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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 378

Senator LEWIS(3.53) —I wish also to give my congratulations and my appreciation to Senator Tate for the impartial, honest and honourable way in which he chaired the Senate Select Committee on the Conduct of a Judge. I pay tribute to my colleagues too for their patience and for the way in which the Committee conducted its proceedings in incredibly good harmony considering the difficult nature of the task which we had.

Senator Chipp —Only two walk-outs.

Senator LEWIS —Senator Chipp has just reminded me that there were only two walk- outs. I have to admit that I was one. I also wish to pay very sincere tribute to Mr Harry Evans, the Secretary to the Committee and his staff, Mr Andrew Snedden and Mr Robert Walsh-and I am sure the other Committee members would agree-and to his secretary, Peggy Grossbechler, for the tremendous amount of work they did. I also thank Hansard for the great assistance that it provided. It seemed to me that every time the Committee met members instantly wanted the transcript of what had been said half an hour before and that we wanted reports immediately. Everything seemed to be done under pressure even though we sat for many months.

Now after handing out roses I turn to a raspberry. I give the biggest raspberry I possibly can to the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) who is now in the chamber for his attitude towards this Committee. In the early stages when we tried to get the material that the Senate had told us to investigate the Attorney-General, in his usual arrogant, domineering manner, refused to supply the Committee with it. He supplied the Committee only with edited material which he had determined contained the matters that he wanted the Committee to look at. He started to bargain with the Committee about undertakings as to whether the Committee would do this or that with the material. If the Attorney-General wants to argue with me about that I shall ask for that correspondence to be tabled in the Senate so that the Senate can apply its mind to the attitude of the Commonwealth Attorney-General to a properly appointed Senate select committee carrying out a role which the Senate had asked it to carry out.

I will be brief. I turn now to the report. The Senate has already had explained to it how ultimately the only question to be resolved by the Committee was the evidence of Mr Briese alleging that the judge had put pressure on him in relation to committal proceedings against the judge's 'little mate', Morgan Ryan . The report is a majority report only because, of course, the Chairman had a casting vote. There are two dissenting reports; there is a dissenting report by Senator Durack and me and a dissenting report by Senator Chipp. I think the majority report is very fair up to about paragraph 89 when, quite frankly, the report starts to go astray. I draw the attention of the Senate to paragraph 87 of the report in which it is stated:

The Committee was of the view that Mr Briese gave his evidence sincerely and honestly . . .

I assure the Senate that that is the lowest common denominator. I heard all members of the Committee, except one, express much stronger praise of Mr Briese' s evidence after his second appearance. Words were expressed as to how unshake- able Mr Briese had been and as well other comments were made that I will not bother to read into the Senate Hansard. Certainly these comments were much stronger than the words used in the report. Certainly the words 'sincerely and honestly' in the report represent the lowest common denominator.

I say to the Senate that I believe the majority report in paragraph 97 quoted Mr Briese out of context. The result is misleading as to his evidence. On a reading of that we can see that Mr Briese was in the process of adding something else to what he was saying. He said:

I do not think you could necessarily interpret it that way but he was . . .

The reason for the interruption was that one of the members of the Committee interrupted Mr Briese at that point with another question. Of course, Mr Briese was then led on to another point without being able to finish the sentence. I also acknowledge openly, because I have spoken to the Chairman about this matter , that he says 'Well, that is qualified by what appears in paragraph 96'. The majority report in paragraph 96 states:

. . . even though he--

that is Mr Briese-

drew an inference of pressure consistent with his interpretation of a pattern of conspiracy . . .

I draw the attention of the Senate to the way paragraph 97 is written. Also I draw the attention of the Senate to the summary of the dissent by Senator Durack and me which is contained in paragraph 5 and also to paragraphs 18 and 19 in which we set out that:

It is our view that the evidence of Mr Briese is of sufficient strength to establish a prima facie case of misbehaviour by Mr Justice Murphy.

Paragraph 19 states:

We stress that we are not finding that misbehaviour has been proved. It would not accord with the principles of natural justice to make such a finding at this stage.

We then recommend to the Senate that a further hearing by a commissioner take place. It is interesting that independently of us Senator Chipp came to the same conclusion.