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Thursday, 1 March 1973
Page: 135

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Leader of the Australian Country Party) - First of all I want to congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) on bringing forward this statement and presenting the rules for the use of VIP aircraft to all members of Parliament and to the Australian public. Unfortunately, this is an emotive issue which can be used to try to discredit people who are using these aircraft. At the same time it is an area in which anomalies can be created and it could appear that distortions have taken place. Of course, if people want to abuse the privilege they will do so. We hope that this will not happen.

The Minister said that there will be some amplification of the rules for the use of VIP aircraft by members of Ministers' families. Far too much emphasis has been placed on this in the past. I think it is quite wrong that Ministers arc not allowed to take with them a member or members of their families who are dependent upon them if there is room on the plane and if no additional expense is caused to the Government. I think that such a concept is far too narrow. It shows little understanding of family life and the difficulties that a Minister of State has.

The other question I want to refer to - and I thank the honourable member- for Barker (Dr Forbes) for bringing it up - is whether in my position I will have use of VIP aircraft should 1 need them to get me to certain political functions or during campaigning. This privilege has always been available to the Leader of the Country Party during the course of campaigns. His right to aircraft on such occasions has been accepted by members of this House. I know of no time when the Opposition has complained of the Leader of the Country Party using a VIP aircraft during the course of a campaign, and I hope that that privilege will still be bestowed upon me as leader of a significant party.

The statement lays down a privilege for the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy l eader of the Opposition and makes reference to people of similar status or importance who may be visiting Australia being entitled to this amenity. The words 'similar status' are also used in relation to serving officers. I believe that I have a similar status. I think the forms of this House are such that I should be entitled under that criterion. I have similar status regarding salary; I have similar status regarding staffing facilities.*!, hope that the Government might consider interpreting 'similar status' as entitling me to the use of VIP aircraft. I have written to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Unfortunately I did so a few days prior to his visit to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. A message came back from his office that there was inadequate time for my letter to be looked at before the Prime Minister's departure. I am grateful for the remarks of the Deputy Prime Minister that this matter will be considered.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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