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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 481


Senator LEWIS —Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Leave granted.


Senator LEWIS —I claim to have been misrepresented in two articles in the Bulletin of 4 September 1984 in relation to my dissenting report on the Select Committee on the Conduct of a Judge. These articles state my position most inaccurately and then proceed to use these inaccuracies as a basis for criticism . The first article is by Richard Farmer, Alan Reid and Malcolm Turnbull at pages 34, 35 and 36 under the heading 'Exclusive: Justice Murphy's next move'. This article says

Neither Chipp nor the two Liberal Senators paid regard to the submissions put to the Committee by Murphy's Counsel.

I deny this allegation. I had regard to all the submissions, oral and written, of Mr Justice Murphy's counsel. Further I refer to paragraphs 20 and 21 of my dissenting report in which I specifically mention part of the submission put to the Committee by Murphy's counsel and then I accept and adopt that submission.

The article goes on to allege that my conduct has been unjust, which I deny, and then reports:

. . . the Senate Committee wrote to Murphy's solicitors in May and assured them that no adverse finding would be made against Murphy by the Committee without any proposed adverse finding being put to him first so that he could answer them .

The article goes on to say:

The Liberal senators were presumably aware of this letter, but nonetheless made as adverse a finding against Murphy as could be imagined. It is understood his legal advisers were under the legitimate impression that no adverse finding of any kind would or could, in fairness to him, be made since they had received no prior warning.

This is a most vicious piece of misreporting. I refer to paragraph 19 of the dissenting report, which I quote:

We stress that we are not finding that misbehaviour has been proved.

That sentence clearly puts the lie to the allegations, and I observe that in his statement to the Senate yesterday the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans ) acknowledged my position on this point. As if that misrepresentation were not bad enough, the report then goes further to misreport out of context. It says:

The Liberal senators' findings are doubly curious in that they positively conclude that Briese was an honest and sincere witness. . . .

The assertion that this was a finding particular to the dissenting report is false. It was the unanimous finding of the Committee. At paragraph 87 the report says:

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

It is inconceivable to me that experienced and competent journalists could unwittingly make such errors. The second article in the Bulletin is on pages 34 and 35 of the same edition. It is written by someone who prefers to write anonymously as 'The Officious Bystander' and is headlined: 'Liberals are undermining the High Court'. This article goes further than misrepresentation. I believe that it maliciously defames me and further that it is contemptuous of every member of the Select Committee and, indeed, in contempt of the Senate. The allegation in the headline is grossly untrue and unfair. I have acted as a member of the Senate Select Committee on the Conduct of a Judge in accordance with the requirements of a resolution of the Senate, and I believe that it is outrageous that I should be so maligned for having performed my duty.

The article asserts that my report was based on 'pathetically inadequate' evidence. The article then purports to outline that evidence. However, that outline has such serious inaccuracies and omissions that it constitutes a complete distortion of the evidence before the Committee and upon which my report was based. The article then asserts that I am determined to damage the established institutions of Australia, including the High Court of Australia, ' for the sake of a temporary political advantage'.

Mr President, that allegation is totally false, unfair and offensive. The article then goes on to suggest that Mr Briese should lay an information before a magistrate, in other words, commence criminal proceedings against the judge. Having put that proposal, 'The Officious Bystander' then writes:

If Briese won't do it, then presumably Senators Peter Durack and Austin Lewis will as they believe there is a prima facie case against Murphy.

But of course the two Liberal senators probably won't want to take advantage of the court system. The fashionable thing nowadays is to have kangaroo court inquiries where everything will be alleged and nothing will be proved and the tedious technicalities of a fair trial will be set aside.

I refer specifically to the fact that the reference to a kangaroo court is in the same paragraph as reference to the two Liberal senators and follows a paragraph in which I am named. I am outraged by the suggestion that I should in any way be associated with a kangaroo court and I refer to paragraphs 20 to 25 of my dissenting report in which I make it clear that there should be a public hearing of a charge in accordance with the principles of natural justice as requested by counsel for the judge.

Every member of the Committee was concerned to ensure that if the Committee moved into a judicial phase, which it did not do, the hearing should be in accordance with the principles of natural justice. So the suggestion of a kangaroo court is contemptuous of every member of the Committee. Further, the author of the article seems to be positioning for an attack on the Senate if it should determine to have a hearing of this matter. As I said, Mr President, I believe that in this article not only have I been misrepresented but indeed I have been maliciously defamed and it may be that the article is in contempt of the Senate.