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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3289

Mr BEAZLEY (Minister for Aviation and Special Minister of State)(5.27) — When the Opposition expresses its concern for national security in this matter, it is bogus. When it expresses its concern for ministerial responsibility in this matter, it is bogus. Since this matter has been before this House the Opposition has conducted itself in a manner which is both contemptuous of a Prime Minister's responsibility for national security matters and contemptuous of the rights of the individuals involved. It has been contemptuous of the responsibility of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) in this matter in that it has constantly sought to provoke or to force him to make statements that properly, in the first instance, were within the Government's responsibility for national security. When the matter finally became a matter for public discussion by virtue of the fact that a royal commission was established-(Quorum formed) As I was saying before being interrupted, the Opposition's concern about national security matters and for the rights of individuals involved has been bogus. The evidence for that is provided by its performance when it first raised this matter in the House in a series of questions designed to link the name of Combe with Ivanov. Contrary to what the shadow Special Minister of State had to say, those names had not been linked in public. They had not been linked in public in any report. When the Deputy Leader of the National Party, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), who was a party to that strategy, subsequently explained that he heard of it from an Australian Associated Press report, he was making a misleading statement. I have checked that particular AAP report and there was no link in that report between the name of David Combe and that of Ivanov. That was teased forth in this place for no good purpose, as has subsequently been revealed by the Opposition.

In addition, there has been a persistent attempt to provoke the Prime Minister to act in a fashion that is injudicious, both in an attempt to make him reveal matters that were properly matters held by the National and International Security Committee and properly matters held within the Government, and subsequently to compel the Prime Minister to reveal matters of detail to be dealt with by the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies. The latest instance of that was on 23 September, quite recently, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) accused him of leaking to cronies and acting in an entirely improper manner. Of course, the Royal Commission has given the lie to that accusation. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he will not apologise until hell freezes over. I certainly hope that, for the honour of this House, there is a snow storm in hell tomorrow that will give him an opportunity to make an appropriate apology in this place. No reading of the Hope report can give any indication other than that that is what he ought to do in relation to that accusation.

When the Prime Minister was forced to give at least some indication of what matters had been concerning the Government and to establish a royal commission, the Leader of the Opposition had the hide to come into this place on about 25 May and say that the fact the Prime Minister had got up in Parliament and given answers to questions which the Opposition had been asking was an injudicious act by the Prime Minister and ought not be tolerated in this House. As usual on national security matters, the Opposition was attempting to have it both ways. It is a shame because this Opposition, both in government and in opposition, has been completely unable to debate this matter in the way the Hope Royal Commission determined national security should be debated. I quote from page 38 of the report:

Matters of national security ought to transcend party political considerations and should seldom be allowed to become subjects for partisan controversy.

This Opposition, both in government in the 1960s and 1970s and earlier and in opposition, has been utterly incapable of conducting itself in a manner in which that has any reality at all. Throughout the period of the 1960s it covered itself in the cloak of national security, the cloak of the flag, to take partisan political points without any legitimate cause at all. It has, in government, seen the abuse of the security services, the use of the services for partisan political purposes. It has ruined the reputation of security services in the general Australian community, a reputation which this government is struggling to restore. The Opposition has the hide to come into this place and lecture the Government on its capacity to hold secrets when it has against its record the possibility of very serious and substantial security leaks that go to the very heart of our relationship with our allies and which compromise the integrity of security services.

Members of the Opposition say nothing about national security matters. They can say nothing about the integrity with which this Government has conducted itself in this House on this matter. Indeed, they can say nothing about this Government 's handling of national security matters in regard to this report. I remind the House exactly what it is that the Hope Royal Commission has reported. It has reported that the Government was justified in expelling Valeriy Ivanov, a KGB officer, as it did on 22 April. It has found, as the National and International Security Committee of Cabinet then found, that David Combe's relationship with Valeriy Ivanov was such as to have serious implications for national security. It has found that the surveillance placed by the Government on Mr Combe and authorised on 21 April was appropriate and was terminated as soon as it reasonably should have been. It has found that it was proper for the NISC and the Prime Minister acting on national security grounds to have secured a decision from Cabinet and the Ministry that Ministers should not have professional dealings with Mr Combe. It has found that the Government acted properly in its dealings with Mr Combe on 11 May and was not obliged to give him an opportunity to state his case at any earlier time.

