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Wednesday, 19 March 1969
Page: 695


Mr KILLEN (Moreton) - It is interesting to try to guess at the purpose of the exercise of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). The honourable member finished his speech by confessing to us, with a splendid touch of hesitancy, that in the last day or so he has had a traumatic experience. He said that it was painful to him to read what he started off by referring to as alleged blackmail. Despite the imperfections of the honourable member's performance I think that the House has listened tonight to an attempt at the gentle art of smearing. What the honourable member for Hunter failed to do was to make it clear to the House where his true sentiments really lay in this matter. He started off by saying: 'This is alleged blackmail. This is Frank Browne in " Things I Hear ", which is well known to most people as " Things J Smear ". The honourable member for Hunter said: I want to know about this alleged blackmail.' He finished up by saying: 'This has been painful to me. I would like to know what the truth is. The Prime Minister should come in and clear away 'this shadow hanging over his integrity'.

What is the nature of the man the honourable member has invoked tonight. He is a former detective sergeant of the New South Wales Police Force. It is no wonder that there is a relatively high rate of unsolved crime in New South Wales. Here tonight the honourable member has put forward as his chief witness the darling of the Crown case, Frank Browne. He is the darling. Honourable members should listen to a correct reference of Frank Browne which comes not from me who may be accused of having partisan views, but from the honourable member's former Leader, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). It is a superb collocation of words rivalling Shakespeare at his best in King Lear. The right honourable member for Melbourne said:

The second man -

That is Browne - for a long period, has been maligning members of this Parliament in the most scurrilous fashionaccusing them even of lecherous conduct, and making the foulest charges against them, stirring up the very cesspools of his disordered imagination in order to depict members of this House and other persons in this community, all good Australians, as completely unworthy persons.

This is the darling of the case presented by the honourable member for Hunter. This is the darling of the Crown case. This is his witness, Mr Frank Browne. This is the character evidence given by the right honourable member for Melbourne who, no matter what political differences we may have and hold one to the other, at least has no capacity to indulge in this facinorous nonsense. The right honourable member, speaking of Mr Browne, continued:

But he did not even apologise. He merely read us a lecture on liberty. 1 like to hear lessons and lectures on liberty, but 1 like them to fall from the mouths of people who believe in liberty. I do not believe in tolerating observations from people who believe only in licence. He wants a licence to continue to malign this Parliament and its members.

Does the honourable member for Hunter feel any creeping sense of shame after having invoked Mr Frank Browne as his authority for alleged blackmail? The right honourable member for Melbourne continued:

In the case of Browne, I saw an arrogant rat

That is a fine authority to invoke to charge the political head of this country. The right honourable member continued: . . just a character assassin, and I have no better description to apply to him than that of my colleague, the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Ward), who protested against the Australian Broadcasting Commission employing him to write scripts. He wrote a script about the late Captain Albert Jacka, V.C., concerning which the former honourable member for Corangamite, the late Mr McDonald, made a deserved and spirited protest.

Then my right honourable friend from Melbourne cited what was said on this matter, and continued:

Those arc the characters who have set out to bring the Parliament into contempt.

This is the authority which my friend, the honourable member for Hunter, invoked this evening. If the honourable member is not prepared to bow before the character assessment made by (he right honourable member for Melbourne on 10th June 1955, if. he rejects that authority, possibly he will pay some heed to the views given by his present leader, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam). In the same debate, he said of Browne, this precious authority:

It is to be deplored that the man Browne did not express some contrition for the admissions that he made before the committee. He did not refer in his speech here to his admission that he had made statements in this obscure suburban paper without any foundation. Though he said in that paper that he would come to Canberra armed with proof, he did not come to Canberra armed wilh proof. Although he said to the committee -

That is, the Committee of Privileges - that he had, by a piece of sloppy writing, incorrectly implied that there was still improper conduct on the part of the honourable member for Reid, he still offers no explanation for it.

Among honourable members who sat in this House was the former honourable member for Reid, the late Mr Morgan, and no matter what people may have thought about his political views he was incapable of offering a cruel gesture to anybody or of doing a cruel deed. This is the gentleman, Mr Frank Browne, that the honourable member for Hunter tonight invites the National Parliament to accept as the authority for going out and finding whether the alleged blackmail that has disturbed the honourable member should be inquired into or not. It will be a sorry day for the Parliament of Australia and it will be . a pathetic day for the people of Australia if on no more reliable authority than that of Frank Browne, whose pen will go to the highest bidder, this Parliament is to be asked to say: 'Well, we are prepared to inqiure into the nature of this alleged blackmail.' This has been a very sad episode in the life of this Parliament. It has been a sad episode in the political life of this country. I am sorry that the member for Hunter has raised this matter because he has brought no credit to himself and no credit to his Party by doing it. I hope only that at the first opportunity his Leader will promptly disown everything that the honourable member has said.







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