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Thursday, 29 March 1973
Page: 880

Mr MORRISON (St George) (Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories) - Throughout this debate the Opposition has conveniently ignored the appalling record of its members, when in Government, of apprising this House of its attitude towards foreign affairs. They did not try to provide this House with information upon which the House could formulate an acceptable foreign policy. I think more important has been the hypocrisy and the humbug that honourable members opposite have shown in the past in steadfastly refusing to give the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee the sorts of powers that my Party has put forward in this resolution. My Party, when in opposition, argued a whole series of points. In opposition we maintained precisely what we have now put forward. When in opposition we did not want the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee to be shrouded in secrecy. We did not want the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee to be a Ministers committee. We regarded it as important that this House should have a committee that was responsible to it. We argued that for the efficacy of the Committee there should be allocated to the Committee a staff that could carry out the work assigned to it by the Committee. Not one change which has been made in the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee was not forced on the previous Government by my Party.

The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) who was formerly Minister for Foreign Affairs, will recall that the Labor Party asked for open hearings. We made that request time and again and it was only following a compromise that the former Government agreed that open hearings would be held in the sub-committee on aid. That report has now been tabled and I think it shows the advantages that can flow to a committee of this House when open hearings are held. In opposition we put forward a whole series of points. As Deputy Chairman of that Committee it was said to me time and again: 'OK, you are saying these things in opposition, but see how different it is going to be when you are in Government. You will do exactly as we have done.' This resolution makes a lie of that point because every proposition that we put forward while we were in opposition has been duly recorded in this resolution which is now before the House and which is now being accepted by the Opposition - the previous Government - which did not have the intestinal fortitude at the time to put these exact propositions forward itself.

We have honoured the obligations that we entered into when in opposition by bringing them into this House in the form of a resolution. I am very glad that the Opposition has now seen the error of its ways in the past and is supporting what it previously denied. Great things happen to government members when they go into Opposition. I am glad to see that some lessons are now being learned by the Opposition.

Reference has been made to the reasons why Omega should be referred to the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee. Surely the difficulties and the controversy about Omega are related to the defence and foreign affairs aspects. This is the essence of the controversy, lt may or may not be true but this is the fear and the concern that has been expressed by people. We will refer this matter to the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee and the hearings will be held in public. Organisations will be invited to put forward their points of view and the Committee will be able to bring down a report guided by its hearings and by the evidence presented to it. We see that as a function of the Committee. We have lived up to the criticisms that we made in opposition. All those criticisms have been examined and the results of our policy are now incorporated in the resolution before the House. I commend the resolution to the House.

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