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Tuesday, 2 October 1984
Page: 1037

Senator GEORGES(4.36) —I was the only senator who attended the public hearing yesterday of the Senate Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge, possibly because I was in Canberra for another matter and had the opportunity to do so. That is not a reflection on other senators. I merely state the case that I was the only one who was there. I was there when Mr Hughes put to the Committee that he did not intend to press for the removal from the Committee of senators who had been exposed to the previous hearing, but he did make clear something that ought to be made clear. In doing so he referred to having raised the matter previously and said that one of the Commissioners had asked him: 'If they are not to sit, who else is to sit?' Possibly that was the reason-I cannot go into Mr Hughes's mind-why Mr Hughes decided not to press his point on that matter. That is the question: Who can sit on that Committee from the Senate because we have been exposed time and time again to debate, to question and counter-question and to insult and counter-insult in this place concerning this matter. None of us is free from prejudice and none of us is able to sit upon that Committee.

Senator Missen —We are not concerned about the Committee's views. It is the Commissioners' view we want to know.

Senator GEORGES —Nevertheless, it will be the Committee's decision which will come to the Senate. It concerns me that we have in the Senate these matters before us again. I would have thought that the Committee itself would determine exactly what it needed to do. In fact I think it did so determine but because a minority on the Committee decided that that did not satisfy them the matter is back before us to determine.

Senator Chaney —They decided against the rules the Senate had laid down, Senator . That is why it is back.

Senator GEORGES —They also made determinations on other matters concerning evidence and documents. The Chairperson, Senator Tate, if I may say so, has been given a burden by the Senate that no senator should be expected to carry. He has been placed in an extremely difficult position in having to deal with this hybrid, as Senator Haines has described it, which consists of some people with judicial capacity and some senators mostly with a lay capacity, but all senators with prejudices. We should not put too much store by the hope that the position of senators on that Committee will not be questioned further. My belief is that no senator is in a position to sit upon that Committee. That might have been in the minds of honourable senators opposite when they first put a proposition before the Senate.

Senator Durack —Why don't you support that?

Senator GEORGES —No, it was not supported. After having put that proposition the Opposition was not prepared to accept defeat upon that proposition but it moved to establish what has been said several times, that we have created a farcical situation.

Senator Chaney —That is what you would like it to be.

Senator GEORGES —Well, it is a farcical situation. The way in which we have proceeded in this place is quite outrageous. On this very important matter we have broken down into personality conflicts. I think that Senator Chaney's approach to this, Senator Durack's approach and the approach of several honourable senators opposite, is to get square with the Attorney-General, to cut him down to size. I have seen it happen time and time again in this place when there have been insults and counter-insults which have debased this place to the point where it is a farce.

Senator Missen —No, we are very sorry for the Attorney-General.

Senator GEORGES —That is the type of comment that is continually being made in this place and it actually complicates this important matter very much indeed, because I do not believe that the Senate is in the position to make any sort of decision on these matters before us today.

I am certain that the Liberal Party met today and determined which way it would proceed. So we have a party decision on how the Opposition should proceed. I do not doubt that the Democrats have also made a party decision as to how they should proceed on this matter. Yet honour- able senators try to tell me that what we will have before this Committee is a non-political, unprejudiced approach.

Senator Durack —Have you got a free vote on this?

Senator GEORGES —I am moving a motion which indicates that I have got a free vote and that our Party did not do what the Liberal Party and the Australian Democrats obviously have done, and that is come to a political decision on what is to happen to these propositions before us today.

