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Wednesday, 16 May 1973
Page: 2172

Mr MATHEWS (Casey) - Mr Speaker,I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -The honourable gentleman claims to have been misrepresented?

Mr MATHEWS - I do. I refer to Hansard of last Thursday, 10th May 1973, pages 1996 and 1997. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) said:

I understood the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) to say that Cardinal Knox was in favour of a royal commission. In the 'Advocate' of 10th May, printed under the heading of 'Clarification', appears this statement:

In view of the misleading statement published in an evening paper I wish to state categorically that I have not given support to the idea of a royal commission on abortion.

On the following page the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) said: 1 have been asked to correct a statement that was made by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) who said that Cardinal Knox of Victoria is in favour of the establishment of a royal commission to investigate the subject of abortion. I am told, and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) just confirmed it, that Cardinal Knox has issued a statement saying that he is not in favour of a royal commission. 1 quote from the Melbourne 'Herald' of 30 April where a report appears under the heading 'Knox Favours Probe on Abortion'. The report states:

The Roman Catholic Church favoured a royal commission into abortion, a spokesman said today.

The Rev. Fr. A. Rebeschini, private secretary to the Archbishop of Melbourne, Cardinal Knox, was commenting on State Labor's election promise of a commission.

Fr, Rebeschini is official spokesman for Cardinal Knox. He said Cardinal Knox shared this view 'The judgment would show the major social problems that lead women to having an abortion,' he said.

A Royal Commission would point out ins social and personal needs for women in the community - marriage counselling, family planning and sex education. It would show just what help single mothers need.'

The report goes on in that vein. It was amplified the following day by a number of morning newspapers including the 'Sydney Morning Herald'. I quote the report to demonstrate that my remarks were made in good faith. I find it very difficult to imagine how so detailed a report, consisting as it does very largely of quotations of direct speech, could be held to be misleading. I find it very difficult to imagine how, if the report were held to be misleading, the correction waited for a full 10 days. I believe that some explanation is due to people, if not from the Cardinal then from his official spokesman, the Rev. Fr. Rebeschini

Mr MCMAHON(Lowe) - Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

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

Mr MCMAHON - Yes, I do. In his reply to me the Prime Minister said that a Minister in my Government had received an invitation from the People's Republic of China and that I had refused to give him permission to go. Those are not the facts. The facts are that indirectly, not directly from the Government of the People's Republic of China, a suggestion was made to me that the then Minister for the Army should be permitted to go to the People's Republic of China in a private capacity, not as the Minister for the Army, and that he should take his wife with him. I asked for advice on this matter and the best technical advice I could get was that it was not practicable for the Minister for the Army to divorce himself from his ministerial status and appointment and go as a private individual. That was the advice given to me and on that basis I informed the person who spoke to me about it - I again state that it was not a person in any official capacity - that I was unable to agree.

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