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Tuesday, 29 August 2000
Page: 19587


Mr RIPOLL (10:43 PM) —It is indisputable that the declining standing of politicians is due in large part to the perception in the community of hypocrisy and double standards, a perception that manifests itself in the course of the political process. All parties and certain elements within them have, to varying degrees, been guilty of contributing to this decline in public opinion. A great deal needs to be done to restore public trust and confidence in our parliamentary system and political process, and we all have a duty to play a part in this. Whenever events occur and allegations are levelled at either side of politics, it undermines the efforts that we all make on a daily basis. This has been the case with the publicity surrounding the events in the Labor Party in Townsville some years ago, events which resulted in the imprisonment for electoral fraud of a former Labor Party candidate.

The events in the case are indefensible but are not isolated to just one party. But some good has come out of it: the Labor Party in Queensland has put in place the toughest possible rules and procedures to prevent branch stacking and all the sordid behaviour which accompanies these so-called tactics. The Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party now has in place party rules and procedures which are the toughest of any branch of any party. In fact, at the recent ALP national conference held in Tasmania the tough new rules adopted in Queensland were also taken up by the national organisation. They must be in place in every state by 30 June 2001. Our political opponents would do well to glance over these new rules, have a good read of them and maybe take them back to their party machine. They could adopt such rules themselves; there is nothing stopping them from doing this.

It is hardly surprising that the Liberal and National parties have sought to make political hay out of the events in Townsville that have recently been reported. But when politicians or a political party seek to assault their opponents for undemocratic activities, like branch stacking and rorting, they ought to look in their own backyards before doing so. They should actually have a look at the motivation, double standards and damage they are doing to their own side. More importantly, they should ensure that, if attacks are to be made, they are made by someone with some skerrick of credibility in these matters. It was for this reason that I was astounded by the attack made in the Senate by the coalition's fresh-faced senator, George Brandis, who was elected to the Senate only a couple of months ago. Of all the parliamentary representatives on the poles of the political compass—Labor, Liberal, National or whatever—there is surely no-one with less credibility on this issue than Senator George Brandis. The speech by Senator Brandis was shameless. Not only was it one of the most opportunistic but also it was one of the most hypocritical speeches ever made by a representative of the Australian people.

I have read with interest some comments made in the Queensland parliament about Senator Brandis. He was referred to as the `godfather' of branch stacking in the Queensland Liberal Party. As they say, Senator Brandis has form. I think it is important that the activities of Senator Brandis are placed on the record. His record as a senior official in the Queensland Liberal Party is one he should be thoroughly ashamed of. If you thought the problems the member for Ryan has experienced in his preselection were a recent affliction, you could be forgiven for being mistaken. The extraordinary events that have taken place in the Ryan electorate have their roots many years ago. About five years ago, the Queensland Young Liberals had an investigation into branch stacking, voting irregularities and membership fraud. The report was scathing, unearthing systemic fraud, branch stacking and rorting—false names, false addresses, phoney memberships and plenty more. Once this was out in the open there were a select few that tried their best to discredit the report and protect the culprits. It is no surprise that the person leading this charge was none other than George Brandis.

The then Mr Brandis was definitely in on the action—he used Young Liberal rorters to stack the annual meeting of the Liberal Party in Ryan and got himself elected as the Ryan area chairman. It was during Mr Brandis's term as the Ryan area chairman that Mr Michael Johnson raised his ugly head. We all know of him and of his pursuit to stack branches in Ryan to do the numbers on the sitting member, the Minister for Defence, the Hon. John Moore. But the plot thickens: not only did Mr Brandis fail to stop the ethnic branch stacking in the Ryan electorate but he actually encouraged and defended it, even after he was made the chairman of the Liberal Party's Constitution and Rules Committee last year. He has since shamelessly abused this position to protect Mr Johnson and ethnic branch stackers in the seat of Moreton.

His participation in these activities has been far from altruistic. Earlier this year, we all discovered just why Senator Brandis was so enthusiastic about protecting the ethnic branch stacking in Ryan and Moreton. On the parting of the discredited Senator Warwick Parer, Brandis was anointed as the Santoro-Carroll candidate to replace him. When it came to elect the 10 Ryan delegates to the Senate selection, Mr Johnson turned up with more than 100 Taiwanese and delivered 10 votes for the then Mr Brandis. When it seemed Mr Brandis might still be short, one of the Taiwanese branches in Moreton was overnight—by chance—purely moved into Rankin, where the Liberal Party had almost no members, to form a Rankin FEC and give Mr Brandis the numbers he needed. This scandalous abuse was sanctioned by the Constitution and Rules Committee, which Senator Brandis still had effective control over.

Senator Brandis won the party preselection thanks to ethnic branch stacking and the rorting and manipulation of the process in the Ryan and Rankin electorates. The people of Queensland deserve to know that the nomination of George Brandis was tainted. He was chosen through a corrupt process by ethnic branch stacking at its worst. Questions were of course asked by the member for Ryan and by other victims, like the member for Moncrieff, and the Liberal Party set up a committee to review its constitution. (Time expired)