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Tuesday, 19 April 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins) (Prime Minister) . - Mr. Acting Speaker, I would like to inform the House of some ministerial arrangements that are in contemplation. Towards the end of this week, the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden) and I shall leave lor short visits overseas on government business. I shall be absent from this House for three sitting days carrying out my stated intention of visiting Australian forces serving in areas of South East Asia. I shall leave for Singapore on Thursday and shall be absent from Australia for about 10 days. In my absence, my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), will be Acting Prime Minister.

Honorable members will recall my previous statements that the primary purpose of my going to South East Asia at this time is to visit Australian servicemen in the field. I shall, of course, make the most of the opportunity provided to meet with the leaders of Governments in the respective countries. As indicated earlier, I shall be visiting Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia - including Sarawak - and Vietnam. I shall be accompanied by the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir John Wilton, who, as honorable members well know, is the Chairman-designate of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The party will also include senior representatives of my own Department, the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Defence. It is my intention to spend Anzac Day with Australian servicemen in operational areas. I look forward to meeting and talking with the Australian servicemen who have been serving in difficult areas with courage and distinction, and I will report to the House on my visit upon my return.

The Minister for Supply is to lead the Australian delegation at the European Launcher Development Organisation conference in Paris, which takes place from 26th April to 29th April. The Minister will remain in Paris for two days after the conference for talks relating primarily to the Mirage aircraft and then will visit London to meet his counterpart in the new British Cabinet. He plans to return on 7th May. During Senator Henry's absence, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) will act as Minister for Supply, anc Senator Gorton will lead the Government in the Senate. Arrangements for representation in the Senate of Ministers in this House will be as follows: Senator Gorton will represent in all matters concerning my portfolio and the Treasurer's; Senator Anderson will represent the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Acting Minister for Supply; Senator McKellar will represent the Minister for National Development.

The Attorney-General will represent Australia at the London Conference of Commonwealth Law Ministers which commences on 26th April. During his absence, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) will act as Attorney-General

Mr Calwell - May I at this stage ask the Prime Minister a question about his visit to South East Asia? Will he give some regard to the rights of private members of the Parliament so that they too may visit this area during the recess and so that they too can inform themselves of the conditions obtaining in the area in order to be better informed when matters relating to Vietnam are debated after the House resumes for the Budget session? Will he consider the possibility of a joint delegation of members of both Houses visiting Vietnam even before we go into recess? I would prefer that this bc done.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - lt has been the Government's practice over the last few years to arrange for two delegations of members of the Parliament to go to countries of special interest to Australia. The definition would, of course, include the areas mentioned by the honorable gentleman and they would have the highest priority. It is the intention of the Government to continue this arrangement in the course of the recess and my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), has already given some thought to the areas that the two delegations might visit. One of the proposed visits would be to Vietnam and to Malaysia, Singapore and, I think, part of Borneo. That is our general intention, but I shall be glad to discuss the details with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). T think T will be in a better position to inform the House of the feasibility of these arrangements after my return.

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