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Thursday, 26 March 1942

Mr CALWELL (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - As the policeman says in the court, " From information received ". I assure the honorable member for Wakefield that my information is reliable. It was given to me by one who really knew the facts. I am not so concerned with the method as I am with the fact that as the result of the campaign Ministers' private secretaries were able to secure for themselves a salary rise amounting in some instances to £150 per annum, whilst other people were being asked to buy war savings certificates inorder that money might be raised with which towage the war. A rise of £3 a week gives to the highest paid private secretary to-day a salary of £680 per annum. A Commonwealth parliamentarian receives £1,000 per annum. That apparently represents in the minds of those who,are not members of Parliament something like a fair comparison between the value of the servicesrendered by the two classes of people.

I did not intend to say these things, but I considered that I ought to because the issue had been raised as to the value of the service which is being rendered to-day by those who have been permanent officials of the Commonwealth for many years. We have been told that some are too old and have other defects. I wanted to say some of the things left unsaid, probably because they were not known to the honorable member for Robertson, whose contribution to the debate I have presumed to criticize. The senior positions in the public service of this country are filled by Ministers and by nobody else, so there was no point in the honorable gentleman's implication that Ministers had to accept as senior officials people chosen by a board, or, I presume, some authority other than the Ministry. 1 think that, the senior officers of the Public Service of the Commonwealth are particularly able men. I shall make no comparison, because comparisons are odious, but, as a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Broadcasting, I had the opportunity to hear many of them give evidence and to see them and their work, and I think that the Commonwealth is singularly fortunate in having men of the type of those in control of our Public Service. At the same time, I do not disagree with the desire of the honorable member for Robertson that a much better war effort should be made in this country. I am not a diagnostician, and cannot find the cause for the lethargy, complacency and apathy about the war prevalent in many parts of Australia. We have certainly not decided to make a 100 per cent. effort. We have not persuaded the community that their amenities are not merely in jeopardy, but are likely, within the course of a week or so, to be in grave peril. Those living in northern Australia may have the choice of moving farther south or inland or submitting temporarily to the domination of the enemy. The people there are alive to their dangers, but south of the tropic of Capricorn there is not the realization that there ought to be of the imminence of the peril.

The statement made by the Prime Minister was an admirable compilation of facts. It related in correct chronological order the development of events since last we met. Unfortunately, like all other statements made by governments on international and external affairs, it was not printed and circulated to honorable members at the time of its delivery. We have not yet had a record of it and have had no chance to study it carefully; therefore, we can deal with it only in general terms. I hope that the obsolete system which we have here of Ministers making a statement, and some one moving that it be printed, and a debate ensuing for a day or two, will give way to something more up to date. Copies should be given to each honorable member so that the statement can be more intelligently followed.

Mr Barnard - We have not yet had copies of the report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting.

Mr CALWELL - The report was presented to Parliament yesterday and, because of the obsolete system which obtains in Parliament, it is not yet available to members. I am surprised that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who has been a member of this Parliament for some years, has not done anything to have that system altered. That report cannot be printed until a resolution of this House authorizes its printing. I hope that it will be available very soon. It is certainly wrong that when a report is presented to Parliament there is not at least one copy for each honorable member.

Mr Barnard - It was held up for a month so that it could be printed.

Mr CALWELL - I hope that the honorable member for Bass willsuspend judgment on the report until he has had the opportunity to study it. I say with all possible modesty that he will find it to be a very fine production which will help in the development of broadcasting in this country. To return to the

Prime Minister's statement, I suggest that statements on international affairs should be printed and circulated simultaneously with their delivery by the Minister concerned. This debate has lost a lot of its value because we have not yet been supplied with copies. I hope that the Government will not only make statements on international affairs, but also will give to us in secret meetings, as it did a week or a fortnight ago, reports on the latest war situation. Honorable members are entitled to be told all that can be possibly told, consistent with the maintenance of the safety of the country. It is particularly dangerous at any time to allowto any executive too much power. The constitution of the United States of America provides checks and balances. The President can do certain things, but the Senate has overriding powers. Anything any Minister of State desires to do can be done only if it has run the gauntlet of investigation by an appropriate committee of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in Washington. I hope that we shall see development of the committee system here more fully than up to the present. We should have more secret meetings and more frequent meetings of Parliament in order that members might be apprised of the facts of the war situation, as far as the Government knows them, and, thereby, be made more capable of co-operation with the Government in its arduous and difficult task of ensuring the complete defence of this nation against a ruthless and barbaric foe.

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