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Wednesday, 8 December 1971
Page: 4351

Mr COPE (Sydney) - I wish to move the following amendment to the motion:

That all words after 'opinion' be omitted with the view to inserting the following words in' place thereof - 'that the recommendations of the Committee should be carried out'.

I want to make it perfectly clear, as is apparent from the amendment I have moved, that T fully support the findings and recommendations of the Privileges Committee. I stress that I would not support any punitive action being taken against any person adjudged to have committed a breach of privilege. Tn 1955, in the Browne and Fitzpatrick case, despite the fact that I agreed with the finding of the Privileges Committee, I was one of the

II members of this House who voted against those 2 persons receiving a gaol sentence of 3 months, because I do not believe that this House should exercise the power to impose such a penalty.

The report brought down by the Privileges Committee stems from the matter that I referred to the House on Tuesday, 7th September 1971, regarding an article by Mr Alan Reid which appeared in the Sydney 'Daily Telegraph' of Friday, 27th

August. It contained comment about the House being counted out for lack of a quorum on die previous day, Thursday, 26th August. At the outset I should like to mention that at the time of this incident Mr Lucock, the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees - incidentally, he has occupied these official positions since 8th March 1961 - was in charge of the proceedings of the House, and the parliamentary officers on duty were the Clerk of the House, Mr Turner, the Second Assistant Clerk, Mr Pettifer, and the Deputy Sergeant at Arms, Mr Piper. Now I shall cite standing' order 47, which governs the proceedings of the House when a quorum is called. It states:

When the attention of the Speaker, or of the Chairman of Committees, has been called to the fact that there is not a quorum of Members present, no Member shall leave the area within the seats allotted to ' Members until a quorum is present or 2 minutes have elapsed.

Now I shall cite the relevant section of Mr Reid's article to which I took exception. It is as follows:

A group of ALP Parliamentarians walked out of the Chamber when the quorum was called, well knowing that their action could cause the collapse of the House of Representatives.

I shall proceed to substantiate what I said on 7th September, that this was a deliberate untruth, and I shall quote from the evidence submitted to the Privileges Committee. Firstly, I quote from the evidence of Mr Turner - and I remind the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) that Mr Turner was also under oath - which appears on pages 144 and 145 of the transcript of evidence. The relevant section reads:

Chairman - Thank you,Mr Turner. There is a point, a technical point. Alan Reid does not quote correctly standing order 47. I do not know whether you recall that he said that standing order 47 referred to members leaving the chamber. But in point of fact, the chamber is not mentioned, as you know. Standing order 47 simply states that no member shall leave the area within the seats allotted to members until a quorum is present or 2 minutes have elapsed. This is only a technicality, I suppose, yet it is possible that a member or members might have been in, say, some part of the Speaker's gallery behind Mr Duthie, for example, or behind Mr Fox, and have gone out through the doors. Strictly, under standing order 47, they would have been entitled to leave, would they not, if they had not already, been in the seats reserved for members?

Mr Turner - If I might answer the first part at this stage: I was not aware, nor do I think my

Deputywas aware, or was the Chair aware, of anyone having left the Chamber after Mr Gun had called for the quorum.

Does the honourable member for Diamond Valley want any more than that? lt continues:

It is, I think, a fairly well established practice that when a quorum is called any member who is sitting in the public galleries, downstairs, the diplomatic galleries, the Speaker's gallery, the officer seats, or perhaps even in the attendants' box is not counted. But if he were to get up and take himself outside those seats, he would be counted; . . .

Let me quote from what the Second Clerk Assistant, Mr Pettifer, said, and, as I again remind the honourable member for Diamond Valley, he was also under oath.

Mr Brown - I was there when the evidence was given.

Mr COPE - The honourable member emphasised the fact that ' Mr Reid was under oath. 1 am pointing out that these other witnesses were under oath. too. The following is a section of Mr Pettifer's evidence:

Chairman - 1 know that in the ordinary course of events - it is part of your normal function at the table - that while the quorum bells are ringing you are counting the numbers, but would you, as part of that operation, be keeping half an eye on the doors? Would you have noticed if any members had gone out. as well as come in?

Mr PettiferThat is so, Mr Chairman. We keep an ey,e on members who might tend to move outside the chamber, from the area in which members are normally seated. For instance. I noticed Mr Uren rise from his seat on the front bench and make towards the Opposition main corridor.

I thought he was going out, but he stopped when he got towards the final row of seats and came back again. I saw no members leave the area allotted to members. In talking the matter over with the Clerk, he agreed that he saw no members leaving the chamber on his side. I think it is worthwhile, Sir, to note the wording of the newspaper article.

Let me quote further from pages 174 and 175 of the transcript of evidence in regard to what Mr Lucock said. The honourable member for Diamond Valley should note that Mr Lucock was under oath also. The transcript states:

Chairman- After Dr Gun had called the quorum and during the period of just over 2 minutes that elapsed before the doors were locked did you notice any members from either side of the House leaving the chamber?

Mr Lucock - No. There were 2 members who were standing, as far as my recollection goes. One was Dr Forbes and the other was' Mr Daly. Both of those members moved about the chamber, and

Mr Foxmoved about the chamber, but no one actually left the chamber- not that I was aware of.

Chairman - When you are in the Chair, do you find that normally you can keep an eye on all the various entrances and exits?

