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Thursday, 12 May 1960


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) .- This bill is called-

A Bill for an Act to Prohibit the Interception of Telephonic Communications except where Specially Authorized in the Interests of the Security of the Commonwealth.

From the first words of this title one would think that this is really a bill to prohibit telephone tapping. In fact, the object of the bill is to give legal authority to do exactly what the first few words of the title say that it is aimed to prevent. This bill is like the great reform that Nero introduced into Rome when he said that no more Christians were to be thrown to the lions except on the orders of Nero himself. To put the matter in cold, stark language, the objects of the bill are to permit telephone tapping for periods of up to six months at a time, on the authority of the AttorneyGeneral himself; to permit telephone tapping for up to 48 hours on the warrant of the Director-General of Security without any reference to the Attorney-General at all; and to authorize any one else who has been given authority by the DirectorGeneral, to check upon telephone conversations.

The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) seeks to justify all these invasions of civil liberties by the pretence that they are necessary to deal with what he is prepared to cover by the term " subversion ". The word " subversion " like the word " Communist " as used in the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, is a word which, if applied in an exaggerated form, or even in the literal sense as denned by the Oxford

English Dictionary, could cover the activities of every single person in this Parliament.

Let me quote to the House the Oxford Dictionary's definition of the word I am talking about. It says that " subversion " is " the action of overturning or overthrowing". It is not overthrowing by violent means, or overthrowing by any particular means; it is the action of overthrowing. Overthrowing by the ballot-box would be subversion in the minds of the people who were being overthrown.


Mr Forbes - Ah!


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Never mind about " Ah! ". The honorable member for Barker knows that when proceedings are taken before a court, the court always accepts as a legitimate argument from counsel appearing on either side the interpretation given by the Oxford English Dictionary to terms in legislation. The definition of " subversion " in that dictionary is also given as, " to disturb, to overturn; to overturn a condition or to overthrow an order of things, to overthrow a principle, to overthrow the law ". Those are all acts which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, are acts of subversion, and " subversion " is to be the word that is to determine whether or not a person is to be regarded as a fit subject to have his telephone tapped.

The position, therefore, is that we are entitled to query the real motive behind this legislation. Are any of us here so foolish as to believe that any real spy, or any actual agent of a foreign power, will be so foolish as to use a telephone to carry on his activities, especially now that he knows that it is legal to tap a telephone service? What person would be so foolish as to think that a real Russian spy would be silly enough to use a telephone to carry on his espionage, or sabotage or the other things that this bill pretends it is aimed at preventing? Can any one imagine " Schmidt the spy " ringing up " Garry the Com." now it is known that telephones are to be tapped? Of course not.

Every one knows that these people are not so naive as that. Russia and other foreign powers are not so foolish as to send people here who are so naive as to believe they can carry on their activities through telephones that will be tapped by the security service. If this bill were actually designed, as it pretends to be designed, to be a check on the activities of spies and saboteurs of a foreign power, then I believe the Government could have proved its bona fides by making some provision in the bill that a record of all warrants issued should be supplied to the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that would be a proper provision. If this intrusion on the civil liberties of the people is to be justified, the AttorneyGeneral should be obliged to supply to the Prime Minister and also to the Leader of the Opposition a copy of every warrant issued. If it is in fact aimed at preserving the security of the country, what person would say that the Leader of the Opposition is not as much entitled to be taken into the confidence of the authorities on matters affecting the security of the country as is the Prime Minister himself?

How can this country defend itself if, in time of war, the Government says to the Opposition, " You, and the people you represent, are, in our opinion, traitors to the country and cannot be trusted ". No country can enter an armed conflict with a foreign power with any hope of success unless it has the united support of its parliament, if it happens to be a democracy. That was shown during the last war, when the Menzies Government invited the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin, and other leaders of the Opposition party to sit in the War Cabinet. In England, Mr. Churchill invited the leaders of the Opposition party to sit in the War Cabinet and share all the Cabinet's secrets. He knew that no country could defend itself when there was a real threat to its security unless it. had the united support of every section of the community. Especially must it have the united support of the workers, because it is the workers of the country who make the bombs and the munitions and bear their share of the actual armed conflict. When Mr. Curtin became Prime Minister he, too, established a War Council. He knew that a Labour government could no more govern in time of war without the support of the Liberal Opposition than could a Liberal government without the support of the Labour Opposition.

