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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 954


Senator TOWNLEY(12.45) —Mr Acting Deputy President, I am really in two minds as to whether I should dignify Senator Grimes's outrageous personal attack upon me during the adjournment debate on 26 March after a short speech in which I declared that I was against the South West Africa People's Organisation having been allowed to set up in Australia and particularly to solicit funds, but I decided that I should just briefly answer some of the things that he said. I will not go into it fully again but my attack upon SWAPO and the Government was not a personal attack. However Senator Grimes, in a way that I think has become well known in this Senate, made a personal attack upon me and in that attack he was dishonest. His statements about me were incorrect and had he read my speech earlier that day concerning South Africa he would have in no way said that I was an apologist for the South African Government. I have been to South Africa, that is true. I paid my own fare and, in fact, on one occasion I met a Labor senator in a hotel in South Africa. If Senator Grimes wants to know the date of that trip I can advise him accurately by showing him the date on my hotel receipt and my American Express bill for that hotel account. So much for the accuracy of his attack.

I have been the guest of several governments for short periods-I believe many people in this chamber have likewise been so entertained-and I do not hide that fact. Nor do I feel that it is an unusual part of political life. I also make no apologies for it and the fact that Senator Grimes knew that he was not telling the truth was reflected by the fact that following his statement he refused me leave to answer his vicious and dishonest charges. I refute the charges made by him and suggest that if he wants this Senate to run smoothly he will temper his tongue and at least keep himself to the facts.

Another matter concerning SWAPO has come to my notice. At 10.30 this morning Senator Jessop and I attended at one of the Senate committee rooms in Parliament House. As we approached the Senate committee room we saw that the board that indicates what is going on in particular rooms had on it 'Press Conference-Mr Tickner'. In fact that room was set up for this self-professed terrorist group to have a Press conference. Mr Tickner did not introduce the two representatives of SWAPO who were in that room, and I regard this use of Parliament House by people who could well be a security risk as a most serious situation indeed. I am informed that the honourable member for Hindmarsh, Mr Scott, who did introduce these two people, when a union secretary prior to becoming a member of parliament, publicly stated that he was as near to being a communist as the Labor Party would allow. Mr Tickner certainly did not speak either at the beginning of that Press conference or at any time during the 30 minutes that I attended it. It was just a set-up for SWAPO people to make statements within this building.


Senator Lewis —From the national Parliament, in Canberra.


Senator TOWNLEY —It gave the SWAPO people status that they in no way deserve. Let me tell honourable senators who is supposed to use those rooms. Visiting Premiers are allowed to use them, provided they are at a Premiers Conference. They cannot just happen to be here and have a Press conference in Parliament House. Foreign dignitaries who have been entertained in Parliament House may make Press statements from Parliament House facilities when they are on an official visit. Not even State members of parliament are allowed to use the facilities of this building for Press conferences. As I see it, this incident has put the President, the Speaker and certainly the Black Rod and his staff who had to make the booking for the room, in a very difficult position.

I believe this action is unacceptable to this Parliament. As I have said, it gives the people who come in here a status they do not deserve. It also presents a security risk. I would like to know what kind of security check was run on these people before they came in. I ask again: What is this country coming to when the Government allows groups such as this to open offices and then allows them into this Parliament House and gives them a status to which they are not entitled in any way whatsoever? I have listed the people whom I believe are allowed to use Parliament House rooms for Press conferences. I believe that is quite clear, and I believe it was known to Mr Tickner when he booked that room.

This matter deserves some comment and it is to be hoped that during Question Time the President will have an opportunity to make a statement on this matter. It is serious. I would suggest, too, that whilst it is very difficult to take any action against Mr Tickner for doing what he did it certainly is not difficult for this Parliament to take action against any members of the Press who attend and report upon a Press conference that should not be held in this building. I suggest that any members of the Press who attend a conference that is outside the guidelines, outside the rules that are laid down and well known, should be banned from this House.