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Tuesday, 10 April 1973
Page: 1239

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Leader of the Australian Country Party) - I second the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), which seeks the appointment of a judicial inquiry of 3 judges to inquire into matters relating to Croatian activities in Australia and also the raids on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Firstly, I believe that the extraordinary motion brought forward by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in no way purifies or cleanses the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) in respect of his actions. In fact its unusualness condemns him rather than exonerates him. Secondly, I am staggered by the statement of the Prime Minister in which he said that his Government was going to assert its own authority, asserting the unchallenged right of the majority of the. members of the House of Representatives, to take whatever action it thought fit. In other words, the Executive is going to overrule the Parliament; the Executive is going to overrule existing laws on the statute book. Australians, take note of this. I warn you that I have never heard such a dictatorial statement in this Parliament by a Minister, let alone a Prime Minister.

In the 4 weeks since the Attorney-General directed and took part in raids on offices of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation no real attempt has been made by the Government or the Prime Minister to explain why the raids took place. This Parliament and the people of Australia have been treated with contempt by the Government, and now only 3 speakers from each side are to be allowed to debate this question this afternoon. This House has been shamefully treated by the Prime Minister, who asserts his truthfulness and courtesy, yet does nothing to demonstrate the reality of those assertions.

We find it impossible to get the Prime Minister to answer questions and we find it impossible to get him properly to retract vigourous, vicious and hysterical accusations made, against honourable members on this side of the Parliament. Nothing has been revealed which could in any way justify the disastrous actions of the Attorney-General in raiding ASIO. To the contrary, what we have been told is that the justification relied upon by the Attorney-General - the report of a meeting - is false. We have been told that the grounds on which the Prime Minister based his shocking suggestion of a conspiracy by public servants - the same report - are false grounds. The Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral have blundered into this mess like bulls in a china shop. They have thrashed around without the slightest vestige of selfcontrol or responsibility, causing damage at every turn. Public servants have had their reputations blackened. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has been seriously damaged, its standing eroded and its effectiveness undermined.

The Prime Minister has been asked over and over again why Senator Murphy visited the Canberra office of ASIO in the first place. Over and over again the Prime Minister has refused to answer this vital question, which holds the key to the whole sorry mess. It appears now that the only way to get at the truth of the whole affair is by means of a judicial inquiry. The Parliament itself, having failed because of the attitude of the Prime Minister to establish the truth, now must resort to an independent inquiry in an effort to uncover information which a Prime Minister with any respect for Parliament already would have given. The insidious and dangerous process of making unsubstantiated assertions without supporting evidence has discredited the Government's whole approach to this matter.

The statement of the Attorney-General in the Senate was a mass of such assertions and allegations. This Government, by unsubstantiated assertion and by the whipping up of hysteria, has placed every Croatian migrant under a cloud of suspicion which will take a long time to remove. It is not a thing of which the Government can be proud. Is this part of the Government's plan to destroy the Security Organisation? What other motives possibly could have justified the almost unbelievable actions of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General? A judicial inquiry offers the only hope of finding the answers to these questions. To my mind the most important thing, and a much more fundamental and important question than terrorists operating in Australia-

Mr Enderby - What could be more important than that?

Mr ANTHONY - This involves a paramount principle of which this Parliament must take full cognisance. A dangerous precedent stands to be established, and will be established if we do not prevent its acceptance, by the Attorney-General's attempt to assert what he claims is his ministerial authority over Parliament. In this action he is supported by the Prime Minister. On 11th May 1789 President George Washington of the United States said:

Many things, which appear of little consequence of themselves and in the beginning, may have great and durable consequences from their having been established at the commencement of a new general government.

That is what we are faced with here today. The Attorney-General claims that he has ministerial authority to do what he did on the night and morning of 15th and 16th March when he went to the offices of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in Canberra and Melbourne, stood over ASIO staff and took possession of information which was the property of our Security Intelligence Organisation. It seems to me that unless he can cite directly the authority on which he relies to establish that he is an authorised person in terms of the Crimes Act in the situation he engineered when he raided ASIO, we are entitled to say that the Attorney-General has acted illegally and has placed himself above the laws of this Parliament.

