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Electorall Redistribution Inquiry - Was Attorney-General Withers correct in saying that the meetings took place almost weekly?



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8

Senator Withers. The statement that Senator Withers

gave me dated 21 April, the statement Mr Pearson gave

on 24 April and the statements that had been received

from the Distribution Commossioners formed part of all

the material which was forwarded immediately by my

Department to the Royal Commission. So all the facts in

relation to this matter were made available at the

beginning and all the evidence was brought out. Indeed,

I think Mr Pearson was the first witness to appear

before the Royal Commission. Senator Withers himself

was an early witness before the Royal Commission. So

all of the facts, as far as we knew them and as far as

I knew them, were brought out in the Royal Commission.

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P a g e 56

E L E C T O R A L R E D I S T R I B U T I O N I N Q U I R Y

S E N A T O R W R I E D T - D o e s t h e A t t o r n e y - G e n e r a l r e c a l l t h a t

t h e f o r m e r M i n i s t e r f o r A d m i n i s t r a t i v e S e r v i c e s s a i d o n

o a t h a t t h e R o y a l C o m m i s s i o n h e a r i n g s t h a t t h e r e w e r e

a l m o s t w e e k l y m e e t i n g s o f M i n i s t e r s t o d i s c u s s w h a t h e

d e s c r i b e d a s 't h i s v e x e d q u e s t i o n 1 d u r i n g t h e

Q u e e n s l a n d r e d i s t r i b u t i o n ? W a s t h e A t t o r n e y - G e n e r a l

p r e s e n t a t t h o s e m e e t i n g ? W a s S e n a t o r W i t h e r s c o r r e c t

i n s a y i n g t h a t t h e m e e t i n g s t o o k p l a c e a l m o s t w e e k l y ?

W h o w e r e t h e o t h e r M i n i s t e r s p r e s e n t a t t h o s e m e e t i n g s ?

W a s t h e P r i m e M i n i s t e r p r e s e n t ? W a s S e n a t o r W i t h e r s 1

i n v o l v e m e n t i n t h e n a m e c h a n g e d i s c u s s e d a t a n y o f

t h o s e m e e t i n g s a n d , i f so, at w h i c h m e e t i n g s ?

t

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9

SENATOR DURACK - I take it that the question about the

evidence of Senator Withers, who referred to almost

weekly meetings, relates to the period to 23 April this

year. The position is that I can only speak in relation

to these matters as far as I have knowledge of them.

Originally, in January the matter was referred to Mr

Byers and me - and we reported to the Prime Minister;

that was what we were requested to do - in February.

Apart from some discussions that I had with the Prime

Minister, and I think with Senator Withers, in relation

to the fact that that report had been made, there were

no meetings as far as I know - and also I understand as

far as the Government knows, but perhaps other should

answer this rather than I - until Mr Donald Cameron

raised the matter again on 7 April. From 7 April

through to 23' April there certainly was a series of

meetings, and. the Prime Minister has detailed those

meetings in the -statement that he made yesterday. I

think that I was certainly present at most, if not all,

of those meetings. .

As far as the rest of the- question is

concerned - I think it was largely as to whether

Senator Withers or the Prime Minister was present -

most of the meetings, certainly the meetings I was at,

were ones with the Prime Minister, and I think Senator

Withers was at most of them; but I cannot speak of what

other meetings were held, but I do refer the Senate to

the statement which the Prime Minister gave and which

Senator Garrick has put down. The Prime Minister has

indicated in that statement what meetings were held in

relation to this subject. '

SENATOR WRIEDT - As a supplementary question, I ask

whether the Minister has read the transcript of the

evidence, relating to this particular matter, given by

Senator Withers? If he has, can he indicate whether he

interprets the meetings referred to by Senator Withers

as being the meetings which he, Senator Durack,

attended? .

10

SENATOR DURACK - I have read the evidence. I did not

read it yesterday. It was some weeks ago when I read

it. The evidence was in very general terms and, except

in relation to the period that I have mentioned, I

could not identify my involvement in any such meetings

- except over the periods to which I have referred.

* * * * *

17 August 1978

Page 132

ELECTORAL REDISTRIBUTION INQUIRY

SENATOR WRIEDT - Does the Attorney-General recall

yesterday telling Senator Georges in answer to a

question concerning the McGregor Royal Commission that

after he had approached Senator Withers he - that is

Senator Withers - readily and immediately gave the

Attorney-General the information concerning his

involvement with the change of name in Queensland? I

ask: Firstly, is the Minister satisfied that Senator

Withers informed him fully and frankly of his whole

involvement in this issue? Secondly, was the matter of

Senator Withers1 involvement in the change of name

fully and frankly put to meetings of Ministers on 17

April and 23 April of this year?

SENATOR DURACK - The sequence of events in relation to

this matter has been the subject of a lengthy statement

made by the Prime Minister in another place and also

admitted here. I have been asked a number of questions

in relation to this matter and yesterday I answered a

question in relation to it. It is for honourable