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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3377

Senator PETER BAUME(3.03) —I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The unfitness of Mr Neville Wran for appointment to high federal office because of his protection of corruption and because of tainted appointments made while he was Minister for Police, Premier of New South Wales, and Federal President of the Australian Labor Party.

One of the important functions of executive government is to advise the Governor-General on the making of appointments-many appointments to various statutory positions and to positions of patronage. These appointees, often highly paid, often lavishly supported, are not elected people. They are not subject to public recall as are elected officials and in the same way they are not publicly answerable as are elected officials. It is known now that Neville Wran, former Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, former Labor Premier of New South Wales and former Labor Minister for Police in New South Wales, has been appointed as Chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. This motion of urgency asserts quite clearly that Neville Wran is unfit for high appointment, and for such an appointment.

We could have argued, had we wished, that this appointment was just another example of Labor cronyism, just another example of jobs for the boys like the appointments of almost every retired or failed Labor politician-Whitlam, Beazley, Dunstan, Ferguson, Patterson, Steedman, Mulvihill, Riordan and Jenkins and people such as Carmichael, Halfpenny and Mrs Blewett. There are 68 other trade union officials and many other friends and acquaintances of the Party who have been appointed. Of course, Al Grassby is an appointee of both the Hawke Government and Neville Wran in New South Wales, about whom I shall say more later.

Let us ignore cronyism today. This motion of urgency does not even address, as it could have done, the question of the suitability or competence of Mr Neville Wran for this appointment. Neither do we make any comment today on whether Neville Wran will be found guilty or not guilty on a matter now waiting judgment before the highest court in New South Wales. This motion is addressed rather to his total unfitness for this or any appointment to public office because he, more than anyone else, gave a mantle of protection to corruption in New South Wales over many years-sometimes by what he did, sometimes by what he failed to do and often by the appointments he made.

I remind the Senate that executive appointments to high public office are legitimate matters for judgment and public examination and that such appointments have in the past been raised in this Parliament. The Australian Labor Party, for instance, challenged the appointment of an eminent Australian, Mr John Reid, to a Commonwealth position in 1982 alleging that he was guilty of improper tax practices. The then Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hayden, moved in the Parliament a motion deploring Mr Reid's appointment and accusing him of tax cheating. John Reid answered every charge. He allowed the Commissioner of Taxation to make public a letter which established beyond doubt his total innocence of the allegations made within the Parliament. We wish Mr Keating would do the same thing, by the way. We now challenge Neville Wran's fitness for any Federal appointment on the basis of a detailed, depressing and consistent public record. While Premier of New South Wales, Mr Neville Wran--

Senator Georges —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I ask you to consider whether this matter affects proceedings against Neville Wran in the courts, because it goes to the heart of the credibility of Mr Neville Wran. I raise this point of order because we had a similar position on the Public Accounts Committee, which reported just recently on medifraud and overservicing. We sought and received advice that if we tabled any material at all on Dr Edelsten we would be in the area of sub judice which would be prejudicial to the person concerned. I am suggesting to you, Mr President, that this debate today will have an effect on the proceedings against Mr Wran because it is a savage and unworthy attack on the credibility of Mr Wran. I think you ought to rule therefore-

Senator Michael Baume —It is not a legal matter.

Senator Georges —Nevertheless, let us not consider the legality of it, let us consider the morality of it and the ethical position. This attack Senator Peter Baume is levelling at present goes very much to the heart of the credibility of Neville Wran and it will in some way prejudice him. The Committee accepted the advice it received along these lines. I suggest, Mr President, that there is an element that could affect the proceedings before the courts and I ask you to rule accordingly.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. I do not want to waste further Senator Peter Baume's time by speaking to the point of order except to say that clearly the fact that a person is involved in narrow proceedings cannot preclude discussion on a much wider range of subjects. I also give notice that if there are any further interruptions of that sort I shall move that an extension of time be granted to make up for the time which has been wasted.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I do not uphold the point of order. I suggest that it would have to be a specific matter in relation to any court proceeding-of which I am personally unaware-that might bring into play the sub judice rule. But in any event, I think it is too remote to allow the sub judice rule to apply in this instance. I do not uphold the point of order.

