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Tuesday, 17 May 1960

Mr CURTIN (Kingsford) (Smith) . - I should like to direct the attention of all Australians to this blatant attempt to muzzle them under this measure. For many years this Government has been preaching, day in and day out, about the dangers of the Russian system of espionage. One of the practices of that system, of course, is telephone tapping. The AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), himself, has been telling us about the dangers of this system. This attempt to muzzle the people of Australia is dangerous in the extreme. Imagine the Attorney-General having the right to decide whose telephone should be tapped. The other night, in this chamber, the Attorney-General became hysterical and unbalanced and incapable of following this debate. Australians should take cognizance of that fact. Fancy placing in the hands of the Attorney-General - a man whom all the newspapers of Australia have agreed is incapable of carrying on as the leader of this debate - the power to make such a decision. I would not be prepared to place in his hands my safety or that of my family, or the safety of any Australian while these snoopers employed by the Attorney-General try to snoop into my life and theirs by tapping telephones and hearing family conversation at any time they wish.

I am opposed to all systems that muzzle free speech. The Western world is supposedly free, and Australia is supposedly a free country; but we find an insignificant member of this Government, the AttorneyGeneral - the hysterical, incompetent and unstable Attorney-General - wanting to muzzle free citizens. Let us take cognizance of what happened at the Petrov commission. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) came into this House-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member will not be in order in making a second-reading speech.

Mr CURTIN - I should like to mention another gentleman connected with that particular commission, named Richards. Richards made a statement in regard to the Petrov commission and in regard to our security.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! This bill has nothing to do with the Petrov commission.

Mr CURTIN - Mr. Richards-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member will obey the Chair or sit down.

Mr CURTIN - I urge all Australians to take cognizance of the fact that this is the first attempt in the history of our great nation to shackle them from morning till night.

Let us consider how this legislation will be applied in the event of some industrial trouble occurring. As a result of snide manoeuvring the Government appointed one of its members, who used to be the Leader of the Government in another place, as Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Attacks have been intensified upon the trade union movement since that day. But the Prime Minister is not satisfied that he has thereby gained enough power; he now wants power to tap the telephones of the leaders of industrial organizations so his snoopers can listen in to conversations between different industrial organizations in order to gain evidence on which to take action against them.

Clause 6 of the bill states -

Where, upon receipt by the Attorney-General of a request by the Director-General of Security-

That is this unstable, hysterical AttorneyGeneral

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member has made that remark a bit too often. It is completely unparliamentary.

Mr CURTIN - Clause 6 reads-

Where, upon receipt by the Attorney-General of a request by the Director-General of Security for the issue of a warrant under this section in respect of a telephone service, the Attorney-General is satisfied that -

(a)   The telephone service is being or is likely to be -

(i)   used by a person engaged in, or reasonably suspected- reasonably suspected - by the Director-General of Security of being engaged in, or of being likely to engage in-

Who is going to decide who is, or is likely to be engaged in? - activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth.

The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) rightly said that one could drive a double-decker bus through that clause. They leave the opening there for the carrying on of other nefarious activities. The clause continues -

(b)   the interception by the Organization of communications passing to, from or over the telephone service will, or is likely to,-

Who is to decide what is likely? - assist the Organization in carrying out its function of obtaining intelligence relevant to the security of the Commonwealth.

If there are any activities going on that endanger the security of our Commonwealth, the miscreants should be immediately arrested. This Government has been in office for ten and a half years. We have had from it a great deal of talk about the security of our country. We had a royal commission, when a certain gentleman was found to be a reprobate and a hopeless drunkard. The Government was relying on him for information so that it could bring some sort of measure before the Parliament that would allow it to muzzle the people of Australia. That hopeless drunkard is still employed by the security service. Provision is made in the Budget for the security service, but the amount of money that it spends on the payment of snoopers, pimps and so forth is not disclosed. However, it is generally known that this gentleman receives £6,000 a year to drink himself to death at Surfers Paradise at the expense of this Government. How can we leave the security of this country in the hands of such people?

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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