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Thursday, 13 April 1972
Page: 1587


Mr MacKELLAR (WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Minister for Social Services whether he has received any apology from the honourable member for Grayndler and the honourable member for Bendigo for false statements concerning the origins of the policy of withholding unemployment benefits from men on strike, a claim made against him in this House-


Mr Scholes - I rise to order. The honourable member in his question has deliberately stated that the honourable members he referred to have made false statements. That is only a claim which has been made by the Minister for Social Services and I ask you, Mr Speaker, to rule the question out of order because it is based on a false premise.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Chair is not in a position to decide whether a question is based on a false premise. I have always adopted this attitude. It is impossible for the Chair to adjudicate on the authenticity or correctness of any question in the manner which the honourable member has requested. Therefore, to that extent the question is admissible.


Mr Scholes - Is the honourable member entitled to attribute to other honourable members false statements, thereby implying that they are telling lies?


Mr SPEAKER -The honourable member for Warringah in his question used the word 'false' and the honourable member for Corio, as a Deputy Chairman, knows that the word 'false' in this House is an acceptable word. In many cases its use is completely undesirable but, nevertheless, the word has by custom and practice been accepted. The honourable member for Warringah may proceed.


Mr MacKELLAR - . . . concerning the origins of the policy of withholding unemployment benefits to men on strike which they made-


Mr Charles Jones - I rise to order. I ask for the withdrawal of the words 'false statement'. They are objectionable to me and I draw your attention, Mr Speaker, to the fact that last night the honourable member for Sturt was required to withdraw the word 'misleading' when he alluded to the Prime Minister misleading the House.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! That is not correct and the honourable member knows it.


Mr Charles Jones - It is true.


Mr Kennedy - Mr Speaker-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat.

Inregard to the matter involving the honourable member for Sturt there is no point of order.


Mr Kennedy - I rise to order. If the question is to be answered on the same basis as it is asked then the statement should be correct and the statement I made-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order. The Chair will not attempt to decide what is wrong or right or true or false in any question.


Mr MacKELLAR - Perhaps I had better start again.


Mr SPEAKER -I suggest that the honourable member continue with his question.


Mr MacKELLAR - ... the policy of withholding unemployment benefits to men on strike which they made against him in this House and which the Minister subsequently proved to be false. Has the Minister received any apologies from people outside this House who publicly made similar false statements in regard to the Minister's administration of his Department in this matter?


Mr WENTWORTH (MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Social Services) - The House will recall that the honourable member for Grayndler said that I had no documentary or other evidence to support the statement that the Government was simply following the principles laid down by previous Labor administrations in this regard. The honourable member for Bendigo, in similar vein, spoke of the policy as being punitive and vindictive, and used other extravagant terms. The House will recall that documents were produced in this House which proved the truth of the statement which I had made. I am willing to admit that the honourable member for Grayndler may have made his statement in good faith and in ignorance. Although I know that the practices of the House do not allow me to demand an apology, I would have thought that his canons of ordinary decency would have constrained him to offer mi an apology in this regard. I am disappointed to have to inform the House that I have had no such apology as yet from either the honourable member for Grayndler or the honourable member for Bendigo.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He was writing one, I think.


Mr WENTWORTH - Thank you; I am obliged to my honourable friend. In regard to the remainder of the question, various similar statements were made outside this House by various persons saying that the Government's policy was vindictive and so on but without appreciating, apparently, that it was based on the principles laid down by a previous Labor administration. I refer particularly to a television interview which I saw, I think, on an Australian Broadcasting Commission programme, if my memory serves me correctly, with the ubiquitous Mr Hawke in this regard. I would think that possibly Mr Hawke, now knowing the falsity of what he was saying, would be anxious to tender me some apology. He is probably waiting for a chance to do it with the same amount of publicity as was given to his original imputations against me. I would be most happy to appear on television with the said Mr Hawke in order to receive his apology, and I am sure that in his state of ignorance, he will be offering it with graciousness.







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