Let me go back to the public meeting of the Committee yesterday. I was astounded to see before that Committee two groups of people who suddenly appeared. I am told that even the Committee itself was not aware that these people were going to appear. We had counsel who came before the Committee and sought to be represented on behalf of Judge Flannery from New South Wales. On the other hand, we had counsel appearing for Judge Foord before, without the knowledge of the Committee. Why? Because this monster that we have created has suddenly extended itself and will further extend itself. It was decided that the Committee would be assisted by two Commissioners. It was then further decided that the Committee should be assisted by counsel, as if the Commissioners and the Committee members themselves were not competent to carry out the inquiry. So we appointed counsel. What does the counsel do? The counsel, possibly with the consent of the Committee and this is something I would like to know, goes into New South Wales and takes statements. It apparently took statements from Judge Foord and Judge Flannery. As a result of that, we now face the possibility, because of those statements having been taken, and being part of the Committee's procedures, of the Committee having to consider the position of Judge Foord and Judge Flannery. Where are we going?

Furthermore, we suddenly find that the counsel we appointed decide that they need to be supported by solicitors. So we get an extra group of people involved with the Committee. Who are the solicitors who have been chosen, unwittingly? The solicitors that are supporting the counsel who will, in effect, carry out the prosecution of Justice Murphy--

Senator Walters —No.

Senator GEORGES —Yes, they will in effect because that is how they have proceeded. They have gone into New South Wales and taken statements elsewhere.

Senator Chaney —What do you expect them to do?

Senator GEORGES —You are saying that this is an inquiry. I am saying that it is a judicial procedure which will widen and widen and which we are not competent to handle.

Senator Missen —No, it is all right.

Senator GEORGES —We are not competent to handle it, not one of us is competent. I speak not only for myself, but I speak for you, Senator Missen. You have capacity and experience as a jurist, which I admire. But even you cannot sit upon that Committee because you have prejudged the issue and made comments in this place concerning the case indicating a bias, which, if you look at it carefully, would disqualify you. I might disqualify myself because of ignorance and incapacity, but you, Senator Missen, disqualify yourself because although you have the capacity, you also have the prejudice. Senator Durack also has the prejudice.

Senator Missen —On a point of order, Mr Deputy President. An allegation has been made by Senator Georges that I have disqualified myself from something by reason of some prejudice that I have shown, some views that I have expressed. That is totally untrue. It is an allegation which any reading of my speech will show not to be so, and I ask Senator Georges to withdraw it.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order: That is a debating point and you may respond to it.

Senator GEORGES —I withdraw it because the last thing I want to do is to insult Senator Missen. I am prepared to insult Senator Durack and perhaps Senator Chaney, and I am prepared to take a swipe at Senator Chipp. He is a person who has considerable political capacity, but he has not had long enough experience of the way the Senate and its committees operate. Perhaps because he lacks that knowledge he has been party to what I consider to be the denigration of the forms of this place.

Let me return to the fact that we had solicitors appointed, and it turns out that the solicitors that were appointed to support the counsel of our Committee are the solicitors for the Fairfax Press. They appeared as solicitors before the Privileges Committee of the Senate. What is this situation? This is an example of how these things extend. Certain complaints, charges and allegations were made against a senator because of some connection with Christo Moll. It turns out that these charges were false and that the material that was used to mount the charges against Senator Crichton-Browne was fabricated. The same charges were levelled against Mrs Ingrid Murphy. The Age ran them.

Senator Chaney —It was not until that happened that we got a retraction.

Senator GEORGES —That is another matter which Senator Chaney can take up in his own time. I have taken it up, and sufficiently so. The Age ran a story which implicated Mrs Murphy, and the judge was outraged by the defamation. Yet we have solicitors assisting counsel before this Committee who are the solicitors for that group. They are the solicitors who turned up before the Privileges Committee to defend the National Times, one of the newspapers in the Fairfax stable. This is the sort of situation that we have allowed ourselves to fall into and from which we cannot recover. When the counsel for Justice Murphy said before the Committee-he did not make the statement outside-that this was likely to become a political farce, Senator Durack took umbrage. He takes umbrage at the statement which was part of the submission which Mr Hughes made before the Committee. He had a right to make that submission, because the Committee has been completely discredited. It is not in a position to hear anything about anyone.

