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Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) (Minister for Social Services) - The House will have noted a most peculiar discrepancy in the positions taken by various members of the Opposition in this regard. The House will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) spoke of things which were in the open because they were things derived from Mr Burchett's own publications - - things which were derived from his public activities. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) said: 'If these things are true these things are wholly disgraceful. If these things are true this man has done something appalling!' These are the honourable member's words; he will find them in Hansard when he looks at the text tomorrow. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr lames), on the other hand, finds what Mr Burchett has done to be wholly admirable. He praised it. He found no fault in the man. The honourable member said that the only accusation against Mr Burchett was that he had told the truth.

So far as the honourable member for Hunter was concerned there was no fault in what is the admitted fact because it comes from Mr Burchett's own books. But the honourable member for Reid thinks entirely the opposite. This is a most peculiar thing, lt is no good saying: 'Look, let this man not suffer. Let his wife and children not suffer. Pull out the stops', because this man has done harm, and done harm to Australia on the international scale. He does the most harm when he misleads weakminded people like the honourable member for Hunter.

Mr James - If 1 am weak-minded he is a ratbag.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw that remark.

Mr WENTWORTH - I withdraw the word 'weak-minded'. I substitute the phrase easily persuaded*.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Now that the Minister has withdrawn, I ask the honourable member for Hunter to withdraw his remark.

Mr James - In view of the honourable gentleman's apology I withdraw the word ratbag'.

Mr WENTWORTH - Many people might laugh at the honourable member for Hunter, but we should remember that he occupies a place in this House and he is one of the representatives of the Opposition in this House. Unfortunately, what he says has some significance. The way in which the Communist Party works is through what Lenin described as the transmission belt - the use of other people who are not Communists to take up, perhaps in a sincere belief, Communist ideas and the Communist propaganda and the use of those people to the detriment of their country. That, I believe, is why Burchett is here at this moment. I think that Burchett is in Australia in order to popularise the idea that the Americans and the Australians did engage in germ warfare in Korea. He is here in order to get public acceptance of this propaganda lie. In this, as in other cases, he is acting as a Communist agent.

One thing that has been said or implied by members of the Opposition during this debate and which might be relevant is that these charges should not be made under the privilege of this House. Therefore on this occasion, as on other occasions, I propose to say outside the House the things that I am now going to say inside it. Although I believe that honourable members are fully entitled to the privilege of this House, on this occasion I will not claim that privilege. Obviously what I say here is entirely privileged. What I shall say outside will not be privileged. I say that, in my view, the works and the writings of Burchett, what he has said publicly and on the record, and what he has had publicised in his name stamp him as being a man who has given his heart and soul to our Communist enemies and as a man who acts as their agent and their propagandist. I would say further that I do not know whether the persons who have made statements and published material about the interrogation of prisoners of war will be prepared to come and stand up in court, but I would say that there is evidence that in this interrogation of prisoners Burchett went beyond the functions of an ordinary journalist and acted as part of the machine of our Communist enemies. These are serious charges. If the honourable member for Reid looks at Hansard tomorrow, he will find that these are the charges which the honourable member said would merit the most sincere condemnation and severe penalties. These are the charges which I make in this House and which T will make outside this House also.

MrUREN (Reid)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr UREN - Yes. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) stated that I made statements and quoted from allegations made in Burchett's book. That is not what I said. I said: 'If the allegations made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) are true, then the Government should charge Burchett with treason.' I make it perfectly clear that I referred to allegations made by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for External Affairs. I said that court proceedings should be instituted in the normal way. The Government should either put up or shut up.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member may not debate the matter.

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