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Wednesday, 5 March 1980
Page: 602

Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania) - The matter, far from being ruled off, will occupy the time of the Senate for a considerable period from here on. It is my intention, after tonight 's effort by Senator O 'Byrne, coming on top of last night's meanderings and slanderous attack by Senator O 'Byrne on another member of this Senate, to propose a notice of motion, in the absence of a proposition from the Government, that the privileges of this Parliament will be impugned if any senator accuses any person named by that senator of a criminal offence. Let me refer to Senator O 'Byrne's remarks on 28 February 1979. On page 388 of Senate Hansard he said:

Senator Harradinesigned for both of these cheques. It is on record that he signed personally for both of these cheques.

He said:

This was after Senator Harradine had organised to cash in on the Trades Hall building.

That is an accusation of criminal offence. The Trades Hall building was sold for an amount I think in excess of $450,000.

Senator O'Byrne - That is a different issue altogether.

Senator HARRADINE - I have just quoted what Senator O'Byrne said. If he wants me to respond immediately to what he just said, I shall do that and then come back to the matter I was discussing. As far as the Trade Union Training Authority money is concerned, on 27 February 1979 Senator O'Byrne said that an amount of money was provided to TUTA by the Commonwealth Government -

Senator O'Byrne -No, by the State Government.

Senator HARRADINE - I am sorry, Senator O'Byrne is right; it was said to have been provided by the State Government to TUTA. I denied that allegation on 28 February. The situation is that on no occasion has any money been provided by the State Government to the Trade Union Training Authority. As to Senator O 'Byrne's reading from the Mercury and suggesting that the money was not spent for the purposes for which it was granted, that claim is totally false.

Senator O'Byrne - Sue the Mercury.

Senator HARRADINE -Consideration has been given to that, but it is impossible to do so because no name was mentioned in the report. The reporter was very careful not to say that anybody had been involved in refusing to spend money for the purpose for which it was granted. In fact, the State Auditor-General, in a report to the Parliament last year, made it perfectly clear that the expenditure was incurred for the purposes for which the grants were made. That statement was made by the State AuditorGeneral after a thorough, most meticulous examination of all of the accounts. From memory, the amount expended in that way was to the tune of $80,000-odd. The account was in such good standing- to the tune of some $44,000- because the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council and its officers had been scrupulously shepherding the funds of the State Government and the reimbursements of the Commonwealth Government.

Senator O'Byrne - You said the Commonwealth Government had nothing to do with it.

Senator HARRADINE - 1 am referring to the reimbursements of the Commonwealth Government as far as Trade Union Training funds were concerned. The TTLC did that pending the result of the national inquiry into trade union training. It did that for fear of the Federal Government funding ceasing. In the event, the funding for the Trade Union Training Authority from the Federal Government did not cease; it continued. As has been detailed to this Senate, the representatives of the trade union movement who constituted the education committee were about to be appointed by the Minister when the false accusations were raised by Senator O'Byrne in this chamber and then carried on in the Parliament of Tasmania by the late lamented Mr John Green of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia.

Senator O'Byrne - I didn't know he was dead.

Senator HARRADINE - He is dead as far as politics are concerned, although he still has a great deal of say. He and the socialist Left now have the major say in the Australian Labor Party machine in Tasmania. But the people of Tasmania have expressed their opinion of that individual, who used the cover of Parliament to make false allegations against citizens and wellrespected trade union officials of Tasmania who for a long period had worked their guts out establishing a trade union training scheme, the equal of which had not been seen previously in the whole of Australia. That has been documented quite meticulously.

