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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 3461

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) - I shall not waste my time answering the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) in detail but will point to 2 matters to which he referred in his short speech. Firstly, he hammered the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his insulting remarks to the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes). A few minutes later he slandered Ministers of this Government for using motor cars on shopping expeditions. How can a man be so irresponsible and so inconsistent in such a short space of time? Secondly, he spoke about an appointment to the staff of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy). I have it on good authority that a Mr Sheppard has this week been appointed as an economist to the staff of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), at a salary of $15,000 a year. What is good for the gander is good for the goose. Honourable members opposite are completely hypocritical when they start criticising us for doing the things that they did themselves.

I want to talk tonight about the Australian opinion polls. The Australian opinion polls have become a massive brainwashing device in this country mainly manipulated by forces opposed to the Labor Government. With the right people selected to do the questioning it is possible to get the result they are wanting, especially on political questions. The elector who is interviewed could easily be of the same political complexion as the interviewer who would know the people in his district and their political affiliations. There are very grave dangers and discrepancies in this sort of set-up. For a true and honest selection of people to interview it is important that interviewers operate in areas where they do not know the people personally. The public opinion poll representatives will still say that they get a cross-section of the people, and so they do, but a cross-section of what sort of people? Since December 1972 the opinion polls have set out to get this Labor Government and to show it up in the worst possible light. Never have so many surveys been conducted in Australia before in a given period of time. During the regimes of the Liberal-Country Party coalition the poll organisations seemed to select times which were most favourable for taking public assessments of the Government's performance. But this year opinion polls have deliberately, cunningly and shamefully exploited the slight fall in Labor's electoral image. It seems to me that they have developed an anti-Labor bias which destroys their credibility. The polls have ceased to be what they have maintained in their charter to be from the beginning, interested only in assessing public opinion on national issues, especially electoral opinion. They have ceased to be a means of gauging public opinion or a means of assessing public opinion only.

The public opinion polls are now influencing public opinion in a diabolical and ruthless fashion which was outside their original charter. They are brainwashing electors and in one sense they are making Hitler look like an amateur in brainwashing techniques. Never has this attempt to brainwash and shape public opinion been more in evidence than in the opinion polls on the popularity of political leaders. This technique moved into full blast during the past 3 years. The opinion polls gunned for the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and later the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). The poll people fed to the Press what the Press wanted to know at the time. The opinion polls created an image of both leaders as incapable, unpredictable, inept and indecisive. This image was then taken up by the media which took the result of the polls as gospel and printed in banner headlines 'Gorton is finished', and later: 'McMahon is on the way out'. This was pumped into people's brains constantly, subtly and deliberately. From an assessment of public opinion this massive exercise became a clever shaping and moulding of public opinion with the public being brainwashed on a national scale.

How do people really know how a government is going or how leaders are going except through the media? And if this image in the media is a biased and malicious image the people are basing their opinions on biased and even untruthful material or evidence. More recently the opinion polls have been after the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), fashioning, moulding and shaping public opinion against both leaders with the dutiful public making the right noises for the opinion polls. In this sense they are a fraud and are enemies of sane, unbiased and uninfluenced decisions. I believe they have become a national menace. This week Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls is showing the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in rapid decline with the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) and Bob Hawke in a big deal upswing. I ask honourable members to please note that Bob Hawke is not even in Parliament. Therefore, to compare him with the Prime Minister is both dishonest and irrelevant. To compare the Leader of the Country Party with the Leader of the Opposition is also false and dishonest because the Leader of the Country Party can never be Prime Minister while he is Leader of the Country Party. What, therefore, is the purpose of bringing these chaps, who are in opposing camps, into public opinion polls?

Opinion polls feed the Press with unreal and exaggerated material. Anti-government editorial writers then write screaming headlines to further brainwash the gullible public, taking their cue from highly suspect opinion poll material. They only have to pound away with this exaggerated material month after month to mislead and brainwash the people. Finally I ask, what of the old Australian adage: 'Give him a fair go'? It seems to have disappeared out of the country. The Labor Government has been in office for only 1 1 months and it has not for a moment been given a fair go in the Press, on television, in cartoons, in most editorials or by some competitors. Therefore, both the opinion polls and the media are working in conjunction to produce the sort of image of the Government and the Party leaders that both desire, which can be off course in reality.

In conclusion I want to say a few words about the conduct of the Opposition in this

Parliament. I have been here for a long time. When I came here in 1946 the Labor Party was in Government. Then for a number of years we were in Opposition, and now the position has changed again. From my experience in that time I can say I believe that the present Opposition is the most arrogant, most negative, most abusive, disruptive, most ill-disciplined, destructive and noisiest Opposition the Parliament has even seen. After 10 months the present Opposition has not put forward one new idea or one progressive thought. It is bankrupt of ideas, yet has the colossal nerve to declare itself fit to govern again in this country. There are huge chasms of differences running between the Opposition leaders.

Mr Wallis - They are even self-righteous.

Mr DUTHIE - Of course they -are. They have imported larrikinism into the Parliament from the back streets on many occasions. Not all honourable members opposite could be accused of that. Only a small group, I would say, could be accused of that sort of conduct, but it definitely degrades the whole Parliament. Noise is supposed to be intelligence; larrikinism is supposed to reflect responsibility. No attempt has been made to have in depth research, generally speaking, of legislation put forward. There is just opposition, opposition, opposition for the sake of opposition. The philosophy is: If you see a head, kick it.

An Irishman arrived in Fremantle once and asked the first chap he met: 'What Government is in office at Canberra?' On being told he said: 'Well, I'm agin it'. That is the philosophy of this disunited Opposition. Whatever the Government puts up is wrong; it has to be opposed just because members on the other side of the House are in Opposition. That means that the Parliament is listening to expressions of this destructive, disruptive attitude day after day, week after week. 'If Labor introduces a Bill, kick it to death', they say. That is their philosophy. Never mind if the legislation is desperately needed for the building of a better Australia. Just because the Labor Party has introduced a Bill, and they do not like our philosophy or ideology, they want to kick it, and kick it to death; and if it passes through the House of Representatives, they will kick it to death in the Senate for sure. This is a terrible attitude for an Opposition to adopt. We know that they have to oppose if what is proposed is utterly against their principles, but they are overdoing this completely and creating a great imbalance in the Parliament as a whole.

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