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Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1042


Mr SNEDDEN - My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Unless there was a conspiracy, what justification was there for Senator Murphy's raid on the Melbourne headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation? If it is possible that the ASIO officer misunderstood what was said, what do the other departments - Foreign Affairs, Attorney-General's and the other members of the interdepartmental committee - say? Two of those departments are the honourable gentleman's own departments. How can a possibly incorrect report by an ASIO officer support the raid on the Melbourne office to preserve information as both the Prime Minister and Senator Murphy have claimed? Is it not clear that Senator Murphy believed there had been a correct report by the ASIO officer to the extent of dispatching 27 police officers to ASIO headquarters to close all the safes and enclose all staff as they came on duty? He said that he was given information on 16th March, in the afternoon, and that he acted on the same day. What action did he take on that day and what has been the progress of the action since? Will he inform the House here and now exactly what action he has taken and what he expects to be the result of it?


Mr Whitlam - Could I ask the right honourable gentleman to repeat the question?


Mr SNEDDEN - Certainly. 1 would be glad to. Mr Speaker, yesterday the honourable gentleman avoided a question by saying that he was taken by surprise. I am glad to know that today he will attempt to answer questions. The question is this: Unless there was a conspiracy - the term used by the honourable gentleman yesterday - what justification was there for Senator Murphy's raid on the Melbourne headquarters of ASIO? If it was possible that the ASIO officer misunderstood what was said at the meeting, what do representatives who were present from other departments - Foreign Affairs, Attorney-General's and Prime Minister's - say was said? Two of those departments are the honourable gentleman's own departments. How can a possibly incorrect report by the ASIO officer support the raid to preserve information, which is the reason given by Senator Murphy and the Prime Minister for the raid on the Melbourne headquarters? ls it not clear that Senator Murphy believed it was a correct report to the extent of dispatching 27 policemen to seal safes and to enclose the staff of the Organisation as they came on duty? The honourable gentleman said that he heard of the meeting on the afternoon of 16th March - that is after the raid had occurred - and that he acted the same day. I ask him: What action did he take that day to unravel this extraordinary situation? What has been the progress of the action he has taken? What does he expect to be the outcome of that action?


Mr WHITLAM - 1 heard the contents of the ASIO report from which I quoted yesterday on the afternoon of Friday. 16th March. I immediately took action to follow it up. as I told the right honourable gentleman yesterday. I said:

I have taken action in this matter which is still in train.


Mr Holten - What action?


Mr WHITLAM - I do not propose to say what the action is, because, if I do, honourable members and the public will be able to make assumptions concerning such persons as may be under suspicion of misconduct in this matter.


Mr Fairbairn - What does that mean?


Mr WHITLAM - The honourable gentleman should know that if, for instance, a public servant is guilty of misconduct, action is available to the permanent head of the officer's department to take against him under the Public Service Act. There are tribunals to hear these matters and so on. In the present case there are some departments - the right honourable gentleman does not correctly list the departments, incidentally-


Mr Snedden - You refuse to make them public.


Mr WHITLAM - The Leader of the Opposition, as I said yesterday, can find out who was at this meeting. Tn the first version of his question the Leader of the Opposition referred to an inter-departmental committee. There is not an inter-departmental committee. However, the right honourable gentleman can find out what departments were represented at the meeting. I also told him that, if he wished, I would tell him who was there. There were representatives from some departments and from some agencies. If I use any more specific term, such as a commissioner, a permanent head or a director-general, then honourable gentlemen will be able to see who is under suspicion. I use the general term 'head' by which I may mean a director-general, a commissioner or a permanent head. A head or heads is or are taking action in this matter. I will not be more precise, because T would be casting aspersions on one or more individuals if I were. As I said yesterday, that would be unfair lo such person or persons.







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