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Tuesday, 12 September 1972
Page: 721

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) - Mr Acting Deputy President-

Senator Sim - Point of order!

Senator GEORGES - Has someone called a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President? I will yield if there is a point of order, but if it was only an idle interjection 1 will ignore it. 1 am one of those who would seek to expedite the passage of this Budget so that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) may keep his promise that once the Budget has been passed and all the associated measures debated he will be prepared to go to the people. Nothing would please me more and nothing would please the Australian Labor Party more than for the election to be held forthwith. Nothing would please the people of Australia more than to have a quick election and nothing would serve the nation better than a change of government, which will be the inevitable result of an election. It is inevitable because of the poor leadership that has been the characteristic of this Government for at least the last 3 years. The Government is bereft of the initiatives that are needed by the nation at this time. It has been divided by its internal disputes, by its internal factions, by its infighting, by its intrigue and by its personality clashes.

The sooner there is an end to this the better. But there is now some doubt that there will be an early election. The doubt has been raised by the recent public opinion polls coming from 2 directions which indicate that this Budget, which is supposed to have won widespread acclaim, is a Budget which has had little impact; that this Budget, which is supposed to be so generous - it is generous in certain directions, especially when compared with previous Budgets - has failed to arouse the people of Australia to the point where they will continue to express their support for the Government. It is fairly obvious that the public opinion polls show that the Budget had but a 1 per cent impact. So the Prime Minister is now dilly-dallying He has refused to declare when an election will be held. I fear that the election will be postponed until the latest possible moment because no time is suitable for the Government to hold an election and no time is suitable for the Prime Minister to face the people.

Senator Webster - Is the honourable senator worried about that?

Senator GEORGES - I am not worried about it. I am merely stating that the sooner an election is held the better.

Senator Webster - But the honourable senator is not worried about the holding of an election?

Senator GEORGES - No. I believe that Senator Gair, who is about to leave the chamber, should stay to listen to my remarks. The sooner an election is held the better. There is a great need for a change of government if democracy, as we should define it, is to be maintained in this country. No system of government that allows one party to stay in power for 23 years will survive.

Senator McManus - The people will decide that.

Senator GEORGES - The people, by their vote, have decided in the greatest numbers to support the Austraiian Labor Party, in lesser numbers to support the Liberal Party, in even lesser numbers to support the Australian Country Party and in still lesser numbers to support the Australian Democratic Labor Party. But by mutual arrangements and exchange of policies and support what results is a government that represents an accumulation of ideas and an accumulation of parties. It is a coalition which is opposed to the strongest party - the party with the strongest support in this country. That is the Australian Labor Party.

Senator Webster - What is the point that you are making?

Senator GEORGES - The point that I am making is that the Government sits on the administrative benches not because of its own record or its support in the electorate but because of the support of the splinter group or the minority group which, as I have said before, is the Australian Democratic Labor Party. There only rests the hope of Government members for a successful result in this coming election. Their only chance in this coming election rests with a maximising of the. Democratic Labor Party vote. It is in that direction that we will find given the support of those people who desire to see the destruction of the Australian Labor Party and the perpetuation of its term on the Opposition benches. But in spite of what the Government had expected from this Budget the people at least have responded with a cynicism which has indicated clearly that they will not support the Government. At the. coming election there will be a change of government. This change of government will break one long line of mislegislation, patronage of supporters and friends and the permitting of abuses.

Senator Little - Do you think that the DLP will wither on the vine at last?

Senator GEORGES - The DLP in this coming election will be negated.

Senator McManus - That is what they said during the last Senate election.

Senator GEORGES - Let us see.

Senator McManus - It was not exactly negated there.

Senator GEORGES - I am suggesting that the matter be put to the test.

Senator Webster - It has been put to the test for 20 years.

Senator GEORGES - The honourable senator ought not. to be so vocal because he represents a small sectional party which has submerged its policies and its effectiveness because it supports a party that is supported by the vested interests that exploit the people that the honourable senator is supposed to represent. The Country Party which purports to represent the people who live and earn their incomes by their effort in the vast areas of Australia has denied these people continually by this coalition. This is evidenced in many places. The prices that the primary producer receives for his goods are far less than he ought to receive when one measures the prices for the end products. Senator Little, who is attempting to interject, should confine himself to the distribution of literature which is produced mostly outside this country. Let me return to the Country Party.

