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Thursday, 16 September 1971
Page: 1403

Mr WHITLAM - My question which is directed to the Prime Minister is supplementary to that asked of him by the honourable member for Bowman. I ask the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to table in the House or in the Parliamentary Library the cables concerning wheat sales to China to which he referred in his answer to the honourable member. If these documents have been declared to be confidential by him or his colleagues will he reclassify them? If, however, they have been declared confidential by the senders will he at least state who the senders were and when they sent them? I realise that there would be some difficulty in stating the dates from memory but I do wish to know at least when one could get that information. I had to wait for over 4 months to get an answer to questions concerning the previous cables to which he referred last April. One of them, the Prime Minister stated, came from the British Consul-General in Hong Kong who, of course, does not exist since Hong Kong is a Crown colony.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member has asked a question and is now beginning to elaborate on it and state reasons.

Mr WHITLAM - I ask the Prime Minister: If the cables to which he refers are confidential and he cannot reclassify their confidentiality, will he at least - and promptly - inform the House as to the senders and the dates.

Mr McMAHON - The answer to the second part of the honourable gentleman's question is: No, I will not reclassify the documents. In fact, they were classified confidential from source and were not in any way varied by the Commonwealth Government. Obviously the honourable gentleman missed the substance of what 1 said in answer to the first question that was asked. We have had communications from very many sources in recent weeks, mainly representations from ambassadors overseas representing the People's Republic of China. I believe it would not be in Australia's interests to let the Leader of the Opposition know of either the source or the contents of these documents. I believe it would be completely contrary to Australia's interests to do so. But I remind the Leader of the Opposition of 2 factors. I remind him of his allegation that Mr Chou En-lai recommended that there should be a Geneva-type conference. I also mention to him the fact that he divulged a private conversation he had with Mr Manac'h in Peking which I believe has been regretted by the person who bad the conversation with him and certainly by the French Government ever since.

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