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Wednesday, 11 May 1960


Mr BROWNE (Kalgoorlie) .- I think the extent of the Opposition's unity on this bill is amply illustrated by two facts; first, that not more than 10 per cent, of the speeches of the two previous speakers on the Opposition side has been devoted to the bill, and second, that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) being entrusted to lead for the Opposition-


Mr Uren - What is wrong with that? He has been a Minister of the Crown and you may be sure that you will never be one.


Mr BROWNE - The fact that the handling of this bill for the Opposition has been entrusted to the honorable member for East Sydney signifies that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) were perhaps divided on whether to oppose this bill in the first place.


Mr Chresby - The voting in the Opposition against it was five-five.


Mr BROWNE - That is probably true, and I would not be surprised to learn that the left wing of the Labour Party won out in the end. I say again that the entrusting of this bill to the honorable member for East Sydney and the fact that the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy do not lead the debate on it, signify a certain lack of courage on their part. If the Labour Party wants to oppose this measure then why does it not oppose it from the top? Secondly, why does it not oppose it on good grounds? I cannot hope to match in my short speech either the rantings or the rhetoric of the honorable member for East Sydney but I hope, in the next few minutes, to do more than match his logic - a commodity in which he was lamentably lacking.


Mr Bandidt - He did not have any logic.


Mr BROWNE - That is so. The honorable member for East Sydney said this bill represents an intrusion into the lives of private citizens. That is so much nonsense. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in his second-reading speech, stated clearly that telephone tapping has been going on, not only during the term of this Government, but also during the regime of the preceding government. We know it has been going on but because we place this bill on the statute-book does that mean people's private lives are being invaded?


Mr Daly - That is right.


Mr BROWNE - If the honorable member can see any logic in that, I cannot.


Mr Daly - But I am brighter than you.


Mr BROWNE - Obviously! The honorable member for East Sydney says that this measure is an ineffective move to protect our own security. Taken by itself, perhaps it is, but why should Australia's security and the measures taken to protect it be hampered because the opportunity arose and the Government did not choose to use this move, which, quite conceivably, could become very valuable? The honorable member said that members of the Opposition have been trying to get some information on what has been happening with regard to telephone tapping. Of course they have. The honorable member himself and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) for many years have been trying to get the Government to act in relation to telephone tapping and put a measure of this sort on the statute-book so that everybody will know exactly what is going on. But as soon as the AttorneyGeneral brings down a bill to define those activities and also to limit them, members of the Opposition, or half of them, anyway, oppose it.

Why do members of the Opposition oppose this bill? Is it because the left wing of the Labour Party is afraid, in spite of the Attorney-General's assurance that no member's telephone has ever been tapped during the present Government's regime? Are Opposition members afraid, just the same, that their telephones may be tapped? I do not suggest that they are afraid, but I ask whether that is the reason for the opposition. If not, why are they opposing the bill? The only other reason is to gain some cheap political capital because, after all, the Labour Party in this Parliament has not very much to go on to get political capital.


Mr Daly - Keep politics out of it.


Mr BROWNE - Do you think we are in the kindergarten?


Mr J R Fraser - It sounds like it.


Mr BROWNE - It certainly does when you interject. The honorable member for East Sydney has suggested that it is a breach of parliamentary privilege for members' telephones to be tapped. Does he believe that the elected representatives of the people should be exempted from the provisions of this bill? Why should they be exempted? If members of the Commonwealth Parliament are exempted, why should members of the State parliaments not be exempted? They also are representatives of the people, and why should shire or municipal councillors not be exempted?


Mr Jones - Why shouldn't they?


Mr BROWNE - Why should everybody not be exempted? And if everybody should be exempted, why did Mr. Chifley find it necessary to impose this service on the people of Australia? The honorable member for East Sydney said that any action could be interpreted as subversive. With respect to the honorable member, that is a rather childish statement. After all, the limitations contained in the bill are very stringent. If the Director-General of Security thinks that a telephone should be tapped, he takes the matter to the AttorneyGeneral. At least one-half of the people of Australia regard the Attorney-General as highly intelligent and of great ability. Would he and the Director-General be likely to say, " Eddie Ward is doing so-and-so. Let us call it subversive "?


Mr Daly - They might.


