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Attorney General - A.S.I.S Incident Melbourne



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SENATOR FRED CHANEY

P R E S S R E L E A S E LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE THE SENATE6 1*^)2 3 The Attorney General today refused to correct a serious distortion of the official Parliamentary record.

Senator Evans was today presented with proof that he had fudged the record. _

Instead of acknowledging his unjustified action, the Attorney General resorted to the combination of bluster and abuse which has become a hallmark of his Parliamentary behaviour.

The mess from which Senator Evans tried to extricate himself began when he answered a question in the Senate on Friday, December 2, from Sir John Garrick concerning ministerial responsibility for the incident involving A.S.I.S. personnel at Melbourne's Sheraton Hotel.

Senator Garrick asked the Attorney whether he still adhered to the principle of responsibility espoused in 1975 by Mr. Malcolm Fraser and quoted so approvingly by Senator Evans during debate on the Costigan report in September

last year. He went on to ask whether the Minister for Foreign Affairs should offer to resign.

The Attorney General acknowledged he did adhere to the Fraser rules and then added:

"It is a question of course of interpretation in all the circumstances of a particular case what is a major blunder of real importance to Australia, and no doubt some anxious consideration will be given to the proper application of that

criterion by the Ministers concerned."

After Question Time I issued a statement quoting these words which, I believe, amounted to a suggestion by Senator Evans that Mr. Hayden should consider offering to resign. I quoted his actual words so that readers

could make their own judgement.

Late on Friday afternoon, Senator Evans stormed into the Senate and used the adjournment debate to accuse me, amongst other things, of contemptible fabrication and a deliberate twisting of his words.

I rejected the allegations then and pointed out that, not for the first time, the Attorney General was obviously having second thoughts about an earlier action. It was a classic repeat of the "good idea at the time" syndrome for which he is justly famous.

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Even later on Friday he issued a statement which attacked me and quoted what he claimed to have said in the Senate during Question Time.

That quote contained a word which was not uttered by the Attorney General in his answer and the inclusion of which substantially altered the sense of what he had to say. It converted what any reasonable listener would have taken as

a direct reference to the A.S.I.S. matter into a vaguely hypothetical statement of general principle.

I quote the extract from his own statement:

"Of course it is a question of interpretation in all the circumstances of a particular case what is a major blunder of real importance to Australia, and no doubt some anxious consideration will a lways be given to the proper application of

that criterion by the Ministers concerned."

(Underline inserted)

Yesterday I discovered that the Attorney General had also changed the daily Hansard record to include the extra w o r d .

I have seen the reporters' proof of the question and answer and I have listened to the tape of the exchange.

There is absolutely no justification for the Attorney's actions and he has refused to correct Hansard to show his true words.

Canberra 6 December 1983 2

CONTACT: Keith Kessell 72 6380

Attachments: Chaney's & Evans' statements of 2 December; Copy of Evans' Hansard typescript; Extracts from daily Hansard of 2 December.

2 .12.83 SENATE 40/ 2 .

Senator GARETH ELANS' - Not be|i.ngf imbued with the same

, - ; , · · ■ >

-collection of double standardi| that afflict/* the Cpnsn

j - c&-jO

nor the same £0f situation ethics, as I

think the theologians describe it, I do still endorse

■ ■ - \ ■ -

the force of that principle which T\sought to articulate

last year on no less an authorityt as i invoked of Mr Malcolm . ' . ; .. ) ) —

< , ... . ' ' . ‘ ' ■

Fraser♦ Of course it is a question of.interpretation^in all

vi the circunm rances of a particular case/ ·$is.t is a major -ft ^ t 'v· ■ djiCtt ; L \blunder of/ importance · to y "r' ~iHr *' *~~jnb''''rTr· i ^'i “ . . . Μ -lQU>£«.\ / $ I»:b'ito3^rii; t i o n ? ; i c a t i o n of the.t criterion by th«Hiinisters conceiftiefiV -I find it quite - ? & * * & * :\ ,vi-„ ,t Λ . . jJBu r.t,· — : · ' · . -«·*· - • , ■ ■ . . . . . . . p f , ; ' * · '■.'■ " _ _ 'intolerable, however that we should be subjected on occasions ■ < ■ ■ --- V - V - ■ ’ ■ > v ‘,,- "" .Tf · ·" i - - - , ·â–  ■ like this^ to th%|^in^^ hypocrisy that now wafts across fromthe Oppsn benchtfE"''^n ·*■!»"‘ reliance upon principles which.■. : ; :.ί· . , ,"' . . ___' ' . · .the fawwtwyfcb-'never been remote ly prepared to espouse.■ ΕΜΠ AMBWiR-

■ M I N I S T E R I \ E RV. Sr oNSFBl I 11 V

Senat or Sir J O H N < '.ΛRRICK I ivlci the

Attorney-General to the theory of ministerial re­ sponsibility which he adopted in a debate in the Senate on 7 September last year when the quoted and embraced a statement by Mr Malcolm

Fraser, who said:

It is certainly true that Ministers eanno.l he aware of

everything that occurs in their departments. They ought to be aware of all the maj or matters and therefore can he ■ clearly and directly responsible for them hut if a major blunder occl i ned in a Department, of real importance to '

Australia, and if the Minister were unaware of it. that

Minister should accept responsibility lor the mistakes of his Department and offer to resign.

I ask: Docs the Attorney still tick now ledge that view of ministerial lesponsibility? Does he agree that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service event was a major blunder of teal importance to

Australia? Does he agree that the appropriate

course is that the Minister for Foreign Affairs

should offer to resign?

S e n a t o r GARETH EVANS': Being not imbued with the same collection of double stan­ dards that a 111 let the Opposition, nor the same ea- pacily for situation ethics, as I think the theO- login ns describe it. I do still endorse Ihc force of that principle which I sought to articulate last year on no less tin authority, as I invoked, ol Mr

Malcolm Fraser. Of course, it is a quest ion of in­ terpretation. in all the circumstances of a particu­ lar case, of yvhat is a major blundered' real import­ ance to Australia and no doubt some anxious consideration will always be given to the proper application of that criterion by the Ministers con­ cerned. I Find it quite intolerable, how ever, that we should be subjected, on occasions like this, to the kind of hypocrisy that now walls across from the Opposition benches in reliance upon prin­ ciples which it has never been remotely prepared ' toespouse.

Senator Sir JOHN GARRICK Mr President. I ask a supplementary question. Do I understand from tite Attorney's reply that he does not know and has not formed an opinion at this moment whether or not the incident two nights ago was a major blunder of importance to Australia? Is that his implication? I las he formed that vieyy ’’ U it his view and that of his Government that it yvas a major blunder .’ I repeat: If that is so and now that he has acknowdedged that he still upholds that principle, does he agree that the Miniver for

Foreign AITairs should resign?

Senator GARETH EVANS I am not obliged to accommodate Senator Sir John Garrick in describing my present state of mind on matters of

Questions without Xotiee

this kind and I do not propose to add anything in lurtherlomy previous answer. _ 1

(JlH-'.tUlllS w i t h o u t . Sut t ee