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Thursday, 6 March 1980
Page: 631

Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - by leave- I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I have a few comments to make about this report. I have had very little time to peruse it, but it will be recalled by honourable senators that the last time a similar report was tabled in the Senate, I had quite a lot of things to say about Government back benchers travelling in Queensland on the VIP aircraft chartered by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I am happy to see in this report that the Prime Minister must have taken some cognisance of my remarks. In looking through the report hurriedly I find that on only three occasions have back benchers of the Government been passengers on VIP aircraft. I will refer to them firstly and then I will refer to another passenger who has brought about some discussion in this Parliament.

I see that Senator Davidson is one of the people popular with the Prime Minister. He travelled from Essendon to Adelaide to Canberra on 24 September. Looking hurriedly at the report, he is the only member of the Senate I could find who has had the pleasure of accompanying the Prime Minister on VIP trips. I notice that Mr Katter is still very popular with the Prime Minister when he is travelling around Queensland. He is one of the back benchers of the Government who I had occasion to mention the last time a similar report on this matter was tabled. Mr Katter travelled from Canberra to Rockhampton on 28 September last year. He travelled with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Staley, from Thangool to Emerald on 10 December and 1 1 December 1979. So it would appear that the back bench members from Queensland receive some special privilege in being allowed to travel on VIP aircraft around that State. No doubt this travel was for political purposes. Of course, we all know that members of parliament receive certain charter rights under the direction of the Remuneration Tribunal to service their electorate. It appears very strange that, particularly in Queensland, back bench members, who receive a very liberal allowance for their big electorates, are still allowed to travel with the Prime Minister and his Ministers. It appears that the number of flights has been severely curtailed since I raised this matter in the Parliament. I think that goes to show that we get some results when we pay very close attention to the use of these VIP aircraft.

The other matter I wish to raise, which is now in the manifest, is the travel undertaken by one member of the staff of the Liberal Party of Australia, Mr Eggleton. I notice in the schedule of flights that he travelled from Canberra to Perth, to the Seychelles, to Lagos, to Dar es Salaam and to Lusaka, and from Lusaka to Mauritius, to Perth and to Canberra. This trip was the subject of a question asked in the Senate on 23 August by my colleague Senator Sibraa. The question was directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, and asked for some particulars about that trip. In the course of Senator Carrick 's answer, he said:

I do not think that anybody throughout the Commonwealth of Nations would question the extremely high standing of Mr Eggleton, his particular objective expertise and his knowledge of the Commonwealth secretariat and, therefore, . . .

Senator Carrickwent on.

Senator Wheeldon - His name is a household word in Delhi and Bangladesh.

Senator McLAREN -Mr Eggleton? No doubt it is. But since Senator Carrick made that statement to the Senate we now know that the same Mr Eggleton was the person responsible for severely doctoring some documents that came into his possession from the Australian Labor Party office at Curtin House.

Senator Grimes - He also had Mr Mugabe elected.

Senator McLAREN -He had Mr Mugabe with him too, did he?

Senator Grimes - Yes.

Senator McLAREN - I am not concerned about who he had with him. What I am concerned about is the answer that Senator Carrick gave. I repeat that he said that Mr Eggleton was a man of 'extremely high standing'. Yet we find that documents were doctored by this same person to try to vilify the Australian Labor Party.

This is a person who is able to travel on this VIP aircraft at taxpayers' expense, I believe, or can the Minister tell us that the Liberal Party of Australia has paid for Mr Eggleton 's fare on this trip around the world? I am not aware that Senator Sibraa has yet received the details he asked for. He may have received them. I have not had time to ask him whether he has because this document has only just been tabled. I look forward to having some more particulars about this trip before the Senate rises for the election, which is appears could be held some time after 30 June, which is very soon. We need to know who the Prime Minister is ferrying around the country and whether these people, if they are not members of parliament are travelling at the taxpayers' expense. I suppose one should not be over-critical when a member of Parliament hitches a ride on a VIP aircraft, but one can be very severe in one's criticism when members of the Prime Minister's own political party are ferried not only around Australia but also around the world, particularly when one of those people is the man who is prepared, for political purposes, to doctor Labor Party documents and to give a false impression to the electorate. That is one of my main concerns. I hope that the Minister can give us an answer before the Parliament rises as to whether, in fact, the Liberal Party has made compensation to the taxpayers of Australia for the trip taken by Mr Eggleton.

I take a very dim view of the fact that members of the Liberal-Country Party Government can take their party officers around the country to advise them. We all know that the Prime Minister is sorely in need of a lot of advice when he goes overseas. I recall a cartoon in the Melbourne Age a few weeks ago when the Prime Minister was overseas and was travelling on this Boeing aircraft that I am talking about. It stated that Mr Fraser had left Australia to advise Mr Carter, that he had gone on to advise Mrs Thatcher, that he had then gone to Europe to advise some of the leaders of the government in France and West Germany, and the next caption stated that Professor Harries had gone to Honolulu to advise Mr Fraser on the way back to Australia on what he ought to say. That is typical of the Prime Minister. As I have said, he certainly needs somebody with him to give him some sound advice. This has been proven by what we have seen in recent weeks, the way that he has fallen flat on his face in regard to the issue of the Olympic Games.

I make a plea again that we get some more details about these flights. I think I made that plea the last time a similar document was tabled and I spoke to it. I said that we ought to have an indication alongside the name of the people who travel on these aircraft whether they are journalists, staff of Ministers, staff of the Liberal Party of Australia, or who they represent. I noticed from a quick look through this document that a Mr Kailis travelled in the Northern Territory and Western Australia on one flight with the then Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, who is no longer in the Ministry. These are the matters in which the taxpayers of this country are interested. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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