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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3207

Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) (Treasurer) - As a member of the Privileges Committee I support the remarks that were made by the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury). I am impelled to speak at this stage by the remarks of the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) concerning some other documents. I simply say that in a parliamentary atmosphere allegations are very easy to make; they are often very difficult to refute. Whatever is referred to the Privileges Committee, I hope we will never get to the stage at which every allegation that is made in this House will be thought to be a matter for consideration by the Privileges Committee. Otherwise the Privileges Committee would be meeting very often. One of the interesting things about the Privileges Committee is that it does not have to meet very often. Sometimes we find that when it does meet it considers three or four cases that seem to happen more or less simultaneously, but then it is a long time before there is another case to be considered.

I suggest that the honourable member for Gippsland consult the transcript of evidence of the Committee. He will find that some of the things to which he referred were asked of the witnesses in the course of that investigation. I must say as a general observation that I find it hard to know what is gained, or what is thought to be gained, by publishing a few days or a few hours in advance something that will ultimately become public information. I agree with one point made by the honourable member for Gippsland, namely, that the danger - in this case I think the matter was comparatively trivial in its impact when the document was finally revealed - is that on other occasions a very few can gain at the expense of the very many. I regard it as an obligation of the Press to protect the rights of the many rather than sometimes just take a scoop that will advantage a few.

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