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Wednesday, 14 October 1964

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) . - I shall reply to the remarks made by Senator Cavanagh although what he had to say was not strictly applicable to the Estimates. Senator Cavanagh referred to statements made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden). These statements were, in the main, completely accurate and where they were not completely accurate they were inaccurate only in minor detail.

Senator Cavanagh - Is that why the Attorney-General apologised?

Senator GORTON - I am only answering the points raised by the honorable senator. Taking them one by one, he first made an incorrect statement as to what was said in the Mouse of Representatives by the AttorneyGeneral about the honorable member for Yarra. Senator Cavanagh said that the Attorney-General had stated that the honorable member for Yarra was associated with a Communist on the same platform at a peace conference. In point of fact the Attorney-General did not say that. Let us at least make our statements accurate. What the Attorney-General said was that the honorable member for Yarra spoke from the same platform as a Communist at a meeting called by the Yugoslav Settlers Association. The facts are that the honorable member for Yarra and other persons were sponsors of a meeting called by the Yugoslav Settlers Association. The meeting was addressed by the honorable member for Yarra and by a Communist, but they did not happen to speak from the same physical platform.

Senator Cavanagh - That is not so.

Senator GORTON - That is so. They did not happen to speak from the same physical platform. I suggest that was a very minor point in the context in which the AttorneyGeneral withdrew. The honorable member for Yarra and a Communist spoke at .the same meeting and, indeed, on the same lines, but not on the same physical platform.

Senator Cavanaghreferred also to the statement of the Attorney-General which related to a peace conference. It was a completely factual statement and, so far as I know, none of the facts contained in it has been questioned. It showed the genealogy of the peace conference back through various other peace conferences, stemming originally from the Communist world, as an instance of Communist policy. The statement named - and I have not heard any question that the names were incorrect - the Communists associated with the organising and the running of the peace conference. It stated that it was right and proper for the people of Australia to know these people were associated with the conference, the views they hold and the genealogy of the conference. There has been no withdrawal of the statement and there is no need for a withdrawal. It is a perfectly factual statement which the AttorneyGeneral made on this matter.

Senator Cavanaghreferred to a man called Sachs, who the Attorney-General said, in a case heard about 1950, had declared himself to be a Communist. The facts are that this man Sachs in a case heard in 1945 - a few years before 1950 - did state before a Johannesburg court: " 1 am a Communist ". That statement was repeated to tho House of Representatives by the AttorneyGeneral and is a statement of fact. If Senator Cavanagh cares to mix that case with another case heard in 1952, which is a completely different case, that has nothing to do with me, nothing to do with the Attorney-General and nothing to do with his Department. It simply indicates that Senator Cavanagh does not know the facts, or has been given an incorrect version of the facts.

I move now to the question of the Legal Service Bureaux and the Law Society's Legal Aid Scheme, which are two schemes which Senator Cavanagh confused when he addressed the Senate. The Law Society's Legal Aid Scheme, which Senator Ormonde referred to and which Senator Cavanagh, I believe, thought he was referring to, is a scheme which has nothing to do with the Federal Government. It is conducted in various States in various ways and is financed by the various State governments. It has nothing at all to do with us. The Legal Service Bureaux, which Senator Wright mentioned, and thereby caused some objections to be raised by Senator Cavanagh, is a completely different scheme. It is a scheme for assistance to cx-soldiers and their dependants. It is confined to giving these people advice and to appearing for them only before repatriation tribunals.

Senator Ormonde - Does the honorable senator think it gives first class advice and representation?

Senator GORTON - I do not form opinions, except in circumstances where I am sure of my facts. I would not like to pass judgment ' on lawyers or their competence.

Senator O'Byrnereferred to the question of packaging and to regulations which should be brought in to see that the packaging of goods could be regarded by a consumer with confidence. This is not a matter for the Attorney-General's Department, but, in a sense, it is a matter for the Commonwealth Government. I think it falls within Commonwealth powers. It is something which the National Standards Commission has under its consideration. Through association with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and with the Prime Minister's Department it is something with which I have been directly concerned. Some time ago wc had in Canberra a conference of all the States, which administer weights and measures, packaging and things of that kind, lt was conducted under the chairmanship of the Commonwealth and reached agreement for uniformity on patterns of instruments used in trade. The Victorian Government was asked to conduct publicly an extensive examination into what should bc done to amend the regulations to ensure that packaging was what Senator O'Byrne would wish it to be - something a consumer could look at with confidence. A magistrate - I think his name is Cuthill - conducted the investigation. He has brought in his report and a further conference will bc held at which all the States will attend, under the chairmanship of the Commonwealth. It will be held early in December and an attempt will be made to bring in uniform regulations in relation to packaging throughout Australia. Senator O'Byrne referred also to the Australian Industries Preservation Act which prohibits collusive action in interstate or overseas trade. Action is taken under that Act in the normal way whenever a breach of its provisions is brought to the attention, in one way or another, of the Commonwealth Government.

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