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Friday, 2 July 1920

Mr HUGHES - I cannot deal with this matter by way of answer to a question, but may I say that I have my rights just as have other men ? I think it is only fair to say that as soon as Mr. Watt resigned it was assumed, as usual, by the press of this country, or of this State, at any rate, that I was in the wrong. I was not only blamed for being the cause of Mr. Watt's resignation, but for not immediately accepting it, and for refraining from making a statement on the whole matter. . As honorable members know, I made a statement after consulting my colleagues, as any sensible man would have done in the circumstances, and that statement, to put it mildly, upset my critics more than a little. Of course, they withdrew nothing that they had said about me, but they suggested that they would wait until Mr. Watt came back before they said anything more. There the matter would have rested but for Mr. Watt himself, who suggested the unusual course of laying the correspondence between us on the table. If I had declined to do this, is it not obvious that my refusal would have been construed as an admission by me that the course suggested by Mr. Watt would prove him to be in the right and me in the wrong? In the circumstances, therefore, I have followed Mr. Watt's suggestion. This House, and the people of the country are to act as a jury to try the case, and judge who is in the wrong. I have my reputation to consider, just as Mr. Watt has his. Mr. Watt has been my colleague, and I have never said, and do not propose to say, one word against him. He has, however, resigned, and I must show that his resignation was due to no act or fault of mine. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) said that as the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country party are satisfied, after editing the cables that passed between Mr. Watt and the Government, Mr. Watt will be placed at no disadvantage by their publication, and that we should, therefore, not publish them at all. But the honorable member is under a misapprehension as to what the position is. All that those who edited the cables have done has been to excise those parts which have really no bearing on the point at issue, but are matters which, in the public interest, ought not to be published. They have not attempted to judge the merits of the case. Everything that relates to the resignation of Mr. Watt will be laid on the table. I am now appealing as a private member of the House, and I say to my fellow members that they have a right to hear me, because I have been assailed.

Mr Tudor - Let the honorable gentleman ask leave to make a statement, and do it now.

Mr HUGHES - I should not have taken the course of tabling the cablegrams if it had not been that Mr. Watt himself suggested the adoption of that course. He himself suggested it, and I do what he has asked, because if I did not do so it would be said that the cablegrams proved Mr. Watt's case. It seems to me, therefore, that I have no option but to adopt Mr. Watt's suggestion.

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