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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4365


Mr MATHEWS (Casey) - Mr Speaker,I raise a matter of privilege. Yesterday afternoon, the Canberra correspondent of the Melbourne 'Sun News-Pictorial' approached me and asked me whether I had written a letter to the Melbourne 'Sun NewsPictorial' advocating a No, No vote at next Saturday's referendum. I said that this was not the case. He advised me that a letter had been received at the office of the Melbourne 'Sun News-Pictorial' on House of Representatives notice paper, signed with what purported to be my signature. I read this letter to the House. It states:

The Editor

The Sun,

Melbourne

Sir,

Latest legal opinion obtained by the Australian Government indicates that power to make laws with respect to wages will be conferred on the Parliament if the coming Referendum in relation to Prices is carried in the affirmative irrespective of the result of the Referendum in relation to incomes.

Accordingly, wage earners should be careful not to give this power to the Parliament because although the present Labor Government will not use this power, there is no doubt that a non-Labor Government will do so.

May I proceed to say something about this, Mr Speaker, or is it appropriate for me to move a motion?


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman did consult me and the Clerk last night about this matter. Due to the seriousness of it and the urgency of making the honourable member's position quite clear, I suggest that the matter proceed forthwith and that the honourable member move a motion.


Mr MATHEWS - I move:

That the matter of the letter dated 2 December 1973 written to the editor of the 'Sun News-Pictorial' in the name of the honourable member for Casey, and published in the Melbourne 'Sun News-Pictorial' on 6 December 1973 be referred to the Committee of Privileges.

I hand to the Clerk of the House a copy of the letter concerned and a copy of the newspaper concerned. Judging from the interjections made already by honourable members opposite, there is some tendency on that side of the House to take the matter lightly. I suggest to those honourable members opposite, that there are at least 4 matters arising from this letter which should be of as much concern to them as to members on this side of the House. In the first place, I refer to the misuse of the stationery of this House; secondly, to the forgery of the signature of a member of this House to a letter for publication; thirdly, to the misrepresentation of the views of a member of this House who advocated a yes, yes vote at the referendum; and, fourthly, to the misrepresentation of the legal position in the matter of the prices question.

Any honourable member opposite is as vulnerable as any honourable member on this side of the House to what have come to be known since Watergate as dirty tricks. I think it is the more important that this matter should go to the Committee of Privileges, representing, as it does, a disconcerting tendency in the political life of this country. Honourable members will have no trouble in recalling the way in which the Liberal Party inserted advertisements in the name of the convenor of the Australia Party, Mr Gordon Barton, at the time of the last election, encouraging Australia Party voters to depart from their Party card. Honourable members will have no trouble in recalling that in my own electorate of Casey the Liberal Party offered to pay the cost of printing the Australia Party how to vote cards if it would change its preference allocation.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. This has nothing to do with the case and it is not true.


Mr MATHEWS - It is all true and it is all part and parcel of the same thing.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The House will come to order. I have given the honourable member for Griffith a lot of latitude. NowI am warning him that if he does not behave himself I will certainly take action.


Mr Katter - What about him, Mr Speaker?


Mr SPEAKER


Mr MATHEWS - Mr Speaker-


Mr Katter - Get on with it.


Mr MATHEWS - I cannot imagine why honourable members opposite are so anxious that the matter should be hurried. If they found themselves in my position over this matter they might take a different view. It seems to me to be in the interests of every honourable member of this House that practices of this kind should be exposed and discouraged before they become more common. If honourable members on the other side of the House take another view, let them say so. It seems to be the case. I have cited two instances which have occurred in the last 12 months and which anticipated this particular event. I cite another - in my own electorate of Casey. Half an hour before nominations closed in that electorate there came the nomination of another supposedly independent candidate with the same name and the same initial as myself. He described himself as a student who, as soon as the-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I remind the honourable member for Casey that he is now getting away from the motion before the Chair. He has a motion before the Chair and he must speak to that motion.


Mr MATHEWS - I will, Sir. I want to say simply this: In the misappropriation of the stationery of the House, in the forging of an honourable member's signature, in the misrepresentation of the views of an honourable member to be put about in the community on the eve of an important referendum, in the misrepresentation of the legal position in respect of the prices question - we all know well that the legal opinion is in fact opposite to that expressed in the forgery, that when the questions of prices and incomes are raised together, in the event of the incomes question being lost, the prices power could certainly not be interpreted to cover incomes - in) those 4 important respects this is a matter that demands the attention of the House and of the Privileges Committee. When the stationery of the House can be filched, when the signature of an honourable member can be forged, when his views can be misrepresented, when the facts can be misrepresented, it is time we stopped worrying about the arrival of a Watergate situation because it is here already. The plumbers are among us. They have to be rooted out before it is too late.







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