Senator Webster - You would revalue the dollar and send the producers broke. There is no answer to that. Dr Patterson says one thing; Al Grassby says that he is the spokesman for rural affairs.

Senator GEORGES - The honourable senator, because of this coalition support of the Liberal Party, has been responsible for allowing savage margins of profit to be earned on the production of goods in the rural sector of the economy.

Senator Webster - Who has received savage margins of profit?

Senator GEORGES - The honourable senator knows as well as I that the primary producer receives the minimum for his effort and the distributor of those goods receives the maximum profit. The huge pastoral companies and the huge financial concerns, together with the distributors, reap the reward that should be earned by the primary producer. But the Country Party, over a number of years - in fact, for the whole of the period for which it has been in coalition with the Liberal Party - has let down and betrayed the rural sector. There is no doubt about this and I cannot quite understand why the Country Party continues in coalition except to serve the interests of those who gained political representation and perhaps some administrative or executive position.

On an ad hoc basis the Budget, in a variety of directions, has made available certain moneys to relieve the need of pensioners, and those on fixed incomes and has given, in some measure taxation relief. But these are arrangements which have been made by a Government which faces an election in complete disarray. Senator Davidson suggested that we object to these measures. One does not object to them in any way. We merely object to the fact that they are not in any way connected to some national plan of development and not in any way projected forward to allow for a plan for progress and for improvement of the people generally of this nation. There is no positive plan for national development. There is no positive plan for the development of secondary industry or rural industry. In fact, there is no connected plan in this Budget that would give any hope, guide or incentive to those who produce, construct or manufacture. For this reasons, the Australian Labor Party condemns this Budget.

I am going to take an opportunity while 1 am on my feet to state a few cases which I would normally mention during the adjournment debate. One matter is in connection with a question which I asked and which contained an allegation about the tax affairs of Patrick Partners of New South Wales.

Senator Webster - The honourable senator is not having another go at that firm, is he?

Senator GEORGES - I am not. At this stage I merely explain the purpose of my question. I wanted to disclose that the Government and its Ministers, in particular one Minister, had shown patronage or privilege to powerful people - to powerful friends. Previously I had asked questions about the sale of certain aircraft by Jetair Australia Ltd to the Department of External Affairs - as it was then called - to enable the Department to fill a requirement in Cambodia. The question was asked quite some time ago. At that stage I indicated that I felt that the Department tailored its requirement to suit the Jetair fleet, which had become redundant. Jetair was in a serious financial position. One of the chief directors of Jetair was Alexander Barton. He had close connections with members of the Government in high places. The Minister for External Affairs at that time was Mr McMahon. The questions sought to discover why the Department, under his leadership, should come to a most unusual arrangement to acquire the aircraft. An arrangement was entered into instead of the purchase going through the necessary channels of tendering through the Department of Supply for the aircraft. I made the statement that there seemed to be evidence of patronage on the part of the Minister to suit a particular friend - a particularly powerful friend, a leading financier and a leading stockbroker.

Senator McManus - That statement is an allegation of corruption.

Senator GEORGES - It is an allegation of patronage.

Senator McManus - It should not be made under privilege. It should be made outside.

Senator GEORGES - The purpose of being a senator is to disclose in this place what appears to be-

Senator Little - No. What is; not what appears to be.

Senator GEORGES - What appears to be. A senator is given the power to bring forward in this place material which discloses certain information for debate. The purpose of privilege is to allow members and senators to expose certain things without fear of retribution from powerful men. There are in this country powerful men who misuse the forms of government and who through the use of close association and by taking advantage of patronage gain for themselves an advantage. At that time Alexander Barton and Jetair gained an advantage. The then Minister for External Affairs was the present Prime Minister, Mr McMahon.

