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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2157

MR WHITLAM'S APOLOGIA - STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER, MR JOHN GORTON

Photo of Gorton, John

Gorton, John

Period of Service: 10/01/1968 to 10/03/1971

More information about Gorton, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/01/1970

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 2157

FOR PRESS: P. M. No. 3/ 1970
MR. WHITLAM'S APOLOGIA
Statement by the Prime Mvinister, Mr. John Gorton
Mr. Whitlam is clearly trying to extricate himself from
the result of those indiscretions which have led native leaders in New
Guinea to tell him to pack up and go home and cease fermenting trouble.
The facts are that Mr. Whitlam made a flying visit to a
troubled area the Gazelle Peninsula. Once there he engaged in illconsidered
demagogy and increased the chances of trouble and violence
in that area. He deepened and worsened the divisions among the Tolai
people divisions which the Government has been seeking to heal. He
spoke to one section of the Tolai people and left the impression, in an
unsophisticated area, that he and the people of Australia supported not
only the aims but the methods including violence to which that section
has resorted. He refrained from calming the fears felt by some of the
Tolai that their land may be endangered by the multi-racial Council. Yet
he must know this fear to be baseless.
He must have known that the Administrator and Government
officials were subjected to violence when they went to the area to " listen"
and to discuss this problem. Yet he publicly admires the " fervour" of
those who used that violence.
Either through foolishness or by design he has made a
, difficult situation worse. He has refused to support what he calls
" technical legality" and has instead tacitly encouraged clearly illegal
action. If this results in greater violence and Australia's name is
thereby damaged he will to a very large degree be responsible if
responsible is a word which can properly be used in relation to his actions
in this matter. The Government will seek to remove the fears felt by a
section of the Tolais, to relieve the difficulties in the region, and to
repair the damage done by this visit. But this will now be more difficult.
CANBERRA 12 January 1970

Transcript 2157