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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3279


Mr KEATING (Treasurer)(4.24) —The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) began his pathetic dissertation by saying that it was the incompetence of this Government which brought about the call for a judicial inquiry. The report gives the lie to that statement. The report of the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies finds-the Leader of the Opposition was so ungracious as not to refer to this-that the Government was totally competent in its handling of the issue. It did not just find, as the Leader of the Opposition said in his opening remarks, that Mr Ivanov should be expelled and that Combe compromised himself or made references to the honourable member for Port Adelaide. It basically found that everything the Government did was correct. That was the principal finding in the report. It is the Leader of the Opposition who is condemned by the report. He said: 'There is a stench about this Government, a stench of dishonesty, a stench of duplicity, a stench of downright deceit, subterfuge and cover-up'? Where is the subterfuge and cover-up in these recommendations? Mr Justice Hope has given this Government a clean bill of health and the Leader of the Opposition knows it.

This report is not about the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young); it is about the behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition. He is the man who could not surmount the national security considerations by dragging this matter into the public domain. He is the man who could not get above the tawdry politics of his Party and decided to exploit the issue publicly, to drag it into the public domain. He could not rise over his own opportunism or his incapacity to lead. He made a public issue of the matter. He did so when he permitted the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) to name David Combe in this Parliament. If there is any guilt attaching to this affair it attaches to the Leader of the Opposition and the right honourable member for New England. The Leader of the Opposition was extensively briefed. Mr Justice Hope confirmed that he was extensively briefed. In fact, on 12 May the Leader of the Opposition said :

I received a briefing from him . . .

that is, the Prime Minister-

I advised the Prime Minister on that occasion that, in regard to the briefing given to me about Mr Combe, I would say nothing at all and he concurred.

Who breached that agreement, that commitment? It was the Leader of the Opposition. He breached that agreement. He is the guilty man.


Mr Peacock —That is a lie.


Mr KEATING —That is not a lie; that is the truth.


Mr Peacock —You are a liar.


Mr KEATING —It is the truth. The Leader of the Opposition breached that agreement for tawdry political considerations.


Mr Peacock —Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for that to be withdrawn. This charge has been made in this Parliament. When I made a personal explanation on this matter it was never challenged.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.


Mr Peacock —I ask the Treasurer to withdraw.


Mr KEATING —I will not withdraw, so the Leader of the Opposition may as well sit down and save his breath. Mr Deputy Speaker, I will tell you why I will not withdraw.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! Is the Leader of the Opposition taking a point of order?


Mr Peacock —No, I find the Treasurer's remark offensive and I ask for it to be withdrawn. You are required to have it withdrawn, because I find it offensive.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I would like to establish what the Leader of the Opposition would like to have withdrawn.


Mr Peacock —He is alleging that I breached a confidential briefing, which is not in accord with this. I did not.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I ask the honourable gentleman to--


Mr KEATING —Mr Deputy Speaker, there is no matter which the Leader of the Opposition can require you to have me withdrawn. The report confirms this allegation. I will tell you why, Mr Deputy Speaker. It confirms that the Leader of the Opposition could not surmount the tawdry political characteristics of himself and his Party in dragging David Combe's name into the Parliament. He dragged David Combe's name into the Parliament--


Mr Peacock —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I ask for the withdrawal of two statements by the Treasurer. Firstly, he alleged that I was 'a guilty man ', which I regard as offensive and ask to be withdrawn. Secondly, I ask for the withdrawal of the allegation that I breached a briefing by the Prime Minister, a matter which neither the Prime Minister nor the Deputy Prime Minister, when they listened to my personal explanation in May, contested in any way at all.


Mr KEATING —This is not a point of--


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I cannot uphold the proposition that those remarks can be considered offensive.


Mr KEATING —Mr Deputy Speaker, let me substantiate the claim I make.


Mr Groom —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I refer you to standing orders 76 and 77. Standing order 76 states:

All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

Standing order 77 states:

When any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a Member who is addressing the Chair or by a Member who is present, the Speaker shall intervene.

I submit that the words that have been used are highly offensive and disorderly and should be withdrawn.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —I think it is debatable whether the words are offensive. Nevertheless, to facilitate debate, I ask the Minister to consider withdrawing those remarks.


Mr KEATING —There is a major point of principle about the whole of the proceedings of the Commission on this very point. On the day in question, 10 May , three questions were asked by the Opposition. One of those questions named David Combe. There was a sequence about those questions. The Opposition had taken a decision to drag David Combe's name into the public arena. That is why there is a Royal Commission report. There would have been no Royal Commision, no report and no briefing of Mr Combe by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans ) had the Leader of the Opposition not breached the commitment he gave, with his colleagues, to the Prime Minister. That is the principal point.


Mr Peacock —I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The facts speak for themselves. Never on any occasion did I advise any of these people. The tactic is obvious. The Government wants to utilise this matter as some sort of subterfuge. Just as the Treasurer has lied about his projections he will lie about this matter and so I will forget about it.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order!


