Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3353

Mr ANTHONY (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(10.58) —Yes, I second the motion. This is the first time the Opposition has moved a censure motion on the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). It is the highest condemnation we can make of the Prime Minister and it is totally deserved. The Prime Minister comes clanking into this Parliament, his loins girt about with truth, wearing the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of integrity, carrying the shield of veracity and holding the sword of probity; but yesterday his pants fell down. He showed that for all his claims of integrity and honesty he was prepared, when the crunch was on, to deceive this Parliament and the nation and to bow to the pressures of Caucus. His brief apprenticeship in the national Parliament has shown that he has not accepted the fundamental principles of government and has little respect for the workings of Parliament. He has betrayed the trust that the Australian people put in him by undermining the Westminster democratic system as we know it. The Prime Minister is deluding himself if he thinks that he can continue to prattle away to the Australian people with misleading, deceitful and dishonest statements. His transparency is becoming obvious; his arrogance is breathtaking.

On the very day that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) barely escapes charges under the Crimes Act, the Prime Minister has the audacity to put him back in the Ministry. The honourable member for Port Adelaide lost his job for following the old mates act. He got it back because the Prime Minister has put the old mates act above his responsibility to Australia. For that, the Prime Minister must be censured. The issues involved in this debate on the motion of censure of the Prime Minister moved by my colleague the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) this morning are complex and detailed. There is always a danger, in this avalanche of words, that the central issue will be buried. It must not be buried; it is of central importance to the Government. The issue is: Can we afford to let a blabbermouth back into the Ministry, a blabbermouth who has so little regard for his ministerial duties that he is prepared to endanger the security of this nation to tip off his mates and who has been condemned by the royal commission established by his own Prime Minister? There can be only one answer-no. The Prime Minister knows it, this Government knows it, the Australian Labor Party knows it, the Parliament knows it and the whole country knows it.

Although this debate arises out of the Hope Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies, we did not need that Commission's report to know the facts about the honourable member for Port Adelaide. They are already on the public record. The honourable member for Port Adelaide had admitted breaching Cabinet confidentiality. He had admitted that he had not informed the Prime Minister of the breach. He had admitted that in so doing he had misled the Parliament and caused the Prime Minister to mislead the Parliament. It is also a matter of public record that it was only when the honourable member for Port Adelaide was found out that he went to the Prime Minister and offered his resignation. On these grounds alone, the honourable member for Port Adelaide should never be allowed back into a ministry of this country.

The report of the Hope Royal Commission has set down clearly the extent to which the honourable member betrayed the trust placed in him and has explained simply and clearly to this Parliament and the nation just how serious that betrayal was. The integrity of the honourable member for Port Adelaide is not in question because it is non-existent. What is in question is the integrity of the Prime Minister and the Government. In the course of a 38-minute speech to this House yesterday, the Prime Minister made no serious effort to address the findings of Mr Justice Hope regarding his colleague. He made only the barest direct reference to these findings-a total of six lines or, if one wants to be generous, perhaps seven lines-in a speech covering 25 pages. What did the Prime Minister do yesterday? He devoted a considerable amount of his time to a tear- jerking recital of the virtues of the honourable member for Port Adelaide and the debt owed to him for his service to the Party. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister did not explain why one former national secretary to the Labor Party was owed such a great debt while another was not. But that is probably a question for honourable members opposite to ponder. The debts and the intrigues of the Prime Minister's association with these two people over a long period no doubt weave a tangled web.

The Prime Minister's recital was wonderful stuff, but it had nothing to do with the central issue of the debate. The honourable member for Port Adelaide may be a good man, as the Prime Minister said. He may have spent 30 years working for the Labor Party, as the Prime Minister said. He may also have placed a high value on friendship, as the Prime Minister said. But so what? Ned Kelly was all these things-I do not know whether he worked for the Labor movement-but he was hanged. The honourable member for Port Adelaide does not face the same penalty, but he knew what he was doing and he knew what the punishment was. There can be no doubt about that. The Prime Minister painted a picture of the honourable member for Port Adelaide that would have done justice to Walt Disney. The honourable member, we were led to believe, was a skylarking youth, a lover of kittens and puppies and a friend of the poor and the sick who was led down the primrose path of innocence in the ways of life. The Prime Minister, however, omitted to mention that his innocent skylarking was much more than that. The honourable member for Port Adelaide is as politically innocent as Caligula. He is one of Labor's toughest, hardest, roughest and most ruthless operators and his reputation is national. Everybody knows that. The Prime Minister's flowery waffle yesterday was an insult to the intelligence of the nation.

