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Thursday, 1 September 1994
Page: 788

Senator HILL —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In the light of the strong views the minister and the Australian Labor Party apparently have in relation to politicians addressing the League of Rights—the suggestion is that to do so is, in effect, to countenance racism—what action did the Labor Party take against Graeme Campbell when he addressed the League of Rights last year? Was any action taken to disendorse him and, if not, would the minister recommend that such action take place?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Mr Campbell has never had any aspirations to lead his party. And it is just as well that he does not have any aspirations to lead his party because the response of his parliamentary colleagues to his performance in going to speak to League of Rights rallies is such as to, I think, make it absolutely clear to him that he never reasonably could have such an aspiration. His Labor Party colleagues have made it absolutely clear to him that they regard that kind of behaviour, whether perpetrated by anyone on our side of politics or anyone else's, as absolutely beyond the pale.

  There is no easy or obvious process of disciplining someone like Mr Campbell—as we found out on earlier occasions—when he has worked out his particular obsessions and particularly erratic brand of personal politics. But there is no doubt whatsoever about our attitude towards that kind of behaviour, that kind of association with a racist and disgusting organisation which stands for values—as Senator Boswell has said on many occasions on the public record—that are utterly alien to those that prevail in the mainstream society of this country and which ought to prevail in the mainstream political parties of this country.

  For the opposition's leader to have gone there just seven years ago—it might well have been in his immediate pre-puberty or post-puberty days, as Senator Collins said, because his adolescence has become a matter of absolute notoriety, political and otherwise, around the country in the last few days—for him to have gone there as recently as 1987, either not knowing what he was doing, which makes him a fool, or knowing what he was doing, which makes him a knave, is to make him absolutely unfit for any high office in this country. That is the view we take about any politician who has anything to do with that organisation.

  For the opposition to seek to open up the issue again today in this way demonstrates again that it has no understanding of the basic principles that should govern this country and no idea of the basic issues of character that the Australian public will want from their political leaders.

Senator HILL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Should Graeme Campbell be disendorsed?

Senator GARETH EVANS —There is no actual evidence of Graeme Campbell personally espousing the particular views of the League of Rights. There is a view that there was a spectacular lack of judgment demonstrated by Graeme Campbell in going and visiting that organisation and speaking to it. In exactly the same way there is an entirely legitimate view of a total lack of judgment and a total lack of character in going there as Mr Downer did to address that particular organisation. No judgment, no character, no ability—they are the things that justify one being excluded from the leadership of one's party. They do not necessarily justify one being chucked out of the party.

Senator Panizza —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. During that exchange I distinctly heard Senator Collins call Mr Downer a dill, and I ask you to get him to withdraw it.

The PRESIDENT —I did not hear the comment but, Senator Collins, if you made the comment I would ask you to withdraw it in the interests of Senate unity.

Senator Collins —Mr President, it is a fair cop. I confess. What I said was—and it is true—that I do not believe Mr Downer is a racist; he is just a dill.

The PRESIDENT —Just withdraw the comment.

Senator Collins —And I withdraw it, Mr President.