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Wednesday, 31 October 1956


Order! The honorable member for Yarra is suspended from the service of the House until 12.52 on Saturday morning.

Opposition members. - Oh!

The honorable member for Yarra thereupon withdrew from the chamber.

Mr Calwell - I rise to order. I submit the honorable member should be suspended until Friday morning, not Saturday morning.


I stand corrected. It is Friday morning, not Saturday morning.

Dr Evatt - I rise to order. Are you prepared to allow an apology from the honorable member now?


No, I am not. The decision of the House has been made and it will stand. I call on the Minister to proceed.

Mr McMAHON - I had said that there are three things that the security service cannot do. First, the security service has no police functions and no functions of law enforcement in the Commonwealth. Secondly, it has no executive or administrative functions of government and therefore cannot make administrative decisions.

Opposition members interjecting,

Mr. ACTING DEPUTYSPEAKEROrder! Others will be acompanying the honorable member for Yarra if they are not careful. The Leader of the Opposition was given a fair hearing and the Minister for Primary Industry will be given a fair hearing. I ask the Minister to proceed.

Mr McMAHON - The third point 1 should like to make is that the security service has no jurisdiction relating to civil offences or to police offences committed in any part of the Commonwealth. I make those points clear right at the beginning, because once they are understood it will be realized that there is no substance in any of the suggestions or recommendations made by the Leader of the Opposition.

I turn now to the positive role of the service. I have stated that it is an antiespionage organization. It has the function of intelligence in discovering organizations in Australia which are created for the purpose of sabotage, or for anti-Australian activities, collating the evidence and submitting it to the proper authorities. I repeat that it is an intelligence organization only. It has the job of collecting evidence, of collating it, and of presenting it to the proper authorities, lt cannot go one step further than the presentation of the evidence to the authorities. That is rather important, because it indicates the way in which this Government and, if I may say so, its predecessor in office, has been prepared to limit the functions of the Commonwealth security service.

Secondly, sir, 1 wish to make it clear that when this organization was established in the early months of 1949, it was given a charter by the then Prime Minister, the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley. Since that date, there has not been one substantial alteration of the charter of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. Therefore, we are entitled to claim that the charter given to it, and under which it operates to-day, was satisfactory to the Labour party in 1949. With those facts in mind, I come to the various arguments that were put to the House by the Leader of the Opposition. First, he said that there must be ministerial responsibility. The Government agrees that there must be ministerial responsibility. If honorable members refer to the second-reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), they will see that he said -

The Attorney-General is the Minister ordinarily responsible for the security service, and he will administer the act. The Director-General, however, has, and has had, from the inauguration of the service in 1949, direct access to the Prime Minister in security matters affecting the Government as a whole.

It will be seen, therefore, that the No. 1 argument of the Leader of the Opposition is unsound. In fact, there is ministerial responsibility. Indeed, there is double responsibility, first to the Attorney-General, the man who should be responsible for the administration of the act; and secondly, in matters that concern the nation and its security as a whole, there is responsibility to the one man who, above all others, is responsible for the security and defence of the country - the Prime Minister himself.

The Leader of the Opposition may have been a little misled by the last paragraph of the speech of the Prime Minister, in which the right honorable gentleman said that the detailed manner in which the control of the

Attorney-General shall be exercised will not be specified in the act or regulations. I can see no reason why it should be. I believe that the relationship between the Government, the responsible Minister and the Director-General of Security should be worked out in exactly the same way as the British common law was worked out: That is, as a result of experience and common sense. It is on that basis that the Prime Minister has put it in his speech introducing the bill to the House. That relationship, or the way in which control of the security service by the Minister will work out in practice, will be based upon experience and the common-sense application of commonsense rules. Therefore, we find that there is ministerial responsibility. I regret that the right honorable gentleman should have referred to the fact that the organization spends a large sum of money. So it does, but the expenditure does not matter very much. We are concerned with the security of this country and with making certain that subversive activities, designed to destroy us, or to undermine our defences and our capacity to defend ourselves, are not carried on.