Senator PETER BAUME —While the Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran, allowed appointments to the judiciary which are now known to have been tainted, and he protected those people once they were appointed, he allowed or made other appointments which are now known to have been tainted. He failed to investigate matters crying out for attention until he was forced to do so-matters such as the murder of Donald Mackay, or the collapse of the Balanced Property Trust involving, as it did, a Labor member of parliament and one of Neville Wran's own Caucus, the husband of a Labor member of parliament and Labor hangers on. He has attacked every move from the Press or the Opposition either to bring corruption in New South Wales to light or to deal properly with matters once they had been made public. Neville Wran has publicly and vigorously defended people with whom he has associated-the Kevin Humphreys, the Murray Farquhars and the Rex Jacksons-on matters on which they have either since been convicted or on which they are still awaiting trial. He has made strange appointments-of policemen, who were mysteriously advanced in seniority against advice-appointments which have been shown to have been disastrous and which he should have known were inappropriate because the people were corrupt and already under suspicion.

My colleague Senator Puplick will remind us of some of those matters when he speaks in this debate. He will remind us of some of the people on Wran's roll call, such as Bill Allen, Murray Farquhar, Kevin Humphreys, Rex Jackson, Merv Wood and Judge John Foord. He will remind us, perhaps, of Clarrie Briese and what he had to put up with. He will remind us of the Botany Council and how investigations into that Council were stopped. He will talk especially about some of the appointments-many of which Neville Wran was involved in-and help to establish that they were all part of a pattern of corruption over which the Premier of New South Wales presided.

Let us just consider some of the matters which caused this motion to be brought forward. Let us start with the murder of my friend Donald Mackay in 1976 in Griffith. He was a respected citizen. He had provided information which led to the conviction of marihuana growers. He had been a Liberal Party candidate for Parliament and he was murdered.

Senator Georges —Mr President, I take a point of order. Surely the Standing Orders do not permit this sort of attack. This matter is being brought forward not as a substantive motion but as a matter of urgency. Surely the Standing Orders do not permit such an attack to take place in the way it is taking place at present. This is a most scurrilous, unsubstantiated, direct attack against not just one person but a number of people. Surely it is to the discredit of the Senate that this attack should be launched under cover of the Standing Orders. I say that the Standing Orders do not provide for such an attack. This is not a substantive motion, in the terms required by the Standing Orders. It is merely a wide brush attempt to discredit a whole variety of people. The honourable senator is entering into an extremely serious attack which is not substantiated.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask Senator Georges to come back to his point of order.

Senator Georges —My point of order is that the Standing Orders do not provide for such an attack. Mr President, there must be protection, which I am certain you are able to give us, against such an attack by the Opposition.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I know of no such standing order that would enable me to uphold Senator Georges's point of order.

Senator PETER BAUME —Donald Mackay was murdered by criminal elements. We would have expected an honest and honourable State government to have done all it could immediately, will all the force it could muster, to find and convict those responsible. But under Neville Wran there was no coronial inquiry for a decade and there was deliberate foot-dragging by the police for whom Neville Wran was the Minister responsible at the time. Neville Wran himself abused Donald Mackay's family and its legal representative and, incidentally, he abused a CSIRO officer who now has to work under him. When Neville Wran finally, under intense pressure, appointed Mr John Nagle, QC, to investigate the police handling of the Mackay murder he did not announce it as any attempt to solve a murder and investigate corruption; he announced it in the following ungracious terms, directed at citizens pursuing redress for crime:

It's about time people in this country stopped yap, yap, yap and went along and put up. That applies to the people from Griffith, the Age newspaper . . .

He went on to name a number of other people. Why should Donald Mackay's daughter, Ruth, have had to say publicly in the Press, as she did, that the New South Wales Government `had almost tried to hinder' police inquiries into her father's death? The Nagle Commission of Inquiry into the Police Investigation of the Death of Donald Bruce Mackay, which was appointed to investigate the police handling of this matter, has now reported. It has found that some New South Wales policemen, sadly, in a force in which corruption is entrenched, had gone slow and had not pursued inquiries with proper determination and vigour. It also found that Mr Al Grassby, another Wran appointee to executive office in New South Wales and a Hawke appointee to executive office at Federal level, another old Labor politician, had not told the truth to the Commission, was not a credible witness and had been associated, deliberately and knowingly, with the distribution of a scurrilous and untruthful document in which he had colluded with a Mr Sergi. This led Mr Nagle to report in the following terms:

This leaves the puzzling question of Grassby's motive. The Commission inclines to the view that the probabilities are that Grassby was impelled by a misguided sense of duty to prevent defamation of a racial group-the Calabrians. The Commission makes only one comment-that no decent man could have regarded the general attacks on the Calabrians as justifying him in propagating the scurrilous lies contained in the anonymous document.

