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Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr HUGHES (BEROWRA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Attorney-General) - My attention has been drawn to certain newspaper reports of remarks attributed to the Leader of the Opposition while he was in New Guinea. I commence my substantive answer by saying first that justice is not and never should be a cloistered virtue. The processes of the law should always be subject to legitimate criticism; but a dividing line has to be drawn between legitimate criticism and criticism that passes the boundaries of what is legitimate. If the remarks attributed in these reports to the Leader of the Opposition were in fact made by him I would have no hesitation in characterising those remarks as far beyond the bounds of legitimate criticism of the courts in New Guinea. If, as was reported in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of 12th January 1970, the honourable gentleman said that there was a policy of 'glaring race discrimination in law in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea' I say for my part that I know of no warrant for such a charge and that such a charge is utterly mischievous as well as being untrue.

Mr Hayden - Gaol sentences for natives on assault charges but admonishments for Europeans are scarcely anything but racial discrimination.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member will cease interjecting.

Mr HUGHES - If the honourable member for Oxley will contain his restless spirit in patience I will come to that matter. It was reported in the Papua and New Guinea Post Courier' of 9th January 1970 that the Leader of the Opposition made a comparison between two cases tried in Rabaul. One, which had not been tried at the time the remarks were allegedly made, related to a European patrol officer charged with an offence of accidentally wounding a native boy. If the honourable gentleman used a comparison of that case with a case involving some indigenous inhabitants who had been charged with violence as a basis for saying that a difference in treatment between the two cases represented discrimination, all I can say is that the remarks of the senior magistrate in Rabaul are a complete refutation of the charge of discrimination made by the honourable gentleman.

Mr Whitlam - Have you seen his statement?

Mr HUGHES - Yes,I have.

Mr Whitlam - Well, table it.

Mr HUGHES - I would imagine that on reflection the honourable gentleman, if he had his time over again, would think before making such unfounded and untrue allegations. Allegations of this kind are all the more apt to be mischievous when they are made about the administration of justice in an emerging nation - a nation we all want to see emerge to independence and full nationhood. The people in such a country as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are, one would perhaps take leave to say, quite erroneously inclined to attach great weight to utterances made by a gentleman occupying the position of the Leader of the Opposition, particularly when that gentleman is a lawyer and one of Her Majesty's counsel. The fact of the honourable gentleman's position accentuates the mischievousness of the remarks attributed to him, if they were made by him as reported. The magistrate in Rabaul has repelled the allegation and I for one would very much prefer to accept the magistrate's refutation of the remarks attributed to the Leader of the Opposition. I table the document asked for by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Do you want to have this printed?

Mr Whitlam - Yes.

Mr Gorton - In the course of the answer by the Attorney-General to the question, the Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Attorney-General might table the document. Consequently it has been tabled.

Mr Whitlam - Is somebody moving that it be noted? 1 want to speak to it.

Mr Gorton - It is just being tabled.

Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, is there a motion that the House take note of the paper?

Mr SPEAKER - There is no motion before the Chair at this stage.

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