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Thursday, 11 May 1939

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been good enough, according to promise, to make available a letter addressed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) when he was Prime Minister, to the Governor-General, in which he tendered his resignation as head of the Government, that resignation carrying with it the resignation of the Government. I understand that that letter has been incorporated in Hansard, and I need not read it again. But the record, as far as my information extends, is not yet complete. Every body is aware that the Leader of the Government immediately preceding the present Government in office had tendered his resignation and that a new Government was in prospect; therefore, the confirmation of that by a letter carries us no further. But I am given to understand that on the date that the right honorable member for Cowper tendered his resignation, he visited the Governor-General and presented his written resignation in person, and then tendered certain advice to the Governor-General. I am not sure, of course, what that advice was, but I have good reason to believe that on the same day and consequent upon the fact, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) had been sent for and commissioned to form a government, the right honorable member for Cowper addressed a letter to the GovernorGeneral.

Mr Menzies - Other than the letter of resignation ?


Mr Menzies - I have not seen it.

Mr BRENNAN - Does the right honorable gentleman say that he is not aware of it?

Mr Menzies - I do.

Mr BRENNAN - That being so, I ask the right honorable gentleman to have the record completed. There is nothing, I should like to re-assure the Prime Minister, in the suggestion that I am making of a sinister or disingenuous character. I am merely asking in accordance with precedent now well established that the record of material matters be completed. I believe that the Minister might very well inquire as to the existence of that letter and as to whether or not there is any objection to its being made a matter of public record. I quite understand that there are many occasions on which purely private interviews must take place between the representative of the sovereign and his chief adviser. That is quite in accordance with tradition and practice. But it has become very well established in recent years - I could, perhaps, and may on another occasion, cite ample authority for this statement - for the relevant communications passing between the chief adviser of the Crown and the representative of the Crown to be made public. If it be true, as I understand it is, that the right honorable member for Cowper had already tendered his resignation, which resignation had been accepted, it would be technically a fact that he was not Prime Minister at the time that he wrote that further letter ; but he was in charge until his successor to the office of Prime Minister was appointed. He was standing in loco of the Prime Minister and, that being the case, that letter, written by him., dealing with the change of government, was a matter of great public interest and some importance, and should, if possible, be disclosed. At all events, I ask the Prime Minister to consider the matter for the interest of honorable members and the country at large, and to let me know whether he proposes to make any inquiry and, if he does make such inquiry, the result of it .

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