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Friday, 25 September 1970

Mr JESS (La Trobe) - Mr Speaker,for the sake of those members of the House who were not here this morning and for the sake of those who may be listening to this debate, I think it might be as well for me to give a resume of the sequence of events that has occurred and that has led up to this debate. It will be remembered that, in the House yesterday, questions were asked firstly in relation to photographs taken at the Moratorium demonstration last Friday outside Parliament House. A considerable amount of debate followed and points of order were taken in relation to the answer given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and in relation to other matters. Then, a further question was asked, this time of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), concerning a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to a Press conference about matters which were supposed to have occurred at a meeting of the Labor Party Caucus. From those events has come the debate of today.

I heard today and yesterday questions as to whether people are telling the truth, the importance of the truth and the need to protect honourable members against untruth. The debate yesterday culminated with questions as to whether the Leader of the Opposition had appeared at and addressed the Moratorium meeting here last Friday at which were Vietcong flags.' If one studies the Hansard report of yesterday's proceedings one finds that what the Leader of the Opposition said was that the Vietcong flags were not there, or that he did not see them, or that he did not know they were there and that they must have been to the back of him if they were there.

I can say only this - and I will say it as I put my hand on the Bible I have here in case I am accused of being a liar in an endeavour to dispute what I am saying: At approximately 10 minutes past 10 last Friday morning, I moved out down the front steps of this House. The Leader of the Opposition was standing in the centre of the median strip surrounded by the panting Press waiting for the march to arrive. On the right of him were 2 young people who, I presume, were students with a flag of red and pale blue with a gold star in the centre - the flag of the Vietcong. As I crossed the road, the Leader of the Opposition turned about and moved into the House.

In the centre of the road, 1 said to him: What is the matter, Gough? Are you embarrassed by being beside Vietcong flags?' He replied to me: 'No. Were they there? I did not see them.' I accept that statement without a doubt. But to say that he did not know they were there is a very different matter. He also stated that he had to go into the House because of question time and that, when the march arrived, he would be out to address those gathered.

Furthermore, I state that, in front of his nose, at a distance of between 12 feet and 20 feet, at approximately i o'clock on that day, was a young lady, with blonde hair, a red sweater and blue jeans with an unfurled Vietcong flag. This is unimportant. But if we are to talk about truth, let us stick to the truth. I do not think this is important, i do not blame the Leader ot the Opposition. He is not responsible. But do not let us have crocodile tears about truth one minute and not the next.

But the issue is not that. The issue, if we look at the speeches of this morning from the Opposition, has not even been touched. The Prime Minister stated that the statement that the Leader of the Opposition gave to a Press conference of what I presume was discussed in confidence in the Caucus of the Labor Party has implications for Australia and for the Australian nation. He said that the statement has greater implications because it was mads by the alternative Prime Minister of this country and that must give it major importance. Let me take issue with Mr Frank Chamberlain and various other members of the Press who say that this is only a political scuffle, that it is of no important and that question time should not be used for such matters. In my opinion there is no more important issue confronting this Parliament and this country because it is a question of the future of government, the future of authority and the future standing of a government in Australia, whether it be Liberal, Labor or anything else, which has been elected by democratic processes.

We now have the alternative Prime Minister of this country lending his weight and standing to the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) and those others who have been preaching the right to break the law when the law does not suit one's convenience. The honourable member for Lalor made an impassioned speech on his stand and outlook. I do not think that anyone here was confused or did not understand clearly beforehand his stand and outlook. We have no doubt, I think the people of Australia have no doubt and I am sure the Opposition has no doubt where he stands in political spectrum. However he is not the Leader of the Opposition, much to his regret. He is only a shadow Minister. But when the alternative Prime Minister of this country makes statements of this kind it is a very different thing.

Then we heard from the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart). I have the deepest sympathy for him because I have never seen a man who appeared to be more uncomfortable than he was. We are not attacking the reputation of the Leader of the Opposition in respect of his service to the country in war. We are not attacking his father. We are not attacking bis father-in-law. We share a high regard and respect for his wife. We are not interested in what schools his children attend and with whom they go. That was nothing more than a red herring to take the minds of the people and of the members of this Parliament off the matter that we are discussing. We are not even discussing conscription. As the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has said, the amendment moved by the Opposition has allowed those honest Labor men who are uncomfortable to come in now and vote for it whereas otherwise they would have had to vote in support of their leader. 1 believe that the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) will follow me in the debate. Always in these debates the tactics adopted by the Opposition are obvious. You put in the comic. You put in the man with the warm feeling towards the Leader of the Opposition, his loyal supporter, the man who never whispers in the Library, the man who never leaks what happens in Caucus. I think that the Leader of the Opposition could well do some research into who has put him in this position. He is in this position because someone leaked from the Labor Party Caucus. I regret, and I am sure he regrets, that he did not make statements on what happened in Caucus.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! 1 warned the honourable member for Bendigo earlier today during this debate, and he was asked also by the Deputy Speaker to cease interjecting. I suggest that he take that advice.

Mr KennedyI was not interjecting

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will cease interjecting.

Mr JESS - The interjections are not worrying me, Mr Speaker, because 1 think that they show the discomfort of honourable members opposite. Let me go back to what I was saying. If someone had not leaked the story from caucus the Leader of the Opposition would not have had to make a Press statement and he would not have been in this position. No doubt the honourable member for Grayndler will call people Nazis and Fascists, as he did previously. He always calls those, who seem to have served this country against Nazism and Fascism, Nazis and Fascists, but I will leave it to him to explain his own record. No doubt he will refer to certain women's fashion magazines, which will get a light laugh throughout the House. But it still does not lessen the importance of the present situation.

