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Thursday, 30 May 1996
Page: 1495

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(7.31 p.m.) —I rise to respond ever so briefly, as is rarely my wont, to two articles that appeared in the Australian over the last two days written by that well-known Labor Party hack Nigel Wilson.

Senator Wheelwright —There are not enough of them.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —There are more than enough party hacks like Nigel Wilson, I can tell you. He writes that I or people associated with me were about to dump the WA Deputy Liberal Leader, Colin Barnett. Of course that is a total fabrication. I have no knowledge of any suggestion of any move against Mr Barnett. This is a contrived, concocted and spurious story written by Wilson. Like all these concocted stories, you never ring up the person responsible and ask them if it is true, because it spoils a good story. The first I knew about it was when I read it in the paper.

That story was headed `Lib deputy leader's position under threat'. It went on to talk about all the terrible things I am about to do to Barnett. The next day the headline in the Australian is `Court forced to back deputy'. This jerk writes a story saying the deputy is about to be knocked off. Then, when Court says it is not true, the headline is `Court forced to back deputy'. It is the sort of journalistic licence that brings discredit to journalists.

I listen to Senator Murphy quoting the media. I often wonder why senators with some intellectual and political skills think they are reinforcing their arguments by quoting some hack journalist who has got a story off the back of a truck, has fabricated it or has got it from some loose-lipped fool. But, invariably, it is given with such great authority as if they were citing God.

On the second day Wilson tells us that Mr Court was forced to endorse his deputy to head off mounting criticism within the Liberal Party. What a bunch of nonsense! Then he goes on to say that the national affairs and economics correspondent—I love these quotes. It is like being a senior Liberal. You only have to be in the party for two years and you are a senior Liberal.

Senator Panizza —Two years? Two weeks.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Two weeks, yes.

Senator Faulkner —We don't mind if those Liberal sources are senior or not.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Of course, everybody in the Liberal Party is senior. The national affairs and economics correspondent, Mr John Hyde, is quoted as saying that it would be damaging if Mr Barnett went. Who is Mr Hyde? Mr Hyde happens to be an intellectually crippled writer for the Australian . He is a poor man's Bert Kelly. He would pursue an ideological ideal and dream he does not even understand himself. He reads the books of Burke and others and then quotes without understanding what he is saying.

Here is this dry Right from Western Australia who supported bottom of the harbour schemes. He supported retrospective tax. Where is his political and economic integrity? The first time he was tested, he went snivelling to Howard and voted for bottom of the harbour schemes. His great political soul mate happened to be Fred Chaney, who knifed this dry John and put in the wet Andrew. Talk about a political harvest!

This article also says that, as long as I had direct influence over the activities of the Liberal Party, it faced a virtual fundraising drought. Without getting into the fine details of the Liberal Party, I can tell you—

Senator Wheelwright —No, get into them.

Senator West —Don't be modest.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —You don't spend 25 years building something up to kick it down for fun, I can assure you. When I stepped down after four years unopposed as state president in Western Australia, we had the largest membership of any political party in any state in Australia. We were the wealthiest state organisation in the Liberal Party in Australia, yet we have this jerk here saying that the party faced a fundraising drought. The truth of the matter—everybody knows it—is that the party is almost bankrupt over there now and they have got one-sixth of the membership they had when I was the state president.

Poor old Hyde lost the federal seat of Moore. How did he lose that? Because he went around the mortgage belt in the metropolitan seat of Moore and said that the government in those days, the community generally and society generally were investing too much in capital stock and housing.

Finally, it is observed in this article that people sympathetic to me—and I do not know what `sympathetic to me' means; they cannot say people who love me or support me—are understood to have sought to bring new members into key party branches in Mr Barnett's safe Liberal electorate of Cottesloe. That is absolute nonsense. I never put anybody in a branch who got knocked back. Everybody I put in got there and had a vote. The truth of the matter is that nobody sought to stack any branches.

Then there is Dame Rachel Cleland, whose claim to fame is that she was married to the first federal director of the Liberal Party—as if in some way that reflected glow of glory gives her some imprimatur to make some profound ex cathedra statements about the events of the Liberal Party. Like most of us, when she gets to 87 she does not understand that it is probably wiser to be more discreet and more retired in her comments. She used the blue rinse set to stack out two branches in Cottesloe against the virile, active, energetic young people in the branch, as I understand. But there was certainly no attempt by people sympathetic to me to stack out any branches. I would like to think that there are people sympathetic to me in most branches already.

I raise these matters only because it is a type of journalism that shows the utter level of corruption and the decay and the destruction of integrity that we see ever so often. I do not know whether Mr Wilson made this up or it was given to him by some unknown source. But the truth of the matter is that it is utterly a fabrication. Mr Wilson did not have the courtesy, but he did have the good sense, not to contact me. He would have not been able to write the story if he had.

Senator Panizza —I raise a point of order. There is no protection for former members of either house, but calling a former member an intellectual cripple is a bit rough. Senator Crichton-Browne might like to take the chance to withdraw that particular remark for good common courtesy to all Western Australians, especially some former members on either side of the chamber.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I think he is totally and utterly intellectually crippled. I was being kind to him, Senator Panizza. In the same way as the point of order was taken by Senator Hill to defend Ian Viner QC, who as a lawyer publicly disclosed documents and knowledge given to him by my wife, I make no apology for attacking Hyde, Viner or any of his other spivs who stick their nose into politics and seek to attack me.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. There are other steps that can be taken by people if they wish to do so.