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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 197

Mr KILLEN (MORETON, QUEENSLAND) - I address a question to the Prime Minister. My question concerns the matter of Crown privilege of documents and the landmark case decided in the House of Lords in Conway v. Rimmer, which considerably narrowed the circumstances in which the Crown may claim privilege of documents. Can the Prime Minister recall asking in April 1970 of the then Prime Minister a question concerning Conway v. Rimmer and the implications of that case for parliamentary committees? Can he be encouraged to agree that plainly implicit in his question is a suggestion that only in the most exceptional circumstances should any attempt be made by a Minister to withhold a document from a parliamentary committee? Finally, if I should succeed in getting that encouragement from the honourable gentleman, will he give an undertaking to the House that if a Senate committee should ask for the telex message sent by Mr Barbour of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, it will be placed before the committee?

Mr WHITLAM - I do remember the question that I asked of one of my predecessors on this matter. The honourable and learned gentleman will not be surprised that my colleagues and I are considering the matter at this moment - not only the question of documents but also that of witnesses. I cannot say how soon, but I would hope that a statement might be made to the Parliament on the question. I shall not anticipate what the Government decision would be on the specific instance he mentions of the purported telex message. I shall await the request or the summons whatever it may be, from the committee. It would be quite impertinent for me to anticipate the deliberations of that particular committee. I shall take this opportunity of saying that yesterday I told the House that I had not seen the Director-General of Security since late on the afternoon of Saturday 17 March. I overlooked the fact that I did see him a couple of months later in my office for a few minutes concerning the appropriations to be made for ASIO in the Budget.

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