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Monday, 19 October 1970

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) (9.8) - I cannot let what the leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said go unchallenged because it is so plainly and quite obviously false,I only need to say it is false. . . .

Mr Cope - On a point of order. If tha Minister is seeking to make a personal explanation that is all right if he has been misrepresented. But if he has not been misrepresented he has to seek leave io make a statement.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- There is no substance in the point of order. The Minister can speak at any time during the Committee stage.

Mr Foster - On a point of order. If you, Sir, rule that there is no substance in that point of order, how long is the Minister able to get up in this House after people who claim to have been misrepresented and continue his falsehoods against them?

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The position is that under the Standing Orders the Minister is entitled in the Committee stage to speak at any time and for any length of time.

Mr Foster - I agree with that. But what I maintain is that he should not be permitted to stand up all the time and continue m i misrepresenting,

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member is taking frivolous points of order. I warn him not to do so-

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - I was about to read what the Leader of the Opposition said in a Press statement issued by him on 23rd September. 1 will not read all of it. He said:

T told the Caucus that if I were asked by a man who objected to the Vietnam war as to the course he should take I would give this advice: He should register and at the time of doing so give written advice that if he was inducted and ordered to go to Vietnam he would not obey that order. If he was balloted in then he should present himself for bis medical examination and if found fit and should he be inducted, then he should give written advice that if he was ordered to go to Vietnam be would not obey the order.

This is advice not to obey the order. While it might be given in every particular instance to 1 person alone, and perhaps confidentially, if it is acted upon together by a number of soldiers accepting the Leader of the Opposition's advice it is plainly mutiny. So his advice could lead to a mutinous situation. At the very end of that Press statement - and I read again from it - the Leader of the Opposition said:

Never have 1 said that a man should not obey orders in Vietnam.

On 29th September appeared a report by a journalist from the Press gallery, Laurie Oakes, under the heading: 'Whitlam

National Service Call Applies to Men in Vietnam'. The report stated:

The Federal Opposition Leader, Mr Whitlam, said last night that a young man on service in Vietnam who decided it was a bad war should notify his commanding officer that he could not conscientiously continue.

That is an extension of the same advice to somebody in Vietnam, giving the direct contradiction to the statement at the end of Mr Whitlam's Press statement, which I again repeat:

Never have I said that a man should not obey orders in Viertnam.

Most offensive of all-

Mr Kennedy - I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. The Minister for Defence is going beyond a personal explanation and is now debating the subject. I suggest that he is out of order.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - 1 am debating it. I am not making a personal explanation. What was most offensive of all was when the Leader of the Opposition got to his 2 feet to speak tonight and said that the Army had accepted his advice. When he first made this charge I checked with the Chief of the General Staff to see what the position was. The Chief of the General Staff said that it was Army policy to post people by their ability, by their training and by their suitability for a job, not by their particular political views. This is a direct contradiction of the false, derogatory statement that the Leader of the Opposition has made concerning the national servicemen and the Army in relation to Vietnam. There is no end to the subterfuge that the Leader of the Opposition will use to try to deceive this Parliament and to deceive the people of Australia about the meaning of that Press statement made at a Press conference that, for some odd reason, he called at 1 1 o'clock on 23 rd September. Later, in debating it in the Parliament, he said he was one of the few people in the Parliament who could call a Press conference at that hour - with most offensive implications. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition very much wishes he had gone to sleep on that particular Press statement and read it again after breakfast the next day.

Mr Whitlam - Mr Deputy Chairman-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to be misrepresented?

Mr Whitlam - You have allowed the Minister for Defence to use unparliamentary terms like 'false' on several occasions.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! is the Leader of the Opposition making a personal explanation?

Mr WHITLAM(Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - Yes, indeed.

Mr Irwin - You are not complaining about that after what you have said in this House?

Mr WHITLAM - Mr Deputy Chairman,1 hope you will control this crapulous individual.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! Interjections from both sides of the House will cease. The Leader of the Opposition is making a personal explanation.

Mr WHITLAM - Mr Deputy Chairman, the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) quoted from a newspaper article by Mr Laurie Oakes. If he were to refer to the transcript of the television interview upon which the article was based he would see that I said that no man should disobey an order in Vietnam. The honourable gentleman has now said what the Chief of the General staff has told him. I have said on earlier occasions here and 1 have said ii outside, and I will repeat it: If any serviceman makes it plain that he will not go to Vietnam the Army does not send him there. This has never been denied up until now, because it cannot be denied. 1 will repeat the fact that I have represented more men of conscript age than anyone in this Parliament.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - What about giving us instances?

Mr WHITLAM - 1 am not going to quote names, but the honourable gentleman knows that half the troops that have gone to Vietnam have served in my electorate. He knows that half the commanding officers of those battalions are known to me.

Mr Jess - Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise on a point of order. This personal explanation that has been proceeding for some time arose because the Minister for Defence made a statement that the Leader of the Opposition had suggested that various servicemen, in certain circumstances, should engage in mutiny. The Minister read out the transcript of the speech. Can the Leader of the Opposition say that if one or more-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.

Mr Jess - There was no substance in tha personal explanation.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Wills.

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