealth must not even do that single and obvious thing that is done throughout the world to counteract in some way this threat to freedom. Senator McKenna had a good deal to say about spying. He described this measure as an incursion into spying and he condemned the bill on that account. 1 point out that most police work falls within that category, and I venture to say that most security work in this country falls within the same category. Without doubt it is essential to the security of Australia that some organization should keep tab on people who would attempt to subvert the independence of this and other free countries.
When speaking about spying, Senator McKenna referred to the drift of the world because of the failure of the Summit conference that was to have taken place this week. He said that spying had been the prime cause of the breakdown of that conference. However, by comparison with the record of subversion and treachery of the country responsible for breaking down the Summit conference and its incursions into the affairs of other countries, the sending of a spy plane over Russia is of complete insignificance. Some organization is necessary to counter a spying, subversive organization the like of which the world has never previously seen. It has permeated to every corner of every country and has the avowed intention of overthrowing all free countries. Do not forget that since the end of World War II., 100,000,000 people have come under the domination of that system by methods of subversion. Yet, strange to relate, the Labour Party in this country says that we must not even challenge it by elementary methods, which are used the world over and are essential to keep tab on the operations of these people.
The position was well summed up by the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) in his second-reading speech. He said that the Attorney-General must first be satisfied that a telephone service is used or is likely to be used in activities or for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth, and that the interception of communications passing over it will or are considered likely to assist the Australian Security Intelligence Organization in carrying out its function of obtaining security intelligence.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the ad journment of the Senate, I formally put. the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The Minister hassaid that only under those conditions can telephones be tapped in the interests of security. In other words, a telephone can be tapped only when the Minister is satisfied that the telephone in question is being used for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth. Surely, if the Labour Party denies this power to the Minister, then it is denying to the security service a facility that should obviously be available to it when the officers of that service suspect, or even know, that a phone is being used for purposes prejudicial to the security of the country. Even in those circumstances, apparently, the Labour Party would say, “ You must not tap that phone in order to obtain information “.
I do feel that this is a measure that should have been passed without a great deal of discussion. Its merits seem to me to be obvious. It concerns a practice that has been adopted by most other countries. We have had a good deal of discussion this evening about what happens in the United Kingdom. If I had any grievance against this measure it would be that the bill does not go as far as I would like it to go. I believe that the security of this Commonwealth is so essential, that it is of such paramount importance and should be so far above party considerations, that there ought to be no quibble about the passage of this legislation. I think it was Senator Cole who said that any one who was not indulging in subversive activities, activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth, need have no fear whatever of this legislation. I support the measure.
– This bill, in the opinion of the Labour Party, proposes an outrageous interference with the private lives of Australian citizens, and we have no hesitation in saying that we oppose it. Senator Lillico made a statement that was indicative of the arrogance of the present Government. He had the temerity to say that if a Labour party government were elected to occupy the Treasury bench, then God help Australia. That remark came from a person who supports a government of the same political complexion as the one that ratted on Australia in 1941, when we were embroiled in a total war, a government that got out from under and left the guidance of this country during that great crisis to a Labour government led by Mr. Curtin, and later by Mr. Chifley.
I have said that this bill involves an outrageous interference with the private lives of Australian citizens. What I want to know is this: Has there suddenly emerged a state of crisis? What has arisen to justify this measure? We have not been told that a state of crisis has suddenly arisen in Australia. We have not been told of the necessity for this legislation. Senator Anderson said that this is a bill to restrict telephone tapping. I will say that if there was any telephone tapping before the introduction of this bill it was completely illegal. The Government proposes to put the imprimatur of legality on telephone tapping, and I propose to elaborate later on the dangers inherent in this course.
As I have said, the Government has given us no evidence of a danger warranting such a drastic step as this. I suggest - and honorable senators should take note of this fact - that this is a step that could definitely lead to the formation of a police state. Do not think that it cannot happen here. I can show honorable senators tendencies towards a police state inherent in a number of Government measures that have come before this chamber.
Under this legislation any suspected person may be subject to eavesdropping, and such a person would not know that his line had been tapped, and he would not have a chance to answer those who reported his telephone conversations. How can the security service itself be prevented from tapping a telephone without a warrant? All the Director-General of Security has to do is to satisfy himself that he has a suspicion, and in certain circumstances he can then issue himself with a warrant. In that regard I refer to clause 6 of the bill, which reads as follows: -
Security for the issue of a warrant under this section in respect of a telephone service, the Attorney-General is satisfied that -
the telephone service is being or is likely to be -
the interception by the Organization of communications passing to, from or over the telephone service will, or is likely to, assist the Organization in carrying out its function of obtaining intelligence relevant to the security of the Commonwealth, the Attorney-General may, by warrant under his hand, authorize the Organization to intercept communications passing over any telephone line that forms part of the telephone service or connects the service to a telephone exchange.
