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Tuesday, 14 May 1968

Mr BRYANT (Wills) - by leave- Tonight we listened for 20 minutes to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) using all the authority of his office, though giving very little new information and, in fact, no information that has not been readily available to everybody, in an attempt to prejudice the right of Australian citizens to indulge in legitimate political activity. I do not want to debate this subject tonight, although it ought to have been made a subject for debate. The Attorney-General received the courtesy of the House and was given the right to table a statement. He has used the Standing Orders to the fullest possible extent to table a document that none of us has ever seen. It would have been well for us to have made this an issue for debate. He has accepted the courtesy of the House and has used the forms of the House and the authority of his high office to stifle legitimate political activity by Australian citizens.

I will give one instance of this. This afternoon a number of young students from Sydney were here. All the male members of the group shortly will be the subject of conscription and the national service system that this Government has inflicted upon them. They knew that the Attorney-General was to make this statement. He has used the Press to ensure that his intention to make the statement would be known to the public, although he did not show honourable members the courtesy of telling them. The young students came to my office and they went to the offices of other honourable members. They were treated with proper courtesy, because they are young people aged 18 or 19 years. I rang the office of the Attorney-General and the office of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), because statements have been issued in their names, one in this House and one in the Press. I hoped that they would discuss this matter with the students. The Attorney-General did not have time to discuss it with them. But he has time to come into this House and in a lengthy prepared statement to traduce these students, to vilify them and to try to prejudice their right to legitimate political activity. He tried to intimidate them. But he did not have time to see them face to face. 1 could make many comments and 1 could continue this discussion for some time, but I simply place the issue before the Australian people. The Attorney-General, who occupies one of the highest legal offices in the land, backed by all the prestige, status and tradition of his office, has used his position to prejudice and to traduce ordinary, innocent young Australian citizens. He said that these demonstrations are not spontaneous. They are much more spontaneous than is the way in which young Liberals in this House go off to join the colours and to take their place in Vietnam. I usually refrain from giving their names personally in this place. Let me express as forcibly as I can the contempt I feel for the action that has been taken here tonight. Not one single passage in the statement has not been public knowledge. The information in it has been known to everybody concerned with public affairs who takes the time and trouble to see what is happening.

All I am doing tonight is to raise whatever voice I have on behalf of those Australian citizens who wish to demonstrate in public and to show their political attitudes in public on any issue they choose, i for one will associate with them when 1 approve and will protect them in their rights, even in those matters of which I strongly disapprove. I believe that that is the Australian democratic tradition. I have taken part in a lot of these demonstrations. I have seen spontaneous demonstrations and I have seen organised demonstrations. Last week a number of university students came to this place to give encouragement to the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth), lt was not spontaneous; of course it was organised. Arrangements had to be made with the police and so on. I have organised spontaneous demonstrations, if I can put it that way, in my own electorate, and I use the two terms advisably. I have some respect for the English language; the Attorney-General has no respect for it whatever. Last year I organised a very large demonstration in my electorate by simply announcing in the newspapers that we proposed to march to Pentridge Prison before the execution of

Ronald Ryan. Thousands of people turned up. The only ones who were organised were the three or four people closely associated with me.

The Attorney-General is paying a very poor tribute to the spirit of the Australian citizenry. He is using this House in an attempt to employ the political gimmickry of the last 20 years to prejudice the political activities of the next generation. 1 do not think he will succeed. I say to the honourable members opposite, to the Young Liberals and to the members of the Democratic Labor Party that when the day comes that they spontaneously go to the closest recruiting office and offer to go to Vietnam they will be in a position to traduce the young Australians who were here this afternoon. As for the Attorney-General, he has today demeaned not only his office and his portfolio but also himself.

Dr Mackay - Mr Deputy Speaker-

Mr James - He wants to enlist.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Hunter will cease interjecting.

Dr Mackay - I may have done that more often than the honourable member has. I seek leave to make a statement.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I ask the House to come to order. I call the honourable member for Evans.

Mr Crean - I ask for leave to make a statement.

Dr Mackay - I am asking for leave to make a statement on the same subject.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is leave granted?

Mr Uren - No.

Mr Crean - We are willing to grant leave provided we know what the statement is about. Surely we have before the House a statement from the Attorney-General. As I understood the argument, it was about incorporating in Hansard a document of about 18 pages that has not been read to the House. That was the purport of the argument when I rose. I am not quite sure what the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) is seeking leave to do. I am seeking leave at this stage to speak about the

Attorney-General's request to have a document incorporated in Hansard. In his statement he said:

I shall table a copy of this report and therefore will not refer in any detail to its contents.

