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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3095

Senator TATE(10.55) —I want to refute some allegations made by Senator Kilgariff which are of a quite serious nature. He made them during the opportunity that is provided during the luncheon period to make speeches of a non-contentious character, as they are normally called. He launched what I regard as a very ill-founded attack on the Catholic bishops of Australia in relation to the recently published document Work for a Just Peace subtitled `Reflection on Peacemaking in an Armed World'. On the back page, the document states:

Work for a Just Peace has been prepared by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace as a contribution to dialogue in the International Year of Peace.

It goes on to state:

Work for a Just Peace has been approved for discussion and reflection by a more than two-thirds majority vote of the Catholic Bishops of Australia.

I emphasise, of course, that it is a document circulated for discussion and reflection. It is certainly not a doctrinaire document and does not purport in any way to be binding. Before I make my comments I must reveal my interest, in case somebody tries to show later that I was overly partisan in my remarks. But I hope that they are objective. It is a fact that I was an early member of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace when I was appointed by the Archbishop of Hobart before entering the political arena. Senator Kilgariff's speech, which can be found in the Hansard record of proceedings, sometimes under the guise of inquiry and so on, nevertheless made some very serious allegations and innuendos. He suggested misappropriation of funds in order to sustain the activities of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and deceit as to the support of the bishops conference in relation to the publication of the document. They are very grave allegations.

It is worth noting, as I wish Senator Kilgariff had done, that his allegations-in fact, the very tenor and sometimes the very language of his allegations-bear a very remarkable similarity to a television program which I saw on Sunday when Mr Bob Santamaria made very similar comments and attacks. I find great similarities in the actual language of articles published this week in the Australian. Whilst Senator Kilgariff noted that media reports have aroused his concern, I think it might have been helpful if he had indicated for readers of the Hansard where they might find those media reports and under whose pen they were written.

The key paragraph with which I want to concern myself relates to the twofold allegations that I have mentioned. I will not go into the terms of the actual document, although I could. The fact is that the document, as I have said, is distributed for `Reflection on Peacemaking in an Armed World'. The fact is that I do not agree with all the conclusions either, nor is that surprising. For example, I have made it very clear in speeches I have made that I believe the Catholic doctrines of a just war theory would support the ANZUS Treaty and surveillance and monitoring facilities such as those at Pine Gap and Nurrungar if, indeed, that is what they are carrying out, as we are told they are. I believe that they are playing an important part in providing a system of deterrents. I have grave doubts when that theory is applied to the question of North West Cape, which serves a quite different purpose. These are matters of legitimate disagreement and I do not intend to go into those today. But I completely refute the statement made by Senator Kilgariff in relation to the substance of that document. On page 5 of the speech as circulated-of course, I do not know where it will appear in the Hansard-He said:

Given the content of the publication I find this--

he is referring to the question of support from the bishops--

quite surprising. The report of the Commission clearly supports the unilateral approach---

That is quite untrue and quite incorrect. It is a gross travesty of the approach of the document. For example, looking at page 27 of the document, general principles are outlined. To save time, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard about a dozen principles which are set out.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-


The view of the Catholic Church on all the specifics of modern warfare is still developing and at times unclear. The elements of a general position can be described with certainty, however.

Peace cannot be limited to mere absence of war.

Nations have the right to defend themselves and others against injustice of the utmost gravity, although such defence need not be based on violence.

Violence can only be accepted as a last resort, if at all.

Nuclear deterrence is accorded only conditional and provisional moral acceptance as a means towards total disarmament.

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities and large populations is a crime against God and humanity.

No use of nuclear weapons is acceptable.

Disarmament must be mutual, balanced, gradual and verifiable.

Within this, there is room and need for independent initiatives to build mutual trust.

The just war conditions of discrimination and proportionality are very difficult, if not impossible, to satisfy in modern warfare.

Pacifism is a valid Christian option.

