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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 2010

Senator EVERETT (Tasmania) -Mr President,I speak for the first time in a debate on the adjournment. I say to Senator Greenwood that I have never heard such a contemptible speech as he uttered tonight, especially the last sentence of it in which the clear inference was made that legal process in the course of being instituted is for the purpose of stopping some political comment. That, Sir, is a lie.

The PRESIDENT - Order! The Standing Orders provide that the word 'lie' cannot be used here. It is against the Standing Orders, and I suggest that you withdraw it.

Senator EVERETT -The word is withdrawn and I substitute for it 'complete untruth'. If a first year law student had given the purported lecture on law given by Senator Greenwood tonight I doubt whether he would have got a rough pass. For it to have come from the hps of a former Australian Attorney-General indicates the complete bankruptcy of the Opposition. But what I resent more than anything else is that a former Attorney-General of Australia should deny to persons- in this case 5 members of this Senatethe right to issue legal process.

Senator Rae - In no way did he suggest that.

Senator EVERETT - You will have your chance to comment on advertisements, with which I suggest you are more familiar than most in this chamber, at a later stage and I think you know what I mean by that. It is perfectly clear, Mr President, that the announcement that was made in the Senate last night on behalf of 5 members of this chamber has touched the Opposition very much on the raw.

Opposition Senators- Ha, ha!

Senator EVERETT -The laugh that comes from a person who is very much involved in this matter, I suggest, indicates that the Opposition realises that that is so. I did not say last night that a writ had been issued.

Senator Young - You implied it.

Senator EVERETT - I did not imply it. The Hansard record of what I said is available. The newspapers in Tasmania faithfully reported what I said, and in no case could it be suggested that I implied that a writ had been issued. I said that a decision had been made by 5 senators to issue a writ; I said that instructions for its issue had been given that day. That is one thing. For Senator Greenwood to mouth words about democracy and at the same time deny the right of citizens, be they members of this Parliament or not, to issue a writ if they consider that they have been defamed is, I suggest, a complete inconsistency. I suggest that more important than so-called freedom of speech in this chamber- if what we have listened to for the last half hour is called freedom of speech, I will have to revise my definition of it- is that persons who consider that they have been wronged and who have a case at law to pursue should not be inhibited by such rantin as we have heard tonight from pressing their claims.

It is perfectly obvious that what Senator Greenwood chose to do was to select the statement that I made last night as a vehicle for speaking on the adjournment in relation to Tasmanian affairs. I welcome Senator Greenwood 's new found interest in Tasmania. I hope that he enjoys his forthcoming visit to that State. But when one gets on to the merits of the treatment of Tasmania- I have already canvassed that once in this chamber in recent days and 1 will not do it again- I point out that it is a Gilbertian situation that a person from New South Wales- like myself, a newcomer to this national Parliament -is, according to an announcement today, to be the new shadow Minister for the State of Tasmania.

Senator Devitt -Who is he?

Senator EVERETT - I simply state what has been published in the Press. It is Mr Ellicott, MHR.

Senator Rae - He was announced as the representative in the House of Representatives, the spokesman in that chamber, and none of your continuing misrepresentation will change that fact.

Senator EVERETT - I said that it had been announced today. It was so announced in the Hobart 'Mercury' that Mr Ellicott had been appointed the shadow Minister for Tasmania. It is on the front page of the 'Mercury '. I can understand Senator Rae's consternation at that appointment, because the movement of Senator Rae, who is the chief protagonist in this matter that we are debating, is most significant. From shadow Minister for Education at the time of the last election, we have him emerging shortly afterwards as the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and I pass no reflection on the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh). I do point out that we do not have an Aboriginal population in Tasmania, as so called. I can imagine that Senator Rae was most anxious to get out of that somewhat invidious situation and become shadow Minister for Tasmania in this Parliament, but it was not to be, and New South Wales has obtained another plum in the shadow Ministry.

Because this matter is one that I treat quite seriously, I should like Senator Rae, when he speaks on this matter tonight as I have no doubt he will, to inform the Senate of what knowledge he had of the advertisements that are complained of before he saw them published in the Press, or before they were published in the Press. I do not want to pause to read them, but the wording has a very familiar ring. These advertisements that were published in the 3 newspapers in Tasmania yesterday, as I said when I spoke last night, represent a continuation, in the view of 5 senators, of a campaign of untruths and misrepresentations of a defamatory character. Quite frankly, the 5 senators -

Senator Greenwood - That is not an imputation against anyone on this side, and not intended to be?

Senator EVERETT -The 5 senators took that view, and we do not want Senator Greenwood's judgment as to the basis of the proceedings that have been referred to.

Senator Greenwood - One would not want you to defy the ruling of the President- that is all; that is what I was inquiring about.

Senator EVERETT - I do not intend to be diverted by that nonsense. Senator Greenwood said tonight- and this came from a former Australian Attorney-General- that he questioned the basis for the proceedings. Any more impudent intrusion into a private legal case I have never heard. Do not say that Hansard will not record that, Senator Greenwood, because that was noted with clarity even here. He questioned the basis of it. I would think that a former Australian Attorney-General would have known that when a writ has been issued or is about to be issued, one thing that ought not to be said in this chamber under the cloak of privilege is any comment on the merits of the matter.

Senator Missen - What are you doing?

Senator EVERETT - Who was that?

Senator Missen - Me.

Senator EVERETT - We have another champion of democracy, do we, from Victoria? I am challenging the statement that Senator Greenwood uttered tonight, the propriety of it, that he questioned the basis of the proceedings. Does Senator Missen suggest that it is proper in view of the situation that he knows exists that in this chamber under privilege utterances should be made as to the basis for legal proceedings?

Senator Missen - I suggest that you are doing that and you are in no position to make that complaint.

Senator EVERETT - Absolute nonsense. I did not canvass the issues. I did not even read the advertisements yesterday and I do not pause to read them now. I have complained about the contemptible character of Senator Greenwood's utterances. I have pointed out -

Senator Laucke - I rise to a point of order. The word 'contemptible' has been used on 2 occasions with respect to my colleague the Honourable Ivor Greenwood. In standing order 418 it is very clearly stated that no senator shall use offensive words against any member of this House or any other House. I call for the retraction of the word 'contemptible' in respect of my colleague Senator Greenwood.

The PRESIDENT - Senator Everett,did you use that word?

Senator EVERETT - I recall that I used the expression 'contemptible utterances'. I do not indulge in personalities of the sort purportedly complained of.

Senator Rae - You are famous for it.

Senator EVERETT -The hollow laughter of Senator Rae does not affect the truth of that statement.

Senator Laucke - The word 'contemptible' was used about a member of this place by the honourable senator and that is why I call for a retraction and apology for using that word in respect of a senator.

The PRESIDENT - In the list of objectionable words 'contemptible' is included and I ask Senator Everett to withdraw it.

Senator EVERETT - I withdraw it, of course, but I wish to say that I do not believe that I used it in relation to an individual but only in respect of his utterances. That is what I thought I said. If it is thought that I used the word in relation to an individual I of course withdraw it. I summarise what I wish to say simply by repeating that it is perfectly obvious that the statement made in the Senate last night is a matter of some consternation to members of the Opposition. Otherwise why have they raised it? I assure Senator Greenwood that I will not have jack boots trampled on a court writ to which I am a party. Despite all that, I wish him a pleasant trip to Tasmania for the weekend.

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