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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2303

Senator JESSOP(12.11) —I take this opportunity to support what Senator Townley said during the adjournment debate last night in respect of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Concern has been expressed to us that ASIO officers are worried because of the restrictions that have been placed upon them by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans). I believe, as was said last night, it is important that in matters concerning the security of Ministers , leaders of the Opposition, members of the House of Representatives and senators during an election campaign, the Government should make a statement to assure us about its confidence with respect to the capacity of ASIO to conduct security surveillance in Australia. I am not surprised at some of the attitudes held by the Labor Party with respect to security. I have noted with concern that the Government has opened its arms to the establishment of offices in Australia for the African National Congress and the South West African People's Organisation which are self-professed terrorist organisations. The Government embraces the Palestine Liberation Organisation with some affection. It welcomes to Australia people such as the Vice-Premier of Vietnam who was given VIP and, as seemed to be appropriate in terms of colour, red carpet treatment. I am not surprised either at some of the attitudes held by the Government with respect to the security of Australia particularly having regard to leftist politicians such as Ms Joan Coxsedge. I refer to an article written by Brigadier Greville entitled 'Violence linking old and new' in the Advertiser of Wednesday, 17 October, following the incredibly disastrous bombing at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England, where the lives of Mrs Thatcher and others were threatened and which resulted in the death of some people, including a member of parliament . The article states:

Another prominent Leftist politician, Ms Joan Coxsedge, organised a tribute by 30 Labor politicians to IRA gunman Bobby Sands which was published in two Melbourne daily newspapers on May 7, 1981.

The article goes on to state:

Ms Coxsedge leads the fight to have ASIO disbanded or its powers reduced. She claims to do so in the name of individual liberty. The organisations she supports such as the IRA do not believe in individual freedom.

Later in that article Brigadier Greville makes this comment:

The ABC program AM, which uses Ms Coxsedge as an adviser on security matters, attacks ASIO at every opportunity. It was predictable that its first comment upon the Brighton bombing was criticism of the 'inefficiency' of the British security forces.

I would not be surprised if the Attorney-General has placed some restriction on the operation of ASIO. I would not be surprised also if ASIO's attitude is: ' What is the use of us trying to establish a proper national security surveillance force in this country if the Attorney-General is placing certain restrictions upon us?' For that reason it seems that ASIO is pretty relaxed about exercising proper surveillance for the personal security of Ministers, leaders of the Opposition, and senators and members.

Surveillance is quite a serious matter in Australia at present. I have been informed by a reliable source that an overseas country intends providing funds to assist a demonstration in Australia later this year. The main object, of course, will be to disrupt our development, which would be in the economic interests of that country. I have tried to make some inquiries through ASIO about this matter and have found that protocol apparently suggests that I have to go through the office of the Federal Attorney-General if I want to pursue my inquiries through ASIO. This is unfortunate because I doubt whether I could expect the Federal Attorney-General to give me co-operation in this matter. Therefore, I am pursuing another line of inquiry because I believe that in due time I will be able to reveal the dangers associated with this matter. I think that a lot of the demonstrations at Roxby Downs in South Australia have been financially supported by overseas countries.

Senator Coleman —What a load of codswallop!

Senator JESSOP —It is not a load of codswallop. I will have some proof that will make even Senator Elstob's hair curl when I make the information public as soon as I have been able to follow my inquiries through to a successful conclusion. The reliable source which provided me with this information has assured me that a considerable sum of money is coming from overseas to assist in a demonstration that will occur before the end of this year.

Senator Elstob —What is the source?

Senator JESSOP —I am not telling the honourable senator my source; I would be frightened to do so because he would probably intimidate the source concerned. Have no fear, in due time I will reveal what I have in my mind. The seriousness is that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) last night sat dumb and refused to give assurances to Senator Townley and me that he would present a statement in the Senate today assuring us that the ASIO security surveillance capability was not impeded or damaged in any way by any suggestions that emanate from the Federal Attorney-General. I repeat the request, in the interests of all Australians that that statement should be made.

I turn to another matter. I commend the recent report of Estimates Committee A, particularly the reference to the transfer of functions and the report of the Senate Select Committee on Parliament's Appropriations and Staffing which was presented to the Parliament by me as Chairman in November 1981. I quote from the report of Estimates Committee A:

The Senate Select Committee on Parliament's Appropriations and Staffing recommended that the President arrange discussions with appropriate Executive departments with a view to transferring to the administration of the Parliamentary departments those functions affecting Senators' entitlements and facilities currently administered by them. In its report of October 1983 Estimates Committee A expressed a particular interest in seeing the implementation of this recommendation.

The report goes on to support the policy of transferring various other functions to the Senate. This matter has been the subject of debate and support on both sides of the House for a number of years. I notice that the President has resumed the chair. He has been one of the strongest advocates, supported by many of his colleagues, of the sequence of events that the Senate Select Committee on Parliament's Appropriations and Staffing suggested be carried out. When in opposition, he was Deputy Chairman of that Committee. Unfortunately we have been frustrated in our efforts to transfer these functions. Despite agreement in principle by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Administrative Services at the time, we now find ourselves bogged down with problems regarding the transfer of the rest of the functions as suggested by the Select Committee and supported by Senate Estimates committees since that time.

I had in mind to move a motion that the Senate carry on and transfer those functions. There is no reason why we should not do that. We have already established our own Standing Committee on Appropriations and Staffing. Over the years people have been saying that we should be the masters of our own ship and that we should be independent of the Executive. The concept was applauded when the report of the Senate Select Committee on Parliament's Appropriations and Staffing was presented to the House of Representatives by the then Opposition, which suggested that it was an excellent idea. I notice that the House of Representatives has failed to follow the lead which inevitably came from the Senate. If the House of Representatives adopted the principle of establishing its own appropriations and staffing committee we could then quite fairly say that the Parliament was run independently of the Executive.

Having sat upon the Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations and Staffing under the capable chairmanship of the President, there is no doubt in my mind that this role is carried out with responsibility. It is not a question of saying that the members of the Parliament now have control of their own ship with respect to staffing and appropriations and will go mad and overspend. I think there was an occasion last year when the Committee decided to cut down on the appropriations that were recommended initially. I am quite certain that the Committee that we have established is responsible, would have regard to economic restraints and to the problems of the community at large, and would not do other than set an example of responsibility in financial management. I express regret that the House of Representatives has not seen fit to do the same thing. I give notice right now that when this matter is debated in the Senate next time I will move a substantive motion hoping that we will get the unanimous support of the Senate with respect to the transfer of the rest of the functions recommended in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Parliament's Appropriations and Staffing, which received the unanimous endorsement of this chamber.