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Tuesday, 29 March 1966

Mr SPEAKER - The Minister may proceed.

Mr Fairbairn - I was misrepresented in a question asked by the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson). The honorable member said that in a recent speech to a Young Liberal Movement conference in Melbourne I was reported as having stated that I did not believe our defences were helped by northern development. Let me briefly inform honorable members of what actually happened. I was asked a question as to why we should develop the north. I replied that I believed we should develop the north, first, because we had vast resources there which, if developed, would strengthen our national economy; secondly, I said that we had an obligation and a duty to develop the north and not to allow any assets there to remain idle. These, I said, I thought were the basic reasons for developing the north, but that apart from the strengthening of our national economy I did not believe that northern development of itself increased our ability to repel an invader. In fact, I said, some people have claimed that it would be easier for an enemy to invade Australia if the north were developed than if it were undeveloped. I think it will be apparent that the construction put by the honorable member for Dawson on the report of my speech is quite different from the meaning I sought to convey. I should have thought that the honorable member, before trying to make political capital out of something that he read in the Press, would have verified with me the accuracy of the report.

Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.

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