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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 3983

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - (Wannon - Minister for Education and Science) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said that 1 was givingan interpretation of what an Australian schools commission would do. Of course, I was not. I was reporting the interpretation given by Senator Murphy, who made it quite plain in the report that I saw that aid to independent schools would flow only after the position in government schools had been lifted to the standards which the Opposition might regard as desirable, and that can be interpreted in only one way: The report was a flat statement. Of course, if the Leader of the Opposition can achieve his will in this matter that might be one thing, but he may have an argument with Senator Murphy meanwhile.

Mr SPEAKER -I want to draw the attention of the House to the questionof personal explanations. Recently there has been a tendency on both sides of the House to make personal explanations which bring in questions of policy or endeavour to correct statements made by people outside this House. In some cases they are in relation to newspaper reports. Some of these explanations are in order but I would suggest that in personal explanations, in compliance with the Standing Orders, honourable members should state how they personally have been affected or misrepresented. The Leader of the Opposition was indirectly or directly involved in the matter about which he made his personal explanation this morning and I understand the problem with which he was faced. Rut ] am taking this opportunity to mention to honourable members that personal explanations should state where the member himself has personally been misrepresented. Honourable members should not enter into debate on differences of opinion that they may have with other honourable members and in respect of which they claim to have been misrepresented.

Mr WHITLAM(Werriwa - Leaderof the Opposition) - May I seek your guidance on the samematter Mr Speaker? I believe it is in response to your own efforts to control the wanton replies to questions purportedly without notice that the technique has been developed of omitting the usual references to myself or some of my colleagues in these replies. Therefore it may be that we will find many instances of Ministers, in answering questions from Government supporters ostensibly without notice, making reference to the platform of the Party to which the present Opposition belongs. In these circumstances, might 1 urge that you certainly would have our support in restricting Ministers to expositions of Government policy. May I also seek your assistance on another matter. In making a personal explanation the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made no reference to any statement in which 1 had misrepresented him at all. He expatiated on a report. 1 have not seen the Hansard report of what was said in another place yesterday and I doubt whether he has seen it. This would certainly seem to be a matter calling for your attention. There are frequent references to me in the Senate. I do not take up the time of this House in answering them, and 1 would hope the new President would restrain some of those utterances. But if there is to be conduct such as the Minister for Education and Science wantonly displayed just now, it will be inevitable that members of this House will be explaining things said about them in the Senate and senators will be explaining things said about them here.

Mr SPEAKER - I think that if the Leader of the Opposition reads what I have said this morning he will see that I have covered most of the points that he raised. But this practice is becoming too prevalent in the House and I have taken this opportunity to state the position from the Chair.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - (WannonMinister for Education and Science) - Very briefly-

Mr SPEAKER -Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Yes.

Mr Whitlam - By whom?

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) -The Leader of the Opposition. The honourable gentleman, in seeking guidance from you, Mr Speaker, again returned to the same matter in indicating that what I was saying was inaccurate and invalid. I want to clear up the matter entirely by reading 4 lines from the Senate Hansard. A section from the platform is quoted by Senator Murphy -

Mr Whitlam - I rise to order. Nothing that 1 have said refers in any way to what has been said in the Senate. Any reference to the Senate was made by the Minister. ' He is the only person who has made representations.

Mr SPEAKER -I uphold the point of order. ;

Mr Reynolds - I rise to order. Mr Speaker, I am quite perturbed by the necessity for personal explanations that take up so much of the debating time of the House and I wish to seek your guidance on the matter. Do your remarks this morning mean that in future we will not have Ministers answering questions about Opposition policies but rather answering questions in respect of their own responsibilities?

Mr SPEAKER -The Standing Orders do not give me that authority so I cannot enforce it.

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