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Tuesday, 6 March 1973
Page: 200


Mr SNEDDEN - My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. The honourable gentleman will recall that he has just tabled a document. I note that it is signed by A. H. Tange, Secretary, 1.45 p.m., 6th March 1973. It is on the minute paper of the Department of Defence and it reads, in part:

I noticed the suggestion that one of 2 members of the Minister's staff be included.

I remarked that this was, in my experience, not usual in an international negotiation. I had in mind also the obligations existing between the 2 Governments that discussions on certain fields of Defence information would take place only in the presence of persons who had been especially briefed about the subject matter. I saw as a contingency that the-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The right honourable gentleman may summarise the document but not quote from it.


Mr SNEDDEN - It is a document which has been tabled, Mr Speaker.


Mr SPEAKER - The document may be summarised but not quoted from.


Mr SNEDDEN - I will summarise it, then. The Secretary of the Department of Defence saw as a contingency that the British might make a point about whether the Minister's staff should be included. The document then says: 1 then telephoned you and spoke with you. The Secretary of the Department of Defence said that he telephoned the Minister for Defence and spoke with him. He then explained, he said in the note that the Minister for Defence tabled, the reason for his call to the Minister and that it was necessary to keep a record of the discussion. The Secretary of the Department of Defence said that it was usual for a secretary to make a note of the discussion. He said that the Minister for Defence-


Mr Grassby - Mr Speaker, 1 raise a point of order. It has been ruled previously in this Parliament that it is possible to make a preface to a question and, on occasions, I have attempted to do that. But it has also been ruled that excessively long prefaces are not permitted. I have not yet heard, in his long summary, the Leader of the Opposition coming to the point of his question and I suggest that he is out of order.


Mr SPEAKER - It has always been the custom of the House - this was the case during the previous Government's term of office - that the Leader of the Opposition is allowed a certain latitude. However, on this occasion I was about to request the right honourable gentleman to ask his question because his preface was much too long. It denies the right of honourable members, particularly back bench members, to ask questions.


Mr SNEDDEN - Is it a fact that the document tabled by the Minister for Defence states that he said such a record would suffice and that he accepted the view that the presence of a member of his personal staff was not essential? Does the document say that, as soon as the conversation was finished, and in order to assist the practical preparations, the Secretary of the Department of Defence sent for Mr Hort? In view of the answer-


Mr Keogh - I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. It appears that quite blatantly the

Leader of the Opposition is defying your instruction to him.


Mr SPEAKER - No. The Chair will decide that. However, I ask the right honourable gentleman to ask his question. The preface is far too long.


Mr SNEDDEN - Did the honourable gentleman, in answer to a question directed to him by the Leader of the Country Party, say that no discussions had occurred between the honourable gentleman and Sir Arthur Tange, Secretary of the Department of Defence, about whether Mr Lloyd was to be excluded from discussions? Does the honourable gentleman now wish to change his answer in the light of the document that he himself has tabled and which is contrary to his answer?


Mr BARNARD - I tabled a document for the information of the Leader of the Opposition and members of this House. As I understood the question that was directed to me by the Leader of the Country Party it was whether I had had discussions with Mr Lloyd on this matter.


Mr Anthony - The Secretary of the Department of Defence.


Mr BARNARD - That was my interpretation of the question and if it was not the correct interpretation I apologise to the Leader of the Country Party. If it is suggested that I had discussions with the Secretary of the Department of Defence, that is quite correct. The information is contained in this document andI indicate to the House that when this matter was put to me and when a discussion occurred about the protocol, in relation to discussions that would take place, between myself and Sir Arthur Tange, I naturally asked the Secretary of the Department what was the normal procedure. It is indicated in this document that the reply of the Secretary of the Department of Defence was that it was not normal for members of a Minister's staff to be present at such discussions. I then indicated that I wanted a record kept of those discussions and subsequently I made arrangements with the Secretary of the Department for a member of my staff to be present. The matter is clearly outlined in the document.

I believed that I should have a complete record of the discussions that were to take place and that a member of my staff should be present. That is quite clear and it is set out in this document. If the Leader of the Country Party misinterpreted my answer I say to him quite clearly that at that time I thought his question related to discussions that I had had with my Press secretary, Mr Lloyd.


Mr Anthony - Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If the honourable member is concerned about the clarity of my question, I suggest he look at the Hansard record and he will see that it was as clear as a bell.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! No point of order is involved.







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