Certain circumstances could arise in which the Director-General could issue a warrant to himself, without reference to the AttorneyGeneral.
A Government senator said during the course of this debate that the legislation would be passed. Of course it will be passed, because the Government has the numbers to ensure that it will be passed. It is not a bit of good having logic unless you have the numbers to go with the logic. Having the numbers, Government senators have appeared almost reluctant to justify this measure to any extent at all. It appears to me that when this power is given to the security service we shall need a security service to watch the security service.
When introducing the measure in another place the Attorney-General said that eavesdropping was abhorrent to us as a people. Naturally it is; it is anathema to the Australian people. But the important point is that nobody will feel safe. The powers conferred by a measure such as this can be abused, and I have no doubt that in certain circumstances they will be abused. They will be abused for political purposes, not security purposes. As I said earlier, let us not believe that it cannot happen here. Just cast your minds back to 1954, to the time of the Royal Commission on Espionage, or the Petrov circus as it has been called. That commission was purely and simply an election stunt, which was sprung on the people of Australia just before a federal election.
What was obtained from the Petrov commission? Nothing, except muck-raking. Some completely innocent people were branded and taken before the commission. I think that, fortunately all of them were cleared and given a clean sheet, but at the same time, a stigma such as that is likely to stick and to affect the person concerned at least throughout his working life. That commission cost the people of Australia more than £40,000, but there was not one bit of evidence, not one prosecution, not a thing that was of any benefit to the country. The commission found nothing to the detriment of the security of Australia. The only person who benefited from it was Petrov, and he got £5,000 and a chicken run. As I am reminded, the Government has since invited the Russians to come back to Australia. They are represented here again on the diplomatic level.
– I have not heard the honorable senator previously criticizing their return.
– Keep quiet, small change, or I will spend you.
– Drop that. It is the cheapest rejoinder ever made.
– If Senator McCallum listened to me he might learn something. If he manacled his monocle to what I am saying, he might benefit. I want to know whether this legislation is, in effect, the forerunner of the pulling of another rabbit out of the hat. That is the danger that confronts us at the present time.
Who is to determine what constitutes espionage, sabotage and, more particularly, subversion? It is subversion with which we are mainly concerned in this bill. Any one opposed to the government of the day could be regarded as a person either engaged in subversion or likely to engage in it. That is an aspect of this matter with which we should be gravely concerned. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in his second-reading speech, stated that there were two exceptions so far as the tapping of telephones was concerned, the first being in connexion with postal’ officials in the per formance of their duties. He went on to say -
The second exception relates to the interception of communications by the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or persons specially authorized by him -
Of course, that widens the scope - on occasions when a Minister of the Crown - the Attorney-General - is satisfied upon facts placed before him that the telephone service, in respect of which the interception takes place, is being used or is likely to be used-
How, in the name of goodness, you are to determine whether a telephone is likely to be used for such purposes is beyond me - for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth and that the interception would be likely to assist in the performance by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization of its statutory function of obtaining intelligence relevant to the security of the Commonwealth.
He went on to say that, in. short, the second exception was related to those cases in which listening would be likely to assist in the protection of this country against espionage, sabotage or subversion.
