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Thursday, 15 October 1970

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) - On 2nd October, in the course of a public meeting at Corowa, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) launched a personal attack on , my integrity. It was not the first time that he had done so. He also issued a challenge to me to spell out the policy of the Australian Labor Party on wheat. In a scurrilous personal attack he said:

This is not the first time I have challenged his accuracy and I repeat that many of his statements cannot be relied upon to be factual..

Last night, during the debate on the adjournment of the House, I accepted the challenge by the Minister and invited him to debate the matter with me in the chamber tonight. I am delighted to see that the Minister is now entering the chamber. The main point at issue with the Minister is, apparently, the Opposition's policy on wheat. I will spell it out carefully for him. I am delighted that he is here to listen attentively. I will explain it very carefully for his benefit. I do so with the unanimous support not only of my colleagues present in the chamber but with the endorsement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the chairman and members of our parliamentary rural and resources committee and, indeed, the entire parliamentary Labor Party.

It is our policy to take in, and to pay the $1.10 first advance for all wheat within the national quota set by the Minister's own Government for the 1969-70 season. I point out that in relation to the 1969-70 crop the Federal Treasurer (Mr Bury) assured me - I have his letter to this effect - that the money would be available. He said that he would make available the full sum of $440m earmarked to take in the national quota set by the Government itself. We did not reach the national quota. The Treasurer had money left over. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and his colleagues refused to use the money earmarked for the national quota. Wheat growers and share farmers faced ruin as a result of the Government's decision to impose wheat rationing in the middle of a season. But even when the national ration was not reached and although the' money already was available from the Treasurer, the Government refused - and still refuses - to take in that wheat and to pay the first advance of $1.10 on the whole crop.

The Australian Labor Party has said that its policy is to take, in and to pay for all wheat within the national quota. This is a clear commitment and we stand by it. The same goes for this season. We would take in and pay for all wheat produced within the quota. The Minister and the Government know full well that Australia will not reach the national quota this year, for the second year in succession, yet they persist in heaping misery and restriction on wheat growers. They are the guilty men who have caused the crises in the countryside and they are trying to hide their guilt by hurling abuse at the Opposition.

Having clearly spelt out our policy for the Minister for Repatriation in this Parliament I invite him to withdraw and apologise for the scurrilous statements he made in a deliberate and personal way. This is not the first time that the Minister has been guilty of unparliamentary practice and personal attacks. He has soiled his office as a Minister of State by using that office to attack my personal integrity. The Parliament itself, through you, Mr Speaker, took him to task on 12th June and he was forced to withdraw his statements. They could easily have landed him in court if I had taken the action that many members felt was justified in view of the breach. But the Minister withdrew under orders the reflection on my credibility. I had hoped that he had learned his lesson. I had hoped that perhaps my .consideration in not proceeding against him might have led him to see the error of his ways. If the Minister is fully recovered from his earlier phobic reaction, then I invite him to do the right thing - accept that he was wrong, return to the days of his sporting youth and withdraw and apologise. If he is not recovered, then I commend him to the Department of Repatriation which he administers and perhaps he might seek some friendly advice for the phobic reaction which is marked in some people, by the way, by being thrown into a panic by anything from a toy balloon to perhaps the honourable member for Riverina.

My medical colleagues advise that it is possible the trouble is what is called in their parlance a reaction formation. In such cases the patient pretends to himself to possess motives that are the opposite of the real motives that are causing him anxiety. This could mean that be really likes the member for Riverina or his policies but that he has an anxiety reaction to accepting them. I only hope that any appeal tribunal consulted by the Minister does not dismiss the whole thing as being due to degenerative processes, as so often happens in such appeals. But if the Minister is well, then let him do the right thing and admit that he was wrong and apologise. If he is unwell then he should remain quiet and be guided by the good specialists in his Department. I might say that he will have our combined good wishes for his speedy recovery.

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