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Thursday, 12 May 1960


Mr CHRESBY (Griffith) .- lt is not without its significance that the member of the Opposition chosen to lead in this debate was the man who is known as the chief disrupter of A.L.P. tranquillity in this chamber; and we can disregard any one who follows him for the simple reason that the Opposition apparently chose their best man to lead the debate. It is not without significance that the man concerned is one whose personal record of association with the Lenin school of thought is long and vivid. I recall, as do other honorable members who have studied this situation, the attacks in this House by J. T. Lang when he was here showing that others of the same school of thought who were associated with the government of the day had the same opinions regarding particular posts throughout trade unions and government bodies to which known trained Leninist personnel were appointed. I do not wish to name them, but any one who cares to study J. T. Lang's contributions to debates here will recall the details.

After all, we know that the honorable member concerned was intimately associated with " Balance-sheet " Ernie Thornton of the ironworkers' union, Tom Wright, Norman Jeffries and Edgar Ross. We know that, like a certain biblical character, he denied his chief henchman, Jock Garden. So, I would say that the speech by the honorable member last night indicated fear - a fear that his past may catch up with him and that the future might be denied to him to undermine and destroy the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader (Mr. Whitlam) in the vain hope that he will one day lead the Labour Party to a victory.


Mr Ward - You are more stupid than you look.


Mr CHRESBY - I know the honorable member's background, and I say, bluntly and frankly, that he is a discredit to the party he represents. But many backbenchers on his side of the House are waking up to him.

There has been a lot of screaming and crying about what this bill will do, such as interfering with the privacy of the individual, and so on. Coming from newer members who have come here since 1949, that does not seem strange; but Opposition members who were here before 1949, and who, indeed, were in office during the war will probably remember some of their machinations. We remember the case of Stephenson, of the Australia First movement, who was thrown into gaol for eighteen months without trial of any description; and we remember what happened when his case came before the court. On the question of intimidation, we have only to look to the records which have been disclosed to this House, and again I direct members to one of the genuine old Labour Party members in days gone by - J. T. Lang. It will be found that his exposures have never to this day been answered by the old-timers of the World War II. Labour Government. There are only a few of them left, of whom the honorable member for East Sydney is one.

I come now to the question of phone tapping. Let me point out to honorable members, if they are not already aware of the fact, that for several hundred years Secretaries of State have had what is roughly referred to as the " prerogative " power which has never been denied or challenged - and therefore the opportunity - to investigate material for the protection of the Sovereign's services and the Sovereign's domains. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that under section 49 of the Australian Constitution, which deals with the powers, privileges, and so forth of this Parliament, there already exists the power to intercept telephone communications. I base that statement on the assumption that the word " mail " refers to an instrument for conveying a communication from one point to another. The telephone is an instrument for conveying a communication from one point to another. There is no doubt in my mind that the power expressed in section 49 can be applied to the interception of telephone communications.

I return to the bill itself, and I wish to get away from all this emotionalism indulged in by the honorable member who has just spoken. He said that if telephone tapping were allowed to continue all sorts of private conversations would be tapped, and so on. I think that any member who makes such a statement has not analysed very carefully the bill before the House. There has been a lot of talk about security, a lot of talk about listening to telephone conversations of members, a lot of talk about getting information on which prosecutions could be launched, and all that sort of thing. Anybody who understands the true functions of the security service knows that that is a lot of tommy rot. A security service does not act in such a way. It collects information so that in time of danger - for instance in time of war - persons who are dangerous to the security of the country can be dealt with. Surely the object of the security service is not to obtain information for the purpose of launching prosecutions. The thing goes much deeper and wider than that.


Mr Bryant - There goes your 60-vote majority down the drain.


Mr CHRESBY - I am not worried about that. I am quite happy to face the truth. The honorable member delivered an impassioned tirade last night about interference with the rights and liberties of the subject. I do not think that many people's rights and liberties are being interfered with. One honorable member - I think on this side of the House - referred to the statements made in a book by a very well known supporter of the Labour Party, Mr. Don Whitington, who claimed that the honorable member for East Sydney had the best telephone tapping system in existence in this place, and was able thereby to gain official information and give it out. Sometimes the nature of the questions that the honorable member for East Sydney and one or two of his particular colleagues asked in this House would seem to indicate clearly that he has some official inside information which, according to the Official Secrets Act, he should not be entitled to give out.


Mr Cope - You have put tEe honorable member for Mackellar to sleep.


Mr CHRESBY - That is all right, because he did a good job this morning and is entitled to have a sleep. He is at least sleeping here and not in the Library, which is a practice of some people I know. It is completely and unutterably unarguable, in any way whatsoever, that for years the honorable member for East Sydney has been the white-haired boy of the Leninists, of the Communist group in this country. There has never been published in the periodicals of the Communist Party an article in which the honorable member for East Sydney has been attacked. He has always been upheld as their champion. One of the things which, in examining this bill, the decent honorable members on the other side, many of whom I am proud to call friend-


Mr Cleaver - There are not any.