With all respect, I raised a point the other day about a document that was, to my mind, significant in our consideration of a Bill before the House. I was told that, without the leave of the House, it was not possible to incorporate that document in Hansard. Now we are arguing about whether a document of some 16 or IS pages, which nobody had seen until this afternoon, should be tabled in the House. I understand the technical differences between tabling a document in the House and incorporating it in Hansard. Tabling in the House means that it has the fullest publicity. We had here a simple enough statement. In the normal course of events we could have asked that the debate be adjourned. The Minister chose to add to his statement material that is in my view contentious. Nobody can vouch for its authenticity, but the Government knows that in some respect it damages the reputation of the Australian Labor Party. It wants to have the document tabled in the House and I object.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - As I have already explained, when the AttorneyGeneral resumed his seat the subject matter before the House was a statement he had made. He had asked for leave to make a statement and that leave was granted. The Attorney-General tabled a paper.

Mr Peters - Without leave.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Scullin will cease interjecting.

Mr Crean - The Attorney-General asked for leave.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - No. The Attorney-General tabled a paper. No leave was sought for that to be incorporated in Hansard. There is a complete difference between the Attorney-General tabling a paper and matter being incorporated in Hansard. Therefore when the AttorneyGeneral had finished, the honourable member for Wills and some other honourable members, including the honourable member for Hindmarsh, pursued the question and sought leave to make a statement, as I understood it, on the subject matter of the Attorney-General's statement. The House gave leave and the honourable member for Wills made his statement. When the honourable member for Evans sought the leave of the House to make a statement, I assumed that he meant a statement on the subject matter raised by the AttorneyGeneral. At this stage a cry of 'No' came from the Opposition. The position now is that leave has not been granted to the honourable member for Evans. This is the only subject matter that has been considered, and the report tabled by the Minister has no relation to the discussion before the Chair.

Mr Bowen - The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has suggested that I have presented a 16-page or 18-page document without having given notice. This is not so. This document was shown to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and considered by him. The course that I have taken has been taken with his approval. 1 think I should draw the attention of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) to that fact. It is unfortunate that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not here. I repeat that this was not something just produced in the House tonight for the first time.

Mr Crean - I rise to order. It is true that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) are not here. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton.) and his deputy are not here either. My leaders left me in charge of this side of the House this evening. They told me that a document would be produced and said that it was within my judgment as to whether it should be accepted by this side of the House. I submit with all respect that when the Minister said: 'I shall table a copy of this report and therefore will not refer in any detail to its contents', I raised an objection as to whether or not he would be able to do so. This is the point I am now arguing: When a speech is supported by any sort of documentation, are we bound to accept that documentation? This is germane to the whole process of parliamentary procedure. When we look at this report, what is it but a set of secret documents?

Mr Bowen - lt is public.

Mr Fox - They are not secret.

Mr Crean - I do not mind whether it is public or not public. I suggest that the moment these documents are allowed to be tabled in this House they will be made public out of all proportion to their importance. I submit that this is the gravamen of the case.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I have already pointed out that a Minister may table a paper at any stage, particularly when there is no other business before the House. To have it or any other matter incorporated in Hansard, the leave of the House is required. As I have already explained, the Attorney-General tabled the paper. If I may use this expression, that is it.

Mr Crean - Again I rise to order. If that is it, the position is most unsatisfactory.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I am sorry, but there is no substance to the point of order. The honourable member may express his opinion.

Mr Crean - May 1 have leave to make a statement?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - That is not in my hands; it is in the hands of the House.

Mr Freeth - We will give him leave if the Opposition first gives leave to the honourable member for Evans to make a statement.

Mr Munro - I understood the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who is leading for his side at the moment, to say that he would consent to the honourable member for Evans making a statement provided he knew what the honourable member would be talking about.

Mr Freeth - Put the question again.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! As I understood the position, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, without prejudice shall I say, asked what the honourable member for Evans intended to say, and there was no comment about that. The honourable member for Evans sought leave to make a statement, at which point voices from the Opposition said 'No'. That is the position as far as the Chair is concerned. I am in the hands of the House. The question is: That leave be granted for the honourable member for Evans to make a statement. Is leave granted?

Opposition members - No.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Leave is not granted.

APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1967-68 Second Reading

Debate resumed (vide page 1385).

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