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Tuesday, 27 March 1984
Page: 690


Senator CHIPP —Has the Attorney-General seen a copy of an obscene publication entitled 'Your Rights 1984', written by a Mr John Bennett? Can the Attorney explain why such a person was invited to the National Crimes Commission Conference in July 1983, given his repeated assertions that the destruction of 6 million Jews in nazi Germany was a hoax perpetrated by Jews in order to drum up emotional support for Israel? Does the Minister believe that the Government ought to elevate the public status of an individual who has become so obsessed with this issue that his opinions are now those of a virulent anti-Semite, who knowingly would offend millions of decent people whose friends and relatives were deliberately and cold-bloodedly murdered by the Nazis? Is the Attorney- General concerned that Mr Bennett has urged unauthorised endorsements of individuals, including that of the Attorney-General as I understand it, to be seen, falsely, to be giving support to the offensive, immoral and obscene lies that Mr Bennett espouses with regard to the holocaust? Will the Minister assure the Senate that no Commonwealth Government funds have been used to support the so-called civil liberties organisation to which Mr Bennett claims he belongs or to fund the publication of 'Your Rights 1984'?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I have seen a copy of the booklet by John Bennett entitled 'Your Rights 1984' and I have moreover seen my name appearing on the back cover by way of an alleged endorsement of it. I will say something about that in a moment. Mr Bennett was not an invited participant in the National Crimes Commission Conference held in the middle of last year. He did seek the right to attend and he was in the event, along with a number of other people, given a limited status as an accredited observer, in which capacity he spoke, I think on one occasion. There was no question of his being given, any more than anyone else, any financial assistance to attend the conference. He attended in his capacity as a long standing alleged civil libertarian and former convenor of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties and now a one-man organisation known as the Australian Civil Liberties Union. Mr Bennett, although he has been in many ways for a long time a distinguished advocate of civil libertarian causes in this country-albeit perhaps a slightly eccentric one-in recent years has been a constant source of dismay to those genuinely concerned with the protection and recognition of civil liberties. What I believe started out as a genuine concern for free speech, a genuine concern for the application of historiographical principles to the documentation of the Second World War and, I think, an intellectually defensible exercise in weighing the claims of the so-called revisionist historians about the Second World War, has now become clearly, in the words of Senator Chipp, an obsession on his part. His views over the years have become increasingly unattractive, increasingly unpalatable and, moreover I believe, increasingly intellectually indefensible.

Moreover, it is the case that Mr Bennett, simultaneously with this passion for rewriting the history of the Second World War and the holocaust, has become a staunch and very visible public defender of the re-establishment of the white Australia policy, and I suggest that those things are not entirely unconnected. I do not contest in any way, nor would any senator at least on this side of the Parliament, the right of Mr Bennett to express or indeed publish his views on this matter, but I certainly would not wish to associate myself or the Government in any way with the expression of the positions that he has increasingly taken and which he has now taken with a great deal of vigour and incongruity in chapter 14 of the 1984 edition of the booklet 'Your Rights 1984'. The booklet itself is primarily an updated rerun of material which ranks as a straightforward and helpful summary of citizens rights in a whole diversity of areas of criminal and civil law. As such-


Senator Chaney —I raise a point of order, Mr President. The answers which have been given by the Attorney in Question Time this afternoon have been extremely long. I simply ask you to ask him to address the specific question in order to enable other questions to be asked.


The PRESIDENT —I have been listening carefully. I think the Attorney-General is addressing his answer to the question. There is no point of order. I call the Attorney-General.


Senator GARETH EVANS —Some years ago I did write a review of an earlier edition of this book in which I said-it was published in the Age-that the booklet constituted a remarkable feat of compression and was well worth the $1.50 or whatever the cost was at the time that the review was first printed. That endorsement does in fact appear on the back of this latest booklet without any indication that the endorsement relates to an earlier edition rather than the present one. I find this attempt to use my name as an endorsement of the booklet to be false and indeed bordering on the fraudulent. The booklet contains, as I said, a chapter expounding Mr Bennett's views about the Second World War, which are palpably offensive and, I believe, quite indefensible. I totally disassociate myself from them. I condemn the deceptive use of my review, and indeed many other endorsements that are printed on the back of this, in an attempt clearly to promote sales of a work which, in its present form, contains views and opinions and alleged statements of fact which are not only inaccurate but also abhorrent and, I believe, indefensible.