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Thursday, 17 February 1977
Page: 188

Mr HYDE (Moore) - I wonder whether the Western Australian election has anything to do with the Australian Labor Party's interest in housing.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why shouldn't it?

Mr HYDE - I will tell the honourable member why it should not. Housing is an issue that affects the poor at all times- when there are elections and when there are not elections. The Labor Party's sudden interest in the subject leads me to be a little cynical.

I remind the House of a couple of things. Firstly, the changes in the Commonwealth-State

Housing Agreement result from recommendations of the Henderson poverty inquiry. I remind the House of the case of a man earning $600 a week, no less, who occupied a $25 a week house to the exclusion of people who were really needy. I remind the House of a Minister of this Parliament in a former government who occupied a State owned house also to the exclusion of the needy. I remind the House that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) some time ago suggested that it was demeaning for an educated person to do manual work. The honourable member just spoke at some length about people on a medium income. I remind the honourable member that welfare housing is for those who need it- the low income group.

My purpose in rising today is to raise another matter that is troubling me. When I spoke to my wife and daughter last night I was greeted with some hilarity concerning the subject of the party room discussions of the Liberal and National Country Parties yesterday. Apparently one Ken Begg reporting for the Australian Broadcasting Commission suggested that there was an angry barrage of foot stomping at the meeting. I will quote what he said and then demonstrate to the House how far from the truth he was.

Mr Beazley - Was it a square dance or a minuet?

Mr HYDE - It was neither a square dance nor a minuet, but certainly the tenor of the debate was in keeping with square dances and minuets. Ken Begg said:

But the Cabinet was not entirely unsympathetic to the Country Party's problems and it was proposed in the party room today, that the 20 percent tolerance level should apply to Australia's 7 biggest electorates.

This proposal was acceptable to the Cabinet but was not to the Liberal dominated party room which, I am told -

He was told- greeted this proposal with an angry barrage of foot stomping.

I do not think that Begg is a Scandinavian name but I really wonder whether Mr Ken Begg has some relationship to Hans Christian Andersen.

Mr Jull -Or Enid Blyton.

Mr HYDE -Or Enid Blyton. The level of the writing is more in keeping with Noddy. I am not prepared to say that this man was lying because frankly I do not know whether he was lying or whether what he said was merely the result of crass incompetence. But one way or the other, the Australian public has the right to expect better from reporters of an organisation that costs the Australian public not less than $130m each year. There is talk of investigative reporting. This is imaginative reporting.

I know that it is not customary to discuss what has happened in the party room or to confirm or deny reports. However, this matter has gone to the extent that I am going to run the risk of denying it. It is quite true that the matter was discussed at some length. It is even true that shades of opinion were expressed. I suggest to the House that the only people who are a menace in the party room are not the ones who express opinions but those who waste time saying those things with which no one could disagree. This matter was discussed in a friendly atmosphere and with considerable good humour. It is a wonder that the laughter on at least 2 occasions could not be heard outside of the party room. Yet this man, for reasons of his own, sees fit to invent a story that came out of his own imagination and to put a point of view that apparently he might think would be damaging to the Coalition or get for him a headline or put him in good standing with those people who allot time on the news broadcasts. I do not know. As I say, I have no way of knowing whether what he did was deliberate and therefore a lie or whether he is merely incompetent. He suggested that the difference of opinion, which incidentally was not strictly on party lines, would cause some strain to the Coalition. I spent a large portion of yesterday afternoon working with my colleagues in the Country Party on the Government Members Rural Committee organising some investigations we want to make. All I can say is that if these gentlemen were nurturing feelings of great hostility to the Liberal Party and to myself they are all deserving of Oscars.

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