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Thursday, 8 March 1984
Page: 591

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Social Security)(10.57) —We were debating yesterday afternoon for almost four hours a censure motion moved by the Opposition on the Attorney-General. I note that eight more senators wish to speak on this matter. If that situation remains, it is quite clear that we will continue debate today. Because we cannot leave a censure motion hanging over a government or a Minister in this way, we may well have to continue the debate in the time set aside for General Business. The motion was moved without enthusiasm and it received very little enthusiastic support on the other side of this chamber until, of course, the entry of Senator Sir John Carrick into the debate. I said a few words about that last night. During the speech of Senator Sir John Carrick in particular, and to a lesser extent the speech of Senator Peter Baume, we were treated to a display of personal abuse of the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans), of innuendo, vituperation, and almost every other tactic that could be used in these procedures. Senator Sir John Carrick was ably assisted along the way by various interjections from Senator Archer, some of which I am glad will appear in Hansard to demonstrate the standards we have had.

We are dealing with a motion of censure against the Attorney-General which came about because of the existence of some tapes and some alleged transcripts of tapes which no one questions were illegally obtained; which no one questions involved a gross invasion of privacy; which are of uncertain authenticity; which have been examined not only by members of the Government but also by members of the Opposition, practically every newspaper in this country, numerous members of the general public, and heaven knows who else. The tapes and transcripts have been examined, particularly as they pertain to the judge in the case, by Mr Temby, a prominent legal practitioner and recognised as such by the whole of the legal profession in Australia, though not recognised as such of course by Senator Sir John Carrick. However, that does not cut much ice with us. The circumstances also have been looked at by the Solicitor-General.

Now, after seven days of almost continuous debate in this place and question times during which questions were repeatedly asked of the Attorney-General, with the Opposition indulging in a fishing expedition employing all sorts of innuendo , a Minister in the Queensland Government and a backbencher in that Government, in a deplorable incident the other night, have exposed the names of the people on the tapes. As justification of this we have the Opposition demanding that the Attorney-General produce all this unauthenticated, dubious and doubtful material so that we as a Senate can all sit around, look at it and come to some collective decision. Apparently the Attorney-General is condemned for not supplying this information. The best justification I heard yesterday for the production of the information was that given by Senator Chaney who said that we had to supply it now because these charming characters in the Queensland Government had named names.

We believe that this censure motion is a nonsense motion. We believe the tactics of some members of the Opposition in debating this motion were deplorable. The behaviour of Senator Sir John Carrick, knight of the realm, ex- secretary of the Liberal Party of New South Wales, was deplorable. We believe that the behaviour of Mr Jennings and Mr Lane, Mr Hodgman last night in the other place, and Senator Sir John Carrick and Senator Archer, for good measure, yesterday afternoon has been squalid.

This question has to be asked: Where are we going in this country? Where are we going when this chamber can spend so much time debating tapes which quite clearly, if they are authentic, were obtained illegally, were distributed widely throughout this country illegally, and were the subject of innuendo and scurrilous articles in some parts of the Press? They were not even re-produced accurately in the Age. Are we going to spend hours in this place, week after week, every time someone produces tapes of telephone conversations? What will it be next? Will we have tapes of bar room conversations, tapes of conversations illegally obtained in all sorts of circumstances and then selectively produced to condemn any individual, not only in the High Court but any individual in this chamber or the other place? Are we going to allow debate of the type that occurred here yesterday when Senator Sir John Carrick stood up and indirectly smeared Mr Temby, directly smeared the judge and very directly smeared the Attorney-General? He then sat with a pained expression on his face when he got a bit of his own back. He will get a bit of his own back if he keeps up that sort of behaviour in this place. This chamber will become a farce. This Parliament will become a farce. The rights of privacy and the rights of natural justice in this country will not be protected if we behave in this way.

The Attorney-General has had a difficult job balancing his responsibility for the administration of justice-balancing his responsibility to see that justice is done collectively against his responsibility to see that justice is done to individuals. He has had a difficult job to do but he has done it well and honourably. At all times he has tried to retain a sense of decency in this place , which other honourable senators have not necessarily done.

Senator Walters —It depends on your standards.

Senator GRIMES —If my standards were as low as Senator Walters's I would be down in the gutter with her. That is all I have to say. The Attorney-General deserves praise, not censure. It is about time we stopped this debate. If we are going to debate this matter for another four hours we will have wasted another day in this place when there are far more important things to do. The motion deserves to be defeated and I am pleased to say that it will be defeated.