For the purposes of this bill, I think we can safely discard consideration of espionage and sabotage. We are concerned mainly with the matter of subversion. Is it not elementary that a person who intends to engage in espionage or sabotage would refrain from using the telephone? Do honorable senators opposite think that A would ring B and make a rendezvous in order to participate in an act of sabotage or espionage? Even if such persons were compelled, in certain circumstances, to use the telephone, would they not use a code? Do honorable senators think that they would be silly enough to speak openly on the telephone about matters of sabotage or espionage? The thing that we want to watch, in relation to this bill, is the interpretation that is to be given to the word “ subversion “. As was mentioned earlier by an honorable senator on this side of the chamber, the actions of anybody who opposed the Government could be interpreted as subversive, and so too, perhaps, could the actions of trade unionists. The term is such a wide one that almost any action could be construed as being subversive. We of the Opposition are particularly concerned with the use to which the legislation will be put and the possibility of its abuse. The Government parties have the numbers, although they lack logic, and undoubtedly the bill will go through. When the people of Australia realize that even their telephone conversations will not be safe from prying, the idea will be completely abhorrent to them. There are other methods than this of dealing with sabotage and espionage, methods that are commonly used in other countries. The Government cannot hope to get evidence of sabotage or espionage from telephone conversations. Obviously, there are other motives behind this measure than are apparent on the surface. 1 consider, Mr. Deputy President, that the bill is aimed principally at the trade union movement. We remember the penal clauses in the arbitration legislation and the savage fines that were imposed on the Seamen’s Union only a week or so ago. The union was first fined £500, and then another £300. The Government now wishes to be able to get the security service in to tap telephones, and I have no doubt that many trade union activities will be classed as subversive. To indicate the dictatorial and police state tendencies of this Government, I need go ‘no farther than to refer to the introduction by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill on 27th April, 1950. As everybody knows, that bill was rejected by the High Court and ultimately by the people of Australia, at a referendum. When we consider the provisions that the original Communist Party Dissolution Bill contained, we must agree that Hitler and Mussolini were novices, compared with the present Australian Government, in the implementation of police state methods. Had the original legislation been enacted, its provisions would have created in this country the worst police state in the history of the world.
– That was your first unity ticket, I suppose.
– If the Government parties can achieve unity, you may be safe. Once telephone tapping becomes legal it will become the plaything of the people who have dictatorial tendencies. As I pointed out a while ago, there are some such people in this country. For instance, I remember that in 1938, the present Prime Minister admired the Nazi system and said that we could do with a little bit of
Hitlerism in Australia. He said that in the year before World War II. started. One of the prominent Victorian supporters of the Liberal Party - I do not know whether the party called itself the Liberal Party then, but it was a party of the same kind as the present Liberal Party - advocated concentration camps for strikers. That was in the general election campaign in 1940, after the war had started.
When this measure becomes law only two persons in the community will be immune from telephone tapping. One will be the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. Although we may at present have an Attorney-General in whom we can place complete trust, we may have somebody of a different calibre in that position next year. We do not know who will occupy the position in the future. The other person who will be immune from telephone tapping is the head of the security service. He may delegate certain powers to people authorized by him. That opens the door to perjurers, pimps and informers who, in order to justify their continued employment, may be tempted to frame somebody. Those are dangers inherent in this legislation.
Honorable senators opposite have said a great deal during the course of this debate about the security of the Commonwealth. 1 firmly believe that we should take every precaution possible to ensure our security but where measures such as this one are concerned we must look for the nigger in the woodpile. In view of the vicious penal provisions that have been inserted by this Government into the arbitration machinery we are justified in fearing that this bill is aimed principally at the trade union movement.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), repeatedly denied that telephone tapping was taking place, but later, in another place it was admitted that 182 interceptions of telephonic communications had been made over a period of 11 years. No information was given about the nature of those interceptions. We do not know whether anything was gained from them. We do not know whether they were justified. Not very long ago the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable me ber for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), being perturbed by the telephone tapping that they claimed was taking D]ace, asked the Prime Minister certain questions. In his answer the Prime Minister said -
– What was the question?
– The Minister would not understand it if 1 told him. In answer to a question by the honorable member for Hindmarsh the Prime Minister said -
I deprecate this obviously political attempt to suggest that the rights of private members are being invaded.
In his second-reading speech the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) - he is always at sea - said that no exception would be made in the case of members of Parliament. Every member of Parliament has a right to use his telephone free from evil, prying ears. His constituents should be able to contact him safe in the knowledge that any information they may give to him will not be overheard by some other person.
In another instance, the late Mr. Archie Cameron, who was then Speaker of the House of Representatives, said -
If this tapping of telephones is taking place I say without hesitation that it is a very serious breach of the privileges of every member of the House.
On 3rd June, 1952, Sir Arthur Fadden, who was Acting Prime Minister at the time, in reply to a question by a member of the Opposition, said -
This is a fitting subject for investigation by the Committee of Privileges.
Later, when a motion was proposed that the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges, Government supporters were whipped into line and the motion was defeated on a party vote.
When he introduced the bill in another place, the Attorney-General said that the telephones of members of Parliament would be tapped only if they indulged in subversive activities. We should realize the wide definition that could be given to the word “ subversive “. For instance, if members of the Opposition criticized the Government’s defence policy and quoted certain figures in relation to defence matters, it could be claimed that they were acting in a subversive manner. Another thing that we must bear in mind is the possibility of innocent people being wrongly branded as subversive. It will be remembered that during the Petrov inquiry a statement was issued, apparently by the security service, which branded quite a number of people in the community as Communists. The following day the Prime Minister apologized for that statement in the House. But irreparable harm can be done to individuals who are wrongly branded as Communists. As a result of such a smear people may be deprived of their employment. Those are dangers inherent in the bill. Union activity could be branded as subversive.
