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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2424

Senator HANNAN (VICTORIA) - Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to yesterday's Press statement by Mr George Crawford, Chairman of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, that he would personally be conducting the electoral campaign of the Labor candidate for Hotham, one Barry Johnston . . .

The PRESIDENT - Order! I order the description of the man given by Senator Hannan to be deleted from the record.

Senator HANNAN - Barry Johnston is the endorsed Labor candidate for the seat of Hotham presently held by Mr Chipp. I ask the Attorney-General: As all of Mr Crawford's public statements must be vetted by Mr R. J. Hawke, senior vicepresident of the Australian Labor Party, and Mr Innes, does this-

Senator Murphy - Mr President, I raise a point of order. The question obviously is contrary to the Standing Orders to which you have referred in that it contains arguments, inferences, imputations, ironical expressions and is not directed to a matter which is properly within the scope of the Minister's affairs. It should not be asked at question time, which is for the purpose of seeking information.

The PRESIDENT - Order! It is a matter of interest and gratification to me to find my determination to purge question time in accordance with the Standing Orders being supported by the Leader of the Opposition. I call Senator Hannan.

Senator HANNAN - I point out that I have not made any inference, innuendo or anything else.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Just keep within the Standing Orders.

Senator HANNAN - I am referring to a report of a Press statement made by Mr Crawford. As the Melbourne Press has reported that all Mr Crawford's public statements must be vetted by Mr R. J. Hawke and Mr Innes, does this mean that the full blessing of the highest echelons of the ALP is given to Mr Crawford and Mr Johnston? Does this action make Mr Crawford an accessory? Can the AttorneyGeneral state whether the ALP has any defence policy other than reliance upon the United Nations?

Senator Keeffe - That no longer hurts.

Senator HANNAN - That does not surprise me. Does Mr Crawford's statement indicate that the much vaunted reform of the Victorian Branch of the ALP 18 months ago was nothing more than a propaganda exercise?

The PRESIDENT - Order! I say to the Attorney-General that if he answers the question he must do so in accordance with the terms of Standing Order 98.

Senate Murphy - Mr President, I raise a point of order. I would go further than that. If this kind of question is to be permitted and if the questioner is entitled, as I understand it, to ask the Minister whether the Australian Labor Party has any defence policy, any rural policy or any other policy, that does not accord with the purpose of question time. Question time becomes just a farce. These matters can be debated at other times.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Last week I ruled on the matter of questions being asked of the Leader Opposition or Opposition senators which relate to the policy of the Australian Labor Party. I ruled that form of questioning out of order. I also this morning ruled out of order a question asked by Senator Poke relating to Govern ment policy. Senator Hannan, who is an experienced member of this chamber, has endeavoured to ask a question which conforms with the rulings I have given. I now call upon the Attorney-General to answer that question if he wishess to do so. In answering it the Attorney-General also should conform with the Standing Orders.

Senator GREENWOOD (VICTORIA) (Attorney-General) - I am aware of the situation which has developed in Victoria concerning the difficulty of the Commonwealth Police in apprehending Mr Johnston and of the fact that he is to be a candidate at an election and that certain responsible persons or persons who hold high office in the Australian Labor Party are prepared to conduct a campaign on his behalf. I can understand why that situation would cause tenderness and sensitivity in certain quarters. My attention has been drawn to these matters, Mr President. What does concern me is the fact that certain leaders of a political party are concerned with maintaining in hiding a man for whom a warrant has been issued by the court. I believe it is a dereliction of responsibility for the leader of that party not to take action to bring that state of affairs to an end.

Senator Murphy - I rise on a point of order, Mr President. Such conduct is a perversion of question time. Government supporters should not be permitted to use question time in this chamber to ask questions on matters of policy of the Australian Labor Party and make attacks on its leaders. With respect, Mr President, I submit that you should take a line which will exclude such conduct. It is not right. The alternative for the Opposition will be simply to put motions on the notice paper which will enable my colleagues to ask me questions about Liberal Party policy and use the same sort of tactic. Government supporters have every opportunity to use the procedures of the Senate to their advantage. They can bring on debates on these matters by moving urgency motions. The tactic is developing of turning question time into discussions about, and attacks on the policy of the Labor Party and its leaders and the Labor Party has no opportunity to answer or intervene.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Having sometimes sat in the chair in which you are sitting at the present time, Mr President, I know that questions of this nature are asked by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber.

Senator Murphy - At least you can answer them. We have no chance of answering them.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Senator Murphy need not stand up in this chamber and look so injured. I say that because I have had to put up with all sorts of questions from his side of the chamber. I recognise that what you have said, Mr President, is the right way of tackling the matter. I think the present practice should be cut out by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber. But I do not know why Senator Murphy should stand up and look so injured and cry about what Government senators are doing.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Question time will be resumed.

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