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Tuesday, 2 October 1984
Page: 1352


Mr KEATING (Treasurer)(5.18) —Members of the Opposition are obsessed with the New South Wales right wing of the Party-and well it might be because it put them in opposition and it will keep them there. The middle ground of Labor is the centre of the pendulum swing. The Opposition knows that whenever the middle ground is in the ascendancy the Opposition will remain in that position. The now discredited Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair) worries about the New South Wales Labor Party, and well he might.

The speech made by the Leader of the National Party had nothing to do with the case in issue. Anyone listening outside the House-people listening to this debate in cars while driving home from work-may have thought there was some relevance to this debate. The irrelevance is that it was dealing with New South Wales, not the National Crime Authority. They were all New South Wales matters. They were irrelevant to the National Crime Authority. It is amusing to hear the Leader of the National Party talking about people's reputations and about the administration of justice in New South Wales. When he made an attack on the New South Wales Government, saying that he had been offered a bribe by the New South Wales Government through two personages in New South Wales, he was found by a judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court to be lying.

Opposition members interjecting-


Mr Howard —I raise a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Mr Speaker has ruled that the use of the expression 'lies' is unparliamentary. I submit that the Treasurer should be required to withdraw the allegation he made against the Leader of the National Party.


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! The Chair was quite unable to hear any of the allegations or the word 'lies' because of the noise in the House.


Mr KEATING —Let us get to the central point at issue. The charge is that the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union would be wound up--


Mr Donald Cameron —I take a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If a point of order is raised and the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker says that he or she did not hear it, does that mean that one can get away with saying anything in this Parliament?


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —It might be an idea if the House were quiet enough for the Chair to hear. I call the Treasurer.


Mr KEATING —The charge is that the Costigan Royal Commission would be wound up by the Government prematurely because of criminal pressure. Today we had demonstrated as clearly as possible the facts in regard to the charge against me that I received or was prepared to receive an offer from the Nugan Hand Bank. The implication was that there was some offer of money or of some financial transaction. We found out today from the Stewart Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking that the offer was an offer to speak at a seminar in Hong Kong. To think that members of the Opposition, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard), the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall) and the Leader of the National Party, would sit in an office of this Parliament and ask a question to impugn another member's integrity on the basis that he had received money when the offer concerned was, in fact, an offer to speak at a seminar in Hong Kong. That cynicism and shame amazes me. The public of Australia can make the appropriate judgment when we squash the parliamentary garbage opposite at the next poll.


Mr Tuckey —I take a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the level of noise was not such that you could fail to hear the words 'parliamentary garbage'.


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The Chair heard the words 'parliamentary garbage'.


Mr Tuckey —I ask that those words be withdrawn.


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Those words are not unparliamentary.


Mr Tuckey —Well then, those opposite are garbage.


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member will resume his seat.


Mr KEATING —I make this point--


Mr Tuckey —You smell like you came out of the rubbish bin.


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for O'Connor will cease interjecting . I point out to the House that all previous speakers were heard without interruption. I ask for quiet for the Treasurer.


Mr KEATING —Madam Deputy Speaker, if the Opposition insists on eroding my time I will move for an extension of time. It can keep it up if it likes. Let me make this point: The coalition parties were in office for 30 years. If there is crime in this country the responsibility rests with them. Indeed, the three previous speakers-the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party-spoke not once on the National Crime Authority Bill. They were so outraged and concerned about the powers of the National Crime Authority that they spoke not once during the debate on the Bill. Yet they are back here now saying how appalled they are by the state of the National Crime Authority and the transition to it of the Costigan Royal Commission. What they did for two weeks recently was to lay unfounded, baseless charges against the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and me. They charged that the Prime Minister was subject to criminal influences. When we gave the Leader of the Opposition a chance today to substantiate his charge he squibbed the attempt because, of course, there was never a basis for the charge in the first place.

The fact is that the Opposition now talks about the transition of the Costigan Commission to the National Crime Authority and the powers of that Authority. The smears, filth and innuendo which the Opposition trafficks are a substitute for real policy. The Opposition has no policies. It has no idea about where to take the economy other than into recession. It has no ideas about social policy or about the community. It has no platform on which to go to the next election. It trafficks only in filth, smears and rubbish. Now, when the filth, smears and rubbish have been rejected by the public, it resorts to talking about the powers of the National Crime Authority. It was so concerned about the National Crime Authority that not one of the three speakers for the Opposition spoke during the debate in June last year. Now we have the Deputy Leader of the Opposition talking about powers and crime. He let tax avoidance in this country prosper for the five years he was Treasurer. Mr Costigan revealed him for the fraud that he was in attempting to come in here and argue that the previous Government was doing something about organised crime. He let the flood gates open on organised crime, particularly in the tax system. They were closed only after he was exposed by the Costigan Royal Commission.

