18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m, and read prayers.
Attitude of United States of America.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the allegation that the United States of America is reluctant to give Australia secret information on atomic research is correct?If the allegation is correct, is it because the Acting Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party have already informed the House and the country of the contents of secret and confidential documents? In view of the question I asked the right honorable gentleman earlier this week regarding the existence of a fifth column in Australia, will he have this matter investigated by the Commonwealth Investigation Service?
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member entitled to raise, at question time, a matter which is the subject of an uncompleted debate on the Estimates in committee?
– The honorable member is entitled to ask the question. I have no knowledge of what took place in the committee, and as the subject-matter of the question does not appear on the notice-paper the honorable member’s question isin order.
– I do not propose to say a great deal more than I said last night about this matter. I have had an opportunity to look at the Hansard “ flats “ and have read the statement made by the Leader of the Australian Country party yesterday that I had told, not some British. Ministers, but the British Cabinet at a meeting held at Downing-street on the 8th July-
– On a point of order, the Prime Minister is obviously referring in the House to a speech made in the committee yesterday. That is distinctly out of order. The Chair has ruled time and again that the House can have no cognizance of what has taken place in the committee unless a report has been made to it.
– Order! I have already said that the House has no knowledge of what took place in the committee’ yesterday. The Prime Minister is entitled to answer in his own way any question asked of him.
– When I had an opportunity to read in the Hansard “ flats “ the .statement made by the Leader of the
Australian. Country party that I had told the British Cabinet–
– That is not what I said. I asked whether the right honorable gentleman would deny .that he had done go.
– I wish to make a few brief remarks in reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Griffith. First, I do not disclose what has happened at any Cabinet meeting. Secondly, no officer attended any British Cabinet meeting with me; I went there by myself. Thirdly, no written document on this subject was ever presented to me by the British Cabinet. The fact of the matter is that if the statement made was true, it could only be recorded by an officer of the British Cabinet, and it would be of a completely secret character. Therefore, if the statement was true, the Leader of the Australian Country party quoted from a secret document.
– The same as Mr. Curtin did.
– If it is not true, he has quoted from a forged document. I ‘ do Hot propose to make any comment at this stage, but I intend to make some inquiry as to how the Leader of the Australian Country party, or anybody else, would have the right to obtain secret information.
– -So there is an admission that it is correct?
– I am making no admissions at all. ‘ I said that if it is true, the right honorable gentleman quoted from a stolen document; if it is not true, he quoted from a forged document. These are very serious charges to have to make against a reputable and responsible member of this Parliament or anybody else responsible for producing such documents in this House. I shall take steps in my own way to have this matter- examined.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain . from the British
Cabinet to .whom the. facts .in- regard to the matters disclosed by - the Leader of the Australian Country party in the Parliament ‘. last night were made known? Will he also ascertain whether those facts were disclosed to any Australian source in London - anybody in official positions - and, if so, to whom the officials in. those positions communicated the’ information? Before the right honorable gentleman makes allegations with regard to-
– The Prime Minister has already answered that question. He has said that he will make certain inquiries. I think the question has been answered.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House why the Government created twenty new positions in the Prices Branch, as notified by the Commonwealth Government by notice published on the -9th September last, when the Prices Branch was due to hand over to the States on the 20th September, only eleven days later? Did Mortimer McCarthy, previously Tariff Revision Officer on a salary range of £840-£912. step up to the position of Commissioner of Prices with a salary range of £1,062- £1,212, and an actual salary of £1,363? Did Horace Bishop, Chief Investigation Officer of - the Income - Tax .Department, step up from a salary range of £696-£76S to the position of Deputy Commissioner, a new office, with an actual salary of £1,146? Is it proposed to retain these newly created positions?
– The first part of the honorable member’s question was answered by me earlier this week, when J replied to a question by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. I shall have a statement prepared in regard to the latter portion of the question relating to. salaries. As I stated previously, the promotion of those men was retarded ibr their being in that department; they had lost certain advantages by way of pay, promotion and status. The written reply that I gave to the- Deputy Leader of the Opposition covers ‘ that aspect (rf the matter.
– Further to a question that I asked the Prime Minister earlier in the session in relation to syndicated comic strips coming into Australia from the dollar area, -will the Prime Minister say if he is prepared to examine evidence in my possession, to see whether the importation of such strips is justified on the ground that they provide innocent amusement for children? As examples of the evidence I propose to make available ito him, I quote the following extracts from American .comic strips which are being imported from the United States of America : -
A half-clad woman lying on a torture table. Later shown being dragged apart ,by four wild horses as she lies spread-eagled on the floor.
Close-ups of death scenes as nien are lowered into a stream infested by cannibal fish. The men are subsequently shown being pulled out again - as skeletons.
A subnormal yokel attacks a young girl in a shed. Captions: “Haw! Gotcha. And this time y’ain’t gettin’ away’. . ..” followed by the girl’s screams. The yokel then bashes the girl and another girl who comes to her rescue, and carries them both off on a lake in a boat. There, his monologue makes his intentions clear.
Will the Prime Minister further examine the amount of dollars being expended on this “muck”? Whilst it is true that American publishers sell it “ dirt-cheap “, which is appropriate enough, I have information that not one strip of this kind is being republished in Australia free of cost. If it be found that dollars are being expended in this way, will the right honorable gentleman instruct those who are allocated dollars for expenditure on magazines that no dollars are to be expended on spurious comic strips of the kind to which I have referred?
– I shall be glad to examine that matter with the honorable member. The strips to which he has referred seem to be terribly exciting, and, apparently, my education has been completely neglected in regard to such matters. I do not think that I made it clear to the honorable member when he raised this matter last Tuesday that there is always some expenditure associated with these strips, even if they are copied in Australia, because certain royalties, for instance, would have to be paid. Some newspapers obtain these strips very cheaply. I am not a reader of comic strips, but, upon inquiry some time ago, I found that some of those now being published in Australia were first published in the United States of America as far back as eight or nine years ago. For that reason, they are no longer of any use to American publishers, who therefore, are able to sell them very cheaply to Australian publishers. Probably, Australian publishers would have to meet some expenditure in acquiring any of these comic strips. Following the inquiry made by the honorable member about this matter on Tuesday, I promised to obtain further information, but the Minister for Trade and Customs has been ill for the last fortnight and I have not had an opportunity to discuss it with him. I hope to do so within the next fortnight; and I- shall also take the opportunity to view some of the strips with the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that wire netting- is being- imported from Japan for primary producers? If so, what quantity is to be imported? Can the Minister give the approximate price at which the wire netting is to be sold ?
– I shall refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and shall ascertain whether any netting has been or is to be imported from Japan and, if so, what prices will be charged to primary producers for it.
– Has the Prime Minister read the reported statement that officials of the Foreign Economic Administration in the United States are discussing the possibility of releasing large sums of dollars, in return for sterling, to countries which assist in the European recovery programme? In view of the great part that Australia has played in that programme, has the right honorable gentleman any information indicating whether we shall derive any benefit from the proposed new dollar pool?
– This subject would take a fairly long time to deal with adequately. The fact is that the European recovery programme, known as the Marshall aid plan, provides for nations in Europe to receive financial aid for the purposes of rehabilitation. It does not provide any dollars for dominion deficits. I discussed this subject at some length while I was abroad, and Australian officers are constantly in touch with British officials in the United Kingdom and, when necessary, with American officials associated with Mr. Paul Hoffman’s organization in the United States of America, which administers the Marshall aid plan. Mr. Hoffman’s organization placed upon the western European powers the responsibility of recommending how Marshall aid should be distributed. They were not able to agree in the first place, and, as the result, “ The Four “Wise Men “ were appointed to investigate the matter, which they did fully. Later some difficulty arose in regard to their recommendations, and Sir Stafford Cripps, Mr. Harriman and Mr. Hoffman finally straightened out the difficulties. But even that arrangement did not make any direct provision for making up dominion dollar deficits. Of course, under the Marshall aid plan dollars can be made available to countries that are not participating in the scheme by means of what are known as off-shore purchases. These are purchases made under the plan outside the United States of America, such as in Canada. Some off-shore purchases have even been made in Poland. Dollars from the Marshall aid fund have been used to buy Polish coal in order to provide Austria with fuel necessary to carry on its industries. Recently there have been further talks about the general sort of agreement that was reached after the Paris conference. Sir Stafford Cripps, who is a Governor of the International Monetary Fund, is in the United States, and no doubt he will take part in further discussions about the agreement. Certain allocations of dollars have been made as the result of the Paris conference and later talks, which have also committed the United Kingdom to heavy sacrifices in providing sterling aid to European countries. The United Kingdom is required to un-freeze sterling credits which it holds in order to assist in the rehabilitation of European countries. As the result of this readjustment, an avenue may be found by which the dollar deficits of the Dominions may be met indirectly. Certainly, dollars will not be supplied to them directly. The terms of the act of Congress, which authorizes the granting of Marshall aid, are fairly rigid, and the only way in which the Dominions could obtain dollars would be through the European countries obtaining United States approval to use European recovery plan dollars to make offshore purchases in the Dominions. I have no evidence that that method is likely to be adopted. The whole subject is most complex, and cannot be dealt with in a brief reply to a question. 1 must be careful in making any statement lest embarrassment is caused to our negotiators who are engaged on this matter. The Australian Government has in London most capable financial advisers to assist the High Commissioner, Mr. Beasley, and in the United States of America it has the Secretary to the Treasury, the Economic Adviser to the Government, and the Commonwealth Statistician, Dr. Roland Wilson. Honorable members may rest assured that firstclass advice is provided for the Australian High Commissioner in London and the Australian Minister at Washington. The information which I have given answers the honorable member’s question in the briefest possible way.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the payment of certain subsidies on coal production. I have received from the Bowman Coal Mining Syndicate, which has been operating for many years in central Queensland, a letter stating that it had been paid a subsidy of 2s. a ton on its production in 1945-46, and, although it had made several applications . to the Coal Commissioner for a similar subsidy for 1946-47, it had not received a reply. Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the subsidy was payable on coal produced in1946-47 and 1947-48 ? If it was, why has the application of the syndicate not been dealt with ?
