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Tuesday, 10 April 1973
Page: 1244

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) - If the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) really believed as he so glibly claimed today, that the establishment of a judicial inquiry would remove what he has called the last vestige of respect that remains for the former Government, this House knows full well that the honourable gentleman would be totally unable to resist that temptation. His advocacy of so absurd a proposition is, in fact, proof positive of the pathetic nature of his attempt to discharge the burden which he sought to discharge in the course of this debate. If the case put forward by the Prime Minister is the best which he, as a Queen's Counsel, can put together, then no honourable gentleman on either side of the House would be foolish enough ever to seek to retain his services in a legal capacity.

I say, in quite deliberate terms, that the Prime Minister and his 2 colleagues in this debate have damned the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) with faint praise and irrelevancy. One can only wonder whether they were, in fact, seeking to save the AttorneyGeneral or to desert him in his hour of greatest need. The Attorney-General's appreciation of his own need was such that he is known to have sought a face-saving deal on this issue in the last days of last week, during the events leading to his censure in the Senate. I indicate to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) that if the irrelevancy of the Prime Minister in this debate was exceeded at all it was exceeded by the contribution which the honourable gentleman made. I say without any sense of real offence to the Minister for Immigration that he seemed more at pains to defend his own actions which have led to such hysteria in the migrant community than to defend the Attorney-General in another place.

No government can have the confidence and trust of a nation when it is prepared to indulge in the intrigue and duplicity of the last month over what we are now asked to believe was a simple misunderstanding. The

Attorney-General's action and statements concerning the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation have amounted to a campaign of denigration and villification of the former Government, its Attorney-General and ASIO. It has been a campaign based on a tissue of assertions, selective quotations and personal abuse, circumscribed by a carefully and deliberately contrived state of hysteria. It has been a campaign manipulated by one man, the Attorney-General, initially without the knowledge or authority of the Government and subsequently, with only an uneasy form of tacit approval. It has been a campaign which has clearly jeopardised the future operations of security organisations in this country and which has raised directly the spectre of political control over those security services.

On 27th March the Attorney-General brought down a major statement in the Senate. That statement purported to be a detailed disclosure of terrorist activities within Australia - a disclosure of conclusive evidence of the existence of persons and organisations whom the Government could prosecute - and a full explanation in justification of the AttorneyGeneral's unprecedented actions in carrying out raids on ASIO. It is now a matter of record that it was nothing of the sort. The Attorney-General has alleged that there is incontestable and overwhelming evidence of the existence of Croatian terrorist and revolutionary organisations. Of necessity this relates to evidence obtained by him and presumably specified in the statement of 27th March. It follows that, while he may direct that action be taken to procure further evidence, the evidence which he had on or before 27th March was assumed to be sufficient to institute prosecutions and proceedings against those organisations which the Attorney-General so specified.

The whole crux of the Attorney-General's thesis has been that there are organisations which are undertaking terrorist activities and he has asserted that political terrorism cannot be characterised by the unco-ordinated actions of Croatian extremists. Those organisations have been traduced by the AttorneyGeneral, yet his failure to take positive action - or any action at all - reveals the case for what it is, a case lacking credible evidence on which prosecutions can be launched. At this stage the Attorney-General has not acted and any reasonable and logical deduction can conclude only that Senator Murphy is culpable for his failure to act or that he is culpable because he has indicted those organisations without having the necessary evidence. The Opposition believes that the statement was designed deliberately to mislead the public rather than to catalogue the evidence which Senator Murphy claims to have obtained. It was a disingenuous statement characterised by its sophistry and speciousness. It was a clear example of a lawyer's arguing a partial brief contrary to all the responsibilities and ethics pertaining to the position of this country's first law officer. Surely the Attorney-General is a person of whom it should always be said that he ought to tell the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth. But on this occasion the whole truth has yet to emerge and will only come forward if we succeed in the establishment of a judicial inquiry.

It has long been the objective of elements within the Australian Labor Party to destroy ASIO. Just how great that pressure is can be concluded from the fact that there was a tied vote at the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference on a motion to abolish ASIO. That resolution was not carried and we are now confronted with foreshadowed legislative moves to place that Organisation under rigorous ministerial control. I believe the implications of this are serious. A political intelligence unit operating as a direct creature of party politics is alien to the underlying precepts and principles on which our society has developed. With one recent action the Attorney-General has placed the effectiveness of that essential security service in great jeopardy. ASIO's standing in the eyes of allied secret services has been irretrievably impaired and its prospects of maintaining the pre-existing flow of information from those services have been severely diminished, as the Attorney-General himself so well knows. In addition, the nature of that information is now likely to be restricted to that information the subsequent release of which could have no adverse effects.

