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Friday, 15 May 1970

Mr DALY (Grayndler) - I suppose that the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) would be the most reluctant rebel of our time. He consistently talks one way but votes the other. From the day I saw him come into this Parliament with a great reputation as a rebel, 1 have never seen him do anything but follow the band. Today he is doing precisely the same. I hope to live to see the day when some issue will force him to vote for the matters he espouses.

This is a matter of political integrity and honour, not of whether we believe in States. The honourable member for Chisholm knows that this amendment has been moved by one of the most reputable men in this Parliament and in Australian politics. Yet the honourable member, whilst he believes that what that man has put forward is correct, refuses to support him by his vote. But we on this side of the Parliament do not. We have the greatest regard for the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) for having principles that he espouses and supports, quite contrary to that of the honourable member for Chisholm.

It is interesting today to hear the Government saying how it has honoured its obligations to the States in this matter, but at this very moment in the Prime Minister's (Mr Gorton) office the terms of surrender are being drawn up. Ere this day is over the Prime Minister and his Party will stand in this Parliament and capitulate in line and in proof of the statements made by the honourable member for Farrer. So little is known within the Government about what the Prime Minister is doing that not even the next Minister who is going to talk will know what is happening until he sits down and finds out that everything he said was wrong under the terms of surrender. From one end of this country to the other at this moment the telephone lines are burning and men are getting onto planes. Liberals are being recalled from everywhere because the Government is in danger. It has cancelled all pairs. Today it knows that the only way of getting out of this situation is to capitulate.

This is not a matter of policy. This is whether or not a government has honoured its obligations. Today in this Parliament the censure motion that I support was not brought on by members on this side of the House. It was raised by the honourable member for Farrer. The honourable member for Farrer has given the members of his Party who are consistently sniping at the Prime Minister and saying that they will bring him down the opportunity on a great matter of honour to stand in this Parliament with him today and bring down a Government that has forfeited the respect of the Australian people and the respect of all State administrators in Australia.

Let us have a look at the honourable member for Farrer. No man denies that he is a man of integrity and honour. Already he has suffered for his principles by refusing to serve under the Prime Minister and today he is prepared to risk his political future, because of honour and integrity, by voting against this Government on this well deserved motion. He is no friend of the Labor Party, as he said in his speech earlier today, but he is prepared to back his point of view and his honour by a vote which he knows must place in jeopardy his political future, and I hope the political future of most of those who sit opposite me. Let me make this quite clear: Let no honourable member who sits behind the Government treat this charge lightly. The honourable member for Farrer, respected and admired by friend and enemy, has charged this Government, which sent him as a Minister to give certain undertakings, with dishonouring them. In addition to that he not only says so but he supports the charge by reading from the minutes of the conference which was held and he quoted the names of every State Minister for Mines - every one a Liberal - and every State Attorney-General in support of the fact that this Government stands condemned in the eyes of the Australian people as one which will not support the views or the obligations which it enters into.

The Opposition supports the honourable member for Farrer, not because we like him but because we on this side of the Parliament are men of integrity and honour. The Labor Party, in government and in opposition, honours its obligations to the people of Australia. I for one regret to see this once great Party bickering in public on great issues. It is disturbing and sorrowful. Today the Parliament is held up for a full day because a dispute which should have been settled with honour and integrity in the Party room has been brought into the Parliament as the Prime Minister, too blind to see and to realise that his honour is at stake, refused to fight this matter where it should have been fought. Today we witness in public the spectacle of this once great Party bickering in a way that to some extent confounds us but at the same time distresses every true democrat in the place.

On this issue honourable members opposite know as well as I do that they have had Party meeting after Party meeting, and today the honourable member for Farrer has stated in this House that ali kinds of pressure has been exerted upon him to capitulate, that whispering campaigns were started against him. The Press has been full of headlines such as 'Fairbairn may go overseas' - anywhere to get the man of honour and integrity out of the Parliament. The Liberal Party does not want men of that type and that is why it wants to send the honourable member for Farrer to any post in the world as long as it is not here in Canberra - because judged on performances here today men of integrity in the Liberal Party are like lost sheep.

Why is this debate taking place? lt is not because of anything that the Labor Party has done. It is because the Prime Minister has said: 'I do not believe the honourable member for Farrer. 1 think he was completely wrong, and so far as I am concerned you can take it or leave it and it is going through.' Not only did he say that in order that he might get his own way on this issue; he was trying out the rebels in his ranks to see whether they would continue to snipe at him as they have in days gone by. Therefore, we are held up here on this issue by Government members, some of whom are at this stage hurrying back from all over Australia while in the Prime Minister's room - drawn up like the capitulation of Japan, as it were - the terms of surrender are being written line by line. Ere this day is over I do not think that it will be the Labor Party which will triumph. The honourable member for Farrer will be proven in this Parliament to be correct despite what a Minister said not 10 minutes ago in this place, lt is a pity someone does not tell the

Ministry what is happening, because it is quite obvious from the way in which they talk that they do not know - and they certainly do not know in relation to this crisis that is before us today.