– This matter has also been raised in correspondence, and I am having the position examined. When the inquiries have been completed, I shall advise the honorable member of the result.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether it is true that that part of the Caulfield hospital which was recently given up by the Repatriation Department for the accommodation of aged persons is without a kitchen or access to the necessary cooking facilities? Does the Minister know whether the usefulness of that portion of the hospital for the care of aged people is in any way affected, and if it is, will he ascertain whether kitchen space can be provided?
-Some time ago, following representations by the Government of Victoria, the Repatriation Department made available surplus wards of the Caulfield hospital for the accommodation of aged persons. In doing so, the department made it perfectly clear that certain ancillary services could not be provided. The wardswhich the State Government now controls are being serviced, I understand, from the Austin hospital, which adjoins the Caulfield hospital. I do not know whether the Repatriation Department can render further assistance to the State Government in the matter, but I shall examine the position as the honorable member has suggested, and advise her of the result.
– Does the Prime
Minister intend to review again the present inadequate supply of essential text-books imported from countries in the dollar area ? Some of the text-books can be obtained only from the United States of America and the copies now available in Australia are substantially below the number that certain trainees, apprentices and students require.
– A great deal of consideration has been given to the importation of text-books, and particularly those relating to technical subjects. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has strong views about text-books relating to the industries with which he has some association. The Government believes that the dollar allocation for the importation of these books is adequate to meet present needs. It is difficult to decide whether some volumes should be regarded as text-books or merely as containing informative matter. A magazine, for instance, which contains a number of articles dealing with technical matters might be regarded as a text-book by some people. The matters are constantly under review and the whole position is examined each quarter by a special Cabinet sub-committee. If, upon inquiry, it is found that there is, as the honorable member for Franklin suggests, a shortage of some standard text-books, I shall make a point of ensuring that the matter is examined by the sub-committee to which I have referred.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether the Commonwealth and State governments have decided to establish a labour and industry advisory committee, which is to meet at least twice a year? If they have, has the committee been established, held any meetings, and issued any reports? Have any members of the trade union movement been co-opted to it? Is it intended that its reports shall be made available to the public or only to departmental officers?
– I have no knowledge of any decision by the Commonwealth and State governments to establish a joint organization to deal with industrial matters. I am confident that no such body has been appointed, but I shall cause inquiries to be made and inform the honorable member of the result.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is prompted by the rising costs in the wheat industry, which are caused chiefly by the operation of the 40-hour week. Will the Minister say when an announcement of the higher prices that must be paid for home-consumption wheat is likely to be made?
– This Government always honours its promises. In fulfilment of the promise that was made in regard to the Government’s wheat plan, for som« time officers of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics have been calculating what variation, if any, there will be in the cost of production of wheat. It is expected that they will complete their work by the 14th October. In accordance with the undertaking that was given to the Australian Agricultural Council and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, as soon as the report of those officers is ready it will be made available for inspection and comment by a person appointed by the Australian Agricultural Council and another person appointed by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. Having regard tothe fact that the Australian Agricultural Council will not meet again before the report is ready and the incoming wheat crop is available, I have sent a letter to all State Ministers for Agriculture suggesting that they nominate a suitable person to examine the report and the way in which the index figures were calculated, and stating that if they cannot agree upon a nominee the Australian Government will endeavour to arrange for a judge or some one of similar standing to select one person from a list of those who may be nominated to undertake this examination. I assure the. honorable gentleman that an announcement will be made at the earliest possible moment.
– In to-day’s press appears the statement that ships are waiting in Australian harbours to load Australian wheat which is not forthcoming because of the shortage of railway trucks. It is stated also that more ships are on the way to this country, and that Australian wheat is rotting at various country sidings. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, because of the 40-hour week, approximately 7,000 trucks of all kinds have had to be withdrawn from the- New South Wales railways, and whether this action is the reason for th« inability of the railways to transport the wheat from country sidings to ports?
– Of course ships aire waiting in Australian harbours to load wheat! Every time we have a heavy wheat harvest, ships are waiting, but of course they are loading wheat while they are waiting. There is no truth in the suggestion that the delay is due to the withdrawal of railway rolling-stock following the introduction of the 40-hour week. In New South Wales, as in other States,, rail transport difficulties are due to the fact that the cessation of maintenance and production of rolling-stock during the war has rendered many thousands of trucks unsafe or obsolete. Deterioration was rapid because of the heavy demands made upon rail transport throughout the war. Rolling-stock tor day is inadequate to meet demands, but ally contribution to this state of affairs that may have been made by the introduction of the 40-hour week is negligible. I remind the House also that due to the great prosperity that has descended upon this country because of its favorable economic situation and the high prices prevailing overseas for our primary products, many wheat-farmers themselves are not working more than 40 hours a week, and good luck to them.
– Are you aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that members of the Parliamentary Library staff’ suffer eye strain because of bad lighting in the main body of the library and that the type of shades used, in the library prevents light from falling downwards on to books as it should do? Can you. inform me whether sensible lighting is to be introduced into the library, and if so, when?
– I shall obtain the information that the honorable member seeks.
– I desire to inform the House that the Right Honorable Peter Fraser, C.H., Prime Minister of the Dominion of New Zealand, is within the precincts of the chamber. “With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Mr. Fraser thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what subsidy, if any, is being paid to the Australian dairying industry to bridge the gap between the home-consumption price of butter and the price guaranteed to the farmer. If any subsidy is being paid, what is its basis. I should like the figure as it relates to cwts. or boxes or to any other unit the Minister may choose.
– The subsidy now payable is equal to the difference between the price fixed by the Government at the butter factory for payment to dairy-farmers, and the price to the consumer. I cannot give the exact figure, but I shall obtain the information for the honorable member. The annual cost of the subsidy is between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. Some people call it a subsidy to the dairy-farmers and others call it a subsidy to the consumer, but I am certain that the dairy-farming industry is keen to have it continued, because producers fear that if the subsidy is withdrawn higher prices to the consumer will result leading in turn to a diminution of demand.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Audit Act 1901-1947.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 30th September (vide page 1084).
Proposed vote, £2,878,400.
– At that unfortunate moment last night, when the Prime Minister (Mr.
Chifley) refused to allow another 40 minutes of broadcasting time, the committee was dealing with a most interesting subject. The Prime Minister had just distributed throughout the chamber a barrel full of red herrings. He did not answer any of the vital questions raised by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The position in which the Government found itself last night was long overdue. For many years the Opposition parties, whether in office or in opposition have had to “ take it “ time after time when confidential and other documents were disclosed by the Labour party for political purposes. But, as soon as the tables are turned, for the first time in the Labour party’s history, so far as I know, the Prime Minister and all his Cabinet troop in here and act like the boys who have lost their cows, and are afraid to go home. The honorable member who started this kind of amusement is the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and I have no doubt that he will enter this debate in due course. I remind honorable members of the famous Casey letter which came into the Minister’s hands by inadvertence. Subsequently we had Mr. Curtin’s disclosure of the cables that passed between him and Mr. Churchill dealing with the - appointment of Mr. Casey to Washington. There is no doubt that Mr. Winston Churchill never intended that the cables sent by him concerning the appointment of an overseas Minister should be permitted to become the subject of political controversy in this country. Leakages also occurred from the Advisory War Council, whose members were, if I am correctly informed, sworn to secrecy; and leakages have occurred from certain meetings between British and Australian Ministers held in London, and also from an important meeting which took place in Wentworth House, Melbourne, on the 6th July last. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), who looked more like a Pharisee yesterday than ever before, seemed to be completely surprised that any one should have found out what he has been up to in his spare moments. .Apparently he does not even read the newspapers. I have before me a file of press clippings which go hack to the 26th July, just twenty days after the Minister’s interview with members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. That meeting is referred to in those newspaper clippings, and it is quite obvious from them that, not only was it known that the meeting had taken place, but the general nature and trend of the discussions which took place were also known. On the 26th July, the press featured the matter in. black headlines. The following is a typical example: -
Cabinet is expected to discuss at its next meeting on August 2, the United States reluctance to make knowledge nf atomic research developments available to Australia. Cabinet, it is understood, will discuss a stricter check on Australian scientists engaged in atomic research and legislative steps to subject the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the tightest security measures. It was learned to-night that the United States authorities are refusing to give any atomic research details to Britain unless given assurances that the information will not be passed on to Australia. The Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, was told of the American attitude shortly before he visited London recently. It is understood that he regarded the situation so seriously that it was one of the main factors in influencing him to make the trip.
