"The next speaker was Lionel Murphy. He opposed the final position put by Gough and reminded Cabinet of the decision taken to force the Australian Wheat Board to honour its contract to supply wheat to Egypt on credit. He said that had we not stood by correct principles then, we would not have escaped the consequences of the energy crisis as we did. It never pays in the long run, he said, to forsake principles, and in this case, we had people who, so far as we knew, were law-abiding citizens merely wanting to come to our country to put the case for the Palestinians. It didn't matter, he argued, whether we were for or against that case, justice demanded that they be given a chance to put their case to the Australian people. He said it didn't matter how Whitlam's final decision was dressed up, it was discrimination based on political expediency and would not stand the test of history. He concluded by saying he supported my case without qualification.
"It was a splendid defence of our position and had a vote been taken straight after Murphy's speech we would have won! I was now quite confident of winning, but I was not to know that Willesee would follow Whitlam and ask Cabinet to reject his own proposition. I half suspected that something was amiss because Willesee had leaned over to whisper something to Whitlam which caused him to nod approvingly to whatever it was he had said.
"Opposition then came from Minister for the ACT Gordon Bryant who charged that the PLO was not only at war with Israel but also at war with anyone who got in their way. He supported Beazley's argument that a visit by the PLO would stir up local tensions. He was not concerned about the electoral consequences, but although normally we would accept visits from both parties to a dispute, we had to remember that the PLO was at war with mankind.
"It was at this point that Don Willesee was brought into the debate for the second time. He had spoken only briefly when introducing his proposal. It was obvious now that he had changed his mind; and to me equally obvious that this is what he had whispered to Gough because he called Willesee even though he had already spoken once, and even though he had not asked for the call. He began by saying that he wanted the discussion kept within Ministerial circles until the dispute relating to Hartley and the PLO was known. He was not keen, he said, on the delegation coming to Australia. A report had been received through Peking suggesting that it might be preferable to defer the visit. He said it was a very difficult situation and he 'now' believed that we should tell them not to come at this time.'
"It was indeed a very difficult situation for Willesee! There were elements within his own Department who had counselled against the visit. His own Prime Minister had switched sides after hearing Wheeldon and Beazley. But Willesee came from the same state as the chief Ministerial protagonists for the Jewish cause. Don liked all three, and had a very deep personal respect for them and an admiration for their intellect. By an intelligent count of heads he could tell that the voting would be extremely close and he just didn't want his vote to result in a one vote win for all the things that Beazley and Wheeldon had warned against. If Cabinet was going to split down the centre he was not prepared to take any risks!
"Faced with what seemed the certain defeat of the original proposal to accept all the delegates, everyone accepted the view that the one vetoed by West Germany should be excluded. I sought to salvage something from the wreck by proposing an amendment that would admit the two who had been accepted by the United Nations General Assembly. There seemed to be no reason why anyone could object to them, and our acceptance would show that we were not taking sides. But the vote showed I had badly misjudged the mood of Cabinet, for it was only Whitlam's vote that saved Beazley's amendment from being lost, and the votes of Whitlam and Willesee that prevented my amendment from being carried.
"Gough had insisted on treating Beazley's opposition as an amendment to the motion to admit the four delegates. It probably didn't matter much because the die had been cast; but it was, of course, contrary to all the rules of debate to accept an amendment that was a direct negative of the motion. He apparently believed there was some technical advantage in doing this whereas, in fact, it was a disadvantage; because an even vote would have meant its defeat and the same rule would have applied if a vote were taken on the motion. In fact, it was this that forced Gough to vote in the show of hands I demanded. He frequently abstained from voting on issues whenever his own vote would make no difference to the outcome. So, when he declared the so-called amendment carried on the voices, I immediately called for a show of hands. Gough correctly guessed my motive but when only 9 of the 18 Ministers put up their hands in support of Beazley's amendment he was forced to show his own or see it defeated. So the amendment was declared carried by 10 votes to 8. Bowen had voted against the amendment and Morrison for it, but as the meeting was almost finished, and before my motion could be put, Morrison and Bowen tacitly paired by leaving the Cabinet meeting together. My motion was then put and declared lost on the voices which was confirmed on a show of hands, 7 for and 9 against, with Gough voting against giving entry visas even to the two delegates who had been given credentials to UNGA."