Let us again have a look at the position of the honourable member for Farrer. The most mysterious man in all these discussions has been the former Attorney-General. He was with the honourable member for Farrer, but today he more or less came quietly into the Parliament. He looked as though somebody had dragged him in because while all this discussion has been taking place we heard no mention of the former Attorney-General. On Monday, 1 1th May. the editorial of the 'Canberra Times' had this to say: . . Mr Bowen, then the Attorney-General and now Minister for Education and Science and a member of the Cabinet. Did not Mr Bowen inform his colleagues that Mr Fairbairn had given this undertaking, and if not, why not? In fact, who besides Mr Fairbairn and the State Ministers did know of the commitment?

Why did not the Attorney-General come into this Parliament previously. I would say that he was what might be termed a hostile witness by reason of the fact that today he was uncertain in his presentation. He is a lawyer of great eminence. He should have a very good memory. He is paid highly to have it, and he learnt at great expense to the Australian public, and probably others. But today he was uncertain. 1 think that the terms of surrender - if T might use an unfortunate term - will make a donkey out of the Attorney-General.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.

Mr DALY - I meant the former Attorney-General.

Mr SPEAKER -The former AttorneyGeneral is still a member of this House and I suggest to the honourable member that he should withdraw that remark.

Mr DALY - 1 mean the Minister for Education and Science.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he withdraw that remark.

Mr DALY - I certainly will, Mr Speaker. Not for a moment would I put you off-side at this stage. If the terms of surrender about which I heard are drawn up, I would say that the evidence today of the Minister for Education and Science will prove that he is not the only member of the Ministry who is completely wrong in relation to the interpretation of the situation presented by the honourable member for Fairer. The honourable member for Farrer made some statements in his speech on Friday, 8th March, which he has repeated today. Those statements should be read again by every person who believes in honour and integrity in this Parliament. Let me quote one or two, if not for members of this House, then for the huge listening audience that I know I have at this time: He said:

I was authorised by Cabinet to make an offer to the States at that meeting. That offer was that the States should retain control of mineral resources of the territorial seabed . . .

That is a pretty clear statement for a Minister of the Crown to make. He went on to say:

I undertook to refer this proposal back to Cabinet and also undertook that before the Commonwealth took any action there would be further consultation with the States.

That is quite definite and clear. I sec that the honourable member is leaving the chamber now to be consulted by Cabinet on this matter. He went on and said:

Two points emerge from this. Firstly, I did not commit the Commonwealth as David Fairbairn; I committed it as the Minister for National Development, authorised and instructed by Cabinet to act as the Commonwealth's negotiator.

That is a very pertinent and definite statement to make. Will any honourable member opposite say today that the former Minister was thinking loosely on this matter? He was quoting from the minutes of the proceedings and from the documents. He is not only a man of integrity, he has more capacity than most of the present members of the Ministry put together. His memory is good and agile on these matters. He goes on to refer to the second question by saying:

If it was, was this commitment honoured? I have heard it argued that the undertaking I entered into was not legally binding on the commonwealth. I flatly refuse to accept that argument.

That is a devastating statement. He went on:

Has public morality in this country declined to such a degree that an agreement entered into by the Commonwealth is not legally binding unless it is legally enforceable?

Is that the attitude of the Ministry? Have we sunk to that low level? I have quoted the words of a member of the Government benches. I would say that he himself would have been fully entitled to prove his point by moving in this Parliament a censure motion of the Government. He went on to say:

If that is the position, we have come to a pretty despicable state of affairs. Is it believed in Australia today that the word of the Commonwealth Government means nothing unless those to whom this word is given have some legal means of enforcing it? How could anyone ever trust us again if that is the position?

That is the reason why a censure motion has been moved by the Opposition today. It has nothing to do with State Parliaments as such or with the provisions of the legislation, but rather with the questions of political integrity and honesty and whether a Government should honour its obligations incurred by a Minister at conferences with State Ministers. The honourable member for Farrer went on: 1 assumed that the State Ministers would accept me as a man of honour speaking on behalf of a government of honour.

We knew he was wrong on that a long time ago; but at the same time one would think that when he was a member of the Ministry he would have believed that the Government would honour obligations he incurred in his position. The honourable member went on to quote the words of various Ministers, each one of them a Liberal Party Minister. I appreciate that amongst Liberal Ministers in the States there are those who are not so bright, but do not tell me that every State Minister for Mines and every State Attorney-General misunderstood what the honourable member for Farrer was saying. Certainly not. The fact of the matter is that he has proved beyond doubt that he was completely right. I have quoted from the honourable member's speech at some length because the honourable member himself again referred to it today and so did the Prime Minister. The honourable member said:

If the States cannot accept those kinds of assurances, government in this country is reaching a pretty low ebb.

