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Thursday, 9 December 1976
Page: 3658

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Leader of the Opposition) - This is the only adjournment debate in the whole year when it is regarded as acceptable for the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Country Party to take up the time of the House. Earlier today -

Mr Malcolm Fraser - This is not an adjournment debate; you are speaking by leave. You can speak until breakfast.

Mr SPEAKER -I have assumed leave.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have learnt to be careful about those with whom I have breakfast, just as I gather honourable members opposite have learnt to be careful about those with whom they have dinner. Your guests will always be disclosed sooner or later. Sometimes there is difficulty in finding the names of the protagonists or the guests on these occasions, but gradually they are ascertained.

I did not want to speak in a facetious manner on an occasion like this; I wanted to pay due tribute to you, Mr Speaker. I must say, you are looking better every day. I wanted to pay tribute also on behalf of my Party to all those who have backed up, as they have for many years, well led by the Clerk to whom we paid tribute earlier. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) spoke appropriately, graciously and warmly about all those men and women- hundreds of them- who work in this place. It is a great delusion to think that this arena is the whole of the Parliament. This arena, well or ill conducted as the members may be, would be a shell but for the men and women in their hundreds who work here less conspicuously throughout the year. I join the Prime Minister in his tribute to them and in his tribute to their families. I join him also in wishing well to all the members on both sides of both Houses and their families too. Politicians' families are probably the most long-suffering in this country and none of us could do our jobs as well as we do- whatever degree of effectiveness or virtue there may be in our performance- without the support of our families.

If it were not so late I would very much have enjoyed speaking on some of the matters which have been raised earlier tonight or earlier today. I found that some of them concerned me. I shall not weary the House with any of those matters. I am aware that from time to time I have been unjust to some honourable members on the other side of the House with whom I have served for very many years. I am delighted to see- I have not yet been able to read- the defence report which my good friend, the honourable, learned and gallant Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has tabled tonight. I do not believe he had adequately conveyed to the Australian people the sacrifices that he has made in his portfolio. Interesting though the document which he has tabled tonight may be, it in fact tells only a portion of the story. Another document has come into my hands tonight. Presumably it is authentic because it is authorised by Tony Eggleton, Federal Director of the Liberal Party -

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable gentleman is transgressing upon the leave of the House which was to speakin terms of the appreciation of members of the House for service that has been given. There will be an opportunity later for the honourable gentleman to raise matters of this nature on an adjournment debate. I do not think that the leave that was granted was granted in the expectation of a speech of this nature.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -Mr Speaker,can you be sure there will be an opportunity later? Surely it is not out of order for me to pay a tribute to a Minister or several Ministers or to the Ministry as a whole. I want to pay a tribute to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) because I find that he has cut the 5-year defence program, which he announced -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! If the honourable gentleman wishes to pursue this line I cannot prevent him. He has been given leave to make a statement but he is misusing the forms of the House to do so.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -Mr SpeakerI will not trespass very long. I thought you would enjoy what I was about to say. I want to pay tribute to the Minister for Defence for the economies he is achieving in the administration of his portfolio. I am assured, on very high authority, that he has cut the 5-year defence program from $ 12,000m to $ 1,200m. This really will put this country in a very much better economic position. I am not relying on any scurrilous information, such as defence leaks in recent copies of the Bulletin. I am not relying on anything that Norman Minister for Defence might have said at the National Press Club today- and I appreciate his tributes to me.

Mr Killen - They were desperately earned.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am paying tribute to the honourable, gallant and learned gentleman for the great economies he is making on behalf of the Australian people in the administration of his portfolio. I find, on the highest authority, that he has effected economies in the administration of his 5-year defence program of 90 per cent. He has cut the 5-year defence program- emphasising new equipment, too- from $12,000m to $ 1200m. Many Ministers are making great economies. For instance, I find, and it will be announced in the next couple of days that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch)- frankly, I think people have been far too beastly to the Treasurer in this House and in the Party room in recent weeks- is effecting great economies in the civil field. I gather that we will learn next week that there will be no new expenditure entered into; that all departments must look at further cuts that can be made to an existing expenditure program; that all departments are to report to the Treasurer on those areas where under-expenditure is occurring; and that all Departments must report to the Treasury Department and/or the Department of Finance on all these issues by 13 December. I am quoting from Cabinet decision No. 1971.

Mr Les McMahon (SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - When was that?

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -The decision was made last Tuesday. It will be announced in a day or so. All those cuts in civilian expenditure pale into insignificance-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Leader of the Opposition is transgressing upon the practice of the House. He well knows it.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I want to conclude my remarks by saying that I appreciate on this occasion, as I have done on so many occasions during the year, your own forebearance, Mr Speaker. I trust that the next year will be an even better one for you. In the meantime, I trust that all of us in the bosom of our families will have a very happy Christmas.

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