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Tuesday, 24 September 1974
Page: 1361

Senator EVERETT (Tasmania) - It is a distressing fact of political life, as revealed by the contribution we have just heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), that the Opposition appears to be so bankrupt of any constructive contribution to the government of this country that all it can debate on a motion relating to the Constitutional Convention is the question of representation inter partes. The fact is that the second session of the Constitutional Convention, set down for the first week in November, will be a landmark for the Australian nation. No one disputes that the Constitution is in need of urgent revision. For the past 12 months scores of persons throughout Australia, including members of Parliament of all political persuasions, have been engaged on the task of endeavouring to get before that second session of the Constitutional Convention proper proposals for the amendment of the Constitution.

One would have thought that tonight, especially after the defeat of the last 2 Bills, the Opposition in this chamber would have been anxious to demonstrate that it is ready for that Convention, that it has a proper contribution to make and that it is hopeful that unanimity in some respects will be achieved. But nothing of that sort came from the Opposition tonight. All we heard was a discussion about who should have a guernsey at that Convention. Despite the Opposition's denial that its attitude as reflected in its motion is directed at Senator Hall personally, there can be not the slightest doubt that it is directed at Senator Hall politically.

One remembers, of course, the atmosphere in this chamber when the motion now put by Senator Withers was proposed originally. The atmosphere was one in which Senator Hall was demonstrating his true independence as distinct from the independence that goes under a masquerade. I propose to deal with that matter because the attitude of the Opposition tonight is one of complete hypocrisy. It would deny Senator Hall, who represents a party which has representation not only in this chamber but also in another chamber, representation at the Constitutional Convention; yet on the other hand it would, with complete inconsistency, harbour within its own ranks a person whom I have no hesitation in describing tonight as a complete imposter. I wish he were in this chamber at this moment. It may well be that he will come into the chamber and defend what must appear to every right thinking Australian to be a pose of complete hypocrisy. I refer to Senator Townley and the recent statements that have been made in connection with his political future.

I link this matter with that which is being debated by the Senate on the basis that the Opposition, whilst maintaining an attitude of hostility towards Senator Hall, reflected in its opposition to his being a representative of this chamber at the Constitutional Convention, nevertheless seeks to embrace within its own ranks a person who has masqueraded for far too long as an Independent. I say that because, since Senator Townley 's first election over 2 years ago and his representation in this chamber over that period, he has proclaimed that he is an Independent when everyone knows that he never was an Independent, that he is not an Independent and that he is never likely to be an Independent.

By way of proof, look at his history. In about 1970 he ostensibly severed his connection with the Liberal Party in Tasmania- but for what reason? Did he do so on some great ideological difference with that Party? Of course not. He did so simply on the basis that he did not get a vote of endorsement. That was the great issue on which he broke with the Liberal Party. But, of course, he left the Party dangling a little bit and simply refused to pay his subscription. That has now been paid. We on the Government side of the chamber would say that if that had been all that was the trouble with Senator Townley we gladly would have contributed his subscription in order that he could have been legitimated.

Senator Young - Mr Acting Deputy President,I rise on a point of order. I think that this denigration of a senator is completely irrelevant to the debate before the Senate at the present time. Even more importantly, if a senator is prepared to start getting into personalities, as Senator Everett is doing, I think he should show the common courtesy of waiting until the person under attack is present in the chamber.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- The point of order is not upheld. I think the comments being made are germane to the motions before the Senate. I certainly shall watch the tenor of the debate. For the moment, I think Senator Everett is in order.

Senator EVERETT - I regret the absence of the honourable senator in question; but I cannot command, any more than anyone else can, his attendance in this chamber. In the extremely brief time that I have been here -

Senator Rae - Did you notify him that you were going to attack him tonight?

Senator EVERETT -No, of course I did not; any more than anyone else is notified when it is proposed that he or she be attacked. Mr Acting Deputy President, I said that some 4 years ago the honourable senator in question severed his connection with the Liberal Party.

Senator Greenwood - Mr Acting Deputy President,I rise on a point of order. My point of order is that the motions before the Chair relate to the Constitutional Convention.


Order! What is the point of order?

Senator Greenwood - I am stating my point of order. As I recall what Senator Everett said when he first rose, he chided the Opposition for not discussing anything about the Constitutional Convention except in relation to those who were to have a guernsey. I think those were his words. What the honourable senator is doing is dealing with a personality- one person. Senator Townley is an Independent senator, as we all know, and he is not mentioned by name in the motions which are before the Senate.

Senator Cavanagh - What is the standing order?

Senator Greenwood - My recollection is that it is the standing order relating to digression. I think it is standing order 410, but my memory is not good. It has been a heavy day.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Standing order 4 19.

