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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3205

Mr DRURY (Ryan) - My Committee colleagues on this side of the House have suggested that I should rise on their behalf as well as for myself to indicate our support of the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I join with him in expressing our sincere regret at the tragic and untimely death of Mr Tier and in offering our deepest sympathy to his family and relatives.

When Mr Tier about 3 weeks ago appeared as a witness before the Committee of Privileges his attitude could not have been more helpful or co-operative. He came readily of his own accord and immediately he willingly accepted full responsibility for that premature publication in the 'Sun' newspaper of Tuesday, 18 September 1973.

Having said that, I should like to invite attention to one or two other matters, particularly paragraph 15 at the top of page 6 of the Committee's report. This paragraph expressed the very grave concern with which the Committee viewed the action of the unknown person who made available to a journalist, Mr O'Reilly, the recommendations of the parliamentary committee dealing with the stabilisation of meat prices. As all honourable members know, under standing order 340 of this House this premature disclosure was a clear breach of privilege and a contempt of the Parliament. The Committee regards the action that led to the premature publication of the recommendations referred to, 2 days in fact before the actual presentation of the report to the House, as one of the utmost seriousness. It is a matter of very great regret that the person concerned cannot be identified, thus enabling the House to take appropriate action against him. If by any chance the culprit - and I call him that - were indeed a member of this Parliament, he would, as honourable members know, be subject to very stringent action and the consequences to him could be dire indeed. He was, to borrow a legal expression, the causa causans of the whole episode. If it had not been for the premature disclosure by this unknown person to Mr O'Reilly, we would not have had to hold this privilege inquiry and we would not be speaking today on the report submitted by the Committee. Therefore the responsibility devolving on this unknown person, whoever he may be, is a very heavy one indeed and I hope that his conscience pricks him hard.

The second point to which I refer concerns the membership of the Committee of Privileges. If honourable members look at the top of the first page of the report before dealing with the report itself, under the heading 'Membership of the Committee' they will see that in addition to the Chairman, who is the Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply (Mr Enderby), other members of the Committee were the Treasurer (Mr Crean), the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), a former

Minister who is at present overseas, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who is the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who was the former Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. Under the Westminster system of parliamentary government the Committee of Privileges has always been regarded as one of the most important committees of the House, if not the most important. Of course, in essence the purpose of parliamentary privilege is to give such protection as may be necessary to enable honourable members to carry out their duties on behalf of their constituents and the nation and to uphold the dignity of the parliamentary institution. We all know that the front bench members on both sides of the House are extremely busy men who carry a heavy load of responsibility and a big work load every day, whether the House is sitting or not. I pay a compliment to those very senior members of this House who make, their time available to serve on this important Committee. I should very much like to see participation in this work by more senior members on this side of the House in accordance with the best Westminster tradition.

Finally, I pay a tribute to the new Chairman of the Committee for the capable way in which he has handled his task. As one who occupied this position for a number of years, I am very conscious indeed of the delicate and sometimes difficult situations with which a Chairman of this Committee can be confronted.

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