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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2624

Senator GREENWOOD (VICTORIA) - Will the AttorneyGeneral state why the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Melbourne has sought from the clerks of barristers in that city the names of those counsel who are members of or are sympathetic to the Australian Labor Party? Have the Deputy Crown Solicitors in other States sought similar information as to the identity of barristers supporting the Australian Labor Party in other capital cities? Why should a Deputy Crown Solicitor be concerned with a barrister's political allegiance?

Senator MURPHY - I suppose one good reason would be that the honourable senator has been asking questions here about those to whom briefs of the Crown have been delivered. I have had to address my mind to the question a little. I think, from what I read in the newspapers, that in New South Wales, anyway, if one looks at the list of counsel briefed by the Commonwealth one will see that it is almost a roll call of those lawyers who are standing for pre-selection for the Liberal Party in New South Wales. I regret that the honourable senator has seen fit to raise questions such as he has. I am sure that the substance of what he is alleging is incorrect. If he wishes the matters he has raised to be pursued, I will make further inquiries into them. But I assure the Senate, from my understanding of the matter, that insofar as lawyers who are briefed by the Crown have political affiliations, by far the vast majority of them would be known publicly to be members of the Liberal Party.

I regret that this subject has been raised at all. Our stand is quite clear. I have indicated that counsel have been briefed because of their ability. It is well known that outstanding members of the Liberal Party have been briefed and will continue to be briefed under the present Administration. I think that certainly there ought not to be any system under which there is some bias in one direction or the other. I regret that this matter has been raised in this way by the honourable senator. But, if he insists upon pursuing it, then I shall see what I can do to obtain the figures on the publicly acknowledged affiliations of banisters and see whether the matter can be clarified.

Senator GREENWOOD -May I ask a supplementary question, Mr President?

The PRESIDENT - A supplementary question may be asked if the honourable senator wishes to elucidate matters which are inherent in the answer which has been given.

Senator GREENWOOD - I ask the AttorneyGeneral: In view of his reference to the fact that he regards counsel who have been briefed by the Commonwealth as members of the Liberal Party, did he initiate the inquiry made by the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Melbourne with a view, as he would see it, to redressing an imbalance?

Senator MURPHY -No, I did not initiate an inquiry by the Deputy Crown Solicitor. I repeat that I shall pursue this matter if the honourable senator wants it pursued. I shall endeavour, as far as I can, to find out the facts in relation to the matter. I regret that it has ever been raised by the honourable senator in this chamber. I suggest that representatives of the Bar in Victoria, as well as in New South Wales, would be shocked and scandalised that the honourable senator has seen fit to raise these matters in this chamber in this way.

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