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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4189


Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) ('Prime Minister) - The right honourable the Leader of the Opposition has misrepresented me and I wish to make a personal explanation.


Mr SPEAKER - 'Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr WHITLAM - Yes. A week ago the Opposition voted against clause 66 of the States Grants (Schools) Bill. That clause would have repealed in respect of the next 4 years the provisions of the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972. The consequence of failing to repeal the provisions of the 1972 Act in respect of the years 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 would be to continue the payments which were appropriated by that Act, and those appropriations would amount to at least SI 14m for 1974. In those circumstances the only consequence of continuing the 1972 Act would be to make such expenditures in addition to the Karmel Committee's suggested expenditures which were embodied in the present Bill. I do not 'believe I have misrepresented the right honourable gentleman. I have looked at the Hansard report of the debate on clause 66 of the present Bill. The only persons to speak on it were the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Acting Minister for Education (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the honourable -member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie). The right honourable gentleman did not speak in Committee on that clause.

The right honourable gentleman proceeded to assert that I had broken some undertaking. I have spoken on many occasions to gatherings on education over the years and I did speak in May and June last year. I was speaking in the context of legislation as it then stood. That legislation had not been opposed by my Party in Opposition. It was reasonable enough to assert therefore that it would not be repealed by my Party if it formed the government. But the legislation was repealed by our predecessors. They brought in a Bill repealing it. We did not oppose that repeal. But the attitude of my colleague the Minister for Education, who for reasons which are known and regretted by all honourable gentlemen is not here today, and I subscribed to the proposition which my colleague moved in the House on 26 September last and neither he, I believe, nor I then or later have departed from what was there put to the vote on his initiative in the House. To make the position quite clear, because such aspersions are constantly made about him and about me, I shall repeat the motion which he moved and which he, I and all our colleagues now in Government supported by our vote and which throughout the election campaign he and I put to the people. It reads: the House, while not refusing a second reading to the Bill, is of the opinion that it should provide for the establishment of an Australian Schools Commission to examine and determine the needs of students in government and non-government primary, secondary and technical schools, and recommend grants which the Commonwealth should make to the States to assist in meeting the requirements of all school age children on the basis of needs and priorities and that the application of this policy could not allow the continued acceptance of the provisions of the Bill and that therefore grants should not be made on the basis provided in the Bill in respect of any year after 1973.

I did not hear the right honourable gentleman's introductory remarks. I did not know he was going to speak. But I did hear enough to realise that nothing he said showed that I misrepresented him in answer to a question without notice but he did proceed to misrepresent me.

Mr SNEDDEN(Bruce- Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker, the misrepresentation continues. I have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, I do. The honourable gentleman says that I did not speak in the debate, and that is true enough. I was not here. But what the honourable gentleman says is that by taking the course of action of moving against clause 66 which would have enabled the repeal of the earlier Act we were committed as an Opposition to that course of action. The honourable gentleman well knows the provisions of standing order 292 of the House of Representatives which reads, in part:

No proposal for the appropriation of any public moneys shall be made unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended to the House by message of the GovernorGeneral . . .

There was no opportunity for the Opposition to get a message from the Governor-General. The rest of that standing order is not important. It was not within our power to move an amendment. I am quite sure that if we had attempted to move an amendment in the terms we have now published and that will be put in the Senate in the form of a message, you, Mr Speaker, would have ruled it out of order and quite properly so. What we wanted and what we still want is to achieve a situation where not just the children in category A schools but all children will receive per capita grants.

The honourable gentleman further misrepresented me in pretending that he had not made clear statements about the per capita grant legislation but that he had made them about some earlier legislation. That is just not correct. On 11 May 1972 Mr McMahon announced the new program of per capita grants. On 20 June at a Catholic luncheon in Melbourne Mr Whitlam, speaking of the then recurrent grants, said:

The ALP . . . will support any forms of benefit already existing. It was a clear promise upon which people relied. Furthermore, I ask the honourable members to look at the Karmel Committee report and also at the terms of reference. It says in paragraph 3:

The grants recommended by the Interim Committee will be:

(a)   for the period 1 January 1974 to 31 December 1975;

(b)   in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments;

The point is that at the time the terms of reference were drawn up there was a clear understanding given by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Education that the existing Commonwealth commitments would be continued. The whole matter is quite clear, and any continuation of attempts to misrepresent are just mammoth misrepresentations. We have had enough of it already, and I do not want to see develop a situation where my position is misrepresented in an attempt to discredit me or my policies or to enable the Prime Minister to escape from a clear undertaking which he has given. There is no doubt whatever that what is happening here is an attempt to deceive people into a belief that the issues are something that they are not. The issues are quite clear. There is no doubt that it is just a simple question of honour or dishonour and, Mr Speaker-


Mr SPEAKER


Mr SNEDDEN - I am saying-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! Personal explanations always seem to develop into a full debate of the subject matter of the personal explanation. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to divert his attention to the point of misrepresentation.