That statement, which was made in Canberra, appeared in the press during the parliamentary recess, when no member of the Opposition was present in Canberra. The Minister for Defence could not leave it at that, however, and on Tuesday, the 27th July, the following report appeared in the press: -
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), it is understood, has told the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that if America’s attitude persists, Australia is not likely to get any scientific defence information handed to her. The Commonwealth Government and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have stated publicly that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is not engaged on any secret defence work.
From disclosures made by the Acting Premier of South Australia in the course of a statement which he issued in Adelaide on the 29th September, I shall disprove the truth of the Minister’s statement which I have just read.
– We cannot believe anything that comes from the Government.
– I do nor, propose to read the whole of the statement issued by the Acting Premier of South Australia, which makes several references to Sir David Rivett, but the important part of it is as follows : -
In addition, the publicized reluctance of the Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Sir David Rivett, to recognize the essential value of strict secrecy in scientific research of any kind, coupled with public allegations in Australia that there are many Communists and “ fellow travellers “ in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s employ has also influenced the United States authorities.
The Acting Premier obviously obtained his information from Canberra, because there is no other source from which he could have obtained it. I repeat that no member of the Opposition was present in Canberra during the parliamentary recess - indeed members of the Parliament who do not have to be in attendance at Canberra would no more think of coming here during recess than they would of going to the Sahara for a holiday.
– The honorable member will not have to come here after the next general elections.
– I have no doubt that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and I will suffer the same fate at the next elections and we shall both be condemned to return to Canberra, so that I shall be able to continue to keep a check on him. I have in my possession another press report dated the 30th July, which is not hearsay, but contains an account of a press interview with the Minister for Defence. At a press conference the Minister referred to reports that the United States was reluctant to furnish reports of atomic experiments to Australia directly or through Britain because of Communist activities in Australia. The report states -
The Minister for Defence, Mr. J. J. Dedman, said to-day that as far as he was aware the United States had not refused any requests by Australia for details of scientific research.
That was the tenor of the Minister’s statement yesterday. Tennyson, in his In Memoriam, spoke of “ believing where we cannot prove “ ; but in this instance, the Minister did not attempt to prove anything. The newspaper report continues -
Mr. Dedman was asked whether he had discussed the subject with the Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, before Mr. Chifley went to England for talks with the British Cabinet.
Yesterday, the Minister said that no discussion had taken place, but on the 30th July at a press conference his answer was - “’ Yes, but just in a general way and not because of any specific complaints of reluctance by cither America or Britain.” He added: “‘This question of secrecy about science is agitating scientists in every country, and it is quite natural that Mr. Chifley and myself would discuss the matter without it arising out of any critical situation. “ I discussed with him the whole question of the ideas that were being made available, but not with the aim that our discussion should end in any decision being made.”
Thus, the Minister clearly admitted that he had been engaged in discussions, not with members of the Opposition, who were entitled to this information at first hand, but with the press of Australia, which could state to the world at large that he had been engaged with the Prime Minister in certain vital discussions. I read the following extract, going back a day, from one of the afternoon newspapers published in Sydney on the 29 th July:-
Mr. Dedman was asked : “ Have scientific defence research workers been required to give any pledge or undertaking to observe secrecy?”
He replied : “ The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has nothing whatever to do with defence scientific research work “.
We shall deal with that in a moment - “ What about defence research workers on the rocket range?” Mr. Dedman was asked. He replied: “Are there any scientists going there? I am not going to say there are scientists working there”.
It would be just as sensible had he asked whether there were any gibbers there. Last night the Minister was most emphatic in stating that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was not concerned in defence matters. But let us consider the statement made last Wednesday night by the Acting Premier of South Australia, Mr. McEwin.
– A good name, too!
– Is Mr. McEwin a better man than our McEwen?
– I should say so. Mr. McEwin’s statement is pub lished under the heading : “ Find at East Mount Painter : Pitchblende Among Uranium Ores”. I invite any Minister who may take part in this debate after me to say that the Acting Premier of South Australia did not speak in accordance with facts. The newspaper report reads -
The Acting Premier (Mr. McEwin), who is also Minister of Mines, said to-day that investigations on the extraction of uranium from South Australian radio-active ores would be intensified.
– For what purpose is uranium used?
– Probably to deal with communism or something like that.
– Is it used in connexion with the atomic bomb?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member for Barker can get along quite well without the interjections of the honorable member for New England.
– I am getting along very well. I like to have an abbott with me. All I need now is a bishop.
– The honorable member for New England is nearer a rabbit than an abbot.
– At any rate he is not a badger.
– Nor a barker.
– The Acting Premier of South Australia continued -
The investigations were being carried out in Adelaide jointly by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Department of Mines.
The problem was an involved one which, because of the unique character of the ore, required considerable original thought-
That would be something completely strange to the present Government - and new methods of approach. The Government has been pursuing its socialization policy since 1921 -
More intensive laboratory work was needed to guide exploratory work in the field. Additional staff would be appointed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for mineral investigational work at the South Australian School of Mines, additional equipment would be bought and more scientists would be engaged for the analytical laboratories.
To superintend this work, a senior research officer would be appointed and applications had been sought in Australia and overseas.
That was the answer given by the Acting Premier of South Australia the night before this matter was referred to in this chamber. I invite members of the Government to say that the Acting Premier of South Australia was not telling the truth in regard . to the part played by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in uranium investigations in South Australia. There is no doubt that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is up to its ears in uranium investigations and, indeed, in all sorts of investigations. Last night, during the debate on the subject the Minister for Labour and National Service was at the table. He does not often appear before us these days. During my fourteen years in the Parliament it has been my experience to find that when he is present he invariably appears in the role of the would-be peacemaker. One would think that the honorable gentleman had an inexhaustible supply of oil to pour on troubled waters.
– The honorable member set them on fire.
– It would have been very easy to set them on fire last night, because the Prime Minister, like the Minister for Labour and National Service, was not here to listen to the debate. We are lucky to have a full halfdozen Ministers present this morning. Last night, room could not have been found for an additional person on the treasury bench because there was a full attendance of Ministers to listen to what the Prime Minister had to say. Even the Minister for External Territories was able to tear himself away from the natives and the timber leases of New Guinea to be present. If Ministers had also been present to listen to what the Minister for Defence had said, they would realize the difference between his statements and those of the Minister for Labour and National Service on this subject. Yesterday, there was read in this chamber an extract from a statement made by the Minister for Defence to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The honor able gentleman was invited to deny that he had made the statement but he did not attempt to do so nor did he attempt to qualify it in- any way whatever. The Prime Minister threatened to cause an investigation to be made in order to. ascertain how the Leader of the Australian Country party obtained possession of the extract. Well, we have seen these investigations before, and we know how fruitless they have been.’
– The honorable member is afraid of this one.
– I shall inform the Minister for Information where it came from.
– Instead of seeking information from the Minister for Information, I shall give him some information. . The Opposition has nothing whatever to fear from any investigation which this Government ‘ may care to institute.
– The honorable member is not worth investigating.
– And we shall not run away from a royal commission, either.
– The Government cannot undertake its investigation without disclosing to the country whether or not the information %vc obtained was true. The Government will not dare to come into the open and admit that the information is true, because it completely and utterly disproves every argument advanced by Government members last night.
– We shall establish some disquieting facts.
– We have heard similar threats in the past. The Minister for Information, despite his exterior appearance, is at heart a very quiet and peaceful man, though sometimes, we are inclined to think, a little overrated. The - Minister for Defence took me to task yesterday on the subject of atomic tests. I referred to certain press statements relating to atom tests by the Royal Navy. I did not ask for any information as to the result of those tests; I am not such an ass.
– Yes, the honorable member is.
– There was no secrecy on the part of the United States when they were holding tests on Bikini Atoll and Eniwetok; it was public property. They invited journalists from all over the world to come along and have a look at the first test from a safe distance of about 10 miles off. No journalists were present at the second test. It stands to reason that there will be no disclosure by the British Navy of what is discovered unless it suits the British military authorities to make a disclosure. It is utter nonsense for the Minister to declare that I asked for any information. Obviously the Minister does not understand English when he hears it. I do not want that information unless it is made available in the ordinary way by the authorities concerned and is public property. The next point is in connexion with the Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Sir David Rivett. So that there shall be no misunderstanding on this matter, I shall recapitulate what I said yesterday. Hansard will bear out part of this. For years past I have been one of the few members in this chamber who has had a kindly word to say for the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, particularly with relation to agriculture. Last night the Minister for Labour and National Service said that, during the war, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was entrusted with certain investigations, and that that body had done a particularly effective job.
– Does the honorable member agree?
