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Wednesday, 4 April 1962

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) is entitled to address to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) a question concerning the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If the matter contained in the question is a reflection on the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Treasurer can subsequently by personal explanation or by leave of the House, make a statement. He would be given leave by us to do so. Or he could make his personal explanation in his own right without leave at the end of question time. But the question was directed to the PostmasterGeneral.

Mr Hasluck - Why?

Mr CALWELL - The honorable member for Scullin asked questions in relation to certain matters which the honorable gentleman asserts are facts. He asserts that the Treasurer did interfere with the administration, with the work, of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He did say, interrogatively, that the Treasurer rang the commission and said certain things to the news editors. The Treasurer said, " Bishop Strong should not be permitted to make these statements on the air, because what he says is opposite to Government, policy ". He is reported to have said, " If he is to be reported in criticism of the Government, then I should be interrogated first so that my statement could be put over at the same time ". That may or may not be true, but at least it was reported as having happened, and the honorable member for Scullin was entitled to ask the PostmasterGeneral, " Did these things happen? "

The Postmaster-General was brushed aside by the Treasurer, who is deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, as if the Australian Country Party did not matter. The Treasurer "was encouraged by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to proceed on his way, and you, Sir, I say with due respect, were in my view intimidated by them to give the ruling that you gave, in order to help the Treasurer out of a difficulty. The very fact that the Treasurer did what he did - the way he rushed to the table - showed that he was the guilty man. It showed that he did interfere, that he did try to suppress the opinion of Bishop Strong, who, for 30 years, has been in New Guinea, who is a very honorable man, who knows the story and who has as much right to criticize this Government or the Australian Labour Party or anybody else as has any other man in Australia.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I must ask the Leader of the Opposition to come back to the terms of the motion.

Mr CALWELL - Of course, I know that I have to come back to the terms of the motion. 1 have to keep within the narrow confines, and these other people can wander where they like and do what they like. Yes, I know that. And the PostmasterGeneral, like the bridegroom in Sir Walter Scott's poem " Lochinvar ", will say never a word. He will just dangle his bonnet and plume. He will not even rise in his place.

Sir, whatis happening now is a travesty of justice. It is a gross abuse of the Standing Orders of this House. Your ruling, Sir, if it is permitted to stand, will be a disgrace to this Parliament, and the rights of honorable members will no longer exist. What the Executive wants done will be done. Ministers are the bosses of the Parliament. You are no more than a cipher in the Parliament, and the Opposition

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Leader of the Opposition has made a very unparliamentary remark in relation to the Chair, and I must ask him to withdraw. I am not a cipher. I object to that.

Mr CALWELL - I did not mean it personally, Sir. I withdraw the remark that you are a cipher and say that the Government is trying to make you appear to be a cipher.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Before we proceed, I would like to say that the practice of the House is that the Minister most responsible for the matter answers the question.

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