What information of any value concerning sabotage or espionage does the Government expect to get over a telephone? The idea is too silly for words. This measure savours of the police state, and is repugnant to the Australian people. If a gallup poll were taken in Australia today I am prepared to lay odds of 1,000 to 1 that the people would overwhelmingly reject this legislation. If the Government is so confident that the people favour this legislation, let it withdraw the bill and submit the question to the people.
– Are those odds of 1,000 to 1 still on offer?
– Yes, provided the Government withdraws the bill and submits the legislation to a referendum. I am not being reckless in offering such long odds, because I am on a certainty.
The Opposition opposes the bill in its entirety. The bill is vicious and dangerous. It is totally opposed to every concept of freedom and democracy. It would be overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Australia if they had an opportunity to cast a vote on it. I challenge the Government to submit the bill to the people. The Government is continually talking about democracy, freedom and the rights of the individual. Let the people have a say on this. If the matter were referred to the people, their decision would be similar to the outright rejection by the High Court of Australia and the people of the infamous Communist Party Dissolution Bill in 1950. If honorable senators opposite who are supporting the Government in this measure are as sincere as they claim to be concerning individual freedom and the rights of the individual, I suggest that they vote with the Australian Labour Party against this measure.
This bill is opposed by the Australian Labour Party. Every member of our party is irrevocably opposed to it, in spite of what some Government senators have said about our leaders. Senator Anderson, in his contribution to the debate, devoted one half of his time to talking about the leadership of the Australian Labour Party. At least, wo have never had a leadership that let Australia down, as did the Liberal Party in 1941. 1 have made that statement for Senator Lillico’s benefit but 1 now notice that he is not present. He said, “ God help Australia if an Australian Labour Party Government were returned to power”. I say, “ God help Australia if we don’t get a Labour Government “.
– At this late stage, speaking after a great many others have spoken, I should be replying to argument, but I have heard very little argument to reply to. I always listen to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) very intently, and 1 shall reply to something that he put forward as an argument, although it was a completely falacious argument. He suggested very early in his speech that Australians were greater lovers of liberty than the people of Great Britain. Of course, our history has not yet been written. What passes for Australian history is -very shallow stuff, because the groundwork has never been done. A great deal of it, of course, is mere tradition. But the history of Great Britain has been written, re-written and criticized, and then re-written again. I want to say to Senator McKenna that before he entered upon that argument, he should have acquainted himself with a bit of the history of Great Britain.
He introduced the matter of divine right and he based an argument on the ground that the idea of divine right was one promulgated by the English people. I think he used the word “ English “. When I use the word, I do not use it, as certain people do, as a synonym for “ British “. When I use the word “ English “, I refer to the people living south of the Tweed. I say that the English people never believed in the idea of divine right; they never accepted it. Unfortunately, it was introduced in Scotland. I think that one of the greatest events in the history of the British Commonwealth was the annexation of England by Scotland.
King James VI. of Scotland became the King of England-
– Whose phone are you tapping?
– The honorable senator can tap mine whenever he wants to. As I said a moment ago, the idea of the divine right was never accepted in England. The only two kings who tried to put it into practice were Charles I. and James II. The English, rightly or wrongly, cut off Charles’ head. I would not justify that act, because it was done following a completely unjudicial proceeding. It was not done after due process of law. An arbitrary body virtually condemned him before the trial commenced. Those historians who try to justify the act say that it killed for ever the idea of the divine right because it showed that the King was a man who could be treated as a traitor to his country. Charles II. - certainly the wittiest, and possibly the wisest of the Stuarts - did not bring that question up. His unfortunate younger brother, James II., did. He was not executed but he was driven out of the country and a new regime commenced.