Dr Everingham —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I submit that the remarks made about the Leader of the Opposition are very tame compared to the remarks the Leader of the Opposition made throughout his speech. He should make a personal explanation at the appropriate time.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.


Mr KEATING —I am not prepared even to bother responding to the Leader of the Opposition's insane stupidities. I make this principal point: This report finds that the Government was totally competent in the way it handled the expulsion of Mr Ivanov and the surveillance of Mr Combe. It would not have been a public matter, there would have been no Royal Commission report, but for the fact that the Opposition exposed this issue publicly by naming David Combe in Parliament, and deliberately. After that, the Government did everything to protect Mr Combe' s name. It was only after exposure by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) and Jumping Jack Flash from the National Party that--


Mr Groom —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I took a point of order earlier and I thought that you were about to rule on it. I ask for a ruling.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —I have ruled that the point of order is not upheld.


Mr KEATING —I make this point: After Mr Combe was exposed in the Parliament by the Deputy Leader of the National Party the Government arranged, the following day, to have Mr Combe briefed by the Attorney-General. Let me read what Mr Justice Hope said about this. He was asked:

Was any and what agreement or arrangement concluded on 11th May between Combe and the Attorney-General or any other member or members of the Government as to subsequent disclosure of or comments upon Combe's connection with Ivanov and the Government's action in respect thereof?

The Commissioner stated:

Yes. An agreement that the Prime Minister would make an agreed statement to the House of Representatives on 11 May 1983 and that neither the Government nor Mr Combe would make any public comment on the statement or its subject matter except that a statement (to be approved by the Attorney-General) might be made by Mr Combe, about his proposed defamation action in respect of . . . the Daily Mirror.

If Yes to 21, did:

(a) the Government (otherwise than by action or statement in Parliament); . . . resile in any and what way from such agreement or understanding?

No.

No was the answer from Mr Justice Hope. The Government did not try to exploit the issue. That answer reveals that the Government did everything to protect Mr Combe. He was exposed by the Opposition. Even when this agreement was made the Government did everything to honour it. Only one group stands condemned by the Hope Commission report-the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition. When we look at the role of the Prime Minister in this matter we should remember the quotation by the Leader of the Opposition, for which the Prime Minister has reasonably asked for an apology, that the Prime Minister was accused of dishonesty, duplicity and deceit in tipping off his mates. He said:

The Government stands condemned for both its duplicity and double talk and consequently this Prime Minister stands condemned for his deceitfulness, his double dealing and his down-right duplicity.

What do we find when this matter is reviewed by the Commission? The Commission has cleared the Prime Minister absolutely of any charge of deceitfulness, tipping off his mates or anything else. Let me read what the report said. It states:

It is therefore open to find, and I do find, that the Prime Minister had implied authority to communicate with Mr Butler and Mr Farmer. The communications were, in fact, justified by the need to ensure that, as far as practicable, the purposes of the NISC decision were achieved. Moreover, what the Prime Minister has done was, in effect, confirmed by both the Cabinet and the Ministry, for he told each of these bodies about his communication on 26 April and 2 May respectively.

The disclosures made by the Prime Minister were neither unauthorised nor improper.

Where is the apology from the Leader of the Opposition for saying that the Prime Minister was deceitful and that he tipped off his mates? The Leader of the Opposition is the one who stands condemned by this report, nobody else. He is the only person here who stands condemned by the findings of the Royal Commission. As we read through the report what becomes patently obvious is that the Royal Commission has exonerated the Government in every respect and the Prime Minister in particular. The Prime Minister is entitled to ask for an apology. He is entitled to get it. Where is the Opposition's integrity? There is no integrity. The Leader of the Opposition stands in the middle of his vile insinuations. He was taken into confidence; he was briefed. He knew the Government was right; he said it was right but he thought the Government was in trouble and he could see a tawdry political advantage. He gave a commitment to confidentiality; he broke that commitment and this report condemns him. That is the issue. So much for bipartisanship!

The Leader of the Opposition talked about the honourable member for Port Adelaide and where he stands in respect of national security. It may be worth reminding the House of the Leader of the Opposition's own little brush with this issue in 1977 when he exposed the names of five Central Intelligence Agency agents operating in Australia. He lied his way out of that too. When he was exposed on the radio program PM and when he was asked about Mr Philip Agee who had named five CIA agents, he confirmed the names of the five CIA agents. He then said that all he was confirming was the fact Mr Agee had named them and not their names. In fact, the breach that he accuses the member for Port Adelaide of is a breach that he himself committed. If we are talking about slinking back into ministries, if we are talking about returning to government, if we are talking about crawling back into government, let us look at the Sheridan sheets issue of the Leader of the Opposition or his resignation because of the former Prime Minister. Back he came. Yet he is now suggesting that Mr Young should stay out forever. Mr Justice Hope said that there was no danger to national security. On that basis our judgment is that the penance which is to be extracted from any honourable member in this situation has been appropriate in the public opprobriation and the months out of the Cabinet. The honourable member is just as entitled to come back into the Cabinet as the Leader of the Opposition was entitled to go back into the Fraser Cabinet.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.