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Thursday, 17 October 1985
Page: 1396


Senator TOWNLEY(1.16) —I will not speak for very long. I want to bring up a matter that arose earlier this week when a Tasmanian senator spoke about a Tasmanian member of parliament concerning a diplomatic bag. When that was brought up the Senate's proceedings were being broadcast. We were on the air again yesterday and I was tempted to ask a question on the matter. I chose not to because I think that would have been to lower myself to the same petty level that I believe was used earlier this week. When I looked forward to the next sitting week I realised that we would be on the air all week and so I have chosen to use a couple of moments now to say what I think and what I wanted to ask.

That the matter was brought up I think is a pity. The Senate, during the time that I have been a senator, has been a place where attempts to make small petty political gain by way of raising such matters have not been made. I was tempted to ask-and I would like the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) to make note of the question and perhaps give me a confidential reply in writing; I specify that it must be confidential-how many Australian Labor Party members of parliament, State or Federal, have been found to be doing the same kind of thing? I have it on fairly good authority, an authority that some people might be surprised at, that Labor people have been doing these things. That is why I ask for the information to be made confidential. I do not believe that something that may be done inadvertently, certainly not with malice or in an attempt to defraud the country, should become an item of discussion as this matter became in the Senate this week.

I hope that, gradually, the people who are new to this place will look back on a few of the precedents or even ask the advice of their leaders or their staff. Of course, they do not always have to take that advice. But many of them would be very wise at least to try to ascertain what the situation has been on previous occasions. I ask for that advice from the Minister in due course. I assure him that, if necessary, I will go to his office and read it in his presence. The information would then remain confidential to me. If we start throwing too much dirt a lot of it bounces back and it can be made to stick. I think it would be wise for some of the senior people in this place to counsel some of the junior ones to watch what they do.