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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3281


Mr ANTHONY (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(4.39) —The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) today has seriously misled the House and distorted the findings of Mr Justice Hope concerning the activities of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). The honourable member for Port Adelaide will rejoin the Ministry only at the cost of the standing, the integrity and the honesty of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has caved in to pressure to reinstate the honourable member for Port Adelaide. The Prime Minister is nothing more than a dupe, a puppet, to pressures from those people who have no respect for the principles and the proprieties of this Parliament. In fact, it can be seen as a corruption of the Westminster system of government as we have known it in this country. The Prime Minister will be judged by the people of Australia to lack the courage of his earlier convictions, when he displayed so clearly the reasons why the honourable member for Port Adelaide resigned from the Ministry and why he accepted that resignation.

We are not discussing here today the integrity of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. We all know about that. What we are discussing today is the man who, in the words of Mr Justice Hope, acted in ways the potential consequences of which 'gave rise to a real danger of significant damage to national security' . They are the strongest words of condemnation of a Minister of the Federal Government of this country that I have ever heard. Let no one forget those words . That is no whitewash of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. Let us not have those words smothered over by the pious platitudes the Prime Minister has sought to use today to exonerate this man. Mr Justice Hope says that the honourable member's disclosures related to a matter of national security. He says that in determining impropriety potential rather than actual damage to national security must be considered. He goes on in these words:

If an unauthorised disclosure by a Cabinet minister gives rise to a real risk of damage to national security, then the fact that little or no damage results does not diminish any impropriety in the disclosure.

Mr Justice Hope says there is no evidence that national security was in fact damaged in this case. But he adds that there was a real risk that significant damage could have resulted from the disclosures by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. After listing the possible damage which could have occurred, Mr Justice Hope says this:

In my opinion, these potential consequences gave rise to a real danger of significant damage to national security.

Here is a man who breached his oath of secrecy and acted in a manner that put at risk national security. He is clearly a person not fit to hold high office in the Government of this country. Today we have the Prime Minister saying: 'Oh, poor old Mick. He really didn't mean any harm. It was just an error of judgment. After all, he'd only been a Minister for six weeks. He didn't know that Ministers are supposed to keep Cabinet matters and security matters quiet. Anyway, he was only trying to help his old mate Eric. Sure, he didn't mean to do any harm. After all, there wasn't really any damage done to national security. Mick was just plain stupid, and we can't expect him to go on paying the price of his stupidity for ever. He's worked for the Labor Party for 30 years, so I'm going to have him back in the Ministry after Christmas'. That is what the Prime Minister is putting to us today, and it is not good enough. It is a disgrace, and the Prime Minister and his Government will be judged and censured for it. When the Prime Minister puts that proposition to us he is denying his own reasons for accepting the honourable member's resignation earlier this year. Those reasons, which we had already drawn from the Prime Minister's own judgments in August, and which are now confirmed by the report of the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies, provide overwhelming support for the view that the honourable member for Port Adelaide can have no place of honour in the Government of this country.

This is, after all, the man who threatened national security. He is the man who acted improperly as a Minister of the Crown. He is the man who kept secret from his own Prime Minister the security breach he had committed. He is the man who misled this Parliament about what he had done. He is the man who misled his own Prime Minister about what he had done. He is the man who, by his silence, caused the Prime Minister to mislead the Parliament and the nation. He is the man who thought he could get away with a serious wrongdoing, a serious breach of ministerial standards and, indeed, a threat to national security, and the man who owned up, who offered his resignation, only after he had been found out. Until he was found out the honourable member for Port Adelaide was quite prepared to keep quiet in the hope that what he had done would not be discovered . But when he got wind of the fact that Mr Justice Hope's Royal Commission was on to him he got round to the Prime Minister's office as fast as he could and offered to resign. That is the kind of man whose return to the Ministry is now being proposed.

If he does return to the Ministry it will not be the honourable member's integrity that will be further damaged; it will be the Prime Minister's integrity, and the integrity of every member of the Caucus who supports the reinstatement of a man who misled Parliament, who threatened national security, who acted improperly, and who owned up to his wrong doing only after he was found out. If that is the kind of man this Government is content to have in its Ministry, the Government will pay the price. But it is to the Prime Minister's integrity and honesty that the real challenge is made today. It was a pathetic ducking of his duty for the Prime Minister to attack the honourable member for Port Adelaide, as he did repeatedly in the House on 23 August, and then to hand over all responsibility for the honourable member's future to Mr Justice Hope. The suitability or otherwise of the honourable member for Port Adelaide to be a Minister was perfectly clear even before Mr Justice Hope became involved. It involves much more than the matters covered by Mr Justice Hope, although his findings, his conclusions, make those misdemeanours ever so much more serious.

