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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 1980

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) misrepresented me. I do not regard it is being a serious misrepresentation; nevertheless, I wish to make a personal explanation. Last Wednesday the honourable gentleman challenged me to take part in a debate in my own electorate. An invitation had come from the teachers in my electorate to all the candidates who announced that they would be standing in it at the forthcoming general election. I had accepted the invitation more than a month before the Minister for Education and Science made his challenge. As I understand the position, the Liberal Party's candidate for the electorate sent out a cry of 'help' to his State headquarters and said: T have never spoken on the subject. Please send somebody to speak for me'. The Minister for Education and Science was found to be willing.

He made a statement on the subject on Friday, which he was courteous enough to send to my office yesterday. I believe that is my loss and the general public's loss that his statement of last Friday received no publicity. He said that the committee of the Fairfield-Liverpool branch of the New South Wales Teachers Federation had decided to restrict the debate, listed for 5th October, to education in the electorate of Werriwa alone. That is not what the committee had decided. It had decided to invite the candidates for the electorate and had made bookings and prepared publicity on that basis. The agenda had been sent to me before the Minister issued his challenge. It appears that the Liberal candidate had at the time not yet accepted the invitation.

I come to the Minister's renewed challenge that I should appear to debate the national issues of education in the electorate of Cook on 13th October. The fact that he has raised it in the House saves me the trouble of writing him a letter to say that I am already committed for that date. It is not surprising, one would think, that political party leaders are committed so far ahead in election years. The function to which I was invited and to which 1 accepted an invitation has been publicised, and it would not be possible for me to withdraw from my commitment. I can, however, reassure the honourable member for Cook that it is altogether likely that I shall be appearing in his electorate once-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I think the Chair has been fairly lenient. The. Leader of the Opposition is referring to a very short answer that the Minister gave and I think he should confine himself to saying where he has been misrepresented.

Mr WHITLAM - May I conclude by saying that 3 of my children - all those then of school age - did in fact spend many years in schools in the electorate of Cook.

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