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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 1288

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - That would be the most offensive remark I can recall being directed to me - a paltry, miserable, snivelling remark. Had the honourable senator allowed me to get up as I was proposing to do I would have told him what he wanted to know.

Senator Keeffe - I rise on a point of order. The remarks which have just been made by the Minister are completely offensive to me. I ask that they be withdrawn.

Senator COTTON - Mr President, might I say how nice it is to feel that at once, for the first time, offence is taken by one of the people on the other side who claim to give offence but never feel that they can be upset themselves.

The PRESIDENT - Two honourable senators are standing. Are they rising to a point of order?

Senator Keeffe - I ask that it be withdrawn.

Senator COTTON - Could I perhaps do what I wanted to do before our learned friend had uttered his remarks because-

The PRESIDENT - Order!

Senator Sim - You are not obliged to tell him anything.

Senator COTTON -No, I want to do this becauseI had intended to do it.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Keeffe has raised a point of order against Senator Cotton and Senator Cotton is entitled to make an observation on it. I call Senator Cotton.

Senator COTTON - What I was anxious to do and what I walked in here to do, because no-one of us enjoys these nightly feasts on the adjournment debate, was to give to my colleagues in the Senate in pursuance of what I thought was an act of courtesy, the latest piece of information that I have. The information I want to give to the Senate is that round about 10.45 p.m. I received a final report - that it appears as if this particular incident is one that was not a genuine cause for concern, that an alarm was caused by an incidental triggering of a piece of mechanism in the aircraft reporting an incident all the way through to Singapore and not detectable until arrival on the ground. In no sense was it a hoax. I will always say this to honourable senators: Any cause for concern in the air will be taken by me seriously and determinedly until proven otherwise and I do not apologise to anybody any day any time.

Senator Keeffe - I rise on a point of order.I ask for a withdrawal.

Senator Georges - I rise on a point of order. I take it that we are still discussing the point of order raised by Senator Keeffe. I have been accused by the Minister of snivelling behaviour and in other terms. I should seek to have those words withdrawn. But I would like the Minister, before I ask him for this withdrawal, to explain why on previous occasions he came into the House and properly informed us in regard to this serious matter, which I considered to be serious, but on this occasion instead of seeking leave of the Senate to immediately-

Senator Sim - You did not give him a chance.

Senator Georges - No, no. Instead of seeking leave to immediately tell us what had happened the Minister first called a news conference and told others and not us first. Why am I to be called snivelling because of this? In this context I ask him now to withdraw that word in particular which I find to be very offensive.

The PRESIDENT - I am quite sure that if you are personally offended by the use of an adjective used by the Minister, the Minister will withdraw it.

Senator COTTON - You may be sure because I was prompted by the comment by Senator Georges that I had been involving myself and my honourable colleagues in a hoax.

Senator Georges - No, you do not listen. That is not what I said.

Senator Marriott - You would not know what you said.

Senator Georges - I know exactly what I said. It was perfectly clear. I merely asked the Minister to confirm that the hijack was in fact a hoax. He has since explained that there was a malfunction which proved-

Senator COTTON - I get the point.

Senator Georges - Will you accept that?

Senator COTTON - Yes. Senator Georges has put to me that he was saying that it proved to be a hoax and his remarks were not directed against me. Of course I take the point of view which he puts to me. I have no wish to offend him unnecessarily except to say that I take strong exception at all times to any implications against my personal honour and character, as I am sure he would do and so would anybody else. This incident has concerned me greatly. I have had an open line to Singapore since about 6.30 this evening. I have tried to see that everybody entitled to know was told when I knew. I had not long disposed of the matter finally when a division was called. It is not unlikely that in an office like mine at a time like this when the place is full of Press men information will get out. I did not call a Press conference but the information would undoubtedly have got out. I would have come in and told honourable senators when I was confirmed in my own state of knowledge. If Senator Georges is upset I am sorry because I would not want to upset him. I withdraw any remarks which upset him. I ask honourable senators: Please pay me the same courtesy in your own time in your own place.

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