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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 3783

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - I want to deal with a couple of matters this evening, one of which was occasioned by a Press release which went out last night and a couple of Press reports as well as a comment earlier by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), indicating that the Liberal Party seemed to be enjoying some sort of euphoria at the prospect of winning the seat of Robertson at the next Federal election. I have no objection to anyone claiming that they are going to knock me off at the next election. That is a perfectly legitimate charge to make. But I wish when they make their analysis of electoral figures, which is somewhat similar to their economic analysis, they would be slightly more accurate. I thought I would read for the benefit of the psephologists on the other side of the House-

Mr Staley - Our calculations are always conservative.

Mr COHEN - I would imagine that the honourable member for Chisholm who is a noted political scientist will enjoy this. I thought I would read into the record the figures relating to seats contained within the electorate of Robertson at the recent State elections. There are 3 State seats in the electorate of Robertson. One is the new seat of Gosford which was carved out for the Liberal Party and which is the one remotely Liberal area in the whole electorate. The figures relating to the Gosford electorate were: Mr Brooks, Liberal, received 10,319 votes or 52.4 per cent of the vote; Mr Dunbar, Democratic Labor Party received 637 votes or 3.2 per cent of the vote; and Mr McGowan, Australian Labor Party, received 8,744 votes or 44.4 per cent of the vote. There is another State seat called Peats which is also totally within the electorate of Robertson and the figures relating to this seat were: Mr Hallett, Liberal, received 10,458 votes or 42.1 per cent of the vote; and Mr O'Connell, Labor, received 14,397 votes or 57.9 per cent of the vote. The figures for the third seat of Munmorah, two-thirds of which is in the electorate of Robertson, were as follows: Mr Connolly, DLP, received 1,262 votes or 5.1 per cent of the vote; Mr Jackson, Liberal, received 7,649 votes or 30.4 per cent of the vote; and Mr Jensen, Labor, received 16,215 votes or 64.5 per cent of the vote.

Briefly, the split up on a two-party preferred basis was: Gosford - Labor 45.5 per cent of the vote and Liberal 54.5 per cent; PeatsLabor, 57.9 per cent of the vote and Liberal 42.1 per cent; and Munmorah - Labour, 66 per cent of the vote and Liberal, 34 per cent of the vote. All I can say is that if we are going this bad in Robertson, please God I will go that bad for the next 20 years. The Labor vote was roughly 57 per cent of the total vote in Robertson, so I would ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) to go back to school to learn about mathematics.

I will not particularly enjoy the next matter I want to raise, lt deals with a very dear friend of mine, Mr Jack Hallam, with whom I was brought up in the town of Griffith as a young man and with whom I have stayed on a number of occasions. He is a member of the Legislative Council in the New South Wales Parliament. During the course of the recent State election campaign in the seat of Murray a proposition was put to the Labor candidate, Mr Doug Drew, in relation to Labor Party preferences. The proposition was made by the independent Australian Country Party candidate, Mr Bruce Jeffrey. It involved a request that Mr Drew allocate his preferences to Mr Jeffrey who in return would provide $1,000. Mr Drew, who had no authority to allocate preferences, very properly made a full report to the Australian Labor Party officers. Mr Drew at no time made any statement about this matter, nor did he name anyone. But widespread rumours circulated and he then stated simply that he had made a report to the Labor Party officers and that this report did not concern discussions he had with Mrs Mary Meillon, the State member for Murray.

Still the rumours persisted and some found their way into the Press. In the meantime the proposition had been judged corrupt. To clear the names of the innocent candidates the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) raised the matter in the House on 8 November. He made it clear that the allegations concerned the proposition put to Mr Drew by Mr Bruce Jeffrey and no one else. The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) issued a challenge that any evidence should be turned over to the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) for proper action to be taken. That was a proper step for him to take. But he went on to make completely unsubstantiated allegations against Mr Drew in connection with a previous by-election.

Mr Keating - That is the honourable member for Murray in this place.

Mr COHEN - That is the honourable member for Murray in the House of Representatives. It is quite incredible, if he had any evidence of wrong doing, that he did not raise it during the by-election when his candidate was defeated. The honourable member for Blaxland accepted his challenge and on 15 November he produced the evidence in this House, took legal advice on the matter and turned the evidence over to the AttorneyGeneral for proper examination.

There the matter should have rested until a proper inquiry was made. But I find that under the guise of a personal explanation the honourable member for Murray made an incredible attack on 2 members of Parliament. He said, without any evidence whatsoever, that Mr Drew had offered a bribe. Then he contradicted himself and said that it was offered on Mr Drew's behalf by 2 State members of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Jack Hallam and Mr Lin Gordon. In Deniliquin they made an offer of $3,000 for Country Party preferences, so he said. Then he stooped to the most incredible depths to involve Mrs Laurel Drew, the wife of the Labor candidate, by saying that she had offered bribes on behalf of her husband. He then alleged that the New South Wales Country Party Leader, Sir Charles Cutler, was a witness to all this.

The attack on 2 outstanding members of Parliament without a tittle of supporting evidence is bad enough, but to go into the gutter to attack the wife of a man in public life is to strike an all time low in Australian politics. The documented taped evidence against Mr Jeffrey is in the hands of the Attorney-General. Legal opinion has already been given that it is an open and shut case of bribery and that even if Mr Jeffrey had won the seat it would have been stripped from him by the Court of Disputed Returns. But the reckless allegations made by the honourable member for Murray are in an entirely different context. He has attacked a widely respected wife and mother, her husband and 2 members of the New South Wales Parliament who enjoy reputations second to none. Mr Lin Gordon, member for Murrumbidgee, has categorised the attack as malicious political lies. Mr Jack Hallam, MLC, has described the charges as the product of a totally dishonest and cowardly man. They invite the honourable member for Murray to do the decent thing and apologise. But if he persists in this baseless charge he should have the courage and honour to produce his evidence, take it to the proper authorities and repeat his charges outside the Parliament. Unless he can produce this evidence and unless he has the honesty to repeat his charges outside the Parliament so that they can be tested in a court of law I can only describe his actions as dishonourable and cowardly. Let him rise with an apology before it is too late for him to do so.

Mr Calder - How about your evidence and the tape recording? Where did you get that from?

Mr COHEN - Yes, we have got it. We have handed it over to the Attorney-General.

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