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Tuesday, 17 September 1974
Page: 1125

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - In the Australian Financial Review' dated 20 August 1974, 4 days after the last sitting of the Senate, an article appeared on page 1 headed 'Senate Committees Left to Wither'. The article dealt with the failure of the Senate in the last sessional period to reconstitute 6 of its standing committees, as well as several of its select committees. The article was written by one Brian Toohey. Among other things he said:

The most politically sensitive of the committees still in abeyance is on Arts, Education and Science which, under the chairmanship of Senator James McClelland, has been conducting a wide-ranging inquiry into television and radio in Australia.

The Committee is widely regarded as a thorn in the side of the Media Department and its Minister, Senator Doug McClelland, as well as the broadcasting industry.

Mr Tooheythen went on to state:

After the double dissolution Senator Doug McClelland was made Minister in charge of Government Business in the Senate.

Within this context the obvious implication is that in my capacity as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, conjointly with my responsibility as Minister for the Media, I was responsible for delaying the reconstitution of the Senate standing committees, especially the Committee on Education, Science and the Arts and thereby ignored my responsibility to the Senate. Normally, Mr President, I would believe that an allegation of this kind should be treated with the contempt that it deserves and that it should be ignored. However, as Manager of Government Business in the Senate I state categorically that any inference or imputation contained in the article written by Mr Toohey is quite false. I believe the article has been deliberately designed to mislead and misrepresent. The writer of the article at no time attempted to contact me about his innuendo or inference and I am told that he did not contact any member of my staff in order to ascertain the facts involved in the delay in reconstituting Senate standing committees

I am given to understand from my conversations with those who are directly involved in arrangements about the conduct of business in the Senate that the writer did not contact any of those people. I am quite certain, for instance, that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy), the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman) will confirm that at no stage were they contacted by Mr Toohey before he wrote the article. I am sure that they will confirm that it was not I who was responsible in the last sessional period for the failure of the Senate to reconstitute the Senate standing committees, the subject of the article referred to.

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