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Monday, 5 March 1984
Page: 409

Senator MISSEN(9.27) —I do not wish to reopen the general debate on this matter. I take it that what the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) has done is, in effect, close the debate. In regard to matters which he has raised I just want to say that a number of the things he has said have clarified the situation and I think have acknowledged the areas which we have been debating this afternoon. Obviously we are miles apart on the question of whether we took over from Britain a rigid idea that only two or three things might be described as misbehaviour. On that question I think we stand entirely in disagreement. The Parliament is not so restricted. He concedes that it is a matter for the Parliament to make final decisions. Of course it is a matter for the Parliament to be responsible, to regard it as a very serious matter and not act with any gay abandon or just for political purposes. We on this side of the House disagree entirely with the interpretation which the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General have put before the Parliament and say that parliament has a wide discretion and parliament must exercise it in its own interests. This was intended by the founders of the Constitution-that it should have its mind directed to these matters of misbehaviour and that it should seriously control its own destiny in that regard.

I want to say something not open to that debate because on that matter we obviously fundamentally agree. I want to say something about the amendment of the Australian Democrats. It seems to me that the Democrats, probably with the best of intentions-I will give them that-have fallen into a real trap. They recognise that the Australian Labor Party-the Government-will support this amendment. Of course it will, so that it can therefore ruin the Opposition's amendment. Look at the language of the amendment. What does it require the Government to do?

Senator Gareth Evans —Requiring authenticity and genuineness. What a travesty! What a sham!

Senator MISSEN —The Attorney-General may well smile because he knows that he can easily deal with that. If he were to lay upon the table of the Senate without any delay those transcripts, or parts of transcripts of authenticated and genuine tapes and so forth-he would have no intention of authenticating those transcripts and tapes because he has decided--

Senator Macklin —The inquiry is still on.

Senator MISSEN —No, the honourable senator is wrong; the inquiry has not suggested that the judge's conversations will be considered any further. That has been wiped out.

Senator Macklin —The joint inquiry is still on.

Senator MISSEN —The inquiry is in regard to all the other matters.

Senator Macklin —It is not; it is still on.

Senator MISSEN —The honourable senator should read the statement again. He will see that the Attorney-General has said: 'There is nothing in this matter with the judge and we are not going on with that'. The Government is going to bother about the authentication of the tapes in regard to the judge. It is not going to table anything.

Senator Gareth Evans —The tapes are with an expert at the moment.

Senator MISSEN —Yes, the tapes are being looked at and we do not know what will come from that. I have no idea what the State and Federal police forces may do or what they will come up with.

Senator Macklin —You should have found out.

Senator MISSEN —I cannot find out because we will not know that until they report back. They might report back to us and I think they should. I think this Parliament, in due course, will have to set up a committee in both Houses to have a look at the evidence.

Senator Mason —This is about the right time to do it.

Senator MISSEN —This will take some time.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Missen, I ask you to address the Chair.

Senator MISSEN —Mr President, I will direct my remarks through you.

Senator Macklin —This is a serious matter.

Senator MISSEN —This is a serious matter involving a Federal judge and, therefore, is not a matter in which the Government can say: 'We say there is nothing else in these allegations. We are not going to look into them further'. The Government is not going to do anything further and say that the tapes are authenticated or genuine tapes in respect of that judge. The Government will not be concerned further with the matter and, therefore, the responsibility comes back to this Parliament, to this chamber, to ensure that we know what evidence has been obtained and what has been done in regard to those tapes and that, if necessary, we pursue other inquiries. We must do that.

Senator Jack Evans —Which one of us can prove that they are authenticated tapes? Which parliamentarian do you suggest?

Senator MISSEN —I am not suggesting anyone. The honourable senator has been here for one year and he is not aware of the fact that Senate committees are able to obtain evidence and are able to get consultants.

Senator Macklin —You didn't suggest a committee.

Senator MISSEN —I think this will happen in the long term.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is a nice little conversation going on up there, but we cannot hear you down here.

Senator MISSEN —I am sorry, Mr President. I will ignore the five-finger exercise over here. This Senate obviously will have to investigate this matter. Even if the Government and the Attorney-General are not willing to do that in respect of the judge we will have to do it. It is our obligation and the public expects it. As Senator Chipp has said, the public is very concerned at the amount of muck- raking that goes on, particularly in New South Wales, within the Parliaments and so forth and we have to avoid that, but we do have to investigate the matter.

Senator Gareth Evans —Tell that to your leader tonight.

Senator MISSEN —Of course the honourable senator is conducting his own mini- Watergate here and endeavouring to ensure that these matters are not looked into . This Parliament has to look into them. I say to the Australian Democrats that their amendment is such as to completely vitiate any usefulness of the Opposition amendment. Therefore, the Government says that it will support the amendment and then defeat the whole matter. It will not be the end of the matter , but it means that we will not be pursuing and taking on further--

Senator Chipp —Yes, we will adjourn the debate until after the New South Wales election. We will support that.

Senator MISSEN —The Government will not have that. We will find that there will be no investigation. It is necessary for a discussion to be had and for this matter to be investigated. The Australian Democrats are holding it up at the moment and avoiding the tabling of the documents which the Government is not prepared to use. I suggest that the Australian Democrats amendment is, therefore , an act of folly.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Haines's amendment to Senator Durack's proposed amendment) be left out.