Sir, it may be that there are some people in the British Isles who still believe in the divine right - romantically minded people and sentimental old people - but I do not think any of them has any power, influence and authority. I am treading now almost on eggs. I know there is a standing order to which I am getting pretty close, but T do not think that I am transgressing it. One would be presumptuous to say that one had any idea of the opinion of the monarch, but I can tell you this: There was once a lady known as the little Princess Elizabeth. The man who was entrusted with her education in historical and constitutional matters was a certain Dr. Martin. I know his opinions because for years 1 used in schools his text-book, which was one of the best text-books ever written for school children. T know that that book is impregnated with a view of history which is often criticized to-day. It is one in which I was brought up but which I would not say is finally and completely true, because no views of history are. I refer to the Whig tradition - the tradition that Parliament must be supreme and that the victory of the Parliament over the Crown in 1688 was the greatest achievement of the British people. So much for this talk of the divine right and of the belief in it in the British Isles. The people of the British Isles - particularly England, have always been fanatical about the liberty of the subject. The suggestion that we Australians have improved beyond them is, I think, completely unproved.
During the latter part of his speech, Senator McKenna went almost to the other extreme. Reading from what was after all only the report of three gentlemen who happened to be Privy Councillors and were asked to report to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, he suggested that what they recommended was the practice in Great Britain. There is no evidence that it is. As a matter of fact, what I got out of that report was that the British police do things which we do not do here in order to catch criminals, some of which are expressly forbidden by the bill before us.
It has been said again and again - it was said very well by Senator Anderson - that this is a bill to restrict, not to extend, the practice of intercepting telephone conversations. Whether or not that practice began with Mr. Chifley, or earlier, it has been in force and it has been used without any precise definition by statute for a great number of years. We have to restrict the practice. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), whom certain pathological members of the Opposition cannot even mention without revealing a kind of completely ridiculous hatred, introduced executive measures which did restrict it. Now the time has come when it has been thought right to put it in statutory form; and that is all that this bill does. It is a bill to restrict. The important thing to remember is that it prohibits under certain penalties any interception of telephone conversations, and there are no exceptions. It was suggested in another place that the AttorneyGeneral must be an exception since he is the one to authorize the tapping. Well, that may be so. But the Attorney-General is responsible to the Parliament. At any moment he could be dismissed by the gentlemen in another place; and we in this place can indirectly influence, and even control, his actions.
It has happened that attorneys-general have sat in this chamber. One former Attorney-General sat on our side, and still sits here, and an acting Attorney-General on the other side still sits there. To suggest that this country could have an irresponsible attorney-general who could not be trusted is, I think, to go to the height of absurdity. If that position ever arose this Parliament and this country would be so corrupt that there would be nobody on whom we could depend. I suggest that to place the final responsibility in the hands of the AttorneyGeneral is the greatest safeguard that we can have. It is a much better safeguard than to place it in a judge or any one outside the Parliament. It has been said that the responsibility should be placed in the hands of a judge. That suggestion shows that the people who make it have no idea of the functions of a judge. A judge of the High Court could not possibly fill that position constitutionally, and a State judge, while he is subject to State law, could be appointed only with the consent of a State Parliament. Every power should finally be in the_ hands of a responsible Minister. That is the only way to safeguard the rights of Parliament.
It is difficult at this stage to speak without repeating what has been said. I wish to repeat as little as possible. Many of the points I wanted to make have been made by other speakers as well as I could have made them. I want to speak only on the provisions with regard to security. The exception to interception which is made in the interests of police action by the States, but necessarily under Commonwealth law because the Commonwealth controls the Post Office, is a very necessary one. As a matter of fact it is one of which I have some personal knowledge. I happen to take a great interest in a number of schools and orphanages. I have been rung up on occasions by people who have complained that somebody was using the telephone for the purpose of insulting, and even threatening, various people in these institutions. I would say that the tapping of the telephone in that case is absolutely necessary in an endeavour to catch that kind of person.
I shall give the Senate one instance. I was rung up by a lady teaching in a certain school. She said that somebody whom they could not find - they had told the police, but the police could not find him - was constantly ringing up and making not only insulting but also threatening remarks.
The headmaster of the school naturally decided not to send a woman or a girl to answer the telephone but to send a man. When a man went to the telephone there was no response. The telephone would ring but when it was answered there would be no reply and after a time of listening you would hear a sound which indicated that the man at the other end had gone away. They had to find a woman who was willing to answer the telephone and to keep on doing so until the police got on to the track of the criminal. That kind of interception is absolutely necessary In the interests of the police.
– Is not that the legal position now?
– I think it will be legal under this bill. We cannot interfere with the action of the State police; it is open to them to take such action. As far as this bill is concerned it is permissible, if the subscriber makes an appeal. That is how police action can arise, but 1 do not want to go into that.
