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Friday, 15 May 1942

Mr SPEAKER (Hon W M Nairn (PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - "When the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) says that the House should do its own censoring he is suggesting something that is quite impracticable. This House, sitting as a House, has not the time to be bothered with deciding what parts of a speech ought to be omitted from the record. The matter would have to be referred to some individual, or some small number of individuals, for consideration. As for censorship in general, there is no censorship of Hansard in the sense in which the term was used by the honorable member for Batman. When observations are made in this House which are deemed by me, or by some one who may bring the matter to my notice, .as likely to be of advantage to the enemy, I consult the honorable member who has made the observations and, with his consent, I excise those parts from Hansard. This has happened on several occasions. In no instance have I taken action without consulting the honorable member who made the speech. Apparently, exception is taken to what was done in the case of a speech made by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen). It would be much more satisfactory if a complaint had come from the honorable member himself, because he knows the facts. The speech was made on a Friday afternoon. I told him that the greater part of his speech ought not, in my opinion, to be published, and that I proposed to confer with him afterwards in regard to it. He said that he was sorry he had to leave Canberra immediately, but would leave it to me to eliminate such parts of the speech as I thought fit. That was the substance of our conversation. Therefore, it is clear that I had his consent to do what I thought proper. I remember that the speech was packed with information that might be of use to the enemy. He was putting forward a plea for the development of power stations in areas west of the Blue Mountains. He prefaced his remarks with a quotation from a statement made by a Mr. Smith, who had said that most of the important power stations in

New South Wales were situated in certain localities. He also said what he thought would occur to Australia if those localities were attacked. In the course of his argument, the honorable member mentioned every one of the important power plants in New South Wales, giving their precise locality, and stating what would be the effect if the enemy were to strike at them. Such information should certainly not be published. The honorable member for Calare went on to advocate the installation of a power plant at Wyangala Dam, and again discussed the various power plants in New South Wales. He stated the actual number of kilowatts which each station was able to generate. He also stated where a certain munitions factory was getting its power from. I have no hesitation in saying that information of that kind should not. be allowed to appear in the official report. If the House thinks that I was wrong, 1 very much regret it, but I feel quite confident on the matter. The speech was an interesting one inasmuch as it conveyed a very clear picture of the power resources of New South Wales, but the details which were given constituted the danger. Therefore, in my opinion, parts of the speech were properly eliminated.

Mr Hughes - In the event of an honorable member making a deliberate and calculated statement which might be regarded as giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and then refusing to give his consent to the elimination of such matter when called upon to do so, do you hold that the offending passage should remain in the record?

Mr SPEAKER - Such a situation has not arisen, but I can imagine that it. might. In such a case, it might not be practicable to consult Parliament, and the publication of Hansard ought not to be delayed. Therefore, I would take the responsibility of doing what I thought proper. It is of no use having a referee unless he is empowered to give a decision.

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