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Thursday, 23 March 1961

Mr SPEAKER - Order! What is the remark?

Mr Roberton - I refuse to repeat it. I take the strongest exception to it. It was disgraceful; it was shameful; it was thoroughly dishonest and if the man had a sense of honour he would withdraw it.

Mr Whitlam - Did you hear what he said?

Mr Hasluck - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made use of a most offensive expression with respect to my colleague. The expression was heard by many members on this side and I think he should be asked to withdraw it.

Mr SPEAKER - I accept that. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to withdraw it.

Mr Whitlam - Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remark and I would ask that the Minister also withdraw the remark he made across the table to me, the first offensive remarks which were exchanged between us to-night.

He was the aggressor and I ask him to withdraw.

Mr Cramer - What did he say?

Mr Whitlam - I have the same delicacy about repeating it that the Minister had. I ask that you ask the Minister to withdraw the remarks which he was the first to cast in the chamber on this subject.

Mr SPEAKER - Yes, I ask the Minister for Social Services to withdraw the remark he made that brought a retort.

Mr Roberton - With very great respect to you, I made no remark that drew the retort. I said to the honorable member, as soon as he resumed his seat, " You ought to be ashamed of yourself ".

Mr SPEAKER - The Minister said, " You are a dirty old man ", and I ask you to withdraw the remark.

Mr Roberton - I beg your pardon!

Mr SPEAKER - I heard it.

Mr Roberton - That I said that?


Mr Whitlam - Yes, of course you said it!

Mr Roberton - Mr. Speaker, it would be utterly impossible for me to use those words.

Mr SPEAKER - I have asked the Minister to withdraw the remark.

Mr Freeth - Mr. Speaker, I want to explain this.

Mr SPEAKER - This cannot be brushed aside in that way.

Mr Freeth - Mr. Speaker, I think I can correct the situation. I called the Deputy Leader of the Opposition an ill-mannered lout after he had addressed that remark to the Minister for Social Services.

Mr Whitlam - I did not seek your withdrawal.

Mr Freeth - In view of his withdrawal, I withdraw my remark.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I heard the remark made by the Minister for Social Services and I have repeated it. I ask the Minister to withdraw it.

Mr Roberton - It would be utterly impossible for me to use the words, and because of that it would be impossible for me to withdraw them.

Mr SPEAKER - I do not want the Minister to canvass my request. I ask him to withdraw, or action will have to be taken to deal with him.

Mr Roberton - It would be impossible for me to withdraw something that I never said nor ever could say.

Mr SPEAKER - I regret to say that you said it and I heard it. If you are not prepared to withdraw it and obey the Chair, I am compelled to name you.

Mr Hasluck - Mr. Speaker, before I do my duty-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! There is only one procedure now.

Mr Hasluck - May I appeal to you to give the honorable member for Riverina, who is a person of honour and probity, the opportunity of saying that he did not say it. There may have been some mistake because of the acoustics of the chamber. He assures us, and I think the honorable member would be prepared to say, although he is not conscious of having made that remark, that if offence has been given he is sorry for that offence.

Mr SPEAKER - I must point out to the House that I indicated to the Minister what I heard. Now you are reflecting on the accuracy of what I said and you are discourteous to the Chair. I have no alternative, having given him the opportunity, which he refused, but to name him.

Mr Hasluck - With regret, I move -

That the honorable member for Riverina be suspended from the service of the House.

Question resolved rn the affirmative.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Riverina is suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours. (The honorable member for Riverina thereupon withdrew from the chamber.)

Mr TURNBULL - You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that I was just making a speech on this question of the Marraboor weir.

Mr Cramer - Mr. Speaker, did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition withdraw his remark?

Mr SPEAKER - Yes, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition withdrew his remark.

Mr TURNBULL - Have I got the call now?

Mr SPEAKER - You have the call.

Mr TURNBULL - I thought so. After all this confusion, let me start again. When the Leader of the Opposition rose to-night, I thought he was rising to apologize for the statement he made about me this afternoon and which was absolutely untrue. But when he got up and made his speech he made another misstatement about me. I do not know why I am the butt of the inaccuracies of the Leader of the Opposition, but surely the only answer he can make when I explain the position is, " I did not know ".

When speaking about the Marraboor weir, the Leader of the Opposition said, "The honorable member for Mallee has only brought this matter up in the House within the last few weeks for . the first time ". I have copies of " Hansard " here to show that I mentioned it as far back as 1954. The Leader of the Opposition said that I brought the matter up the week before last, I think it was, for the first time. I have brought this matter up year after year, and I can show it to the Leader of the Opposition in " Hansard ". His only excuse now can be, " I did not know ". But is that a fair excuse for the Leader of the Labour Party to make for uttering inaccurate statements about another man, especially when he comes up into that man's electorate to make them? If it had been something concerning his own electorate, there might have been some point in it. The Marraboor weir is partly in my electorate, although, as has been stated, the river Murray is not in my electorate. My electorate adjoins the river. Actually, the river is in New South Wales, but that is only a technical point.

The statements that have been made should be withdrawn, particularly as they have been made by the leader of a party. What confidence can the men behind him have in him if he makes such statements? He says that he is a friend of mine, and on occasions I have risen in this House to protect him from statements that have been made from the other side of the House. Despite that, he has on two occasions to-day made baseless attacks on me. Surely to goodness I am justified in being a little annoyed about it.

Mr Calwell - Are you really annoyed?

Mr TURNBULL - I am very annoyed about it. The Leader of the Opposition did not do himself much honour to-night when he got up and made an attack on the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). The Minister has been as keen as I have been about the construction of the Marraboor weir. I have brought the matter to the attention of the Parliament many times, as I can prove by reference to " Hansard ". If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to see the " Hansard " volumes in which those references appear, I shall let him have a look at them.

Mr Calwell - Will you give them to me?

Mr TURNBULL - Of course! The honorable member may have them now if he comes over here.

Honorable members should appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that the State of New South Wales is the main stumbling block in the way of the construction of the Marraboor weir. I have advocated that the two States should find out what money they can put into the project, and after that, give us in this House a chance to ask the Federal Government to make a grant of the balance. I submitted that proposal in this Parliament only the week before last. Apparently, that was the first time that the Leader of the Opposition had heard me do so and the first time that he took an interest in this great water conservation scheme. The real position is that the State of New South Wales will not have anything to do with it. We heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) speaking in a grandiose way about what the State could do. Why does he not go to the Premier of New South Wales, who is a member of his own party, and ask him about it?

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable gentleman's time has expired.

Mr Calwell - I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has said that I have misrepresented him, and if I have done so, I apologize. But honestly, I could not think back to 1954.

Mr Turnbull - I raised the matter in 1957 and again in 1958.

Mr Calwell - I could not even think back to those years, either. If I have done the honorable member an injustice, I apologise to him. He is a very good friend of mine. In fact, he is one of my best offenders. In respect of the other matter, Sir, when I said earlier to-day that he had never voted with the Labour Party, I found that I had made a mistake in that regard too, and I again apologize to him. I should like to see him vote with us on vital issues.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 12.13 a.m. (Friday).

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