The impact of the Attorney-General's actions has substantially lowered the morale of ASIO's staff and compromised many of the essential undercover sources on which it relies for vital information. Of course, this is not to mention the integrity and reputation of the Director-General which have been called into question by the Attorney-General's public vote of no confidence. In spite of the many serious consequences of ASIO's treatment and the unprecedented nature of the AttorneyGeneral's actions, a wall of silence has been constructed not simply in this national Parliament but throughout the Australian nation. The statement of 27th March omits, as you know full well, Mr Speaker, any conclusive explanation of the actions of the AttorneyGeneral. There are a number of fundamental questions the Government has failed to answer contrary to any suggestion, glib as it might have been pre-election, of the concept of open government. One wonders what the Government has to fear in giving factual answers to questions which have been properly put down by members of the Opposition. Not only have there been glaring omissions from the Attorney-General's statement but it contrived to give the impression that the previous Government was indifferent or myopic in relation to terrorist activities. This House is well aware that successive governments pursued a policy that Australia would not allow its territory to be used as a base for terrorist activities overseas and under which persons who committed acts of violence, whether through political or criminal intent, would be and were prosecuted. I, as did other Ministers of the former Government, expressed concern that all possible measures should be undertaken to counter any terrorist activities in this country. It is a demonstrable truth that previous governments were concerned and did take action. That, of course, is a matter of record which the present Government so conveniently seeks to ignore.

The former Government applied constant pressure on law enforcement agencies to investigate allegations made by the Yugoslav Government and by various groups in Australia. I refer to a report to the AttorneyGeneral's Department as recently as 19th October last year in which the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police force stated:

All such actions have been scrupulously inves tigated but to date no viable evidence at all has been uncovered to support the contention that Croatian terrorists have been trained in Australia.

That is now a matter of public record. The present Attorney-General throughout this affaire celebre has refused to answer questions which the Australian public require to be answered. In relation to his words on ASIO he has stated:

I was not refused any information.

He thereby effectively removes any valid reason for his raids. Furthermore, there can be no evidence upon which to describe his actions euphemistically as visits. It is a fact that the Canberra head of ASIO was without warning detained in the middle of the night and interrogated. It is also a fact that the Attorney-General raided ASIO headquarters accompanied by 27 Commonwealth police^ men. During that raid safes were sealed, staff forcibly detained, files searched and documents taken. There can be no question in this Parliament of calling that raid a visit. Senator Murphy stated:

I did not inform the Director-General before I went to ASIO headquarters.

Indeed, elaborate precautions had been taken to ensure that no communication was made between the. Canberra and Melbourne ASIO headquarters which may have foreshadowed the Attorney-General's intentions. Furthermore, the Attorney-General has not yet provided an acceptable explanation for his actions. He has said only:

I have also said that I found information-

This was a reference to his Canberra raid - which caused me to believe that it was necessary to take the action which I took.

By his own admission it had little relevance even to the visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister, for he said later:

Et is probably not correct to say that that was the specific reason for my visit to ASIO headquarters.

The Government asked the public to believe that there was a conspiracy either within ASIO or among senior public servants whose discussion on the question of security was subject to the report by ASIO subsequently seized by the Attorney-General and now revealed by the Prime Minister to have been a wrong report. Not the least of the questions which remain unanswered concerns the hysteria which the Government endeavoured to create during the visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister and the details of this are so well known to this House as not to require elaboration here. It was a massive security operation without precedent in the. history of this country.

I turn finally to comments made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) because he has been at great pains to clear his own name and the actions in which he has been concerned. It is true to say that the migrant community, as a group, is now fearful. The Government has cast a slur on the total migrant community.

By its actions the Government has been divisive in this community. It has sought to set migrant against non-migrant, Yugoslav against non- Yugoslav and Croat against nonCroat. It has surveyed the concept and the philosophy of guilt by association. That concept does not lie very easily with the concept of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) of the family of the nation. Suggestions in this Parliament or outside if of 50 or 300 people about to be deported simply add to the sense of hysteria which the Government has sought to create. There is no doubt that there is an overriding and overwhelming need for a judicial inquiry to seek to uncover the facts which the Government has concealed by a process of deceit in this Parliament and outside it. I believe that need is unquestioned. There is no point in blaming ASIO or the Public Service. The full facts must be the subject of total disclosure in this Parliament. The honesty and integrity of the Government remains very much a matter at issue while those facts are hidden, as they are at the present time. I strongly support the move by the Opposition Parties for a total investigation by judicial means.

Mr SPEAKER - I call the honourable member for Mackellar.

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