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Thursday, 14 October 1971
Page: 2447

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I have the quote from the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on 'This Day Tonight'. In summing up you mentioned to the person who was interviewing you the issue of abortion. You then went on to say:

Now a chap who called on the Speaker yesterday -

I will deal with it as we go through - . . was told -

I want to repeat that Mr Mackerras did not call on me yesterday. The only time that Mr Mackerras has called on me was when he had a book for sale that he had written - I think after the election before last - and he called on me endeavouring to sell me one. That is the only time he has called on me. You said yesterday the chap who called on me was - . . shown a cutting from the Launceston Press reports on my views on abortion.

That is not true. Your statement further went on and said that this was going to be used during the election campaign, which is a statement of fact by you. I come back to my original statement and I say that the statement is absolutely incorrect, that Mr Mackerras did not call on me yesterday.

Mr Whitlam - I accept that.

Mr SPEAKER - That Mr Mackerras was not shown any cutting from me yesterday.

Mr Whitlam - But, Sir, you do not dispute that he told me.

Mr SPEAKER - Now I know who told you, but you based your comment in relation to this on pure gossip without even mentioning it to me or bothering to check with me, and you made this statement on national television. As far as I am concerned, the statement that I made in that regard stands for the simple reason that the facts that I have said are the facts in relation to the matter. I did not know who told you, and the fact is that you involved me and went on further in your statement in this matter to involve the candidate against me in an election campaign. If you read the statement you can take it in two or three ways as to whether I am going to vote for abortion or whether I am not going to vote for abortion. You said:

The Labor candidate, Joe Riordan, would vote against my relaxation of the abortion laws.

Whether that is true or not I do not know.

Mr Whitlam - That is what Mr Mackerras told me,

Mr SPEAKER -I am not responsible for the statements that Mr Mackerras makes. What I am saying is that the statement in relation to what happened in my office, as you say he called on me yesterday, was untrue.

Mr Whitlam - It was the Whip.

Mr SPEAKER - Nor did he call on the Whip's office yesterday.

Mr Foster - Not yesterday, 10 days ago.

Mr SPEAKER - This is the fact that I am disputing. Ten days ago I saw Mr Mackerras.

Mr Foster - -Ah

Mr SPEAKER -I admitted this in my previous statement. 1 said that I had seen Mr Mackerras 10 days ago.

Mr Whitlam - In the Whip's office.

Mr SPEAKER -In the Whip's officethat is correct - with some other members who were there. We spoke regarding electoral prospects; true. We spoke not only on abortion but on all sorts of things in relation to electoral prospects. I can see nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think all members speak in relation to those things. Therefore, 1 have nothing for which to apologise.

Mr Whitlam - Do you, Sir, dispute that Mr Mackerras told me of a conversation that he had had with you, not yesterday but 10 days ago?

Mr SPEAKER - 1 do not know whether Mr Mackerras told you or not. In fairness, I want to say that the position I was concerned about was the statement of fact that someone had called on me, I had shown him clippings and the clippings were to be used for a particular purpose. That is not true.

Mr Kennedy - You are disputing the 10 days.

Mr Whitlam - Yes, it is a quibble over 1 day or 10 days.

Mr SPEAKER -I admit I did this, but this was said on national television. I say quite frankly that I would have discussed with Mr Mackerras, as 1 do with anyone else, any subjects in relation to this Parliament or my work. I am entitled to do so once I leave this chair.

Mr Whitlam - I do not dispute that, Sir. What I am disputing is your right to use an unparliamentary term 'untruth' about me.

Mr SPEAKER -It is not unparliamentary.

Mr Whitlam - I used on television some of the conversation which Mr Mackerras had with me yesterday.

Mr SPEAKER - Which were not facts.

Mr Whitlam - I do not know that. I am not judging whether your statements, Mr Speaker, about this conversation are accurate or whether Mr Mackerras's statements about it are accurate. All I resent is that you should say that it was an untruth on my part to state that Mr Mackerras had had a conversaion with me and had told me the substance of a conversation with you.

Mr SPEAKER -The fact is that as it came over the air tonight Mr Mackerras was not in this. I did not know anything about Mr Mackerras, nor did I know who told you, until such time as I had made this statement in relation to it, and I based it solely on the television recording that was made on 'This Day Tonight'.

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