If the Attorney-General cannot or will not show that he acted legally, we are entitled to say that he placed himself above the laws of this Parliament as set down in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act. That Act states in section 5 that the functions of the organisation are as follows:

(a)   to obtain, correlate and evaluate intelligence relevant to security and, at the discretion of the Director-General, to communicate any such intelligence to such persons, and in such manner, as the Director-General considers to be in the interests of security;

(b)   to advise Ministers, where the Director-General is satisfied that it is necessary or desirable to do so, in respect of matters relevant to security, in so far as those matters relate to Departments of State administered by them or to authorities of the Commonwealth established by or under Acts administered by them.

Mr Speaker,this Parliament has passed a law which places ASIO under the control of the Director-General. The law passed by this Parliament did not place ASIO or its DirectorGeneral under the control of any Minister. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General rely very heavily - in fact they appear to rely almost completely - on the terms and conditions of the Director-General's appointment by the Governor-General to establish the legality of the Attorney-General's incredible actions. They tell us that the terms and conditions make the Director-General subject to the directions of the Attorney-General. The terms and conditions do no such thing.

If the Attorney-General believed the DirectorGeneral to be guilty of misconduct, certain courses would be open to him as set out in the terms and conditions of appointment. He would have to suspend the Director-General and set up an inquiry. There is nothing whatsoever in the terms and conditions which could justify even remotely the AttorneyGeneral's action in raiding ASIO in the way he did. There is nothing in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act to allow the Attorney-General to give directions to the Director-General, nor does it make the Director-General responsible to the AttorneyGeneral. In my view the Attorney-General has acted unlawfully and in defiance of a law passed by this Parliament in acting as he did.

If the Prime Minister is suggesting that the Director-General is guilty of misconduct in the sense of paragraph 8 of section 7 of the terms and conditions, why has not the DirectorGeneral been suspended to comply with the only course open to the Attorney-General in these circumstances? Parliament, the supreme authority, placed the administration of ASIO outside the scope of ministerial responsibility. I have seen it suggested in the Press and elsewhere that it is simply inconceivable that a Commonwealth statutory authority is not responsible to a Minister. But it is conceivable in this case because Parliament made it so. It is not good enough merely to say that it is inconceivable that a statutory body such as ASIO is not responsible to a Minister or under the control of a Minister.

Control means domination or command and the Parliament has specifically placed ASIO under the control - the domination or command - not of a Minister but of its DirectorGeneral. If the Executive, which I say has placed itself above the Parliament in this matter, says that a law is inadequate or inappropriate, it must propose to Parliament that the law be changed. Neither the Cabinet nor the Prime Minister has power to give any individual Minister authority to override the provisions of a Commonwealth Act. The AttorneyGeneral may be responsible for the administration of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act, but he cannot take upon himself any power or authority to administer ASIO other than in strict conformity with the Act under which ASIO was established.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is not a part of the AttorneyGeneral's Department. The Attorney-General cannot administer it as he would have power or authority to administer his own Department. Parliament itself determined the functions of ASIO and neither the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General nor anyone else can act in any way which contravenes these functions. Parliament decided that the Director-General of ASIO should not be directly responsible to a Minister and thereby subject to political control or interference. If a situation arose in which the AttorneyGeneral believed that the Director-General was not properly fulfilling his duties and exercising his functions under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act according to the terms and conditions of appointment he would be dismissed. But the Attorney-General has no right whatsoever to go to ASIO and take information from it. Certainly he cannot resort to the melodramatic midnight raiding of ASIO and the direction of swarms of Commonwealth police to seal safes and containers. This is a most important matter involving the authority of this Parliament. I commend it to the careful- attention of honourable members.

Throughout this matter this Parliament and the people of Australia have, been badly treated by the Prime Minister, by the AttorneyGeneral and by the Government. The Parliament aud the people are entitled to know the full facts of this whole astonishing affair which has caused widespread and wellfounded concern and disquiet in the Australian community. What is at stake is the effectiveness, perhaps even the survival, of our independent Security Organisation. I can call on no less an authority than the Government's main instrument of public relations in the election campaign, the 'Australian', which said this week:

There must be a royal commission or at the very least an independent judicial inquiry, into the entire affair.

That newspaper and the Australian people are sick to death of the contempt with which the Parliament and the nation have been treated by the Prime Minister and the Government. This Parliament and the people of Australia are entitled now to a full and proper explanation of the Government's actions and those of its Attorney-General. Anything less is unacceptable.

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