Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2121

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - I am very glad to hear the news that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) has just announced. I am sure that every honourable member in the House will be glad also. I rise tonight because I am greatly concerned about what appears in the Hansard record compared with what in fact is said in this House. Of course, I cast no reflection upon the Chair in this regard nor upon the Hansard staff. My complaint is against the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). During the course of a debate in this chamber last week in regard to the answering of questions during question time, either the Prime Minister or somebody in his Department fiddled with the Hansard record. I clearly recall the Prime Minister referring last week to the port of Kalgoorlie. I clearly recall you, Mr Speaker, calling me to some sort of order after I had interposed to say that in fact there is no port at Kalgoorlie, but that does not appear in Hansard. That part of the Hansard record was fiddled with. Mr Speaker, would you extend to me the right to fetch my tape recorder here during the course of the debates next week so that I can tape record what the Prime Minister says in answer to questions and check that tape recording against what appears in the Hansard record the following morning?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! This is an adjournment debate. I do not want to interrupt and exhaust the honourable member's time unduly but, of course, you cannot bring your tape recorder here. Secondly, I want to remind the honourable member for Sturt that the whole of the proceedings of this Parliament are taped. I understand that the honourable member for Sturt listened to the tape today.

Mr FOSTER - Yes.

Mr SPEAKER -I understand that the honourable member for Sturt who this morning at question time raised the question of the accuracy of Hansard agreed that Hansard was correct.

Mr FOSTER - This is a different matter, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER - I also want to say that that the same remarks apply. If the honour able member has any complaints about the Hansard record compared with the tape, they should be directed to me.

Mr FOSTER - During the course of my address to the House tonight I did intend to say that I was in error this morning, as I said to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr Bridgman, after checking the tape. There was some confusion yesterday afternoon when I sought leave to have some matter incorporated in Hansard. Quite a number of people were interposing and what have you. If you can assure me, Mr Speaker, that the corrections made by the Prime Minister to answers given by him to questions during question time this morning can in fact be corrected to the extent of the italics placed on the greens by the Prime Minister, somebody on his staff or somebody in the Department, I will accept that. Otherwise I would have no alternative other than to suggest that the only way around it would be that the corrected version be placed in Hansard and the italics of the Prime Minister be shown in such a way that the people can see what he actually said as against what he thinks he ought to have said after he has had an opportunity to look at the greens.

This is not the first occasion on which something of this nature has occurred. I must make some further criticism of the Prime Minister in view of the fact that prior to his occupying his present position he was widely known and widely reported in quite a number of newspapers as having attained the art of altering Press statements and what have you here and there. Having made public speeches, public statements in which he has said some rather foolish things, and then having realised later that he has said these things, or probably having been informed by a member of his staff, he would hurriedly race to a telephone and get in touch with the particular department so that his remarks could be vetted, checked, doctored, altered, call it what you like. He has done that in regard to Treasury matters that he has raised over the years. A more recent case was when he made so many boo-boos in statements about the visit to China of the Australian Labor Party delegation that he wanted a particular government department to give them its blessing by having them issued at departmental level. I do not think he was so victorious in that regard. But he has the right, as any other honourable member in this chamber has the right, to alter the Hansard greens to some extent. I am sure, Mr Speaker, that you would agree that nobody in this chamber, Prime Minister or otherwise, has the right to insert additional words which take the matter completely out of context and give a different version altogether.

Honourable members who want to question this practice have quite some considerable burden placed upon them. I would not want to make a nuisance of myself to the Parliamentary Reporting Staff by going down after each question time to listen to the tape, but it would appear that until such time as the Prime Minister is prepared to give an assurance to this House that he will not fiddle with the Hansard record we have no alternative but to do that. I think that would be a pretty correct assessment of the situation. One cannot take down in shorthand what the Prime Minister is saying at the table in answer to questions and then remember it to check it against Hansard the next day. If a copy of the greens of the Prime Minister's answers at question time could be made available to members pretty early in the day, then perhaps we would be in a better position to recollect our thoughts and then perhaps have some recourse to the tape. But I would hate to see the position arise where that was the only way in which we could check. God knows where the Prime Minister is at this point of time; perhaps he is in bed, but the fact is that he is not in the chamber tonight. No doubt he will hear about it.

I want to quote, if 1 may, the answer Which he gave to a question this morning. He said:

The Opposition disagrees. Equally too do we believe in taking part in the security developments of the whole of the South East Asian area.

He has in fact inserted after 'The Opposition disagrees' the words 'They will withdraw the troops'. Then the answer continues 'Equally too' and so on. Of course, earlier he had made some alteration by inserting, in lieu of 'members of the Liberal Party on this side of the House in the coalition Government', the words 'Liberal members on this side of the House in the coali tion Government'. Then, if I read it correctly, he inserted something about the security of the country. Further on, on the subsequent page, he included after the words ANZUS Treaty' the words 'The Government's', so that it reads: 'The Government's agreements with the Americans will be maintained.' Further down, if I read it correctly, after dealing with the platform of the Labor Party he added quite a number of words to convey quite a different impression from what in fact he had given to the House this morning.

It is for this reason that I rose to speak tonight. I only hope that as a result of my raising this matter, in future the Prime Minister will be more honest than he has been in the past in relation to questions that he has answered. Of course, one would hope that he would have more confidence in his ability - if he has any ability - and not resort to this type of subterfuge and correction to make his own end look much better than it was.

Mr SPEAKER - As Hansard comes under my administration and as the Hansard staff has been somewhat involved in this matter, I think 1 should ask the honourable member for Sturt whether he would disclose where he received a copy of the greens of the answer given today, which he produced in the Parliament. First of all, these greens are not the property of every member.

Mr Kennedy - Why?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Let me finish and I will call afterwards any honourable member who wants to speak. The Hansard greens are the property of the member who makes a speech in this House. The honourable member for Sturt has quoted from the greens in relation to the Prime Minister's answer this morning. Therefore, 1 think it reasonable that the honourable member should disclose to the House where he obtained them.

Dr Patterson - On a point of order, Mr Speaker-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Secondly, I want to assure the honourable member for Sturt, as I assured him this morning, that there is a complete tape recording of the proceedings in this House from which he can check anything that is said in the House by any member, including the Prime Minister, Ministers and Opposition members. Thirdly, the honourable member for Sturt should know that in this House members are allowed to make reasonable corrections, such as grammatical corrections or obvious errors, to their Hansard greens. Such corrections may be made, provided, of course, that they do not alter the meaning of the subject matter or introduce new matter. Any alteration outside of that has to be approved by me. If there is any thought that members of the Hansard staff have altered the record of the proceedings of this chamber, I think that is a particularly grave charge.

Dr Patterson - Mr Speaker, I rise to order. May I ask a question on your interpretation? You have asked the honourable member for Sturt to divulge the name, I assume, of the person who gave him the greens; but I assume that he is fully entitled not to reveal the person's name because there are plenty of other instances-

Mr SPEAKER - The honourable member is quite right.

Dr Patterson - The honourable member for Sturt is not to be held to that?

Mr SPEAKER - No. I am not insisting on that. The point I want to make is that all members of this Parliament alter their Hansard greens from time to time without altering the sense or introducing new matter. 1 also want to make the point that whoever made the greens of one honourable member available to another honourable member before publication in Hansard was in grave error in doing so. I think this is something of which the House should take note. It is I believe a deplorable practice and should not be continued.

Suggest corrections