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Wednesday, 12 December 1973
Page: 2769

Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - I wish to refer to a matter which was the cause of a debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on Wednesday, 5 December, between Senator Webster and myself. It was raised again by Senator Webster last evening. These matters arose because of a speech I made on 1 1 October. I was recorded in the daily Hansard of the day as stating:

I know Mr Albert Albany ...

In fact, what I intended to say was that I knew of Mr Albert Albany. The very next day I requested Hansard to correct my speech to include the word 'of. Surely that is proof that I had no intention of conveying to any person that I in fact knew Mr Albany. If I have caused embarrassment to any person because of that minor slip of the tongue and the subsequent correction in Hansard I express my sincere regrets to all concerned and, in particular, to the Hansard staff, which accepted my word when I sought to make the alteration. I accept full responsibility for that alteration. I return now to statements made by Senator Webster on 5 December on behalf of Mr Albany. Senator Webster was the one who first mentioned Mr Albany's name in this Parliament. I think it is regrettable that Senator Webster had to use Mr Albany's name in a debate which took place earlier this year. I shall refer to a telegram which Senator Webster quoted in the Senate during a debate on 1 1 October. Senator Webster stated:

But Mr Deputy President, you quite kindly handed me a telegram which you had received. It was addressed to you from one Albert Albany of Box 39 1 46, Winnellie. The telegram states:

Request you once again reject that Labor Parry's Bill for the compulsory acquisition of freehold land in the Northern Territory it is unjust discriminatory to compulsory acquire freehold land from one citizen to be sold to another citizen - who can transact the land so acquired at unlimited profits discriminatory to freeze land value in the area to be acquired yet do nothing in respect to land value in Darwin and beyond the area to be acquired stop Mr Enderby callous public statement about freezing the land value in the area to be acquired only increased values outside this area stop The Government have refused to treat for this land although I have offered them my 4800 acres which represents a quarter of the land involved stop they are trying the use Gestapo and Fascist methods to implement their communist ideals of state ownership of land thank you for your consideration.

It was Senator Webster who, as I said, first introduced into this Parliament Mr Albany's name in dealing with a matter which has now caused some heartburning for some people. Some statements have been made by Mr Albany. They were read into the Hansard last Wednesday night by Senator Webster and they have also caused some very grave heartburning for 2 people in the Northern Territory. That is the main reason why I have risen tonight to continue this debate. I want to refer to remarks made by Senator Webster on 5 December. I will quote his exact words as they appear in Hansard. He said:

I wish quickly to raise a matter of the abuse of privilege by 2 senators. I believe that they have admitted to what appear to be statements which are not based on truth. Indeed, they have been made in respect of citizens outside this Senate.

He went on to quote from a letter he had received from Mr Albany. He said:

Senator McLaren,in speaking to the debate on the acquisition of land in the Northern Territory- I quote from Hansard page 1 168 of 1 1 October 1973-said in short:

I know Mr Albert Albany and I know where his land is. I know people who have bought land from him in the past

I have already referred to the telegram from Mr Albany, which Senator Webster read, accusing this Labor Party of using gestapo and fascist methods to implement our communist ideals and which I think all responsible people would reject. That could have been one of the reasons why in a moment of excitement during my speech I omitted to say the word 'of. Further on in the debate of S December Senator Webster read part of a letter from Mr Albany in these terms:

Dear Sir,

I wish to bring to your notice, certain comments made about myself by Senator McLaren during the Senate Debate on the Acquisition of Land in the Northern Territory on the 11th October 1973. These comments are recorded on pages 1168 and 1 169 of the Senate Hansard.

I feel that these comments are an injustice to my privilege as a free Australian Citizen, and, as lies, are detrimental to not only my personal character, but also to the welfare of my wife and family.

I have been in contact with my solicitors who have advised me there is very little I can do, because what was said, was under parliamentary privilege.

I now want to quote what I actually did say in that debate when I referred to Mr Albany. These are my exact words. I can find any reference that I made to Mr Albany only on page 1168. There is nothing about Mr Albany on page 1 169 of Hansard of 1 1 October. The only reference to Mr Albany is contained in these words:

During his remarks tonight Senator Webster quoted from a telegram sent to him by Mr Albert Albany.

This is where I had the Hansard corrected-

I know of Mr Albert Albany and I know where his land is.