I now discuss another series of events which I believe should be disclosed. A firm of stockbrokers was able to challenge a taxation assessment by the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales. That was its right to challenge an assessment. It was able to challenge an assessment, appeal against it, have that appeal overruled and go through the necessary procedures and the various stages that are allowed for. It was able to proceed through all these stages in New South Wales and to have the matter transferred to the Commissioner of Taxation in Canberra. One would have expected the matter to have proceeded to a court for determination. The assessment involved about $2.5m. Suddenly, without referral to a court for determination so that previous events could be disclosed and so that we could know why the Commissioner of Taxation changed his mind and withdrew the assessment, the assessment was withdrawn.

Senator Cavanagh - There was representation to the Prime Minister.

Senator GEORGES - There was representation to the Prime Minister by Mr Dowling of Patrick Partners. An appointment was made. Before it was kept the assessment was withdrawn. The Prime Minister has admitted that fact. I understand that Mr Dowling was able to take advantage of his connections within the Liberal Party to have the assessment withdrawn. I raise the matter again because indirectly in my original question I did an injustice to the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales.

Senator Little - The honourable senator has just repeated it.

Senator GEORGES - I have not.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I think the time has arrived when I should quote to Senator Georges and to all honourable senators standing order 418. I read it out very carefully so that all honourable senators will understand its wording. It reads:

No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

Senator Cavanagh - What were the offensive words?

The PRESIDENT - I will rule on the offensive words. I warn Senator Georges that under standing order 418 he must not make imputations of improper conduct against members of another place or against members of any State Parliament.

Senator GEORGES - Mr President, 1 accept what you say with, if I may, some reservations.

The PRESIDENT - The honourable senator does not accept my rulings with reservations. He accepts them in toto.

Senator GEORGES - 1 have a small right of retaliation if in another place the Treasurer should describe my questioning of this series of events as despicable. I accept that he has a right to disagree if he so wishes but I also - and I am not sensitive - have a right to respond in the way in which I am responding at the present time. I am exercising some restraint. 1 have not accused the Prime Minister of corruption. That was suggested by Senator McManus.

The PRESIDENT - Order! All 1 am saying is that you should beware nf standing order 418 which I have carefully lead out to you. You may now go on with your speech.

Senator GEORGES - Let me proceed to the point I was wishing to make. In asking the questions 1 did reflect upon the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales when I said that he gave way to what I termed intimidation. I was not to know at that time that the tax assessment of Patrick Partners which should have been in the province of the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales had moved into the area of responsibility of the Commissioner himself. I have certain questions on the notice paper which have not been answered. I have raised certain points by way of question. The original questions were almost immediately answered by the Treasurer who stated that no information could be given on matters of taxation which concerned an individual taxpayer. In this case an individual was defined as including bodies corporate, companies, and groups of individuals. Because of the secrecy provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act no information could be given, lt was for this reason that I asked why the assessment, having proceeded so far, had been withdrawn; that I questioned the making of an appointment with the Prime Minister; and that I questioned the withdrawal of such an assessment. But let me first apologise - as I indicated to Senator Withers in response to an interjection - to the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales. I did him an injustice. The allegation which I made should have been directed to the Commissioner and to the Prime Minister. There the matter stands.

Senator Withers - Is the honourable senator alleging that they did something improper?

Senator GEORGES - I am saying that this Government has been in power for so long that it serves its friends well. If there were no other reason for a change of Government this is one good reason. The Government has been here too long. It is not at arm's length from its friends. It serves its friends well. There should be a change of government. There will be a change of government in spite of the beneficial nature of certain parts of this Budget.

Senator Carrick - What allegations do you make against the Prime Minister?

Senator GEORGES - The allegations which I am making-

Senator Little - It is a matter of litigation even now on the interpretation from the court.

Senator GEORGES - It is not. As a matter of fact, the assessment has been withdrawn and we are not to be told why it has been withdrawn.

Senator Carrick - What is the allegation?

Senator GEORGES - The allegation is that it was because of the-

Senator Cavanagh - Prime Minister's intervention.

Senator Sim - Work it out.

Senator GEORGES - No, I am not working it out. It is clear by way of question. If the honourable senator wants to read my questions, then read them. If he wants to read my questions on notice, then read them. What I am saying is clearly that this Government and its Ministers have shown favouritism to people in high places.

