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Wednesday, 7 July 1920

Mr RYAN (West Sydney) .- I ask the Minister in charge of the House whether an opportunity will begiven honorable members at a very early date to discuss the important statement which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on Friday last. Upon that occasion the right honorable gentleman gave certain information to the public which was contained in cable messages that had passed between himself and the late Treasurer (Mr. Watt). I gather from the press that in the course of that statement the Prime Minister affirmed that Mr. Watt had resigned three' times prior to his departure for London. No doubt that statement was made with a view to discrediting the late Treasurer.

Mr Wise - Why should it be?

Mr RYAN - I conclude that it was made with that object, particularly when I view it in conjunction with the Prime Minister's statement that the late Treasurer had deserted the duty that he was to perform for Australia on the other side of the world. I think that, in the public interests - not to speak of the interests of Mr. Watt himself, who is now about 12,000 miles distant - an early opportunity should be given honorable members to discuss this matter. For my own part, I do not think that anybody can come to a correct conclusion in regard to the contents of those cables unless he is placed in possession of the cable communications from London to the Commonwealth Government, which led up to the sending of Mr. Watt to England.

Mr Austin Chapman - The honorable member is not likely to see them.

Mr RYAN - It is necessary that we should see them in order that we may learn what was the requirement of the British authorities which led to the sending of the late Treasurer to London, and in order that we may be able to conclude what his authority ought to. have been. In addition, I think we should know the actual instructions which were given to him when leaving here. What was the scope of his mission ? I suppose that it is contained in some written -document, a copy of which should be available to honorable members.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Why, it is all recorded in Hansard.

Mr RYAN - No, it is not.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Yes, it is.

Mr RYAN - Excuse me, it is not in Hansard. Does the Minister for the Navy say that the communication from the Imperial Government to the Commonwealth Government which led up to the decision to send Mr. /Watt to London is recorded in Hansard?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I do not know of any communication from the Imperial Government which led to Mr. Watt's departure for London.

Mr RYAN - Was there not such a communication ?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Not that I know of.

Mr RYAN - It is very extraordinary if the Government sent Mr. Watt to London without having some previous communication from the Imperial authorities. As far as I can gather from one reference in Mr. Watt's cablegrams, there must have been some such communication from the Imperial Government.

Then it is a matter of great interest to me to know what were the circumstances connected with Mr. Watt's three resignations. In fairness to the late Treasurer, should not the grounds for his resignations have been stated? If those resignations were in writing - and we have been told that they were - the documents should be produced. No doubt, in addition to containing an intimation of his resignation, Mr. Watt also notified what were the grounds for his action. I am sure the country would be interested to know what were the representations made to the late Treasurer that prevented him from insisting on his resignation being accepted. These are all matters of great concern to the people of Australia, particularly in view of the fact that we were told important business which had to be transacted on the other side of the world suffered in consequence of the Minister's delinquency. Therefore, at the earliest possible moment, honorable members ought to be given the opportunity of discussing the' statements made by the Prime Minister, and endeavouring to extract the information I have referred to, and other information of a similar nature. I hope that the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) will be able to give us an intimation as to what are the intentions of the Government in regard to the question I am submitting.

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