The second point raised by the right honorable gentleman was that although this bill will give statutory standing to the security organization, the Opposition does not know what contracts have been made between the Director-General and the various members of the organization. Again, I say that he could not have read the speech of the Prime Minister in the fashion that normally might be expected of the Leader of the Opposition, nor could he have listened very attentively to the Prime Minister's speech, because the simple fact is that this measure is designed to set out clearly the way in which the terms of employment of these individuals will be arranged. It provides that the DirectorGeneral of Security shall have power to enter into agreements on behalf of the Commonwealth. But a most relevant clause provides that the terms and conditions set out in the agreements shall be fixed by a committee consisting of the chairman of the Public Service Board, the SolicitorGeneral and the Director-General of Security. Through that committee, the terms and conditions of service, including the salaries to be paid, will be kept broadly in line with those that obtain in the Public Service of the Commonwealth.

Mr Ward - What about the existing contracts?

Mr McMAHON - The honorable member will find that the existing contracts are on exactly similar lines.

Mr Ward - How do we know?

Mr McMAHON - I am telling the honorable member now, and the matter is also referred to in the Prime Minister's speech. I say that, in substance, the existing contracts are the same as those that are now being entered into. Therefore, we find that although this bill will give the service statutory standing, the conditions will be those that apply generally throughout the Commonwealth, and subject to approval by the committee to which I have just referred.

The Leader of the Opposition attempted to create the impression that there was some compelling voice in the security service, that it had some power behind the scenes, some power to influence the Government in a way that could be regarded as sinister. Let us examine that matter. I have shown the functions that the service exercises and also those that it does not possess. The simple fact is that it has a role of intelligence and also a role of recommendation. It may speak to a permanent head, but it cannot tell him what he should do. Therefore, it has not a compelling voice. If it cares to make a report to the Minister for Immigration, for instance, concerning an immigration matter, the Minister will look at the report, but he will make up his mind on what the final decision should be. In doing so, one of the matters that he takes into consideration is the report of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. But if, in his wisdom, he feels that there are good and compelling reasons why he should adopt a different course, which he thinks is just and correct, he is free to do so, and many of us know that that has been done in the past.

Finally, I come to the question whether security is decisive in determining whether or not a person is to obtain a job. I do not need to repeat the position of security in the Commonwealth service. I do not need to repeat that it has no administrative or executive function. It has only the function of collecting intelligence and passing it on to the relevant departments. Therefore, it cannot prevent a person from obtaining a job. The decision whether or not a man is to get a job is made by the ministerial head, the Minister himself, or by the Commonwealth Public Service Board. It is certainly not made by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. I want to make it clear that not one argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition to-night was based either upon fact or upon the law as it will be contained in this act when it comes into existence. 1 do not know what the Opposition will do in relation to this bill. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Opposition accepted the bill, but that it wanted certain amendments to be made, and that if those amendments were not approved it would object to the bill. There could be no amendments that would be worth listening to, and since that is so, no suggestions will be accepted. I take it, therefore, that the Opposition will object to the bill and vote against it when the motion for the second reading is put to the House. There may, of course, be a protest from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I should expect him to vote for the bill, regardless of what other members of the Opposition might do. I should expect him to vote for a measure designed to improve the defences of the country, to defend loyalties and to combat subversive activities. If the honorable member for Lalor cares to vote against it, we will count heads, and the fact that he has voted against it will be worth recording.

I believe that the bill is necessary for this reason: We have a Commonwealth security service of which we should be proud, but this great question mark stands alongside it. At the present time the officers of that service have no security of tenure of office such as is enjoyed by other officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, and they may be under threat from those who may feel that in the past the security service has not done all the things that they would have desired it to do. The Government has thought it wise to give those officers that security of tenure which is enjoyed by other members of the Commonwealth Public Service. The general purpose of this bill is to ensure that loyal and honest servants of the Commonwealth, who have effectively done a job, are given proper security of tenure in their employment, and that they shall not be lightly dismissed at the whim of persons who feel that in the past, by destroying the authority of Communists in this country, they may have destroyed one, two or perhaps a few more political reputations.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.

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