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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3208

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - As Chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices and as the person who was responsible for moving the motion that put this matter in the hands of the Privileges Committee, I thank the Committee for the job it has done. Naturally, I have read the Committee's report from cover to cover with great interest, and I endorse entirely not only the words of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) but also the reasonable words of the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) who was, of course, Chairman of the Privileges Committee when his Party was in government. I agree with him in particular that the main culprit - the choice of the adjective 'main' is mine - was certainly the person who showed this report to Mr O'Reilly, the senior reporter of the Sydney 'Sun'. I cannot see any advantage that would have been gained by any member of the Committee giving this report to Mr O'Reilly. I have to agree with the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) that I heard nothing in his remarks that reflected on any officers of the Committee or officers of the Parliament. I believe that this was a misunderstanding on the part of the honourable member for Corio.

However, having said that I must say also that I believe the honourable member for Gippsland has been guilty of rather debasing this debate by making allegations about the wider distribution of the report of the Privileges Committee. If I have read correctly the evidence given, I think I was the only member of the Prices Committee, of which I was Chairman, to appear before the Privileges Committee. I say to this House, as I said openly, honestly and truthfully, to the Privileges Committee - even though the transcript has not been tabled - and I have not seen it, obviously the honourable member for Gippsland has heard of what was said - I went for personal advice outside the Committee itself. I believe that this is something that is done on every committee, and by every member of every committee. I say that because I was a member of the sub-committee that looked into the matter under investigation, but I had particular responsibilities as Chairman of the Committee looking at the recommendations of the subcommittee in a short space of time.

I believe it is something that every normal person would agree is the normal thing to do. I think every member of the Privileges Committee realises from the evidence that I gave truthfully, honestly and openly to them, that in seeking that personal advice, the circumstances were such that this could not have been responsible for the leaking of the recommendations of the Prices Committee. I repeat, I am happy to say this to the Parliament as I said it to the Committee, and I regret that the honourable member for Gippsland has used this occasion to try to make that sort of implication.

There are 2 lessons to be learnt from this report. One is that as members of Parliament we must all look at the security of our documents. We must look also at the security of our offices. I have learnt only recently that some honourable members lock their offices and I think that this is something that should be commended to all honourable members. It is something that I shall certainly take into consideration henceforward in the stewardship of the documents that I have before me. The other thing to be learnt is that the members of the Press Gallery in this Parliament have responsibilities also. They are given privileges, but they have responsibilities too, and one of the great results which I hope will come from this Privileges Committee report is that those responsibilities will be highlighted.

If I have read the report correctly, Mr O'Reilly stated in evidence that he was not aware of the position at the time. I trust that he is now aware of it, and that all his colleagues are aware of their responsibilities in these matters. These are the positive achievements of the Privileges Committee.

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