Senator Cotton - I rise to order. Mr President, I refer you to a comment which Senator Georges made. He said that this Government and its Minister have shown favouritism. I resent that remark. It is improper. It imputes improper motives to the Prime Minister and his Ministers. I think it should be withdrawn. I think it is extremely offensive and it is unnecessary. As far as Senator Georges is concerned, I think that in going on like this he does himself and his colleagues less than justice. It is a disgrace.

Senator Cavanagh - I have a point of order-

The PRESIDENT - Does it relate to standing order 418?

Senator Cavanagh - Yes. I recall your reading out standing order 418 which relates to offensive words. Nowhere in the speech by Senator Georges-

The PRESIDENT - Standing order 418 also relates to imputations of improper motives.

Senator Cavanagh - Senator Georges in his remarks made the imputation that favouritism has been shown to certain operations. I think it is implied that this is a result of a Government which nas favourites being in office for too long. I do not know whether an honourable senator

Senator Webster - That is objectionable, too.

Senator Cavanagh - I ask the honourable senator to wait. Where an honourable senator has a conscientious belief that there is corruption in Australia because the Government is prepared to bend to favouritism in relation to certain sections of the community, what is the avenue by which he can ventilate an injustice done to the

Australian community except in a speech in the Senate? Senator Georges has exercised his right. No-one can accept what Senator Georges has said other than as his opinion of what has happened in relation to this incident. He is entitled to that opinion. Those who disagree with the opinion can rise and disagree with it in the ordinary course of debate on the Budget. Senator George's argument has some undesirable features because he supports it by facts.

Senator Sim - What facts?

Senator Cavanagh - He knows - and the Minister will not reply - that the assessment was withdrawn. That is the difficulty in relation to this question. If everything is fair and above board the answer to the question should be that the assessment was not withdrawn. That would be a complete answer. If someone can support an imputation or an accusation, that is no reason why he should not make the statement. There would be more justification for making it than if he could not support it. Senator Georges has supported to the hilt the accusation which he has made against a certain company and against the activities of the Prime Minister. The fact that this is repugnant to those of the Party who follow the Prime Minister is, I submit, no justification for forbidding to Senator Georges the right to proceed along this line and make the suggestion, which he knows is correct, of corruption within the Government.

Senator Cotton - I take a point of order.

The PRESIDENT - Do you address yourself to the point of order?

Senator Cotton - Yes, I address myself to the standing order 418 which states:

No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections of Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

Senator Georgessaid that the Prime Minister and his Ministers have behaved improperly. Accordingly, Mr President, under standing order 423, I require those words to be taken down so that we may study them. After we see the Hansard report we will know whether to proceed or not.

The PRESIDENT - The Standing Orders require the words to be taken down now at this very moment. I will order that the words to which Senator Cotton objects be taken down. What are the words?

Senator Cotton - The words which Senator Georges uttered.

The PRESIDENT - I think that we are getting ourselves into a bit of a quandary in this matter. Honourable senators will realise that I am a fairly tolerant President, although they may not have thought so at question time today, but that is by the way. It should be quite obvious to honourable senators that this matter which has been raised by Senator Cavanagh and mentioned by Senator Cotton, and which I myself took the initiative in raising, has been the subject matter for discussion in the Senate over the many years for which the Senate has sat. There are 3 rulings on this matter which I think are relevant to all the matters that we have discussed, and the 3 rulings were given by the one President. Mr President Givens said:

A senator may criticise whomsoever he pleases, including a member of another place provided he wakes no offensive reflections on such a member.

On a subsequent occasion Mr President Givens ruled:

A senator may refer to a general policy of a party in any terms that he may choose to use provided it is not offensive to any senator.

On another occasion Mr President Givens ruled:

A statement of fact is in order. To impute improper motives is out of order.

If Senator Georges feels strongly about this he must formalise his imputations and his accusations and put them in terms of a formal motion before the Senate. Having said that, Senator Georges, I invite you to continue your remarks in the context of the Budget debate but to refrain from being offensive in accordance with the Standing Orders which I have quoted and the rulings which I have given.

Senator Webster - Mr President, I take personal objection to the words that Senator Georges uttered. I ask that they be withdrawn and that an apology be submitted.

