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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3206

Mr NIXON (Gippsland) - As a member of the Meat Prices Sub-committee of the Prices Committee and a person very much interested in- this report, I should like to say a few words on it. Firstly, I accept the recommendations of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and the motion as put to the House in the terms in which it is printed. However, there are one or two aspects of the report and of the whole activities surrounding it on which I should like to comment. In the course of the parliamentary debate in this place certain allegations were made against - to use the plural term - members of the Australian Country Party. As the only member of the Country Party sitting on that Committee, I have no doubt that those allegations were pointed fairly straight at me. The only thing I am sorry about is that the Committee did not go deeply enough into discovering where the report came from. From what I understand of the evidence it appears that quite a number of the Government's advisers were privy to the findings of the report prior to its publication. I do not know whether the Privileges Committee bothered to take up that point and to study its ramifications and importance. Having made the point I shall let it go at that, other than to say that the allegations made by one member of the Government about members of the Country Party are quite unfounded and in fact have been proved to be unfounded. That is a point about which I am very pleased. The other matter I wish to raise relates to the dignity of the House itself. It seems to me that having undertaken this inquiry - mark you, I was in favour of the inquiry - the dignity of the House has been somewhat impaired by the inquiry itself. I make no reflection on the honourable members conducting the inquiry. I am saying that there are other matters of a much graver nature which have tremendous financial implications for the commercial world. I refer to leaks from Government sources, from Cabinet Ministers, from advisers and from others.

It would be much more worthy of the dignity of this Parliament to investigate such matters than to undertake an inquiry into the publication of what was after all, only a set of recommendations to the Government about one aspect of the total scheme of things. I have in mind leaks of the report of the Coombs Task Force, the so-called demolition task force that has wreaked havoc, as it turns out, on the countryside by the implementation by the Government of certain policies which are typically anti-rural in nature. I suspect that the Government leaked that report so that when it brought down its Budget the number of recommendations on which it moved would seem to have less impact than would the total recommendations in the Coombs report. It is a sneaky old-fashioned trick. I suspect that was the base motive behind the leaking of the report. But a more serious matter and one closer to today is the leaking of the Tariff Board report on the importation of colour television sets.

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