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Tuesday, 31 October 1967

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock (LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat. I have not yet given a ruling on the point raised by the Leader of the House. The debate this afternoon is the result of a motion moved by the Opposition. Certain, comments have been made in the course of the debate which would not have been allowed under normal circumstances. Whether they were wisely made is another matter. In thi; circumstances, having regard to the charge that has been made, I rule that there is no substance in the point raised by the Leader of the House.

Mr DALY - 1 thank you. Sir, for your wisdom and your fair and impartial ruling. I reiterate that the Prime Minister told us that these questions were asked in order to embarrass the Labor Party and so he was entitled to give false information in his answers. That statement must be answered by the Government in answering our charge. It is of no use the Prime Minister saying he could not answer my question asked in 1966 because today he produced the book containing all the information that I sought. It is this kind of reasoning on the part of the Prime Minister which lends weight to our charges.

Did anybody ever hear anything more fantastic than the Treasurer today trying to defend another Minister as if he himself did not have enough on his plate. He above all others is guilty of misleading the Parliament and deserves to be censured in the manner we have suggested. He has used these VIP aircraft as a taxi service between Canberra and Sydney. On fifty-four occasions he has used VIP aircraft. Evasively and deliberately he has misled the Parliament as to the identity of those who accompanied him on the flights. He told us that when travelling he wanted to discuss with high Treasury officials matters relating to his Department. A fairly accurate check has been made of the times he travelled. On four occasions of the fifty-four he was accompanied by Treasury officials. He said that on thirty-four occasions he was accompanied by a senior officer of the Treasury's commerce section. In this regard he is misleading the House unless he was referring to a Mr Mike Cranswick, who is an officer of the Treasury but who is the Treasurer's private secretary, with whom the Treasurer may talk at any time in the Parliament. The Treasurer has misled the Parliament in saying that high Treasury officials accompanied him in the VIP aircraft. Is it any wonder there has been a clamour, not only from Opposition members, for the Government to answer the charge which we level against it in the motion so ably moved by the Leader of the Opposition? In its editorial today the 'Age' states:

This month, under heavy pressure from senators, including rebels from its own ranks, the Government has suddenly found answers to questions asked 17 months ago - answers that the Prime Minister said were not available or could not be given.

The Prime Minister has said this, notwithstanding what the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) may say. The newspapers and others who are not on the side of the Labor Opposition in any issue are aware of the challenge to our democracy and our parliamentary system in the lack of integrity shown in the past 17 months by Ministers of the Crown. The editorial in the 'Age' continues:

It is hardly surprising that senior members of the Government now face, and are preparing to reply to, Labor accusations that they lied and misled Parliament. On the most charitable interpretation of what has happened, the Government has performed the impossible, or what it thought was impossible. The course of events that preceded and surrounded this performance has been as fascinating to the public as it has been embarrassing to the Government.

That is an indictment from a newspaper with a high reputation. Leading articles in several newspapers have questioned the integrity of Ministers because of the information they have kept from the Parliament in the last 17 months. Some of this Government's sins are listed in today's issue of the 'Daily Mirror'. The report on this matter reads:

The information, claiming that records of VIP passengers were not kept, went from the department to its representative in the Senate, Senator McKellar.

This indicated that the department was responsible for the inaccuracies given to Parliament.

Who is responsible if the Department is inaccurate? Is not the Minister responsible and is not the Prime Minister responsible for the Minister and to this Parliament? The report continues:

If the department was blameless, the Government would be faced with the situation of having four Ministers, including Mr Holt, on trial for having deceived the Parliament.

What a shocking thing it is that we have to move a motion such as this, questioning the integrity of the Prime Minister and alleging that he deceived Parliament. But there is justification for our action, as is seen from the facts recorded in page after page of Hansard. The report in the 'Daily Mirror' continues:

The statements which are said to have been misleading are: A claim by Mr Holt that no VIP aircraft had been ordered in the lifetime of his Government. Subsequent records show this to be untrue.

Another claim by Mr Holt that members of his family had travelled on VIP aircraft unaccompanied by him only once. The record show otherwise.

A statement by Mr Howson - the key statement in the whole issue - that detailed records of VIP passengers were not kept. Records have since been produced going back IS months.

A statement in the Senate last week by Senator McKellar, on behalf of the Air Department, repeating Mr Howson's claim.

A statement in the Senate last week by the Government Leader, Senator Gorton, saying that only a great deal of dissection could determine what pasengers were on the flights. Senator Gorton later produced the passenger manifests which made it obvious that no dissection was necessary.

By heaven, no jury in the country would fail to convict any government on evidence produced from those records of the Parliament and from statements made by Ministers. In repeating this evidence I support the motion because I believe in parliamentary integrity and in this institution and ali that it stands for. The Government must answer for the information that it gave to the Parliament. We do not want to hear from the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) the type of speech which we heard today from other Government supporters. We do not want to hear who was on the aircraft and who was not. Let the Minister get down to the terms of the motion. Was the information given to the House true or false? If it was false, who gave it? Is any action to be taken by the Prime Minister firstly against himself and secondly against bis Ministers for the lack of integrity shown on the isues before this Parliament? I support the motion. I hope that it will be carried by the Parliament. Never in more than 24 years in this Parliament have I known such misleading and inaccurate information to be given by Ministers. As for the Senate, it is good to have it as a watch dog on this issue. It is good that the Senate has brought to the light of day the shortcomings of the Government.

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