They are the words of the honourable member for Farrer, a former Minister for National Development. Later in his speech he said:

Other suggestions try to say that the commitment has been honoured because the Minister for National Development has met the State Ministers after the decision to legislate unilaterally from the low water mark had been announced by the Commonwealth.

As the honourable member said today, the commitment was entered into but then the Gorton Government decided that it would have a discussion with the States again after they had decided what to do. That is like shutting the stable door after the horse is out. It was understood in all honesty by the former Minister that these obligations would be honoured. When Mr Griffith heard the Governor-General's speech he said:

I was quite horrified to think that matters had gone that far and 1 thought this was an abrogation of the understanding that we had with the previous Minister.

The Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), a Queenslander, is at the table. I wish to quote to him the views of one of his own Liberal Ministers. Whilst I appreciate that he is not quite one of the lovebirds of the Queensland Libera) Party I would like the Minister to comment on what Dr Delamothe said. He drew the attention of the meeting to a telegram sent by the Queensland Government after 2nd March. This is what the Queensland Minister said:

Such proposal would negate the firm understanding by State Ministers at their last meeting that there would be a further meeting or meetings before legislation.

I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he believes that the Queensland Minister was wrong. Will he believe the Prime Minister against the honourable member for Farrer? Will he say whether all these supporters of the statement by the honourable member for Farrer are completely wrong and that only the Prime Minister and Cabinet are right? The honourable member for Farrer concluded his speech by saying: lt is my belief that the honouring of Government undertakings is essential, and that if this is to be described as old fashioned morality all I can say is that the sooner we revert to a bit of obi fashioned morality the better it will be for Australia and for the governed us well as for those who do the governing.

All those charges were repeated today and they will be proved ere this day is out - under the terms of surrender. I suggest to honourable members representing the Country Party that they should not laugh about this matter. The Country Party is significant for contributing only one halfhearted speech on this issue. I do not blame them; for once they are showing a bit of sense. If they keep quiet nobody will know what they really think about this mess. Nobody will really know what they think about the mess that the Prime Minister has got them into. Everybody knows that at this moment the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), is outside the chamber whipping around amongst the Liberals and others trying to drum some sense into them. He has not got much sense to give away but he knows that they have less. I will say, with due respect, that the one time honourable members opposite look like a government is when he takes over. But he cannot take over long enough, unfortunately, probably, for the Country Party and other people.

I have mentioned the issues that we must look at in order to sum up this situation. Let us now reach a verdict as to whether the honourable .member for Farrer is right and whether the motion the Opposition has moved regarding the honour and integrity of the Government is correct, or whether the Prime Minister and his Government should continue in office. I remind honourable members opposite and the people of Australia that this is the opportunity to defeat a Government that has forfeited the complete confidence of a lot of its own supporters and undoubtedly the overwhelming majority of the Australian people.

The honourable member for Farrer has laid charges against the Government. He is accepted without challenge by every honourable/ member opposite and every honourable member on this side of the chamber as a person of honesty and integrity. His word is supported by facts from the minutes and by statements from State Ministers for Mines and Liberal AttorneysGeneral. That is the evidence on which he bases his charge. Against him we have the Prime Minister who said: You will take it or leave it. 1 have the numbers and we want the leases to be as we desire.' We have heard the former Attorney-General, the Minister for Education and Science. As I said before, he fits into the category of a hostile witness. The new Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has been holding that portfolio only long enough to read the papers so his evidence must be discounted. Then we heard other Ministers. They came in and supported the Government but they know nothing about this matter other than the information that the Prime Minister has given to them.

Against that you have the statement, backed up and supported by the honourable member for Farrer, that a promise was given and that the undertaking was not honoured. He has put his political future on the line. He has already suffered because of his political beliefs. The Labor Party says that if he is prepared to take this course there must be substance in his statement and therefore his action deserves to be supported by all who believe in political integrity.

I hope that ere this day is out the Government will be out of office following the carriage of a resolution that stands for the very principle of democratic government. A government ought to be out of office once it loses its honour and integrity, when it will not honour its obligations, when it endeavours to force legislation through in the manner that this Government does, when it throws out of office men of reputation and integrity because they differ from the Prime Minister and when its members and supporters bring the bickerings from their Party meetings into the public place. I hope this motion will be carried in order to vindicate the honourable member for Farrer - in order to vindicate all who support integrity and honesty in government - and, at the same time, for once in a while give this country a chance to get going.

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