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Thursday, 2 April 1998
Page: 2406

Mr MELHAM (3:32 PM) —Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER —Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr MELHAM —Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented most grievously by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (Mr Ruddock) and the Prime Minister (Mr Howard).

Mr SPEAKER —Please proceed.

Mr MELHAM —Earlier in question time today the minister stated:

One of the comments that worried me greatly this morning was the comment by the honourable member for Banks, who had the audacity to say that there is only one thing missing from this debate, and that is the white sheets and burning crosses. It does the honourable member no service, and it brings the whole question of debate into disrepute.

A moment ago the Prime Minister said that those remarks were made in the context of the native title debate some months ago. Any person listening to that answer would have believed that I made those statements this morning.

Government members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Members of the government will remain silent. The honourable member for Banks has the call.

Mr MELHAM —In fact, the minister was selectively quoting from a document given to him by Mr Tony Nutt, the Prime Minister's chief of staff. It was in fact a Media Monitors document that the minister handed to me. It is dated 29 May 1997. It states:

CH2 7.30 Report

Subject Stolen Generations

Intv. Daryl Melham, Opposition Aboriginal Affairs spokesman

Sarah Henderson, reporter:

Today no-one in the government was talking off the record. But the opposition was.

Daryl Melham

and this is the full quote—

In terms of stolen generations—

Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The requirements for any member making a personal explanation are to quickly state where they were misrepresented and deny it if that is the case. They are not to go through a lengthy debate on the issue.

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member will resume his seat.

Mrs Crosio —That is a quote from 1997.

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Prospect will remain silent. The honourable member for Banks is dealing in a sensitive area and all members should allow him some latitude in explaining the circumstances of his alleged misrepresentation. I would suggest, however, that the honourable member for Banks has in mind the constraints on personal explanations and restricts his remarks entirely to them.

Mr MELHAM —I again say that the comment on the document is, `Mr Ruddock for your use, Tony Nutt'. This Media Monitors document is dated 27 May 1997 and has `confidential' written on it. This is the exact quote:

Daryl Melham In terms of stolen generations, what we have to do is have a considered response, and it's about time the Prime Minister showed leadership. There's only one thing missing from this debate, and that's the white sheets and the burning crosses—and that's been the undercurrent in this debate.

Government members —Ah, ha!

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Honourable members of the government will remain silent.

Mr MELHAM —Those comments were made in relation to stolen children. There was no reference to the Ku Klux Klan. They were made on 29 May 1997.

Government members —Oh!

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Government members will remain silent.

Mr MELHAM —There was no statement made by me this morning. There was no statement made by me in recent months. I ask that the minister and the Prime Minister apologise to the House.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member has finished his personal explanation.

Government members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Members of the government will remain silent. They are not helping in maintaining some decorum in this place.