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Friday, 2 July 1920


Mr TUDOR (Yarra) .- (By leave).- Yesterday I asked whether the cablegrams that had passed between the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and Mr. Watt, or between the Prime Minister and any other Minister and the British Government would be laid on the table, and the Prime Minister replied that they would be laid on the table, with the exception of such parts of them as had nothing to do with Mr. Watt's resignation or contained statements which, in the interests of the public, should not be disclosed. He suggested that I and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) should go through the file with him, and determine what might properly be kept back from publication. The file of correspondence was submitted to us, and we were assured by the Secretary to the Prime Minister's Department that it contained the whole of the cablegrams that had passed. The Prime Minister's suggestion was that we should edit this file; but we acted rather as censors, our work being to cut out what was not material to the case, or what, in the public interest, should not be disclosed. We were not asked to take sides, and I do not intend to do so. By way of illustrating the omissions that we sanctioned, I might say that one of the cablegrams sent by Mr. Watt contained certain confidential figures. He said, " I have obtained these figures in confidence." That information was, therefore, kept back from publication. Then on another matter the Secretary of State for the Colonies sent a cablegram to the Prime Minister marked " most secret." Honorable members, no doubt, are aware that there are " confidential " cablegrams, "secret" cablegrams, and "most secret ' ' cablegrams. A cablegram marked " most secret " could not be published without the permission of the sender, and therefore that cablegram, together with the Prime Minister's reply to it, has been withheld. We were not asked to indorse or confirm any of the statements in the cablegrams; that was not our business. All we were asked to do was to make sure that the material facts were given to the House. In the file there are statements that are not material to the resignation of Mr. Watt - criticisms of persons and Governments, which have nothing to do with the case - and the publication of some of which might injure the Commonwealth. We agreed that such statements should not be made public. Possibly any member who desired to see the whole file could do so; but that is a matter for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. I assure the House, however, that, in my opinion, everything on the file that is material to the case, and that could properly be published, has been made public by the Prime Minister.







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