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Tuesday, 19 April 1966

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I move -

That the ruling be dissented from.

Mr Whitlam - The honorable gentleman requires the document to be tabled?

Mr CALWELL - I do. You have ruled, Sir, in a way which I and my colleagues believe to be quite at variance with the Standing Orders. We say, too, that you have ruled that way in order to protect the Prime Minister. You have no right to protect the right honorable gentleman. The writer of the letter said that the Prime Minister could use it as he saw fit. When the Prime Minister quotes a letter, particularly when the writer says that the Prime Minister may use it in any way he sees fit, every member of this House has the right to ask him to table it. It was your bounden duty, Mr. Acting Speaker, to ask the Prime Minister: " Do you plead that this document is confidential?" Not having done that, you rightly stand open to the charge - it can successfully be laid against you - that, you were abusing your office in protecting the Prime Minister. You had no right to do that sort of thing. Every member of this House has the same rights. No Minister has more rights than any other person in the House. So, although we have had to fight on this issue before, although Ministers in other governments have pleaded confidence when I do not think they had any right to do so, and thereby disgracefully abused their authority, today the Prime Minister has not even claimed that this letter is confidential. He did quote the letter in such a way as to suggest and insinuate that it came to him from the editor of " Truth " in Brisbane, but debate on the matter revealed that the letter was not written by the editor; it was written by somebody else.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - lt was probably written by the Postmaster-General.

Mr CALWELL - It was possibly written by the Postmaster-General or somebody else belonging to the Liberal Party in Queensland - written by a spy, stooge or some other person who attended the meeting and who bought up and gave out copies of "Truth" in order to be able to say that the result of the poll was not a genuine one. The poll in Queensland was a Statewide poll. It was not a poll taken only at a rally; it was taken throughout the whole of Queensland. It was taken over a fortnight, according to the letter. It is completely wrong of the Prime Minister to suggest that the editor of the " Truth " gave him a way out. I would concede that possibly the Prime Minister was a little confused, or bemused, by the prospect of going to Vietnam and meeting the people in that area, but there was no reason or justification for his not saying to the House, immediately his attempted delusion or subterfuge was discovered: " Well, it was not the editor of ' Truth ' who wrote this letter to me; it was so and so." Then we would have the right to know who so and so is. He is probably a fictitious personality anyhow. Sir, I think your ruling is completely wrong and I hope that the House will uphold the motion of dissent.

Mr Harold Holt - Mr. Acting Speaker-

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