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Friday, 15 May 1970

Mr SHERRY (Franklin) - The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) prefaced his remarks by reminding us, in a most good humoured and delightful way, that there would be a great deal of repetition. In fact there has been a great deal of repetition in this debate. The only comment I want to make on this point is that the truth never can be repeated too often. I do not intend to weary the House with a tedious repetition, however tantalising and attractive that proposition might be.

The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) quite clearly enunciated in the most positive terms that he was of the opinion that the Commonwealth had abrogated agreements and promises entered into in good faith so far as he was concerned. He made that statement in the House last Friday. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) this morning had the opportunity to rebut the honourable member's arguments, which were put so clearly and succinctly. I submit that the Prime Minister failed completely in the task that was set him. The honourable member for Farrer - the title honourable does not sit lightly upon his shoulders - clearly believes that an agreement was entered into. The six State Ministers for Mines clearly believe an agreement was entered into. One State Premier, Mr Bethune, from my own State of Tasmania, clearly believes an agreement was entered into. I propose to quote the remarks of the Premier about the statement made by the honourable member for Farrer in this House last week. I am quoting from the 'Mercury' of 12th May. Mr Bethune stated:

This merely confirms the State Government's feeling that there has been a breach of faith by the Commonwealth. It confirms exactly what we have been saying.

That remark was made by the Premier of Tasmania who received from this Federal Government, free, gratis, and without any strings attached, a grant of SI .5m to balance his budget. Could he be described as a hostile witness prepared to compound an untruth? I do not think so.

Many top members of the Liberal Party clearly believe that an agreement was entered into. Many honourable members on the Government side of the chamber clearly believe an agreement was entered into. Honourable members on this side of the chamber believe the honourable member for Farrer when he says that it was his belief that an agreement was entered into.

In the present political alignment of this nation the national Government is a coalition of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. Every State in the Commonwealth is governed by parties of similar political persuasion. I think it fair to put this proposition: Are all these Liberal colleagues throughout the length and breadth of this nation now compounding an untruth? I reject this as a possibility and I think the House also will reject it as a possibility. Are we to have a situation in this nation where, when any agreement or discussion takes place between the Commonwealth on the one hand and the States on the other, it will be necessary to have in attendance legal advisers in their battalions, suitably equipped with technical devices to record all the proceedings? Does a man's word mean nothing any more? Does a Government's word mean nothing any more? As a mere juror I cannot accept this proposition and I cannot accept that this is an honourable way in which to conduct the business of the nation. I suggest that the people of this nation will reject it on the same terms.

Everybody believes that an agreement was entered into. Many honourable members opposite clearly believe this. I repeat that it is both naive and, indeed, preposterous for the Prime Minister to say that all these people have been wrong in their sincerely held beliefs. Sir, one could develop protracted legalistic arguments; one could even engage in a prolonged semantic dissertation; but in the final analysis - this is what I want to underline - any government, not only this Government or some other government, must be a government with honour. Without honour there can be no confidence; without confidence there can be no respect. This is the very nub of the matter.

Governments are never elected to govern without due regard for the honoured place they occupy in the hearts and minds of the people who have sent them here. If that honour is swept aside lightly, if that honour is submerged for political expediency, then that government has become dishonourable. The honourable member for Farrer clearly believes that the permissive society - these are his words - cannot, indeed must not, invade or be able to invade the precincts of government, for if it does an intolerable situation will inevitably arise. If we value the democratic process - I think we do and I hope we do - and if we accept the benefits that flow from that process, this being the very reason for the existence of this House, we must fight to preserve these values because without values and without honour our society is empty. Without truth in the Parliament this House becomes shallow. Without honour governments surely are worth nothing at all. 1 ask the House to support the amendment put by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson).

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