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Monday, 5 March 1984
Page: 406


Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(9.06) —I have a great deal of sympathy with what has just been said by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Chaney) and the thrust of what he and his Party have been and are trying to do towards eliciting the facts behind the Age tapes. Whether it is an accident of time or whether it is sheer naked politics, it does not matter, but it is unfortunate that this motion from Senator Durack should come one day after the announcement of a New South Wales election. I had discussions with the Opposition indicating that the thrust of what it is trying to do would have the total support of the Australian Democrats if the Opposition left it until after the New South Wales election. But I was told that this matter was too urgent and that that would have meant delaying it only for this week's sitting of the Senate because on Thursday of this week the Senate rises.

I want to correct Senator Durack who has said that we have had all day to think about his amendment. The fact is that I received it in my hands for the first time at about a quarter to three this afternoon, and I might have been lucky to get it then. There was other business of the House, and we have been on the run all day; so we have not had all day to view it. I suggest that a former Attorney -General, a pretender for the throne of future Attorney-General, should not be as loose with the truth as he was tonight when he accused us of having it all afternoon or whatever he said, and not coming to a decision. That is not in accordance with the truth.

Let us look at the situation. I am deeply concerned, as is Senator Chaney and as are my colleagues, about these tapes and the allegations in them, not just about a judge or a solicitor, or a prominent member of the Liberal Party in New South Wales who is also mentioned in the tapes, or other prominent figures. Let us be honest. All sorts of people are mentioned in those tapes. We are concerned with the general seriousness of the problem. But one thing concerned us at our Party meeting today. Senator Haines said something that was very sad to hear. She said, 'is it not a tragedy when in a civilised society that is governed by the rule of law, ordinary citizens go about their business expecting the protection of the law and they say, ''I wish those politicians would stop talking about corruption because I am sick of it and because there is no evidence. Can they not get on to something else?'' ' What Senator Haines said was: 'In that climate, when the ordinary people in the street feel that way about their politicians, that is the time that organised crime flourishes. That is the time when the crooked lawyers make their fortunes, when policemen get bent, when politicians go on the take-when those people feel that the ordinary person in the street has had such a gutful that they can do it with impunity.

On the other hand, the Liberal Party is facing an uphill battle in New South Wales. I can understand the political opportunity that confronts members of that Party. They are salivating at the prospect of gaining a few points. The Australian Democrats are not prepared to let this very serious matter drop for the sake of a few cheap votes at a State election. I pause and welcome Senator Chaney, with your indulgence, Mr President, to interject. Tonight we are debating two simple things. The first is a motion by the Attorney-General ( Senator Gareth Evans) that the Senate take note of the paper, which is a device used in Parliament to allow politicians to talk about something. We are talking about the tapes. To that motion the shadow Attorney-General has moved that there be laid on the table without delay portions of the transcripts and transcripts of any tapes not so far transcribed which refer to any conversation between the judge and the solicitor, et cetera. Does anybody in this chamber believe that the shadow Attorney-General, Senator Durack, does not have a copy of those tapes and those transcripts? Does anybody in this chamber really believe that copies of the transcripts are not being floated by members of the Opposition and members of the Press gallery? Of course they are.


Senator Teague —I do.


Senator CHIPP —I have heard no denial from Senator Chaney or Senator Durack. If they do not have the tapes, then it would be a very simple matter for either of them to answer by interjection the invitation I now give to them. Can they therefore give a guarantee that in the remaining three days of this sitting week no member of their Party will table those documents in either this House or the other chamber? Can I have that undertaking from either Senator Chaney or Senator Durack? There is a thunderous silence from both honourable senators. What is the purpose of moving this motion this week?


Senator Chaney —Because it may well be in the public interest to do that, quite frankly.


Senator CHIPP —If the Opposition wants to pursue this matter after the New South Wales election it will have the Democrats' total support to the end, but to do it now will cheapen the currency and will be for tawdry political purposes. I again pause, with your indulgence Mr President, to allow Senator Chaney, Senator Durack, Senator Messner or anybody else in the Opposition shadow Cabinet, to interject. Was the question asked by Mr Steele Hall today in the House of Representatives discussed in the shadow Cabinet or among any members of the shadow Cabinet? Again there is a thunderous silence.


Senator Walters —What did he ask?


Senator CHIPP —I am not the slightest bit interested in whether the main strength of the Liberal Party, Senator Walters, knows or does not know what Mr Steele Hall asked today. She, for reasons well known within the Liberal Party, is not a member of its front bench. I am asking members of the front bench: Was this matter discussed at the shadow Cabinet meeting today? I just wonder how sincere the Liberal Party is on this matter.

Having said that, let me say this: I totally concur with Senator Chaney as does my Party and, I believe, to some grudging extent, Senator Gareth Evans, that the question of whether the judge named had misbehaved is not a subject to be determined by lawyers, no matter how smart or how well credentialled they are. That judgment has to be made by the Parliament. In that Senator Chaney, Senator Durack and the Liberal Party will have the total support of the Democrats. Therefore one can say that Senator Chaney formulated a perfectly respectable argument when he said that if Parliament is to be the arbiter of the behaviour of this judge then the Parliament should have all the documents that were made available to Messrs Temby and Griffith. The fact is that we do not have all the documents. We have had put to us through the medium of a newspaper certain purported transcripts of tapes that are alleged to be in existence.


Senator Lewis —If we read them. Some of us-Senator Tate and I, for example-have deliberately not read them.