There are all kinds of other safeguards. Warrants are necessary. The terms on which a warrant is issued are clearly laid down in the bill. The Attorney-General must give his consent except in a sudden emergency when the Director-General of Security thinks that immediate action is necessary. Even then, although the Director-General of Security may make an immediate decision, he must put it in writing and he must let the Attorney-General know of it. If the Director-General has made a mistake the Attorney-General can cancel his authority immediately; and in any case the Director-General has to go through the procedure within 48 hours of getting the Attorney-General to make out the warrant. The justification for this, of course, is the security of the country, which means the security of everybody in it. In (he world we live in to-day who can doubt its necessity? We may regret and bewail the necessity for this sort of thing, but the necessity is there. An old Roman proverb which has become a maxim of law is “ Sal us populi est suprema lex “. It means that the safety of the people is the supreme law. The principle goes back to the days of old republican Rome. It is not something that came to us from the Empire.
Early republican Rome was so concerned not to concentrate power in one head that it had two heads of equal power - two consuls. No other state ever had such a system. That state in its time, considering the people who lived around it - the various armies and tyrannies and so on - did more for the development of real popular government than any ancient people, except possibly the Greeks. But the Greeks mostly went to the other extreme. They allowed liberty to degenerate into licence and most of them perished for that reason.
The whole point is simply this: We have restricted this power as far as I think is possible. One of the suggestions that Senator McKenna threw out was that certain other restrictions should be placed in the legislation. When we reach the committee stage he might be able to suggest a clause that will provide some other restriction which will not destroy the power completely but will preserve individual liberty. We could consider such a suggestion in committee, but at this stage 1 will say nothing about it.
I am not going into any insinuations as to motives. Why the Labour Party has adopted its present attitude is its own business. It has its caucus meeting where it makes its decision. 1 only know what is likely to have happened there from the press, gossip or some other source. Various suggestion have floated around. But whatever the decision of caucus on this bill has been many Labour men, particularly in another place, have advocated virtually what is contained in this bill. Its general principles were outlined here by Senator Vincent. And Senator Anderson quoted a Labour member in another place, Mr. Clyde Cameron, as saying that it was not the power to intercept messages that mattered, but how it should be done, by what authority and so forth. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in another place has publicly stated the same thing. It is not the question of interception, but by what authority and by what means it is done. This bill has tied the position down as far as human ingenuity and legal skill permit. 1 find detective stories to be among the healthiest of the cheap literature that is published. From reading them I have obtained some know- ledge of the working of Scotland Yard. I also happen to know personally quite a number of policemen. I know that police officers feel it their duty to get evidence, and therefore I think it is quite right to lay down rules to say that they must not do certain things. The same is true of a security service. But these organizations must not be tied down so that they cannot do anything. People who attack this measure with plenty of invective say, “ We are for security just as much as you are “. But it is of no use to say that you support a security service if you make it deaf and blind. It must have eyes to see and ears to hear.
The question of communications has been dealt with in the report of the three Privy Councillors. The principle upon which they all agreed was simply this: Spies are highly trained, very skilled people, who take great precautions. Their one weak link is communication. If they can communicate personally, and do that only, they will do it. One senator said that they would use a code. They may do so, but part of the work of detection is to find out the code and read through it. That can be done. If we take away from the security service or from the police the power to intercept messages, we make them both deaf and blind. We hit at their strongest point which, of course, is the weakest point of the spy or the criminal.
The bill states how the power shall be exercised and by whose authority. The authority is clearly the Parliament’s. The legal position in England was something about which there was much difference of opinion. Interception had gone on for more years than anybody could recall. lt had been not established but recognized in statutes for 200 years. The lawyers could argue this way and that about the authority on which it was done, but it was not clearly under the authority of Parliament. We shall put it clearly under the authority of Parliament. Parliament will, as far as it can do so, bind by statute everybody concerned. The man finally responsible will be the Attorney-General, who is responsible to Parliament. We can go- no further. I have had the feeling that we may possibly be restricting too much. I would prefer to do that at this moment.
Some one has said that this is a dangerous power. Of course it is, but one cannot refuse to use power merely because it is dangerous. Electricity is dangerous and atomic power is even more dangerous. We use both under proper safeguards. I submit that in supporting this bill we are acting exactly as we do in relation to electric and atomic power. The bill restricts the power and takes it away from everybody except postal officials, security officers, and the police, who will exercise it under the most carefully designed restrictions. It is not a bill to extend. It is not a bill to begin. It is a bill to define the limits within which this necessary power of the security service in looking after the welfare of our country must operate.
– I oppose the bill. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 11.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 May 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600518_senate_23_s17/>.