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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1485

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs) - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) shows his usual confusion, in this case between Zagreb and Belgrade. All communications between Australia's Ambassador to Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Government took place under his Government, as they take place under my Government, in Belgrade. 1 wish also to dispose briefly of some of the usual personal references he made. There was no need for me to tell my deputy about this matter because the Department of Foreign Affairs knew as soon as I did and in the same way as 1 did about the message from the Yugoslav Government. Therefore, when my deputy became the Acting Foreign Minister he was in possession of all the information I knew and the Department knew.

Mr Lynch - He said he was not.

Mr WHITLAM - He said that he had not discussed it with me, and there was no need for him to discuss it with me. The Department knew the facts and if anything arose the Department was well able to give him all the facts. The right honourable gentleman has been looking around at various newspaper articles. They seem to be his sole reading matter these days. If a journalist who happens to be away with me makes some comment, the Leader of the Opposition assumes it comes from me. The fact is that I have never conducted long range controversies of that character. I was fully engaged on matters on behalf of the nation and on those matters alone.

Mr Speaker,you are too kind to the Leader of the Opposition. No honourable member has the right to speak on the presentation of papers. Because, out of the goodness of your heart, you allowed the right honourable gentleman to speak on the presentation of papers he is now abusing you and abusing everybody else that he can fit into a 10-min- ute speech. Let me explain how 1 came to present the papers. The right honourable gentleman and some of his colleagues were making aspersions about the Government's conduct of its affairs with Yugoslavia. Now they want to rely on some convention, that what they themselves said among each other in writing should always be kept silent. It is very instructive to see that there was no harmony and no co-operation at all between the former Minister for Immigration, the former AttorneyGeneral and the former Foreign Minister on this very important matter. It has taken my Government to produce some action and co-operation on this subject. All the information that has come out has come out as a result of the representations by me and my Ministers.

Of course, nothing would suit the right honourable gentleman better than for there to be some convention that whatever he or his colleagues said to each other in the past should forever remain suppressed. Admittedly, I suppose I baited the honourable gentleman by quoting from a couple of letters that I had here. Then he was in the position of having to ask for them. He asked for all the letters and he got all the letters. Let him explain his way out of-

Mr Garland - I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking earlier 3 points of order were taken in relation to keeping his speech within the terms of the motion which is a motion seeking the suspension of Standing Orders. I have listened to the Prime Minister for 5 minutes and he has made no reference to the motion. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to keep him also within the bounds of the motion.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to confine his remarks to the reasons why Standing Orders should or should not be suspended.

Mr WHITLAM - I shall do so, Sir. It is interesting to note that the honourable gentleman is an accountant. He is so poor with figures that he said I have been speaking for 5 minutes, although it is now 4 minutes since I started speaking. The Leader of the Opposition purports to move this motion so that certain documents can be produced. He specifies them as letters from which I have quoted. He has all of the letters which were in my possession. I quoted from 2 letters. The Leader of the Opposition was entitled to have those tabled if he wanted, but he has all the letters. The other document to which he refers is the document of 5th March by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation representative at the interdepartmental committee meeting in Canberra. The Leader of the Opposition asked whether he could have this document in a letter to me on 4th April. He said:

You say you are prepared to make available to me the document which the Attorney-General took from the ASIO office in Canberra on 16th March. I would be grateful if you could arrange for that document to be passed to me.

On the same day, 4th April, I saidthat I would not table the document, but if the Leader of the Opposition wished to see it I would show it to him. I said: 'The position remains as I stated it then. It will be available to you to see in my office. I am not able to accept your suggestion that I pass a copy to you'. The right honourable gentleman has not yet asked to see the document. That is how genuine he is in the whole of this matter. Four weeks ago he asked to see the document. I told him he could see it. He has not yet taken the trouble to do so. It is still available to him if he wants it.

The Leader of the Opposition is just taking up the time of the House in this matter. There is no excuse for the suspension of the Standing Orders at all. Letters from which 1 quoted have been tabled and all the letters in fact that I have and the document which he now mentions have been available to him all this time, and he has not sought them. These are not Cabinet documents. They are not documents which have to be locked away. The documents .are contained in the files of the departments concerned with the question of dual nationality. They very clearly demonstrate that our predecessors were at loggerheads on this issue, were getting nowhere, were receiving no information from the Yugoslav Government and were making no headway on the subject with the Yugoslav Government. By contrast, my Government has acted and has obtained all the information which has so far been available to anyone in this respect.

Mr SNEDDEN(Bruce- Leader of the Opposition) - I wish to make a personal explanation.

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

Mr SNEDDEN - The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has misrepresented me in 2 ways. He well knows that it was misrepresentation and false argument. If he had done it in a court of law he would be very severely reprimanded. I hope that he will be appropriately reprimanded by those honourable members who listened, including the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby). The Prime Minister argued that I had obtained all the papers for which I had asked. He well knows that the papers for which I asked were all papers relevant to the raid on ASIO and the execution of 3 Australian citizens. He knows very well that I do not have those papers. The papers he has tabled are only a selection that he brought in. He well knows that he was prevaricating when he made that statement and, Mr Speaker, any other man would be ashamed of himself for saying it that way.

The other way in which the Prime Minister misrepresented me was to say that I cared so little that, though he offered to let me see the document of which I spoke, I had not yet taken the trouble to go and see it. The fact is that he laid what was a very apparent and rather stupid trap. He expected me to see the document and then be silenced. I will not go and see the document and thereby be silenced, because there is nothing in doing that except to protect him politically, lt is not a case of failing-

Dr Jenkins - I rise to a point of order. It seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition in making his personal explanation is not just detailing the manner in which he claims to have been misrepresented, but is actively debating the issue. 1 take this point of order because it has been his consistent behaviour in the last half an hour.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the right honourable gentleman not to debate the matter. He is making a personal explanation.

Mr SNEDDEN - I am not debating the matter. I am explaining that, although the Prime Minister says that I have not taken the trouble to see the document, it is a deliberate decision on my part that I will not see it because if I do he knows as a matter of integrity on my part I will not speak about that document. The whole of Australia and especially this Parliament are entitled to see the document. That is why I have not gone to see it.

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