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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 979


Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(11.53) —A casual observer of proceedings in this chamber this morning and, no doubt, in the other place, could not be blamed for suspecting that an election is close at hand. The nature of politics is such that accusations fly from one side to the other in the period leading up to an election. A censure motion against somebody is not unusual at this time in an election atmosphere. We have one before us this morning moved, if I might say so, in a fine, dignified and restrained way by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney). Whilst I compliment Senator Chaney sincerely on that, I take notice of what Senator Walsh just said about the dirt that was unloaded in the House of Representatives yesterday by a member of the Liberal Party. I believe that that sort of conduct is equally as unfortunate as the conduct we are discussing this morning.

Let me say at the outset that the Australian Democrats accept without reservation the statement read out to the Senate this morning by the Attorney- General (Senator Gareth Evans), on behalf of Mr Justice Murphy, concerning the allegation that his wife had accepted a diamond. We accept that totally and without reservation. However, the Senate has before it a charge that a Minister had deliberately misled the Senate. I do not know of any more serious charge that can be levelled against a Minister. Do the facts support that charge? I must say that when the motion was first moved I felt angry at Senator Walsh, believing that he had deliberately misled the Senate. The Minister's speech did not come close to persuading me to vote against the motion but it left me in a very sad state. I was no longer angry with him; I was sad about him, so pathetic was his attempt at defence of his actions.

I read the Age this morning with great interest. The Age is a newspaper of undoubted integrity and respect. It is highly respected in the community. What it virtually said, as I understand it, is that Senator Walsh yesterday tabled the face of three cheque stubs and the back of two cheque stubs. One might say he did not table the back of the third stub because there was nothing on it. According to the Age this morning there was something on it-something quite significant but, as we have been advised by Senator Evans, or by Mr Justice Murphy through Senator Evans, untrue. I put that to one side. However, the fact is that something was on the back of the third stub.

I think three or four times this morning Senator Walsh was asked directly by members of the Opposition: 'Did you have that third stub and on the back of the third stud was there a reference as was alleged?' Three or four times he refused to answer that question. During his speech he did not even refer to it. I thought it quite extraordinary that a Minister who was defending himself against a charge did not even refer to the charge. So one comes to the inescapable conclusion that that information as alleged by the Age was in fact there and was deliberately withheld by Senator Walsh. That, to me, is nothing short of deliberately misleading the Senate. It is for that reason that the Democrats and I reluctantly-because it is a matter of reluctance when one does join a censure motion-will support the motion moved by Senator Chaney.