At every stage in the Mackay matter-until finally forced by overwhelming public outrage-the performance in particular of the Minister for Police, Neville Wran, and the Government of New South Wales, of which Neville Wran was Premier, was to go slow, to investigate inadequately, to prevent proper inquiries, to abuse citizens expressing outrage and concern, and to stop any effective inquiry.

What about Mr Wran's association with the Waterhouse family-the family who were bookmakers until they were warned off and disbarred? These people had been associated with the Fine Cotton affair, and they went to enormous lengths to prevent the screening of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation program which revealed some of their activities. Not only was Mr Wran the legal representative of Bill Waterhouse at the trial of embezzler Peter Huxley-there is no crime in that-but also Neville Wran had been a penciller for Bill Waterhouse in years past. The ABC program has alleged widespread, continuing and cynical criminal activity by this family. The program ended with an account of money being paid by the Waterhouses via Bill Allen-another Wran appointee-part of which was to go to an unnamed, senior Labor politician to protect an illegal casino. We will hear more of that, perhaps, from Senator Puplick.

We have not only that association. In the 1976 campaign for the State seat of Monaro, bookmakers' interests supported the Labor cause to the extent of $100,000. Neville Wran became Premier by a majority of one seat thanks to that support. It is a matter of public record that, one year later, he rewarded the bookmakers by reducing significantly the turnover tax which they are required to pay. Neville Wran was paying his debts. For that reason, if for no other, Neville Wran should not be appointed to any position of public trust.

Then we have the treatment of Clarrie Briese, Chief Stipendiary Magistrate in New South Wales-a person of patent honesty and proven integrity. Mr Briese has endured continuing and bitter abuse from Neville Wran over many months because he dared to make known certain concerns which led to committees being established by this Senate and which led to three retired judges forming a view that there could have been an attempt to pervert the course of justice. Mr Wran held up the restructuring of the magistracy in New South Wales for two years. He held up the appointment of the magistrates, including the appointment of Mr Briese as Chief Magistrate. That was blatant political payback and quite improper behaviour by a Premier. There was the Cessna-Milner case in which Mr Wran tried to prevent all investigations of that scandal which is ongoing. He refused to table the legal advice he received from his Solicitor-General in which he claimed that he had good grounds for going no further. I could go on and talk about the early release scheme, but Senator Georges has prevented my doing this.

In the time left to me I will have to leave that to one side. I will have to leave the question of the Age tapes to one side-the Age tapes which Neville Wran said were mouldy and which Mr Wran said were no good but which Mr Justice Stewart told us could be validated. I will leave to one side the question of the Enmore affair and the Baldwin bashing. Before I conclude, I want to read part of an Age editorial of 1 May 1986. It states:

The NSW Government's record in handling organised crime has been far from impressive. When confronted with criticism or with allegations of corruption, the Premier, Mr Wran, has resorted to indignant bluster, which is at best an unconvincing tactic. He has been unwilling or unable to refute the stinging attacks from former royal commissioners Moffitt, Woodward and Costigan, men of impeccable credentials. Mr Wran had a chance to take some of the tarnish off by ordering an inquiry . . .

So it went on. Mr Wran, at all stages, has refused to act.

The appointment of anyone to high public office carries with it an implied public trust. We are entitled to expect those who are appointed to satisfy certain standards of honesty and to enjoy some minimum public reputation. We are entitled to examine not just isolated events, not just one event here and there, but to look at the patterns which emerge over a public career and to weigh not just one episode but many episodes. On this test, Neville Wran fails. His record is one of consistency-consistent association with people later shown to be criminals; consistent selection and promotion of people who are corrupt; consistent refusal to examine in any honest way serious allegations on matters which it was his duty to examine; consistent refusal to examine and to face such evidence as was available; consistent abuse and vilification of those who raised matters of corruption and sought to have them dealt with honestly. If this Hawke Government really cares about the CSIRO, if this Government is not just determined to put another old mate's snout in the public trough, it should determine that Neville Wran is, on any examination of his sorry record in public life, not a fit person for the CSIRO and is not a fit person for any Federal appointment now or ever.