Mr SNEDDEN - I appreciate what you say, Mr Speaker, but what I want you to understand is that if the Prime Minister persists in getting Dorothy Dix questions asked of him so that he can misrepresent my position, I must have an opportunity to answer back. If I do not have the opportunity to answer back, the forms of democracy in this Parliament are being overridden, especially if the misrepresentation is false.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! In the interests of putting everything in order as far as the Chair is concerned, the honourable member should ask for leave to make a statement in regard to these matters. Over the years the situation has developed where honourable members make a personal explanation and then get away from the personal explanation and discuss the subject matter of the personal explanation. When the previous Government was in office sometimes honourable members took just on half an hour in making personal explanations.

Mr WHITLAM(Werriwa- Prime Minister) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.


Mr SPEAKER -Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr WHITLAM - Yes. The right honourable gentleman has used some strong words such as 'dishonour' and 'deceive'. He has made 2 points and, of course, they were made during his second speech. The first point is about the Governor-General's message. In fact, the Governor-General's message was received before the debate in Committee on the States Grants (Schools) Bill took place a week ago. lt is true that the point could have been taken in Committee, in the debate on clause 66 of the Bill, that it was out of order since, if the clause were defeated, there would be a breach of the Governor-General's message. The point was not taken, and the Government was prepared to debate the matter on the merits. But if there is any validity in what the right honourable gentleman has said, it would have resulted in no debate being allowed on clause 66. The defeat of clause 66 would have involved an appropriation and expenditure in excess of the GovernorGeneral's message which was received before the House resolved itself into Committee.


Mr McMahon - I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. It must be obvious now that the Prime Minister is disobeying the request that you made to the House that honourable members should point out where there has been misrepresentation of a statement that has been made. It is obvious that the Prime Minister is now trying to give another explanation relating to the legal interpretation-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I think that the right honourable gentleman has made his point of order, and I will give a decision if he resumes his seat.


Mr McMahon - I wanted to go a stage further, Mr Speaker, because I was going to ask you whether you would ask the Prime Minister to make a statement on this matter so that we all can participate in the debate. I personally am involved in this matter as I made a statement on 11 May 1972.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Chair has no jurisdiction to ask the Government what it will do. That is a matter for the Government to decide itself. I ask the Prime Minister to state where he has been misrepresented.


Mr WHITLAM - The right honourable gentleman then proceeded to misrepresent me again in regard to the States Grants (Schools)

Bill 1972 and matters which I had stated publicly in May and June of last year. The fact is that the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1972, to which my colleague the Minister for Education, as he now is, moved an amendment which I have quoted, was introduced on 14 September last year. The amendment to it was moved on 26 September last year. Very clearly, that was subsequent to anything that might have been said in May or June of last year. It was a new circumstance. The honourable gentleman then brought in - you are very tolerant in these matters, Mr Speaker, I must confess - a reference to the Karmel Committee's terms of reference. The Karmel Committee did not understand the matter - and it was a unanimous report - in the way in which the right honourable gentleman contends. The relevant portion of the Karmel Committee's terms of reference is:

The grants recommended by the Interim Committee will be:

(a)   for the period 1 January 1974 to 31 December 1975;

(b)   in addition to existing Commonwealth commitments;

(c)   directed towards increased expenditure on schools and not in substitution for continuing efforts by the States and non-government school authorities.

There is no inference there, and the Karmel Committee itself did not infer, that these grants would be in addition to the per capita grants. In fact, it is quite clear from reading the other terms of reference of the Karmel Committee that it was commissioned to apply the needs policy, and that is what it did. Since the Minister for Education is not here, I should repeat what he said in supporting the amendment which he moved and which I have already quoted. He said:

We take the attitude that in the forthcoming school year of 1973, this Bill-

That is the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1972 - must therefore be allowed to proceed. But we give a fair warning that if we are in power, while there will be an expenditure on non-government schools of no less than the sum total that will be appropriated in this Bill, the appropriation will be reapportioned - it will be reapportioned on the basis of need.

The Karmel Committee, of course, said that Government assistance to category A schools could not be justified. The right honourable gentleman has misrepresented me, and I am sorry that he brought in so many aspects which I have had to counter.

Mr SNEDDEN(Bruce- Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister will persist in misrepresentation.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented.


