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Wednesday, 8 November 1967


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) make two speeches today and three speeches before today on this subject. Not on one occasion has the right honourable gentleman chosen to explain to the Parliament how it was that he came to tell the Parliament a falsehood when he answered a question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) last year - 16 or 17 months ago. It is of no use for the Prime Minister to assume that he has been acquitted of the charge that was levelled against him during the debate on the want of confidence motion, but this is the way he behaves. He came into the Parliament and had the audacity to defend the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) as though he were the only culprit and the only one whose veracity and integrity was in doubt.

It reminded me of a court scene in which the principal and his accessory are in the dock. The principal suddenly jumps out of the dock, puts on the advocate's wig and gown and proceeds to explain why his accessory is not guilty. Then, not satisfied with this performance, he throws off the advocate's wig and gown, dons the judge's wig and gown and proceeds to pontificate on his own submission. That is the role the Prime Minister played today. He said: 'Look at the Minister for Air. He is a manly man and man of integrity. I ask the House to acquit him.' But as he pointed his one finger at the Minister for Air, three other fingers were pointing back at himself. He has not yet explained to the Parliament how it came about that he gave his false reply to a question.

The Prime Minister said that his Government has gone out of its way to give the Parliament all the information at its disposal. Let it go just a little further and support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and allow the Secretary of the Department of Air to come to the bar of the House so that we can get a little more information. I know that the reason why the Prime Minister is preventing the Secretary of the Department of Air from coming to the bar of the House is not to protect the Secretary, because he does not need any protection. If the Secretary were responsible for the false information that the passenger lists were not available, why did he go to such pains to preserve the passenger records that would prove that he had misinformed his Minister? Clearly the one and only person who can clear the Prime Minister of blame is the Secretary of the Department of Air. Nobody will believe that the Prime Minister really intends to protect the Secretary even if it brings down his Government. The Prime Minister made some play of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition had referred to the flight authorisation book which the Leader of the Opposition said contained the names of the people who ordered the aircraft or who used the aircraft.


Mr McMahon - No, he did not.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - -The Treasurer is not out of it yet; I am just coming lo him. When I looked at this book I imagined that it would be taken as literally true. But what do we find in this book? The Prime

Minister chided the Leader of the Opposition for referring to it. It contains the names of the persons using the aircraft.


Mr McMahon - The authorisation.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They are the Prime Minister, Mr Fairbairn, Mr McEwen, Mrs Hall I think it is, and so on. But I want to ask the Prime Minister something else. How does he account for the fact that he was able to supply the names of all of the VI Ps who appear on page 1913 of Hansard of 13th May 1966 if the information that he said was not available in fact was not available? Did he look into a crystal ball and discover it in that way? How did he discover the list of all these names? Let me ask one other question. In reply to the question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler the Prime Minister said that there were no records kept of the places to which aircraft in the VIP flight went. That is not true. It is an untruth. Whether it is a lie or not we will not know until-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will not use the word 'lie', lt is completely unparliamentary.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I did not accuse the Prime Minister of telling a lie. I said it was an untruth. Whether it was a lie or not we will not discover until-


Mr SPEAKER - Order! I remind the honourable member that the use of the word lie' in this debate will be ruled completely out of order.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If I cannot use the word 'lie' 1 shall refer to a falsehood. We know it was a falsehood. But it seems impossible for us to conduct a debate if we are not able to draw a distinction between the word 'lie' and the word 'falsehood' because here in this very book is information showing where VIP aircraft flew, although the Prime Minister told the parliament that the information was not available. I want to know from the Prime Minister how he was able to get the names of all of these people who used a VIP plane, without also being able to supply the honourable member for Grayndler wilh information concerning where the VIP planes travelled, when both lots of information were in the one document. Let the Prime Minister explain that if he can. If he cannot explain it he is duty bound to allow the Secretary of the Department of Air to come to the Bar of the House and to give these answers to the Parliament. If the Prime Minister refuses to accept the amendment there is only one possible construction that people can place upon it, that is, that the Prime Minister has something to hide, that he does not want the Secretary of the Department of Air to appear at the Bar of the House because he knows that the Secretary will tell the truth. The Secretary of the Department of Air would not dare tell a lie to the Parliament at the Bar of the House. Anybody who knows the Secretary of the Department of Air would not even suggest that he would tell a lie to the Parliament. But honourable members opposite do not want the Secretary to appear because they fear his replies.

