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Friday, 1 May 1942

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?

Mr Drakeford - Yes. I claim that I was misrepresentedby the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) when he said that I had misrepresented him. [ let him off lightly; I ought to have quoted the whole passage.

Mr.FORDE (Capricornia -Minister for the Army) [3.24]. - The speeches which have been made from the Opposition side have failed signally to justify the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). I understand that several members of the Opposition realize that the amendment which the Leader of the Opposition was forced to move to-day does a great disservice to Australia at a time when the enemy is thundering at our gates. I believe that the action of the Leader of the Opposition was dictated by those who have always favoured conscription for overseas service. Against the advice of their leaders, they forced this distasteful task on the Leader of the Opposition. The moving of this amendment strikes a blow at national unity at a time when it is absolutely necessary that we should have the fullest possible measure of harmony and co-operation. It is also a gross infringement of a promise given by the Opposition to the Government when it took office, namely, that it would co-operate in every way possible, and would refrain from party politics. Every body realizes that it is vitally necessary to strengthen our armed forces at this time, so that we may effectively defend Australia against attack; yet here we have an amendment the purpose of which is to send Australia's armed forces out of the country. The Leader of the Opposition referred to members of the Australian Imperial Force now in Australia. For security reasons, I do not propose to state the exact number, but I may say that there are many more thousands of members of the Australian Imperial Force in Australia to-day than the last Government sent overseaswhile it was in office. There is no legal impediment to the sending of members of the Australian Imperial Force overseas should it become necessary. They volunteered to fight either here or overseas. Consequently, the time is inopportune to bring forward a proposal of the kind movedby the Leader of the Opposition. There was no need for it. We, as a Government, have done everything that the Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces in the Western Pacific has asked us to do, and everything that our own military advisers have asked us to do. There are powerful interests in the United States of America opposed to the sending of aeroplanes, soldiers and equipment to Australia, and prepared to put every difficulty in the way of their own Government. No doubt, they will seize eagerly on this debate in the House to-day as a reason why the Government of the United States of America should decline to send us any further help. Although the actual position is well understood by the President of the United States of America, by his Cabinet and by his chiefs of staff, it is not so well understood by the 130,000,000 people of that country. Certain newspapers there will play up the statements made in this Parliament as a reason why the United States of America should adopt a policy of isolation.

Whether intentionally or not, any action taken by the Opposition, actuated by party political motives, to embarrass the Government, will increase the difficulties of those in other countries who desire to help Australia.

Mr Holloway - The Opposition is playing into the hands of Axis propagandists.

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