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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3537

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(5.28) —I rose earlier today when Senator Primmer made his comments because I regarded the issue as a very grave one. I rise now not in any contentious fashion but to put some points. I say from the beginning that I appreciate that the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs has not had any adequate time to reflect upon the material or to reflect upon the possible consequences. I acknowledge that fully and therefore am not combative about the issues.

I want to try to define, in any future approach to this matter, the magnitude of what I think the problem is because, in my judgment, the problem is not a narrow one at all. There have been a number of occasions on which Senator Primmer has made in this chamber a wide series of allegations about a considerable number of senior officers and officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Today he made an additional one about the Director of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. If one looks at the totality of what has been said, charges were made which could suggest, if there were any truth in them at all following investigations, only that there was some massive conspiracy and massive corruption, not among a few people, but in the whole Department. I reject that. I put the matter in terms of its magnitude. There have been allegations of theft, of lying, of alcoholism and of bad behaviour. There have been allegations of a total pattern of misbehaviour by a number of officers and an allegation that the senior officers in the Department have known these things and are covering up. Of course, if this were so, not only would the reflection be upon the whole Department but it would be upon the Minister. The allegations would apply not only to the present Minister, Mr Hayden, but also to the previous Minister. The allegation could be made that he must have been covering up because the Minister has a responsibility to look at these grave charges to see whether they are true or not.

There have been wide investigations of this matter. Senator Primmer has not produced hard evidence at all. Today he widened his charges. We are not just considering individuals of a department. We are considering charges covering, first of all, a whole Department and, secondly, charges covering the Director of ASIS. If one allowed allegations to be sustained about the whole Department of Foreign Affairs we are saying to the world outside that the whole of our international contact is defective in that the Department is contaminated, corrupt and subject to all sorts of criminal offences. It cannot be left at that . It is of that magnitude. Nor can it be left at the magnitude that the Minister has either been defective in his inquiries or that, knowing these things, is covering up.

What happened today went a step further. Senator Primmer started off by saying that David Combe and Mick Young had been in trouble and that the trouble had arisen partly out of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I think he used the words: 'Here was proof that there should be an axe taken to ASIO and to the intelligence services'. I hope I am not distorting that. That was the general thrust, as I understood it. It has been known for a considerable period that certain elements of the Australian Labor Party want to destroy ASIO and ASIS and would take any opportunity that they could to do so. I sound a warning: There is a very grave danger, indeed, if, in the course of the Combe affair and the Mick Young affair, anything should be done to damage the intelligence systems of Australia or to damage the diplomatic system of Australia.

A respected Royal Commissioner has already carried out one inquiry into ASIO and ASIS and is doing another. Let us not do wilful damage to the systems upon which the integrity and security of our country depends. If something is wrong let us clean it up. We cannot have the terrible argument which was put to us today by Senator Primmer which was that ASIO has reported upon David Combe who was found responsible and instead of that reflecting upon David Combe or Mick Young, ASIO should be abolished; the police force that has brought the evidence should be abolished. I know of nothing that is more distorted or more convoluted than the idea that the way to reduce offences is to abolish the ability to detect them.

I do not want to be combative at all but to say that if we are to consider this matter in depth we will be considering a massive problem. We are considering now allegations made about a total department, not just one, two or three people. Allegations have been made about a permanent head of a department, a Minister responsible for a department, and therefore, the Government and, of course, the intelligence services. I regard this matter as extremely grave. I believe this matter should be debated next week. There is a necessity for the Government to respond in such a way that it is possible, once and for all, to put this matter to rest.

There is a secondary situation in this matter. I think that the closest attention should be given to the speech today by Senator Gietzelt. I think the words and the arguments that he put today must give the gravest concern to the Senate.

Senator Harradine —And to the Government.

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —To the Government and to the Senate. I do not raise this matter today because that will come in the course of things. I said that I do not wish to be combative. I think we ought to look at suggestions such as Senator Jessop's but above everything in this world we have to take the view in this place that people are innocent unless we can come forward and prove guilt by very firm methods. It is a very sad day indeed. I acknowledge the Attorney's difficulty at this moment. I look forward to a thorough debate in the future.