Let me review the situation. I have a friend who returned from Indonesia only a few days ago. He was in Djakarta during the Moratorium demonstration in Australia. In the Indonesian newspapers were photographs of the riots, Vietcong flags and the various members who participated in that affair. He said to me: 'I gained the impression in Indonesia that there had been Molotov cocktails, a revolution, and that this whole country was in riot.' This is the impression that is created. This is the intent of certain people - not all of them by any means - who wish to bring about such demonstrations and effectively use the photographs as propaganda overseas. But let us look at it not as a question as to who wins the Senate election or who is important in this House, whether he be Labor or Liberal, but as it affects Australia. Indeed, let us look at what impetus it could give to the enemies of this country and to the enemies of those with whom we stand in other countries. Let us look at what the effect could be on our own troops in Vietnam and on the 99.8 per cent of Australian youth who answer the call and who have brought to the Australian Army one of the proudest records it has ever held. One never hears honourable members opposite refer to these matters. According to the Opposition, it is the .02 per cent of youth who are our national heroes. This also appears to be the opinion of many members of the Press of this country.

But what is the situation? Our enemies now can say that the alternative Prime Minister of Australia has come out and given this advice to those in the Army and to those who, if they had had a genuine conscientious objection, would have been excused by the court from serving, or who, if they had had a conscientious objection solely to serving in Vietnam, could have enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces. But because they wish to make martyrs of themselves, because they wish to bc cast in this light, the Leader of the Opposition says to them: 'Carry out your registration and put in a written report that you will not serve if sent to Vietnam. When you have had your medical examination, put in another written report. But if you are inducted into the Army and the order is given by your battalion commander to move at 0900 hours, you stand fast and refuse to obey that order.'

I think that there arc many views on conscription. I think there is a confused situation, but that is not what we are discussing. We are discussing the future situation in this country in relation to law and order. 1 know that my friend, Mr Maccallum, who is one who seems to write so favourably about law and order, has written an article this morning about the Leader of the Opposition. The article is headed: 'Whitlam was only waiting to be asked'. What a pity he has not waited to be asked for anything else before. But the article contains the following statement by Mr Whitlam:

If you put it under headlines saying 'Gorton

Says Mutiny' it will have a bad effect, but if you see it in the context of Gorton going on about riot and violence and disorder and anarchy, it will rebound on the Government . . .

I presume that is his instruction. That is his plea to Mr MacCallum and others. All I would suggest to Mr MacCallum is that when he puts his next article in the paper as well as showing his beard the drawing should go down to his navel and show the Vietnam Moratorium badge which he so clearly wears in this House because it is indeed a matter, I think, of great concern to the people of Australia.

This morning we heard a question relating to students from Cambodia but not a thing has appeared in the Press. Nobody was aware that they were here but if Mr Dick or Mr Gregory or somebody else came out here with his guitar he would he given a good press coverage and he would appear on 'Four Corners' and 'This Day Tonight*. Lel us not be under any misapprehension. As one famous American general said in respect to Vietnam 'The North Vietnamese have the most powerful propaganda machine in the world but it does not cost them a cent' because indeed certain sections only of the publicity media, and now the Opposition, and now even further the Leader of the Opposition, appear to be carrying out perhaps unwittingly what they most seek to gain and that is the ineffectiveness of our defence forces, the lack of morale of our people and the complete lying down of our will to resist.

In conclusion I want to deal with another Press conference given by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think today has been his day. The Leader of the Opposition gave a Press conference on the Macquarie radio network again supporting law and order and again encouraging the young men in Vietnam who serve this country. I think the text of that interview should be read by all in Australia because it is indicative of how this man's ego and desire for aggrandisement and position has allowed his sense of values to be completely lost and how, in his desire to gain office, he has, I think, lost what standing and what outlook he ever had. If I had a wife, if I had children and if I were all that the honourable member for Lang had said I would indeed wonder when I looked at myself in the mirror. In regard to police in New South Wales the Leader Opposition had this to say. 1 quote only sections of the interview but the meaning will be seen by all. He said:

I fear the trouble is that some of the men from Vietnam who are now in uniform are bringing discredit on the Police Force.

So it is the returned soldier in the Police Force who is responsible. He went on to say:

They think that they have got back a few thugs-

He is referring to the police who he claimed had told him this. who have been corrupted by the violence of that war.

What a beautiful statement from a leader of an Opposition party in this country! This question was asked of him:

.   . Why should it happen to a policeman?

The Leader of the Opposition replied:

They have the opportunity, haven't they? No, I think we have got to face the fact that there is a bit of an upsurge of violence as people get back into civilian life. You look at some of the pretty grisly murders . . .

What a magnificent statement to make about young men who have served this country in Vietnam. He went on to say:

.   . I think it was at Penrith where a soldier went home from a club with a woman and strangled her.

What a magnificent statement. How good for moral. He went on to say: . . expressed this view to me that the police force in New South Wales on this occasion had been besmirched by the conduct of some of these young constables who had come back from Vietnam.

I would dare him to attend a parade of a national service battalion at any time in the future indeed. He went on to say:

.   . But there are just a few of these fellows who have been corrupted-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I warn the honourable member for Bendigo.

Mr JESS - He said: . . But there are just a few of these fellows who have been corrupted by their experiences in Vietnam. That is allI am saying. . . . But some of these young fellows did respond to provocation in a way that no decent policeman should.

I think this is a most contemptible statement made by a political leader of a party and an alternative government in this country and I think the seriousness of this matter can not be expunged by a comic recitation from the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) or the platitudes of the honourable member for Lang. The responsibility is with the Leader of the Opposition to state clearly now where he stands and whether, if he is Prime Minister, we and all others will be given the right to break any law that we do not like. He should tell us where this will lead and what it may mean to my wife and my 3 young children and the other young children of this country.

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