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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 4604

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Prime Minister) I seek leave to speak on the same subject.

Mr SPEAKER - This is a matter of a personal nature and not exactly a personal explanation. The Prime Minister is in order and can speak.

Mr WHITLAM - The honourable gentleman referred to the two recent instances on the staff of the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns). Everybody who has read the newspapers would know what one instance would be. But I am at a complete loss to know what the other one would be.

Mr Sinclair - I was referring to Peking and China.

Mr WHITLAM -Now I understand. I believe that this is a useful illustration of what should be the proper method of dealing with these matters. The honourable gentleman asked me a question about a matter of which I knew nothing. There was no reason I should know about it. Subsequently it has all been explained completely satisfactorily. There was no reflection whatever on the Minister concerned. I do not think it is proper to deal with the unfortunate condition in which the former member of his staff found himself. I have known people on ministerial or Opposition staffs who have been carried away by the hospitality of various occasions. I think that it is perfectly human, perfectly predictable and perfectly forgivable. But I take the opportunity to say that if any honourable gentleman believes that there is any impropriety on the part of any of the staffs of any of my Ministers, I would like that honourable gentleman to give me a letter about it and I will take up the matter. Obviously, I would take it up with the Minister concerned. But I do not believe that is is helpful to individuals -in fact it could be very damaging to them- and I do not believe that it does credit to the institution of Parliament or to representative government that questions without notice concerning individuals should be raised in the House. People should be mentioned in the House only if they can answer for themselves. But, of course, I would take seriously any allegation which was made about a member of my staff or any other ministerial staff. I rely upon the discretion of my Ministers as to whom they appoint. I do not presume to vet appointments. I have had no reason to cavil at any of the appointments. But if anybody thinks that he has good reason to raise these matters, I believe that the proper and decent thing to do is to raise them in correspondence. I do not believe that it is proper or decent to raise them by way of a question without notice.

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