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Wednesday, 20 March 1957

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) . - I apologize to the House for bringing before it something which is, in a sense, a personal matter because it refers to false allegations about something that I am alleged to have done. It has been suggested in the press, unfortunately with the support of one honorable member of this House, that I have been responsible for the eviction by the Army of certain people from a dwelling at Port Kembla. These allegations are the direct opposite to the truth and therefore I thought it encumbent upon me to place the true facts on record.

The land in question was in the possession of the Commonwealth Government, but it formed part of my father's estate. I was responsible for the administration of the estate for some years before my father died. His death occurred in August, 1949, some months before I first entered this House. Since his death I have not been directly responsible for this land although, as my mother was the executrix, 1 have usually known what has been happening about it.

In the first week of World War II. the land in question was loaned by my father to the Army, which needed it for billetting purposes. Subsequently, an arrangement for a peppercorn rental - I think it was the rates plus a shilling or a pound a year - was arrived at for the use of the land by the forces for the duration of the war. The understanding was that it would be returned after the war. When that time came and I was administering this land I asked the Commonwealth whether it could be returned. I was told that the Commonwealth needed the land because it wanted to tie up the loose ends. On behalf of my father I readily agreed to this and, only a few weeks before my father's death I made an arrangement with the department which gave them a lease of it for another twelve months at the same peppercorn rental on i he understanding it would be returned at the end of that period.

I know that the department subsequently said that it did not want to give the land back immediately because it was faced with some embarrassment. This has been readily met and the department has been assured that legal action will not be taken to reclaim the land, although, of course, we have been in every way competent to take such action. The matter has now dragged on for the six or seven years that I have been in this House.

The action recently taken by the department was not known to me. nor did I know that the Army was to be used. I did know that an eviction order had been obtained, but I did not know this until after it had been obtained, nor did I know in advance what action was contemplated under it. In the eleven years that have passed since the end of the war we have told the department that it could fix this up and it has had plenty of time to do so. We sympathize with the people concerned and have been willing to bear our share. We have, on several occasions, suggested to the department that some alternative arrangements should be made in respect of them. I do not expect political considerations to be entirely lacking in this House. 1 do not expect that honorable members opposite will refrain from saying anything which they think will gain them a political advantage, but in this particular case what has been said is not only untrue but is the exact opposite to the truth. I have had nothing to do with this incident. My influence has been used to allow these people to slay there until some reasonably alternative arrangement could be made.

I know that I and many other honorable members have found that service in this Parliament results in financial loss. 1 do not complain about that, but it is a little unfair to represent this incident in the pres. in a way that is so directly the opposite of the truth. Worst of all, it seems to have been sponsored by an honorable member of this House.

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