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Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1729

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker, I regret to say that I have been misrepresented grievously by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in question time. This is a classic case of misrepresentation. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) asked the Prime Minister about a statement I had made on the Burdekin River project. It is true that I was in Townsville last weekend and did make such a statement. I drew a contrast between the present Prime Minister and his predecessor in their attitude to Parliament and to the States. I pointed out that the previous Prime Minister had been prepared to tell the Parliament of negotiations with the States in which this Parliament was concerned. I will not read them through because they were quite lengthy, informative replies that the previous Prime Minister gave me about the. Burdekin project, but so that honourable members, the Press and the public can see the contrast in the attitudes of the two right honourable gentlemen to members, I will give the references.

Mr Nixon - Where is the misrepresentation?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the House to remember that it is the custom to accord some liberty to the Leader of the Opposition and also to Ministers when personal explanations are being made.

Mr WHITLAM - Sir, on 12th August 1969 the previous Prime Minister gave me an answer to a question on the Burdekin River project, the second part of which contained the words 'On what dates, by what means and with what results have the Commonwealth and Queensland discussed the- agreement authorised' by a 1949 Queensland Act. Honourable members will notice the wording of the question. The answer was informative and frank. On 19th September 1969 the previous Prime Minister gave me a further long answer to a follow-up question which I asked him on this subject. On 14th October last year the previous Prime Minister brought up to date the information in his earlier answers, when I had asked him oh notice: 'What has been the (a) date, (b) nature and (c) outcome of any communications between the Commonwealth and Queensland' concerning this project?

By contrast when the House sat on 17th August this year I put on notice for the present Prime Minister this question:

What has been the (a) date, (b) nature and (c) outcome of any communications between the Commonwealth and Queensland concerning the Burdekin River project since his predecessor's answer to me on 14th October 1970 . . .

The right honourable gentleman gave this curt and uninformative reply on 7th September - it would have been possible to give this reply on 18th August:

Apart from the fact that many communications remain confidential unless otherwise agreed, I do not intend to adopt the practice and considerable administrative burden of continuing to list as a matter of course the details of the many matters on which there is communication between the Commonwealth and the States.

This is a formula that the present Prime Minister has used on all matters of Commonwealth and State consultation, including development projects, and I believe that in regard to an area which has been promised this project in the State and Federal Parliaments by leaders on both sides for over 20 years, I was entitled to ask the question again,, and I expected that the present Prime Minister would have been as forthcoming in his replies as his predecessor was.

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