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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 2966

Mr GRIFFITHS (Shortland) - Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on matters affecting the Shortland electorate.

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr GRIFFITHS - I thank the House for its indulgence. The pre-selection of Peter Morris as Labor's candidate to represent the seat of Shortland by the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party last Sunday concludes one of the most sinister and evil episodes any single electorate has ever had to experience in Australian politics. I congratulate Mr Morris on his success and pledge him my undivided support in his campaign, i also congratulate the Executive on the decision it made, especially because the decision was a majority one and preferences were not required to be allocated.

I very much discount the Press claim that Mr Whitlam had suffered a reverse or that he had been rebuffed and that Mr Morris' win was a victory for the Left. The win for Mr Morris, as I see it, was an acknowledgement by the majority of the Executive that he should have been declared the winner 12 months ago. In my view, Mr Morris will follow a centre of the road type of politics and will support progressive types of legislative proposals, whether they come from the Left or the Right, so long as they represent Labor policy. I believe that my Leader can expect, and indeed receive 100 per cent support from Mr Morris.

Having said that I turn, in general, to the dispute itself. For some time now many sections of the Press have continuously varied my age and have claimed, ever since nominations were called in October 1970, that I was over the age and was therefore ineligible again to submit a nomination as a Labor candidate. That is not true, as the New South Wales 1969 rules provided, in rule 131c, that persons 70 years and over at the date of the calling of nominations were ineligible to nominate. That rule did not then apply to me. Since then the rules have been amended, and the 1971-73 rules now provide, in rule M7c, that a person who will reach the age of 70 years in the term for which he is nominating will be ineligible for nomination, except on special grounds, and those grounds would have to be endorsed by the State Council.

However, I doubt whether the amended rule would apply to the 1972 election. My failure to nominate as a candidate in 1970 was not because of age. At that time I was 67 years of age. I had deliberately refused to nominate so that I could publicly protest at what was going on in the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales. For me to say that I have been both disillusioned and amazed at the Tammany Hall type practices being perpetrated in the New South Wales Australian Labor Party over recent years would be putting it extremely mildly. An abundance of evidence shows that for at least 3 years past, fraud, blackmail, conspiracy and forgery all had a place in the Shortland affair, and there are plenty of statutory declarations about to prove the point. It was that fact alone that had influenced me last Wednesday to accept an invitation to renominate for the seat, for a limited period. In the discussion I had stipulated that I was prepared to continue, subject to winning an election, for a period of upwards of 18 months, provided that Tingira Heights Branch had its charter withdrawn and the Branch reformed according to rule, and that -Mr Donnelly be expelled. As evidence of my sincerity regarding the period I might continue as a member, I point out that in submitting my nomination I also submitted an undated resignation which read:

Dear Mr Speaker,

I, Charles Edward Griffiths, Member of the House of Representatives for the Electoral Division of Shortland in the State of New South Wales, hereby resign, in accordance with Section 37 of the Constitution, my place in the House of Representatives.

However, when the assurances sought were not received and it was apparent that some members of the Executive, who I had thought would give my nomination favourable consideration, would not so consider it, I withdrew the nomination hoping that someone from within the electorate - preferably Mr Morris - would win the preselection. Mr Morris duly won the ballot but the intrigue and graft remain and could erupt at any dme. That means that there is an unfortunate aftermath to the Shortland affair which, in my opinion, is now vested fairly and squarely in the Federal Executive of the Labor Party. I believe that eventually it will rebound against the majority of the Executive should they leave the Shortland dispute as it is at present.

It is now history that by unanimous resolution in Adelaide the Executive upheld the appeal by Mr Morris against Mr Donnelly's being declared winner of the third ballot, that ballot being the second rank and file vote to be held. The facts emerging from that discussion are very important. The Executive must have known of the discrepancies and the manipulation of the statutory declarations, and of the forgery and blackmail that had taken place, as well as the issue of false ALP membership tickets in 1969-70. On the Executive were a number of brilliant legal identities yet, as at this time, no announcement has been made by the Executive spokesman as to whether there is to be any action or inquiry into the graft that they all know took place in the Shortland electorate.

