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Thursday, 27 June 1996
Page: 2435

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise to make an explanation under standing order 190.

Leave granted.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. I will be brief because of the logistics of tonight. I refer the Senate to a very unsavoury article in today's Australian , which is headed `Wild men of the West shoot themselves in the foot', written by Frank Devine, who reeks of prejudice. In the same way as the loony left reek of prejudice, this guy reeks of prejudice from the right. I do not quite know why I am in the gun from him, except that in this chamber some time ago I made some ungracious comments about one John Hyde. I described him as an intellectual cripple who could do nothing else except parrot words that he had learnt from Burke and other intellectuals. Of course, Mr Hyde writes for the Australian , and he has now set up a little faction in Western Australia, with about as much aplomb and efficiency and effectiveness as he ever demonstrated when he was in this chamber. I think they describe themselves as `those for Liberal values'.

Mr Devine takes exception to my opposing Mr Hyde. In fact, he takes particular exception to the fact that I criticise senators in this chamber who, with intellectual and political skills, think they are reinforcing their arguments by quoting some hack journalist. I would have thought that was unexceptionable. But what Mr Devine does is then promptly repeat what other journalists have said to reinforce his arguments.

Some time ago an advertisement appeared in the West Australian, condemning members of the Liberal Party, and me in particular. The advertisement was illegibly signed by a number of disaffected ex-Liberals and was followed by an article written by former senator Peter Durack. None of these people are serving parliamentarians, yet they have been distributing material which has clearly come from a party database. Given that they describe themselves as ex-Liberals and make much of their non-membership of the Liberal Party, perhaps they could enlighten the Liberal Party as to from whom they improperly acquired their list.

Let me from the outset make two things clear. First, none of the dissident MPs involved have made more than a most modest contribution to the party since retiring on their government pensions, and most of them have made no contribution whatsoever. Secondly, each of these members was successfully endorsed by the Liberal Party, without complaint of the process or of their successful selection. The only significant changes to the process in recent years have been made during Keith Simpson's presidency in Western Australia—a period when Chaney, Durack, Filing, et al had a very considerable influence in the Liberal Party in Western Australia. To complain about the process in which these signatories have participated and formally supported is utterly absurd.

It is also interesting to note that, of the four preselection outcomes at a state level of which they complain, not one of their favoured sons was successful. Yet the same process that selected their candidates—rare as they are in Western Australia these days—is apparently faultless. It seems that they have a reluctance to accept their minority position within the organisation and will not be satisfied until they devise a system in which the minority is successful and the majority is unsuccessful.

They resort to arguments bereft of fact and long on innuendo and smear, in order to generate doubt in the minds of the public about the efforts of decent, honest, hardworking Liberals. They contribute little or nothing to the Liberal Party, yet they collect a government pension, courtesy of Liberal Party endorsement.

This small group's hypocrisy is absolutely outstanding. Their public campaign of attack upon the party through the media says more about their integrity than it does about the party. The loyalty of this group has been extended in most cases to supporting or working for non-Liberal candidates. It saddens me to see the organisation to which I contributed 25 years of my life captive to a small group of wreckers who seek to destroy what they cannot control.

You will see from the attached list, which I seek leave to table, that the committee for the practice of Liberal values, as it calls itself, is made up basically of Chaney, his friends, relations, supporters and a handful of ex-parliamentarians and members from one or two dissident branches.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Reynolds) —Is leave granted?

Senator Hill —Could I have a look at it?

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —It is a list of names, mate—and you are not on it either, by the way. I have talked about ex-parliamentarians.

Senator Robert Ray —We will want to know why your name is not on it.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Senator Hill is not in the dissident group yet. The party's destructive habit of creating committees of review and rewriting its constitution every time some group loses a contest in the party, and excusing itself by calling foul, is distracting and debilitating and creates a public perception that the party is incompetent at best, and unfit to govern at worst.

Mr Clough, who has been set up to form this magic committee in WA, can see nothing wrong with the preselection process. It is all about perception, apparently—a perception the troublemakers in the Liberal Party create themselves.

The Liberal Party does not need a review of how it selects its candidates; it needs a review of who it selects as candidates. Without being too critical, if one reflects upon the recent ministerial appointments from WA—and there has been some criticism that there were not more appointed—the question I beg, not in this house because by a process of elimination there was no eligibility, is: who in the House of Representatives who was not appointed should have been appointed? Surely nobody is suggesting that Mr Cameron—Mr Eoin Cameron—is capable of being a minister, or the plagiarist or anybody else. The ones who were appointed as struggling as it is.

The vast majority of decent and committed party members, who ask for no greater reward for their tireless endeavours than a better society for themselves and their families, are simply crying out for leadership. (Time expired)

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator, there is a request before the chamber for a document to be tabled. Senator Hill, do you wish to see the document?

Senator Hill —I have seen it.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —But do you object?

Senator Hill —Senator Crichton-Browne said it was a list of names, but it is a bit more than that. If he is prepared to limit it to a list of names I have no objection.

Senator Crichton-Browne —I seek leave to make a brief statement.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Is leave granted?

Senator Hill —The document is not acceptable in its present form, but I am trying to be cooperative.

Senator Robert Ray —He is asking to make a short statement to clarify what he wants.

Senator Hill —I see, that is okay.

Leave granted.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —In terms of my previous colleague—only he and I will know the struggle we had to get that extra vote to have him sitting in the chair he is now—

Opposition senators—Oh!

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Well, do you want some history?

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —No, it was not history, it was rigor mortis; it was poor old Peter Durack that Sue Knowles once said—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Sue Knowles once said that making love to Peter Durack is a definition of necrophilia.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Crichton-Browne, continue.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —It is no secret that, for reasons best known to themselves—I can only take it that it is out of fear and not stupidity—the government have sought on every occasion to prevent me either tabling documents, reading documents in the chamber, or speaking. I have had one question in the last three months.

Senator Forshaw —And you still vote with them?

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Because my heart is where it should be; their bodies are where, on some occasions, they should not be. Today I sought to ask a ques tion. While Senator Teague and Senator Baume were congratulated for the contribution they made, I sought to ask one simple, inoffensive question and I could not get up, could I, Senator Hill? I sought yesterday to speak at lunchtime on the matters of importance, and I was put last on the list. I sought to speak on the adjournment last night, and I was put last. I can only assume that there is some craven fear that I am going to say something that is going to damage somebody. I remind Senator Hill that I am to speak on the adjournment tonight whether he likes it or not. I will be speaking on the valedictories whether you like it or not, and I will give a history which will itself create a book on the spot. But I am saying to you now, Senator Hill—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I am asking Senator Hill now out of decency and respect, if there is nothing else you have done for me in the last six months, that you allow me to table a simple, harmless document. I remind you that you even took a point of order when I mentioned in unkind words the name of Viner QC, who in a despicable, corrupt way perverted the decency of a client-lawyer relationship with my wife and caused our family enormous pain and suffering. Yet you found it necessary to stand on your feet and defend him. All I am asking you to do is allow those damn documents to stand on their merit and to sit on their merit.