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Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1039

Mr SNEDDEN - My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Because the conspiracy which he said stimulated Senator Murphy's police raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was shared by the Prime Minister's own Department and his other Department, Foreign Affairs, and principally supported by the Attorney-General's Department, why was ASIO rather than the other departments singled out for the spectacular raid? Given that the Department of Foreign Affairs had the dominant role in the alleged plot, as read out by the Prime Minister yesterday in an excerpt from an ASIO document, and given the seriousness which he ascribed to it as a conspiracy, why did not Senator Murphy bring the matter immediately to his attention rather than allow him to hear about it by other means after the event, on his own acknowledgment, and after it had been widely reported? Why did Senator Murphy attempt to obtain the information he felt he needed by this method rather than by proper administrative means and in doing so avoid a charade and preserve the viability of ASIO? If the Prime Minister has not ascertained this information, as one would presume it was his duty to do as Prime Minister, why has he not done so? As the Commonwealth Police were present in the conspiracy and therefore fully involved, why was it necessary for one part of the conspiracy to raid another part of it?

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - The word 'conspiracy' was first used by the right honourable gentleman, not by me. The right honourable gentleman used the term first by way of interjection when I was answering a question asked by him. He said:

What about the conspiracy between AttorneyGeneral's and Foreign Affairs?

I answered:

The right honourable gentleman asks a question about conspiracy, lt would certainly, on the face of it, indicate that there was a conspiracy between public servants to withhold the truth from the Parliament.

I have been very careful nol to assert that there has been a conspiracy. It is conceivable that the report which the ASIO representative made and which I quoted was inaccurate. It is possible that the ASIO representative misunderstood or misinterpreted what was said by the representative of the Attorney-General's Department and/ or what was said by the representatives of the Foreign Affairs Department. I do not take it on myself to state that the report is inaccurate, or that, if it was accurate, there was a conspiracy. I said that inquiries are in train in this matter. I should have thought that the matter would have been absorbed by any reasonable person on its first statement. The Attorney-General obtained this document from the ASIO quarters in Canberra late at night on Thursday, 15th March. He told me of the contents in the afternoon of Friday, 16th. I acted the same day.

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