The Prime Minister says thai he has been in the spotlight of public opinion longer than has the Leader of the Opposition. That is correct. But I am not one, at any rate, who has always accepted the Prime Minister as one who would not mislead the Parliament when he got an opportunity. Let me remind the right honourable gentleman that on 19th April 1966 he got up in this Parliament and read a letter which he led the Parliament to believe was a letter written by the Editor of the Brisbane Truth', lt was only when it was challenged - when I asked that the document be tabled - that the truth came out. It was only by accident that we discovered that the letter which he pretended was a letter from a responsible person was from an anonymous person. How did this come about? He said: 'I cannot table this document because it is confidential.' He said: 'For instance, there are certain passages." He said: 'For example, there is this passage: "And for this reason, Sir, I am unable to append my name''.' It was only by sheer accident it came out that this was an anonymous letter. The Prime Minister got up in all solemnity and with the dignity that goes with the prime ministership of this country and said: 'Here I have a letter stating the opposite point of view.' A person who would do that to the Parliament would do anything to the Parliament.

I am not at all satisfied with the Prime Minister's statement so far. If it were possible to convert tragedy into humour, the

Prime Minister has succeeded in doing it this afternoon and again tonight. He has the cheek to tell us that we have got to accept as a completely satisfactory answer to the questions that we have asked and the charges that we have made that the Minister for Air had to be acquitted because the information supplied to him so far as records were concerned was either inaccurate or incomplete. This answer was available to the Prime Minister last week because he himself drew attention to it. But he did not use it last week as an excuse for what had been done because he thought it was too weak. He was hoping, like Micawber, that something would turn up. But when something did turn up from Africa it did not have any better excuse. All he could say was: This is the truth. The only excuse I can offer is the one you thought of last week but which you did not use because you thought it was too weak. Therefore I will hang on to it.'

I believe that the reason why Cabinet met was not for the purpose of deciding the question that the Prime Minister mentioned. It was necessary to have a Cabinet meeting to close the ranks behind the Prime Minister - not to decide whether the Minister for Air should be sacked or not. The Prime Minister was on trial and he knows that he was on trial. He got Cabinet to back him in getting out of it. There is a simple way for the Prime Minister to prove that everything I say is not true - that is, to support the amendment. Let the Secretary of the Department of Air come to the bar of the House with the documents and let us examine him. If the Prime Minister has nothing to hide he should welcome it. The only reason why he would refuse would be if he were hiding something that was detrimental to his own integrity. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to put on that false smile, but I know that deep down he does not feel like smiling, and no wonder. That is the only thing I can say to his credit.

During the debate on the want of confidence motion, I said I believed that the Prime Minister was guilty. I made that statement. Subsequent events have strengthened my conviction that this is true. I say that just as the Minister for Air had the decency to offer his resignation, the Prime Minister not only ought to offer his resignation but he should insist upon it being accepted because he was the one who committed the original sin. The Minister for Air merely followed up. We cannot allow the centre of gravity to shift from the Prime Minister's false reply to the honourable member for Grayndler last May to the Minister for Air because the plain fact is that both replies were in answer to a question on notice. Do not forget this. They were carefully prepared replies after weeks of cogitation and presumably after a great deal of time in which the Department examined them. This is the information we received. It was untrue. It was false. The people responsible for giving false information to this Parliament ought to be dealt with. If it is the Secretary of the Department of Air - and I do not believe that it is - he ought to be sacked. If it is the Minister for Air he should be dismissed. If it is the Prime Minister - and I think he is responsible - he ought to be dismissed. I say that in full recognition of the seriousness of the charge that I make against the Prime Minister. He can prove I am wrong by bringing the Secretary of the Department of Air to the Bar of the House so that we can examine him. This is the only way in which the Prime Minister can prove that he is innocent of the charges and of the suspicion that now rests so heavily upon his shoulders.

