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Thursday, 14 November 1974
Page: 2457

Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation) - I hope that the speech that Senator Webster has made tonight will be widely circulated throughout Australia.

Senator Wriedt - And accurately.

Senator WHEELDON -And, so Senator Wriedt says, accurately reported throughout Australia, because I do not think that any speech that has been made in this Senate over recent months more accurately reflects the depths of slime in which some members of the Opposition are prepared to wallow in order to discredit this Government than the exhibition that we have heard tonight from Senator Webster. Senator Webster has come into the Senate and said that he has been informed of certain things, certain episodes, which, if true, would indeed reflect very great discredit upon the individual who performed these acts. If true, they would. Senator Webster was challenged by me by way of interjection, and he heard my interjection, during his speech to produce some evidence for the serious allegations which were being made. He declined to produce any evidence whatsoever. He has made the remarks in this Senate -

Senator Webster - I rise to order. As there is a senior Minister speaking I wonder whether he would speak truthfully and acknowledge that I have tabled the documents which refer to this incident.

The PRESIDENT - There is no point of order.

Senator WHEELDON - If I may see the document I will refer to it.

Senator Jessop - I rise to order. I believe that the Minister ought to apologise to Senator Webster.

The PRESIDENT - What is your point of order, Senator Jessop?

Senator Jessop - I ask him to apologise.

The PRESIDENT -Unless you name objectionable words that the Minister has uttered he does not need to apologise.

Senator Wheeldon - As a point of order has been raised I will speak to it. I said that allegations were made by Senator Webster and I challenged him to produce evidence of them.

Senator Baume - He did.

Senator Wheeldon - I will read the statement he tabled and if this is what Senator Baume calls evidence I suggest that he seek some advice from some of the legal luminaries he has sitting around him who are grinning and cackling so much and finding this amusing. He said that an episode had occurred when some person had vomited over somebody else. He said that an episode had occurred when a person assaulted a taxi driver, when he tried to tear the number plate off the taxi. I challenged him to produce evidence, and he now says that he produced evidence and the evidence was a statement.

Senator Webster - Read it.

Senator Wheeldon - Yes, I shall read it.

The PRESIDENT -Order! May I put the situation in order so that Senator Wheeldon may continue his speech. He was speaking to the point of order. I understand that he has completed his remarks on the point of order and is now continuing his speech.

Senator Wheeldon - I am still on the point of order.

The PRESIDENT - I have to ask to which standing order the Minister is referring.

Senator Wheeldon - I am still on the point of order. I know Senator Greenwood is enjoying it because he has a night when he can engage in a little more slander- and nothing Senator Greenwood loves better than a little personal slander. But I shall get back on to the point of order.

Senator Sheil - Mr President,to which point of order is the Minister speaking?

Senator Wheeldon - The point of order to which I am speaking is that which Senator Jessop raised when he said I should apologise to Senator Webster because I had said that he had not produced evidence for his statement that somebody had vomited over somebody else, that somebody had engaged in an altercation with a taxi driver, that somebody had tried to tear off a number plate.

Senator Sheil - I would still like to know what point of order.

Senator Wheeldon - I am referring to the point of order that was raised by Senator Jessop. Senator Sheil should ask Senator Jessop. He raised the point of order.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Jessop raised a point of order that referred to offensive words. I ruled that no offensive words were used and therefore no point of order arose.

Senator WHEELDON -If there is no point of order I am perfectly happy to continue in the vein in which I had been speaking before Senator Jessop raised the point of order which Senator Sheil apparently did not hear. I said that Senator Webster had made allegations and had not produced evidence to support those allegations. He has produced a statement from the Acting Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Lionel Bowen), who has said that an incident occurred. A statement that an incident occurred is not evidence that somebody vomited over somebody else or tried to tear the number plate off a car. What is the purpose of raising this alleged episode? The purpose is to discredit the Minister for Overseas Trade by guilt by association, by saying that because a member of his staff allegedly -

Senator Jessop - Can the Minister produce evidence to the contrary?

