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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 1285

Mr HAWKE (Prime Minister) —Madam Deputy Speaker, I crave the indulgence of the House to add to an answer which I gave during Question Time today. I have advised the Opposition that I intend to add to the answer.

Mr Shipton —I have no objection, on the basis that the Opposition has been informed.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —I grant indulgence to the Prime Minister to add to the answer.

Mr HAWKE —Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am indebted to the honourable member for Higgins. During Question Time today I was asked a question concerning Mr Peter Barron and a visit to the Age. The House will recall that I gave a very specific answer to that question. I want now to add to that answer by indicating that the Editor of the Age, as I understand, will be releasing this statement, and may already have done so, which I now read to the House in addition to the answer I gave. I ask particularly that members of the Opposition present, particularly the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall), pay very clear attention to this statement by the Editor of the Age. It is in these terms:

Mr Peter Barron, Principal Adviser to the Prime Minister, came to see me last Thursday at his request. He did not lobby me about anything. He did not mention a High Court Judge or Ms Junie Morosi or anything to do with a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank or any other bank. He did not ask me to suppress any story or to publish any story. In fact, he did not ask me to do anything and he certainly did not threaten me. I do not know Mr Steele Hall and to the best of my recollection I have never spoken to him, certainly not about any matter relating to a High Court Judge or Ms Morosi.

One could not have a clearer or more unequivocal statement from the Editor of the Age in respect of a totally unfounded and scurrilous imputation by the honourable member for Boothby. I conclude my addition to my answer by asking the Opposition-and I am pleased to see the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) in his place-to take steps to ensure that these totally unfounded insinuations and allegations are brought to a halt. It is not merely that it does no credit to the Opposition because that is its concern. Opposition members have to deal with their stature and how they will be judged in the public mind. But what is clearly established now by this unequivocal statement from the Editor of the Age is that the scurrilous innuendo involved in the question by the honourable member for Boothby is totally without foundation. It does the honourable member for Boothby no credit. One must presume that he speaks for the Opposition when he raises these matters. Therefore, it does no credit to the Opposition.

More than that, the question of the stature of the Opposition is a matter for honourable members opposite, but the stature of this Parliament is a matter of concern to all of us. It does this Parliament no credit at all that we should have a responsible-or an 'allegedly' responsible-leading member of the Opposition getting up in this place with these sorts of innuendos. It is in line with the behaviour that we have witnessed in this House this day out of the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock). In no way could one have a more specific, unequivocal repudiation of the gutter tactics of the Opposition through the mouth of the honourable member for Boothby.

I conclude by expressing the hope that the honourable member for Boothby, and through him the Leader of the Opposition, will now have the decency, having had that scurrilous, baseless innuendo and implication completely destroyed by the statement of the Editor of the Age-one expresses the hope that there may be a skerrick of decency left there-to take this opportunity, which I am sure I can provide now, to make a statement in response to what I have had to say.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.