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Thursday, 18 February 1971

Senator MURPHY - My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who represents the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this chamber. I refer to the transaction involving Jetair Australia Ltd which other honourable senators have been interested in. Will the Minister tell the Senate what was done by the Department of Foreign Affairs in acquiring these aircraft in this manner? Was this the usual way of conducting such transactions? 1 ask the Minister whether he will request the Minister for Foreign Affairs to give consideration to making a full statement to the Senate dealing with all the circumstances, including the times, requests, amounts and so forth.


I indicated earlier that the Minister for Foreign Affairs spoke at some length in reply to a question about this matter this morning. 1 agree that in view of the interest being shown in the matter it may be necessary to have a completely consolidated, chronological statement of the circumstances. Personally I am in some difficulty because as honourable senators know 1 have been overseas and there was an acting Minister for Supply in my absence. Within 24 hours of my return somebody telephoned me - I think it was the Australian Broadcasting Commission - and asked me about the matter. I had to say that 1 was in the process of taking over my Department again and I would have to obtain the information. I think that before Tuesday I shall collaborate- wilh the Department of Foreign Affairs to obtain a complete chronological statement setting out what happened.

In response to a question asked by Senator Turnbull 1 pointed out that I had been told by an officer from my Department that al some stage - I do not as yet know the stage - officers of my Department were invited by the Department of Foreign Affairs to have a look at the aircraft. It is my understanding that the invitation was extended for the purpose of inspecting the aircraft in terms of quality and the requirements of the Department of Foreign Affairs, lt is also my understanding that when my officers had a look at the aircraft a decision had more or less been taken. It will probably take until the middle of next week to set out the procedure in sequence. It may well be that by that time I will be able to supply the prices at which the purchases were made. But my Department does assure me that, in view of the reason for which they were wanted and the purpose for which they will be sent overseas, and having regard to all the factors such as replacements and modifications, the purchases are satisfactory. That is all I can add at the present time. If 1 have not covered any point that has been raised I will be quite happy to set about getting this information into some sort of sequence. - Senator McClelland - Did they look' at any aircraft other than those owned by Jetair?


Obviously 1 could not answer that. If my Department was invited to look at certain aircraft those are the ones it would look at.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - I was going to allow the matter to rest after the Minister made his statement, but he ended that statement by saying that the purchases were made.


They were in the process of being made.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - You said they were made. Even if they are being made the Minister must know the price.


Of course I do.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - Why can we not be told?


The answer to that question is pretty simple. I think in any area of business when a transaction of that nature is being carried on both the buyer and seller have obligations not to disclose prices. It amazed me that somebody suggested that we should bandy about the prices while the transaction is still proceeding. The Department of Supply never does that. I should imagine that no Government Department does that, nor would I imagine that it is done within the commercial community. But the Parliament has a right to know this information in due course, and I will be the first to see that it is given the information at the appropriate time.

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