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Friday, 6 March 1942


Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - Observations made by honorable members on both sides of the House show they are not satisfied with the way in which Parliament has been meeting. I am pleased to have the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) t hat it is proposed to remedy the situation. The reasons for the dissatisfaction of honorable members are obvious. The way in which representations made by honorable members to the Government are treated by the Government requires ventilation. When members of the Labour party were in opposition they toot advantage of all the forms of the House in order to bring to the notice of the Government matters which had no relevancy to the war. If they did not move the adjournment in order to raise various matters, they spoke at great length on the adjournment of the House. In direct contrast is the attitude of the present Opposition. Honorable members have not taken up the time of the House except to discuss matters relevant to the war, because they have a sense of responsibility. Yet, when they do take opportunities to question the present trend of government, they are made the subjects of violent personal attack by Ministers. When we ask questions or speak on the adjournment, we find that not only do we receive no answers, but also that our representations receive no consideration. I shall give two illustrations of this trend in the treatment of the Opposition by Ministers. To-day I asked a question. I could have spoken on the adjournment, but, preferring not to take up the time of the House, I took the short course. In asking that question I read from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of yesterday an extract which mentioned that stories of shocking atrocities by the Japanese had reached the Commonwealth Government. The fact that Hansard can be censored disproves the contention of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that, in raising this matter, I was defeating the very object which I was seeking to guard.


Dr Evatt -Only because of the honorable member's reference to atrocities, the authenticity of which he questioned. I have not seen the report.


Mr HARRISON - My object was to guard against leakage of Government information. Because I tried to do that I was attacked. Honorable members are being deprived of their right to freedom of expression. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) yesterday raised the matter of censorship regulations, which we have the right to discuss openly in this House, he directed attention to the fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission had received certain instructions.

In that connexion I desire to refer to a letter written by the Australian BroadcastingCommission to a lady in Melbourne, whose name I shall not reveal, in orderto emphasize how necessary it is that Parliament shall be called together frequently, and for reasonable periods. The letter to which I refer was written to a constituent of the honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Holt) and, with his permission, I propose to hand it to the Prime Minister. It is signed by the acting general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and it states that the commission is not absolutely responsible for all broadcasts made from its stations. Last night the honorable member for Warringah asked whether instructions had been given by a member of the Government to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to delete any reference to Mr. Churchill in broadcasts over the national network, or, at any rate, any references to him that might be favorable to him. That specific inquiry was not answered by the Prime Minister last night. As a matter of fact, he skipped over it.

It is particularly necessary that we shall be given the opportunity to discuss the new social order that is being introduced. If the Government persists in seeking to introduce this new order Australia will surely be split in two. In my view it is vital to the freedom of the Australian people and also to the rights and privileges of members of the Commonwealth Parliament that frequent meetings of Parliament shall be held.

The letter is dated the 9th February, and reads as follows: -







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