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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 2089

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) ('Minister for the Interior) - In answer to a question in this House on 21st March last, I referred to allegations said to have been made by Mr Peter Westerway, Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party at a Labor Youth Conference held in Sydney on 12th March. The following is the text of the report of allegations referred to me by the 'ABC News':

The General Secretary of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales, Mr Peter Westerway, claimed today that officers of the Commonwealth Electoral Office had rigged election results in key marginal seats in previous elections.

Mr Westerwaysaid ballot boxes had been substituted and votes deliberately miscounted.

The effect of this has been to help non-Labor parties in certain key seats.

Mr Westerwaysaid he had only found out last night how this was done.

But he was proposing that the Australian Labor Party would form a flying squad of 6 people trained to detect these irregularities.

The flying squad would concentrate on 8 marginal seats in Kew South Wales at the Federal elections later this year. Mr Westerway who is a former lecturer in government at Sydney University made his allegations in an address to the Annual Youth Conference of the Australian Labor Party.

He also claimed that the Public Service was providing call-girls for male Vip's

He said that he had no objection to the use of call-girls, but he objected to the public service paying for them.

There I end the ABC report. The substance of the allegations was reported by other news media. In a telegram to Mr Westerway on the next day, 13th March 1972, I asked him to advise me whether he had been reported correctly and, if so, to supply me with evidence to substantiate his statements. I also sent a telegram to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on 14th March 1972 concerning the allegations by Mr Westerway but neither Mr Westerway nor Mr Whitlam has replied. Indeed, both have completely avoided the issue. This silence can point to no other conclusion than that the allegations are utterly false.

I have discussed the allegations by Mr Westerway with the Chief Electoral Officer who has stated categorically that during his 30 years with the Electoral Branch, 13 years of which he has been the Chief Elec.toral Officer, there has not been a single incident, or suggestion of one, of any officer of the Electoral Branch rigging an election or committing any other malpractice in connection with the conduct of an election. It is despicable, cowardly and mischievous for a senior officer of the Australian Labor Party to slander and besmirch the reputation of the Commonwealth Electoral Branch and its officers in this way unless he can produce some evidence in support of it.

It is a curious coincidence that the very people to whom he chose to make the extravagant claims have since pointed the vote rigging finger right at the New South Wales ALP machine for which Mr Westerway is responsible. Indeed, the revelations which have come out about the preselection for a candidate in the electorate of Shortland must come as a shock to the Australian people. In seeking some reason or motive for Mr Westerway's fantastic allegations, I cannot help but wonder if he was not indulging in the tired old ALP ploy - the diversionary tactic.

Did Mr Westerway have some warning that he and the New South Wales ALP were for the hot seat and in desperation hit out blindly? I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to state whether he agrees with Mr Westerway. If he does, he should demand evidence of the allegations from Mr Westerway in order that the matter may be fully investigated. If he does not agree with Mr Westerway I call upon him to denounce the statements as utterly false. By his very silence the Leader of the Opposition stands aligned with Mr Westerway. Indeed his silence condones the falsity of the Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party.

The honourable member now has his chance to make his position clear. The honourable members of this House, indeed the Australian people, can make their own assessment of certain people in the New South Wales ALP, about whom serious allegations of vote rigging are being made by members of his own Party. I present the following paper:

Administration of the Commonwealth Electoral Act- Ministerial Statement, 27th April 1972.

Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

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