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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1851


Mr COOKE (Petrie) - I take this opportunity to complain about the reluctance of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to answer questions. It is of course a cardinal principle of parliamentary responsibility that Ministers should answer questions put to them by members of the Parliament concerned with the administration of their department. I simply point out that there is a question on the notice paper which I put down on 8 March last dealing with the announced intention of the Attorney to engage foreign lawyers to advise him on the drafting of certain legislation dealing with Aboriginal land rights and restrictive trade practices. One would have thought that that was a simple question to which the Attorney could address his mind for 5 minutes and answer; yet it has been on the notice paper since 8 March. Not only that, but American lawyers of sorts have come and gone. Some of them have given reports to the Attorney; others have furnished reports which have been tabled in this House. And still the information required by the question as to what qualifications these gentlemen have, what fees they were being paid and other associated matters remains to be supplied.

I must point out that the announcement was not exactly an announcement by the AttorneyGeneral. It was an announcement by a source close to the Attorney-General, which is about all one can get on this subject, that while in

America on his way back from one of his very frequent excursions abroad he had discussions with American lawyers about various subjects and that he would invite them to come to Australia and advise him on various legal matters. I would have thought that the Attorney-General, being charged with giving legal advice to the Government, ought to be qualified himself to give advice on most subjects. If there is a subject on which his legal knowledge is insufficient he has a team of qualified lawyers in his Department. All of them have been trained over a long period of time in practice on the Crown side and they have more experience than perhaps people in private practice because they deal with a much more limited field and perhaps become more intimately acquainted with the ins and outs of that particular branch of the law.

But instead of consulting his Department the Minister seems to have embarked on a program of going outside the Department to obtain legal advice. We see a couple of disastrous examples of what has happened. First of all, there was his bull-at-a-gate attempt to reform the divorce law. I understand that his new matrimonial regulations were drafted for him by a junior counsel, and they were a complete disaster. Then there was the question of his dealings with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation which still has a very large note of interrogation hanging over it. In his dealings with ASIO he was advised by a gentleman, Mr Milte, in what capacity one does not know, because a question asked by the honourable member for Warringah {Mr MacKellar) on the subject has been on the notice paper since 4 April.


Mr McVeigh - He has not answered it?







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