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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1163

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to speak to the motion?

Mr SNEDDEN - 1 am waiting for you to ask whether the motion is seconded.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - You can first speak to the motion.

Mr SNEDDEN - Let me deal first, Mr Deputy Speaker, with the matter you have just raised. I did adhere to your ruling but 1 believe that that ruling was not a correct one. Having asked for leave to make a statement and having then told you that I wished to move for the suspension of Standing Orders, you ought to have taken my matter first. However, I adhere to your ruling. You said that leave was refused me to make a statement, well knowing that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) could speak to my motion. That is why leave was refused.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - As has been the custom adopted by previous Leaders of the House for a long period, the Leader of the House rose to explain why he refused leave.

Mr SNEDDEN - He will be able to do that later. I have asked for the suspension of Standing Orders to make a statement for a number of reasons. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) this morning was confronted with an awkward situation. It is the practice of the House that leave will not be granted to make a statement unless that statement is provided to the Opposition 2 hours before the sitting of the House. This practice is known to every honourable member in this House. It is an arrangement between the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and has been the practice for some years. However, this morning the Prime Minister came into the House well knowing that he had not given that statement to the Opposition. He feared that if he asked for leave he may be refused it on the ground that the statement had not been provided in accordance with the longstanding practice. Confronted with that the Prime Minister, when ray Deputy asked him a question unrelated in specific terms to the statement, said: 'I will take advantage of the question having been asked in order to make a statement now, in question time, which otherwise I would have made after question time'.

When the Prime Minister sat down after making an answer to the question' - in fact, what he did was read out the statement - I said to him across the table: 'Will you give me a copy of the statement?' He said to me: It is the only one I have'. I said: 'Well, I will get it photocopied'. He said: 'Will you do that?' I went to my staff with the original statement - that possessed by the Prime Minister - gave it to my staff and asked them to make copies of it. I have in my hand a photocopy of the statement, copied even to the point of showing a bit torn out of the top of it.

I then handed the original statement back to the Prime Minister. He asked whether 1 would give it to Hansard. It was given to Hansard. I then said to him: 'Will you give me leave to make a statement?' He looked at the clock and said: 'I have to leave here by 5 to 11 in order to say farewell to Hammer de Robert, the Head of State of Nauru'. The Prime Minister said that I could have leave to make a statement if we could get it through by 5 minutes to 11. I said that I thought we probably could get the statement through by 5 minutes to 11. At that stage I had not read it. I had heard the Prime Minister read it out. So the Prime Minister made an arrangement to give me leave to make this statement. Pursuant to the undertaking given by the Prime Minister to give me leave to make the statement I asked for leave of this House, having warned the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) through my Deputy that I would be asking for leave. The Leader of the House either of his own will or under directions from the Prime Minister, is abrogating that arrangement which was made by the Prime Minister with me this morning.

Mr Enderby - Not the way that you described it.

Mr SNEDDEN - If the honourable gentleman is saying that he overheard the conversation, he has not only the wings of Ulysses but also the ears of a porcupine.

Mr Enderby - Not the way that you described it a minute ago.

Mr SNEDDEN - I am saying that the Prime Minister undertook with me this morning that he would give me leave. He asked whether the statement could be finished by 5 minutes to 11 and I said that I thought it could be finished by that time. As a result of circumstances that occurred during question time we were still in question time until lunch, or perhaps even after. I have forgotten exactly whether we had question time after lunch.

Mr Whittorn - We did.

Mr SNEDDEN - We did. I am taking the first opportunity available to me after the cessation of questions. Since questions we have had a couple of second reading speeches and statements made by leave by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) and the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). This is the first opportunity I get to ask for leave. It has been refused. It is quite clear that the Prime Minister wants only the Government view presented in this statement. It contravenes all principles and practices of parliamentary democracy which have been observed in this chamber heretofore, but of whose abandonment we have seen very real signs today.

The statement deals with a most significant public issue, so acknowledged by the Prime Minister. It is the only statement that has been made which in any way attempts to offer justification for the raid made by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), preceded by a platoon of policemen, on the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Apparently the Prime Minister wants only the Government view put. The statement purports to find that an ASIO officer made a wrong report. In other words, it convicts an ASIO officer, and that in itself is important. It does not deal with what was said at the inter-departmental committee meeting. It does not point out the true state of affairs. It says only that the ASIO officer made a wrong report of the meeting. The inquiry now having taken place, the statement does not explain why that inquiry could not have been the proper step to take instead of the raid on the ASIO headquarters.

It inferentially declares incompetent, or alternatively, engaged in a conspiracy to withhold information from their Ministers, senior permanent heads who are well known to me and for whom I have the utmost respect. Why could not a telephone call have been made to Sir John Bunting, Sir Keith Waller, Mr Harders of the Attorney-General's Department, Mr Armstrong of the Department of Immigration, Mr Davis, the Commonwealth Police Commissioner, or Mr Barbour, the Director-General of Security? That is apparently what has happened now. Sir John Bunting, the permanent head of the Prime Minister's Department, with the other permanent heads involved, has made an investigation, but inferentially the statement declares that they have been incompetent. It asserts that inter-departmental committees have not kept records and have failed fully, frankly and accurately to inform Ministers. It is an unwarranted attack on the Public Service.

The Opposition should be heard on these matters. If the Opposition is not heard on these matters the Prime Minister is not protecting his Party; he is leading his Party into a position where the public will know it for what it is - that is, when it is faced with a difficult issue it tries to silence anybody who would bring out the other side of the case. For those reasons - the method by which the Prime Minister did it, the undertaking he gave to me and the very serious nature of the matter - it is required to be subjected to examination by the Opposition. I have asked for leave. It has been known to the Government for some hours that I as Leader of the Opposition would want to make a statement. We have been open and frank about it. The Prime Minister chose to do it under the pretext of answering a question this morning. I believe that we should have leave. If we are denied leave, the Parliament will be a sadder place for the want of exposition of the subject.

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