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Wednesday, 11 May 1960


Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- Mr. Speaker,this bill represents an outrageous and unjustified intrusion into and interference with the private lives of Australian citizens, and it is being opposed by the Labour Opposition. In introducing this measure the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) made a very clever speech. Wrapped up with the obnoxious provisions of this bill are provisions to which no member of this House could object. It embraces arrangements which we understand already exist for the checking of the efficiency of telephonic communications by employees of the Postmaster-General's Department. But it was quite obvious that the AttorneyGeneral was rather uncomfortable in making his second-reading speech.

When anti-Labour governments want to justify some outrageous proposal they usually protect themselves by claiming that it is essential for the security of the nation. That has been done in this case. I hope, as I proceed, to be able to prove that the method now proposed by the Government allegedly to protect the security of the nation is most ineffective. The Attorney-General, knowing that this would be an extremely unpopular piece of legislation with the Australian community, said in his secondreading speech -

.   . eavesdropping is abhorrent to us as a people.

He then proceeded to support a piece of legislation which will permit the very thing that he claims to be abhorrent.

For many years, in this Parliament, members of the Labour Opposition have been endeavouring to get information about the tapping of telephones. We have been met, time and time again, by evasive replies from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Let me briefly tell the House some of the answers that he has given. On one occasion the Prime Minister said that he had no knowledge, one way or the other. On another occasion he said that he had no knowledge as to whether the security service had an office in Canberra or not. I want honorable members to keep in mind the fact that the Prime Minister was charged with the administration of the security service. Yet he had the audacity to tell members of this Parliament that he did not even know whether the service had an office in Canberra and that, if it did, he did not know where it was situated! The Prime Minister has always denied that telephone tapping was taking place.


Sir Garfield Barwick - That is not true.


Mr WARD - Is it not? Let me quote to the Attorney-General a reference from " Hansard ". When the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and I were pressing for information in regard to telephone tapping, the Prime Minister said -

I deprecate this obviously political attempt to suggest that the rights of private citizens are being invaded.

If that is not as good as saying that telephone tapping was not taking place, I do not know the meaning of the English language. The Prime Minister was always evading a direct reply. He refused information about the method employed in paying security service agents. On one occasion he was asked who decided the amount that they should receive and who authorized payment. I asked also whether the Prime Minister's approval of such payments was necessary and whether the Prime Minister was kept fully informed on these matters. Surely a reply to any of these questions would not have involved any security risk. But to this democratically elected Parliament the Prime Minister refused to give any information on this subject.

The Prime Minister knew that he was vulnerable in regard to telephone tapping. That is why he left his office boy to introduce the legislation while he was overseas and not, therefore, immediately answerable to the people of this country and the Parliament. It is not only members of the Labour Party who have found the tapping of telephones to be obnoxious. On one occasion when the matter was raised in this Parliament by a former honorable member for Herbert the then Speaker, Mr. Archie Cameron, who was a member of the Liberal Party and always a defender of the liberties of the people and the rights of this Parliament; said this:

If this tapping of telephone lines is taking place, I say without hesitation that it is a very serious breach of the privileges of every member of the House.

And so it is a breach of members' privileges! Let me quote another former Government member, Sir Arthur Fadden. On 3rd June, 1952, when he was Acting Prime Minister of this country, he said, in reply to the honorable member for Herbert -

This is a fitting subject for investigation by the Committee of Privileges.

He also thought it was an outrageous thing that members' phones should be tapped. If honorable members on the Government side want any further evidence that the Prime Minister was evasive and was afraid to face this issue, I refer them to what happened when, on 2nd December, 1953, I proposed, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) seconded, the following motion: -

That the question as to whether or not the telephones used by members of the Parliament are being tapped and if so, by whom, be referred to the Committee of Privileges.

That motion was defeated by 54 votes to 40 on a party vote. The Government was afraid even to take it to the Committee of Privileges. If no member's telephone was being tapped, what was the Government afraid of? Here was a great opportunity for it to debunk both the honorable member for Hindmarsh and myself and destroy us politically if we were wrong, because, although it is the Committee of Privileges of this Parliament the Government has a majority of members upon it. If we were lying, the Government was presented with a wonderful opportunity for destroying both of us, but the Prime Minister and the Government did not accept that opportunity. They knew that we could produce the evidence that members' telephones were being tapped. There is any amount of evidence of that.

Let me remind honorable members, because perhaps they have forgotten, of one or two of the matters that were raised from time to time to indicate that members' telephones were being tapped during that period. The honorable member for Hindmarsh made a speech in which he said that he had had a telephone conversation with an inspector of the Chrysler (Australia) Limited works in Adelaide. This had been a conversation between the two of them, and known to no other person, but the very next morning a security officer questioned an inspector of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate on the very matters that were discussed between the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the gentleman to whom he had been talking on the telephone on the previous evening. When the Prime Minister was asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh to have some investigation made into this incident he refused to do so. He said he refused to ask the security service for any explanation in regard to the complaint of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.

Let me turn now to the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin). That honorable member asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) a question, who, in the course of his reply to the honorable member for Kingston, said -

This question arises out of a telephone conversation.

The honorable member for Kingston and the person to whom he spoke were the only persons who knew of the conversation on the telephone. When the Prime Minister was asked later about this, he said -

The honorable member's telephone was not tapped. Such a thing would be entirely unpardonable.

