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Wednesday, 8 December 1976

Mr KILLEN (MORETON, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Defence) - I have no wish to seek to identify in persistence a quality hitherto unperceived but I most certainly stand by the assertion made by the Prime Minister and by me to the effect that there has not, to our knowledge, been any improper disclosure of any document prepared after November 1975. 1 notice with some astonishment an article in this week's Bulletin repeating that allegation. The tense which is used is not the past tense. It is the present tense; indeed, one could say it is the continuing tense. I want to repudiate as explicitly as I can the allegations as they may apply to any time after November 1975. The only evidence- the word 'evidence' deserves to be in quotation marks- which the author of the article produces in support of his contention is:

Drafts of the recent so-called White Paper on defence were leaked many weeks before the final governmentauthorised version was tabled in parliament.

I ignore the pejorative and tendentious language which the author uses, but if any draft of the White Paper was leaked I expect that it would have been published. Where was it published? Possibly the author may be persuaded to inform the House where it was published. If there had been a leak I would regard it as passing strange that the draft would not have been published somewhere. There has not been to my knowledge, nor to the knowledge of my advisers, any publication of any draft of the White Paper. Further and finally, I refer to this allegation in the article:

It just does not do to run a little publicity campaign in favour of security for the nation's defence secrets. You get defamed under parliamentary privilege . . .

I am not aware of having said anything about the author that represents defamation, but if he has any misgiving on the point I will gladly say it outside the Parliament. As further earnest of my attitude on this I understood that the proprietor of this newspaper was a person with a strong entrepreneurial sense. I conveyed to him a message that I would find it immensely agreeable for the author of the article to appear on television, to stand in a witness box and to be crossexamined by me for half an hour. I laid down but one condition- that the television program should be live. I hope that possibly they may reflect on the invitation and take it up. I now understand that there has been nothing but a rather arctic response to the suggestion that I made. I assure the proprietor that I will not hurt the author of the article too much.

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