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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2188

Senator GREENWOOD -My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, refers to my question of Wednesday last with respect to directions given to Deputy Crown Solicitors regarding the briefing of only those counsel who are members of the Australian Labor Party. Since my question and the Attorney-General's statement that he was personally unaware of any such directions having been given, did he nevertheless seek information in Melbourne as to the matters alleged in my question? Will he now confirm that directions have been given? Will he say why such directions were given, how they came to be given without his knowledge, and whether he has countermanded them?

Senator MURPHY - I have not made any inquiry in Melbourne. I have stated in the Senate what I understand the position to be and I have raised the matter with the Department. I understand the position to be exactly as I have stated it, namely, that persons are being briefed who certainly are not members of the Australian Labor Party. In fact, if I had to hazard a guess I would say that there is probably an extreme disproportion in the briefing of members of political parties in that I think that probably the members of the honourable senator's party are briefed more than members of the Australian Labor Party. That may be a reflection of the fact that probably more barristers would be members of the Liberal Party than members of the Australian Labor Party. I have said in the Senate that this is not a factor which ought to come into account, nor should it come into account, in the appointment of persons to the bench unless the position was such that there had been some disproportion in numbers. Then, that position ought to be corrected.

Evidently, the honourable senator is endeavouring to stir up some trouble about this matter. I told him that I could reel off right now if I had to the names of a number of persons who have been briefed since the time that I became Attorney-General who are members, and wellknown members, of the Liberal Party of Australia. The Government has indicated that the former Commonwealth Solicitor-General who is standing for pre-selection as a Liberal candidate would be briefed by the Government. I think that the Government has briefed a former AttorneyGeneral, Mr Hughes. The Government has briefed a number of persons who are candidates for Liberal Party pre-selection. I think that it is time the honourable senator ceased to pursue various persons who happen to be briefed by the Australian Government. Is he going to search out every person who happens to be a member of the Labor Party and cause some strife? I have never seen such conduct -

Senator Greenwood - Mr President,I rise to take a point of order.

Senator MURPHY... in what I have observed from the honourable senator.

Senator Greenwood - Mr President,I rise to take a point of order. I asked a question. I think that it is fair that the Attorney-General should reply generally. He has given me the answer to the question that he- I understand that he means himself personally- did not make any of the inquiries about which I am asking. But for him then to proceed in a tirade to make all sorts of unjust accusations falls within the prohibition in the Standing Orders and your ruling that these matters ought not to be debated during question time.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Greenwood, I did not hear the Attorney-General make any reflection on you. To me, he merely seemed to answer the question that briefs have been awarded where they should properly fall. So I do not think that there is any substance in the point of order.

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