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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 981

Senator PETER BAUME(12.10) —I remind the Senate that we are debating a motion of censure against the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Walsh, for his deliberate misleading of the Senate by selective tabling of documents and his refusal to explain his actions despite repeated questioning of the Senate. That is the motion which we are debating. One of the saddest things about the Minister's defence and about the speech which the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, made on his behalf is that both speeches failed to address the substance of the motion in any way. They failed to address the matters which were brought to the Senate about which the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Chipp spoke. They were not addressed in either speech of defence. The motion is about Senator Walsh, his actions, his omissions and his refusal to clarify the issues. Those matters have not been addressed by anyone speaking on his behalf. It is very likely also that this is the first time in the history of the Senate that a Minister under censure has not been supported by his ministerial colleagues, apart from Senator Grimes, and has not had his Leader present at the table while he is under attack. The absence of his colleagues is eloquent in itself.

I was told when I became a member of parliament that there are those senators, to use football parlance, who play the ball and there are those senators who play the man. The advice given to me at that time was to play the ball and ignore the other road. Senator Walsh has chosen, during his career in Parliament , to play the man regularly. He has chosen to take the low road in politics. He has kept the drawer marked 'dirty'. He has made regular attacks under privilege upon people, most of whom have had no chance to defend themselves adequately. He has no compunction about the road he has taken, the way he has chosen to attack people or the way he has taken to smear people by association. It has not pleased people. It has not even pleased his colleagues. I refer honourable senators to the Senate Hansard of Thursday, 6 September, and to a speech given by Senator Georges. Senator Georges said:

Let me come back to criticism of this place. I think we must look at our own standards and the manner in which we apply them. Again, I suggest that it does no good to attack, to vilify and to drag down. I remember on one occasion being requested to ask a question about a Liberal Minister and something that concerned his personal life. I did not ask that question.

Senator Walsh, by way of interjection, said:

Why not?

Senator Georges replied:

Because I am not of the Minister's type.

I repeat those words:

Because I am not of the Minister's type.

We have it on record that even his own colleagues will not go down that road. Senator Walsh has gone down that road and today he is being asked to answer for what he did, for what he omitted to do and for the fact that he refused to answer when questioned. The duties which rest upon a person taking his road are quite onerous.

I remind the Senate that Senator Walsh tabled a series of what purported to be cheque forms, the backs of cheques and cheque butts. I remind the Senate also of the point raised by my colleague the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Chaney, when he outlined what was present and what was omitted. The facts are that Senator Walsh seems to have omitted to make available to the Senate those documents which do not support the particular smear upon which he was engaged and which happened, as it were, to implicate and mention some former members or supporters of the Australian Labor Party. Yesterday in Question Time Senator Crichton-Browne took the trouble to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) a question about what steps are taken for Ministers to validate or verify documents which they table in this place. I remind the Senate that Senator Crichton-Browne received no adequate answer from Senator Button to what was in itself a reasonable request.

Today, realising what has happened, we offered the Minister a way out, not once , not twice, but several times we asked the Minister to make the facts known. We asked him whether he had had certain material in his possession. The Minister refused to answer. He refused to tell the Senate what it was entitled to know in relation to a matter which he had initiated, raised and pursued. Not once, not twice, but three times he was invited to clarify the matter. We repeated the questions and it was possible for Senator Walsh to have purged himself of the matter in which he was involved. It was possible for Senator Walsh to have ended the matter right there. He understood the question. He understood the issue. He understood why the question was being repeated. He understood that by repeating the question we were inviting him to clarify and clear up the matter. He refused to answer-not once, not twice, but several times-on a matter which it was within his capacity to clarify something about which the Senate had been misled by his actions.

I say that by his silence and his refusal to come clean he misled this chamber of the Parliament. I go further: Senator Walsh has offered in his defence-if I heard him correctly-that he simply picked up a bundle of cheque butts, brought them in and tabled them, but he must have detached the cheque butt that was not tabled here. The Age newspaper has it. He must have detached it at some time, either then or previously. The fact that one cheque butt was not tabled here clearly indicates an intention on the Minister's part to present the Senate with less than complete information and to cover up matters which did not happen to suit his purpose. His defence-he said this in the Senate this morning-was that there are plenty of people with the name L. Murphy. But how many people are there who have the name L. Murphy and an association with Ethiopian Airlines mentioned on the same document? We know why he did not table that material. The fact that he would not come clean is the guilt about which we are taking him to task now.

There has been a deliberate misleading of the Senate by Senator Walsh-a deliberate, continued and repeated misleading. He has refused to come clean on a matter which he raised. He has refused to come clean on this matter for his own grubby political purposes, in a manner which is quite consistent with his behaviour over the 10 years that he has been a member of this place. His assertions about the other people in relation to whom he tabled this material are most serious. He is quite happy to make those assertions. He is quite happy to allege matters in relation to another senator. He is quite happy to put material down if he thinks it will hurt that senator, but he will not put all the material down. By his selective tabling and his refusal to answer questions he has attempted to direct us incorrectly and improperly.

I believe the duties of a Minister include honesty. When there is a partial presentation of facts I believe that honesty can be called into question. The selective tabling of material in his possession is not fair dealing with the Senate. I believe this is a matter which Senator Walsh has refused to address. He has failed, in his defence, to address the matters that are the subject of this motion. Senator Grimes, quite clearly, failed to answer them also. The Ministers failed to answer those matters because there is no defence.

Senator Teague —Senator Grimes is not even in the chamber.

Senator PETER BAUME —I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that there is not a single ministerial colleague here to support him, and not a single colleague. He has been abandoned by his colleagues because they know where the truth and the guilt lie in this matter. He has failed totally to present all the material. He has failed to answer or clarify the matter in question. He has failed to answer this motion. He has no answer to these questions. I finish by saying that this is a motion about the Senate, its procedures, its duties, its responsibilities and the rights of honourable senators. It is also a motion about Ministers and their duty to Parliament and to the people. I must say that Senator Walsh has failed the Parliament, he has failed his ministerial duty and he has failed the electorate. He has failed in the tradition of proper ministerial accountability to Parliament. He has misled us deliberately. The motion is a proper one and I urge the Senate to support it.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Chaney's) be agreed to.