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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 980

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Social Security)(11.58) —We are debating a very serious motion to censure a Minister in this place. After hearing what was said by Senator Chipp, it seems that this matter is even more serious because it is apparent that the Australian Democrats will support the motion.

I think we ought to look at the circumstances under which the motion has been moved and the record of some people who have been involved with moving the motion. Senator Chipp said that Senator Chaney moved this motion in a quiet and dignified way. He certainly was quiet and he certainly was dignified. But I must suggest to Senator Chipp that he also demonstrated that characteristic which I suppose various people in this place, including me at various times, have demonstrated under these circumstances and which most people who observe politics do not find very attractive-the characteristic of phoney righteous indignation.

We have before us a motion to censure a Minister who at times is abrasive, who at times gets under the skin of members of the Opposition parties and who at times gets under the skin of members of his own Party. We have a Minister who, by his determination to get to the bottom of things like tax evasion and to follow through with great accuracy the figures and facts of the cases he deals with, gets under the skin of a lot of people in this place because sometimes those people get caught up in what happens.

It is claimed by Senator Chaney and Senator Chipp that the tabling by Senator Walsh of the documents which had on them the name of another senator is really a heinous crime, and that the allegation that he failed to table another part of one of those cheques is sufficient to bring forward a censure motion. As Senator Chipp rightly pointed out, all this has happened in what seems to be a pre- election atmosphere. It has all happened while in another place members of the Liberal Party are producing documents which smear this country's Treasurer (Mr Keating). These documents have not been authenticated, and no attempt was made to authenticate them before they were produced. There has been no attempt to prove the truth and accuracy of what is in them; they were produced merely to smear the Treasurer.

However, this sort of thing has gone on for as long as I have been in Parliament, and it particularly went on in November 1975, as many honourable senators will remember. Let me give a couple of examples of what happened in 1975, and let us see how some of the star players on the other side acted in those days. On 4 November 1975 Senator Withers came into this place with two alleged statutory declarations-he will remember it well-one from a Mr Khemlani, of some 80 pages, and another from a Mr Crawford. These had been obtained overseas by a member of the staff of the then shadow Treasurer, assisted by a newspaper in this country that was willing to indulge in cheque book journalism. It later turned out that that newspaper had actually paid for these documents. Senator Withers said that he thought these documents demonstrated that the Prime Minister, other members of the Executive Council and officials of the Treasury had operated in an improper way. He sought to table those documents and at that time Senator Cavanagh and Senator Wheeldon asked what he was tabling and whether he had any guarantee that the contents of those documents were right. Senator Withers said: 'I don't know that the contents of those documents are right; in fact, I have only read them in a cursory manner'. We, quite reasonably, said that he should read them out.

Senator Chaney —He didn't leave any pages out, either.

Senator GRIMES —We will come to the pages left out. We thought it was unreasonable for someone to table documents in that way. Who, using the numbers on his side, moved that these unauthenticated documents making these charges be tabled? None other than Senator Chaney. Senator Chaney moved that these documents, which were later found to be not accurate, be tabled in this place. He had no qualms at all about having those documents tabled. The documents were so hot that Senator Withers then moved that their publication be authorised to ensure absolutely that they would be covered by the privilege of this Parliament . That motion was passed.

These are the people who are now taking the serious step of censuring Senator Walsh because allegedly he did not table a document which apparently named someone of the same name as the wife of a judge of the High Court of Australia. That can only be described as hypocrisy. It is just rank hypocrisy for Senator Chaney to rise in the Senate, with great dignity and quietness, and say that Senator Walsh has done this terrible thing when Senator Chaney himself was an active bit player in what took place here in 1975.

I well remember another case. Senator Townley produced a photocopied document, with no author indicated on it, and made all sorts of allegations about all sorts of people in the then Government. I believe that occurred after 1975; I think it was 1976. When the document was eventually tabled it was incomplete. It had no names on the bottom, no names of the author or anything else. Objections were made to that being tabled. Who moved that the document be tabled? It was Senator Townley assisted by Senator Withers who spoke in support of the tabling. These people are now attempting to have passed a censure motion on a Minister of this Government for allegedly not tabling a document in his possession. That just has to be rank hypocrisy too. As Senator Chipp said, this is a pre-election stunt. It is part of the campaign being conducted in another place against the Treasurer and other members.

So let us not have this nonsense of Opposition members demonstrating this righteous indignation, saying: 'Look at this terrible person, Senator Walsh, who has by not tabling this document done such a terrible thing'. The real problem is that he tabled the other documents. He has said, and I think the Age has said that it is convinced, that they are genuine documents. Sheer hypocrisy is going on in this place. We recognise that this is a political stunt. In Senator Walsh we have a competent, utterly honest Minister who is concerned for the facts. This annoys members of the Opposition so terribly that they have taken the very serious step of moving a censure motion against him for allegedly doing something that they quite deliberately, openly and vigorously did on several occasions in the period 1974-76. In fact their own colleagues are doing the same thing in another place this very week. How on earth can one seriously support such a hypocritical action? I am surprised that Senator Chipp has. How can one possibly take this serious step and use the numbers in this way in view of what has gone on in this place in the time I have been here.

I do not approve of the tabling of unauthenticated documents which make the sorts of accusations made in 1974, 1975 and 1976. I believe that this would be a better chamber, and it would be a better parliament, if we did not do those things. But it has gone on for as long as I have been here and it happens almost daily in the other place. It is done by members of the Liberal Party over and over again. When they did not get their way in 1975 and 1976 Senator Chaney, the person who has moved the motion with such righteous indignation today, was quite happy to take part in such activities-activities which I suggest were of far greater moment and far greater importance to more people than anything Senator Walsh has done. It is because we in the Government do not accept that this is a fair dinkum exercise, that it is anything other than a political pre-election stunt, that we reject the censure motion and will continue to reject censure motions of this type.