Mr BROWNE - They might, if the honorable member who has interjected - whichever electorate has the misfortune to be represented by him - were the AttorneyGeneral. The honorable member for East Sydney went on to say that this service could be used against the Labour Party. Does he admit that the Labour Party engages in subversive activities? I do not suggest that it does, but when one considers the stringent limitations on the powers which are contained in this bill, and the fact that the Attorney-General must decide what is a subversive activity, one can be pardoned for thinking that the Labour Party has something to hide when it suggests that subversive activities could be attributed to it.

The honorable member for East Sydney drew a few red herrings across the trail by mentioning the Petrov case and a peace conference. He did so simply because he did not have enough material on the merits of the bill to bring to the debate. So, seeking to impress the gallery which, unfortunately, was larger during his speech than it is now, he had to rave about something. Anybody who was misled by those red herrings is to be pitied and should be enlightened. The enlightenment will come from members on this side of the House who follow me in the debate. Instead of debating the merits of the bill, the honorable member for East Sydney spent a good deal of his time in running down the security service and talking about the violation of the sanctity of the Australian private home. That is a real tear-jerker! I emphasize that this bill restricts the power to intercept telephone conversations. It is a bill designed primarily and almost exclusively to restrict the activities of those who would intercept telephone conversations.

The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) said that although the AttorneyGeneral had stated in sugar-coated tones that this was a bill to restrict and prohibit telephone tapping, he had then used the word "but". Of course, he said "but" because the bill excludes certain operations which are designed to maintain the security of Australia. Does the honorable member suggest that there should not be any exemptions? Does he suggest that there should not be any telephone tapping? Does he suggest that Australia should lag so far behind the rest of the world in security measures that we would be a laughing stock; a country without a sense of responsibility and oblivious of the need for security? He went on to say that the loyalty of the Australian people should be enough to make measures such as telephone tapping unnecessary. This bill is not confined to Australians. It does not exclude new Australians; it does not exclude Russians; it does not exclude people from any part of the world. To say that Australians with their great sense of loyalty do not need to be regulated by bills of this kind is to beg the question.

The honorable member for Wills then quoted an honorable member on this side of the House as having said that telephone tapping is abhorrent to us as Australians. Of course it is! I am the first to admit that to have a third party listen to a private telephone conversation is repugnant. Nobody denies that. And nobody will deny that it is repugnant to have one's financial affairs and bank account investigated by officers of the Taxation Branch. That also is abhorrent, but it also is necessary for the welfare of Australia. If the Opposition in this National Parliament has no thought for the welfare and security of Australia, it has no right to call itself Her Majesty's Opposition. Surely it is the function of the Opposition, just as it is the function of the Government, to consider the welfare and security of Australia. That is why we are here - at least we can do worse than to assume so.


Mr J R Fraser - You say that this bill is essential for that purpose?


Mr BROWNE - Yes.


Mr J R Fraser - Then why has the Government waited for 150 years to introduce it?


Mr BROWNE - For one thing, we have not had telephones for 150 years. Does the Opposition, which is opposing this bill that is designed to maintain the security of Australia, believe that known subversionists who have shown themselves to be willing, able and indeed anxious to wreck the Australian way of life, should be permitted to pursue their aims unhindered?


Mr Cairns - Who are they?


Mr BROWNE - Out of respect for you, I will not say anything about that. Does the Opposition say that the subversionists should be permitted to continue undetected because the way of life which they seek to destroy protects them, and indeed helps them, to destroy it? Does the Opposition believe that? I cannot imagine why it should find fault with a bill which seeks to impose heavy penalties on any one who is detected intercepting a telephone conversation. The Opposition could not find fault with that part of the bill. It finds fault with the bill because it will allow measures to be taken to ensure the security of Australia.

I have no doubt that one of the reasons why this bill was introduced is because of pressure that has been applied to the Government by the Opposition. In the eighteen months in which I have been in this House numerous questions on this subject have been asked of the Prime Minister and other Ministers by the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Werriwa. The Government's attitude has now been stated in black and white and this bill will, no doubt, take its place on the statute-book. If the Opposition does not like that, what does it like?

Mr. Deputy Speaker,I stated to the Government Whip my intention to speak on this bill because I thought that there might have been something in the Opposition case which needed answering. I have now been on my feet for about ten minutes, and that is five minutes more than I needed to answer the Opposition's case. As all honorable members who listened to the Opposition's arguments realize, Opposition members have no case at all.


Mr Haylen - Some one wants the honorable member on the telephone.


Mr BROWNE - I shall go and answer it.







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