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Wednesday, 3 November 1976

Mr KILLEN (MORETON, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Defence) - I have an immense respect for the sense of enterprise and resolution of the people of Taiwan, but I am bound to tell the honourable member that his question has what I describe as an arresting charm of novelty about it. I hope he will be encouraged if I say to him, in the language of the Church, sursum corda- lift up your hearts. I do not think it will happen. It may be that the honourable gentleman is reflecting on the charming Sunday afternoon at Botany Bay. It may not be inappropriate if I were to put that enervating afternoon in some measure of perspective. The scenario shortly is that I was at the Leichhardt Hotel in Rockhampton on a hot February evening in 1974 and the telephone rang. The man on the telephone said that he was from the BBC. Well, pay-back is not unknown in this country. Indeed I am succumbing to it myself. Honourable gentlemen may recall that on one occasion a former colleague in this House was beckoned at 2 or 3 o 'clock in the morning to write 600 words for the Times summing up the Australian political scene. I said: 'Hello, somebody is trying to pay back'. This is no impeachment to the sense of geography of the BBC, but for myself I would have had some doubt whether it knew where Rockhampton was, let alone the Leichhardt Hotel.

So, when I was asked the question: What is the state of preparedness of the Australian armed forces? I said: 'We could not stop them landing at Botany Bay on a hot Sunday afternoon'. To my infinite disquiet the following day I saw in the newspapers, with a London dateline: 'Shadow Minister says Botany Bay cannot be defended'. Most of life's experiences have a moral. That experience has this moral for me and I pass it on to all honourable gentlemen: If the telephone rings and a person says he is from the BBC and his name is Picksworth, lapse into silence, behave like a Trappist monk and hang up.

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