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Tuesday, 6 September 1983
Page: 355

Mr SINCLAIR —Mr Speaker, I rise on a matter of privilege. I refer to an article on page 5 of this morning's edition of the Sydney Daily Telegraph which is headed 'Speaker Probes Spy in MP Drama'; it is under the by-line of a Mr Bob Chisholm. During the course of that article there is a reference to this fact:

A spokesman for the Speaker, Dr Harry Jenkins--

Mr Speaker, you are quoted by name--

confirmed yesterday that an MP had asked for an investigation into the incident to find out whether it had breached parliamentary privilege.

Mr Speaker, you would also be aware that, on 29 August last, the Attorney- General, Senator Gareth Evans, in a letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) commented about the draconian terms of section 44 (ii) of the Constitution. He said:

This gives further weight to the argument that the traditional political sanctions are the appropriate ones for all but the most extraordinary and dangerous ministerial breaches of official secrecy.

He then said that in the public interest, in the prosecution of a member of this House in matters affecting national security it would not be appropriate for criminal proceedings to proceed. In the light of this article in the Daily Telegraph I ask: Firstly, will Mr Speaker advise the House of the nature of his investigations, to what degree he has reached conclusions on the submission by the honourable member and whether the matter is to be raised in the normal way in this House? Secondly, with respect to the opinion of the Attorney-General, will he assure the House that no greater privilege will be accorded members of this House than that which should and does apply to the citizens of Australia in matters pertaining to national security other than that privilege which is, of course, as of right, for matters and statements made within the House on matters where specific privilege is accorded by resolution of this place so that there will be no inhibition against any security agencies of this nation inquiring into any individual member in the same way as they would inquire into any citizen other than that which is covered specifically by parliamentary privilege ?

Mr SPEAKER —I acknowledge that the right honourable member has quite properly raised a matter of privilege and he has done it at his earliest opportunity. He will appreciate that my attention has been drawn to the newspaper article. Unfortunately, there are inaccuracies. I think the interests of the House would be best served if, in reply to his submission, I made a considered statement later in the day. I thank the right honourable gentleman.