– I do not know. I am not in possession of the information. We cannot have a govern.mentsponsored institution such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, whose Chairman lets himself go every now and again, as Sir David Rivett did in 1947 in the pamphlet which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has in his possession, and in the press statement made in July of this year, and still expect to have cooperation on the part of countries like the United Kingdom and the United States. The thing that Sir David Rivett must get into his scientific mind - and if he has any mind other than scientific, so much the better - is that he is a paid servant of the Commonwealth of Australia, and that anything that he or his institution discovers should be placed at the disposal of the people who supply the funds to enable experiments to be carried out. The first duty of persons in the employ of the Commonwealth of Australia is to their employer, and! to nobody else. If they are not satisfied! with those terms of service, the sooner they get out of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research the better for the community. Let us have no misunderstanding on that. Sir David Rivett and his co-scientists are not a government of their own; they are not a law unto themselves. Whilst they may beparticularly capable and distinguished” men - and I hope that they are - when we get down to bedrock, they are in just the same position as Jack Smith and Bill Jones; they are citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, who render service to the Commonwealth of Australia in return for certain known emoluments-.
– And their loyalty ought to be to their own country.
– Yes. If they are internationalists at heart, let internationalism employ them and finance them. There ought to be no misunderstanding on the part of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in regard to what the Commonwealth of Australia expects of its scientists. If the terms do not suit their peculiar make-ups,, then let them get out and start up a little show of their own and see how they get on.
The proceedings in this chamber should conform to certain rules. Normally, I do not expect secret or confidential documents to be used in debate ; but it should be remembered that the Minister, who was the subject of attack yesterday, has repeatedly, in this chamber^, quoted from documents of a somewhat compromising nature. Whenever he has; been asked to table those documents, he has claimed that they were confidential’ and, with a laugh on his face, as Mephistopheles had after he left the cathedral’ with Marguerite, has promptly sat down.
If honorable members on the Government side of the chamber want the contest conducted according to “ Marquess of Queensbury rules” to which the Prime Minister referred on one memorable occasion, Opposition members will endeavour to oblige them. However, should they prefer the proceedings in this, chamber to be carried on according to “ Raffferty’s rules “, I do not mind.
– What about Ward and Calwell?
– Probably the honorable member’s inferiority complex is due to the fact that he has suffered under their rules, but I have never worried about them.
– And they have never worried about you.
– The Ministers that the honorable member mentions are two of the most delectable persons in this chamber. The “ lemon “ and the “ punch “, I think they are called - and pretty sour, too!
It as just as well for the Government to bear in mind that the threat to set the Commonwealth Investigation Service to work does not hold any terrors for Opposition members. We are no more afraid of that service than is the Communist party. They can have the whole week-end to make their inquiries. If necessary they can continue until next year; but when the Government gets their reports, what can it do? The people of Australia will want to know whether these documents are accurate, or whether they fairly accurately portray what took place between the Minister for Defence and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. They will not be so interested in what the Commonwealth Investigation Service finds out, if anything, as to how the right honorable gentleman became possessed of the documents. If they are not an accurate portrayal of what took place at Wentworth House on the 6th July, there was no need for all this fuss and bother, or for the long faces and sad looks on the part of the Ministry last night. Nor was there any need for the Prime Minister to refuse to allow any Opposition member to follow him after his rambling dissertation, in which he distributed “ red herrings “ all over the field. Progress was reported and the House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
– Honorable members and the people of this country can arrive at only one conclusion, as a result of this debate and the statement in the South Australian Parliament that Australian politicians are not to be trusted with security information which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) read. The honorable member for Barker treated the committee to another witty speech, but did not really come to grips with the subject. First he established, or purported to establish, the point that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is engaged in important defence research, and he quoted the Deputy Premier of South Australia as saying that geologists of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are looking for uranium.
– I did not say that.
– The statement that the honorable member read referred to an investigation for uranium.
– Laboratories are not needed to discover it.
– The extraction of uranium is one subject of research. The statement did not appear to me to deal with defence work at all. The Government of South Australia is not concerned with defence work of any kind. The statement that the finding of uranium is secret when Russia now controls one of the biggest fields in the world in Czechoslovakia is a flimsy one on which to base what the honorable member for Barker thought was a refutation of the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman). However, that is not the essential point. The interesting thing about the honorable member’s speech was the way he kept off, not the statement which the Minister was alleged to have made at Wentworth House, but the important document which purported to be a record of the conversation which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had with the British Cabinet. The honorable member treated us to a history of previous improper actions relating to the production of documents in this chamber. He referred, in particular, to the plea of the Minister for Defence that a certain document was confidential. Even the slipshod reasoning of the honorable member would not lead one to draw an analogy between the production of that document, which was a letter that was supposed to be an instruction from an oil company, and the production of a document which purported to be a record o£ a secret meeting between the British Cabinet and the Australian Prime Minister. No analogy exists between those two instances. If the honorable member for Barker wished to show that the disclosure of confidential statements in the Parliament was becoming progressively worse he might have done so ; but I know of no precedent for the action of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who has been Prime Minister of this country, in challenging the Prime Minister to deny that the document they produced was a correct statement of proceedings at a meeting of the British Cabinet. There is no analogy between the incident which occurred in this chamber yesterday and that to which the honorable member referred.
What is the purpose of producing such a statement in the Parliament? If the Prime Minister confirms it, who will have been assisted by these disclosures? Anybody who is well disposed towards us? Of course not. The only possible effect of producing such a statement in the Parliament could be to assist people who are ill-disposed towards this country. We have heard a succession of statements dealing with the concern of the United States of America about the leakage of information. I have no doubt that that country is very concerned about such leakages within, as well as outside, its own territory. If any ground exists for the disclosures made before the Committee on Un-American Activities, that country has a great deal to be concerned about in relation, first, to its own scientists, and, secondly, to some of its own high-ranking public servants.
It has become necessary for any honorable member who wishes to find out what is going to be raised in the Parliament to read the Sydney Bulletin, because a fortnight before honorable members opposite raise matters of this kind one can read all about them in that journal. For instance, it published an article dealing with cement companies some time before, that subject was raised in this chamber. It also published an article, in similar circumstances, dealing with Sir David Rivett; and honorable member’s opposite repeated the views it expressed relating to a statement by the Prime Minister that Sir David Rivett’s loyalty was not questioned. That journal said that Sir David’s common sense and discretion were in question, and that his statements concerning the freedom of scientific research at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were dangerous if the council had anything to do with defence. The honorable member for Barker put forward the same arguments as were advanced by the Bulletin in that instance.
How are these attacks brought about? First, we get a self-induced frenzy on the part of honorable members opposite about a press report from “ an official source “, “ a reliable source “ or “ a high official “ that the United States of America is worried about Australia. On the basis of such statements, articles appear in the press citing those allegations as facts. Then, honorable members opposite raise the matter in the Parliament, and also cite as facts the allegations contained in such articles. To be wellfounded, information of that kind must emanate only from people like the American Ambassador, a high official of the American Government, the British High Commissioner or a high official of the British Government; and it is incredible that such information should emanate from any of those sources. I know how much credence any honorable member really gives to the construction which press reports place upon such matters. I know what honorable members opposite really think of these “ reliable sources “ when the press publishes reports relating to Australian political questions. But it appears that they always accept as reliable press reports emanating from abroad, even though it is obvious that the subjects of the reports themselves are, by their very nature, of the utmost secrecy. Honorable members opposite invariably accept such reports as a basis for discussion in the Parliament. They ask the Prime Minister whether he will confirm, or deny, such reports, like the fool in the Opposition who asked the Prime Minister whether he would ensure adequate surveillance of the Russian legation, as though such a question could be answered let alone appropriately asked in the Parliament.
There are some things to be said about the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I accept without reservation the Opposition’s thesis that if a man is engaged on defence research he should be sworn to secrecy, that only men who can .be relied upon should be chosen for such work, and that such appointees should be made quite aware of the terms of their employment and should regard themselves as members of the Australian defence organization. It would be absurd to give to a big organization like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research orders en clair to engage in defence research. But in order to make these allegations seem important and to bolster up their argument about the possibility of defence leakages, honorable members opposite consistently mentoin two names. The first of those gentlemen is the convicted Communist Rudkin, who was employed in the Division of Plant Industry in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; and the second is Mr. Mountjoy, a former member for Swan, whom honorable members opposite never miss an opportunity to smear. Mr. Mountjoy is a member of the Executive Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and in that capacity he would have as much information about the work being undertaken in the council’s laboratories as a member of a university senate would have about the particular work being carried on in the chemical department of a university. However, upon these trivial and flimsy statements we are asked to believe that a large number of people have access to information upon defence work being done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, that work being of the kind cited by the honorable member for Barker, from a statement made by the
Deputy Premier of South Australia. The Opposition parties, to their credit, established the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; and when they established it they prescribed by law that it should have no secrets, and that it should publish its findings in its bulletins and make them available to industry, just as past governments prescribed by law that all patents should be open for inspection by the public on the payment of a nominal sum. I have no doubt that information of a defence nature has been obtained from time to time through the inspection of patents in patent offices all over the world. It would be extremely foolish to apply a political test to persons employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on work not even remotely connected with defence. When the Opposition parties established the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research by the Science and Industry Research Act of 1926 and provided that its research should be free, that its publications should be freely available to industry, and that there should be a system of liaison by which industry could refer any problems to it, they then followed the lines of the best scientific tradition. If honorable members opposite were not mainly concerned with political stunting, they would clearly differentiate between defence research and industrial research. They are not. concerned about presenting a clear picture to the Australian community when they continually refer to a member of the Executive Committee ofl the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who is not involved in any research and to a member of its staff engaged in research in plant entomology which, as far as I know, has nothing to do with defence. By indulging in these scare stories, confusing the public mind, failing to distinguish clearly between the various branches of research, and not even admitting that they, when they were in power, expressly forbade the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to have secrets, they have shown that they are engaging in a very poor political stunt.