The PRESIDENT - What are the words?

Senator Webster - Senator Georges imputed improper motives to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet Ministers.

The PRESIDENT - Senator Webster,the Standing Orders are clear on this question. If an honourable senator takes objection to words uttered by another senator he must reduce to writing the words to which he takes objection and they must bc presented to the table. Until such time as I have those words I cannot take any notice of the objection. I simply say to Senator Georges: You are treading on very dangerous ground, and I have exhibited a degree of tolerance which 1 think has now reached its limit. If you wish to continue your remarks I invite you to continue them in the context of the Standing Orders and with the decorum which the Senate requires.

Senator Cotton - Mr President, I seek guidance from you. Standing order 423 states:

When any senator objects to words used in debate, and desires them to be taken down, the President shall direct them to be taken down by the Clerk accordingly:

That would seem to me to indicate that what is expected is not that someone will come in and write down the words, but that on objection being taken you should say to the Clerk: 'Will you take down the words which have been uttered by Senator Georges to which people are objecting?'

The PRESIDENT - I wish to know what are the words to which objection is taken. That is the point.

Senator Webster - Mr President, on the point of order, I do not think that a senator, on making a complaint, must pronounce the words to which objection is taken. The words were uttered by Senator Cotton when he first took objection to them. At that point of time the words should have been taken down by the Clerk.

The PRESIDENT - I do not know what the words were.

Senator Webster - Some 10 minutes after objection has been taken is not the time when the senator who has objected should write down the words.

The PRESIDENT - The Senate is sensitive to the forms of argument used by Senator Georges. It is claimed that offensive words have been uttered by Senator Georges; it is claimed that they are offensive under standing order 418. All I say is that under standing order 418 I cannot order any retraction by Senator Georges, if I am inclined to do so, until I know what are the words to which objection is taken.

Senator Webster - The Clerk must take them down.

The PRESIDENT - The Clerk must not take them down. The senator taking the point of order and complaining must inform me what are the words to which objection is taken. I think we have gone far enough. I have warned you, Senator Georges, under standing order 418. Two honourable senators already have indicated that they are getting pretty apprehensive about the paths on which you are treading. I suggest that you should confine yourself to the Standing Orders and address your remarks to the object matter, which is the Budget and the amendment which has been moved to it. Now, on you go.

Senator GEORGES - Mr President, I refrain from speaking to the point of order because naturally I had the advantage of addressing you at length. 1 at least take the view that what I did imply, which seems to be so objectionable but which cannot be denned by either of the senators who have objected, was favouritism and patronage.

Senator Cotton - Mr President, I raise another point of order. After Senator Georges' remarks I fairly quickly said that what he said was something like this: He accused the Prime Minister and his Ministers, which includes me, of improper behaviour. I take exception to that. As nothing has been taken down, I have to rest upon the Hansard record tomorrow morning as the only record of what Senator Georges appeared to me to have said.

Senator GEORGES - Then I take it that the matter will be resolved tomorrow.

The PRESIDENT - I would prefer to resolve it tonight. Senator Georges, do you admit what Senator Cotton has said is what you said?

Senator GEORGES - I do not think Senator Cotton is aware of what I did say.

The PRESIDENT - What did you say about the Prime Minister?

Senator Sim - He is not game to say it.

Senator GEORGES - It is not a matter of not being game to say it because for the last 20 minutes I have been saying exactly what honourable senators opposite have been objecting to. But they are so sensitive to criticism of this sort that they have jumped up to take points of order in a premature way, not being aware of what they are-

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Georges, are you or are you not accusing the Prime Minister of improper motives? Yes or no.

Senator GEORGES - I am accusing the Prime Minister of patronage. I say that patronage is not, in effect, imputing improper behaviour. Patronage is a failing of a government that has been in power for far too long. Where is the improper motive when I assert favouritism or patronage?

The PRESIDENT - Order! For the purposes of avoiding any element of sophistication that might exist and in order that I may clear up this matter entirely, Senator Georges I ask you: Did you and are you imputing improper motives to the Prime Minister? All I want you to answer is yes or no.

