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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3296

Mr SPENDER(6.12) —The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding ) concluded by referring to the record. Let us refer to the record and place one thing very clearly on the record: There never would have been an inquiry into the Ivanov affair if this Opposition had not pressed for it. Let us remind members of this House that it was on the same day that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) announced that inquiry that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen) came into this House to defend the Government against just such a request, that there should be a judicial inquiry.

That having been put to one side, let us also put this matter on the record: Nowhere in the report of the Hope Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence is there to be found a criticism of the Opposition or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock). We have had the loan sharks defence from the Treasurer (Mr Keating), devoid of truth and of principle. Neither he nor the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) could find any reference to the Opposition. So much for the boasts of the Prime Minister and others that we would come into this House when the Hope report came down and we would be sorry for ourselves because of the Hope report.

Let us come to the Prime Minister's attempt today-an attempt by which he has disgraced and prostituted his office and the institution of Parliament-to defend the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). What has that defence been? It has been no more than a pusillanimous capitulation to the politics of Tammany Hall. What are those politics predicated on? They are predicated on having the numbers, and that is just what Mr Young has. So, after 30 years of active service in the Australian Labor Party, he has to be rewarded and his peccadillos put to one side. He is to be embraced within the fold and welcomed back into the Government.

No one on the Government side has sought to deal with the charge which is inherent against Mr Young; that is, deliberately he deceived this House, he deceived the Prime Minister, and he deceived the Australian people. A bare narrative of events is sufficient to establish that charge. What did Mr Young tell the world? He made a statement-it was the first statement he made until he was caught-on 13 May. This was his statement in relation to what appeared in the National Times and what had happened in the House. He said about his comment to Mr Cameron that he was going to kick out a Russian:

I accept that my comment to Mr Cameron was unwise. I have today spoken to the Prime Minister and he has registered his concern. I understand and accept his concern.

That was all. Yet on the very day before that conversation with Mr Cameron he had had a far more serious conversation with a mate. What he had told his mate breached national security and, in the words of Mr Justice Hope, constituted 'a real risk that significant damage could have resulted from the disclosures'. Did he have a lapse of memory? Why was it that when he went to the Prime Minister and when he made that statement on 13 May he did not also say: 'Mr Prime Minister, there is a far more important matter that I think you should know about. I have told a friend of mine about the events that took place in the National and International Security Committee'? Did he say that? Apparently he did not. We accept the Prime Minister, who came into this House and defended Mr Young, as a man of honesty and a man of integrity.

How did Mr Young have this lapse of memory? Was it by chance, was it sheer intellectual deficiency, or did he think that he could get away with the game? The truth of the matter is that he thought he could get away with it. By his silence he lied to the Prime Minister, to his parliamentary colleagues, to this House and to the Australian people. He intended the world at large to believe that his only error was in telling Mr Cameron on 22 April that the Government had decided to kick out a Russian. There was nothing casual about his conduct. His conduct was persisted in. He sat here while the Prime Minister defended him. He sat here as the affair dragged on. But then he was caught. He was caught because the Commission had been constituted and circumstances came to the attention of counsel for the Commission and counsel for the Commission saw the Prime Minister. This is what Mr McHugh said:

The circumstances in which Mr Young came to make his statement to the Prime Minister were these: last Wednesday evening counsel for the Commonwealth had a conference with the Prime Minister. We informed him that we had obtained information which made it appear that there would be an issue before the Royal Commission as to whether, on the night of 20 or 21 April a minister had given information to a third party concerning the briefing which the National and International Security Committee had received from the director-general of security.

Mr McHugh said that in reference to a conversation with the Prime Minister on 13 July. What happened? The following day, after he had gone to see the Prime Minister, his junior, with his instructing solicitor, interviewed Mr Young. I quote from the transcript of what Mr McHugh said to the Commissioner:

During the conference, however, the opportunity was taken to question Mr Young concerning Mr Matheson's allegations. When the conference concluded Mr Young went to see the Prime Minister and made the statement to which I have referred and at the same time offered his resignation.

There we have honest Mick? What happened? He was caught out. He knew the game was up. He knew that he faced public disclosure. So he went to see the Prime Minister while the going was good, hoping that by doing that he would be able to climb back later on into the Ministry.

