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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3300


Mr NEWMAN —by leave-This is the second debate we have had today on reports of royal commissions. I think that what could be said about the Government's response, and from looking further into this report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Activities of the Nugan Hand Group, is that the then Opposition 's and the now Government's actions in the matter reveal one common thread and that is double standards. We had the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) today, in defending the ex-Special Minister of State, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), referring to the very highest standards that he would expect from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. He followed that up very quickly, three or four pages later in his statement, by throwing high standards out of the window and promoting the discredited ex-Special Minister of State back into his Ministry. If that is not double standard I do not know what is.


Mr Hand —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. My point is that this has nothing to do with the topic before the House.


Mr SPEAKER —I have been aware of the point raised by the honourable member for Melbourne. I was about to invite the honourable member for Bass to refer to the paper before the House.


Mr NEWMAN —I will come to the point of why I referred back to the statement made earlier in the House. The second point about double standards was again in the Prime Minister's defence of the report of the Hope Royal Commission on Australia 's Security and Intelligence Agencies. He demanded an apology from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock).


Mr Hand —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Melbourne is raising a point of order on the same matter that he raised before. I accept that the honourable member for Bass is briefly coming to the point and drawing a parallel with this report. I hope that I am correct in my assessment of the honourable member for Bass.


Mr NEWMAN —I come to that point right now. As I was saying, the Prime Minister in his statement demanded an apology from the Leader of the Opposition for daring to query the Government's actions in this Combe affair. Now-this is the point-if one compares what was said in this House legitimately by the Opposition in raising quite considerable and valid criticism of the way in which the Government conducted the Combe affair with the way in which the then Leader of the Opposition conducted himself in the series of debates that began on 11 March 1982 and went over several other debating days, one can see that it is just sheer hypocrisy for the Prime Minister to make statements such as that. It is sheer hypocrisy because he sat in this House behind the then Leader of the Opposition-I have no doubt that he was in the counsel of the then Leader of the Opposition outside this chamber-and supported and promoted the sort of nonsense which the then Leader of the Opposition brought into this House. That is the point I make to the honourable member.


Mr Cunningham —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The speaker is not relating his remarks to the report before the House. He is dealing with-


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Chair will be the judge of that. The honourable member for Bass is clearly referring to the report just presented by the Minister.


Mr NEWMAN —For the benefit of the honourable member who just raised the point of order, let me relate my remarks quite precisely to why that report is absolutely valid to what I have just said. The Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley), in a very bland statement appearing in the middle of his remarks, said:

The Commission found that the substance of the allegations against members of this House all came from the one person concerning whose credibility 'the Commission entertains serious doubts'.

In fact, in a very nice way the Commissioner called Mr B, who is the source of these original allegations, a liar. That is really what he was saying. The statement continues:

It is the Commission's opinion that there is no credible evidence to support these allegations and the Commission is of the view that the allegations are ' quite unjustified and false'.

That was one quote the Minister brought to us out of Commissioner Stewart's report. The Minister failed to say also what the Commissioner said on page 13, paragraph 2.8, of the report. The report states:

However, it was when the Honourable W. G. Hayden, M.P., then Leader of the Opposition, repeated some of these allegations in the House of Representatives on 11, 16 and 18 March 1982, respectively, that they gained more widespread publicity.

I repeat that the finding of the Commissioner was that the allegations about what Mr B actually promoted-the Commissioner has found it to be quite false; he found that Mr B was a liar-only gained any credibility or widespread publicity when the then Leader of the Opposition started to bring them into the House. What effect his allegations had. Here is the sheath of the reports that appeared in the media-in every one of the daily newspapers, in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation television programs and all the rest of them. What were they reporting? They were reporting the allegations made by the then Leader of the Opposition that two Ministers-the Leader of the National Party (Mr Anthony) and the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife)-had stopped the investigation into Nugan Hand, had taken a direct action which prevented the course of justice and which stopped the proper investigation. That is why this Royal Commission had to report-because of infamous conduct by the then Leader of the Opposition and now Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) who is now listening to this debate. I hope he responds.

I hope the Minister for Foreign Affairs will recall some of the things that happened in that period from 11 March onwards. From the very first moment when he brought these allegations into this House-on the very same day-a very clear, precise denial was made by the Leader of the National Party in the first case. It was quite clear then and later in a statement that I made that there was simply no credibility in the sorts of things that the then Leader of the Opposition and now Minister for Foreign Affairs was trying to promote. But the Minister ignored that completely. It was clear why he ignored it. There were probably two reasons we could say why he ignored it. There were probably two reasons we could say why he indulged in this rather nasty, rotten conduct. The Minister for Foreign Affairs can make faces now, but we hear that sanctimonious Prime Minister, every time somebody dares to question any of his answers or any of the actions of his Government, class us all as either fools or charletans. But the Minister for Foreign Affairs and other people such as the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) who is sitting behind the Minister for Foreign Affairs, continually, day after day in debates in this House, attacked without any evidence whatsoever the reputations of various Ministers of the previous Government.

Why did the then Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, do this? He made these allegations on the very flimsiest of evidence. It now transpires that he never checked the allegation that had been made by Mr Volkman or where Mr Volkman may have got it from. In fact, I think we would all recall very clearly that at one stage the then Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, was even saying that there were sworn statements bearing out what he had to say. Of course, that was found to be totally untrue as well. The then Leader of the Opposition brought these allegations, without making, as we now know, any check whatsoever on their credibility, firstly, to try to smear the then Deputy Prime Minister and the honourable member for Farrer. That was the basic reason for doing it. Of course, that there was an imminent by-election in Lowe shortly afterwards was the other reason why he indulged in these fantasies. The point about all this is that if we are to have a practice in this House which allows members to abuse the privileges we are given in this place and to seize upon any tittle-tattle to try to make national importance out of them so that reputations are smeared, it does not do this Parliament any good.


Mr Humphreys —You want to remember that.


Mr NEWMAN —I hope the honourable member does and I hope all honourable members do in the future. As I was saying, it does not do this Parliament any good. It certainly results in a lot of mud sticking on very innocent people who do not deserve it. Finally, it reflects on the people who indulge in it. In this case I think it reflects very badly on the then Leader of the Opposition and now Minister for Foreign Affairs. At that time in answers to questions, in statements and in debates that occurred over this issue it was made very clear to the Minister for Foreign Affairs exactly what course of action he had open to him. He had several options. They were enumerated at that time. They are worth while looking at again. Firstly, he could have taken the matter to the Australian Federal Police. On the day in question an Australian Federal Police senior officer was waiting in my office to take any documents or any statements the then Leader of the Opposition might have been able to give. The then Leader of the Opposition did not. He could have taken the matter to the joint task force which was investigating this matter. He did not. He could have taken it to the Stewart Royal Commission, as it then stood. He chose not to. There are a number of things he could have done, but which he did not do. Again, the reason for that was that he was not intent on finding out the truth. He was not intent on trying to find the real justice of the matter. All he was intent on doing was to smear some innocent people and to win the Lowe by-election. That is all I have to say. The point is well and truly made. The Prime Minister in his statement previously on the Hope Royal Commission, in referring to the queries which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) had raised, demanded an apology. I hope that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will now apologise to the two Ministers he unfairly smeared in this issue.