Conscientious objection to all war and to particular wars and acts of war must be recognised and protected by governments.

Senator TATE —I thank the Senate. I wish to highlight two points which state:

Disarmament must be mutual, balanced gradual and verifiable.

Within this, there is room and need for independent initiatives to build mutual trust.

On page 33, after several pages of discussion, talking about the ANZUS alliance, which I know is a matter of great concern to Senator Kilgariff, he said:

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace considers that the time has come for Australians to reappraise their relationship with the United States in the hope that this will lead to further Australian initiatives to promote gradual, mutual, balanced, verifiable disarmament. Through the alliance, Australia is part of defence strategies which may involve us in violence against others. There is therefore a moral obligation to ensure that the strategies and their consequences are just.

I think that this gives some of the true flavour of the document, which is certainly not unilateralist although it does speak of the need for independent initiatives and unilateral steps along the way to building trust towards mutual, verifiable disarmament. But it is to the main allegations that I wish to address my comments. The key paragraph in Senator Kilgariff's speech is to be found at page 6. I need to read it. He said:

The other matter which must be mentioned in relation to this document is that there seems to be some doubt as to just how many Catholic bishops have approved the document for discussion. There have been reports indicating that less than one-half of the 44 Catholic bishops responded to the Commission's inquiries on the paper. Twenty voted for the paper and one voted against it. The remaining 23 who did not respond at all were taken to have given their approval.

If this is the case, it seems to me that the Commission is guilty of gross misrepresentation, and the Catholic bishops should move immediately to clarify the situation.

To return to that major paragraph, he said that `there have been reports indicating'. There are no second guesses as to where those reports might emanate from. As I say, there is a striking similarity between the very language of Mr Bob Santamaria in his television performance on Sunday, which I happened to view, and the newspaper articles which followed during the week. The ambiguities inherent in this paragraph are really the work of a master propagandist. He said:

The remaining 23 who did not respond at all were taken to have given their agreement.

There is a very clear inference there that the Commission grossly misrepresented the actual voting pattern to concoct artificially a two-thirds majority to give this reflection document a semblance of episcopal blessing. That is completely out of accord with the truth. The bishops themselves in the episcopal conference earlier in the year decided on a voting procedure. The agreement recorded by their conference resolution was that a reply as to whether the document should be circulated for reflection could be given in writing by a stated date saying yes or no to the distribution. If there were no written reply, that non-written reply would be regarded as assent, as a positive affirmative vote. That was the voting procedure that was established. In other words, the bishops devised this method of voting. They received the draft, I think, on about 15 June. The deadline for their reply was 21 July; that is, they had over a month to assess whether it should be circulated as a reflection document by the CCJP. The voting procedure, having been agreed upon by the bishops themselves, was then put into operation and, if Senator Kilgariff and Mr Bob Santamaria are correct in their numbers-I will come to how they might be correct in a moment-43 bishops assented to this document being circulated and one did not. Twenty of those 43 bishops took the trouble to submit their assent in writing. It is quite false and misleading to say, in Senator Kilgariff's words, that the others were `merely taken to have given their assent'. By resolution of the conference they did give their consent, though not by submission in writing.

Really I think the honourable senator, for whom I have a great deal of affection, has been misled by Mr Bob Santamaria's article in which he portrays the 20 bishops not merely as having not submitted written responses but as having abstained-the word used in Mr Santamaria's article. They never did abstain from voting; they merely did not submit a written answer. That was provided for in the voting procedure devised by the episcopal conference. So there are no assumptions or contrived results or gross misrepresentation by the CCJP as to the two-thirds majority. In fact, it would be very peculiar if the CCJP could misrepresent the episcopal conference's vote. After all, the President of the CCJP is Bishop Warren. There are two other bishops on the CCJP. All of the ordinary members of the CCJP are appointed by bishops. The four co-opted members are appointed by the Committee on Development and Peace of the Bishops Conference. So it is very unlikely that there would be gross misrepresentation by the Commission, on the back of its document of the two-thirds majority vote of the Conference.

