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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3445

Senator PUPLICK(11.51) —Mr President--

Senator Gietzelt —A great civil libertarian!

Senator PUPLICK —Yes, a great civil libertarian; and I will give Senator Gietzelt a few principles about civil liberties from which he might actually learn something. Senator Zakharov and Senator Giles this evening came into the chamber and said, in effect, that Senator MacGibbon is guilty of having embarked upon a number of offences in that he assaulted people-that is what they said. He is accused of having committed a number of offences by way of assault. Senator Knowles and Senator Vanstone stand accused by what they have said of misleading the Senate and speaking untruths to the Senate, since their comments and the comments of the so-called statutory declarations cannot both be true. If the statutory declarations are to be taken as having any validity, what Senator Knowles and Senator Vanstone have said to the chamber is untrue. The bases of those accusations are alleged to be statutory declarations-which the honourable senators want to have printed in the Hansard and distributed around the country so that they are part of the public record, but do not want to have inspected by the persons against whom the accusations are made based upon those documents.

Here is one fundamental principle that Senator Gietzelt seeks to defend. He says, `Let us print in the Hansard the documents which accuse one honourable senator of assaulting people and other honourable senators of misleading or lying to the chamber, but let us not make those documents available for the Senate for any other honourable senator, or anybody else, to inspect'. He says that we `do not have the right' to look at the documents. Here are documents which seek to accuse, which seek to make charges against people, and which people `do not have the right' to look at in order to inspect their validity and in order to inspect whether it can be identified as to whether they are simply the ravings of some lunatic or whether they are something to be taken seriously.

The next point Senator Gietzelt made was that this chamber had no right to determine what documents and what materials shall be laid before it. Nothing is more antithetical to the principles of this chamber than that this chamber should not itself determine what documents-which have been quoted-it has the right to demand be produced. Senator Archer said that he has looked at the documents and does not find among them any statutory declarations, despite the fact that that is how they were described.

Senator Zakharov —Nit-picking.

Senator PUPLICK —Senator Zakharov says that that is a nit-picking criticism. What she does not say is that it is untrue. What she does not say is that the point Senator Archer made, that they are not statutory declarations, is untrue. That is the point which is put forward as far as they are concerned. We now have this extraordinary saga with Senator Gietzelt, whose record in terms of sensitivity to the civil liberties of Air Vice-Marshal Flemming, or anybody else that he can manage to traduce, has been condemned roundly throughout this Senate--

Senator Ryan —Mr President, I raise a point of order. For some time Senator Puplick has not been speaking to the motion to suspend Standing Orders.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, may I address the point of order? The motion before the Senate is that we suspend Standing Orders to permit me to move a motion requiring the tabling of certain documents. At this time of night that is quite an unusual motion to move and I think the Senate is entitled to be told why such a motion needs to be moved in this unusual way. Senator Puplick is addressing you on the use to which certain documents have been put and the reasons why it is important that those documents be put on the table. It seems to me that that is directly relevant to the decision the Senate is being called upon to make, which is whether it should suspend Standing Orders to enable that motion, which would produce those documents to be moved. Whilst I understand the sensitivity of Senator Ryan, she must be deeply embarrassed by the unprincipled behaviour of the honourable senators who have quoted from these documents. I can understand that sensitivity, Mr President, but I do not think that her point of order has any substance and Senator Puplick should be allowed to continue his remarks and complete his arguments.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I have been listening carefully to Senator Puplick. So far he is in order. I ask him to continue to restrict his remarks to giving reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended.

Senator PUPLICK —Thank you, Mr President. It is only if Standing Orders are suspended and Senator Chaney's motion is passed that the honourable senators who have been traduced in these so-called documents will be given the opportunity to inspect them to see what their full purport is. Otherwise we will not know whether the documents are internally so inconsistent, so false or so palpably untrue that by looking at the documents as a whole they would be exposed as being false and untrue. The honourable senators who have been traduced by these so-called documents have a right to defend their names and their reputations, something they cannot do if they are denied access to the documents upon which those charges are selectively laid, and which have been introduced late at night on the second last sitting day of this Parliament in order, undoubtedly, to prevent them from having the opportunity to reply. We know that this is a tactic being defended this evening by Senator Gietzelt, who puts forward the proposition that the motion should not be passed and the documents should not be produced. He would give to Senator Vanstone, Senator Knowles and Senator Crichton-Browne the same degree of opportunity to reply to the charges, to deal with the matter on its merits and to deal with the principal of natural justice that he has been prepared to give Air Vice-Marshal Flemming in terms of his traducing of him over the whole of the Australian War Memorial incident.

Senator Chaney has put forward a quite simple proposition. It is simply this: The bona fides, the veracity and indeed the behaviour of senators on this side of the chamber have been challenged on the basis of documents which are so insubstantial, so false, so flimsy that the perpetrators are not prepared to allow them to be subject to scrutiny or to inspection. If either of the honourable senators had any sense of propriety, as far as their responsibilities in allowing those who they have traduced by the use of these shabby pieces of paper are concerned, this motion would not be necessary because, as a matter of honour, they would have been happy to have tabled the documents, produced them and allowed them to be inspected. The fact that they are concealing those documents is indicative not only of the worthlessness of the documents themselves but also of the baselessness of the whole fabricated case that has been put here this evening. It is defence of the indefensible. The accusations made are in clear contradistinction to all of the public evidence which is available on the subject. It is an absolute disgrace that the Government is not prepared to allow those documents to be tested and the truth to be found out. If there is one thing that this Government's front bench and Government senators who have spoken this evening are concerned about it is that the truth should not be exposed and the documents should not be produced. They do not have the courage to back up their accusations with inspection of the documents or with any attempt to see just how false and baseless their accusations have been.

Friday, 5 December 1986