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Wednesday, 28 February 1973
Page: 99

Mr UREN (Reid) (Minister for Urban and Regional Development) - I thank the House for giving me this opportunity. Earlier this evening I was in my office listening to this debate and heard the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) making a statement about the security checks for ministerial staff. I listened with interest when he said: There is a card carrying member of the Communist Party who is a staff member of a Federal Minister'. The honourable member for Mackellar knows that that is a complete falsity. He knows that a question was placed on the Senate notice paper today by Senator Gair which was addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the following terms: ls Mr Harry Stein, referred to in Press Statement number 41, as 'Mr Uren's Press Secretary' the same Mr Stein who was formerly the Press Gallery correspondent for the Tribune newspaper and campaign director for the Communist Party in the 1964 Senate Elections.

The honourable member will note the answer to that when he reads tomorrow's Hansard. He will see that I have answered the question by giving a clear *yes'. It is clearly shown that Mr Stein is on my staff and clearly the honourable member for Mackellar knows that Mr Stein is no longer, and has not been for a number of years, a member of the Communist Party. The honourable member knows this to be so, from speaking tonight to a close personal friend, whom I do not want to name and who informed him clearly that this was the case.

I am not trying to defend anything here tonight. I am just telling honourable members the facts. In 1968 Mr Stein was the Press representative of the Tribune' newspaper in the Press Gallery of this Parliament. At approximately the time of the Czechoslovakian invasion he informed me that he was going to let his ticket in the Communist Party lapse. I said: 'Wouldn't it be better to stay in the Communist Party and at least fight against the hard line?' He said: "The truth is, Tom, I don't even believe in their cause any more'. At that time I was a backbench member of this Parliament. Never did I think that I would become shadow Minister, let alone a Minister of an Australian Labor Party government. But be that as it may, that is the position. About. a year ago I said to Mr Stein: 'Harry, if we become a government, would you like to join me as my Press secretary?'

Mr McLeay - And he said: 'Yes, Tom'.

Mr UREN - No. We see again the narrowness of conservatism and that those who have been so arrogant for so long do not understand this sensitive man. At first he said: 'No, I think it would only create problems for you as a Minister and for your Party'. I said that his appointment would be a matter that would test my strength of character; it would show whether I had the courage to stand up against men who would besmirch a man and who would determine that he and people like him have no real rights in this country. I tell honourable members clearly that irrespective of what the honourable members who sit on the opposite side of the House have to say to smear this man, I said: 'As far as I am concerned, Harry, I think you are a fair dinkum Australian and I would like to have you working with me.' This man worked with me before the elections - he worked his heart out for a Labor Party victory. As far as I am concerned he will remain on my staff while he does his job efficiently.

I say cleanly that before I appointed Mr Stein to his position I discussed the matter with the Leader of my party. I had the agreement of the leadership of my party that I could appoint him and that that would not be embarrassing to our party. In relation to security, as far as my staff is concerned there have been no requests for security checks. My personal private secretary was employed in the Taxation Office for 25 years, so I have no doubt that the security service has run over him from time to time. One of my advisers was a public servant with the National Capital Development Commission. There is also another young man on my personal staff who has not had a security check. They are the only 3 people who sight confidential documents in my office.

The only time Mr Stein would sight confidential documents would be when it would be necessary in the course of preparing a Press statement. But having said that I say to every honourable member that if Mr Stein should need to sight a confidential document I have complete faith that he would respect my confidence and the Government's confidence. Let us look at this question of security. Let us start dealing with real freedoms and liberties irrespective of whether this man is a communist. Let us. look at freedom within this land. In 1951 in this, country we fought for the right of every individual to stand free. If a person is in the Communist Party he has a right of employment in the Public Service, the universities or the private sector. As far as I am concerned every citizen should be treated equally under the law. Let us get above gutter politics. Let us start look- ing at the question of our freedoms. We have to examine, our freedom because people's freedoms are being restricted more and more. If we restrict a person's rights today, ours could be threatened tomorrow. I hope that this Parliament lifts itself to its correct level. I hope that people outside consider the matter of real freedoms, of the individual freedom of every member and of the right of every man to be deemed innocent until he is proved guilty.

Mr WENTWORTH(Mackellar)- I wish to make a person explanation.

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

Mr WENTWORTH - Yes, on 2 counts. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development said a moment ago that I had said that a card-carrying communist was on a ministerial staff. I said no such thing. I said that there was a story around that there was and that I did not know whether it was true. Therefore I refrained from mentioning the person's name. Secondly - a more serious matter - the honourable member said something which was entirely untrue. He said that earlier tonight I had conversations with certain friends of mine - I forget his extra phrase - which would have convinced me that the person concerned was not a communist. I can assure the House and the honourable member that I had no conversations in that regard at all and that I have not mentioned that name tonight to anybody at all and that what he said was utterly and completely untrue and unfounded. I am entitled to an apology from him for h. The one thing that emerges is mat in 1964, when this man was a communist, he was in close consultation with a man who is at present a Minister.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He is now debating the matter.

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