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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2185

Senator ROBERT RAY —I address my question to the Special Minister of State. I ask whether the Minister's attention has been drawn to an article in yesterday's Daily Mirror in which, in relation to the Premier of Queensland, it was stated:

. . . the Federal Electoral Legislation Amendment Act requiring parties to disclose the organisations which have donated had been made to stop him getting to the top in Canberra

Is it a fact that most of these amendments were passed by the national Parliament in November 1983, long before the Queensland Premier's ambitions had surfaced? Is it possible that the then Acting Special Minister of State, Mr Beazley, anticipated such a move and legislated to entrap the Queensland Premier some four years later? Is the Minister also aware that the Queensland Premier described the legislation as `a devilish piece of legislation aimed at me'? To what extent is such legislation invalidated if in fact it has been influenced by Satan?

Senator TATE —I did glance at an article which included the statement attributed to Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, which Senator Robert Ray has outlined to the Senate. I must say that it is entirely in harmony with what we can expect and have grown accustomed to hearing from the Queensland National Party, the New Nationals as they are now called, in the push to get Joh to Canberra. We have already in this chamber had cause to note Sir Robert Sparkes indicating that if the Nationals were ever in a position to do so, they would repeal those parts of the electoral legislation which have received the assent of this Parliament, which require the disclosure of donations to political parties. In doing so, of course, it only reinforces what we know, that really the Nationals have a total disdain for the proprieties which ought to be observed in any democracy, and particularly when electors seek to know who may be in a position unduly to influence those who are elected to government. Insofar as that influence may be purchased by large donations, then the cloak of anonymity I think needs to be pulled aside so that the electors and citizens of Australia can properly judge the activities of government, as I say, which may be open to influence or at least to the charge of influence by those who have made such donations.

This Parliament has already, as Senator Ray's question indicates, put in place in 1983 certain disclosure provisions which the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform unanimously considered to be somewhat inadequate. In a Bill that will be debated in this place, next week, if I may anticipate slightly, it is intended to tighten up those provisions to ensure that third parties who make donations to political organisations for electoral campaigns, have to disclose those donations. As I say, the veil of anonymity can be torn asunder, put to one side, and the electors can have exposed those who may wish to purchase influence over political parties.

As to the question of whether satanic influence may invalidate legislation, I think that is probably an unparliamentary suggestion in that obviously we do not in this chamber act in accordance with devilish influences. If I may say so, it is true that even though we have had the help of Senator Robert Ray and other honourable senators who were on that Committee to check the draft, the legislation is devilishly, diabolically complex to read and it would take somebody with some knowledge or perhaps diabolical ways of thought really to understand it, but I guess that is what Queen's counsellors are paid for. Whether it comes to a contest in the courts over that legislation to require the disclosure which the electorate and our democracy demands to get Sir Joh to reveal the sources of funding for his campaign, may I also emphasise that in the end this chamber and this Parliament have the plenary power through their committees to call for papers and for people and to discover whether, quite apart from legislation, the system of election to these democratically elected chambers is being perverted by the sorts of anonymous activities which Sir Joh appears to want to foster.