That was the attitude of the Prime Minister. At this stage he was trying to create an impression in the minds of the Australian community that he neither agreed with nor condoned the tapping of members' telephones. When he was trying to defend the Minister for Air he said that the Minister did not know that a telephone conversation had taken place; it was merely a shrewd guess.

Now let us turn to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). In the course of his second-reading speech he said that no members' telephone conversations had been intercepted. He further stated that no senior public servant's telephone conversation had been intercepted. That is rather an indication that other members of the Public Service have had their telephone conversations tapped. If that is not the case, why did the Attorney-General specify " senior " public servants? It is well known that this happens. I think it was Mr. Reid, a newspaper columnist, who, on one occasion, in reporting to this effect, said that he was only saying what was well known in the corridors of this Parliament. Mr. Reid said that there were certain telephones in Parliament House which no senior public servant would use because he knew they were tapped.

Is it not a fact that on one occasion after I had received information as to where the apparatus had been installed at security head-quarters to tap the parliamentary telephones, I invited senior Ministers to come with me, after the House adjourned that night, to security head-quarters and I would show them where the equipment was, but they refused to come. As a matter of fact, every time this Parliament assembles the number of security officers in Canberra is reinforced because they have additional duties to perform in tapping telephones.

What does the Attorney-General mean when he gives an assurance that no member's telephone is tapped? I ask the Attorney-General whether he means the telephone in a member's private home, or the telephone in his office or every telephone around this House. I have yet to be convinced that there has never been nor is there now any tapping of telephone communications between members and their constituents. The Attorney-General is very adept at twisting words so let him make it clear when he talks about members' telephones whether he is referring only to the members' home telephones?

Let me tell the Attorney-General, if he still persists in saying that telephones have not been tapped, that the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) holds a letter of apology from the late General Sir Thomas Blarney because on one occasion a telephone conversation between the honorable member and Mr. Forde, who was then Minister for the Army, had actually been tapped and recorded by Military Intelligence. He need not, therefore, waste words by telling us that it cannot go on.


Sir Garfield Barwick - That has nothing to do with this.


Mr WARD - The honorable member for Hindmarsh and other members of the Opposition have claimed, over a number of years, that members' telephones have been tapped and I think there is sufficient evidence in existence to show that that statement is correct.

When the Attorney-General introduced his bill he tried to imply that this measure did not change the existing practice and that everything would remain substantially as it is. He implied that if anything were changed it would place an additional restriction on the tapping of telephones which is taking place at present. If what members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, have said is to be taken as truthful and accurate, then we have to assume that no member's telephone, up to this point, has been tapped. But is it not a fact that under this bill members' telephones are to be tapped?


Mr Turnbull - No.


Mr WARD - I say they will be.


Sir Garfield Barwick - Only if you indulge in subversive activities.


Mr WARD - The Attorney-General says that if any member's telephone is tapped it will be because he is suspected of being engaged in the activities to which this bill refers. Why are the authorities to be empowered to tap members' telephones? I agree with the late Speaker, Mr. Cameron, that this is an attack upon the privileges of this Parliament. I remind members on the

Government side that parliamentary privilege does not belong to me any more than it belongs to any other member of the Parliament. Parliamentary privilege is the very basis of democracy, and it belongs to the people, because we in this place represent the people. The Attorney-General keeps interjecting and saying, "The proposals only apply to people who are engaged in subversive activities ". But let me tell the Attorney-General - and he can check the replies to questions which are made by his fellow Ministers day after day in this chamber - that according to his Government " subversive activities " does not only mean the doing of something to aid an enemy of this country. The Government regards every strike as subversive. How often has it been said in this Parliament when a union which calls a strike has a Communist official or a member of the Communist Party in its executive, that the members of the union are engaged in subversive activities? Everything depends on the interpretation of the phrase, " subversive activities ". If the Attorney-General were to speak honestly, he would probably say that he believes that every member of the Opposition is engaged in subversive activities.

Now let us consider what the AttorneyGeneral actually said on this matter in his second-reading speech. In one portion of it he said -

To convert this to the case of a telephone service of a member of Parliament, it means that, on the known facts, the Attorney-General and the Director-General of Security must be satisfied that the member's telephone service is used or is likely to be used in aid of what I shortly call subversive activities . . .

I would like the Attorney-General to explain in greater detail what he regards as subversive activities. Let me warn the members on the Government side that if nobody is to be exempt from this snooping by the security service, the provisions of the bill must apply, obviously, to the AttorneyGeneral himself. Who issues the warrant if the Attorney-General's telephone is to be tapped? The provisions of this bill could apply to the judges who sit in our courts. They could apply to the members of the wealthy clubs of this country.

Let me tell the Attorney-General that we realize that the Government is trying to obtain a political instrument to be used against the Labour Party. But some day - I hope it is not very far distant - a Labour administration will be in control, and, as much as I abhor this eavesdropping on telephones, I have no doubt that if I could listen to a few telephone conversations, including some to which the AttorneyGeneral is a party, I would obtain some very interesting information which would be of great interest to this Parliament. The Attorney-General who, obviously, is very uncomfortable at the moment, will have to be careful because, when you listen in to telephone conversations you get all kinds of information. You can even hear conversations about bankruptcies, and probably the Attorney-General appreciates the matter to which I am referring.


Sir Garfield Barwick - I know how dirty that remark is.







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