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Wednesday, 8 December 1971
Page: 4367

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) (12:49 PM) - I only wish that the few people in this country who still believe that the 'Daily Telegraph' is the newspaper you can trust had been in the chamber tonight to see the performance of their main witness and main leak in this House. I should like to address myself for only 2 or 3 minutes to some small parts of the evidence taken by the Privileges Committee. I refer to page 183 of the report of the Committee. Mr Donald Cameron asked Mr McNicoll:

Mr McNicoll.your comment that there was no checking or anything of that nature would imply that you would take everything that Mr Reid wrote for gospel?

Mr McNicollreplied:

Iri a situation .such as this, relating to everything he wrote of what is happening in the House, yes.

I refer to the next page of the report. Mr Donald Cameron asked:

Would you regard the word of one person only as being a sufficient basis to take the facts as presented, or as alleged, as being correct?

Mr McNicollreplied:

With somebody of Mr Reid's length of experience here, yes.

It is interesting to note that Mr McNicoll, after appearing for some hours before the Committee, apparently gave the 'Daily Telegraph' a story headed 'Senators question Editor-in-chief. As I read the report last Friday, after the House rose, I thought that the original article was probably par for the course and why should we get all that excited about it? After all, Reid's stories in the 'Daily Telegraph' about what is happening here arc nearly always wrong. I looked at the 'Daily Telegraph' for last Friday, 3rd December. There were 2 stories in it by Alan Reid. Honourable members will recall that he is the journalist whom McNicoll trusts completely and that is the reason why McNicoll will not apologise in the 'Daily Telegraph'. The first story is headed 'Liberals oppose pay rise, McMahon told'. This is an Alan Reid story. It reads:

MPs were convinced tonight that the rises recommended were at least $3,000 a year, which would lift their annual salaries, to $9,500.

Alan Reid has been here for many years, so one should never question his stories. Yet last Friday he was unaware that our annual salary was and still is $9,500 a year and was not $6,500 at that time. The second story is slightly more than par for the course. It has 3 mistakes in it. It is headed 'ALP's new stand on marihuana'. It was written by Alan Reid. I will read the 3 paragraphs which are incorrect. He is talking about a Caucus meeting. The first incorrect paragraph of the article states:

The ALP Caucus tonight overwhelmingly decided to seek to remove marihuana from the list of narcotic substances in the Customs Act dealing with narcotic substances.

An argument used was that marihuana - or can- :nabis - was not addictive.

That is not true. I mean that this argument was not used. The second' incorrect para* graph reads:

Removal of cannabis would. take cannabis outside the range of penalties provided for in an amending Bill introduced in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Customs (Mr. Chipp).

Those honourable members who were in the House last Thursday will realise that that certainly was not what the debate was about and that the article was completely wrong. The third incorrect paragraph states:

Caucus also decided that magistrates should be given discretion to impose less than the arbitrary $1,000 fixed by Mr Chipp's Bill.

Anybody who was here last Thursday would realise that the $1,00.0 had nothing to do with the legislation that dealt with narcotic substances. There was no minimum fixed in the legislation. So he was wrong 3 times in the one article. I am not surprised that he was wrong 3 times. On this occasian obviously it was not Mr Irwin who gave him the information, but somebody else gave him the information and he was still wrong. The important point to remember is that on that evening the same information was given to every other newspaper. Every other newspaper checked with people who were at the caucus meeting . and decided not to run the story because they realised that it was wrong. What did . Alan Reid do. He ran it, without checking with anybody on this side. This is the difference between a journalist who takes an interest in the proceedings of the House, and. ought to be trusted, and a journalist such as Alan Reid who will print anything that he thinks will damage the Labor Party. 1he. Committee has found that Alan Reid's story was wrong. The motion moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) includes this. The question is purely one as to the kind of punishment if any, if one could call it that, that should be imposed on the 'Daily Telegraph' and on the journalist concerned. I will nol go any further. If honourable members read the evidence, as no doubt most of them have, they will find that the reason for Mr McNicoll's decision not to apologise, as stated in the minutes, is that he has this complete faith and belief in Reid's reporting. That is the only reason why tonight I pointed to the 4 mistakes in Reid's stories on the one day. Three were mistakes which 1 think nobody in this House and nobody in the Press gallery would make. The other dealt with the salaries which we have been seeing for a considerable time. The 3 mistakes were not made by any other newspaper, although the same story was given to those newspapers.

Mr WHITLAM(Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.


Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr WHITLAM - Yes. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) misrepresented me. He attributed to me a statement allegedly made during the Committee hearing. I never made any statement in those words or in similar words or in similar substance. In fact, on none of the days that I attended the meetings of the Committee did any of the members advance arguments in Party terms.

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