Mr Lucock - I would think that, within reasonable limits, I could say 'Yes' to that. You are sort of looking round the chamber at that particular stage. You are watching for people coming in, not so much for people going out, but if you noticed a member who was in the chamber getting close to the door, you would naturally keep a fairly close eye on that member, knowing that members arc not supposed io leave the chamber, lt has happened that I have called members back who have gone out of the chamber at the time I have been watching.

Chairman - Would you say that it would be extremely unlikely that any members left the chamber during the period in question?

Mr Lucock - 1 would say it would be extremely unlikely.

Chairman - Can you say positively that no members walked out of the chamber?

Mr Lucock - Within the framework of what I have said previously 1 think I would say fairly emphatically that no member walked out.

Let us look at what Mr Piper, the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms had to say. This gentleman was under oath, too. Mr Piper said: 1 should sturt off by saying thai I did noi see anybody leave the chamber. 1 was very near to the member who called the quorum, at the back of the chamber. 1 can clearly remember several members being in that area when the bells were rung, but 1 must say 1 did not see anybody leave the chamber after the bells commenced to ring.

It is interesting to note that Mr Turnbull, the Country Party Whip, also stressed that he did not see anybody leave the chamber. Mr Turnbull is a member of thc Committee. Mr Reid has not submitted one iota of evidence to substantiate his claim that a group of ALP parliamentarians walked out of the chamber when the quorum was called. In evidence he admitted that he was not in the House when the qurorum wai called. In an endeavour to justify the claim he mentioned Mr Calwell and Mr Les Irwin, each of whom admitted that he was not in the House at the time. The pertinent part of Mr Calwell's evidence is at page 66, of Mr Irwin's evidence at page 124. Mr Irwin has stated that he was 99 per cent sure that Bill Fulton had said that it was a walk out. Mr Fulton appeared before the Committee and denied that he had said any such thing. There was some interesting evidence tendered by Mr David Mcnicoll, the Editor:in-Chief of the 'Daily

Telegraph'. I quote from page 185 of the report. This is roost interesting. In answer to a question Mr McNicoll said:

I must say, if I may, with great respect, Mr

Chairman, that our organisation in Sydney has been greatly disturbed and bewildered at the reports which are current in Sydney - that the Committee found Mr Reid not guilty and then later decided that he was to be found guilty. Everybody - from our legal men and everybody - is quite bewildered and staggered at this having happened. It stems to us something which, if it eventually sees the light of day, as I have no doubt it will, must call for some explanation and I think that we, as a newspaper, deserve an explanation for this.

The evidence was supposed to have been kept very secret until it was presented in the House, which was Thursday of last week. Nobody was supposed to give any information of any kind about the Committee's hearings. Mr McNicoll, of his own volition, said that he had received information from 3 sources.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Mr Irwin was one.

Mr COPE - 1 do not know who they were. 1 shall nol make any accusations. But Mr McNicoll, without being asked the question, volunteered this information. Strange to relate, Mr McNicoll went on to say - these are his exact words - that he put more faith actually in Mr Reid's statement than he would in the findings of the Committee. I always thought that Sir Frank Packer had great influence in Sydney but I did not know that his influence extended to the Liberal Party in Canberra.

I say without any fear or inhibition that I wonder what the recommendation of the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) would have been if the reporter involved in this matter represented the Communist Party newspaper 'Tribune'. I wonder what the recommendation would have been. I was quite surprised that the Chairman of 'the Privileges Committee, the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury), whose casting vote was the one that was responsible for bringing down the findings and recommendations as set out in the Committee's report, has indicated that he intends to do nothing about the recommendations for which he voted and intends to vole in support of the Government. Yet, the vote on this matter will be a free one.

I have always respected the views of my colleague, the honourable member for Eden

Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser), but I must say that, on this occasion, he did not touch much on what Mr Reid did. He quoted what had happened in the Browne and Fitzpatrick case. Our friend, the honourable member for Diamond Valley, spent half of his speech on a matter that was quite irrelevant. It had nothing whatever to do with the issue that was before the Privileges Committee. The honourable member said nothing about what Mr Reid had alleged. It is quite obvious that his allegation was a deliberate untruth. if Mr McNicoll has such faith in the integrity of Mr Reid and in what he writes, I would suggest that Mr Reid should adopt the pseudonym of 'George Washington' and possibly, iri the future, everyone will believe what he says. But, on this occasion, no doubt exists, as has been mentioned already by my colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor), that Mr Reid's article is a reflection on the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock); on Mr Turner, the Clerk; and on Mr Pettifer, Clerk Assistant. Also it is a reflection on every member in this House because that article was a deliberate untruth.

As I mentioned before, the honourable member for Lyne has occupied his office for 10 years. He is meticulous to see that nobody leaves the 'chamber when attention is directed to the state of the House. In common with you, ' Mr Corbett, I ' am a deputy chairman of committees. Our own duty when occupying the Chair- and this is the advice that we receive from the House officers at the table - is that no member should leave the' House when attention is directed to the state of the House and a count takes place. I say now that it is impossible for any member to leave the House and to avoid notice of the 2 pairs of eyes at the table and the eyes of the occupant of the chair. I repeat that I am very surprised indeed that the Chairman of the Privileges Committee whose casting vote was responsible for the findings and recommendations that are before the House now has altered his mind, will not vote for the recommendations of the Committee but intends to suport the motion moved by the Leader of the House.

Mr DRURY(Ryan)- Mr Deputy Speaker. I wish to make a personal explanation.

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