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Tuesday, 21 June 1994
Page: 1791

Senator McKIERNAN (10.50 a.m.) —I rise to speak to the motion to take note of Senator Gareth Evans's reply to Senator Troeth's question. When Mr Johns's comments were reported in the Australian media I also had some concerns about the content of what Mr Johns was purported to have said about the various minority groups in Australia. My inquiries of Mr Johns and of his office revealed that the reports of what he said were not completely and utterly accurate.

Senator Tambling —What did you say in the phone call?

Senator McKIERNAN —I said many things in the phone call, but my phone calls will remain private between me and the minister's office. I used a mobile phone because last week I was travelling extensively throughout this country on parliamentary business. As it was on a mobile it may have been monitored; I am not sure. If it were monitored, it probably would have been transcribed and reported.

  Mr Johns's purported comments caused some concern not only to me but also to other members of the Labor Party who voiced that concern to me. I have been able to assure them that the reports of Mr Johns's comments are not accurate. I was actually quite pleased that Senator Troeth raised this matter. It means that we can get a response on the record and set the record straight. It is not always easy to get the record straight on matters such as this, and I am pleased that Senator Troeth gave Senator Evans the opportunity to square the ledger in some way.

  In his contribution to the debate a short while ago, Senator Abetz raised the matter of Senator Carr's contribution to the Australian Labor Party and his caring for migrants in our community who are alleged to be a minority group. Yesterday, I sought to ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, who has the portfolio responsibility for migration in this country. Unfortunately, my supplementary question was not properly framed and the Deputy President quite rightly ruled it out of order. I was asking about Senator Bolkus's comments on the Channel Nine Sunday program—

Senator Abetz —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. How is this relevant to the minister's answer given in the Senate just a while ago? Senator McKiernan is trying to engage in a debate that would be more properly in the province of the debate on the adjournment.

Senator McKIERNAN —I am responding to comments Senator Abetz raised in the discussion. He raised the matters. If they were irrelevant to the debate he should not have raised them. But as he has raised them, I should have the right to respond.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston)—The usual practice is to allow a reasonable amount of latitude here. Senator Abetz did raise the matter and Senator McKiernan is responding to it. I rule that he is in order.

Senator Abetz —I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. I draw your attention to the fact that at no stage did I raise Senator McKiernan's question yesterday, Senator Bolkus's answer yesterday, Senator Mckiernan's attempted supplementary question or the Deputy President's ruling thereafter. Those matters were not canvassed by me in any shape or form. Senator McKiernan is clearly abusing the process.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Mckiernan is not abusing the process. Senator Mckiernan may raise those matters in his response.

Senator McKIERNAN —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. The matter I raise is branch stacking, which Senator Abetz did raise in his contribution here a short while ago. I am addressing the matter of branch stacking because Senator Bolkus has in his possession the membership of the Liberal Party of South Australia. He told the people of Australia on Sunday that he had this in his possession.

  As happens in all political parties at preselection time—certainly in most political parties—there are some bitter struggles between the contestants who are challenging for office. It appears that in South Australia there is such a challenge going on in one particular seat at the moment. The membership list of the Australian Labor Party of where those people are living and who they are supporting in this particular virulent preselection battle makes interesting reading. It would appear that if there was any branch stacking going on in this country, that branch stacking is alive and well in the Liberal Party in South Australia. That stacking includes the recruitment of migrants to this country in support of particular candidates from one side or the other in the various preselection contests that are going on.

  I welcomed the question from Senator Troeth on this matter to give Senator Gareth Evans and the government the opportunity to set the record straight as to what Mr Johns was reported to have said about the influence of minority groups in our society. I think that is welcome. I am quite happy to rise in this place and add my voice in support of that.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.