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Wednesday, 27 November 1974
Page: 2830

Senator WOOD (QUEENSLAND) - I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of his reply relating to the Prime Minister's visit overseas at Christmas time, does he not consider, in view of the serious economic circumstances operating in this country at the moment, that it is the duty ofthe Prime Minister to be here at this very important time? Will he express a view to whether the countries proposed to be visited would be very adversely affected if the Prime Minister did not visit them? Is it not appropriate that the visit is timed so that the Prime Minister might have Christmas in England with his family? Does he not consider that this trip by the Prime Minister and the 2 trips by the Leader of the Opposition, which this Government is paying for from the money of the people, are just junkets so that people can have a good time?

The PRES DENT- Order ! I must remind Senator Wood that he is asking the Leader of the Government for an opinion. I ask the honourable senator to be more specific in asking his question.

Senator WOOD - Could not these trips overseas by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition be considered to be junkets? Would this money not serve a much better human purpose if it were diverted in this country to cancer research which is so badly languishing because of shortage of funds?

Senator MURPHY - If one examines what is put forward by Senator Wood one comes to this conclusion: The Prime Minister of a country is extremely valuable. His services should be devoted to the country. I put it to Senator Wood that if the Prime Minister is responsible for the general management of the country, surely he ought to be entrusted with the decision as to where his services are best deployed- in Australia at this critical time or in speaking to other leaders of the world in this critical timeespecially when one takes into account that Australia is one of the great trading nations of the world. Its problems are intimately tied up with the problems that other countries are experiencing. If ever there was a time for face to face discussions to be held with other leaders of the world it is right now, when one considers the inflationary situation, the oil crisis, and the other international problems which so much affect ourselves and the other countries. I think that Senator Wood would be one of the first to agree that if there were a collapse in other parts of the world the effects undoubtedly would be felt severely in Australia. No longer can we regard Australia as being isolated in some way. The problems of the world are our problems. If our leader thinks it is best for him to go overseas and discuss these problems with other busy leaders of the world then 1 think his judgment ought to be respected.

Senator Woodsuggests that this trip may in some way be connected with the Prime Minister's personal problems or desires to see his family. I do not think it is a good time of the year to be going to England or to Europe where it will be winter. On top of that, I think that if one thing could be said about the Prime Minister it is that he is a man who works extremely hard. No one could say that he is a loafer or a man who goes after pleasure. He is a man who is regarded on all hands as one who works extremely hard in the interests of the country.

Senator Woodasks whether the trip of the Leader of the Opposition is a junket. We cannot say that the considerations in his case are the same as those in the case of the Prime Minister for going overseas for discussions with world leaders about what is happening. I think we will leave it to the country to judge whether the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition are justified in their complaints about the Prime Minister when Mr Snedden himself chooses to go away with no real reasons for doing so which could be seen as being of benefit to Australia

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