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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2659

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) -r-Last night during the adjournment debate in the 4 minutes available to me I was referring to the manner in which the Premier of New South Wales Sir Robert Askin - he changed his name from Robin by deed poll - introduced petty party politics into the opening of the Sydney Opera House and to the pettiness he showed in leaving the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Whitlam) sitting in the crowd. This was an event which affected not merely Sydney or New South Wales, but the whole of Australia.

Mr Mathews - He did not invite any Victorian members.

Mr ARMITAGE - All Victorian members and members of Parliament from other States were ignored. The important point is that he received great assistance from the Australian Government through the Navy, which provided ships, the Royal Australian Air Force, which provided Fill aircraft and helicopters, the Commonwealth car pool and television landlines. Sir Robert Askin was prepared to accept all that assistance from the Australian Government yet he left the Prime Minister to sit among the crowd and not on the platform. When the official party of about 100 went to tour the Opera House with Her Majesty the Prime Minister was left out. This was a dreadful example of pettiness and the introduction of politics. The New South Wales Premier even forgot the former Premier of New South Wales, Mr Joe Cahill, who piloted the project through the New South Wales Parliament and attracted great criticism for so doing. He forgot Bob Heffron who continued the project. He forgot the New South Wales Leader of the Opposition, Pat Hills who, as Lord Mayor of Sydney, was responsible for choosing the site of the Opera House and getting it set aside in the first instance. Pat Hills also helped Joe Cahill pilot the project through the New South Wales Parliament. These were all dreadful oversights, but there was worse. Mr Speaker, you would not believe it. He used of course, as an excuse, protocol. If a similar sort of function were conducted in the United States of America by the State of Texas, would the President be left sitting down amongst the crowd? That would not happen, even after the Watergate affair.

But worse is to come. Some very important visitors from overseas were present at the function. There was Mr Somare of Papua New Guinea. There was the Deputy Prime Miinster of New Zealand. There was Mrs Marcos, the wife of the President of the Philippines. They were kept waiting in the crowd for one hour. They had to wait in the sun and heat. When a representative of the Australian Government approached Mr Sid Grange, the protocol officer for the State of New South Wales, and asked him where he could take those international visitors, he was told: 'You will do nothing. This is a State function'. In other words, Sir Robert Askin treated the Opera House opening as his election campaign opening and put on as good a turn for his friends and supporters as Thommo's puts on for its customers. Without a doubt, he is rushing to the polls before the Barton affair breaks and destroys him. As I said before, it is a pity that a great national day was marred by petty politics. The Premier would have earned great credit by recognising the work that had been done by Joe Cahill and Pat Hills and by not taking the opportunity to play party politics on such an important occasion. Unfortunately, he was too petty to face up to doing the job properly; he was too much of a larrikin.

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