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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 2012

Senator RAE (Tasmania) - I hope with a few brief remarks that I can put this debate to bed. I wish to refer to what Senator Greenwood said. It has been asserted that he claimed that the writ should not be issued.

Senator Milliner - Which writ? Do you mean the one that you issued?

Senator Greenwood - I rise to a point of order. I want to inquire whether a senator on this side of the chamber can be heard without constant interruption from the Government side, an experience I had this evening. Senator Rae is about to have the same expericence through interjections being made by Government senators. I ask that the Standing Orders be upheld to allow him to be heard in silence.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I rise to a point of order. In the interests of clarity Senator Rae should be asked when he refers to a writ whether he is referring to a writ issued on this side of the House or to the writ he has issued.

The PRESIDENT - There is no point of order. I ask honourable senators to cease interjecting and for Senator Rae to continue and to address the Chair.

Senator RAE - I refer to what Senator Greenwood said. He said that the issue of a writ could inhibit discussion in Parliament, in the Press, on television and on radio. He said that it can be a denial of freedom of discussion. He said it was a matter of complexity and delicacy, but what he did go on to say, and this is my point -

Senator Poyser - I rise to a point of order. Is Senator Rae reading from a document that has come from Hansard which will clearly identify the words that Senator Greenwood used, or is he paraphrasing?

The PRESIDENT - Senator Raecan answer that.

Senator RAE - I will continue to refer to what is, as I understand it, a correct recollection of what was said. I simply say, and Hansard will bear me out, that what Senator Greenwood said is that this is a matter of complexity and delicacy. The right of citizens to protect their reputation is a right of the utmost importance. It is a right which I hope will never be diminished. A defamation writ is recourse of this character, the ability of a citizen to claim that he has been subjected to hatred, ridicule and contempt ought to be upheld by all citizens. I so uphold it. Senator Everett is entirely mistaken if he believes that in any way was Senator Greenwood suggesting that there was not a right to be taken by Senator Everrett or anybody else who wished to take proceedings through the courts and so uphold their rights. I certainly uphold that and intend to continue to do so.

In relation to some of the more scurrilous remarks that seemed to flow around the chamber there has been the appointment of a representative from the House of Representatives to speak on behalf of Tasmania in that chamber; no more and no less. It is one of the misfortunes of Tasmania that it does not have a Liberal representative in the House of Representatives, a misfortune which is becoming more and more manifest as every day goes by. It is something which is being overcome by having someone to speak on our behalf, even though he is not from Tasmania. As to some of the other remarks of Senator Everett, I think they can be judged by his knowledge of the size of the population of Tasmania who are classified as Aborigines. If Senator Everett studies the last census he will find that the number was about 600. If he inquires of the Aboriginal Information Service he will find that according to their records the number is very much greater.

I have been challenged to say whether I have any knowledge of an advertisement that appeared and to which exception was taken. I do not wish to canvass the matter any more than Senator Everett apparently wished to canvass it, but if he wishes me to read out an advertisement which appeared in the newspaper and to say whether I had any knowledge of it, we may then be able to identify which advertisement he is talking about and which one I am talking about. If he does not want me to take that course I will say only that I have had nothing to do with any advertisements lately except those about which I have been asked for legal advice as to whether they were defamatory or contained defamatory matter. I gave clear advice that they did not. I am unable to take it further without identifying in greater particularity. I simply conclude by saying that what Senator Greenwood said is in no way what he was misrepresented from the other side of the chamber as having said. He certainly upheld the right to institute proceedings. He queried whether the institution of proceedings in that manner could have the effect of preventing discussion of a matter of public importance. As a matter of law I simply suggest that it does not and I certainly do not intend to regard it as doing so.

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