If this were a genuine attempt to protect the security of the country, then the Leader of the Opposition would be given a con fidential report of every warrant issued to authorize the tapping of a telephone by the Director-General. But that has not been done. I do not blame the Government for not providing that that information should be given to the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr Chresby - Neither do 1, because it would leak out.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is a nice statement to come from an honorable member! What he is now virtually saying is that the Leader of the Opposition, the alternative Prime Minister of this country, is such a traitor to his country that he would divulge information to a foreign power concerning its security. It is disgraceful that such a statement should come from a member on the Government side, suggesting that the Leader of this Opposition, who, one day, will become Her Majesty's Prime Minister in this country, is such a traitorous character that he is not to be trusted with information concerning security. That is a disgraceful statement, and one that the honorable member should take an early opportunity to correct.


Mr Downer - I do not think that the honorable member is interpreting the real meaning of the interjection.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I thank the Minister for Immigration for that correction on behalf of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby), and I am pleased to notice that the honorable member agrees with that correction. The interjection appeared to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition was not to be trusted. If it is now agreed, however, by the Minister for Immigration and by the honorable member who made the interjection that the Leader of the Opposition is a man who can be trusted with secrets concerning the security of the country, that makes so much weaker the Government's case for not having given the Leader of the Opposition the right, automatically, to share in information concerning the issue of warrants.


Mr Chresby - I supported the Leader of the Opposition right through my speech.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Then the honorable member must support what I am now saying. The Government has not given evidence of its bona fides in this regard. The reason why the Government is not giving the Leader of the Opposition information concerning the persons whose phones have been tapped is that these phones are being tapped only for industrial and political purposes. What fools the members of the Government would be to share the information they hope to get by tapping telephones with the leader of the political party opposed to them! In this practice lies the Government's hope of obtaining information which it could never obtain by fair means.

I believe that it ought to be recognized that when a telephone is tapped, the person doing the tapping is listening to the conversation not of one person, but of two - one of whom is usually innocent. It is possible that the conversation would be between two innocent people, because when authority for tapping a telephone has been given, the tapping goes on constantly for 24 hours a day. If people think that they can know when their phone is being tapped because of certain noises, let me disabuse their minds at once. There is now no way of knowing whether a phone is being tapped, even by noises or diminution of volume. The tapping apparatus is an automatic device which is pinned to the particular line for 24 hours a day. Immediately the telephone receiver is lifted by the other party to answer a call, this automatic device begins to operate and continues to operate until the conversation is ended and the receiver is put down, lt is automatic and complete. It taps and records every conversation on a telephone.

One of these devices is installed at the Canberra Post Office. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and I invited members of the Government to come across to security head-quarters in Canberra to inspect the phone tapping apparatus installed there. We knew what was being installed by the security service, because the telephone technicians who were doing the installation told us what I am now disclosing to the House. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and I alleged in Parliament that the telephones of members of this House were being tapped by the security service, and we went so far as to move - the honorable member for East Sydney was the mover and I was the seconder of the motion - that our allegations regarding the tapping of members' telephones should be referred to the Committee of Privileges for investigation and action. We forced a division on the motion. The Prime Minister and every other member on the Government side voted against the proposal to have our allegations investigated by the Committee of Privileges. Do you think they did that to save the honorable member for East Sydney and myself the embarrassment which surely would have been ours if we could not have proved our case? Do you think that they did it for that reason? Of course not!

I know that although the Prime Minister has a very high regard for me, he has not such a high regard for the honorable member for East Sydney, and nothing would have pleased him more than to have been able to catch the honorable member on some allegation which the honorable member could not prove. Do not forget the risk that the honorable member for East Sydney and I ran. Had we not been able to prove our charge against the security service, by resolution of the Parliament our seats in this House could have been taken from us there and then and declared vacant. That is the risk we ran, but it was a risk that we were prepared to take in order to prove our assertion that the telephones of members of Parliament had been tapped.


Mr Downer - It would not be the same place without either of you.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I thank the Minister for that. I know that not only are the telephones of members of Parliament being tapped, but also that security service agents are installed in this House to check up on the correspondence which is received by honorable members, and to search the contents of the drawers of their tables. I have made this allegation, and I have asked the Leader of the Opposition to have it investigated. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and I have positive proof that a security service agent is interfering with the correspondence of members of Parliament and the written material which is contained in honorable members' rooms.


