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Tuesday, 19 April 1966


Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Order! The Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister a question. In accordance with the usual practice courtesy was extended to the Leader of the Opposition to enable him to put his question to the Prime Minister before other honorable members directed questions. The Prime Minister is now replying to the question and I suggest that the House listen to that reply.


Mr HAROLD HOLT - I merely read those remarks to the House in support of my reply to the Leader of the Opposition that I am not prepared to accept as representing an authentic reaction of the Australian people the result of any poll conducted in such a way that no-one has any control over the manner in which votes are obtained or recorded. We, as a government, rely upon the good sense and the spirit of responsibility of the Australian people and their recognition of the strength of the cause in which Australia is involved in Vietnam. As we have said before, the issue has seemed of sufficient importance to command the support not only of this Australian Government but also of three Presidents of the United States of America and their Administrations.


Mr Calwell - No, they never did.


Mr HAROLD HOLT - Well, the honorable gentleman can deny the facts if he wishes. The fact is that the Eisenhower Administration, the Kennedy Administration and the Johnson Administration have all supported by word and by deed resistance to Communist aggression in South Vietnam. The honorable gentleman wishes to convert every possible occasion in this House into a debate on the issue. For our part, we will deal with it according to the proportion of time for which it should occupy the attention of the House. It is a matter of great importance and it is so regarded and treated by the Government. There are papers before the House which enable the processes of debate to proceed. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that that is the proper way in which to deal with it.


Mr Clyde Cameron - I raise a point of order. I ask that, in accordance with Standing Order No. 321, the last letter quoted by the Prime Minister be tabled.


Mr ACTING SPEAKER - In accordance with the Standing Orders, the Prime Minister and other Ministers may answer questions as they desire.


Mr Calwell - No. You are wrong.


Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Order! It is for the Prime Minister to say whether he desires to table the letter.


Mr Harold Holt - I am quite willing to show the document to the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr Calwell - Table it.


Mr Harold Holt - It contains the names of several people.


Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Table it. Why not?


Mr Harold Holt - I made it quite clear that this letter reached me at the same time as I received the other one.


Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister tried to make it clear that it came from the editor of " Truth ".


Mr Harold Holt - I did not at any stage seek to draw any such conclusion. Indeed, the dates are different. The letter from the editor of the Sunday " Truth " is dated 14th April and the other one is dated 12th April.


Mr Calwell - I rise to order. Under the Standing Orders, the Prime Minister is protected in refusing to table a document only if he claims that it is of a confidential nature. I ask you, Mr. Acting Speaker, to ask the Prime Minister whether he claims it to be confidential. If he does not claim that it is confidential, then under the Standing Orders he is bound to table it.


Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Order! The Prime Minister gave certain reasons why he did not intend to table the letter.


Mr L R Johnson - Do not protect him.


Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Hughes will cease interjecting. The Prime Minister is quite within his rights in taking the action that he intends to take. It is within his province to do so under the Standing Order that has been cited by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The Standing Order reads -

A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by address, shall, if required by any Member, be laid on the Table.

I rule that the comments of the Prime Minister fall within the scope of the Standing Order. It is within the province of the Prime Minister to say whether he will table the document.







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