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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1779

Senator RICHARDSON(4.15) —I rise for the third time in just over one year to defend myself against scurrilous allegations. All honourable senators will by now be aware of an article which appeared in the Sydney Telegraph on Sunday, 5 May. This article contained allegations by a Ms Virginia Perger that a cruiser, the Kanzen, was used by her and six Australian Labor Party officials and members of parliament for sexual romps of which photographs had been taken. I was amazed that allegations from such a dubious source could have been given such prominence by the Sunday Telegraph and, subsequently, by so many newspapers around the country. I cannot believe that without seeing the photographs so many newspapers and other media outlets could continue running the story. Surely it is time for the media to demand that the perpetrators of this nonsense put up or shut up.

Apparently, a further allegation has been made today that, through a third party, I attempted to organise a meeting with Ms Perger yesterday in Sydney in an attempt to prevent the publication of a photograph of my naked self. There are those who would consider it a public service if I did prevent the publication of a photograph of my naked self, but on this occasion I did not. Apparently, it is claimed that the meeting was aborted when I did not turn up. It is this absurd suggestion that prompts me to rise today. If anyone bothers to check with the Party Whip in the Senate, Senator Robertson, he will find out that I made no attempt at any stage this week to organise a pair for any day this week. Obviously if I seek to organise a pair, I hope that it will be for a somewhat more important purpose. The suggestion is bizarre to say the least.

But if I had met Ms Perger yesterday, it would have been for the first time. The only time I have seen her or been in the same room as her was several years ago during the hearings of the Enmore conspiracy case, when I attended the court room. There were, as I recall, 20 or 30 people present at the time, and they all had their clothes on. To the best of my knowledge, I have never exchanged a word with her. The only time I have seen a cruiser identified as the Kanzen was in the photographs that were published this week. I have never seen it and I have never set foot on it, with or without Ms Perger.

There is a new McCarthyism which is evident in the Parliament, the media and the nation itself. If a rumour is floated and people are named, the speculation as to who might be named is allowed to run wild. While your name is not published, you know that every friend, every acquaintance and every work colleague is made aware by the rumour mill that your name is being floated in the rumours. Expectations are built up of shocking revelations to come. If those who have concocted this piece of nonsense, however, think that anyone will be jumping out of windows because of it, they can think again.

It is a sad commentary on the state of journalism in this country that this nonsense-and it is nonsense so far as I am concerned-can have been allowed to run and be rerun. That a cheque book was used to buy the original story and at least one of the follow-ups this week disturbs me even more. I am told that $60,000 is the asking price for the so-called photographs, and that even those who are being asked to part with the money have up to this point in time not seen them. I wish someone would pay it. I give the Senate an unequivocal assurance: If any incriminating photographs exist, and I am sure that there are none, there will be no photographs of me on that boat or in close proximity to the woman concerned. By the way, I issue a friendly warning to the media outlets: If any photograph is produced, they should be very careful that it is genuine and authentic. If it is not, I will be able to retire from the Senate a very rich man.

I am angry, I am hurt and I am concerned. I am angry that I have to stand up here and deny once again an allegation from a source that can best be described as dubious, and at worst I am sure there are other objectives that would come to mind. I am hurt because I and members of my family have to put up with this sort of rubbish. I am concerned that we have got to such a state in this country that allegations of no merit from people of less merit can gain such publicity. I hope that until these people put up-and I am certain that they cannot-this story ceases to run. It should be consigned to the garbage heap where it should have been consigned a week ago.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 4.21 p.m.