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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1738

Mr WHITE(10.15) —On Wednesday in the Senate the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) responded to a question from Senator Black. In the course of the answer Senator Walsh said:

. . . one Brian Ray, who was acquitted a week or two ago of a charge of conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth, an acquittal which says a great deal more about the difficulty of getting a conviction on conspiracy than it does about Mr Ray's guilt or innocence.

Mr Brian Ray is a well-known supporter of the Queensland Premier. He has never denied that. It is somewhat ironic that I find myself speaking in this place in support of someone who has assisted the Queensland Premier, who, over the years, has set out to destroy my Party and has spent thousands of dollars in trying to unseat me.

Mr Barry Jones —Successfully in one case.

Mr WHITE —Yes, to the great benefit of this Parliament. Fortunately, he succeeded in neither objective. As each day goes by his chances of success look more remote, which is a good thing for this country. Nevertheless, ironic as that may be, the issue here is a matter of principle. It concerns the integrity of the legal system in this country. Mr Brian Ray faced charges in a Melbourne court and he was acquitted. It seems to me that that should be the end of the matter. It certainly does not seem to me right or proper that Senator Walsh should cast aspersions on that verdict in the Senate. He has cast doubt on the legal system by saying that it is difficult to get a conviction on conspiracy. Senator Walsh is no stranger to vicious and unjustified language. In my opinion, Senator Walsh brings this Parliament into disgrace. Whatever attributes he may have, there is not any sense of fairness--

Mr Barry Jones —Madam Speaker--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member is quite within the Standing Orders to refer to what happened in the Senate. However, he cannot cast aspersions on a senator.

Mr WHITE —Madam Speaker, I accept your ruling. I repeat that I believe his remarks were unjustified in that a court had heard those charges and found this particular man not guilty. Whatever attributes he may have as a senator, I do not believe that fairness or justice is part of them. I believe that he stands condemned for what he said. I would hope that the chief legal officer of the Commonwealth-the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen)-would look at what Senator Walsh said and take whatever action he thinks is appropriate to defend the legal system of this country. I would very much hope, although I believe that it is a forlorn hope, that Senator Walsh would have the decency to apologise not only to the person he has maligned but to the legal system and the people of Australia for the remarks he made last Wednesday.