What have we heard from him today? Have we heard any attempt to meet the criticisms that are made of him? Have we heard any explanation of how it could be that he never told the Prime Minister until 14 July that he had told a friend about what happened in the National and International Security Committee? No, we have not heard from him about those matters and we have not heard a satisfactory explanation or an attempt at an explanation by anyone from the other side. Why? It is because there is no explanation that can be offered. All we get from the Prime Minister is this: Mr Young has suffered; he has been out of a job for a few months and he has been striving for a job for a long time and, for God's sake, surely it is bad that a man should be kept out of work under those circumstances. That is a perfectly unprincipled approach, an approach which debases the parliamentary institution, as honest members on the Government side must well understand.

For those who say, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs says, that there is no evidence that any harm was caused to national security, let me remind them of two things. First of all, Mr Justice Hope pointed out that there was a real risk that significant damage could have resulted from the disclosures; it was purely fortuitous that no damage did result. Mr Young did not give a damn; it just turned out that no damage resulted. For those who say that no damage resulted, it is rather like the defence to an attempted murder: 'Sure, I made the attempt, but I missed. So, surely, Your Honour, I should be allowed out'.

I come now to another matter which has not received any consideration from the other side-the question of charges under the Crimes Act. This matter has been considered by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans), by the Solicitor- General and by Mr Justice Hope. Mr Justice Hope has taken the view that he would not express an opinion as to whether or not there had been a breach of the Crimes Act. I entirely agree with that approach. But in his examination of the elements that constitute a breach of sub-sections 79 (1) and (3) of the Crimes Act, which appear at page 194 of his report, it is made quite clear that he believes that the essential elements were made out; that there was a communication made by Mr Young and that this was information of a proscribed kind which could not be communicated except to an authorised person and that that communication was made to an unauthorised person.

There is another matter of vital significance when we come to the question of the present status of Mr Young. Honourable members will recall that when the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General gave their written opinions about the Crimes Act a question existed as to whose account should be preferred-Mr Young's or Mr Walsh's. Mr Justice Hope has accepted Mr Walsh's statement of the events. That brings me to what the Attorney-General had to say upon this subject. I quote from his opinion. He said:

If, on the other hand, Mr Walsh's account were to prevail, the question of the application of s. 79 (3) would be, in my view, much more finely balanced. As a matter of law, it is possible that an offence may have been committed.

'Possible', he said. He went on to express the reasons for that. The Solicitor- General, however, one of the most eminent lawyers in this country, had no doubt at all about the matter, certainly no such doubts as the Attorney-General expressed. What did he say about Mr Walsh's evidence? He said:

I think, therefore, that should Mr Walsh's evidence be accepted it would be open to a jury to find that Mr Young had committed a breach of section 79 (3).

So there we have an entirely different scenario for the Attorney-General and the Government to look at. The exculpatory remarks made by the Attorney-General as to the reasons why Mr Young should not be prosecuted can now no longer apply. Whether he should be is a matter for the Government and must under the law be a matter for the Attorney-General.

I remind the House of the four considerations that exercised the Attorney- General's mind in that long and rambling opinion that he gave on the subject. The first was obscurity of the law. As to that, it is perfectly plain that the Solicitor-General felt no difficulties and any obscurities have been expounded by Mr Justice Hope, so we can put those to one side. The second was seriousness of the offence and the degree of culpability. We have heard the views of Mr Justice Hope which make it perfectly plain that there is no difference between an attempted murder and a murder when national security matters are being dealt with. Thirdly, the Attorney-General was moved by the need for deterence. He said this:

The sanction of resignation has already, of course, applied in the present case .

We know that that sanction is no longer to apply. We know that Mr Young will be welcomed back by the Caucus in February and that he will be promoted by the Prime Minister into the Ministry. Who doubts that he will go back into the Ministry? The fourth matter that exercised the Attorney-General's mind was the automatic disqualification from Parliament that might follow from a conviction. That is, of course, utterly irrelevant. If there is a breach of the Crimes Act then members of parliament are in no special position to claim exemption from prosecution because their position may be affected. God knows, if anyone is charged with an offence under the Crimes Act and is convicted that person will be affected in a number of ways and no special considerations need to be given to members of parliament for that reason.

Lastly, let me go back to Mr Young's answer. He gave it today in this House. He suggested that he had been exculpated; that is, it was an end to the matter and he could go forward, as it were, a good little boy who slipped once and had a rap over the knuckles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing could be further from the findings that Mr Justice Hope made. The Attorney-General and this Government are not in a position to say that the book is closed. The book has been opened by Mr Justice Hope. The evidence is now there. The findings are there. It is for the Attorney-General and this Government to determine what fate awaits Mr Young under the Crimes Act.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.