I have little more to say about this sorry business except that I did not expect the Leader of the Australian Country party to be involved in the production of con.fidential documents in this chamber. .Such conduct is to be regretted. I agree with the Prime Minister that, if it is a genuine document, it must have been ‘stolen. The honorable member for Barker suggested that the inquiry to be instituted by the Prime Minister will be aimed at discrediting the Opposition. There may be very good reasons why the document fell into the hands of the Opposition, reasons which leave it entirely innocent. My opinion of the Leader of the Australian Country party suggests that that must be the position. But surely this is a matter for deep concern, not one ‘calling for the heaping of insults upon the Prime Minister ! The document may have come into the possession of the Leader of the Australian Country party by accident as the result of some one carelessly leaving it lying about. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister should know why this apparently confidential document has fallen into hands in which it is no longer confidential. There will be no insult to the Opposition in holding an inquiry to establish the possible source of the leakage. If the document happens to be bogus - and the Prime Minister has not said whether or riot it is - surely that, top, is a matter for inquiry. The palming off of unreal documents on members of this Parliament would be a serious affair-
– The Prime Minister did not say that it was a forgery..
– He said that it was either genuine or forged and that, in either case, the matter needed investigation. That was a perfectly sensible statement. Whether the document is genuine or not, its production in this chamber was reprehensible. References to a previous occasion when a document produced in this chamber by the Minister for Defence was treated as confidential provide no valid excuse for the scandal of quoting from a confidential document which is of far greater importance, if it be genuine,
– I move-
That Division No. 16 - Council for Scientific miti Industrial Research £1.873,000 - be reduced by £1,000,000, as a protest against the Government’s failure to maintain the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in a “Condition which would ensure the government’s of the United Kingdom arid the United States of America confiding in it secrets now denied to Australia by those governments. I submit this motion chiefly for the reasons that I stated yesterday, but also for added reasons arising fr’om the scathing attack that was tirade upon me for carrying out what I regard as my duty to the people of Australia. I emphasize tq the Parliament in no uncertain way that the document from which I quoted was not sought by me nor was it bought by me. It came into my hands from a source about which I know nothing whatever. That is why I couched my question to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) in the terms which I used yesterday. I did not know whether this was a trap that had been set for nae. I have been a victim of such plots, and therefore I phrased my question to the Minister for Defence with special cafe. I asked whether he would deny the existence of such a document or contradict the statements it contained.
We have learned by tedious experience that the Labour party considers that there is one code of political ethics for it as a government and an entirely different one for it as an opposition party. The Government failed in its duty as long ago as the 26th July, when the information which I quoted yesterday from the document in my possession, or information of the same sort; wa3 published in Australian newspapers. Did the Government then endeavour to ascertain the source of the information available to the press? Did I do anything yesterday other than prove the untruthfulness of the statement made by the Minister for Defence? I did nothing that the newspapers had not already done, except that I brought evidence to support my statements and quoted from a document in order to prove that the statements of the Minister for Defence were misleading, to say the least, and could not be relied upon or accepted as truthful by this Parliament and the <people. Has the Minister denied the accuracy of the statements which I quoted from the document? On the 26th July, the Sydney Morning Herald published the whole substance of the statements which I made yesterday and supported with evidence which I asked the Prime Minister to either deny or affirm. At a press conference on the 30th J July last, the Minister for Defence 24 days after he had discussed the matter with the Executive Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, blatantly brazened the matter out again. A newspaper report of the conference stated -
Mr. Dedman was referring at u press conference to reports that the United States of America was reluctant to impart defence scientific research secrets to Australia directly nr through Great Britain because of Communist activities in Australia. He said that as far as he was aware there was not a vestige nf truth in those reports.
T waited. I had the document in my pocket. If the Minister had not referred to the matter yesterday or had not told an untruth, I should have been prepared to let it pass. But he blatantly accused the Opposition and the press of lying in connexion with this important subject, and adopted the tedious attitude that he has consistently adopted in this chain ber of not telling the truth to the Opposition, and, consequently to the large section of the community whom it represents. I remind the Government that as members of His Majesty’s Opposition in this chamber, we have a public responsibility to fulfil. The percentage of the total electorate that we represent, is only slightly less than that which supporters of the Government represent, and we accept the responsibility to be vigilant, and to obtain the truth, particularly about defence and other matters involving the security of the nation. In discharging our responsibility, we do not seek personal aggrandizement, and are not actuated by selfish political considerations. Our responsibility transcends all those things, just as the responsibility of supporters of the Government should also transcend them. I challenge the Prime Minister to point out one instance of my having disclosed any confidential information that I have received from him,- or betrayed any trust that he has reposed in me in relation’ to public affairs. The right honorable gentleman knows that I have taken, in silence, all kinds of provocation from honorable members opposite. I have been accused of all sorts of things because I have made certain submissions on finance. The Prime Minister knew that while I was being attacked on those occasions, I had in my pocket confidential information which he had supplied to me. Had I used it, the disclosures would have been advantageous to me, but disadvantageous, in my opinion, to the best interests of the country. Everybody knows that I extended the greatest possible personal and political co-operation to the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. John Curtin. “We remained friends until the last. Everybody knows also that, metaphorically speaking, I almost got my insides kicked out by my own people because I was loyally co-operating with Mr. Curtin. My own followers misinterpreted as a sign of weakness my desire for co-operation as a war-time necessity transcending petty party politics.
I shall trace the history of Mr. Curtin’s acceptance of what he considered to be his public duty in the infamous “Winkler incident. I do not hold any grudge on personal grounds against Mr. Curtin for the attitude that he adopted on that memorable occasion. I recognized that he did not act from selfish personal motives. Being the man that he was, he discharged his public duty as he saw it. In reminding honorable members of that incident, I shall read an extract from a speech by Senator Collings, who at that time was the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. On the 25th September, 1.941, Senator Collings said. -
I say now - not with a view to scoring any advantage in debate, but because 1 am sure that the Opposition ought to . say it and that honorable members on the Government side ought to approve of what I am saying - thai the Leader of the Labour party in the House of Representatives, Mr. John Curtin, took the right and honorable course in the circumstances - a course which was in the best interests of democratic government, so far as we have anything to do with it. The facts which were placed before the other branch of the legislature were that a man visited Mr. Curtin’s bedroom, uninvited, and there presented to .him, uninvited, two documents which contained most serious statements in that they involved certain men, some of them outside the Parliament and others occupying highly responsible positions in the Parliament. namely, the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) and his immediate predecessor, the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies). Mr. Curtin’s immediate reaction was that the information which had been thrust upon him was too dangerous to handle. Being a journalist himself, and not unacquainted with secretarial work, he noticed that the papers which had been handed to him were carbon copies. He therefore said to his visitor : “ These arc only copies; where are the other copies?” His visitor replied that another person, who also was a member of the House of Representatives, had a copy. Mr. Curtin is not yet aware how far any other copies have circulated. He has since expressed to his colleagues his reaction to the disclosure made to him. His first thought was: “I can have nothing to do with a man who gives to hie statements containing Cabinet secrets which lie has no right to know and which I have no right to know “. He therefore went immediately to the nien involved; he did so before he. consulted any member of his own party. He went, first, to the Prime Minister, and, handing him the documents, said: “Read those; they have been handed to me. I am not involved, but yon are”. After the Prime Minister had read the documents, Mr. Curtin took them to tinMinister for Defence Co-ordination, to whom also he said: “Read those: I am not involved, but you are “. He was then informed that before he had taken that action, the leakage of Cabinet secrets had become known and the individual involved had been discharged from the Public Service.
What was the position then? Mr. Curtin took into his confidence the executive of the Opposition in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and told them as much as he considered it was proper he should tell them without revealing Cabinet secrets. As he said at the time, he considered that the information should not be bruited. As a matter of plain fact, the statement of the sequence of events by Senator Collings is not wholly correct. Mr. Curtin did not come to me immediately. However, that is by the way. Mr. Curtin and I, despite that discharge on his part of his public duty, remained firm friends to the last. God rest his soul ! I do not hold any personal grudge against him. I was sufficiently broadminded, tolerant and responsible to recognize that he had a public duty to perform. Yesterday, I followed the precedent which he established in the performance of a public duty. What better precedent could I have adopted in discharging my public duty? Members of the Labour party describe Mr. Curtin as one of the greatest Australians in our history.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party did not inform the Prime Minister that he was in possession of confidential information, and in that respect he was not following the precedent which Mr. Curtin had established.
– I asked the Prime Minister to either deny or affirm the truth of the statement. I had not intended to use the information, but I was provoked into doing so by the untruthful statements of the irresponsible Minister for Defence. I had the information in my pocket. Let us compare the information that was supplied to Mr. Curtin when I was Prime Minister, with the information that I gave to the committee yesterday. Considering the nature of the information that I have, I let the Government down very lightly. In their own interests, honorable members opposite should not provoke me.