Senator Greenwood - It is standing order 419. Senator Townley is not mentioned in the motion which has been proposed by the Government, or in the other motion which is being dealt with concurrently. Therefore, in my submission that raises a very considerable question as to whether his personality, his history and his conduct are relevant in any way to the Constitutional Convention. Firstly, Senator Townley is not mentioned in the motions. The second point is that he has never attended the Constitutional Convention. Therefore one must ask: How is anything Senator Townley has done in the past relevant to a debate about the Constitutional Convention? Thirdly, I do not know whether Senator Townley has or has not said anything about the Constitutional Convention which might make his conduct or his past in some way relevant; but certainly Senator Everett has not said or sought to ground his remarks on anything which Senator Townley is alleged to have said about the Constitutional Convention.

What Senator Everett has done is to bring in the name of Senator Townley, not just by way of a passing reference but, as it appears to me, having listened to him for the past S minutes, as the subject matter or vehicle of his contribution. I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President: What relevance has Senator Townley 's conduct in 1970, before a constitutional convention was ever thought of, to the motions which are before the chamber at the present time? If it were sought to explore Senator Hall's background, that might be a different matter. Even then I would have thought that there would be dubious justification for going back into history when referring to whether the Leader of the Liberal Movement (Senator Hall) should be a member of the Convention. On the other hand, that might be the best and only justification which could be raised. All I am saying is that Senator Hall is not the person to whom Senator Everett is referring. Senator Everett is referring to Senator Townley. Mr Acting Deputy President, the standing order about digression, the standing order about relevancy, with all respect, ought to have meaning given to it. Senator Everett is not just mentioning this matter in passing; he is developing a case. I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President, to consider the matter in that light. Standing order 419 provides:.

No Senator shall digress from the subject-matter of any Question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the Notice Paper.

The subject matter of the question under discussion is the Constitutional Convention, who shall attend it, what may be done at it and what are its purposes, hopes and aspirations. The subject matter is tremendously wide, but I say that Senator Townley 's history is not part of the subject matter comprehended by the expression Constitutional Convention ' or the matters raised in the motion.

Senator Cavanagh - Mr Acting Deputy President-

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Are you speaking to the point of order?

Senator Cavanagh - Yes. I am somewhat concerned about this point of order because I think it is being suggested that the discussion should be far more limited that it was ever intended that discussion should be limited by standing order 419. Whilst it is agreed that no senator shall digress from the subject matter of any question under discussion, the subject matter under discussion is representation at the Constitional Convention. Tonight we have had discussion about representation at the Convention. It has been suggested that certain senators should not attend the Convention and that we should give equality of representation to parties and disregard independents. I believe that Senator Everett who is under challenge is now putting the case that the principle of consistency in numerical strength should not be applied, and he is giving an illustration of one independent senator who should not be a representative at the Constitutional Convention. Whilst we are not dealing with the Constitutional Convention itself, we are dealing with representation at it. If we are to be consistent in arguing this point we must say that the subject matter brings everyone into consideration in deciding who should attend the Constitutional Convention. I would be very concerned if one could not refer to another senator when discussing the appointment of senators to represent this Parliament at the Constitutional Convention. Whilst it is a fact that no names are mentioned in the motion, the question of parties and independents comes into it. I think that the question raised by Senator Everett is quite relevant to the matter we are discussing.


Order! My ruling comes within the area of a subjective judgment on the basis of what has been put to me,.and on the basis of the standing order, which is the primary consideration. The standing order provides that no senator shall digress from the subject matter of any question under discussion. I am asked to rule on whether what has been said has relevance to the subject matter under discussion. The subject matter under discussion is representation, as I take it, on the basis of some alignment or some party affiliation. Having said that, however, I suggest that Senator Everett should connect his remarks with the subject matter before the Chair. I hope that that will be done.

Senator EVERETT - I am obliged to you, Mr Acting Deputy President. When I began speaking on this matter I pointed out that there was a patent inconsistency in the attitude of the Opposition. Despite what the Opposition said, it was obviously endeavouring to exclude Senator Hall as a representative of this Senate at the Constitutional Convention. I drew a distinction between the Opposition's attitude in that respect, that is, to Senator Hall as a representative of a political group that could be fairly said to be independent of both the Government and the Liberal-Country Party Opposition, and the Opposition's attitude in embracing a person with the record of masquerading that Senator Townley has acquired over the years. I believe that the point has been made. If the Opposition is touchy about this matter, and since Senator Townley has not seen fit to be present in the chamber during any of the time that this matter has been under debate, I will not labour the matter any further except to say that I am convinced that the majority of Tasmanian electors are quite certain that they have as a representative in Canberra in Senator Townley a person who flies under false colours. The Opposition embraces that sort of a person, and the sooner the embrace becomes complete and the act of legitimation is completed, the better it will be for everyone. I oppose the amendment.

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