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Wednesday, 8 November 1967

Mr DALY (Grayndler) - If this decision on VIP aircraft has done nothing else it has at least temporarily brought together the Liberal and Australian Country Party members of this Parliament. It is significant that this is probably the only debate in this sessional period in which the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Liberal Party. The reason is that they realise as everybody in this Parliament has realised, that if they do not hang together they will hang separately. Of course, today Cabinet excused the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) and that is only because a Senate election is approaching. Everyone knows that but for that factor today they would have joined in demanding the resignation of the Minister who, to be charitable, is guilty of the greatest possible incompetence in ministerial office.

Let us turn our attention to the Minister for Primary Industry who has just spoken in this debate. Have we ever seen him to worse advantage? In this Parliament he is a vibrant young personality. He is the White Hope of the Country Party in elections to come. But what a disadvantage he suffered tonight. He was uphill in two ways: He was defending a Liberal Party Prime Minister and a Liberal Party Minister. That is a degrading experience for a member of the Country Party. In addition he was, as a reputable young Minister, defending a Prime Minister and Minister who are guilty of misleading this Parliament and the Australian people. Is it any wonder that he spoke with his tongue in his cheek in an attempt to defend the indefensible? Tonight the stuttering, muttering approach that he adopted to this problem made it apparent that he realises that the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who sits beside him tonight, is guilty of misleading this Parliament. But even more guilty is the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), who selected the Minister for Air for appointment to the Ministry and gave the answer which is a falsehood in every sense of the term, as has been stated in this Parliament even by the Minister for Air himself.

When we debated this matter a few weeks ago the Prime Minister said that it concerned pettifogging trivia. Today he said that it was being used as a gimmick and a political football. What is the reason foi the meeting of this House today if this is a trivial matter, a gimmick, and if it does not matter much? Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister has made two speeches today in this Parliament on this subject? If this is a trivial matter why was the Government afraid to adjourn the Parliament last Thursday night? It was afraid to do se because the Australian Labor Party had brought in a proposal which demanded that the House should meet to discuss what the Government terms a trivial matter. We are meeting today for the simple reason that the Government realises, as every person in this country realises, that this matter places in doubt the very integrity of the Minister for Air and of the Prime Minister and the very fabric of our democracy. Every honourable member has the right to expect the truth from those who are honoured by ministerial office in this country. The Government knows as well as I do that we are meeting today because this question is not a trivial matter.

The Minister for Air, who returned from Uganda at the weekend, was condemned OUt of his own lips today. The apologetic statement made by the Prime Minister did not deceive anyone as to his own guilt and complicity in misleading the Parliament on this question. In March 1966 I asked the Prime Minister a question regarding VIP aircraft. An answer was given on 13th May - 6 weeks later. This, of course, is really rapid progress for the Liberal Party of Australia. The Government had thought over the answer that it would give me. My motives for asking the question have been impugned by honourable members opposite. They have no right to impugn the motives of any honourable member when he asks a question. No matter what may be the motives of the honourable member concerned he is entitled to a truthful answer, not false statements like those that were given to me by the Prime Minister.

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