Senator CHIPP —That is the honourable senator's problem, with great respect. I have read every one of them. Therefore one can find great sympathy with what the Liberals are putting. Because this is such a fundamental point the Democrats believe it has to be debated, not in the heat of a tawdry State election campaign but after that campaign is out of the way, when the currency of these tapes will not have lost any value or any thrust. Can somebody tell me why there is a burning need to have those tapes divulged this week and not in the week the Senate resumes?


Senator Missen —Because the Attorney-General will not investigate them any further. He has shut them off altogether.


Senator CHIPP —I am sorry, I cannot quite follow that, with great respect. If that material is made available to the Parliament, and I have already conceded that the Parliament has to make this decision, surely the credibility of the Parliament's decision will be better among the general public if the determination of the matter is made out of the context of a tawdry State election campaign. If Senator Missen, for whom I have a great admiration in these matters, cannot see that point, I cannot put it any more clearly. I am sorry that I cannot explain it to his satisfaction. On the other hand, the public production of those tapes at this stage could do incalculable wilful mischief to possibly innocent people.


Senator Durack —But not in a month's time, is that what you are saying?


Senator CHIPP —Senator Durack during his tenancy as Attorney-General was a champion of the protection of civil liberties and personal reputations. I pay him credit for that. I cannot understand his new enthusiasm in this area. There may be allegations on these naked transcripts of tapes. There could be an argument that they should be divulged for the reason I just gave, namely, that the Parliament ought to be in possession of the information. I would be tempted to vote for the Liberal Party's amendment in its original form if I could be guaranteed that the personalities would not be divulged or had not been divulged . Let us stop kidding ourselves. I ask the innocents in this chamber, the babes in the wood such as my friend Senator Baden Teague, to put up their hands now to indicate that they do not know the name of the judge. I wish that the Parliament were now being televised. I ask the original babe in the wood, Senator Withers: Does he not know the name of the judge?


The PRESIDENT —Order! Will Senator Chipp address the Chair.


Senator CHIPP —Mr President, do you not know the name of the judge? Do you not know the name of the solicitor? This whole thing is a joke. Is there one member of the Press Gallery who does not know the name of the judge, the solicitor, or all the names on the tapes? Of course they do. As soon as this information in its naked and unadorned form comes down the glossary anonymously will appear in the Press Gallery or it will be laid on the table here. A name will be put down to fit the name of the judge. A name will be put down to fit the name of every character in those tapes. If each of those characters were guilty of some offence I would not mind at all naming criminals or friends of criminals. But here we have an opportunity of finding people guilty by association under parliamentary privilege.

If this Federal judge has been guilty of misbehaviour, not just misbehaviour in terms of the strict meaning of section 72 of the Constitution, but guilty of misbehaviour in a sense that will compromise his position as a judge, that is the point that worries me, that a strict legal interpretation of his behaviour might not offend section 72 but could well put him in a situation with his associations with organised crime-it would make it impossible for him to carry out his position without fear or favour.


Senator Gareth Evans —Oh, for God's sake!


Senator CHIPP —Mr President, with your indulgence, I pause to ask Senator Evans: Why does he say 'for God's sake'?


Senator Gareth Evans —Because there is absolutely no foundation for any such suggestion on the basis of that material. For God's sake, don't destroy someone.


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator CHIPP —Mr President, I respect Senator Evans's interjection. This is the very point that Senator Durack, Senator Chaney and I are making. I am not prepared simply to take Senator Evans's opinion, distinguished lawyer though he is, that 'for God's sake, it will not compromise the judge's position'. I believe that the Parliament should make that decision. I do not want to equate the alleged behaviour of a judge with the proven and confessed behaviour of a Minister of the Crown some years ago in the British Parliament. At that time, that Minister of the British Parliament committed a series of grave indiscretions. It was not the fact that he committed those indiscretions, which were not illegal, that forced him to resign. It was the fact that those indiscretions compromised him as far as the proper conduct of his duties was concerned.


Senator Withers —Profumo.


Senator CHIPP —Indeed.


Senator Withers —What about Parkinson?


Senator CHIPP —I will rest with Profumo. I think that is enough on which to rest my case. Nevertheless, I thank Senator Withers for his assistance. Indeed, I am grateful to Senator Withers because Profumo was involved in another indiscretion of misleading the House which Parkinson did not. I thank Senator Withers; his interjection has greatly improved the content of my speech.

In conclusion, what is the result of the amendment of the Australian Democrats? I will read it out to the listening public to see whether they can find anything exceptionable about the motion as the Democrats would have it amended. I understand that the Liberal Party will vote against this amendment and the Australian Labor Party will vote for it. We will then go through the charade after the amendment has been passed, as it will be, of the Labor Party voting against the whole deal. This is how the Democrats would like to see the amendment:

and that there be laid upon the Table of the Senate without delay all those transcripts or parts of transcripts of authenticated and genuine tapes which refer to any conversation between the judge and the solicitor or other conversations referring to the judge or in which he participated, together with the aide-memoire of the Attorney-General's discussions with the judge on February 15 and 24, subject to the deletion from all documents of any name or identifying characteristics of individuals.

To those honourable senators who have interjected-Senator Walters, Senator Lewis and those other rampant Liberals on my right-we make no apology whatsoever for inserting the words 'authenticated and genuine', because we believe that the least this Parliament can demand is that the good and innocent names of people should not be desecrated by rumour or by edited tapes.