What are the facts on which the honourable member should be judged? Let me give them to the House from the Prime Minister's own speech of 23 August. The Prime Minister told the House 10 times in the course of that speech-not once or twice, or three times, but 10 times-that the honourable member for Port Adelaide had acted improperly. This is the same Prime Minister who today pleads for mercy for the honourable member for Port Adelaide. Let me run through the 10 statements the Prime Minister made within that speech about the Minister:

Certain actions by the honourable member for Port Adelaide were improper and unauthorised.

The honourable member did certain things which, as I say, were improper.

The Minister came to me because he recognised he had breached Cabinet confidentiality and that he had not informed me of that fact.

He came to see me and pointed out that he had breached confidentiality and he had not informed me of it.

The honourable member had acted improperly. He had acted without authorisation. He recognised that, and he came to the Prime Minister.

Those are the first five of the Prime Minister's reasons why the honourable member for Port Adelaide was not suitable to be a Minister. Those are the facts, from the Prime Minister's own mouth, on which the honourable member for Port Adelaide should be judged. But so that there would be no misunderstanding as to the seriousness of the honourable member's actions, the Prime Minister thought he had better tell us about them again. He said:

I repeat that the honourable member has made no attempt to disguise the fact that he acted improperly in this matter.

He recognised on 14 July that the action he had taken in April warranted his resignation.

It took him a long time to wake up to that. But even that was not enough for the Prime Minister. So he told us again:

The former Minister has clearly indicated that he acted improperly.

He made a grievous mistake for which he has resigned and for which I accepted his resignation.

Just in case nine times were not enough, the Prime Minister slipped in a final reference to the inappropriate action that the honourable member followed. By that time, even Labor members had got the message that the honourable member for Port Adelaide had acted improperly, that he had breached confidentially, that he had kept that breach secret from the Prime Minister, that he had misled the Prime Minister, he had misled the Parliament and the nation, and that he had caused the Prime Minister to mislead the Parliament and that, when he found that his improper action had been discovered, he than went and told the Prime Minister.

The first of the charges, the accusations, made against the honourable member for Port Adelaide by the Prime Minister was that he acted improperly and without authorisation. Is that charge now to be simply put aside so that the Prime Minister can meet the pressures placed upon him? The Prime Minister's character must be under serious question today. Has something happened to show that the honourable member for Port Adelaide did not act improperly and without authorisation? To the contrary, the actions of the honourable member now have been described by Mr Justice Hope as giving rise to a real danger of significant damage to national security.

The second charge made by the Prime Minister was that the honourable member breached Cabinet confidentiality-one of the most serious, if not the most serious of all, things a Minister can do. The Cabinet system is built on the foundation of confidentiality. If Ministers cannot be trusted to honour that confidentiality, then the Cabinet system will break down. Yet that is what this man did. That is what the Prime Minister told us he did-he breached Cabinet confidentiality. Is this the kind of man the Prime Minister is now to have in his Ministry? If it is, then it is the Prime Minister whose integrity and standards come into question.

But not only did the Prime Minister say that the honourable member had breached Cabinet confidentiality; he said the honourable member had compounded that impropriety by not telling the Prime Minister about it when he realised what he had done. Now the Prime Minister says that all that does not matter; poor Mick really did not know any better. He was only new at the job and he did not understand that there are certain standards that have to be maintained. Here is a man who acted improperly and without authority and who threatened national security, and the Prime Minister says that he is good enough for him. If those are the standards this Prime Minister is to apply, then heaven help this Government and this country.

It is significant that Mr Justice Hope does not accept the Prime Minister's view that, after all, the honourable member was only trying to help a friend when he made an unauthorised and improper disclosure of national security matters. Mr Justice Hope says he cannot accept that view. We can all understand matters of mateship and friendship, but there are higher demands on a Prime Minister than simply recognising those qualities. There are higher demands on a Prime Minister than going easy on some who has given long service to the Party. The demands on the Prime Minister are designed to ensure, in the national interest, that only people of the highest integrity are members of his Ministry.

The facts which the Prime Minister put before us in August, the facts which have become public knowledge as a result of Mr Justice Hope's report, make the honourable member for Port Adelaide quite unfit and unsuitable to be a member of his Ministry. All those facts make it equally clear that if the Prime Minister accepts such an unfit person into his Ministry, then the Prime Minister in turn is unfit to hold the office he holds at the moment. The office of Prime Minister demands the highest integrity. The Prime Minister tells us, every chance he gets , that he is overflowing with honesty and integrity. The Prime Minister stands condemned.


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