As I say, it needs to be asked how this could be queried anyway, because the CCJP, as I understand it, was never entitled to know the actual voting numbers within a episcopal conference. It was never sought and it was never given it. I am sure the episcopal conference never envisaged that the actual votes would ever be revealed. So Mr Bob Santamaria's informant bishop, whom he quotes in his article in the Australian and on which Senator Kilgariff must rely, because he takes the same voting numbers, regrettably is an example of a bishop-if it not be a fiction of Mr Santamaria's imagination-who has leaked details of the voting within the episcopal conference.

Senator Bolkus —We should have him in Caucus.

Senator TATE —As Senator Bolkus comments this is something that is obviously not confined to secular caucuses but extends to those of more sacred character also. Not only has he leaked, but he has mischievously leaked, a completely wrong and false impression of the significance of the way in which the vote was conducted. That is a very regrettable reflection on the bishop concerned.

Senator Sheil —Do you know the figures?

Senator TATE —I do not, and I do not claim or assert that those figures are correct. I am merely saying that if what Mr Santamaria and Senator Kilgariff claim are the figures, they come to a quite different conclusions when analysed in the light of the episcopal conference resolutions.

The second charge I can deal with more briefly, and that is to be found on pages 7 and 8 of Senator Kilgariff's prepared speech, where, amongst other things, he says:

But to find a quarter of a million dollars of the money given, to Project Compassion, for example, is used to fund the Commission for Justice and Peace has given many Catholics, both lay people and priests, great cause for concern. The Administration of the church must realise that we are not living in the Middle Ages. We are living in an age of public and financial accountability. . .

The refutation of that is quite straightforward. One would have expected any decent person raising that sort of allegation at least to take the step, perhaps, of getting the annual report of the CCJP, where one would find that it clearly stated that the source of funding for the CCJP is the Bishops Conference itself.

Senator Sheil —So what?

Senator TATE —The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace does not have, as is insinuated by Senator Sheil's question `So what?', some cosy, behind the scenes deal with the Australian Catholic Relief whereby, by some behind the scenes fiddling of the books, it somehow gets a transfer of a quarter of a million dollars that no one knows about, that is somehow hidden from the public gaze in some mediaeval abscuring of the accounts rather than by public accountability. The fact is that the Bishops Conference itself takes responsibility for the finances of the CCJP, as one might expect from the close organic link I outlined earlier.

Senator Kilgariff —Was there a transfer of funds?

Senator TATE —From where to where?

Senator Kilgariff —From where I said to where I said.

Senator TATE —The transfer of funds is from Project Compassion to the Catholic Bishops Conference. That Conference then decides to which works that will be devoted, and amongst the matters to which they devote the funds is the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. That has always over the years been acknowledged and known, published and publicised within the Catholic media. Indeed, I think it is contained in a good deal of the material circulated by the Project Compassion people when they mount their Lenten appeal. Certainly the Australian Catholic Relief organisation has audited accounts and makes the whole process very clear. Indeed, the CCJP has audited accounts which it submits to the episcopal conference, and they are available too. So fundamentally Senator Kilgariff's attack on the bishops as being medieval and not engaging in public accountability for these matters is quite unjust and unfounded, and it attributes to them a dishonest manipulation of gullible Catholics contributing to the Project Compassion funds which, as I say, flies in the face of the reality that Catholics who have been interested in these matters over many years know the relationship between Project Compassion, the bishops and the Catholic Commission.

As I say, I do not intend to go into the substance of the document. That would be for another debate. But I felt it important that on the same day that these allegations were raised about gross misrepresentation of the support of two-thirds of the episcopal conference for the circulation of this reflection document, and against the allegation that the bishops were engaged in some sort of medieval hoodwinking of the Catholic people, the facts should be laid before the Senate for consideration by those who wish to take up Senator Kilgariff's speech.