It might have been anticipated by the general public that a party which, has been out of office, except for a period of some three years, for the last 30-odd years might, within six weeks of comming into office, make a few errors in relation to its handling of a sensitive national security matter. It could have been quite reasonable to anticipate that that was a serious possibility. We have now had reams and reams of evidence and a very lengthy report to demonstrate that that was not the case. When it came to handling national security matters, an inexperienced, new Government handled itself completely properly in the decisions it took and the course of action it pursued. That, of course, is not a matter for joyful reflection. It is simply a matter of noting that the Government has held to its responsibilities in this regard.

Given that the shadow Special Minister of State found it necessary to impugn the particular calls that were made by the Prime Minister to Mr Farmer and Mr Butler, I feel obliged to read directly from the report what Mr Justice Hope had to say about that. There was a suggestion in what the shadow Special Minister of State had to say that there had been something improper in that regard. On page 205 the report states:

It is therefore open to find that the Prime Minister had implied authority to comminicate with Mr Butler and Mr Farmer. The communications were, in fact, justified by the need to ensure that, as far as practicable, the purposes of the NISC decision were achieved. Moreover, what the Prime Minister had done was, in effect, comfirmed by both the Cabinet and the Ministry, for he told each of these bodies about his communications on 26 April and 2 May respectively.

The disclosures made by the Prime Minister were neither unauthorised or improper.

That is why we require an apology from the Leader of the Opposition. That is why we require some justification from the shadow Special Minister of State for the claims he has made.

The Opposition has suggested that in some way, shape or form it has some type of mortgage on what is responsible behaviour and what is a responsible acceptance of ministerial responsibility in this place. What seems to have been forgotten in this debate is that when these matters were disclosed to the Prime Minister by the former Special Minister of State, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), the honourable member for Port Adelaide resigned. The honourable member for Port Adelaide is not a member of this Government. The honourable member for Port Adelaide has been out of this Government for some four months and, from the Prime Minister's statement, will remain out of it for some short while in the future. A political punishment, the type of punishment considered appropriate by the Royal Commissioner, has been applied to him in this case. When it has been found that he has been acting improperly, that matter has been dealt with. We may contrast that with certain practices in the recent past that require a little airing in this place. Some of them have already been dealt with by the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) during the debate in this House but they require a run over now. Let me quote from the report of the Woodward Royal Commission into the Australian Meat Industry on the question of the behaviour of the previous Minister for Primary Industry. The report states:

. . . The Minister did not deal with these allegations adequately and effectively.

The Minister had been grossly negligent in his duties. Yet the Government's response was to tear apart that Royal Commissioner and his findings. It was not to go to Mr Nixon and suggest to him that in the circumstances he might stand down. It was to go to him and say: 'Don't worry about this. We will keep you in place and we will do over the mob that has caused you such embarrassment'.

Then we had that all-party Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations inquiry involving the present Deputy Leader of the National Party, the right honourable member for New England. It found that the Australian Dairy Corporation had contravened the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade arrangements on minimum export prices. A bit has been said in this chamber about misleading the Parliament. That Committee found that the Minister had knowledge of this breach as early as September 1976 and he did nothing. This was despite the Minister's numerous subsequent statements in this House denying any knowledge of the breach. It was despite his own subsequent statements that he regarded any breach of GATT as totally unacceptable. Opposition members are tending to lecture us on what ought to be appropriate ministerial action when a question of misleading Parliament, misleading the Prime Minister, or misleading the public has come before the Government. They are inviting us to take an example from their practice. In fact, we have not taken an example from their practice. The Minister volunteered his resignation in this matter in total contrast to the way in which the other side of the House has acted in a number of important matters.

I could go on. I could take the question of the findings of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union on the effectiveness with which the Attorney-General's Department has operated over the years. The question of ministerial responsibility in that regard has drawn no response of resignation from any of the particular parties involved, and they remain on the front bench of the Liberal Party of Australia.

A matter has been raised in the House on the question of lobbyists. The suggestion is that lobbyists have been made a scapegoat in this instance. That is nonsense. There has been a question of some regard in the community for some considerable time that an appropriate means of registering the people who undertake those activities and their relationship to government ought to be undertaken. It is not the intention thereby to eliminate that possibility being open to them, far from it; it is there to regularise that relationship between lobbyists and government. It is regularised in many other countries. These lobbyists would be given the importance and significance that they are assuming in the democratic process in this country, something which is entirely appropriate at this stage. It is not a question of making them a scapegoat; it is a question of making them responsible and responsive to the requirements of democratic practice. We have in front of us a sorry, shabby Opposition. There are no grounds for the claims it has been making. It is embarrassed by this debate.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Rocher) —Order! The Minister's time has expired.