– Why does not the Leader of the Australian Country party read the document?
– I shall read some of it.
– Why not read all of it?
– I shall not do so. I shall compare the information that I gave to the committee yesterday with the information that the Labour party used to cause my downfall as Prime Minister in 1941. The Labour party received that information from a spy and a traitor, who was a senior officer in the Prime Minister’s Department. Let me advise the committee of the nature of the information of which honorable members opposite became the recipients. They did not disown it; they confirmed the treacherous action of a man who was in my confidence and was associated closely with me when I was Prime Minister of this country at a time when it was at war.
– Who was it?
– You know who it was. It was Winkler. He disclosed a confidential letter from my office. Almost immediately after the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) assumed his ministerial office he disclosed in this chamber a minute that was written in a ministerial file by his predecessor. What is the use of talking nonsense? Honorable members, opposite are great dispensers but very poor recipients. I bore all that stigma. It cost me over £400 to prove that I did not receive any part of the £300.
– What did the judge say about you ?
– It was nothing to what he’ would say about yon.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke).- Order ! The Chair is seeking to protect the right honorable gentleman from interjections ; but, if he insists upon speaking directly to honorable members opposite and not to the Chair, that cannot be clone.
– I admit, sir, that I should know better than to do that. I was comparing the information that I reluctantly disclosed to the committee yesterday, after being provoked, with the information that honorable members opposite received during my period of office as Prime Minister and Treasurer of Australian in a time of war. They were given the whole of the budget proposals before Cabinet had had the opportunity to discuss and consider them. Was I sent for, and was the document torn up? No. Tt was used in the campaign which led to the defeat of the government in which I was Prime Minister. I do not propose to read all of the information. It will be sufficient for my purposes to read the following extract: -
Outstanding features of the budget are (a) inflation, (?>) compulsory loans, (c) increased direct taxation, (d) increased indirect taxation, (c) small increase in pay of the forces.
There are two distinct schools of thought in the Cabinet on inflation. The Fadden school is prepared to experiment within what they believe, “ safety limits “ in order to appease Labour, while the other school, which includes Menzies, believes that inflation in its early stages is h hidden tax on the wage earners. . . .
Information was given with regard to very confidential cables that passed between myself and the United Kingdom Government in connexion with the munitions position in Australia -
The whole basis of the Labour party’s approach to the munitions position should be that it has been placed in the hands of “ big business “. Because of this, it has not been possible to secure full co-operation and best results. There are numerous instances of scandalous “ side-tracking “ of business to those directly concerned. . . .
There are pages more of it.
– Who supplied the information ?
– Photostat copies of the document were given by Winkler to the then Leader of the Labour party.
– Was it Rip Van Winkle?
– He was not asleep then.
– What about the other document?
– The Minister for Transport likes documents if he does not have to prove- their authenticity. I have a record of the conference that took place between the Minister for Defence and the Executive Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the 6th July, 1948. I do not propose to read to the committee the full report of the discussion at No. 10 Downing-street, London, between the Prime Minister and the British Cabinet. I am resting my case that the Government cannot and must not be trusted, particularly when the Minister concerned is in charge of the defence of Australia, on the document that I am about to read. It states -
The Minister referred to a memorandum (M.A.71G2) dated June 11, 1948, sent to him by C.S.I.B,. Secretary Gr. A. Cook re the proposed appointment of Mr. Stanislaw Dudryk Darleski to the staff of the Information Service of C.S.I.B. (see attached file re Darleski’s record ) .
Mr. Dedman said this raised a general question he would like to discuss with the Executive Committee. He pointed out that as regards staff appointment to C.S.I.B., he was in a somewhat vulnerable position as compared with a, Minister in charge of a department who had the Public Service Board behind him. The board guaranteed the integrity of every individual appointee to the Service, whereas he had to take personal responsibility for C.S.I K. appointments if they were raised in Parliament. He considered that something should be done to put him in a stronger position; and amendment of the act might possibly be involved.
Further, the Prime Minister had told him a fortnight or so ago that information from high sources in the United Kingdom had been received which made it quite clear that a number of United Kingdom government departments were not certain that C.S.I.B. could lie entrusted with certain information and that feeling militated, in turn, against the United Kingdom as regards obtaining information from the United States of America.
American authorities had made it quite clear that they would not pass on to the United Kingdom any information unless it was certain that such, information would not be passed on to Australia. The Prime Minister could give him no details, but was, nevertheless, certain, in view of the source of his information, that the feeling in the United Kingdom definitely existed; that was the important consideration. Unless something was done to .retrieve the position, Australia would not get certain information of a scientific nature that affected defence matters, and defence matters covered n wide field. Neither he nor the Prime Minister felt that there was any justification for tire United Kingdom feeling, but the point was that it existed. He considered that the Government would have to look into the matter and see ( 1 ) what had given rise to the feeling and (2) how the position could be retrieved.
As regards ( 1 ) he felt that Mr. A. P. Rowe had spread some rumours, but nothing much could be done about that, although something could be done to make it quite clear to the United Kingdom people that Mr. Rowe now had nothing to do with the Commonwealth or any Commonwealth organization.
Another possible factor was that the political opposition, and particularly Mr. Lang. M.P… had continued to draw attention to the alleged appointment of Communists by the C.S.I.R. That criticism had been cabled abroad.
Listen to this priceless effort -
Whether Communists should or should not bc appointed by C.S.I.R. was a matter for argument, but nowadays any one who was a Communist could not obtain employment under the Public Service Board. Moreover, under the Public Service Board regulations, every member of the Public Service was bound by regulation not to disclose information he gathered in the course of his duties and which should be regarded as confidential; the penalty was dismissal. Neither of the two conditions he had just mentioned applied to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research although the council was covered by a part of the Crimes Act dealing with official secrets. The Attorney-General’s Department had told him, however, that such control was much looser than control by the Public Service Board regulations and was, in fact, practically useless. It seemed to him that, in view of the recent parliamentary criticism, being cabled overseas, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research position should be considered. He had been informed that there were more Communists in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research than in any other department.
Another matter which worried him a little was the extent to which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was the recipient of secret information,, and how far, in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, that information went down the line.
Sir David Rivett remarked that the Council for Scientific and! Industrial Research had never asked a man’s religion or hia politics, &c, and had only considered each appointee’s ability. No instructions to take political leanings into account had ever been’ passed to the council.
The general question of the Council for Scientific and industrial Research and secret work, however, was much more important, and he proposed that it be discussed with the Minister after members of the executive committee had talked it over with the Defence Committee on 8th July. There was no doubt that Mr. Rowe had clouded the issue. During the war, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had turned to war work (much of it of a secret nature), but when the war was over it had returned to its former fields of activity. Under its act it had no responsibility for defence work, but much responsibility to industry. Its job was to build up the economic and industrial structure of Australia, and that was a very important matter. The fundamental question for decision was what was to be the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s future function. If it was as now defined in the act, then the question of military secrecy did not come into the picture. If the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was to do defence work, however, its whole structure would need to be changed. The council itself did not want secret work, for it considered such activities should lie carried out in special defence laboratories. It was extremely difficult to have a secret coterie in an organization like that of the council.
It was finally arranged that the whole matter would be further discussed with the Minister after the meeting with the Defence Committee to which Sir David Rivett had referred.
Present at that meeting were the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman), the Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Sir David Rivett, Dr. F. W. Gr. White, Dr. I. Clunies Ross, Mr. D. A. Mountjoy, and Mr. G. ACook. The meeting was held at Wentworth House on the 6th July last. Press reports giving information about the holding of the meeting appeared repeatedly after the 26th July. To-day is the 1st October, and what has the Government done to trace the obvious leaks of information from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research? The Prime Minister, and the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research pathetically, complacently and smugly assure us that there has been no leakage from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of information which might endanger the security of this country. The recommendations that emanated from the meeting on the 6th July have not been implemented, nor has any information been given in this chamber about any measures that have been taken to ensure the security of this country. For those reasons, and others, I have moved my amendment.
.- The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has introduced some heat into this debate. Undoubtedly we are discussing a very important subject, but I believe that we have reached an all time “ low “ in party politics-
Opposition members interjecting.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The Chair has protected the Leader of the Australian Country party from interjectors, and the same protection will be given to the Minister.
