Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) . - I direct the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the appropriate Minister to the lack of preparation to meet air raids in the Australian Capital Territory. Since Darwin was bombed and the first impact of war on Australia was felt a fortnight ago, one would expect that a Government with its head-quarters in the capital city of Australia would have taken the necessary precautions in order to ensure that, in the event of an air raid, the administrative facilities would not be impaired to any appreciable extent. So far as I have been able to learn, however, the Government has continued to operate as though J apan had not struck, and on the assumption that this city is inviolate, instead of being, as it is, only 80 or 90 miles from the sea-coast, off which bombers could be launched from an aircraft carrier and be engaged in a raid here within about 50 minutes. Important though the provision of shelters may be, it is, perhaps, of minor importance compared with the security of the documents of the Commonwealth. So far as I have been able to ascertain, not one thing has so far been done in order to preserve the very important documents in the various administrative quarters. Photostats have not been taken, a3 they have been by banking institutions and business firms, and sent for security inland, far from the coast-line. The Government is in a state of hopeful bliss, evidently believing that we may escape the impact of attack by the enemy. It has the duty and the responsibility of attempting to safeguard the administrative machinery, so that, in the event of a bomb falling on a secretariat or on Parliament House, there will not be complete disorganization of th'i nation's services. Such a contingency is not at all unlikely. I suggest that the Government take time by the forelock, and act immediately in order to see that at least the important documents, without which it would be extremely difficult to carry on the Government, shall be placed in such a position that there will be no possibility of their destruction by aircraft, or that duplicates of them shall be made.

Throughout Parliament House to-day, the doors were plastered with notices stating that, in the event of an air raid, those who are in the building shall leave Parliament House and " take to the bush ". What a nice picture would be presented by the Prime Minister and the whole of the Cabinet seeking shelter under rose bushes in the parliamentary gardens ! That is the only place in which they could shelter. In this matter, I am not looking for any publicity. The whole of my remarks can be censored, if that be thought necessary. It is a fact that no provision has been made for the safety of the Administration, the staff, or any member of Parliament. So far as I have been able to see, no provision has been made for the safety of any of the residents of Canberra. I have not seen a single trench. If it exists, it must be in a back garden. Who is responsible for that? To-day, I asked the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) a question on the subject. I assumed that he was charged with responsibility for home security, but he very politely replied that such responsibility is vested in the Department of the Interior. Probably the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), if he were asked to comment, would tell us something else. The fact is that the enemy bombed Darwin a fortnight ago. Goodness knows when a bombing attack may be made, not only in this Territory, but also on points on the eastern sea-board. We have to remember that we are only 90 miles from where an aircraft carrier may be waiting to launch an attack upon us. I submit to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Home Security, and other

Ministers, that the matter is one which affects not only the persona i safety of members of this Parliament, but also the positions that they hold in the parliamentary machinery for the government of Australia in its hour of crisis. The Government has the responsibility of seeing that adequate measures are taken, not only for the preservation of records, but also for the safety of the members of this Parliament and the residents of Canberra. If a similar state of affairs existed in Sydney or Melbourne, I could direct my criticism at the State authorities. In this Capital Territory, no one is responsible except the federal authorities. The position needs to be remedied very quickly by whoever is responsible, because the enemy does not give more than a few minutes' notice of his intention to attack. The longest notice that could be given of a bombing attack on this city would probably be 50 minutes, if the enemy were lying off the coast. I therefore urge the Prime Minister to take whatever steps are necessary to meet the position.

Suggest corrections