Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 11 September 1973
Page: 743

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) - I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

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

Mr LYNCH - Yes. I was misrepresented by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) on the television program 'Federal File' on Sunday, 9 September. In that program the Minister said that I had given him an assurance that I would not make public the very serious allegations made against him by the Director of the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration. That is not so.

Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman gave no indication of what he was going to speak about. He is referring to a Minister who is not in the chamber and I believe that the etiquette in these matters is that one does not go ahead in those circumstances. At any rate, the honourable gentleman has a question on the notice paper about this matter. I know about it because I have given leave for the correspondence to be incorporated in the answer.

Mr Lynch - I take a point of order. I do not believe that the Prime Minister is in order in debating this matter.

Mr Whitlam - I am not debating it.

Mr LYNCH - I claim to have been misrepresented and I take the point that it is within my rights to state the extent to which I have been misrepresented. If the Minister in question believes that the facts are not as stated, then of course he has the full right to use the forms of the House to make his position clear.

Mr Whitlam - The honourable gentleman is abusing the forms pf the House. He claims to have been misrepresented by something that occurred outside the House - that is, on a television program. The honourable gentleman would scarcely have been given leave or you, Mr Speaker, would scarcely have allowed him to make a personal explanation in respect to something which occurred in another medium.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I take a point of order. With great respect to the Prime Minister, a member may claim to have been misrepresented by a newspaper, which is outside this House.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I think it is in order for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to make a personal explanation. In the past a personal explanation about being misrepresented has been allowed when an honourable member has claimed to have been misrepresented by a newspaper. This procedure could apply also to television programs.

Mr LYNCH - I thank you for that ruling, Mr Speaker. It is a matter upon which the Prime Minister does appear to be more than usually sensitive.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will make his personal explanations.

Mr LYNCH - As I mentioned before, this is not so, and I seek leave of the House as I feel-

Mr Whitlam - It is by my good grace that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is making this explanation at this stage. You, Mr Speaker, asked me if I would defer tabling a matter until personal explanations had been given.

Mr LYNCH - Mr Speaker,I should have thought that I was making this statement not with the good or bad grace of the Prime Minister but, in fact, with the good grace of the Chair. The statement will occupy only about 3 further lines.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to continue with his personal explanation.

Mr LYNCH - I seek leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard all of the relevant correspondence in order that the facts can be placed on record.

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted?

Mr Whitlam - No.

Mr SPEAKER - Leave is not granted.

Mr Whitlam - There is on notice a question in which the correspondence will be incorporated.

Mr LYNCH - As leave has not been granted I am compelled, in order that the point of misrepresentation can be made clear, to quote from some of the correspondence. This will make the point of misrepresentation crystal clear. As I recall it, I wrote to the Minister for Immigration on 3 September referring to an earlier letter of mine of 2 September. I wrote:

I have received a copy of a letter to you from the Director of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. His letter, as you are aware, refers to certain statements made by you on Federal File.

I went further and wrote:

The Opposition is particularly concerned that the Director was restricted from discussing the question of Australia's membership of ICEM during his recent visit. If that was the case your remarks on Federal File did not accurately reflect the views of ICEM on Australia's withdrawal.

As I have previously sought to make clear, the Opposition believes that the huminatarian objectives of ICEM justify Australia's active and continued support. If you have misrepresented, albeit inadvertently, Mr Thomas's position in this matter or if certain restrictions were imposed on his visit to Australia, the Opposition would feel obliged to express its concern publicly.

The point of misrepresentation, of course, was that at no time in relation to the correspondence with the Minister for Immigration did I place any embargo on my capacity to make this matter public, particularly in the circumstances in which the fact of this publication came about as a direct consequence of a copy of a letter which was sent to me. That letter was to Mr Grassby from Mr J. F. Thomas, the Director of the Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration, and copies also were sent to Ambassador Corkery in Geneva, Mr Shildberger of the television program 'Federal File' and Mr Zurek, the representative of ICEM in Australia. That letter, dated 28 August, I believe makes some quite serious allegations which the Minister has not answered and which I believe he should answer because the Opposition has been pressing for a statement from the Minister for Immigration on Australia's immigration progam and it has not been forthcoming. As you are aware, Mr Speaker, we have heard more about Australia's immigration program from Mr Grassby overseas than we have heard from him in this House.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I would ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not to debate the matter but to confine his remarks to his claim that he has been misrepresented.

Mr LYNCH - In the letter from Mr Thomas, who is well known to members from both sides of this House as an international civil servant of very high renown, appears the following:

A copy of the script used on the 'Federal File' program setting out the exchanges of views between yourself and Mr Lynch has just crossed my desk.

My conscience would not be clear if I did not write to you to express my objections to the statement in which you are quoted to say: 'As a matter of fact, the Director, Mr John Thomas, was here in May and he understood this because we'd been discussing it since 1968'. I will not quibble over small inaccuracies," i.e. 1 actually was in Canberra in April and I could not have discussed the matter in 1968 as I assumed the office of Director of ICEM only in 1969. What I mainly object to is the inference that I understood the withdrawal of Australia from the membership of ICEM. I did not at that time and I do not today understand why Australia withdrew from an organisation serving such a great humanitarian cause - an organisation which had been so helpful to Australia in time of its needs.

You will recall that I asked to come to Australia and I was told that I would be welcome as long as I did not discuss the question of membership. At the time I thought this to be an unusual restriction but I abided by it in the hope that I might be able to speak directly with Mr Whitlam. Unfortunately I was told that Mr Whitlam could not see me. I am not certain that he was asked. I did get to speak with you on several occasions for which I was grateful. I thought that you understood my position and that you were sympathetic with ICEM's work with refugees. Therefore it is something of a shock to read the contents of your part of the interview. If there were any misunderstandings concerning ICEM's position during my visit, I would consider they might have been clarified by my letter of 19 April which was sent to Mr Whitlam on my return. I assume this letter would be made available to you, but enclose herewith a copy as reproduced for the last ICEM Executive Committee Session - though it was not possible to reproduce a reply.

When I was in Australia I pledged ICEM's full co-operation in turning over services concerning national migration in the various European countries by 30 June 1973. I have carried out my pledge in a very effective and efficient manner. I have done everything in my power to effect a smooth turnover with minimum hardship to the ICEM staff that had to be terminated and to the migrants involved.

I feel that I and ICEM have been very responsible in this matter and therefore it comes as an extreme disappointment to see my position being put forward to the Australian public in such a misleading manner.

I hope in some way you will be able to rectify this situation.

If the Prime Minister wants me to read some further correspondence I can do so. And if the point has been somewhat laboured let me say to the honourable gentleman that all that was sought on this occasion was the tabling of the file. While he is sitting here in his usual frustrated silence he can reflect that what has happened has been brought about by his own decision.

Suggest corrections