– I repeat that the action of the Opposition on this matter has brought us to an all time “ low “ in party politics in this country. There can be differences of opinion as to the rights or wrongs of divulging confidential information. I hold the view that in a democracy the first duty of a parliamentary representative is to the people. Sometimes there comes a. time when a member of the Parliament has to decide whether the divulgence of confidential information in justified in the interests of the country. I have at times been called upon to make that decision, and I make no apology for having divulged certain information that had come into my possession. But, let us examine the incident now under discussion. Honorable members opposite have ranged wide of the subject, and have talked about other incidents in which allegedly confidential information was divulged. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said, the Opposition’s allegations on this occasion are based on a document which, if genuine, is a stolen document, and, if not genuine, is a forgery. The charge is that the Go vernment has not protected the vital interests of Australia and has made it possible for potential enemy countries - I use that phrase purposely because many honorable members appear to have lost sight of the fact that at present we are not at war with any country - to secure vital information. No evidence has been produced to support the charge that there has, in fact, been a leakage of information. The allegations are based on mere assumption and supported by the weakest possible arguments. Let us examine some of the criticism that has been levelled by certain members of the Opposition. An attack has been made on Sir David Rivett. I do not know that gentleman, except by reputation, but those who do know him speak highly of his work, and I had never previously heard his loyalty to this country questioned. Because Sir David has expressed certain opinions as an individual, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) would have him disciplined and driven from his post. That is typical of the honorable member for Barker, who does not believe in individual freedom. No member of this Parliament is more fascist-minded and fascist-inclined than is the honorable member for Barker. I believe that Sir David was quite within his rights in expressing his individual opinion upon the basis on which research should be undertaken. Reference has been made also to a former member for Swan in this chamber, Mr. Mountjoy. Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to make much of the fact that Mr. Mountjoy has a brother who is a member of the Communist party; but they have failed to add that Mr. Mountjoy also has another brother who is a supporter of the Liberal party. It has never been suggested that Mr. Mountjoy had any opportunity, even had he so desired, to obtain secret information, and I do not believe that Mr. Mountjoy would have taken advantage of such an opportunity had it been presented to him. Because of mere prejudice, suspicion has been cast on a man who rendered undoubted service to the Commonwealth when he was a member of this Parliament. If a man occupying an important position is to be regarded as untrustworthy merely because some member of his family may hold certain views, let us examine the record of the Opposition. I understand that Sir David Rivett is a brother-in-law of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), f. believe that they married sisters. Does anybody hold that against either Sir David Rivett or the honorable member for Balaclava? Sir David Rivett , could not be blamed for the relations he acquired by marriage. There is also the instance of the son of the distinguished British parliamentarian, Mr. Amery, who was hanged as a traitor by the British authorities. Did anybody ever suggest chat that impugned the loyalty of Mr. Amery himself? The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was Minister for the Army in an anti-Labour government early in the recent war, and while holding that portfolio had a German brother-in-law, who was interned. But nobody ever suggested that the honorable member for Warringah would pass on information to- his German brother-in-law. I have seen the files regarding the honorable member’s brotherinlaw, Philip Raoul Hentze, and it indicated that he should have been in internment much longer than he actually was. It is ridiculous to talk about relatives affecting the loyalty of any one. I could with greater reason question the loyalty of the present Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), who was a member of the organization know as the New Guard, an undemocratic organization that was formed with the object of overthrowing constitutional government in this country. Is it not rather doubtful
– I rise to a point of order. The Acting Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly denied the statement that he was a member of the New Guard, and in his absence I take a point of order and demand a withdrawal of the statement by the Minister. That statement is offensive to me.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The right honorable member for Darling Downs states that the statement is offensive to him, and I ask the Minister to withdraw it.
– In deference to the Chair and despite the fact that I made no reference to the Leader of the Australian Country party, I withdraw. There have been, however, innumerable occasions on which that statement about the Acting Leader of the Opposition has been made and not challenged by honorable members opposite.
The Leader of the Australian Country party has complained that the Government does not take the Opposition fully into its confidence. There are certain members of the Opposition whom I would not trust with anything and I think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is acting quite properly in ensuring that certain information shall not come into their hands. I have no first-hand information on this subject; but if there be any reluctance on the part of the British and American, authorities to pass on certain information to this country, who would he to blame for it ? Not this Government, but honorable members of the Opposition, who are doing a distinct disservice to Australia by deliberately creating abroad the opinion that the Public Service of Australia is honeycombed with people who are intent on betraying their country. That is the line that the Opposition is adopting at present. The Leader of the Australian Country party has paid great tribute to the late Leader of the Labour Government, Mr. Curtin. He quoted Mr. Curtin, and made it clear that he was prepared to take Mr. Curtin’s word on any matter at all. The right honorable gentleman ought to refresh his memory a little, because Mr. Curtin’s opinion of him was not always what he would have us believe it was. The right honorable gentleman quoted from innumerable newspaper cuttings, as did also the honorable member for Barker. Here is what was reported on one occasion in the Sydney Morning Herald -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to-night charged the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) with “improperly referring to most secret correspondence “ between the Dominions Office and the Australian Government.
This charge was made by Mr. Curtin in a statement headed “ Advisory Council - Mr. Faddens Breach of Faith “, in which Mr. Curtin replied to Mr. Fadden’s recent allegations on the militia forces.
Mr. Curtin accused the right honorable member of using for party political purposes vital, confidential information of which he had became possessed as a member of the Advisory War Council. I am one of the members of the Labour party who vigorously opposed the establishment of the Advisory War Council, because apparently I knew the Opposition better than Mr. Curtin did. I knew that honorable members of the Opposition could not be trusted.
The Leader of the Australian Country party also referred to the Winkler incident. I do not know what Mr. Winkler’s motives were in giving the ininformation that he disclosed to the late Mr. Curtin, but nobody can controvert the assertion that its disclosure was in the public interest. The right honorable gentleman skipped around the vital point, which is, that the information placed in the hands of the then Labour Opposition revealed that the government of the day was misusing public funds in an attempt to bribe trade union officials. Would honorable members suggest that any one who became possessed of such information would not consider that it was in the interests of the Australian people to divulge it? That was my position also in the incident to which the honorable member for Barker has referred, when I divulged the contents of a certain letter. The honorable member did not allude to the contents of that letter, but I shall describe them briefly so as to indicate the importance of it. Mr. R. G. Casey, now the president of the Liberal party, but at that time the Commonwealth Treasurer, was deliberately engaged in doctoring evidence that was to be given before a royal commission inquiring into banking in this country. That was the charge that I made arising from the contents of that letter. I gave the whole matter a great deal of thought before I divulged the contents of the letter, and I thought more of the public I had been sent here to serve than I did of what opinion honorable members opposite might have of me. I shall now give the honorable member for Barker & quotation from the press by referring to the Daily Telegraph of the 18th December, 1941. That was -probably the only occasion that I can recollect on which I agreed with th’e Daily Telegraph. On that occasion that newspaper stated that the honorable member should not be in a democratically elected parliament, but should be interned while the country was at war.’ I quote from an editorial which it published oh that date-
This is what he Said in the House of Raj) re1 sentatives 6n August 2ls less than four months ago, referring to the Nazis’ wanton attack on the Soviet Union: - if his speech of August 21 reflects his real sentiments, he has ho right to be iti a democratic Parliament.
Federal Parliament would not be failing in its duty to this country and to its Allies if it declared Mr, Cameron’s seat vacant.
Many people who have spoken less dangerously have found themselves in concentration camps.
One would imagine^ hearing the statements of honorable members opposite, that members of the Labour party cannot be trusted with confidential information.
– Allowance should be made for the honorable member who has just interjected, because he is one of the newest members of the House: He will net be here much longer. On the eve of the Japanese entry into the war, when everybody knew that Japan was a potential enemy of this country, there was a cocktail party at one of the legations in Canberra-
– Name it.
– Certain members of the present Opposition who were then members of the Australian Government and who held responsible positions, attended that party and became so intoxicated that they had to be taken back to Hotel Canberra, and one of them had to be put to bed by officials of the Japanese consulate. Such matters might well be investigated if one set out to determine who could be trusted with confidential information. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was a member of the Advisory War Council who betrayed his trust. When he secured information that came to him by virtue of that position, to the effect that certain offensive action against the Japanese was pending in the South-West Pacific, he could not resist his craving for cheap publicity, and tried to make it appear that he was responsible for the action that was about to take place. He knew tl at that action had been planned, and that the premature release of that information could have been of the utmost value to the enemy. He was later taken to task for what he did.
I could cite instance after instance of a similar nature. The honorable member for Barker on one occasion during his term as Minister for the Navy, an important defence portfolio, found great merit in the cause of the Germans and even criticized the possibility that British lives might be sacrificed in the defence of Poland. He said that the Germans had a right to the free city of Danzig. Those were the views then held by this pro-Nazi and pro-fascist honorable member. Before members of the Opposition criticize members of the Government or impugn their loyalty, they should make some examination of the records of their own actions and utterances. Tha allegation of the Leader of the Australian Country party that on a certain occasion I ran away from a royal commission is quite untrue: Any one who cares to examine the terms of reference of that royal commission will see that the commission was restricted to inquiring into my charge that a certain secret document was missing from an official file. The very serious charges that I had .made concerning the views on war strategy that members of the Opposition held were not included in the terms of reference and were not investigated. Obviously, members of the Opposition are hoping that the people of this country have short memories. In 1943, after the royal commission had1 reported its findings, the best judges in such matters, the people of Australia, passed judgment at the general election in that year, and returned Labour to office with an increased majority. Now, after six years have elapsed, members. of the Opposition think that the public has forgotten. They imagine that they can again present themselves to the people of Australia as super-patriots, as those who really place Australia first and they are continually maligning members of the Government and the Australian Labour party. They accuse us of being under the domination of Communists, and assert that the great trade unions of Australia are controlled by Communists. They are seeking to create in the minds of the people of Australia the impression that the present Government cannot be trusted in a time of international crisis. Of course, they have in mind the general election that is to be held next year. However, the people fire the best judges of the merits of any government, and I have no doubt’ what their verdict will be when they are given the opportunity to contrast the achievements of Labour since it assumed office in 1943 with the unconscious, if not conscious, treachery of the present Opposition parties when they were in power during the early years of the war.