Let me get back to the original Committee. There is talk of intimidation, but I say to Senator Durack, who was a member of the Committee, that he was guilty of intimidation of the Committee because when the Briese allegations came before it they were outside its terms of reference. When it was pointed out to the Committee that that was so, what was the response? I asked the distinct question : Why did the Committee allow Briese's allegations to be heard and given the privilege of the Committee? I was told the reason the Committee did that was that if it did not the Opposition would come before the Senate and extend the reference.

Senator Chaney —So it should have. Good heavens, are you suggesting that that evidence should have been suppressed? How extraordinary! That is an absolutely disgraceful, pathetic statement.

Senator GEORGES —My memory is long, and I remember when a client of Senator Chaney's came before the Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. That person was in danger of making statements which would have prejudiced or incriminated himself and the Committee refused to hear them.

Senator Harradine —He was not a High Court judge, was he?

Senator GEORGES —No, he was not a High Court judge. However, the double standards of Senator Chaney need to be remembered because, as is revealed in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Opposition wants to continue with this matter, to make it an issue in the election campaign because the Costigan affair has gone cold. If we debate the Costigan affair, I will tell honourable senators exactly how information got from the Costigan Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union into the National Times.

Senator Missen —Yes, tell us.

Senator GEORGES —In due course I will say how it was done, and I say now to honourable senators that it just does not stand scrutiny. The Opposition has lost its momentum on the Costigan affair and it will now continue with this affair. It will drag it out and accelerate it, giving it momentum and impetus in order to serve its own political ends. If I say that about the Liberals, I say it also about the Australian Democrats because they should have given a little more thought to what they are doing in this matter. They should have listened to the reason of the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans). No matter what one thinks about the Attorney-General on matters legal, he puts a reasoned case.

Senator Walters —Talk about damning with faint praise!

Senator GEORGES —Yes, it is all a joke. What took hundreds of years to establish we will destroy within a few minutes, for nothing more or less than political advantage. I could make harsher comments about this matter but of course then I would make this place an even greater farce than it has become. Let me tell honourable senators what my motion was to be. I would say that Senator Durack believes it has some case, because he attacked Mr Hughes. The motion was to have been:

That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, prior to the Senate proceeding to the vote on proposed motions Nos 1 to 4 moved by Senator Tate, the counsel assisting Mr Justice Murphy, the Hon. T. E. F. Hughes, QC, be called to the Bar of the Senate forthwith to address the Senate in connection therewith.

Senator Chipp —Would your Party support that?

Senator GEORGES —As I have listened to the debate and as I have listened to Senator Tate--

Senator Mason —Does your Party support that?

Senator GEORGES —Let me finish.

Senator Mason —I am just asking you a question.

Senator GEORGES —Senator Mason will get an answer to his question if he is patient. He seldom interjects on me so I do not want to be too harsh. I cannot think of anything nasty to say about him, anyhow. I repeat that the motion I intended to propose stated that notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Hon. T. E. F. Hughes, QC, be called to the Bar of the Senate forthwith to address the Senate in connection therewith. I will answer the honourable senator's question. It is fairly obvious, from what Senator Tate says, that the Committee is not prepared to support that. That means that the Government would support the Committee because it takes the view that the Committee is the body best able to judge. That is not the position taken by the Liberal Party or the Democrats.

It is fairly obvious that if I move that motion it will not prevail. I suppose I have been in worse situations than this. I have been on my own many times until situations have changed and I have found I have had the majority with me. However, on this occasion I find myself very much on my own although the proposition deserves to be supported. I will tell honourable senators why it deserves support: It has been said that Mr Hughes's submission has been circulated. I wonder how many honourable senators who are going to vote have read it. I know that only five honourable senators have actually heard it. There is a considerable difference between hearing it and reading it as much emphasis can be placed on something that is said which cannot be put on something which is in writing. Having heard the position taken by Senator Durack, as a jurist, I believe he needs to receive the advice of another jurist against whom he cannot rail the way he rails against the Attorney-General. Perhaps he would be prepared to listen with greater concern to Mr Hughes.