Senator GEORGES - Mr President, we are at variance on definition. I am accusing the Prime Minister of patronage. If you rule that by accusing the Prime Minister of patronage I am accusing him of improper conduct in the strict parliamentary sense - if you define it that way - then perhaps I might consider withdrawing it.

The PRESIDENT - I am not going to involve myself in a question of semantics. What is disturbing honourable senators is whether or not you have offended against standing order 418. The matter engaging the interest of honourable senators is whether or not you are accusing the Prime Minister of improper motives. If you say that you are not accusing the Prime Minister of improper motives, the matter is gone. On the other hand, if you say that you are accusing the Prime Minister of improper motives, then I assume that honourable senators will take some further action. I cannot forecast what action they will take. The only way to clear up this matter is not to put a semantic proposition and to say that you are referring to patronage. I heard you use the word 'patronage'. But the question about which a lot of honourable senators seem to feel fairly strongly is whether you are accusing the Prime Minister of improper motives. In order to allow me to proceed further, I want you to tell me whether in fact that is true. 1 want you to say yes it is true or no it it not true. If you just do that the whole problem will be solved very quickly.

Senator O'Byrne - Mr President, I draw your attention to the standing order relating to the adjournment of the Senate.

The PRESIDENT - I am not prepared to put the motion for the adjournment of the Senate until the point of order has been resolved.

Senator Cavanagh - I desire to speak to the point of order.

Senator Webster - You have already said enough.

Senator Cavanagh - This is not to take sides in the question. As a keen observer, I seek to understand what the Standing Orders mean. Standing order 418 says:

No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal -

I pause there. A total prohibition is imposed. No member shall use offensive words against either House or any member unless for the repeal of some legislation. If anyone uses offensive words against either House or any member he contravenes the Standing Orders and I take it that appropriate action must be taken. But there is no prohibition against any member making imputations. The first part of standing order 418 states that no senator shall use offensive words. He cannot do it. It is a breach of the Standing Orders. But, turning to the remaining part of standing order 418, we find that it reads:

.   . and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

My point of order is based on the fact that there are certain things that a senator cannot do. There is a penalty for doing something that a senator cannot do. Possibly it is expulsion from the Senate. But there is no prohibition against imputations. These are considered highly disorderly.

Senator Rae - If the honourable senator looks at standing order 438 he will find that his argument falls to the ground.

Senator Cavanagh - I will look at standing order 438. I am grateful for the interjection because it may lead to an understanding of the Standing Orders. Looking at standing order 418, I say that there is a definite distinction - I think Senator Rae will agree with me - between the use of offensive words and the making of imputations. Offensive words cannot be used; the making of imputations is highly disorderly. Senator Rae invites me to look at standing order 438. This standing order provides:

If any Senator-

(a)   persistently and wilfully obstructs the business of the Senate;

No-one suggests that Senator Georges has done that, and Senator Rae would agree with me on that -

Senator Rae - Paragraph (b) is the relevant one.

Senator Cavanagh - Senator Georges has tried to push on to confirm his imputation. He is not obstructing the business of the Senate. He is not guilty of disorderly conduct.

Senator Little - That is what it says about imputations; they are highly disorderly.

Senator Cavanagh - Look, I have sympathy for Senator Little. He does not understand. Senator Rae may. No-one can say that the conduct of Senator Georges was disorderly in any direction.

Senator Little - You just said that it was, if he made imputations.

Senator Rae - If the honourable senator looks at standing order 418 he will see that it is defined as such.

Senator Cavanagh - Will you wait until Senator Little has finished? I appreciate your interjection, Senator Rae. I think we are both desirous of achieving understanding of the Standing Orders.

Senator Rae - If you now turn back to standing order 418 you will see that the conduct alleged to have been taken by Senator Georges is disorderly and therefore is offensive under standing order 438

The PRESIDENT - Senator Cavanagh, you will continue to address the Chair.

Senator Little - But is not-

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Little, Senator Cavanagh is addressing the Chair.

