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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3355

Mr HAWKE (Prime Minister)(11.13) —Max Walsh, writing in the recent issue of Australian Business, got it right. He said:

What Andrew Peacock is doing is following the political equivalent of the Dame Nellie Melba approach of 'Sing 'em muck'.

This is what we have heard today-hypocritical muck. Let me at the outset get two points absolutely clear in the minds of members of this House and of the Australian public. That is necessary because each of these issues has arisen in the attempts made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) and the Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Anthony). The first point is to ask how it is that the Royal Commission into Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies ever arose, because they have set themselves up pathetically as the defenders of civil liberties in general, and remarkably, as defenders of the civil liberties of Mr Combe. How is it that this matter arose?

Let us be quite clear that a sequence of events on 10 May was deliberately orchestrated to ensure that Mr Combe's name would be linked indelibly, publicly, with Mr Ivanov. I remember-and every member of this House will recall-what happened on 10 May. First of all, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) asked whether it was not a fact, as reported in the Press of that day , that a senior Labor man who had been one of the most important and influential figures over a long period had been closely associated with the recently expelled Soviet diplomat, Valeriy Ivanov. Of course I responded appropriately to that.

Honourable members interjecting-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I indicated earlier that, while I will allow a reasonable amount of liveliness in the debate, when it is being carried to the extent that the Prime Minister cannot be heard addressing the House it is excessive and I will take action.

Mr HAWKE —The second step in that deliberate orchestration to expose Mr Combe publicly was the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. He referred to the proposition that I had in fact referred to this matter in the Caucus. That was not true. The third deliberate step in this orchestration by the Opposition publicly to expose Mr Combe was that a question was asked by the Deputy Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair). He asked whether it was not a fact that members of the Government had been instructed not to have associations with Mr Combe. Never has there been a more deliberate, orchestrated attempt to expose Mr Combe and his association with Mr Ivanov. We had taken every step to avoid that, but this was deliberately done. At no stage has the Leader of the Opposition attempted to deny that this was done. What he has tried to do is to justify it. What has been exposed in that process, clearly and beyond recall, is that it was he who made sure that the civil liberties of Mr Combe were put in jeopardy. The Government had done everything it possibly could.

I turn next to the Opposition's new-found concern with national security. I want to contrast what has in fact happened under the finding of the Royal Commissioner with the attitude of the Opposition. The total approach of the Government in regard to the guardianship of the national security has been totally vindicated and endorsed. It is a matter of record that yesterday the Leader of the Opposition was totally unable to address himself to that issue, because the Royal Commissioner had totally vindicated and endorsed the actions of this Government in guarding the national security. I ask the House to contrast that finding with the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition. The fact is-and there is nothing that he can say which changes this-that in my presence he received from the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation a confidential briefing on the background of this matter but that, having received that confidential briefing, he was unable to stop his own front bench from orchestrating the disclosure in this House of the central facts. That proposition is indisputable.

The conclusion is one of two: Either the Leader of the Opposition wilfully and deliberately in this place was party to the exposure of the confidential briefing he received or, if he was not, he was unable to prevent his own Party, his own Opposition, from participating in the disclosure of those facts. In either case, whether he deliberately did it himself or he was unable to stop that disclosure, he is not a fit person to be leading the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition knows that this is not the first time he has been involved in a wilful betrayal of an undertaking. He knows that he gave me a personal undertaking in regard to another matter, an undertaking which he has deliberately broken.

Let us now turn to the standards which should govern the question of people resigning or not resigning. First of all, we will consider the Leader of the Opposition. Is the following not an interesting story? I ask honourable members of this House to recall with me the Age newspaper of 19 May 1977. Not only are the facts interesting; the justification of the Leader of the Opposition is more than interesting. On 19 May the Age reported that the then Foreign Minister, Mr Peacock, appeared to confirm the identity of the agents of the Central Intelligence Agency in Australia. He did this on an Australian Broadcasting Corporation news program. In regard to the naming of five CIA agent he was asked :

You have been aware?

