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Thursday, 2 June 1994
Page: 1255


Senator MICHAEL BAUME (6.00 p.m.) —When debate on this matter was adjourned the other day, I was pointing out that there were some problems in this report, a copy of which was not available to me until it had been tabled. It contains simple, uncomplicated inaccuracies and that raises some real problems.


Senator Bolkus —I see Senator Chapman is leaving the chamber. Perhaps he is going to see a lawyer.


Senator MICHAEL BAUME —No doubt matters of truth do not interest Senator Bolkus, but matters of truth should be paramount in this chamber. If he wants to make any more inane interjections perhaps you, Mr Acting Deputy President, could encourage him not to do so.

  The facts in this matter are not really open to an immense amount of dispute. My notice of motion on 3 May, to which this report refers, noted Councillor Samaras's involvement in a fraud perpetrated by Mr Gino Mandarino, who was fined $800 for forging an electoral form. Mr Mandarino is a member of the electorate staff of the Labor member for Throsby, Mr Colin Hollis. Maybe factional loyalty is encouraging Senator Bolkus to be excited about this. Mr Mandarino admitted involvement in forging an election document.

  The Australian Federal Police counsel, Mr Ian Bourke, said Mandarino's action was deliberate conceit and accused him of showing reckless disregard and contempt for the electoral system. Magistrate Derrick Price said that while he accepted that Mandarino may have been acting out of misguided political fervour during a hotly contested election—I might say that it was an election to gain control of the New South Wales Young Labor Organisation, and Mandarino was acting on behalf of the left wing—it was important that people acted honestly in regard to the Electoral Act. The official charge against Mandarino was that he uttered, knowing it to be forged, a document deliverable to the Australian Electoral Commission—an electoral enrolment form in the name of Arne Cambourne.

  I note Councillor Samaras's involvement in this matter as set out in court by the Australian Federal Police and not subsequently denied: Councillor Samaras, while a staff member of former Cunningham member of parliament Stewart West, called at the Commonwealth Electoral Commission's Wollongong office to inquire whether an enrolment form in the name of Arne Cambourne had been lodged. Councillor Samaras was advised that no form had been received. Later that morning the form was found in the mail.

  Subsequently, Mr Mandarino, who had been advised of this information that Councillor Samaras had received, filed a forged enrolment form, a copy of which was faxed from Mr West's office, with Councillor Samaras's specific approval, to Sydney. In other words, there is no dispute that there was a clear involvement by Councillor Samaras in these actions which led to the successful prosecution of Mr Mandarino.

  What intrigues me is that Councillor Samaras has totally denied it and says it is totally untrue. In his response, however, he failed to deal with these details of his clear involvement in this matter. He does not even try to excuse this involvement as innocent, which surely he should have done had this involvement been innocent. Instead, he has denied any involvement whatsoever, which is patently and self-evidently false. He does so by a carefully worded piece of nonsense. The report of the privileges committee reports that he states:

Senator Baume alleges that I have been involved in electoral fraud. This is untrue.

We know that he did have an involvement. I said that he had an involvement, but he said that was untrue. He then goes on, in some kind of defence of his position, to make a whole series of denials of allegations that I did not make. He states:

I have never breached any provision of any electoral act—

that was not the allegation—

nor have I ever asked any other person to breach any electoral law.

That was not the allegation. But he states:

The allegation is simply false. I have never been before a court. I have never been charged with an offence. I have never been arrested. The allegation has no basis.

He denies a whole lot of allegations that were not made. But it does raise some interesting questions. What he has now said raises the question of whether he knew what Mr Mandarino was up to. That now becomes a serious question. Councillor Samaras denies everything else, but he does not deal with the question of whether he knew that the information he got was to be misused by Mr Mandarino in an electoral fraud. If Councillor Samaras wants to make proper public statements about this, perhaps he should tell us whether he had any suspicion that Mr Mandarino was up to something. I think it is important to find out whether Mr Samaras was either a willing or an unwitting accessory. He may well have been totally innocent, but the fact is that he does not say so. He just denies that he had any involvement whatsoever, and we know that to be false.

  The problem this raises is that, if people use this particular privilege which is quite properly given to aggrieved citizens to clear their names in this parliament, then I think there is a responsibility on these people to tell the truth. It seems to me that, in a sense, the parliamentarian who finds himself on the receiving end of an allegation that he has told lies—and Samaras's allegation is basically that I have said things that are untrue—gets ambushed at the time. He has no knowledge that he is going to be accused of saying things that are untrue. All he knows is that the privileges committee is going to recommend that a response be printed. Then, in this case a couple of days later, the parliamentarian gets the opportunity to demonstrate that the report contains total falsehoods, that the aggrieved citizen has lied, that the aggrieved citizen has not addressed himself for the alleged cause of the complaint in a proper, coherent and rational way and that the aggrieved citizen has responded to a whole series of allegations which were not made.

  Councillor Samaras is obviously very keen to clear the air on this matter. After all, he is seeking to be a candidate for the Labor Party for preselection to the New South Wales upper house. That might explain his enthusiasm to have this statement incorporated in Hansard. Maybe he will be a bit more enthusiastic to tell the truth next time and to recognise that he had an involvement and to recognise that it is up to him now to assert that that involvement was totally innocent, if it was innocent. It does not mean that, if he were involved to the extent of the illegal activity, he would have been charged. The Federal Police have acknowledged that there was an accessory who has not been charged, but there is no suggestion that that was Councillor Samaras. Other people were involved in this fraud. I think we have to recognise that these procedures should be properly used, not improperly used as has happened in this case.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

  The response read as follows—

RESPONSE BY COUNCILLOR MICHAEL SAMARAS AGREED TO BY COUNCILLOR SAMARAS AND THE COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES PURSUANT TO RESOLUTION 5(7)(b) OF THE SENATE OF 28 FEBRUARY 1988

I have seen an extract from the Senate Hansard of 3 May 1994 which has caused me concern. In a notice of motion, Senator Michael Baume has made a serious allegation against me. The allegation is false.

Senator Baume alleges that I have been involved in electoral fraud. This is untrue. I have never breached any provision of any electoral act. Nor have I ever asked any other person to breach any electoral law. The allegation is simply false. I have never been before a court. I have never been charged with an offence. I have never been arrested. The allegation has no basis.

The distinctive and individualistic grammar employed by Senator Baume in making the false allegation means it is difficult to always comprehend his meaning. On one reading, however, there may be a further allegation that I allowed the improper use of a facsimile machine. This is also untrue.

Senator Baume provides no basis for making his allegation against me. I can assure you, however, that my dealings with the Australian Electoral Commission have always been proper and have been mainly restricted to inspecting the electoral roll. The roll is, of course, a public document and many thousands of Australian citizens have cause to inspect it from time to time. I do not believe that citizens who exercise their right to examine the electoral roll should be named in the Senate as being involved in fraud.

As an elected Councillor on the Wollongong City Council, I fully understand the need to protect the integrity of the electoral system. I am concerned that Senator Baume's false allegation, if left unanswered, may damage my good standing in the community.

MICHAEL SAMARAS