Senator WHEELDON - I can produce no evidence to the contrary. I do not know whether a member of the staff of the Minister for Overseas Trade became drunk or did not become drunk. I cannot produce any evidence. What Senator Webster is endeavouring to do tonight- he has brought an admiring group from his own Party in another place to hear him- is to say that because a member of the staff of the Minister for Overseas Trade may or may not have done something- apparently his resignation is in hand- the Minister for Overseas Trade should be discredited. I believe that this is reducing parliamentary debates to a level to which they have never descended before. It has been a standing practice in this Senate over a long period that members on one side would not refer to the inebriation or the personal conduct outside this Parliament of another member of this Parliament. Tonight Senator Webster tries to discredit the Deputy Prime Minister of this country because of something which may or may not have been done, which he alleges to have been done, and for which he produces no evidence. If we wanted to have discussions on disgusting personal behaviour- this is the first time I have heard them raised in this vein- there are many of us here who could say many things about members of the Opposition and members of the staff of the Opposition. We could have said them but we did not.

Senator Missen - Mr President,I take a point of order. Surely that remark is a reflection on members of the Opposition. I object to it and I ask for it to be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT - What are the words to which you object?

Senator Missen - The reflection made on honourable senators. The Minister said that he could say many things that would reflect upon members of the Opposition. He was speaking about honourable senators. He said also that he could produce this material.

The PRESIDENT - There is no substance to the point of order.

Senator WHEELDON -Mr President,is the conduct of this Parliament to be based on making personal allegations not only about members of this Government or members of the Aus.tralian Labor Party but also about members of the staffs of this Party, and based on innuendo without one skerrick of evidence? I ask for evidence. When this debate continues- I know that Senator Greenwood will want to have plenty to say about this matter because this is the sort of field in which he revels- when that great civil libertarian Senator Missen gets up to speak in order to support his colleague Senator Webster, I would like him to produce to us evidence of these episodes that are alleged to have occurred in Shanghai and Peking. Let statements be produced from people who were present.

Senator Webster - Why should he? You read -

Senator WHEELDON - I do not want to read. Senator Webster raised this matter. He introduced it. I ask members of the Opposition, if they are going to make charges of this kind about a member of the staff of the Deputy Prime Minister, not just to say that they have been informed but to say by whom they have been informed. Senator Webster now finds this funny. He has been able to slander somebody and now he has sat down. Senator Greenwood finds it a subject of tremendous merriment. If ever there was an argument for the televising of the proceedings of the Parliament, we are seeing it this evening on the part of Opposition senators. I repeat that I would like Senator Missen, who has a high regard for civil liberties and who apparently supports Senator Webster in what he has said tonight, to stand and give us the evidence about these episodes which are alleged to have occurred. He is nodding his head. Apparently Senator Webster does have a statement about the matters that occurred in Peking and Shanghai. In view of the fact that this person whom I do not know has resigned from the staff of Dr Cairns, I would be interested to know what connection there is between this matter and the Government. Is it to be suggested that members of the Government or members of the Opposition are responsible for what some member of their staff does while not in the course of his duties, or even within the course of his duties if the person concerned subsequently leaves the staff?

Senator Webster - The left wing is a bit hurt.

Senator WHEELDON - Now we hear mention of the left wing. We have moved now from debauchery to Marxism. I hear Senator Jessop asking what is the difference. That is the point of the whole magnificent contribution we have heard from the Opposition tonight. Its members are unable to tell the difference between what they describe as debauchery and Marxism. They think the two are linked. The Opposition would have us believe that it is composed entirely of teetotallers, men of total abstinence in all fields, men who have never experienced the carnal lusts of the flesh, men who never touch a drink at any reception. One of those we have never seen. We must say it ourselves- never once have we seen them touch alcoholic liquor in their lives. Nor, indeed, have they ever associated with or been in the company of anybody who has. They expect us to believe that this is the position they take. So bereft are they of policy arguments that they have to resort to personal abuse. So bereft are they of personal allegations against the Deputy Prime Minister to justify this behaviour they have to descend to attacking not only a member of the staff of the Deputy Prime Minister but also a former member of the staff of the Deputy Prime Minister. I hope that accurate copies of Senator Webster's speech are distributed to every citizen of this country.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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