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Statement by the Senator V. C. Gair ( Leader D.L.P.)



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' PRESS RELEASE

THE SENATE

Senator The Hon. V. C. GAIR

Leader Democratic Labor Party Phones: Canberra, 705 Ext. 523 Brisbane, 310101 Ext. 436

The Australian public is asking the question- Is

this country being governed at all? and how can you blame them.

Concern is being replaced by alarm at a time of unpreced-ented national oppportunity.

Just when Australia must take up new international

attitudes and work out new international arrangements, the Government

and the official Opposition are seen with their Leadership under

severe criticism for their approach to matters of party policy.

Policy after policy of the Government have been nothing;

more than a last minute sally. Delay in decision has been replaced

by vacillation in action. The bitter in-fighting between the

Liberals and the Country Party has resulted in compromise policy.

The effectiveness of the A.L.P. Opposition is only less

dangerous because it has less power.

I The regrettable incidents of the past few days discussed

in the House of 41epresentatives only ;highlight the cracks in

the Government structure which threaten to become chasms.

That the Liberal Party has rallied behind its Leader on

the personal issue that is now current, in no sense removes the

obvious concern of members of that party on questions of-policy.

But this may result in the Party none the less endorsing

the Prime Minister's policy over the past 15 months as a "closing

of the ranks".

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The real danger is that an atmosphere is being created in

which legitimate criticism of the Prime Minister's policy and style

of government will be stifled by being confused with the personal

criticism of recent days.

The Defence Statement on Australia's role i?n South East Asia,

so long looked for, when made was as inadequate as it was belated.

Yet the debate on this, the most important matter to come

before Parliament this session, is still only proceeding in the

House of Representatives.

And in the Senate, where the D.L.P. moved an important

amendment to the Government's proposals, the debate has been

substantially laid aside.

There are other great issues too which stand starkly before

Australia and the Parliament for consideration.

In June there is to be a Conference of Co;:nmonwealth Nations

on the subject of a Regional Pact for the defence of S.E. Asia.

Before this there is the matter of a decision of our building

an Indian Ocean naval base in Test Australia.

By the end of June one would hope, but without much faith,

that the long-awaited Gorton strategic defence Review would be

completed.

The cold reality is that the Prime Minister's visit to

the United States cannot result in any assurances or guarantees

which will diminish our responsibility in any of these matters.

Having said that let me issue a note of warning against

the grave dangers of a high-powered Public Relations campaign

after Mr. Gorton's U.S. visit that would seek to impress Australian

public opinion that Australia has guarantees when in fact it has not.

In addition to these matters there is the vital question

of the form and extent of foreign investments in Australia's basic

resources.

The Prime Minister has treated this most urgent question

with complete irresonsibility.

The climate of investment is a matter of the utmost delicacy and it Mr. Gorton has jeopardised /by his "off-the-cuff" remarks.

The A.L.P. has done a major disservice to Australia in

distracting public opinion from these issues by 8-year old spy stories

and private scandals. Its interest of course is transparent. It is to

divert attention from what is going or in its own ranks and the

threatened take-over of the A.C.T.U. by the pro-communist Left which

also dominates the Federal Labor machine.

Australia is moving forward at a great rate. But let us

remember that the faster the train the more competent and reliable must

be the men in the driving cabin, and the more reliable the man in

the brake van to control any undue speed of the train.

IThen the Hoffman affair has passed into the limbo of forgotten

things and the personal issues have been resolved, the great loser in

the past few weeks will have been Australia,, and the real damage will

have been done not to individuals but to the stature and the strength

and image of the Australian nation.

L .L1 iJLi f.LYS

26th March, 199