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Tuesday, 19 April 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins) (Prime Minister) . - Mr. Acting Speaker, to the extent that honorable gentlemen opposite are trying to confuse the facts on this matter, let me state them quite simply. In the first place, the Leader of the Opposition asked a question as to whether I had received a letter from the editor of the Sunday " Truth " in Brisbane. He quoted some figures which indicated an overwhelming support for a point of view expressed in relation to conscription. I am just putting the substance of what he put to me, but he asked me whether I accepted this as a valid expression of the viewpoint of the people of Queensland. I told him that I had not received the letter personally until just before I came into the House, when I had a glance through it. 1 also said that 1 had another letter. 1 did not at any point of time attempt to convey the impression that it was from the editor of the Sunday "Truth". One only has to refer to the text that I quoted to the House to see how absurd such a proposition would be. 1 have since made it clear that the date on one letter is different from the date on the other. The material set out in the letter was of such an order that I felt that it had the marks of authenticity upon it. I thought it had a valid bearing upon what had been put to me by the honorable gentleman. My only point at the time in quoting from it was to indicate to him that there were reasons why 1 was not prepared to accept at face value the voting strength recorded in this particular poll. This document reached me with an intimation in it that it was for my information and use as 1 saw fit. To me it is only a confidential document in the sense that it includes the names of a number of people. I do not think that, in fairness to them, this House should ask me to quote now the names of people who are described as-

.   . the following well known Communist Party and Eureka Youth League members whose names were given on further " Yes " votes.

I told the Leader of the Opposition that he could have the whole document so far as I was concerned. There may be an opportunity to put this matter to a practical test, because included in the body of the letter is this statement - lt is also known that another person not connected in any way wilh left wing bodies decided to lest the authenticity and the conduct of the poll. He obtained 200 copies of " Truth " and submitted " Yes " votes in the following manner: He extracted and used the names, without their consent, of electors whose names appear at the top of pages 1 to 30 of the 1964 Brisbane Federal electoral roll, pages 31 to 60 of the Bowman roll, pages 61 to 90 of the Petrie roll, pages 91 to 120 of the Ryan roll, pages 121 to 150 of the Griffith roll, pages 151 to 170 of the Moreton roll and pages 71 to 90 of the Lilley roll.

Mr Calwell - You are not saying that Security gave this to you.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - I am not saying that Security gave it to me. What I am saying is that here is a document which bears a Brisbane address and is dated 12th April 1966. The final comment is -

For obvious reasons I regret that I am unable to append my own signature.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Order! Honorable members will come to order.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - An anonymous letter. From how high can you fall?

Mr HAROLD HOLT - Go on; have your fun.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He presents an anonymous letter and-

Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will remain silent.

Mr Calwell - All right. I think the Prime Minister could table it now.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - No; I am not going to disclose names. The honorable gentleman is having a great deal of fun, but he clearly recognises, as do his supporters, how foolish it is to put to the head of the Australian Government the proposition that the vote recorded in this Brisbane newspaper is a faithful expression of the views of the Australian people when, in the last week, to the great chagrin of the Opposition, bishops of the Anglican Church, the leading figure of the Roman Catholic Church and seven former moderators of the Presbyterian Church have all supported the view of the Government in relation to resistance to Communist aggression in Vietnam. I prefer to regard those as faithful expressions.

Mr Beaton - I rise to a point of order. I understand that we are discussing a motion of dissent. I fail to comprehend how the matter which the Prime Minister is discussing has anything to do with that motion of dissent.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - What I am saying is entirely relevant to the issue raised by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that in the circumstances, Sir, you have ruled accurately and that your ruling should be supported. Mv sole purpose in replying to a question to which the Leader of the Opposition had attached so much apparent significance was to demonstrate that there could be reasons for questioning both the validity and the bona fides of votes alleged to have been cast in this particular operation.

Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) put -

That the question be now put.

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