I believe that when the Minister for Air gave his reply a fortnight ago he did it in the full knowledge that the Prime Minister had given a false answer to the honourable member for Grayndler 16 months ago. I know that had the Minister for Air told the truth in answer to Senator Turnbull's question last week it would have exposed the Prime Minister's answer to the honourable member for Grayndler as being a false statement. In this instance, would the Minister for Air have done this without first of all discussing the matter with the person whose reputation would have been injured by a truthful reply? It is not likely, because he is eighteenth in the hierarchy. He is well down the list. Therefore, we can be assured that he did discuss the matter with the Prime Minister at the time. Therefore, the fact that the Minister for Air gave a false reply to Senator Turnbull would strongly suggest that he gave the false information to the Senate with the knowledge and approval of the Prime Minister. I would repeat that. No wonder the Minister for Air is smiling. No wonder that he said on his way home from Africa that he had a perfect answer for everything. And no wonder he looked so grave when he left the Prime Minister's office in Melbourne after the Prime Minister had said: 'No, that explanation cannot possibly be given*. Why was there this sudden change of face on the part of the Minister for Air? If it is true, as I believe it is, that he was acting with the knowledge of the Prime Minister, he should not have been made to resign. Let me amend that, and put it this way: He should not have been made to resign until the Prime Minister had first tendered his own resignation. That is what I say.

Up to this point, Sir, there appears to be no possible way in which the false information given to the Parliament by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air could have been exposed. But then the unexpected happened. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) secured the support of enough non-Labor senators to carry a motion requiring the Secretary of the Department of Air to appear at the bar of the Senate for questioning. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton) then knew that the game was up. He learned of this move in the afternoon and, on the Prime Minister's own admission today, he went and discussed the matter with the Prime Minister. It was then - and only then - that the documents that both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air said did not exist came to light - documents which, according to regulations, have to be kept, and documents that the Secretary of the Department of Air knew had to be kept because he was the person responsible for the implementation of the very regulations requiring these documents to be kept.


Mr Cope - They were caught red handed.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, they were caught red handed. It was only then, Sir, that the Government came clean and produced the passenger lists and the information that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air had said was non-existent. Not only were the documents produced, but Senator Gorton promised to give whatever further information the Senate might require. They were then prepared to do anything to prevent the Secretary of the Department of Air from being brought to the bar of the Senate. This they did not want to happen. Why? Why were they so terrified of his appearing before the Parlia- ment to be questioned? They feared the truth so much that they dared not have him appear before the Parliament to be questioned. We on this side of the Parliament have not the right to go to the Secretary of the Department of Air as members of the Opposition, but, as members of this Parliament, when somebody appears before the bar of the Parliament, we each assume the right of a judge in a court and every one of us has the right to question that person and to expect truthful replies. Knowing the reputation of the Secretary of the Department of Air as I do, I would say that he would unhesitatingly give the truth. And it is because he would unhesitatingly give the truth that the Prime Minister is not prepared to allow him to appear before the Parliament. The fact that the Government was able to produce the allegedly non-existent passenger and other records proved the innocence, as I said before, of the departmental officers who had so carefully preserved these records that were so damning to these people who said that they did not exist.

Not only was the Prime Minister the one to tell the original untruth, but also he admitted the other day that he had approved the answer to the honourable member for Grayndler without any alteration. I do not believe it. Frankly, I do not believe it, because I do not believe that the Department of Air gave that kind of reply to him to send in. I repeat that there is only one who can clear the Prime Minister of the guilt that I believe rests on his shoulders. Why does not the right honourable gentleman support the amendment? I say that if he had nothing to hide, he would support it. If he refuses to support the amendment, this will strengthen the belief in the minds of all who have heard these things that the Prime Minister is more culpable - much more culpable - than is the Minister for Air and that the Prime Minister is the one who ought to resign because, as is our belief, he is the one who was guilty of misleading the Parliament, and the Minister for Air merely followed the pattern set by the Prime Minister.







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