As I see it, any prolonged continuation of that silence in itself condemns the Executive members as being persons unfit to hold public office. It is rumoured, Mr

Speaker, that no disciplinary or punitive action is to be taken either by the Federal Executive or the NSW State Council against the people responsible for the happenings in Shortland, although its total cost can be measured in thousands of dollars. In contrast, about 18 months ago the State Executive suspended for 6 months a 70- year-old pensioner's membership of the ALP for having signed a voter's name on a municipal preselection voting list, which she had herself forgotten to do. The irony of the case was that the pensioner was only acting for the returning officer who was away on business. The voter is my sister, a widow who had lost her husband only a few months earlier. She was also aged 70 and was extremely ill with a heart condition. I had taken her to vote so that she would not break a promise she had made to record her vote.

In that instance both my sister and the acting returning officer were bullied and bounced by men who should have known better. Yet in this case in Shortland where graft in various forms has been proved, no action at all is contemplated, and I ask why. It is true that Donnelly may have sown the seeds of the events, but quite often seeds do not germinate without the help of the weather. I have a very small spark of sympathy for Donnelly because I do not think that it was his genius which touched off the spark which brought about the Shortland affair.

In this case it is apparent that the inspiration and help had been readily forthcoming from the head office of the ALP in New South Wales. For instance, the falsification of the 1969 and 1970 Tingira Heights membership could never have come about had not someone in the Sydney ALP office issued 1969 ticket books in 1970, thus giving to certain people illegal membership in the Labor Party in a period of preselection. That action alone has caused unbelievable suffering to families and individuals. The complications have been enormous. Family homes have been lost and broken up, while some persons have also lost their employment. I have no desire, Mr Speaker, further to labour this aspect of the Shortland dispute, but I suggest that if further evidence is required it is available. I suggest to my colleagues who are interjecting that

I can give the evidence to this House if they want me to do so, and put everything beyond dispute.

Mr Cope - What has it got to do with the House?

Mr GRIFFITHS - It has a lot to do with the House. I suggest that if further evidence is required, those people who are interested enough in the Labor movement might read the Burns report dated 23rd November 1970 in which Shortland does not even receive a mention. I am sure that anyone who takes the time to study the document will find it very interesting reading. I believe that it is reminiscent of the Wren era. In any case, those responsible for the mishandling of the membership ticket books must be apprehended and expelled from the Labor Party. The events of the past 3 years in the Shortland electorate can never be resolved until a public inquiry has been held into all the charges and counter charges that have been made. I urge that either this Government or the New South Wales Government institute an inquiry before all the evidence that has been accumulated has been removed or destroyed.

There are 2 or 3 other aspects of the Shortland electorate dispute that have caused me unceasing worry and I will mention them briefly. The first matter relates to an attack that was made on Mr Ley, the Chief Commonwealth Electoral Officer, and his deputies regarding ballot rigging and illegal voting at elections, by Mr Westerway, the New South Wales Secretary of the Australian Labor Party. In dissociating myself from Mr Westerway's remarks I want to pay a tribute to Mr Ley and his officers for their attention to duty and the courteous way they have always received me when I have sought their help. I especially pay a tribute to the 3 divisional presiding officers who have conducted the business of the Shortland electorate since its inception in 1949. I refer to the late Bert Smith, Bill Budd and Don Stewart, the present presiding officer. Each of these 3 men has possessed qualities separate from each other, while being as virtuous and sustaining as one another. Any one of us could think himself lucky to be fortunate enough to have them administering the electorate for him. To them I say a gracious thank you.

Mr Speaker,you will be aware that over the past 2 years or more I have complained to you about the type of garbage that some members of the Press Gallery have been dishing out about me through their newspapers. I have been virtually accused of being a traitor to the Labor cause. It has been said that I had been prepared to sell Labor down the drain so that the Liberal Government could remain in office while I retained an alleged lifelong friendship with you, Mr Speaker. 1 refer to the journalist Maximilian Walsh. I have never spoken to him in my life, but he has most certainly cashed in on the Shortland affair. That man is an out and out scoundrel from whose pen flow lies with impunity. In other words, he is an unmitigated prevaricator. On several occasions Mr Walsh has proudly denigrated me, but in my view if he lives to be 100 years old he will never equal my industrial and political record.

On 19th December last he wrote in the Sun-Herald' an article headed 'Charlie G. Leaves His Shell Again'. In that article he accused me of winning preselection in 1949 by stacking branches, and in particular the Adamstown branch. It could be said that Mr Walsh, and my colleague the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), who has also accused me of branch stacking, may have gone into a huddle somewhere and worked out together what they would say, because they tell the same story about branch stacking. So they both lie. Mr Walsh's claim-

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