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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3249

Mr PORTER —Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER —Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr PORTER —I do.

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member may proceed.

Mr PORTER —In Friday morning's Sydney Morning Herald there was a report of the hearings of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs regarding the inquiry it is undertaking into the problems of asbestos mining at Baryulgil. In that article an allegation was made that certain members of the Committee, beimg members from the Liberal Party, the National Party and the Australian Labor Party, had boycotted the hearing in Sydney. The relevant part of the article states:

The Aboriginal Legal Service spokesman, Mr Robert Tickner, claimed that outside pressure had sparked a boycott of the hearing by half of the eight-man committee .

Mr Tickner said two Liberal MPs, James Porter and Neil Andrew, Labor MP, Lloyd O'Neil, and Queensland National, Ian Cameron, had failed to arrive.

I was asked by a journalist on Friday whether that was the case and I replied that it was not; that we had prior commitments. The article goes on:

But Mr Porter said he and his three absent colleagues had no case to answer for non-attendance at the Sydney hearing.

I was due to fly out to Roxby Downs this morning with Neil Andrew and some other MPs but the airfield was flooded and we had to stay here, he said.

That was a prior commitment and by the time I found out we weren't going to Roxby Downs it was 7.30 in the morning and too late to catch a plane to Sydney.

The allegation is that outside pressure had sparked a boycott of the hearing by half of the eight-man committee. That allegation is totally without foundation. In fact, I and the honourable member for Wakefield have already been with the Committee to Baryulgil. The Committee knew that certain members had prior commitments and would not be able to attend this particular hearing. I consider the allegation that a number of members of this House were not only subject to such improper influences, but also failed to carry out their duties as members of parliament to be outrageous and a breach of the privileges of this Parliament . Personally I do not intend to raise it as a matter of privilege, but rather intend to treat the allegation with the contempt it deserves. I add that insofar as this report harms the reputation of the members involved, those members can consider their position regarding the publication.

Finally, Mr Tickner, who is quoted in that report, has sent me a telegram which states:

Reported statements by me alleging boycott of asbestos committee hearing by yourself denied absolutely. No such suggestion made at any time.

On the basis of Mr Tickner's telegram, it appears that the article has also attributed the comments to the wrong person.