Mr Forbes - Let us have the proof now.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Never mind about the proof now. The proof is being investigated, and I say no more about it at this stage. This is an outrageous state of affairs. The Minister for Immigration, who is at the table, appears to be shocked by what 1 am saying because he understands, if other honorable members do not, what parliamentary privilege means. He knows that once you destroy parliamentary privilege; once you destroy the right of a member of Parliament to stand up and speak his mind freely and express his opinion on matters which affect the welfare of the people of the community; once you take away his complete and absolute freedom to do this, you destroy the very cornerstone of democracy. A constituent must always have the right to come to a member of Parliament, to telephone a member of Parliament or to write to a member of Parliament, completely free of doubts and certain in the knowledge that no snooper or member of the security service will be listening to his telephone conversation or checking his correspondence.

If the people of this democracy lose that right to contact their member of Parliament freely in the way that I have described, this democracy will have taken on at least one of the characteristics of the totalitarian state. That is something against which we all ought to fight. For centuries our forebears fought to establish this form of government of men by men. It is a tragedy and a wicked shame that in time of peace when there is no real evidence of subversion in this country we should allow, by legislative act, this terrible intrusion into the civil liberties of the people. I have already given the dictionary definition of " subversion ". It is so wide that it could cover the actions of a trade unionist who seeks to alter an award. It could cover the actions of any person who seeks to overthrow a government through the ballot-box, because " subversion" in the Oxford Dictionary is not defined as an overthrow by force of a government or an overthrow by force of a law. The definition is to overturn or overthrow by any action, whether through the ballot-box or by any other means.

I believe that the Prime Minister was right in the description of the situation in Egypt contained in his letter to Anthony

Eden which was disclosed in Eden's memoirs. The Prime Minister said that Egypt to-day is a police state and has all the characteristics of a police state. Then he mentioned telephone tapping. That became the number one characteristic of a police state in the mind of the Prime Minister when he sought to convince Anthony Eden that Egypt was a police state. Undoubtedly telephone tapping is a characteristic of the police state. It is a characteristic of what was accepted as the norm in Hitler's Germany, and what is accepted to-day in Russia, Spain and the other dictatorships of the world. It is not the kind of thing that free men tolerate, and it is not the kind of thing that we in Australia should tolerate. Certainly, it is not the kind of thing that a democratically elected government should ever dare to bring to the Parliament. It is something on which we ought to frown forever.

Telephone tapping is as alien to our Australian way of life as pulling the knife when you cannot win a fight by any other means. A new Australian came to me on one occasion and complained that he would not be accepted for naturalization. I asked him whether he had committed any offences and he replied, " Only a little one. 1 had p. brawl s: Hindmarsh some time ago and I pulled a knife, and now the Minister will not allow me to be naturalized." I said " If I were the Minister I would not allow you be naturalized either." I said to him "There is one thing that new Australians ought to learn and that is that if you cannot beat a man by fair means you do not pull a knife on him ". Listening to telephone conversations is the parallel of pulling a knife when you cannot beat a man by fighting in the Australian way.

We do not give our civil police power to tap telephones. We expect them to track down murderers, forgers and people who engage in every other brand of crime in the criminal calendar, without tapping telephones. We do not allow them to u.'-e the third degree. We do not allow them to use the other methods that are so characteristic of totalitarianism. But I believe that if you can justify one departure from decency and from the recognized civil liberties, you can justify another. You can justify, eventually, arrest without warrant, imprisonment without trial, the suspension of habeas corpus, the third decree, and all the other methods that the totalitarian powers employ against their enemies. Once you take the first step the others seem much easier. It seems a long way from where we are now to the power to arrest without warrant, but it is not so far from tapping a telephone to arrest without warrant. II. in the name of defence, you can justify the tapping of telephones now on the ground that there might be subversion - and by subversion I mean an attempt to overthrow a government by force and not merely through the ballot-box - you can justify anything else. What person who says that he is prepared to trample on this civil liberty will restrain himself from trampling on some other liberty in the name of defence?

