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Monday, 17 September 1973
Page: 1038

Mr ANTHONY - My question is directed to the Prime Minister and it is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Wakefield. The Prime Minister in referring to the opportunities for asking questions is avoiding the basic issue which the honourable member for Wakefield raised. At the commencement of his Press conferences the Prime Minister reads out a long list of Government decisions. Two decisions were made in the last period of Parliament. One related to the Australian Industry Development Corporation, legislation on which will be debated in this 'House, and the other related to policies concerning Australian car manufacturing. The Prime Minister avoided bringing these matters before the Parliament. Again I ask him whether he will do the Parliament the courtesy of seeing that these matters are announced in Parliament before they are announced to the Press so that honourable members will have a chance to ask questions before members of the Press do so.

Mr WHITLAM - Everybody has the opportunity of asking questions. There are more regular and lengthy opportunities available for honourable members to ask questions than has ever been the case in my years in the Parliament. I have never cut question time off before a full 45 minutes has elapsed. There has been no diminution whatever in the opportunities for members of Parliament to ask questions. Let that be understood first. Secondly, it does happen that I give regular Press conferences on Tuesdays when I am in Canberra, whether or not the Parliament is sitting. That is new. I believe it is a valuable opportunity for the Press, for instance, to ask me questions or for me to make statements to the Press and thus to the public. That is the only new feature, that the Press also can ask the present Prime Minister questions. The Press could not always ask questions of earlier Prime Ministers.

The right honourable gentleman mentioned 2 matters. The first was the Australian Industry Development Corporation legislation. Everybody knows from reading the Australian Labor Party's platform and from hearing the present Government's policy before the last election what the Government aims to do about extending the operations, charter and scope of the AIDC. I thought it was relevant and proper for the public to know what progress had been made in that regard. But the general lines of the legislation and what would be in it were matters of general understanding and knowledge. Accordingly, it was useful for the public to know what stage had been reached.

The right honourable gentleman raised as a second matter the Tariff Board reference concerning the automobile industry. The right honourable gentleman and the earlier leader of his Party were Ministers in charge of the Tariff Board. It so happens that the Prime Minister is now in charge of the Tariff Board. But I do not remember that the right honourable gentleman or his predecessors in charge of the Tariff Board took the first opportunity or took any opportunity of tabling in the Parliament the references to the Tariff Board. If I am in error there I will happily acknowledge it, but I invite the right honourable gentleman to inform me afterwards when terms of reference to the Tariff Board were ever tabled and how soon they were tabled in the Parliament after they went to the Tariff Board. When Tariff Board reports have been received it has been the practice of this Government to table them as soon as possible. We try to come to a decision on them before tabling them, and to make a prompt decision. In the case of the film industry, when new features arose, for instance the establishment of a new portfolio and some corporations, instrumentalities, since the original reference was made, we took the early opportunity of tabling the report and saying that further consideration would be given to the industry in general. I sought leave, which I received, to make a short statement, one column in Hansard, in amplification of the Tariff Board's report on the film industry. Does the right honourable gentleman suggest that it should now be practice to table all references to the Tariff Board? If he suggests that I shall happily consider it, but this will be an innovation, as has been the weekly Prime Ministerial Press conference.

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