Senator Durack —I listened very carefully to him, before.

Senator GEORGES —The honourable senator may have. I do not doubt that he has an admiration for Mr Hughes, and I do not doubt that he would be prepared to listen to him again. However, the Senate has set up this Committee with two commissioners-something entirely new which I fought against, suggesting that we drop the whole matter to the bottom of the Notice Paper, an attitude from which I have not shifted-as well as counsel and solicitors. This means that we will find before the Committee a whole host of Queen's Counsel, other counsel and solicitors-you name it and they will be there; they were all there yesterday-and can thus extend the scope of the Committee to that of a judicial inquiry, and so it is quite possible and reasonable to ask Mr Hughes to come to the Bar of the Senate and put his case. It is fairly obvious that honourable senators do not want to listen to the case. It is fairly obvious that they do not want to be convinced. I do not know why I am looking at Senator Lewis; it is just as well for him that any conversations we have had are privy to ourselves, and I will not inject into this debate what I consider to be a motive that you ought not have.

Senator Lewis —Rubbish!

Senator GEORGES —Do I tease Senator Lewis? Get up and make an explanation.

Senator Walters —Tell us about the Constitution before you sit down.

Senator GEORGES —I thought the Constitution was to protect justice. It does not spell it out. It is supposed to protect the rights of individuals but that is not spelt out. We do not have a Bill of Rights; we have a Constitution which says a number of things, but there are many things that it does not say. It does not mention the protection of individuals against scurrilous and infamous attack . That is happening too often in this country at present. It is something new; an indication that our society is getting somewhat sick.

Senator Harradine —It has happened before.

Senator GEORGES —It has happened in the past and it is happening with greater magnitude now. Someone stirs up some information. It is happening against the Leader of the Liberal Party at present. I have a sympathy for him. I remember when he and someone else were supposedly-perhaps I should not say it. I will forget about that and come back to the way in which it is done. A newspaper runs a story and no names are mentioned. It makes all sorts of allegations, spreads all sorts of rumours but mentions no names. But the names run around.

Senator Harradine —That is what you have just done.

Senator GEORGES —I am sorry about that. The names run around. Let me say that Mr Peacock was without any blame. I have no blame for Mr Peacock. I have a respect for him that many honourable senators opposite do not share. The practice has developed now in which a rumour is spread and no names are mentioned. The rumour is pushed around. It was done by the National Times. Suddenly the allegation appears in the Parliament under privilege-the Queensland Parliament, the New South Wales Parliament or here. Then as a result an inquiry is established. Police in New South Wales have been tapping telephones and obtaining information which they cannot use because they have taken it illegally. The information is spread around and raised in the Parliament. A commissioner is elected and someone goes on trial. It has happened to Mr Packer. I ask honourable senators to take note and read what Morris West said about that, because I do not have time to go into it.

Senator Missen —He is a very good novelist.

Senator GEORGES —He might have a sense of justice as well as being a good novelist. He does not have to be a jurist to know about the justice and rights of ordinary people. All I can say is that we live in a very unhappy climate. I think that the Senate ought to accept its responsibility and pull away because it is too far enmeshed in the machinations of others outside this place. When one starts to go deeper one realises how substantial those machinations are and that conspiracies are at work to assassinate people and destroy people's reputations. We ought not to be a party to it. For that reason I go back to my original proposition. Let us drop this to the bottom of the Notice Paper. Let it go away. Let the Committee make a decision to disband. Let us go on being a Senate, a place of review, which looks at legislation and at the concerns of people in the country and not at this rubbish.

Senator Walters —Sweep it all under the carpet.

Senator GEORGES —The honourable senator should be careful. There is not one of us here who can escape rumour or scandal which is spread against us. Even the most innocent can suffer and does suffer. Rumours create minefields in which even the innocent can stumble. One can argue that if one has nothing to hide why be afraid, but what is going on in this country must make everyone afraid, even the most innocent.