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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1576

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - 1 wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Doesthe honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I claim to have been misrepresented in 2 disparate areas. The first relates to this debate. It was suggested in relation to the letters passing between me and the former Attorney-General that I was referring to the 3 gentlemen who it now appears were executed on 17th March. This was not so. We made inquiries about this matter and were informed by the Yugoslav Government that they had been destroyed in the invasion. We accepted that. In my correspondence when I was referring to the aide-memoire I was referring to the claim in the aide-memoire that terrorist groups were being trained in Australia. I went on to say that we were inquiring into that matter.

Insofar as Australian citizens were concerned, that was being pursued through the Ambassador in Belgrade. The only one who had suffered any detriment apart from harassment - there was one who had been harassed and who had returned to Australia - was one who had been convicted and sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment. As appears from my letters, the Ambassador had been inquiring into this case and seeing that the man had legal representation. At the time I was writing, his case was subject to appeal. 1 do not resile one jot from what I did at that time. I did it honestly, after a full consideration of the facts before me and on the best advice I could get.

Mr Enderby - But you did argue against a protest.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I argued against a protest being made in that context at that time. It has now been revealed that the Yugoslav Government lied to us. It has been revealed that there was a trial and execution of 3 Australian citizens on 17th March. That is a different situation. I say no more. I am speaking only on a personal explanation.

The second matter on which I claim to have been misrepresented was this rather old canard which is so inaccurate that I have not troubled to explain it before. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) has repeated this and I do not want it to become the conventional wisdom. He said that I said in America that Australia was an insignificant country. That is totally false. I have a copy of the transcript of the remarks I made. They were not made in Washington. This arose out of a speech I gave in New York to the Australian-American Association. In the forefront of that speech, as anyone who takes the trouble to read it will see, I said that Australia in relation to other powers was a middle power. There was no question about that. The reference to insignificance occurred in another context altogether when I came to discuss the relationship between Australia, America and New Zealand in the ANZUS Treaty.

I was stressing the enormous potential of Australia to become a powerful partner. In the same sentence I suggested that, although at present of relative insignificance as a partner, we had the potentiality to become enormously important to America. I had in mind that our expenditure on defence was less than 2 per cent of America's expenditure on defence and that our gross national product at that time was less than 4 per cent of America's gross national product. If my statement was an inaccurate statement I do not know what would be a correct use of the English language. If was perfectly accurate. People may not like if it is twisted into a statement that says Australia is insignificant. I did not say that. I realise, that in politics to use words Kipling used long ago, you learn to bear to hear the words you have spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.

Mr WHITLAM(Werriwa- Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs) - The honourable gentleman has misrepresented me in saying that I misrepresented him.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Thehonourable member claims to have been misrepresented?

Mr WHITLAM - Yes. I have quoted what the honourable member for Parramatta said in his letter to the former Attorney-General about the Yugoslavian aide-memoire. There was only one aide-memoire. That was the aide-memoire in which the reference was made to incursionists having been destroyed or liquidated. There was one aide-memoire. There is no misrepresentation as to what the honourable gentleman said about that sole aide-memoire.

Mr N.H. BOWEN (Parramatta)- I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER{Mr Scholes)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. I do not question what the Prime Minister has said is in the aide-memoire but, as- I explained, I accepted that portion of the aide-memoire and went on in my letter to deal with what else was in the aide-memoire, which was an allegation that terrorists were being trained in

Australia. Various names were mentioned and various places were named. These were then referred to the Commonwealth Police for investigation. Those investigations were under way and it was those matters with which I was concerned in my letter. We actually accepted the statement that the men had been destroyed in the invasion.

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