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Tuesday, 29 September 1970
Page: 1803


Mr NIXON (Gippsland) (Minister for the Interior) - The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), during the course of his speech, said that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) had said that he had seen from his office window Vietcong flags at the demonstration. Honourable members will recall that at question time last Thursday I also said - I think I used the words - that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was speaking under Vietcong flags. But, of course, I was referring to the May demonstration rather than to the September demonstration, and I made that point clear as the day passed. There have been 2 demonstrations, and there have been Vietcong flags at both demonstrations. The Leader of the Opposition said in the House that at the May demonstration there were no Vietcong flags 'anywhere in my vicinity or in my sight'. The Leader of the Opposition is not a man who normally goes around with his eyes closed. He is very conscious and very aware of what is in his vicinity at all times. He is most astute at recognising dangerous political practices. I suggest to the House, in the first instance, that the whole of this activity today has arisen because the Leader of the Opposition has recognised that Friday was the most damaging day that he has suffered since he became Leader of the Opposition because the Australian people knew for once that he had given misleading advice and indeed damaging advice to the servicemen of this country.

We had combined with this the fact that just a few days earlier the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) had urged that authority had bad its day; that there were other ways of taking authority, such as in (he factories and so on. The Leader of the Opposition received such bad Press publicity about this matter over the weekend that he. the man of destiny that he is, could see that the position was going to slip from his grasp because of some stupid thing he had said. Honourable members opposite are trying to interject. What I am saying is factual. He advised young servicemen to mutiny. I suggest that the whole of today's activities are aimed at trying to colour people's minds about all the facts. The Vietcong flag was one matter. The question whether the Leader of the Opposition advised men to mutiny is certainly another and a more serious matter. I think that the Leader of the Opposition is very conscious of it and he very much regrets the position in which he now finds himself. But, nevertheless, he gave this advice. He advised young men to mutiny. This is the alternative Prime Minister setting the stage where, if he were Prime Minister, he would accept as a matter of course mutiny by servicemen.

The honourable member for Grayndler said that the Prime Minister had said he had seen Vietcong flags from his office. I have here photographs which were tabled in the Parliament today which show quite clearly that there were Vietcong flags within very close reach of the Leader of the Opposition. There is no doubt about that. We are arguing about facts. Were there Vietcong flags there or were there not? These photographs were taken, apparently, by the 'Canberra Times' at the May demonstrations. The 6rst photograph I have is a photograph of the Leader of the Opposition, and within a few feet to his left is a Vietcong flag. The Leader of the Opposition rose and took a point of order. He said that that is not the same flag as the one shown in the photograph of the September demonstration. The only difference between the two flags is that one flag on one occasion - 1 do not know which occasion - is upside down. I think that the Leader of the Opposition would be well advised next time to tell his supporters which way to carry the flag so that they carry it properly without insulting the Vietcong.


Mr Hayden - On a point of order, the issue for debate before the House is the way in which a photograph was falsified. Imputations have been made against the Prime Minister in relation to it. The issue is not whether Vietcong flags were flown or not which, frankly, is a trivial matter in the result.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no valid point of order.


Mr NIXON - It is not a trivial matter at all if the alternative Prime Minister of this country is prepared to speak on a platform when there are Vietcong flags in the crowd and he does not demand that they be removed. In bis own words, on television the other night - 1 do not want to misquote him - he said: 'While ! was speaking to 2,500 people in the Sydney Town Hall the other night there was a Vietcong flag put on the balustrade.' He told the people this while he was on television. But why did he not go on and say: 'As alternative Prime Minister of this country I will not speak under the aegis of the enemy flag. Have that flag removed.1? Why at the demonstrations this month and in May did he not say that as the alternative Prime Minister he would refuse to speak while the enemy flag was there? Why did he not say: 'I ask that that flag be taken down.' There is no question that the flag was there, lt is a fact. It is noi only a fact because it is shown in photographs that all members of this Parliament have seen, but because there are many witnesses in this Parliament who saw that there were Vietcong flags there.

I think that as the alternative Prime Minister the Leader of the Opposition is discredited by the very fact that he is prepared to speak on a platform on which the enemy flag is predominantly placed. I say that advisedly because the photograph of the May Moratorium shows a flag to the left of where the Leader of the Opposition is standing, to the left of the microphones. Bui there is a more damaging photograph thai shows another flag in front of the microphones, not yards but mere feet away from him. This photograph shows a flag with the Leader of the Opposition looking almost directly at it and, of course, the honourable member for Lalor is in a similar position.


Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - What-


Mr NIXON - If the honourable member for Lalor had been in the House earlier he might have heard what I said. The only difference between that flag and the other flag is that it is upside down. The honourable member might tell his supporters how to carry a flag properly.


Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - I rise to order. The Minister is referring to 1 of 3 pictures that have been introduced into the House. Evidence has already been given in the debate that the flag in question is not an NLF flag at all. The Minister is simply repeating this. It is a misrepresentation. Personally, I have no objection to anyone carrying an NLF flag - it is part of their right - but this happens not to be one and it is a misrepresentation of those involved.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no valid point of order.


Mr NIXON - I accept without question that the honourable member for Lalor would well know better than I an NLF flag. But that does not absolve the Leader of the Opposition from responsibility because he said on Sunday night there was a Vietcong flag in the Town Hall. He said it not only to me when I was watching television but to thousands of Australians who I hope were watching on that night. He said that there was an NLF flag on the balustrade of the Sydney Town Hall. Why did not the Leader of the Opposition demand that the flag be removed before he spoke? The simple reason is that he was quite happy to speak under the aegis of an NLF flag.

The whole of this debate arose because the Opposition moved a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister because he asked the Australian News and Information Bureau to photograph the September Moratorium in case there was a disturbance. Again, I think we need to look at the facts. The Prime Minister has said in the debate that he had a message rung through by his officers asking for information as to whether a photographer would be present. The simple fact is that the Bureau, which is part of my own Department, has, as part of its charter, the right to take photographs of this nature. There is no question about this. I make the point that there is no doubt at all that the ANIB, which is part of my Department, has within its charter the right to take photographs of any demonstration whether it be a demonstration like the Moratorium, a public gathering like Moomba, the Melbourne Cup or the grand final. It can take photographs of anything it likes and this is shown quite clearly in the functions of the Bureau as set out after the revision in 1960.


Mr Morrison - Would you quote them?


Mr NIXON - With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate them in Hansard. They read:

(a)   to produce as required, publicity and information material for dissemination abroad with the object of making Australia as a whole more widely and more favourably known; of helping the people of other countries to understand Australia's outlook, endeavours and potentialities; and of helping to foster good relationships in all Australia's dealings with oilier countries.

(b)   in consultation with and as required by the Department of External Affairs, to prepare or assist in the preparation of publicity and information material designed to help achieve the political objectives of Australia's foreign policy.

(c)   in consultation with and as required by Ihe Department of Trade and Industry, to prepare or assist in the preparation of publicity and information material designed to support the execution of specific trade publicity and promotional campaigns, including the attraction of private capital investment from abroad.

(d)   in consultation with and as required by the Department of Immigration, to prepare or assist in the preparation of general publicity and information material to serve as a background against which specific campaigns to attract and inform immigrants can be carried out.

(e)   to provide, as may be required for attachment to Australian missions abroad, specialist Information Officers to pursue the above objectives in the field.

(f)   within Australia to act as a common service agency for the supply of specialised publicity and information services to Departments and instrumentalities requiring them.

(g)   to be responsible for film production for Commonwealth purposes and for the administration of the Australian National Film Board.

I would like to quote paragraph (f) for the benefit of honourable members. It reads: within Australia to act as a common service agency for the supply of specialised publicity and information services to Departments and instrumentalities requiring them.

The fact is, of course, that it is not only the right of the Bureau within its charter to take photographs but it has been its practice to take photographs of many demonstrations within Australia and I secured a list of those today.

I had no knowledge of the activities of the Bureau in this field and I find that there is a whole variety of demonstrations, public gatherings or public functions - Moomba is not specifically mentioned, I must say - mentioned in this list. But nevertheless the Bureau can, if it wants to do so, take photographs of the Moomba festival. It has taken photographs of the Sydney Stock Exchange at work, a surf carnival, a Hyde Park concert and other gatherings. It has taken photographs of demonstrations when Vice President Agnew was here. It took photographs for its own purposes - I did not inspire them - of the nurses demonstration, lt took colour pictures of nurses for the use in possible future publications. There is a demand overseas for photographs of this sort of activity from Australia and the Bureau is charged with the responsibility of supplying them. There is a request before it at the moment from (he NHK. which is the Japanese equivalent of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for photographs of demonstrations of this type. It has already sent some photographs which were taken in Sydney last year outside the Commonwealth offices. So it is quite common for the Bureau to take photographs at demonstrations.

The Bureau produced a book entitled Two Centuries' and I was generous enough to send every honourable member of the House a copy. If honourable members look at it they will see a photograph of a demonstration. If they look again at another book which the Bureau produced entitled 'Opposite Earth' they will see again photographs of demonstrations - anti-war demonstrations. We do not censor. This Government makes no attempt whatsoever to censor the activities of the ANIB and lo fell the world that we will not permit photographs to be taken of such demonstrations. We are quite open about it. We encourage it. Let the Bureau take as many photographs as it likes. Let it send them overseas. We have nothing to hide. We still have a record immigration inflow compared with that of any other country.