Mr Peacock answered:

Oh, yes. You know that the KGB and the CIA operate here. I am not prepared to say much more than that, though.

Mr Peacock was then asked-I ask members of the House to note this very carefully and then to note the justification of the Leader of the Opposition-the critical question:

The people named by Mr Agee, you already were aware they were CIA?

Mr Peacock answered:


Mr Lusher —When are you going to deal with the censure?

Mr SPEAKER —When will the honourable member for Hume cease interjecting?

Mr Porter —When he gets on to the point. This is outrageous.

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Barker.

Mr HAWKE —The Leader of the Opposition, in his capacity as Foreign Minister, participated in the disclosure of the names of CIA agents. As the report of the Royal Commission points out:

Any indication of the identity of a friendly country's intelligence agents is regarded as a grave breach of diplomatic protocol.

What was the excuse of the Leader of the Opposition? What did the Leader of the Opposition say, having as Foreign Minister engaged in this gravest of breaches of the national security by exposing the names of the operatives of a friendly country's intelligence service? His answer was reported in this way:

Later Mr Peacock sought to clarify his remarks.

He denied that he had intended to give away the identity of the agents in Canberra.

The facts are clear. He broke one of the fundamental rules, which is something which no Foreign Minister should ever have done. He was party to disclosing the names of five agents of a friendly power who were in this country. What was his answer? What was his excuse? It was: 'I didn't intend to do it'. He now says in this House that the first excuse in respect of Mr Young which is not acceptable is that Mr Young did not intend to do it. What did he do himself in 1977? He broke a fundamental rule which breached every protocol. he said: 'You must excuse me because I didn't intend to do it'. Before we got to the question of the honourable member for Port Adelaide we will go-

Opposition members interjecting-

Mr HAWKE —The Opposition wants to avoid this matter like the plague. We will get to the question of the honourable member for Port Adelaide via the route of examining the Opposition's standards in regard to resignations. It is legitimate for the people of Australia to expect that, if this Opposition moves a censure motion against me or against the Government on the question of what standards should apply in regard to the resignation of a Minister, it should have shown standards in government upon which it would be pleased to rest and which it could hold up as a standard by which we should be expected to act. As a first step in looking at what we have done, let us examine the standards which the Opposition followed. First of all I refer to Senator Durack. We know what the devastating findings were in regard to the previous Attorney-General in the September 1982 report of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. The Costigan report-a royal commission report-showed that over many years the previous Attorney-General and his Department failed to initiate prosecutions against tax evaders, which cost this country hundreds of millions of dollars annually. That was quite clear. The report also showed gross incompetence, negligence and neglect in the Deputy Crown Solicitor's Office-a savage indictment of the then Attorney-General. That matter was referred to in the Royal Commission report. Yet Senator Durack, against the findings in the Royal Commission report, did not resign when palpably he should have resigned.

Let us come next to Peter Nixon. We will find out now what the standards of this mob were in regard to a proposition of a royal commission. I ask honourable members to remember what the Woodward Royal Commission into the Australian Meat Industry was required to report on. It was required to report on, among other things, whether allegations in relation to the export of meat were dealt with by the then Minister Nixon 'in a manner that was adequate and effective'. That was a specific term of reference to the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission which the previous Government set up was asked to determine whether its Minister had acted in a manner that was adequate and effective. What did the Royal Commission find? Let me read paragraph 8.45 of the Royal Commission's report. (Extension of time granted) I am indebted to the House. Let us get back to the previous Government's standards, its Minister and its Royal Commission. It appointed the Woodward Royal Commission and asked it to find out whether its Minister had in fact acted 'in a manner that was adequate and effective'. What did the Opposition's Royal Commission find? I shall quote from paragraph 8.45. The Royal Commission found that the answer to that question was a clear no. The report states:

. . . the Minister did not deal with these allegations adequately and effectively.

