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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1486

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) for the suspension of Standing Orders. I think that of all the aspects of change that are notable in the new Government there are 2 aspects to which it seems to lay most claim. The first is the rapport which it claims for communist countries, which I think was best epitomised by the photograph of would-be Chairman Jim in front of past Chairman Ho in the newspapers of Australia last weekend. The aspect of change to which there has been reference is the alliegence of the Government to communist countries and the rapport which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) alleges has been established by his Government with other governments of the Left.

The second aspect is the claim to open government. The whole purport of the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is to enable not just the Prime Minister, his Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition to be aware of the circumstances relating to the unforgiveable execution of 3 Australian citizens by a communist government, but also to let all members of this Parliament and the Australian community be aware of the nature of the trial, the circumstances of the judgment and the reason for and the manner of the execution of these 3 Australian citizens. There are a good many gaps in the information available to honourable members of this Parliament and members of the Australian community. For example, at what time was it first learned that there were survivors of the Bosnian incident? Allegations have been made about the degree to which the former Government was aware that there were survivors of the Bosnian incident. There have been allegations that the maintenance of an improved channel of communication with the Government of Yugoslavia and the better rapport among Ministers is the product of the activities of the Labor Government. It is true that not so very long ago the Yugoslav Prime Minister visited this country. I ask: Was the information relevant to the Bosnian incident and the execution of 3 Australian citizens contained in any interdepartmental minutes? Are there any documents which are relevant now and which have not been brought to the light of day?

The reason for the suspension of Standing Orders is to enable members of the Opposition to inquire into the whole of the bizarre circumstances which surround this deplorable incident. Australia as a community and Australians as citizens need to be assured that the Government of this country, for the time being, is pursuing with due diligence and some measure of integrity the inquiries which we believe are essential into the whole of this sorry episode. In the whole of the ASIO documents that have been tabled there has been demonstrably a selection of parts of documents and parts of correspondence. The former Attorney-General, my colleague Senator Greenwood, had occasion to table a number of additional letters and a number of additional documents in order to expand the amount of information available to the Parliament and to the community. There are, demonstrably, some documents which the Government has not produced. This motion is designed to enable all the Australian community to know the whole truth of the matter and if the Government is honest in its claim that it will pursue a facsimile of open government surely the least it can do is produce the full compass of documents and the full compass of interdepartmental minutes not just to the Leader of the Opposition but to us all. I am referring to the ASIO document dated Sth March. I believe it is encumbent upon the Prime Minister to ensure that all those documents pertaining to this matter are made available to this Parliament.

This is a very sorry episode in the history of democracy in this country. It is a very sorry episode for the status of new Australians who have taken unto themselves, with natural born Australians, the responsibility of the rights and privileges of this country. Are we in this Parliament to be denied an opportunity to look at these documents, to know the full circumstances and to know to what degree complicity, be it by chance or by intent, between the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and others has led to the present sad exercise in the reduction of standing of Australian citizenship and has led to the execution of 3 men, the full story behind which still remains to be revealed? It is for that reason that I endorse completely the motion moved in this Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden).

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The time allowed for debate has expired.

Question put:

That the motion (Mr Sneddon's) be agreed to.

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