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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2544

Mr HODGMAN(8.02) —Mr Speaker, your learned and erudite opinion on the question of privilege raised by me in this House yesterday has been greeted with approval from all sides of politics, by constitutional lawyers and students of the long-standing traditions of parliamentary practice. It was spontaneously recognised as an epic and historic opinion which will be accorded great respect within this Parliament and within all parliaments in the Commonwealth. In order to provide a complete record in today's edition of Hansard I shall now read to the House the letter I wrote to you yesterday, Mr Speaker, and upon which your learned opinion was delivered this morning. I do so without debating the matter and simply to complete the record for posterity. The letter states:

Dear Mr Speaker,

I desire to respectfully submit to you that the matters raised by myself in the House of Representatives today, do constitute a serious Breach of Parliamentary Privilege. I make this submission on the basis of my own service as a membert of the Privileges Committee of the House of Representatives since 1976; 16 years Parliamentary experience (both State and Federal) and 21 years Legal experience, since my admission to the Bar in 1962.

Mr Speaker, the matters set out in my Notice of Motion relating to 'threats, harassment, improper pressuring, intimidation and actual blackmail against and of ALP Members of the Federal Parliament' and, specifically, the House of Representatives, would, if established, clearly constitute Breaches of Parliamentary Privilege. The Law relating to Parliamentary Privilege is, I respectfully submit, set out in House of Representatives Practice, Edited by J. A. Pettifer C.B.E., former Clerk of the House of Representatives, in Chapter 19, page 640 et seq. I particularly refer to page 655 Attempted intimidation of Members, where it is clearly stated that 'to attempt by any means to influence a Member in his conduct as a Member is a breach of Privilege'. The Chairman of Sydney Stock Exchange Case (1935) is cited as authority for this proposition as is the Browne and Fitzpatrick Case (See page 656 and, in the High Court of Australia R. v. Richards; ex parte Fitzpatrick and Browne (1955) 92 CLR 157). I respectfully point out the actual words of the finding of the Committee of Privileges in its Report to the House of Representatives that 'Messrs Fitzpatrick and Browne were guilty of a serious Breach of Privilege by publishing articles intended to influence and intimidate a Member (Mr Morgan) . . .'.

Mr Speaker, I reply upon the following attached exhibits, to establish a prima facie case of Breach of Parliamentary Privilege:

(1) A Report on page 1 of the Sydney Morning Herald for Saturday, 5 November 1983, which I am reliably assured is true and correct, in which a Minister of State, the Minister for Defence Support (Hon. Brian Howe, MP), specifically alleged intimidation of Ministers and Backbenchers by the Prime Minister.

(2) The transcript of an interview on AM for Tuesday, 8 November 1983 (which I am reliably informed is a true and correct transcript), where the President of the ACTU (Mr Dolan) alleged that the Prime Minister had put pressure on all sorts of people in relation to a Caucus vote yesterday.

I respectfully submit that it is clear from Mr Dolan's comments that he was referring to pressure being applied to Members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and this, I respectfully submit corroborates the allegation made by the Hon. Brian Howe, MP.

Mr Milton —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member has already given a notice of motion and he is now debating the issue here.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member is referring to standing order 82. The Speaker, in allowing debate, must note whether that motion is likely to be called on. I call the honourable member for Denison.

Mr HODGMAN —The letter continues:

(3) A Report in the Melbourne 'Age' for Saturday, 5 November 1983, where Mr Howe is reported as saying that a 'whole stack of people had been hauled in and done over by the Prime Minister'. In corroboration of this allegation there was a further Press Report relating to Mr David Charles, MP.

Mr Speaker, the allegations are serious; they have been made by a Minister of State and are corroborated by a respected Community Leader; it is clear that influencing a Member in his conduct is not restricted to his conduct in the House and applies to all his conduct as an MP and, the allegation here, goes beyond mere 'influencing' in that the word intimidation is specifically used.

Mr Speaker, I respectfully submit that this matter can only be resolved after full and proper Inquiry by the Committee of Privileges. What is certain, I respectfully submit, is that a prima facie case has been established. This view is obviously, though unwittingly shared by a Minister of State, the Hon. Clyde Holding, MP, a Member of the Victorian Legal Profession of many years standing. I have further outside legal advice to the effect that whether a Breach of Privilege-

Mr Wells —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Under standing order 85 no member may persist in tedious repetition either of his own--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member's time has expired.

Motion (by Mr Beazley) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 8.07 p.m.