Mr CHRESBY - Yes, there are, and I have a real and genuine affection for the decent ones. They should look very carefully at the point I have just made, and should ask themselves: Is it wise to take notice of the lead, or attempted lead, of the honorable member for East Sydney, when his associations with the Leninists are a known fact? Is it in the best interests of unity in their own party that they should take notice of this man?

You know, the tirade delivered last night by the honorable member for East Sydney was really terrific when you come to analyse it. He made an impassioned appeal. He said that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) had received a letter from General Blarney apologizing for intercepting a telephone conversation between the honorable gentleman and somebody else. Of course, what the honorable gentleman overlooked in pushing that incident forward is that at that point of time the Labour regime was in office. Such a thing has never happened under the present Government.

Everything that the honorable member for East Sydney has advanced has rebounded on him. His behaviour shows quite clearly his fear that, if this bill goes through, a lot of his activities will be restricted - in other words, that he may not be able to use this special phone tapping facility which, according to his friend Don Whitington, he apparently has at his disposal somewhere in this building. If the statement made by Mr. Don Whitington is wrong, then the honorable member for East Sydney should, as a matter of privilege, have Mr. Whitington called before the House and made to disclose the source of his information and the reason for his statement.

The purpose of this measure is a very simple one. It amounts to this, that whereas previous governments, Labour and otherwise, have for many years worked on the principle that interception of communications to enable the security service to preserve and protect the nation was an acceptable practice, the practice has been followed in a sort of willy-nilly manner, but is now to be put on a regular basis. I say that this principle of interception of communications has been in existence for several centuries, and I claim that power to follow the practice already exists in the Australian Constitution as one of the powers implicit in section 49. This would mean that not only the Attorney-General, as proposed under this bill, but any Minister of State at all could issue a warrant to the Director-General of Security for the purposes of ascertaining information for his uses.

If that were what the Government proposed, undoubtedly it would be the cause of some doubt as to whether the practice could be used for political purposes. But there is a definite restriction on the use of the power. No warrant can be issued except by the authority of the AttorneyGeneral of the day after he has thoroughly satisfied himself that the case presented to him by the Director-General merits the issue of that warrant. The only exception to this is where there is a case of urgency - and the decision as to whether a particular matter is urgent lies with the DirectorGeneral. Only after the most careful consideration will permission be given to tap a telephone. The Director-General may, if he so desires in a case of emergency, issue a temporary warrant having effect for a period of 48 hours, and no longer. He can issue that warrant only under certain circumstances which are very clearly set out in the bill. He must first have applied to the Attorney-General for such a warrant and between the time of his application and the time of the Attorney-General's decision, something must have occurred to create an emergency. Even if those circumstances do exist, he must not, over the last three months, have been refused by the AttorneyGeneral an application for a warrant to tap the telephone service.

I think that the Australian public, irrespective of political leanings, can rest secure in the knowledge that there are very definite restrictions and safeguards. Members of the Opposition have screamed about the political aspects of the Attorney-General's actions. British history has shown that, with Labour and non-Labour governments in office, this sort of power has been used by common consent, without any legislation. It has been used very infrequently, even during the war period. Successive AttorneyGenerals have agreed on restraint. But our Attorney-General has gone further. He has put certain legal restrictions in the way. He has placed on himself and the DirectorGeneral of Security certain legal responsibilities which, I submit, will not be handled lightly by any man occupying either office.

There has been a lot of talk about the Petrov case. The Opposition, particularly the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), has screamed that it was a political stunt and that no prosecutions followed it. But the Petrov commission proved that subversive activities had been going on in Australia. It brought home to the men and women in the street that these things were happening and were not merely a figment of the imagination of a few Liberal Party and Australian Country Party members in the State or Federal Parliaments. They were really happening in peace-time. The Petrov case established that point and wiped out forever the argument of the Opposition that such charges by members on this side of the House were purely a figment of the imagination.


Mr Cope - Why did not the Government hold the inquiry after the election?


Mr CHRESBY - That would have been very nice for you.


Mr Opperman - There have been plenty of elections since.


Mr CHRESBY - Yes. That is the answer to the honorable member for Watson.


Mr Cope - It is not the answer to my interjection.


Mr CHRESBY - Well, it proves the point. I do not mind the interjections from members of the Opposition. I like to let them have a bit of fun. They are not getting much fun out of life at present, because they have a tough case to uphold. I do not mind helping them to have a few light moments. It eases the burden of their conscience. They have to face up to problems within their party, such as the fight between the honorable member for East Sydney and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on the one hand and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) on the other. It is a terrific fight. We know too that a fight occurred amongst the executive of the Labour Party with the result that five were against this bill and five were in favour of it. Perhaps they had better find out who is phone-tapping in their own offices. We have read in the newspapers of the close voting in the Labour Party caucus yesterday on the Opposition's attitude to this bill. So it is not a happy Opposition that sits here, torn asunder by the actions of the honorable member for East Sydney who is determined to use this bill as a peg on which to hang his ambitions.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Mr. Speaker, 1 rise to order. I wonder if you can relate what the honorable gentleman is saying to the bill. He is talking about an alleged fight between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for East Sydney.







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