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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 790

The PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


On Thursday evening, 9th March, under General Business, a debate took place on Senator Murphy's Bill for the abolition of the death penalty. During the debate a statement was made by Senator James McClelland in relation to Senator Greenwood which was the basis of objections at the Committee stage and which were, in my view, properly ruled out of order by the Chairman of Committees. This was done then because the objection was not taken at the time the words were used. I did not hear Senator James McClelland's remarks because I was absent at that time in Cabinet. On returning to the Senate I was informed of what Senator James McClelland was reported to have said in relation to Senator Greenwood. I was present in the Senate at the Committee stage later when Senator James McClelland sought and obtained leave of the Committee to make a statement. He said:

I refer to some remarks that I made earlier in the debate. I admit that in the heat of the debate I used language in excessive fervour. As I recall what 1 said, I accused Senator Greenwood of applauding the murder of thousands of people in Vietnam. I am prepared to withdraw the word applauded' and substitute the words 'took no exception to'.

After Senator Greenwood had spoken in response to the statement that Senator James McClelland made I rose and made the following statement: 1 indicate to the Committee, and through the Committee to the Senate, that I intend to make a serious examination of the incident which occurred tonight. I indicate that I reserve my position as Leader of the Government in the Senate to move a substantive motion in relation to Senator James McClelland on our reassembly after this recess.

I now desire to inform the Senate that in accordance with my statement I have taken the opportunity in the intervening period to read carefully the full Hansard record of the debate that took place on the Dealth Penalty Abolition Bill. I have read the statement which was originally made by Senator James McClelland which is recorded at page 656 of the daily Hansard and all the continuing debate until the matter was disposed of. I want to make it clear to the Senate that in my view the remarks made by Senator James McClelland referring to Senator Greenwood were offensive and distasteful. Such remarks should never be made by any honourable senator about another honourable senator. In fact, they were in breach of standing order 418. Because of the ruling given by the Chairman of Committees for me to move a substantive motion, it might leave an inference of disagreement with the ruling from the Chair were I to move such a motion. I hasten to indicate that it would not be my intention to leave that inference. Nevertheless, I believe with strong conviction that the imputations expressed by Senator James McClelland were offensive and contrary to the propriety of Senate debate. Whilst I do not propose to move a substantive motion, I believe that Senator James McClelland has an obligation to consider immediately withdrawing the imputations he expressed in that debate.

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