– Whether the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) should or should not have answered a question that was asked by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) in the course of his speech yesterday concerning the accuracy of certain information published in thc press is beside the point. The debate has taken a startling and dangerous turn, because of the revelation that honorable members of the Opposition have obtained in a surreptitious fashion certain documents which they have used in the debate. Of course, they do not say that the documents were stolen from the files of the British Cabinet in Downing-street, but they seek to create the im’pression that they are quoting from genuine documents, and that these documents originally belonged to the British Cabinet, because they relate to an alleged meeting of an inner cabinet of the British Cabinet. The people of Australia will want to know what standards of ethics are followed in this Parliament by members of the Opposition, who produce documents which, by inference at any rate, belong to the British Government and to nobody else. The public life of this country has certainly come to a pass when documents which are the sole property of the British Government can be quoted and flaunted by honorable gentlemen opposite in any way they think fit. THey are doing this very dangerous thing in the attempt to secure some political’ advantage. They imagined that the ephemeral advantage which they hoped to gain, but which has already vanished, would assist them in the next general election campaign. However, I believe that by resorting to such tactics they have destroyed any chance which they might have had of winning any election. Members who have such a degraded standard of political ethics that while in Opposition they will use secret documents involving security considerations in the manner adopted on the present occasion obviously ought never to be entrusted with the handling of important documents as the government of the country. The conduct of certain members of the Opposition in this matter has been such as to revolt any clean thinking person who has any concern for the ethics of public life, and furnishes a shocking example of breach of trust and mud-slinging by those who are attempting to stampede the people into changing the Government. Indeed, the degradation of the public life of the nation by the actions of certain members of the Opposition who have taken part in the debate must be regarded as utterly unthinkable by any decent person. It is a sickening experience for men and women, inside and outside the Parliament, who so faithfully served this nation and who believe in clean thinking and clean acting in public life. I certainly do not think that the people of Australia will change their Government at the behest of those who use admittedly stolen documents.
– That is a deliberately false statement.
– The documents, if genuine, were stolen from the files of another member of the British Commonwealth of Nations-
– That is a deliberately false statement.
– I remind members of the Opposition of the old French proverb, “ Qui s excuse s’accuse “ - he who excuses himself, accuses himself. The last three speakers from the opposite side of the chamber ran for cover because they knew that they had done something that no decent man in Australia would think of doing.
– I rise to order. I ask that it be recorded that the Minister has stated that the Opposition has agreed that the document referred to is a stolen document. That allegation is in accordance with the untruthfulness of the other statements made by supporters of the Government in this debate.
– Honorable members opposite are very good at making charges and blackening the reputations of other people, but when they are ashed to stand up to their responsibility and either deny or confirm that the document referred to was stolen, they moan and whinge and squeal and. run away. ‘ In Great Britain the prior disclosure of even one minor item of the Government’s proposals in the budget is invariably followed by the resignation of the Minister concerned, even though he might have been the innocent victim of circumstances, as was the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Dr. Hugh Dalton. As a consequence of his foolish action in speaking to a pressman, Dr. Dalton had to resign from the government of Great Britain. Mr. J. H. Thomas, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, disclosed to his own son some concessions in the budget. His disclosure led to manipulations on the British Stock Exchange and he, too, had to resign not only his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer but also his seat as a member of the House* of Commons. That is a standard of decency to which honorable members opposite have no desire to attain. Every honorable member opposite who used this stolen document yesterday as a basis for the reckless charges made should in decency submit his resignation before this chamber rises to-day. If it be discovered that honorable members opposite have used a stolen document, they should be charged in the courts of this country
– Charge us 1
– People who do things like that in Great Britain pay the full penalty for their crime against their country. Honorable members who brought the document into this chamber and laid the charges had only one object in view. They wanted to frighten the governments of Great .Britain a’nd the United States of America into believing that the Australian Government cannot be trusted, that the public servants of this country cannot be trusted, and that the Australian people cannot be trusted. For months past their vile and vicious propaganda against this Government, which they call the Communist-dominated Chifley Government, has been designed solely to prevent the Government of the United -States of America from giving us any secrets it may desire to give us, and to prevent the British Government from giving us information which we need for the defence of this nation. Honorable members opposite have talked about uranium investigations in .South Australia. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has said, there is nothing unusual in these investigations. It is no longer a secret that uranium atom 235 can be separated from uranium atom 238. The secret of separating the atoms so that a conglomeration of uranium 235 can be formed for the purpose of generating heat and developing explosive qualities has been known for a number of years. It was discovered during the- war. “What is not known- outside the United States, as the Minister for Defence said last night, is the industrial technique by which the uranium conglomeration, after it has reached the critical size, can be exploded. The United States of America is the only nation which possesses that knowledge. It is not possessed by Great Britain. The guided weapons testing range, which this Government, in conjunction with the British Government, is constructing in central Australia, will make a very important contribution to the defence of Great Britain as well as of other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Those employed on the project are all safe people from the security standpoint.
– How does the Minister know that? What did Sir Percy Sillitoe say? (
– What he has said is a matter for the British Government.
– And a very worrying matter, tool
– I have sufficient faith in Sir Percy Sillitoe to know that he would not let his country down by acting’ as honorable members opposite, have acted in this chamber. Sir Percy Sillitoe, and other people who have advised the British Government ‘ since the war, and who may have had reason to consult with Australian officials are, on all the evidence available, perfectly satisfied with the security measures taken in this country. The only people who are not satisfied are those who do not want to be satisfied, and they are prepared to degrade the public life of this country to the level of the gutter for the purpose of attempting to get back on the Government bench from which they were removed, because of their incompetence and ineptitude. It is the responsibility of honorable members opposite, who have soiled their hands, blackened their reputations, and degraded their high office by their shocking disclosures in this matter, to explain to the people of Australia why they have been so lacking in the things that matter as to produce a document which, if it be genuine, is the sole property’ of the British Government and of nobody else. Their action constitutes -a shattering blow to whatever election prospects they might have had. After their behaviour in the last two days the people of Australia will not trust them. They are not fit to be trusted. Any person who would steal a document and produce it in this chamber in the way in which this document ‘ has been produced has no place in the Parliament of the nation. Honorable members opposite knew that the document came from a traitor, and they should have co-operated with the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Government in exposing the traitor and any other people who were responsible for the document being in their possession. I accept the thesis of the Acting Leader of the Opposition that the document is genuine. As the Prime Minister has said, if it is genuine it is a stolen document, and if it is not a stolen document, honorable members opposite are equally blameworthy because they have perpetrated a forgery to win what they regard as a political advantage. Every person in this country, whether or not he be a member of this Parliament, should disclose to the Government any secret information pertaining to the defence of the nation that may come to him. The only persons entitled topossess this information are members of the Government, because they are the sworn advisers of His Majesty the King in this country. They have the responsibility of government by virtue of the vote of the people. All those honorable members opposite who have played with fire in this matter are as much sworn members of the Executive Council as are any present or past Ministers. They are at call if their services are needed. They will never be heeded again. TheKing could seek their advice because they took a triple oath when they assumed office ; but they have so littleRegard for the sanctity of their oath and their responsibilities as parliamentarians and as Australians that they are prepared to do anything to drag this country down. They have indulged in all sorts of attempts to belittle the Australian Government in the eyes of two great nations in the world without whose assistance this country could not survive. They have directed their attacks on the Government so that the people of Great Britain and America shall be impressed by their arguments. They are concerned solely with damaging the reputation of Australia in the eyes of Great Britain and the United States of America. The Prime Minister, who has recently been in Great Britain, enjoysthe confidence of the United Kingdom Government and of the chiefs of the defence forces in Great Britain. Despite the mud-slinging indulged in by honorable members opposite, the reputation of the Prime Minister stands particularly high in the United States of America. Letme ask honorable members opposite where they obtained this information. Let them be manly enough to say, “ We got it from this or that person”. Let them point their finger, if they are courageous enough, and indicate that the honorable memberforReid (Mr. Lang) is probably the source of their information. The actual Leader of the Opposition brought the documents to light and handed them to a couple of foolish people, who are now sorry for their part in the whole disgraceful affair and are trying to escape responsibility. I am sorry for the Leader of the Australian Country party, who is much more decent than most of his colleagues.
– No !
– I express my own view. All that the right honorable gentleman said this morning was said in an attempt to extricate himself from the situation into which he had allowedhis foolishness to lead him. The Acting Leader of the Opposition is another foolish person. This is not the first evidence of his foolishness. They both will be on the defensive before the bar of public opinion from now on, because anybody who has handled these two documents as they have handled them is not fit to be entrusted with the control of secret and other information as a member of a government. Some of the people who are behind them in this matter are far more dangerous as potential fifth columnists than are those against whom those they usually rail.
The following paper was presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Supply and Development - I. H. Mather.
House adjourned at 12.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481001_reps_18_198/>.