Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 20 November 1941

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for the Army) . - by leave - The questions which have been directed at the army censorship recently fall into three sections. The first concerns the publications which have been placed on the banned list prepared for the Army; the second relates to the alleged impounding of books that, are being imported as cargo; and the third is whether the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is associated, in his military capacity, with the banning of literature.

I shall deal first with the Army's list of banned publications. At the moment, 171 publications, including books, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets and cyclostyled circulars are on the banned list and are stopped at the point of entry on the ground that they are subversive. Of these,83 come under the broad description of "Leftist"; 16 have a distinct Nazi flavour; and the remainder consist of certain Japanese periodicals and material which is militantly pacifist or anti-British. Of the 171 publications, 16 are published in Japan, 2 in France, 57 in the United States of America, 2 in China, 9 in Russia, 1 in New Zealand, 64 in England, 3 in Manchuria, 3 in Mexico, 2 in Brazil, 1 in Argentina, 4 in Australia, 2 in Eire, 1 in Finland, 2 in Sweden, 1 in Switzerland, and 1 in India. Forty-nine are printed in foreign languages and the rest are printed in English.

Included in the list of banned "Leftist" publications are the Russian newspapers Pravda and Izvestia, as well as a number of the works of Lenin and others. I have ordered a review of the 171 publications on the Army's banned list with a view to seeing whether any of them can be released for circulation, without any risk to national security.

Recently, two publications were removed from this list, because it was found that they did not contain any subversive or objectionable propaganda. They were the Moscow News, a weekly newspaper published in English in Moscow, and the Left News, a periodical published by the firm of Gollanez, in London.

The Army is responsible for the censorship of matter which passes through postal and telegraphic channels. At present, if any of the publications on the Army's banned list are intercepted in the post, they are stopped.

Theprocedure which was adopted in compiling the list of banned publications was as follows: - Publications intercepted in the mail by postal and telegraphic censorship authorities, and suspected of being subversive or detrimental to the effective prosecution ofthe war, were submitted to the Department of Information, which is the press and publicity censorship authority. The Department of Information decided whether or not a publication contravened the provisions of National Security (General) Regulation 17. If the Department of Information considered that a publication contravened the provisions of the regulation, the Controller of Postal and. Telegraphic Censorship placed it on the banned list and it was stopped by the censors. All publications placed on the list were promulgated in general censorship instructions which are issued by the Controller of Postal and Telegraph ic Cens orshi p .

I shall now describe the procedure for removing a publication from the list. If, in the course of examining materials, a district censor considers that the tone of a listed publication has changed, the Controller of Postal and Telegraphic Censor- shi p submits it to the Department of Information. If the Department of Information finds that the publication is not subversive, it is removed from the list. The Customs Department is then advised through general censorship instructions and allows the entry of the publication if it comes in as freight.

The next matter is the impounding of literature after importation and before sale or distribution. I am informed by the military intelligence authorities that they go no further than the censorship action which I have outlined. The power to impound " Leftist " literature exists in National Security (General) Regulation 17, which provides that a. Minister may, by order in the Gazelle, declare printed matter to be a prohibited paper. The printed matter then becomes automatically banned and forfeited. Under National Security (Subversive Associations) Regulations, the Attorney-General has certain powers in regard to the property of associations which are declared to be subversive, but these do not appear to be relevant here, except where they relate to the impounding of the literature of those organizations which have already been declared subversive. The position regarding the impounding of literature is as follows: -

(1)   Communist literature can be impounded under Regulation 17B if gazetted.

(2)   Any literature of an organization declared to be subversive can be impounded.

(3)   The reports I have received give no instances in which military authorities have impounded literature.

(4)   The postal and. telegraphic censorship has power to examine all articles passing through the post and it is possible that in isolated cases subversive periodicals have been intercepted in this way.

It is not true that publications originating from Russia are unobtainable in Australia. It is probably true that the number available is small, and I have already stated that a review willbe made of the censorship list on an equitable basis, having due regard to the paramount importance of national security. Complaints have been made that the Customs Department referred doubtful publications to the Army, which banned them without explanation, and which refused to inform booksellers whether or why the ban had been imposed. I am informed that the Army, in these matters, acts on the advice of the Department of Information.

Apart altogether from array censorship, the Customs Departmenthas power under the Prohibited Imports Regulations to stop certain types of Communist literature.

Regarding statements that the military intelligence organization in Southern Command, of which the honorable member for Barker is a. member, has taken action to impound or suppress literature other than that which is included in the banned list, I am in a position to state definitely that Southern Command has not at any time since the outbreak of war, either within or outside the scope of its powers, impounded any literature, imported or otherwise, cither on its own initiative or at the request of some other authority, or in any other circumstances. Southern Command has not been concerned in any way, in association with the Commonwealth Investigation Branch or with the police, in the impounding of literature.

It is true that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron), in his military capacity, was connected in name with intelligence censorship work for about a month, but his actual work was not very great. His absences from military duty were necessarily frequent, because of his work as a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The House of Representatives sat during two weeks of the month that he was connected with intelligence censorship. There are no instances in which he was concerned, in his military capacity, with the banning of literature.

Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to-

That the paper be printed.

Suggest corrections