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Thursday, 10 November 1938

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- When in this House last Friday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) spoke about the position of the former PostmasterGeneral, Senator A. J. McLachlan, in relation to his directorship of certain public companies, I made an interjection which I believe was taken to moan that 1 had referred previously to the position of that honorable senator. I had not done so. In September and October of 1936, I raised the matter of members who were directors of public companies holding positions in the Cabinet, first by asking a question designed to ascertain which members of the Cabinet held such directorships, and later, when met with a refusal to answer that question, by some remarks on the motion for the adjournment of the House. In October 1936 the Sydney Bulletin twice made very considerable references to the position of Senator A. J. McLachlan as a director of public companies. I think it was then generally known that the honorable senator was not only Postmaster-General but also a director of a company which contracted with the Postal Department. I saw the honorable senator when the passage to which I have referred appeared in the Sydney Bulletin, and he told me exactly what he said in the letter that he wrote last week to the Prime Minister. I was perfectly satisfied that he could not influence the giving of any contracts, and that, if a contract were given improperly to the company of which he was a director, the act involved corrupt practice, not only on his part, but also on the part of public officers - which I could not for a moment suspect. But I do believe with the utmost confidence that the people are entitled to be satisfied that the public business of this country is carried on by Ministers honestly and incorruptly. There should be not only honest government and administration, but also no circumstance likely to excite suspicion of dishonest or corrupt government. Not only should justice be done, but also the people should soc that justice is done. In my opinion, the private interests of Ministers should be disclosed to Parliament and the country. I believe that the rule laid down by the late Mr. Gladstone, and followed by the late Sir Henry Campbell

Bannermann, that no one holding a position in a public company should sit in the Cabinet, is a wise and salutary one.

Mr Makin - The interests of Minister's wives in public companies should also be known.

Mr BLACKBURN - I am mainly concerned with the principle that the people of Australia should be satisfied that those who carry on the government of the country have no direct or indirect personal interests other than in the conduct of the business of the country. I made no attack on Senator A. J. McLachlan. Everybody knew his position; it was discussed in the newspapers, and was fully disclosed by the Sydney Bulletin. I am of the opinion that he was only one of a number of Ministers who held directorships of public companies. As I told him at the time, the difference between him and the others was, that his relations with public companies were known whilst those of other Ministers were not known.

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