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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 883

Senator PUPLICK —I ask the Minister for Finance: Does the Minister deny that Mr Brian Toohey, editor of the National Times, is correct when he says that a telephone conversation that he had with Senator Walsh was tapped and that allegedly critical comments made by the Minister about his Prime Minister were passed on to Mr Hawke?

Senator WALSH —Mr President, I am not going to discuss that matter because I believe it would be improper for me to do so. I can suggest to Senator Puplick, since he has an interest in the possibility of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation tapping telephones and then, quite improperly and illegally, passing on information from security files to use for domestic political purposes--

Senator Sir John Carrick —Did they do that?

Senator WALSH —I am about to come to that. I suggest that Senator Puplick ask his colleague Mr Coleman, MP, who in 1970 or 1971 was flogging around to journalists ASIO files which contained damaging allegations about assorted people in the Australian Labor Party to see whether he could persuade the journalists to publish them. I refer the honourable senator to an article in the National Times, I think about two years ago, and an Australian Broadcasting Commission Four Corners program in 1971, when the facts regarding that were set out by a particular person--

Senator Chipp —Did you bucket your Leader to Toohey?

Senator WALSH —Senator Chipp should go and send some more conscripts up to Vietnam. That is what he was best at-sending conscripts up to Vietnam. He has the blood of 500 Australians on his hands.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Walsh, I ask you to answer the question directed to you by Senator Puplick.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. I will not be distracted again by the interjections of the man who was a Minister in the McMahon Government which sent 500 Australians to their death in Vietnam. I am not going to answer Senator Puplick's question, Mr President; it would be quite improper for me to do so. If he is interested in the subject of the misuse by ASIO operatives, for domestic political purposes, of intelligence information, I suggest he take up the subject with his colleague Mr Coleman MP, who the record shows is an expert on the matter and on so misusing, or attempting to misuse, security information. Somebody has just handed me a copy--

The PRESIDENT —Order! I suggest the Minister withdraw that imputation against a member of another House.

Senator WALSH —In deference to you I will, Mr President. Nevertheless, the fact remains that I have the National Times article with me here and I table it.

Senator PUPLICK —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President.

Senator Peter Rae —On a point of order, Mr President, before the supplementary question, I suggest that if it is out of order to make the statement it is equally out of order to table the statement, and that the tabling of the statement should be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order.

Senator Peter Rae —Mr President, you ruled out of order the Minister's statement. Surely there are two ways of making a statement in this place-one is verbally; the other is by tabling a document. Tabling the document which apparently was being used by the Minister was an alternative way of breaching your ruling. The Minister is making a statement by using a document which, apparently, contains a statement which the Minister previously quoted.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister made an imputation against another member of this Parliament. Under standing order 418 I asked him to withdraw that imputation. He did. He then tabled a document from the National Times, which is a publication for which he is not responsible. Therefore, there is no point of order.

Senator PUPLICK —Senator Walsh said in his response that it would be improper for him to answer the question. I therefore ask as a supplementary question: Given the fact that the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives on 10 May and Senator Gareth Evans in the Senate on 30 May considered it proper to answer questions about ASIO surveillance and telephone tapping, is it not a fact that what Senator Walsh is saying is not that it is improper for him to answer the question, but that it is merely embarrassing?

Senator WALSH —Given Senator Puplick's morbid interest in the subject of the misuse of security information for domestic political purposes, I suggest that, instead of throwing questions at me which have no relevance, he ask, as I said before, his Liberal Party colleague Mr Coleman, MP who is an old hand at the game.