How can the Opposition come in here talking to us about crime and corruption? It was in government for 30 years. When it left office it still did not have a national crime authority. It had no permanent machinery to deal with organised crime in this country. When it left office it had nothing. It had only the Costigan Commission. This seems to be the point at issue which the dummies of the Opposition simply do not understand: The powers of the Costigan Royal Commission are inferior to those of the National Crime Authority. They are inferior powers. Yet the Opposition is trying to say that we ought to continue with a body which has inferior powers rather than switch to a body which has superior powers. That is the sort of distorted logic we get from the Opposition. It seems to have no understanding of the matter. Mr Justice Stewart, who is chairing the National Crime Authority, said recently:

The function of a royal commission is completely different to the function of a national crime authority. The function of a royal commission is to identify areas of crime, to point in the right direction. A royal commission is not a body that seeks to accumulate hard evidence.

Mr Costigan has already indicated that he has not seen his task as being that. He has not wanted to do it. He has not tried to do it. The function of a national crime authority, which is to accumulate hard evidence, is a quite different function from that of a royal commission. People miss the point when they ask why Mr Costigan should not be allowed to carry on. In other words, Mr Justice Stewart is saying that the Opposition's argument is bunkum. It is nonsense to be arguing that we ought to be carrying on with a body with inferior powers when there is now a body with superior powers to collect evidence and to mount prosecutions which, of course, a royal commission cannot do.

Who has debased the concept of royal commissions? The Opposition has done so. Why? A royal commission can gather evidence but if the powers of a royal commission are used as the Opposition has used them in the Parliament, to besmirch the reputations of people and to make baseless allegations, the whole technique of royal commissions is damaged because the persons who are affected by the evidence or by the arguments put in the Parliament from royal commissions cannot defend themselves. They cannot go into a court or represent themselves in that court. They are not formally charged. So the whole procedure of royal commissions has been dragged through the gutter by this Opposition which, of course, haunts the political sewers of this country.

It is nonsense for the Opposition to be arguing that the Government in any way has sought to circumscribe the powers of the Costigan Royal Commission. The fact is that the powers of the National Crime Authority are superior. Mr Justice Stewart and Mr Bingham, a former Tasmanian Liberal Attorney-General, have already rejected that argument out of hand. They were reported as follows:

We rejected recent suggestions that the Authority's powers were inadequate to tackle organised crime or to continue the investigation by Mr Costigan and his staff. Mr Justice Stewart said, along with his two colleagues, Mr John Dwyer, QC , and Mr Max Bingham, QC, that 'claims that our powers are too limited are unjustified and can only comfort those who will be investigated by the Authority '.

I do not see much point in trying to argue any further what has been stated so eloquently by three members of the National Crime Authority, Mr Justice Stewart, his colleague John Dwyer, and the former Tasmanian Attorney-General, Mr Max Bingham. They have said that the powers are adequate. They have also said that if they are inadequate they will seek an extension of power from the Commonwealth Government. So all of this desperation is simply opportunism on the part of the Leader of the Opposition who now hangs on to his leadership by a gossamer thread. It is opportunism by an uncomfortable back bench and an Opposition which knows that it is walking in to stop the electoral punch at the next poll when it tries to propose itself as the alternative government.

The Opposition has sunk to great depths. The honourable member for Boothby, who will probably follow me in this debate, prides himself as a man of integrity. Fancy any honourable member asking whether another member has received money from the Nugan Hand Bank knowing it to be false to ask such a question! The cynicism of it shames me. That was the clear implication of the question. Such a question brings eternal shame on him. As well as that he attacked Peter Barron, saying that he sought to nobble the Editor of the Melbourne Age, Creighton Burns , who said that there was no threat and no attempt to nobble him whatsoever. Even then the honourable member for Boothby would not resile from that. He repeated the accusation and said he had two corroborated reports of such a conversation. That is the depths to which the leadership of the Opposition will go.

The Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Boothby haunt the sewers of this country. The public of this country understand where the value is. They understand that the Government is getting the economy back on its feet and getting the people back to work. They understand that we are creating a fairer society, looking after the areas which matter and dealing with organised crime as we should. The public will not reject this Government and take on an Opposition with no ideas, no values and no integrity on the basis of some cheap smears thrown in the Parliament which have no basis and which cannot even be defended by the Opposition when it is given the chance. We will accept no mock indignation and no mock outrage from the Opposition. The Opposition is discredited; it has no principles and no honour. Therefore, it deserves to be condemned and censured by this Parliament.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mildren) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.