What happened in those circumstances, where the previous Government set up a royal commission with a specific term of reference to find out whether its Minister acted in an appropriate way? The Royal Commission which the previous Government established found that he had not acted in an appropriate way. What happened? What did the previous Government do? Having set up its Royal Commission, it not only refused to accept the findings of its own Royal Commission it set about the task of attacking the Royal Commissioner it appointed. The previous Prime Minister, having appointed the Royal Commission, set about doing something that had never before been done in the history of this country. With his colleagues' silent support, having appointed the Royal Commissioner, the previous Prime Minister then attacked him.

Why did the previous Prime Minister, with that miserable, silent support, attack the Royal Commissioner? The reason he did it was very straightforward. He did it because the Royal Commission which he established found that his Minister ought to resign. That was the Royal Commissioner's findings-that the Minister should have resigned. That finding was not acceptable to the previous Government or to the then Minister. He did not act as the honourable member for Port Adelaide did and resign. He refused to resign. The then Prime Minister refused to sack him. But that was not enough. The previous Government then set about the task of attacking the Royal Commissioner. Having dealt with Senator Durack and Mr Nixon, let us now deal with the Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia. As far as the standards of the other side are concerned, I refer finally to the Deputy Leader of the National Party. What happened in regard to him?

Mr Howard —He was cleared.

Mr HAWKE —The honourable member does not know what I am referring to so he should not jump in. I am referring to the all-party Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, which reported in September 1981 that the Australian Dairy Corporation had contravened the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade arrangements on milk export arrangements. The all-party Committee, including members of the Opposition, found that the Deputy Leader of the National Party knew of the breach and misled the House. According to the Opposition's standards he should have resigned. The matter is quite clear. When the Opposition was in government it displayed hypocrisy and a refusal to adhere to the Westminster traditions, the like of which had never before been seen in the history of this country. Those people do not come to the censure motion with clean hands. Let us contrast the way in which the previous Government abused its own Royal Commission and refused to accept its findings with what has happened in this case. In this case, as distinct from the Nixons, Duracks and Sinclairs, who not only refused to resign but also were protected by their own Prime Minister, the honourable member for Port Adelaide resigned. He did not have to be sacked.

Mr Sinclair —Where is he?

Mr HAWKE —These miserable people ask where the honourable member for Port Adelaide is. I will give them their answer. He is in Adelaide burying his brother-in-law. Shame on them! Absolute shame on them! That is where he is. That ought to silence that miserable bunch. That man, who is in Adelaide on that business, behaved honourably. He resigned. He did not do a Nixon; he did not do a Sinclair; he did not do a Durack. He did not refuse to accept the facts, as they did, and make a nonsense of the Westminster system. He resigned. What I was about yesterday was not, in respect of these so-called excuses by the Leader of the Opposition, to say that anything the honourable member for Port Adelaide did was justified on the basis of his six short weeks in office, that it was justified on the basis of friendship, that it was justified on any basis. Nothing that the honourable member for Port Adelaide did on the night of 21 April was justified by any of the factors that I put forward or by any other factor. The action was not justified. My statement yesterday made it clear that none of the factors to which I referred justified the action of the honourable member for Port Adelaide.

What we are about is this question: If a man has erred, is he to be condemned forever? We have had out of the hypocritical mouth of the Leader of the National Party the statement that the honourable member for Port Adelaide should never be returned. I say straightforwardly to this House and to the people of Australia that that is not my approach. If a person makes a mistake he or she is not to be condemned forever. The right approach is to ask whether in fact the person has suffered as a result of that mistake. It is right to ask whether, in the circumstances, one can intelligently make the judgment that the person will not make that mistake again. In this case I believe that the honourable member for Port Adelaide made a mistake and that it was honestly made. I believe that this country and this Government are entitled to the return of his services.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister's time has expired.

Mr Peacock —After the most pathetic performance of the Prime Minister--

Mr SPEAKER —Order!

Mr Peacock —I move for an extension of time for the Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER —Order!

Mr Peacock —Do you want an extension of time?

Mr Hawke —No.

Mr Peacock —You will not take it.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I warn the Leader of the Opposition. He did not have the call . He shall not disrupt the proceedings of the Parliament just because of his position.