Senator Cavanagh - I am most appreciative of intelligent interjections because I think that we want to achieve an understanding of the Standing Orders. I am sure that if Senator Georges was in breach of them some action may be taken to rectify that position. To my mind at this stage he is not. As 1 take it, Senator Rae considers that standing order 438 (b) applies. This refers to a senator who is:

Guilty of disorderly conduct--

Senator Raerefers to disorderly conduct as mentioned in standing order 4t8. I do not know whether he means that a personal reflection on a member shall be considered highly disorderly and is therefore disorderly conduct. Standing order 438 provides that if a senator is guilty of disorderly conduct - the word 'conduct' is not used in standing order 418 - then the President-

Senator Byrne - It must be.

Senator Cavanagh - It must be? Well, I am not disputing that. But let me say: It may be. If it may be, the President may report to the Senate that such senator has committed an offence. The term which Senator Georges has used in discussing this question - and I agree that he has made serious imputations - is favouritism or patronage on the part of the Prime Minister. It is said that this could be interpreted as imputations against the Prime Minister. Surely the Standing Orders must at all times be for guidance. If the accusation was a wild one without any supporting proof, I think-

Senator Little - There is not any supporting proof.

Senator Cavanagh - Wait on. If it was a wild accusation without any supporting proof, I think there is a duty on the President to report to the Senate. But this argument must be reduced to insignificance when we note the fact that a senator elected by the people, of an Australian State has a firm belief that some big financial interest in Australia has escaped its obligations to meet its liability to pay towards the administration of this country because the members of that interest have some personal friend, someone who occupies a high position in the Cabinet, Not only has the senator a responsibility which raises his conduct above the Standing

Orders but also he has a responsibility to expose the matter to the Senate on this occasion. That is what has happened.

On this occasion Senator Georges, when he was interrupted, was in the process not only of making an imputation but also of supporting it by facts. What is now an imputation is factual. This can be so resolved. Senator Georges can be belittled or can be disgraced. It can be shown that he has no backing for his accusation. These things can happen if the Minister will answer the questions that Senator Georges has raised. Will the Minister answer these questions: Was an assessment made? Were representations made to the Prime Minister? Was the assessment withdrawn? What can a senator discharging his responsibility to the electors do when he feels that there is corruption in the Public Service other than to expose that corruption to this House under privilege for the purpose of obtaining a reply?

With all due respect to the point of order that has been raised, I suggest that Senator Georges is operating well within the ambit of standing order 418, that he has used no offensive words against either House of the Parliament, or any member of such House, or any House of a State parliament or against any statute, but that he has made imputations of improper motives and has personally reflected on a member. I think you have the right, Mr President, to consider that any disorderliness in what he has done is overcome by the fact that there is operating in this field something which justifies exposure to the public. Because the Prime Minister and the Liberal Government cannot stand up to it, the decision has been to exert pressure on Senator Georges to withdraw his remarks. It will stand on the records and until the question is answered it must so stand.

The PRESIDENT - Order! We are wandering in a semantic lignum swamp at the moment and could be here all night arguing about this. The facts are that the President must be obedient to the Standing Orders of the Senate. The President is no greater than the Standing Orders. I think this matter could be clarified simply if Senator Georges assures me that he is not imputing improper motives to the Prime Minister. If he does that the matter is solved. Senator Georges, are you imputing improper motives to the Prime Minister?

Senator GEORGES - I must seek your guidance, Mr President. Let me clearly and briefly state what I have implied. I have stated that when the Prime Minister was Minister for Foreign Affairs he exercised patronage in the purchase by his Department of Jetair aircraft. I said further that the Prime Minister exercised patronage in the matter of a tax assessment.

Senator Byrne - Patronage is not necessarily

The PRESIDENT - Order!

Senator GEORGES - Wait a moment.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Georges, I am on my feet. You say 'patronage'. Do you impute improper motives in the context of your use of the word patronage'?

Senator Webster - Of course he does.

The PRESIDENT - I do not want support from anyone whenI am trying to solve this problem.

Senator GEORGES - I would say that that sort of action on the part of any member of Parliament is highly improper.

The PRESIDENT - So there is an imputation of wrong doing. In those circumstances, Senator Georges, if you do not withdraw I must force myself into the position which I have never wished to achieve of naming an honourable senator.

Senator Cavanagh - He has not been given an opportunity to withdraw.

The PRESIDENT - I have given him an opportunity to withdraw.

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