Despite the Prime Minister's attempts to distract the nation and the Parliament , despite the hysterical attacks by members of the Government on the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair), the central issue will not go away. It is set out and nailed down in the report by Mr Justice Hope which was tabled in this House yesterday and is splashed across every newspaper in this nation today. The issue is that the Prime Minister is reappointing to his Ministry, to one of the highest offices in the land, a man who has deliberately, improperly and without authorisation made disclosures relating to national security. The fact that national security was not damaged, Mr Justice Hope said, was no mitigation. There was a real danger, he said, of significant damage to national security arising out of the disclosures by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. Where security is concerned, if a soldier or a sailor talks of troop movements or convoys, even if the information does not pass to an enemy's hands he has no less committed an offence. The fact that the honourable member made disclosures to a friend did not lessen the impropriety, Mr Justice Hope said. Nor was it relevant that Mr Young was inexperienced. He should have known, Mr Justice Hope said.

That should be enough. But there was even more. It is clear from what Mr Justice Hope said in his report that the honourable member for Port Adelaide has escaped a charge or charges under the Crimes Act by the skin of his teeth. In discussing this issue, Mr Justice Hope said that both the Attorney-General ( Senator Gareth Evans) and the Solicitor-General had given opinions to the Government on whether the honourable member had committed any offence under section 79 of the Crimes Act. Mr Justice Hope said that the effect of these opinions was that the honourable member's liability would depend on what facts were established about the actions by him. Allow me to quote from the report. On page 193 Mr Justice Hope said:

However, the Attorney-General, whose consent must be obtained for any prosecution under the section, decided, in the exercise of his discretion, that there should be no prosecution. It has been submitted that, in these circumstances, since Mr Young is not required to defend himself in criminal proceedings against a charge that he committed an offence under the section, I should not express any view as to whether or not he has committed such an offence. I agree with this submission. I think that, in the circumstances, it would be oppressive for me to record a finding (if that were the conclusion to which I came) that Mr Young had committed an offence under the section.

I do not pretend to be able to read Mr Justice Hope's mind but there is a clear and deadly inference to be drawn from this section. Mr Justice Hope is saying that it would be unfair of him to say whether the honourable member for Port Adelaide was guilty of an offence for which he had not been charged. There could be no argument about that. But Mr Justice Hope is not saying that if a charge were brought, the honourable member would be acquitted. He is saying that the honourable member is not facing a charge because the Attorney-General in his wisdom decided not to bring one, so he, Mr Justice Hope, will not rule on the matter.

I would summarise Mr Justice Hope's findings on this matter not as not guilty, but as not proven. If I were the honourable member for Port Adelaide, it would not give me very much comfort and I cannot see how it gives much comfort to any of his colleagues on the Government side of the House. I have the assurance of the Prime Minister that the honourable member for Port Adelaide has learnt his lesson, and that he should not be punished any further. There are men and women probably at this very moment in docks in courts across Australia, who, if they are aware of the Prime Minister's comments, are no doubt praying that he will make some miraculous appearance on the bench in their courts. There is one law for the ordinary people of Australia. There appears to be another law for the honourable member for Port Adelaide, and there is yet another law, not a written one but real all the same, for people like Mr Combe.

Mr Combe is a ruined man. He was silly, certainly. He was stupid, greedy and many other things beside. He has paid his price for his folly. It is a very high price. I do not argue with the Government's action in relation to him. There is a bitter irony in the fact that while Mr Combe has never even faced any charge in this matter, a Minister of this Government, who misled Parliament and the Prime Minister, resigned, and was found by the Royal Commission to have deliberately, improperly and without authorisation made disclosures which posed a real danger of significant damage to national security, is to go back to the Ministry, to get the pay and the perks that that office provides.

The Prime Minister has made a decision. The Prime Minister will have to pay for that decision. The Opposition will lose the vote here today, but it is not just we who vote. It is the people across Australia who vote. They are the people who matter in the long run. We saw how they voted in the Northern Territory the other day because of the deceit of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will face the same sort of extinction because of his total lack of integrity on this whole question of putting the honourable member for Port Adelaide back into his Ministry.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The right honourable member's time has expired.