Once you cross the Rubicon in that regard, there is no justification for stepping back in other respects. Communists and Fascists justify, in the name of security, their violation of natural justice, civil liberties and common decencies which we hold dear. I remember reading the last words of a great Irish patriot who, standing on the threshold of death - he was about to be hanged for a crime against the State - said, " Justice! O, what crime is committed in your name ". We might very well say, "Democracy! O, what acts of dictatorship are committed in your name ". Here we have an act of dictatorship being committed in the name of democracy. A government which pretends to believe in democracy is taking the very first step along the road towards totalitarianism.

Let us not imitate the totalitarian powers in any respect. Let us not take even the first step along the road that leads to totalitarianism - and the tapping of telephones is the first step along that road. Let us remember how true it is that he who goes far enough into the desert must keep on walking to the other side of it if thirst prevents him from going back. That could easily be the situation in which we in Australia shall find ourselves. Having taken the first step, we then take the second. The second leads to the third, and so on, until finally we are so far into the morass that we become as totalitarian as are the people whom we pretend that we are opposing.

I believe that we must always remain vigilant in our fight against totalitarianism, lest we adopt the methods of totalitarianism to such an extent as to make our methods absolutely indistinguishable from the evils that we condemn, lt would be very much like the case of the doctor who decides to kill the patient in order to cure the disease. Those are the things that I warn this Parliament to have a clear understanding on, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In short, I believe that we should let Australia remain forever a free country - completely free in every sense of the word - because it is quite possible that we may become the last bastion of what, 50 years ago, free people believed freedom to stand for.

It has been said that the United Kingdom, the United States of America, New Zealand, Canada and other countries have allowed telephone tapping to be legalized by act of Parliament. Of course they have, but two wrongs do not make a right. The fact that other countries have done something wrong is no reason why we should do something wrong. The plain fact of the situation is that the Western powers have absolutely panicked during the last few years and are now doing things which their forebears would never have tolerated. Our forebears would never have tolerated things of the kind that we are doing in the name of defence and in the name of democracy. I. believe that soon there will no longer be even a semblance of the things that we at one time understood freedom to stand for.

Whatever happens in other countries, we have to keep this country a bastion of real liberty and of real freedom. Australia should stand as a beacon light and a rallying point for people who believe in the decencies of life, in civil liberties, in human dignity and in the rights of man. Too often, we find precedents being pointed to as reasons for going still further into the morass. We ought to be determined that we shall forever remain the precedent for free men to turn to when they want to unshackle themselves from the toils into which they have fallen, so that the people of the United Kingdom and of the United States can point to Australia and say, " We must prohibit telephone tapping in our country. Look at Australia. There is a country where telephone tapping has been prohibited. It. is still a free country and has not been overthrown." We must at least provide the free world with one example to which other countries can turn, if they get over their panic-stricken state of mind, and say, "Let us emulate Australia".

If we join the other countries which, as I have said, have thrown away these precious civil liberties in order to fight a form of tyranny that we all detest, what have we achieved? What do we achieve if, in. fighting communism, we finish by eventually emulating the Communists themselves? If we do that, we shall not have won anything, but the Communists will have inflicted a defeat upon us, not by their action, but by our own action. By the weakening of our own moral fibre, we shall have allowed the Communists to obtain a victory which at one time they would never have thought possible. I believe that this bill, if it is passed, will be a perfect example of one of the great victories of communism. Once we give up the right to say truthfully that the great difference between communism and democracy is that in a democracy the liberty of the subject is completely preserved - once the right to boast of absolute and complete liberty of the subject has been broken down and eventually destroyed - what argument have we left with which to fight communism?

This is one time when I should like a bill before the Parliament to be considered as a non-party measure, as was the Matrimonial Causes Bill 1959, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am certain that there are, on the Government side of the House, members - at least, the more learned of them, who know the fundamentals of civil liberties and the basic principles of justice and freedom - who would never support this bill if it were treated as a non-party measure. I cannot believe that the Minister for Immigration, who is now at the table, wholeheartedly supports the bill, although I do not blame him for voting for it, because, as a member of the Government, he has to do as the majority in the Government decides. I can only regret that the debate on this measure is being conducted on a party basis, thereby preventing the free expression of the views of many decent members on the Government side of the chamber whose minds are not yet so warped, and who are not so panic-stricken as to accept this terrible invasion of the recognized civil liberties in this country.







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