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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2314

Senator BISHOP (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is addressed to the Attorney-General and follows his answer to Senator Jessop in which he attacked the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, for statements in connection with practices which apply in South Australia with respect to the gaoling of those who have offended against the National Service Act.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Please ask the question, senator. Do not go into long preamble. The Senate is aware of the background.

Senator BISHOP - Mr President, I was trying to connect that with the question I am about to ask. I ask the AttorneyGeneral: In view of the fact that the case of Robert Martin has been the subject of many questions in this Senate over a long period and that the degree of freedom which is to be accorded to him is characteristic of the treatment accorded to other people in South Australian gaols, has the Minister at any time directly taken up this matter with the Attorney-General or Premier of South Australia? Before making his attack on the South Australian Premier did he make a point of visiting the area to ascertain whether, in fact, this characteristic freedom to which I have referred is universal to all South Australian prison accommodation?

Senator GREENWOOD - 1 have not visited the area to acquaint myself with the surroundings, nor am 1 sure that the surroundings make any difference to the situation. My knowledge of this matter derives from information which came to me yesterday morning through the Press that Mr Martin had been given permission by the South Australian authorities to address a meeting outside the gaol, even though he was a prisoner serving a sentence for a breach of a Commonwealth law. I ascertained the position to learn whether this was in accordance with the prison rules and I noted that the rules contained a very wide discretion which would enable the Comptroller of Prisons to act in this way. However, 1 gathered also from the Press - I may be wrong in this - that this was a matter in which the political heads of the South Australian Government or of the relevant department were at least consulted before a decision was made. As to whether I have erred as the honourable senator said in attacking the South Australian Premier, the first I saw of statements by the South Australian Premier was his statement reputedly challenging me to take him to court. Far from any attack being instituted by myself, I think that the statement by the South Australian Premier was unquestionably provocated. As it was made without any prior statement by me, I just wonder whether there are not some political implications in what he is doing.

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