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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4183

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the Prime Minister accept that the doctrine of ministerial responsibility extends to the Minister being responsible for the acts of those public servants who work within his portfolio? If so, has he inquired into the circumstances of the dismissal of Dr H. R. Bustard as principal executive officer of Applied Ecology Pty Ltd or has he inquired into the circumstances of the request by the chairman of that company for his exclusion from the board? Will the Prime Minister assure the House that Dr Bustard is not being used as a scapegoat for the failure of the turtle farming project in the Northern Territory? Will he ensure that the Minister responsible makes a statement in this House on the full circumstances of the dismissal from the position of principal executive officer? Will he also ensure that the whole of the details of the matter are revealed to this House? Finally, will he ensure that, if there is any ministerial complicity in the whole of the failure of the turtle farming project, the cur.cumstances of this are made public and that the Minister responsible is held responsible and required to take account of his actions?

Mr WHITLAM - The decent procedure to which I thought most honourable gentlemen subscribe is that if a question is to be asked about individuals - named persons - it should be on notice alone. The Special Minister of State will today be tabling reports which the former Minister secured on the turtle project. I do not concede that the turtle project has been a failure. It was established by our predecessors. We believe that with reasonable adjustments it could be a success. I want to assure the Torres Strait Islanders that the Government is determined to give an opportunity to prove the commercial success of this project. It is nowhere near the Northern Territory. I would have thought that the honourable gentleman, who was a member of the Cabinet which instituted the project, would at least know where it was.

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