I am now reading from the weekly Hansard-

I know people who have bought land from him in the past However, I want to refer Senator Webster to an advertisement which was placed in the 'Australian Financial Review' of Monday, 23 July. There is quite a big advertisement in that newspaper which reads:

Required partner or partners with financial resources and development expertise to develop 8 square miles of freehold land adjacent to Darwin in the Northern Territory. This land is at present being zoned for satellite town development

That is the basis he is using to advertise that land. The advertisement is signed 'Contact, write: Land Development. P.O. Box 39 146, Winnellie'. This is the person who is capitalising on what the Government is trying to do. It is trying to acquire and sell land to people and to settle people into homes at a reasonable rate. This is the 8 square miles to which Senator Webster referred.

I should like to read from a statutory declaration made by a person who was involved in that land dealing with Mr Albany, who was hawking around a petition opposing the acquisition, trying to get a few people to sign it. I might say that very few people signed that petition.

Mr President,that is the only reference to Mr Albany that I made in my remarks, although I did go on to quote from a statutory declaration. When Senator Webster spoke in the Senate last Wednesday night he quoted further from the letter from Mr Albany. Senator Webster went on to say:

The letter I have indicates that the statement which Senator McLaren made was inconsistent with what Mr Albany knew of the particular petition that had been taken around. The letter states:

Mr L.Edgar, who was the only person who refused to sign the petition and who admits to being a member of the Labor Party, advised me that a Mr Peter Denholm a leading light in the Labor Party in the Northern Territory advised him that if the land was compulsorily acquired he would see that Mr Edgar would be permitted to stop on his land, and that he would see that an all-weather road would be built to give Mr Edgar access to his property. Mr Edgar was acceptable to this, as the only legal physical access he has is inaccessible in the wet season. Since this man drank S cans of beer during our discussion, I very much doubt he could remember what he said in any case.

This is what I want to refer to tonight: Senator Webster came in to this chamber and read a letter from a man which is quite defamatory of these 2 gentlemen in the Northern Territory. When I read the Hansard report next day I sent a copy of the report to both these gentlemen and asked them for their comments. Before I read the comments that I received back from them, I want to refer again to what Mr Albany said. He said:

I feel that these comments are an injustice to my privilege as a free Australian citizen, and, as lies, are detrimental to not only my personal character, but also to the welfare of my wife and family.

Those are the words that Mr Albany used in reference to what I said. I have quoted what I said, and I cannot see anything defamatory in my statement. Yet Senator Webster went on to accuse these 2 gentlemen of doing certain things. I received telegrams today from both these gentlemen. I want to read them into Hansard. The dateline on the first telegram reads 'Darwin, Northern Territory, 8.35 a.m.', and today's date appears. It states:

Senator GeoffMcLaren

Parliament House, Canberra, ACT

Reference Senate Hansard page 2523 Albany letter-

That is the letter from which I quoted-

Insolent and erroneous plus affront to numerous land owners supporting acquisition as requisite future area development.

It is signed 'P. Denholm'. The other telegram I received bears today's date, and it is from Darwin. It states:

Senator GeoffMcLaren Parliament House Canberra A.C.T.

References to myself Hansard 2523 false stop Others refused to sign Albany petition and no assurance given by A.L.P. Officials for access road stop Reference my sobriety malicious and false . . .

It is signed 'L. Edgar'. That Mr L. Edgar is the man who signed the staturory declaration which I have twice read to this Parliament and have offered to table. I think that what Senator Webster has done tonight is far more malicious than what I did by omitting to mention the word 'of in the heat of debate. I think that Senator Webster should now take some action to consult with Mr Albany and to try to make a public apology to these 2 gentlemen for quoting in this Parliament what I consider was a private letter written to Senator Webster. He should have kept it to himself and not used Mr Albany's name. I have some sympathy for Mr Albany. No doubt he may have been upset because I understand that as a result of the acquisition he did lose quite a lot of money through the sale of land. He may have profited from the sale of that land if the aquisition had not taken place. I still say that Senator Webster should have been fair to this man and not used a letter which was written to him in privacy in order to try to bolster his argument in an attempt to down me in the Senate. 1 hope that Senator Webster, in his wisdom, will take the necessary action to exonerate these 2 men from this erroneous statement. I informed Senator Webster that I was going to mention this matter tonight and I am disappointed that he did not come into the chamber. I thank the Senate.

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