Mr Reynolds - Was it not asked to take these photographs?


Mr NIXON - The Prime Minister has said that his office was in touch with the

Bureau to see whether there was to be a photographer present. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) made the claim that there was an unusual number of photographs taken. 1 am surprised that he made this claim because the Leader of the Opposition even used the evidence of photographs taken by the ANIB to support his case. He said: There were 70-odd photographs taken and there is only one of me with a Vietcong flag'. I think this rather points to the fact that there was nothing malevolent in the activities of the ANIB photographer who was there. The Bureau was not interested only in the Leader of the Opposition and the Vietcong flag. Certainly he could well consider himself unlucky that it was proven again there was a Vietcong flat in his presence, because there was such a photograph. But the ANIB proved by its record that it was not out to show thai the Leader of the Opposition was speaking under a Vietcong flag, lt took 70 photographs - all types of photographs.

We come to what is probably the most important part of the charge, lt is important because the charge has been made that the photograph is faked. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and all previous speakers - even I think the Leader of the Opposition in Brisbane - said that the photograph is faked. I understand from officers of my Department that a photograph that is faked is one that has either had something superimposed on it or which, by some trick in developing, produces a different result from that on the negative.


Mr Reynolds - Or deletions from the photograph.


Mr NIXON - Or deletions from the central part of the photograph. I accept that. The only difference between the photographs is that there has been an enlargement of one for clearer presentation. There is no superimposition in the critical part of the photograph of some outside matter that makes the photograph a fake. There is no faked photograph. It is a simple enlargement which is made by the Press on thousands of occasions in their every day activities. Another photograph I supplied to the Leader of the Opposition I find was trimmed in the same fashion, but this time the Vietcong flags have been cut out. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition will charge me with faking the photograph. This is a wider print and for the purpose of easier working in the Bureau it has been trimmed to the one size. The Bureau kept 2 Vietcong flags out and here they are leading the march. The simple fact is, as is known by any photographer, that the photograph is not faked. It is a simple enlargement to show more clearly that it is a Vietcong flag and, without doubt, it is the Leader of the Opposition. I have been involved in this matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted from a newspaper report - I have a copy of it here. The report quotes me as saying:

The Bureau operates under its own charter and neither I nor "anyone else in the Federal Government tells it what to do, restricts it or censors it.

I had a fleeting Press interview at the Melbourne Airport on my arrival there and I made a statement to a reporter. When he asked me whether I instructed the ANIB to cover the Moratorium, I said:

No. It is not my practice to restrict, inhibit or censor in any way the activities of the ANIB. It is quite legitimate for the ANIB to take photographs of the Melbourne Cup, or Moomba or the Moratorium. So far as the Moratorium is concerned, as I understand it, there was a call from the Prime Minister's office to the ANIB asking if a photographer would be present at the march.

I made that statement on Monday morning on arrival in Melbourne. The very significant parts of my statement were not in the Melbourne 'Herald'. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has tried to put me at odds for some reason. The honourable member for Lalor even suggested that I might vote with the Labor Party because of my position in this matter. There is no ambiguity about my position. What I said to the Melbourne 'Herald' reporter is perfectly clear. I rang through to my office on getting to Melbourne and instructed my Press Secretary to put a copy of my statement in the Press Gallery so that everybody would know what I said. The simple fact is this: On Friday the alternative Prime Minister - it hurts me to call him that but he is still the Leader of the Opposition - was discredited; totally and completely discredited for the advice he gave to our military men during the caucus meeting. He was totally and completely discredited not only in this Parliament but in the eyes of the people of Australia, and he knows it. When the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) tore him apart on facts the only reply he had was a charge based on personalities. It is not often I have seen the Leader of the Opposition sink so low in public debate as to attack the Deputy Prime Minister about his age and other things, because he could not refute one fact in what the Deputy Prime Minister said in the debate last Friday. It stands on the record that the Leader of the Opposition wants national servicemen who are in Vietnam to mutiny. It is very clear and the people of Australia should know it. It is equally clear that there were Vietcong flags at the march. It is equally clear that under the charter the ANIB had a right to be there. It is equally clear that the Prime Minister, if he so desires, can check to see that the ANIB was there. The motion before the House falls to the ground and, indeed, stands condemned.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister's time has expired. Before I call the honourable member for Riverina I suggest to the honourable member for Bendigo that he heed my warning otherwise he will find himself outside the precincts of this House.







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