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Wednesday, 23 August 1972
Page: 558

Mr SPEAKER -Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr WHITLAM - Yes. The Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) said that I had instigated - he used some such word - the allegations in his electorate that he was using his ministerial Press secretary in his electoral work. I have never raised this matter publicly in his electorate or outside it. I have been to public meetings in his electorate at which I have spoken and at which questions have been asked, but I have not raised this matter and it has not been raised with me. There is only one way in which I have raised it, and 1 did so on 12th July in a letter to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). The letter was acknowledged by the Prime Minister's principal private secretary on 17th July but it has not yet been answered by the right honourable gentleman. Therefore 1 shall give the text of the letter. It reads:

My dear Prime Minister.

I wish to draw to your attention the assertion made in the electorate of the Minister for the Navy, Dr Mackay. In a pamphlet Dr Mackay states: 'I have found it necessary to enlarge my staff in the interests of my constituents. The activities of my local office at Ashfield have greatly increased. I am therefore writing to inform you of the changes I have made. Throughout the week my electoral secretary and my public relations officer are both available for interview at my Ashfield offices. They are kept fully engaged dealing with the problems of my constituents.' I am informed that the public relations officer holds the position of assistant private secretary. Such a position clearly exists to assist Dr Mackay in his duties as Minister for the Navy, not as member for Evans. No member of the Parliament, except the member for the ACT, is entitled to more than one electoral secretary. While, as you know, I strongly believe that private members, particularly members of the Opposition front bench, given additional clerical assistance, I submit that Dr Mackay has acted improperly in allowing his assistant private secretary to work full time on electoral duties in his Ashfield office. I also submit that Dr Mackay has acted improperly in claiming credit with his electors for an expansion of his electoral office staff by diverting one of his ministerial staff for such duties.

I repeat that I have never raised this matter publicly in the Minister's electorate or anywhere else. The Minister made a reference to my own staff and particularly to the fact that one of my staff, Mr Race Mathews, is the Australian Labor Party candidate for Casey. As the Minister was stating this Mr Mathews was in his proper place in the House, as he is on every day the House sits. He remains a citizen, although he is on my staff, and at weekends 1 expect that he is working very hard to win the seat of Casey. My own position is that in my parliamentary office in Martin Place and 2 days a week in the office in my electorate there is one person who looks after electoral matters. She is the woman who has been my secretary all the time I have been a member of this Parliament. The persons who are otherwise on my staff are fully engaged in assisting me in my duties as Leader of the Opposition. They are not used in the electorate, even when that woman is on holidays, and this despite the fact that there are more persons in my electorate than in any other outside the Australian Capital Territory.

The second matter on which ( was misrepresented relates to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony). In answer to a question, which was not verified by the questioner, he gave his version of answers I gave last night on an Australian Broadcasting Commission television programme to questions on 2 aspects of inflation. T was asked whether I thought the parity of the Australian dollar and the level of Australian tariffs promoted inflation in Australia. In answer to both questions I said that I believed they did. 1 was careful to point out in answer to the parity question, that 1 did not believe that I had the same liberty to dilate on this subject as had economic writers, because so near to an election people might assume that after the election the new government would appreciate the Australian dollar. I said that I was making no such commitment.

Secondly, I was careful to point out in respect of the tariff question that in general terms I believe Australian tariffs are too high; all the advice I have bad on this matter led me to that belief. But I pointed out also that I found myself as impressed as did ali other elected persons, by specific representations. For instance, I had no answer to the representations on textile industries in country centres. 1 saw no other way in which women could get employment in those towns.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I appreciate that the honourable member is seeking to make a personal explanation but he is now going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation. He is now embarking on debate. He should confine himself to his personal explanation. The Chair is not concerned with divergences of views. It is concerned only with whether the member has been misrepresented.

Mr WHITLAM - If T take the point during question time I destroy the flow of question time. Am I to ask that the question be verified at that stage? There is some responsibility on the Minister, (n each case he volunteered these matters.

Mr SPEAKER -I think the honourable member well knows that a personal explanation is only for the purpose of showing where the member has been misrepresented. It is not an opportunity to explain views or policies. If the honourable member wishes to do this the correct procedure is to ask for leave to make a statement after question time. I ask the honourable member for his co-operation in this regard.

Mr WHITLAM - In relation to the concluding matter I wanted to raise, I can only claim to have been misrepresented in this case only as one of the authors. The Australian Labor Party's statement on exempting unions from tort refers purely to industrial disputes and is in the precise terms recommended by Lord Donovan in the British royal commission some 5 years ago.

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