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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 3586

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Prime Minister) - I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr WHITLAM - Yes, not only I but my staff too. I think it is a particularly miserable device to refer to people's staff. For better or for worse members of Parliament, Ministers, Leaders of the Opposition, take responsibility or get credit for the actions of their staff. A great number of questions were directed to members of my staff yesterday after the speech that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) made asking whether Dr Kissinger had written to me after my comments at the National Press Club on the alert. The simple fact is that he did not and he has not. Dr Kissinger has written one letter to me. It was not only diplomatic, as the honourable gentleman says; it was cordial and it was written in the context of commending our efforts, Australia's efforts as President-

Mr Peacock - Would you like to table the letter?

Mr WHITLAM - If the honourable gentleman wants me to ask Dr Kissinger whether I can table the letter and the reply I will ask. But he should know quite well that one does not table correspondence or cables between foreign ministers or heads of government. It does not happen. The honourable gentleman seeks to take advantage of any ignorance there may be on that point by asking me to table it. He knows perfectly well that I cannot table without permission. If he wants me to seek permission I will be very happy to seek it and to table the letter. The fact is that the honourable gentleman is trying to make mischief in this context. As I said in an answer at question time, Dr Kissinger wrote the letter which he delivered through the American Ambassador, praising our efforts in the chair at the Security Council to bring about a ceasefire, assuring us that he would be consulting with us and saying that he would be going to Moscow. Promptly I assured him that we would do all we could in the Security Council and outside to bring about a ceasefire, applauding his initiative in going to Moscow and wishing him well in it. There was nothing that anybody could derive from Dr Kissinger's letter in the least way critical of the Australian Government's actions, reactions or initiatives. Afterwards the State Department let the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs know how much it appreciated the skill with which our ambassador to the United Nations had conducted the affairs of the Security Council while he was in the chair.

I asked yesterday that the honourable gentleman should give some support to the efforts that the present Australian Government has made, as all previous Australian governments have made, to be even handed in the disputes in the Middle East. I am merely following the traditional Australian policy in this respect. I believe it would be much more helpful if the spokesman for the Opposition at least would acknowledge that the present Australian Government is doing what its predecessors have always done - to be even handed and neutral in the Middle East.

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