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Tuesday, 10 April 1973
Page: 1250

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - I second the motion. It is a most unusual course of action for this House to seek to suspend Standing Orders to : bring the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) before the bar of this House so that he can be questioned by honourable members. It is an unusual action, but it is an unusual circumstance. The principal legal officer of the Commonwealth has unusual responsibilities. He, above all other Ministers, has a peculiar measure of responsibility. Firstly, he has responsibility to the Parliament and secondly to the people of Australia. He has a responsibility within the whole concept of our Constitution. Because of the pattern of uncertainty that must lie around the person of the Attorney-General because of actions over the last few weeks there is no course of action open to this Parliament other than for us to call the Attorney-General before the bar of this place so that we can ask of him the questions that still remain unsolved - questions that are fundamental to the standing of the man, the standing of this Parliament and the reputation and administration of the Australian legal system.

The unanswered questions to which 1 have referred relate not only to the fundamentals of why the Attorney-General visited the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in Canberra but also to the very exercise of his ministerial responsibilities. Every Minister is charged directly under the terms of the legislation for which he is responsible with a number of specific duties. The normal pattern of administration is that he has persons in his charge who report to him on the basis of which those duties are carried out. The Attorney-General did not see fit to contact the head of ASIO to discuss with him the questions with which purportedly he is concerned. Instead, he made a midnight raid - and a midnight raid that was totally unexplained. Why did the Attorney-General so vary ministerial responsibilities? The only way in which we seem to have any prospect of getting an answer to this question is, again, by calling him before the Bar of this House.

My colleague, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), quite rightly has referred to his concern for civil liberties. There is today a genuine fear among those members of the Australian community who are migrants to this country, particularly those who came from Eastern European countries, that those midnight and pre-dawn knocks on the door, which are reminiscent of the very reason for their leaving their own countries, are likely to be repeated in this country. There is no comfort in the vague assurances given in this place by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and others that these raids will not be repeated. They should never have occurred, and the fact that they have occurred has struck genuine terror and concern into the hearts and minds of many thousands of new Australians. If We are to find the purpose of these raids and to be certain in this House-

Mr Enderby - Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. These raids led to some charges being laid in the Sydney Court of Petty Sessions and, as you pointed out this morning, they are sub judice.

Mr SPEAKER -I did make the point this morning that nothing should be said that could be prejudicial to the people who are to come before the court to answer charges. The honourable member is entitled to refer to this matter, but he must not give details related to the cases.

Mr SINCLAIR - I accept your decision, Mr Speaker. Indeed, it is for the very reason that the matter is sub judice that I believe it is essential that we in this place be given the motives of the Attorney-General in organising these raids at the time at which and in the circumstances in which he organised them, and on what criteria he organised them. Is it, perhaps, that the raids were conducted only on the basis of evidence tendered by another government? Is it possible that the evidence came from a country in which the methods of acquiring evidence and administering the law do not accord with our own standards? Is the Attorney-General acting only on the premise given by that sort of information? These are questions which only an inquiry in this place can answer.

There is concern in the civil service. Allegations have been made against individual public servants, but no opportunity has been given for those individuals to demonstrate the side of the case that they must genuinely hold. There is concern about the adequacy of evidence in regard to terrorism in this community. There is also the motive of the left wing of the Government Party in its whole attack on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In this House over the last 9 years there have been consistent attempts by members of the Australian Labor Party to express concern at the actions of ASIO. If the motives of the Attorney-General are only the destruction of ASIO, it is essential that we in this place have an opportunity to examine him and to ask why he is proceeding in this manner. I believe that it is only by calling the Attorney-General to this place that these and many other significant questions can be answered adequately.

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