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Tuesday, 16 December 1941

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Aircraft Production) - That is a very good answer; it would be based on common sense. I admit that there are certain shortcomings in the military preparations of this country, but under the present method of consultation between the Government and the Opposition, those ex-Ministers who were most responsible for the shortcomings are in a position to offer advice to the Government. That is indefensible. I am surprised that any responsible Minister should believe that we can extricate ourselves from our difficulties by such methods. Such procedure can only multiply and intensify our difficulties.

It is absurd to try to impose limits on total war. This is an all-in war, as I have said from the beginning. We have had two and a quarter years to learn what war under German direction means. We know that German methods are being copied by the Japanese - not, perhaps, that the Japanese needed much education in that way. We have had experience of Japanese methods in China. Those of us who have studied the matter know what happened at Shanghai. We know that only once in its history has Japan begun hostilities by a declaration of war. Therefore, we should not be surprised at anything the Japanese may do. The result is that we must fight this war ship for ship, plane for plane, and man for man.

I have said before and I make no apology for saying again, that if there is to be any security for our skips and planes and men, and for the supplies that are sent to our forces, this everlasting gabbling in the press has got to stop. W as there ever another instance in British history of the movements of a great warship in time of war being advertised as were those of the Prince of Wales from the time it left Capetown? Was there ever another occasion when the people turned out to welcome such a ship, except the feting of the Graf Spee at Valparaiso, and we know what happened to it! All this publicity gave the enemy three or four weeks to prepare a. welcome for the Prince of Wales and the Repulse, with the result which wo know. The divulging of information in this way by the. press must be stopped. This afternoon, the Prime Minister pleaded that there should be the greatest possible degree of confidence in the Government in its direction of the war effort, but what has a section of the press clone during the last few days to engender such confidence? It has published statement after statement to the effect that the Government has no confidence in its military leaders, and has stated that changes are to be made. One Sydney paper devoted practically the whole of its front page to a discussion of this subject. That sort of publicity is criminal publicity. The onus is on the Government to-day to close up such papers - or close them down, whichever it should be.

Mr Drakeford - That newspaper was not quite so criminal in the eyes of the honorable member when it attached the Prime Minister.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - He was not the only one attacked. He is able to look after himself, just as 1 am. As I have said, that type of publicity is criminal. That is the only way to describe it.

Mr Drakeford - lt always was.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The Leader of the Opposition suggested that there should be a. daily broadcast by the Department of Information over the Australian national network setting forth the true position in regard to the war. It, is an old adage that the truth never catches up to the lie. Our only remedy is to prevent untruthful and subversive statements from getting into the newspapers. I would be the last, person to say that the military position is all that I could desire, but no newspaper should be allowed, without naming any one, to call into question the military reputation and capacity of every senior officer in this country. Such behaviour is wholly bad, and should, not bo allowed to continue a. minute longer.

Mr Anthony - It would be a pretty- dangerous state of affairs if we had to be guided by the advice of the newspa pers.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Yes, they are a bright, lot! We arc accepting the assistance of the Netherlands East Indies, of the United States of America and of Great Britain in this war, and we must reciprocate. The barrier which prevents the Government from using the armed forces of Australia in those places, and at those times, where they can be best employed to defeat the enemy must bc removed. I trust that the Government will really govern. If it considers that it is not able to handle the situation without help, then it should do the proper and constitutional thing, and invite into the Ministry those members of the Opposition who, in its opinion, are best qualified to assist it. I do not believe that there is one member of this Parliament who would not be prepared to give to the Government the benefit of his advice if he were called upon, but let us make an end of this make-beliere. Let us get down to tin-tacks. We are at grips with one of the most ruthless powers in the world, a power which does not give a hang for the Ten Commandments, or for the principles upon which they are based. We arc fighting a power which has done things in China which we do not want to see done here. We must train every nian who can bear arms, and we must use our forces when and where they are needed. We must keep supplies and munitions up to them. We must keep our communications open, and look after the civil population. These are tasks beyond anything that we have ever attempted before, but let us face them like men, and not deceive ourselves with a lot of mealymouthed statements which, if believed, would only get us into greater trouble.

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