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Wednesday, 31 October 1956

Mr HAMILTON (Canning) .- With the exception, possibly, of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), all the Opposition members who have spoken in this debate have obviously used the opportunity provided by the introduction of this legislation to make an attack on the security service, and not on the organization as such, but upon the individuals employed in it. They have awaited this opportunity for a long time. If one studies the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) one will find running through their speeches an attack upon, in the main, two men, the Director-General of Security and his assistant. The honorable member for Werriwa adopted the same attitude, to a degree, but only after he had made some substantial contributions. I am surprised, however, at one passage in the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa, in which he made a charge against, to use his own words, two distinguished members of the New South Wales bar. He has kept this charge bottled up within himself ever since the sittings of the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia, and he has used this chamber as a place to make the charge. On his own admission, or at any rate from his silence on this aspect, it is obvious that he has never made any complaint to the New South Wales Bar Association about the conduct of - and I repeat his words - these two distinguished members of the New South Wales bar. I have had quite a good deal of admiration for the honorable member for Werriwa, but it has become somewhat dimmed this afternoon by the charge that he has made. When he was asked by a legal gentleman from Victoria, by way of interjection, whether he had lodged a complaint, he declined to answer. lt ill becomes the honorable member for Werriwa to use the forms of this House to make such a charge. In view of the seriousness of the charge, I trust that he will take the first available opportunity to repeat what he has said here to the New South Wales Bar Council and, if he can, prove his charge to that body. We have heard only one side of the case.

The Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Werriwa and the honorable member for East Sydney criticized the Government because this organization has no ministerial head, but the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has reminded us that in 1949, the then Attorney-General, who took an active part in the establishment of the organization in that year, said most definitely that the opinion of the Government of the day was that the organization should be completely free.

Mr Adermann - Who was the AttorneyGeneral then?

Mr HAMILTON - He was none other than the present Leader of the Opposition. This organization was established in 1949 by the Labour Government led by the late Mr. Chifley. Since then, only three changes have been made. A new director-general has been appointed and a regional director has been appointed. I forget for the moment what the other change was. The security organization is functioning now on almost the same lines as it functioned during the regime of the late Mr. Chifley.

I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa that the officers of the organization do not appear to receive the benefits that are enjoyed by other members of the Public Service. In every case, members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate have attacked, not the organization, but individual members of it. The honorable member for East Sydney said that it was because of the security service that the members of the Australia First movement were interned, but I remind him that there was no security service, as such, in those days. The security service was not established until 1949.

The honorable member for East Sydney said, as did the honorable member for Werriwa, that members of the security organization could damn people and that such people would have no right of appeal. The honorable member for Werriwa mentioned three cases. He said that reports by officers of the security organization could lead to a public servant being denied promotion, but the honorable member knows that if a public servant were refused promotion to a higher position for which he believed that he was fit and capable, he could appeal against that decision. Surely the honorable member does not believe that our democratic system is so defective that a public servant cannot get a fair deal. If a man believed that a report had been made on him which damned his prospects of promotion, he could carry his appeals to the point of having his case raised in this Parliament with a view to clearing his name.

Speakers on behalf of the Labour party criticized the efficiency of the security organization, but we know that its efficiency has been praised, not only by people in this country, including the members of the Royal Commission on Espionage, who spoke highly of its efficiency not very long ago, but also by people overseas. The charge of inefficiency was a cloak for an attack on the Director-General and his subordinates.

The Leader of the Opposition raised the question of salaries, but he did not dwell on it for very long. If he reads the legislation, ne will find that the salaries of officers are to be fixed by the Director-General, in consultation with the Public Service Board. The object of the bill is to give security of tenure to the men employed by the organization. If we want to attract to the service of the organization the best men available - men with the ability required to do the job properly - we must offer them security. They must not be put in the position that they can be dismissed at any time at the will of a Minister of the Crown. This bill is not before its time. I believe that steps should have been taken some years ago to give security of tenure to the members of this organization. 1 come back to the question of ministerial control. The Prime Minister has stated that the Attorney-General will administer this legislation, and it is provided that the Director-General shall have free access to the Prime Minister on matters of security. Therefore, on my interpretation of the matter, the organization will come under the administration of the AttorneyGeneral, with the proviso that the DirectorGeneral shall have direct and free access to the Prime Minister on matters of security.

The bill will protect members of the organization from the danger of being summarily dismissed for no apparent reason. Some members of the Labour party have advanced the argument that members of the organization will have no right of appeal against dismissal. I fail to see how that could be so, particularly in the case of officers transferred to the organization from the Public Service. Clause 1 1 provides that officers of the Public Service appointed to the organization shall retain existing and accruing rights. In those circumstances, surely they would have a right of appeal against dismissal.

As the honorable member for Moreton has said, our security organization has a brief but very proud history. The arguments that were advanced by the honorable member for East Sydney to-day and by his leader last night do no credit to public men. 1 repeat that the present organization is substantially the same as that which was set up by a Labour government in 1949. If we want a security organization that will be able to do the job required of it, the officers of the organization must be given every encouragement to do their jobs as well and as efficiently as possible. They have done that so far. I have no sympathy with the Labour party in its attacks on members of the organization.

When the Royal Commission on Espionage was in progress some time ago. the Leader of the Opposition wanted security officers to be dragged before the commission and forced to disclose certain method." that they had employed. The security organization will never do the job that we want it to do if the officers are dragged before tribunals and, so to speak, put under an X-ray machine. We will not get the type of men we want under such circumstances. I believe that this country needs a security service. We are no longer living in the days when Australia was an outpost of empire. Its geographic situation in the Pacific Ocean makes it a most important country in world affairs, but it is very vulnerable to attack, not so much by force of arms as by espionage and similar activities. Therefore, the security service is essential to our security, and the Government is to be commended for at long last bringing down this bill, which will give to the members of the service some measure of security of employment, because they will not be subject merely to the whims of any one in authority who wishes to get rid of them without any real justification for dismissing them.

I am surprised at some of the comment!! that have been made by Opposition members. We all know that the honorable member for East Sydney has attempted to belittle, decry and destroy this organization ever since the Petrovs defected. The charges he has made against the Deputy Director-General of Security, who. like me. is a Western Australian, do him no credit. Mr. Richards has done a good job for Australia in security work. He was highly recommended by the Western Australian authorities for the appointment, and he has acquitted himself with great distinction in the Commonwealth organization. I repeat that a measure such as this, which deals with a body like the security service, should not be used as a vehicle for the kind of discussion that we have heard this afternoon from the Opposition. On the contrary, it is a measure that should receive the full support of Labour members, who claim that their purpose is to protect and assist the working man. I do not agree entirely with what the honorable member for Werriwa said about the benefits that may be lost by members of the security service, because some of them will retain their existing benefits.

The Opposition does not encourage the Government to amend the bill, but opposes it completely, although it is intended to give to members of the security service security of tenure in their employment and the opportunity to do a good job for the country, ft should also enable us to obtain the best brains available for this essential job. We do not want just strong-arm men in this organization. The great variety of tasks that fall to the lot of the service require the exercise of considerable brainpower. The statements made this afternoon by Opposition members have condemned the Australian Labour party, particularly with respect to its oft-made claim that it stands for the protection of the working man. Honorable members opposite oppose this measure, although it makes no alteration in the constitution of the security service, which was established by the Labour government in 1949. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition himself played a leading part in the establishment of the service, and he said at the time that it should be completely free from ministerial control. But Labour to-day takes a directly contrary view. I repeat, in conclusion, that the purpose of this bill is to give members of the security organization security of tenure in their employment and to enable us to obtain the best available brains for appointment to the service.

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