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Wednesday, 26 September 1973
Page: 1587

Mr COOKE (PETRIE, QUEENSLAND) - Yes, the Prime Minister has been reversed by the Minister for Labour on television. Not only are we required to read a great host of national newspapers but also we are required to watch about 10 different television programs to find out who is knifing whom this week and what the Government intends to do. We had an interesting experience of this with the recent non-decision about interest rates.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - You have picked the game up quickly. I congratulate you.

Mr COOKE - Thank you very much. I consider that high praise. The Minister for Labour was left out in the dark on this question but apparently a few of the Prime Minister's close cronies were consulted by telephone on Sunday afternoon and told of the discussions concerning revaluation and the bank rate. The announcement was made on the Monday that the currency was to be revalued upwards and interest rates would rise.

Now that the House rises at 11 p.m. each Tuesday honourable members are able to get home and watch the Prime Minister's Press conference on television. The Prime Minister was very careful to say that the interest rates were really a matter for the Reserve Bank. He said that it was the banking system that would increase interest rates, not the Government Of course, an interesting event followed thai. The Caucus met the following day and found that interest rates would not rise. They were going to be selective. We noticed that all the Labor Party members who were eating in the dining room on Thursday evening left. A few scouts were sent out to collect the mavericks who were still around the place. They were all rounded up. We found out, by reading Friday's newspapers, that Caucus had rolled the Prime Minister and that the question of interest rates was now to be referred to the Economics Committee of Caucus. That is where the matter now rests. The money market is wondering what on earth what the interest rates will be. The matter was referred to the Economics Committee 3 weeks ago. We have not had a statement from either the Treasurer (Mr Crean) or the Prime Minister in the House. We have to read the Caucus leaks in the newspapers. Looking at the Minister for Labour reminds me of an occasion last session when a report was released of what had happened in Caucus about the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in respect of the election of union officials. I remember an article on the front page of the Australian' giving a full report of what happened in Caucus.

Mr Hansen - How do you know it was accurate?

Mr COOKE - I asked the Minister the next day. This highlights the point I am making.

Mr Giles - What did he say?

Mr COOKE - He admitted that the report was correct. Members of Parliament have to be a jack of all trades now. We have to read all the newspapers. We have to get the call in the House to ask the Minister concerned whether the Press report of the leak of Caucus was correct and whether it is the policy of the Government. We have to try to ferret out what the Government is doing from sources other than in this place. If we relied entirely on what we are told in this House we would be absolutely in the dark. We would never know anything. The only thing we would know would be that the division bells were ringing and that the gag was being moved.

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