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Wednesday, 15 May 1985
Page: 2006

Senator MASON —I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Leave granted.

Senator MASON —I thank the Senate for its indulgence. I rise to answer misrepresentations in two documents which have come to my notice. The first document is the so-called 'Defence and Foreign Policy Survey' authorised by Mr Stephen Litchfield, who I understand is the Secretary of the New South Wales Liberal Party. This document is circulating among the public in New South Wales. In that document it is claimed that it is sponsored for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock). The document also has attracted some media comment which brings me to the second document to which I draw attention. I refer to the 3 May issue of Inside Canberra in which the Australian Democrats are stated to be: 'the prime advocates of unilateral nuclear disarmament'.

It is reasonable to assume that that argument in Inside Canberra in fact is derived directly from the Liberal Party survey since that article earlier discusses the Liberal Party's defence and foreign affairs policy survey. In fact, that is the main substance of the article. That is supported by the wording of the Liberal Party survey itself. Although there are questions in the survey there are also statements. Question 11 of the survey states baldly:

The Nuclear Disarmament Party, the Democrats and the left wing of the Labor Party support unilateral disarmament. This means the western allies would be obliged to reduce their defensive arms while the Soviets are free to maintain their present levels of armaments or continue modernising and refining their nuclear weapons. Do you consider unilateral disarmament would guarantee continued peace?

The statement that the Australian Democrats support unilateral disarmament is plainly untrue and, if left unanswered, would be damaging to me as the only New South Wales Democrat member of this Parliament. Indeed, it is relevant that the Inside Canberra article made the further point:

. . . that the Democrats have had very much the worst of the unilateral disarmament argument.

To redress that balance I say that the Democrats are flatly opposed to unilateral disarmament proposals which seek to force disarmament on a single power. The Democrats see all five nuclear powers as equally culpable and responsible to the world for the appalling predicament we all face because of the horrifying consequences of even a limited nuclear war.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Mason, in a personal explanation you have to explain something of a personal nature. I understand your connection with New South Wales but you must not use this as an occasion to defend attacks upon the Democrats as a party. It must be something that affects you personally. You have to make a personal explanation.

Senator MASON —Mr Deputy President, if I may speak to your point-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Mason, I have ruled on what you must do. You must confine yourself to a personal explanation.

Senator MASON —Mr Deputy President, I have seen no fewer than five Liberal Party senators rise in succession to make similar personal explanations. They were allowed by the Chair to do so. The Australian Labor Party has done this frequently. Mr Deputy President, I seek your indulgence on this matter.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Mason, you are entitled to make a personal explantion. You have leave to do so. You may continue your personal explanation but I want you to relate it to something personal and not a general defence of your party's policies.

Senator MASON —Mr Deputy President, I merely assert that that statement plainly is untrue and damaging to me, as the only New South Wales Democrat member of this Parliament. Mr Deputy President, to support that point I refer you to the last statement in the Liberal Party's document which states:

To Andrew Peacock, Yes!

This is an appeal for funds-

Because I feel strongly about preserving peace through strength-

I like that, Mr Deputy President-

I want to do everything I can before these dangerous lobby groups place our security at risk.

I am the only representative of what is called that dangerous lobby group in the State of origin of this document. The document continues:

Please use my donation as ticked below to process and analyse the survey . . .

The clear accusation is that I am a member of a dangerous lobby group placing Australia at risk. It is scurrilous and untrue. Security already is at risk now because we are a nuclear target.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Mason, you are getting very far away from a personal explanation. If you cannot confine your remarks to a personal explanation I will have to ask you to cease.

Senator MASON —Mr Deputy President, the only other point I want to make in support of this argument is that an overwhelming majority of our members have voted to accept two cardinal policy considerations: Firstly, that Australia will ratify all existing multilateral arms control and disarmament treaties--

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Mason, you have gone far beyond the realm of a personal explanation. I think you are trespassing on the indulgence of the Senate. The explanation really must be something that affects you personally and not a general defence of the policies of your Party.

Senator MASON —Mr Deputy President, I take your point. Finally, I make the point that I renounce and deny the scurrilous statements made in the Liberal Party document. I think it is relevant to this personal explanation that the document originated from a political party in this Parliament and in this Senate. I bring to your attention the fact that that is so.

Senator Chipp —The Leader of the Opposition is named in it.

Senator MASON —The Leader of the Opposition is named in it. I reiterate that what has been said is against not only my own convictions and what I have said in this place again and again but also that which is stated in our policy. In conclusion, having renounced and denied those statements, I call on all Australians who may get a copy of the survey to recognise it for the dangerous rubbish it is.