Mr Daly - I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. The situation is that the Leader of the Opposition states that he has been misrepresented. He seeks, by the process of making a personal explanation, to enter into a full scale debate. He is doing this after having made his point and misrepresenting others. Also, he did not speak in the debate on the Bill a week ago. If this is to continue, Mr Speaker, it will make a farce of personal explanations. The point I take is that this matter will be debated in the House in the not far distant future. I suggest that that will be the time for those honourable members opposite who claim to have been misrepresented to put their points of view.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! My predecessor on numerous occasions appealed to honourable members to shorten the time that is taken in the House by honourable members making personal explanations one after the other. 1 think that it is a farcical situation to take too long on personal explanations. Possibly when the Leader of the Opposition finishes making this personal explanation the Prime Minister will want to make another personal explanation, and when he finishes the Leader of the Opposition will want to make another one. Where does it finish? I think that the right thing to do would be for honourable gentlemen to seek leave to make statements on these matters.


Mr SNEDDEN - Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a statement on these matters.


Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted?


Mr Whitlam - No, Sir. The right honourable gentleman had misrepresented me in a matter which I failed to answer. He said that I had been asked a Dorothy Duc question. It was not a Dorothy Dix question. I had no idea that the honourable member for Kingston or any other honourable member was going to ask me a question on this matter. I have not promoted questions to myself from either side of the House.

Mr SNEDDEN(Bruce- Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker-


Mr SPEAKER - What is it, a personal explanation?


Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, a personal explanation.


Mr SPEAKER -Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr SNEDDEN - I claim to have been misrepresented. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has refused me leave to make a statement, I must pursue the matter by way of personal explanation. I have been misrepresented. In misrepresenting me, the Prime Minister said that I had put to the House that he had made a clear promise that no existing benefits would be diminished. The words that I had used as coming from the Prime Minister were: On 20 June-


Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, I must take a point of order. The right honourable gentleman made a personal -explanation based on an answer I gave to a question without notice. The matter he refers to was never mentioned in the question to me or in my reply to it. It was raised by the right honourable gentleman in the course of his second personal explanation. We must get back to the basic business here. The fact is that personal explanations arose from question time. The matter which he now seeks to pursue did not arise during question time and I submit that he is out of order.


Mr SPEAKER -I again ask the Leader of the Opposition to confine his personal explanation to the matter before the House at the time he claims he was misrepresented.


Mr SNEDDEN - Yes. The Prime Minister has said that he did not give this undertaking after the legislation was introduced, which was in September. The date on which he gave it was 20 June 1972. The announcement of the program that came into legislative form in September filled the front pages of every newspaper in Australia on 11 May 1972, and it was after that that the Prime Minister made this statement. Secondly, on 13 September 1972 the Prime Minister wrote a letter-


Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker-


Mr SPEAKER -Does the Prime Minister wish to take a point of order?


Mr Whitlam - There has been no reference up to this stage to any correspondence or speeches after 26 September last. The right honourable gentleman is introducing fresh matter. Quite clearly, Mr Speaker, if you allow him to do this I shall have to respond to it. Presumably the right honourable gentleman is referring to a letter which has been incorporated in Hansard. The response that I made has not been. But this is entirely fresh matter. I have not misrepresented the right honourable gentleman in this matter and he cannot show where I have. I believe that you should keep him in order.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Leader of the Opposition is allowed to make his personal explanation only in regard to the question by the honourable member for Kingston. I ask him to keep to that; if not, I will have to ask him to resume his seat.


Mr SNEDDEN - I ask leave to make a statement on the matter.


Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted?


Mr Whitlam - No.


Mr SPEAKER - Leave is not granted.


Mr SNEDDEN - Then I will make a personal explanation.


Mr SPEAKER -I ask the right honourable gentleman to keep to the question asked by the honourable member for Kingston. If he does not I will have to ask him to resume his seat. This is not a matter for a full debate.


Mr SNEDDEN - The Prime. Minister made clear misrepresentation in several details in answer to the question from the honourable member for Kingston. Firstly, he alleged that there was a difference of policy between me, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Senator Rae. That is false. He well knows it to be false.


Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I did not pursue in my answer to the right honourable gentleman's personal explanation any reference to the differences between the honourable member for Wannon and Senator Rae.


Mr Hunt - You said it.


Mr Whitlam - I did not seek to pursue it in the course of the answer. I made a reference to it in my answer to the honourable member for Kingston. The Leader of the Opposition made a personal explanation and purported to refute it. I did not then come back on it. I do not have my newspaper files here on the matter but I suppose I could have them incorporated. The right honourable gentleman is now wanting to reiterate something which he has said already and which I did not pursue.







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