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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1720


Senator ROBERT RAY(11.08) —I congratulate Senator Macklin on his second speech. I found his contributions most rational and well argued, in great contrast to both his first speech and Senator Mason's speech. Senator Macklin has now addressed himself to the legislation sensibly. He has given up the electioneering cap that he had on before. In his last 15-minute contribution there was no suggestion of the Australian Labor Party introducing this legislation so that it can have a misleading advertising campaign. Senator Macklin does not believe that; it is just a bit of electioneering, a bit of excitement that caught him and me up. I do not believe that Senator Mason, however, would make any such retraction. In the last contribution no accusations came out of collusion between the Labor and Liberal parties because, of course, the Australian Democrats in their heart of hearts know that there is none.

I want to say three or four things. Firstly, Senator Macklin said that there was reference to this matter in the first report of the Joint Committee on Electoral Reform. There was no such reference and he knows it. This section was put in the Act by another department, quite obviously. It did not emanate from the first report, which I signed. What I was saying before was that I did not sign a report that contained this recommendation. I challenge Senator Macklin to read the whole of the first report and to find one reference to this section. There is no such reference.


Senator Harradine —From another department.


Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes, it came in via another department.


Senator Harradine —Attorney-General's?


Senator ROBERT RAY —Probably. All departments have a contribution to make when legislation such as the Electoral Act is up for amendment. But it did not emanate out of the first report. Senator Macklin asked why I voted for it. I am sorry; I am fallible. I did not realise the consequences of section 161 (2) taken into account with the injunction process. I voted happily to put in the injunction process. I voted happily to have the Electoral Commission have an independent approach to the injunctive process, but not specifically for it to have injunctive powers relating to section 161 (2).

I turn to the second point that has not been fully addressed. I may have said in excitement that Senator Macklin cannot determine the difference between fact and opinion. If I said that, I retract it. All I said was that it is not a simple area to determine what is even a fact because in regard to facts the old question of statistics, more statistics and more lies is posed. They can be very deceptive if used in a particular way. The last point-and a good point-made by Senator Macklin was that if we take out the injunction process, the matter does not become as dangerous to the electoral process. I concede that point. But unfortunately, it is a conundrum. If we take out the injunction process, we have nothing left. Even in regard to a series of fines on a political party, if Senator Macklin were in a position-and I am not saying that he is-where he thought that one big, last, lying advertisement could win him the election, the $5,000 fine would mean nothing especially to members of an affluent party, such as those who sit opposite, it means absolutely nothing.


Senator Macklin —Were you referring to us?


Senator ROBERT RAY —No, I was not. By a process of elimination I think he might even be able to deduce to whom I may have been referring. So we have this conundrum: Without the injunction process, it really is useless legislation. With the injunction process-I do not think that Senator Macklin has addressed this point-it can be manipulated. Let us assume that he is pure and that he does not manipulate it. There are plenty of people who would have manipulated that process and it is on that point that this report was centred. I say again that I found Senator Macklin's latest contribution a rational one. Devoid of the accusation that we will embark on an untruthful advertising campaign-I absolutely deny that we will do so-and now that he has divorced himself from the accusation that we are in some way in collusion with the Liberal Party, I find much of what he said is correct. But I return to the point that I do not think it is up to the courts to make a decision based on such a small section in the Act. I think there needs to be definition as to what contributes to being untruthful and what contributes to being deceitful. It is not in the current Act . It is an area that we, I would have thought, had indicated when Senator Macklin was present at meetings of the Committee that we would look at. But before we can deal with it, it will need in-depth legislation, not legislation with such a wide-open interpretation as is contained in the existing legislation .