That brings us to the situation in which the moneys were properly husbanded. Over a period the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council has held discussions with the Tasmanian Minister for Education, Mr Holgate, and on a written undertaking by Mr Holgate that the moneys would not be used in opposition to the Trade Union Training Authority the money was returned. I advise the Senate that Senator O 'Byrne's friends, including those in the Miscellaneous Workers Union, of which Senator O'Byrne is a member, and others, were attempting to put the screws on the Tasmanian Government so that they could get their hands on that money and set up an alternative trade union training program. Indeed, they sought from the City Council permission to use the building next door to the Trades Hall for that purpose. I think it was very wise of the Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council, Mr Watling, to get a written undertaking from the Tasmanian Minister for Education that the money, if returned, would not be used for the purpose of establishing an alternative - (Quorum formed). In summary, the position is this: The accusations made by Senator O'Byrne, which were taken up so readily in the State Parliament by the now defeated John Green- he was defeated by the people of Tasmania- have been found to be without any foundation whatsoever. The efforts of the trade union officials who have been so maligned in this chamber and by Mr Green in the House of Assembly in Tasmania have been vindicated. The State AttorneyGeneral gave a clean bill of health to the accounts. He stated quite specifically, contrary to what Senator O'Byrne said tonight, that the moneys were expended for the purposes for which the grants were made. That is contained in the Auditor-General's report. The residue of the money, amounting to $44,000, has now been returned by the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council Secretary to the State Government. This was done only after a written undertaking had been received from the State Minister for Education that the moneys would not be used for the alternative purposes for which Senator O 'Byrne 's friends sought to obtain them. I advise the Senate that I understand that the moneys will be used for the purposes of making two films. Those films will be made after the proper consultations with the appropriate representatives of the trade union movement.

I come to my final point. It is the most vital point to come out of this debate. Senator O 'Byrne made a malicious attack last night on an honourable senator of this chamber. It is not uncommon for him to do that. He has done it to me. I have heard him attack other people in this chamber without any foundation whatsoever.

Senator Rae - He did it to me when I took a point of order. He called me a fascist.

Senator HARRADINE - That is correct. According to those who have been asked to pull him into gear, it appears that they cannot do so. I believe that it is incumbent upon the rest of the Senate to ensure that he is not permitted to continue to abuse the privileges of the Senate by slandering people.

Senator O'Byrne - You have been caught out.

Senator HARRADINE - He is still at it. He accused me of cashing in on the funds of the Trades Hall building. In other words he accused me of pocketing $450,000.

Senator O'Byrne - You had to give up the loot.

Senator HARRADINE - He continues to do so.

The PRESIDENT - That is a very serious implication against a senator.

Senator O'Byrne - I should have said that he had to give up the funds.

The PRESIDENT - The imputation was that he pocketed moneys.

Senator O'Byrne - No, it was not. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the Minister's letter asking for the funds to be returned.

The PRESIDENT - Senator O'Byrneknows as well as I do what is wrong in this place. I took it that his words were an imputation on Senator Harradine. If there was an imputation it should be withdrawn.

Senator O'Byrne - It was not an imputation. He had to give up the funds.

Senator Rae - You said he had to give up the loot.

The PRESIDENT - The imputation is the same. The honourable senator should withdraw.

Senator O'Byrne - If it was interpreted that way, I regret it.

The PRESIDENT - The honourable senator will withdraw.

Senator O'Byrne - I withdraw.

Senator HARRADINE - I suggest to the Government and to the Opposition that they consider agreeing to a motion at an appropriate stage to provide that it be an offence against the Standing Orders for any honourable senator to accuse any named person of a criminal offence.

Senator Rae - It is already.

Senator HARRADINE - Senator Raesays that it is already. I would be obliged to hear the explanation. Senator O'Byrne on 28 February 1979 made such an accusation by stating: 'This was after Senator Harradine had organised to cash in on the Trades Hall building'.

Senator O'Byrne - That is right.

Senator HARRADINE - He continues to say it. Not only is he impugning me but also he is reflecting on the solicitor who attended to that transaction. He is a former senator, Senator Mervyn George Everett who is now a judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania. If that is the depth to which the honourable senator sinks then the rest of the Senate should not allow this chamber to be debased in that fashion.

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