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Wednesday, 20 May 1942

Mr SPEAKER - Any confidential document submited to Cabinet, as this one apparently was, must, in the public interest, remain entirely confidential. The document itself must not be quoted, nor its contents be referred to.

Mr Brennan - I rise to a point of order. I once had the honour to belong to a government, and confidential communications between the then Prime Minister and Ministers of his Cabinet, having been by somebody purloined, became a matter for public discussion. They were discussed in this House, and no one challenged the propriety of that discussion. So far as I know, there is no precedent for a declaration from the Chair that a Minister may not say in this chamber that some previous Minister made a submission in certain terms to a Cabinet. With great respect, sir, I submit that it is not a part of your function to censor honorable members as to the propriety of how they acquire information.

Mr Menzies - The honorable member's point is that there is no standing order against dishonesty.

Mr Brennan - Since the right honorable member challenges me, I point out that there is no standing order even against dishonesty, but I am not arguing the case on that basis. I am arguing it on the basis that there is no standing order - I invite you to quote it if there is - which forbids a Minister of the Crown to state in this House what a previous Minister submitted to Cabinet. It may very well be, and I have no doubt that in this case it is so, that the information comes to the Minister in a perfectly legitimate way; but no matter how the information may be obtained, it does not come within the province of the Chair to pass judgment upon the matter. It is entirely for the Minister, himself , knowing tho history of the document which he proposes to quote, to decide whether or not he should divulge its contents. In this case, since I presume that the Minister considers that the contents of the document are germane to the matter under discussion, there is, I submit, no standing order against his disclosing them.

Mr SPEAKER - Objection was taken when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) indicated that he proposed to disclose the contents of a confidential document submitted to Cabinet by a member of a previous administration. I was prepared to uphold the objection, but the Minister anticipated me by saying that he did not propose to quote from the document. If it be improper to read the document itself in the Blouse, then it is no less improper to divulge its contents. The Minister is debarred from making the document itself public, and also from revealing its contents. As for the case cited by the honorable member for Batman, when certain documents were quoted in the course of a debate in this House, I point out that the contents of those documents had previously been published in the press.

Mr WARD - I do not propose to refer to tho document again, but I take exception to the suggestion that there was anything dishonest in the manner in which the document came into my possession. As a matter of fact, I am not too clear myself how I got it; I think I just discovered it among my papers. I did not intend to introduce personalities into this discussion, but if imputations of dishonesty are made, may I say that I have not £1 invested in any undertaking that might benefit as the result of any decision made in this House. I have not any money invested in anything. But I have recently been doing some research, and I have discovered that when some honorable mem bers made .pleas in this Parliament for an impartial decision, they were talking with their tongues in their cheeks. It will be necessary to cite only one or two instances to prove my point, and perhaps it is just a coincidence that some of tho names are the same as those of people whom I know.

Mr SPEAKER - Has an attack been made on the honesty of .the Minister for Labour and National Service? Has his honesty been impugned? If any such imputations have been made, I ask thai, they be withdrawn.

Mr ROSEVEAR (DALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let the Minister have a " crack back ".

Mr SPEAKER - He may have a " crack back " if he has been attacked.

Mr WARD - Despite the fact that no one has volunteered to withdraw the imputation, I think it will be agreed that an imputation of dishonesty was contained in some of the interjections made when I proposed to quote from a Cabinet document. Dishonesty has been suggested against the people who have been appointed to this tribunal, and against Judge Poster, who has been selected as the chairman.

Mr SPEAKER - If I had noted such suggestions, I should have immediately called upon the honorable member making them to withdraw them.

Mr WARD - The suggestion has also been made that Miss Cashman will not approach these problems in an honest manner, but will be biased. When people impute dishonest motives to other persons, it is appropriate to examine their own motives.

Mr SPEAKER - No imputation of dishonesty has been made against Miss Cashman. It has been suggested that she may not be impartial.

Mr WARD - I am unable to discuss the difference between dishonesty and partiality, but, probably, the right honorable member for Kooyong may give me his professional opinion on that point later. Honorable members who impute improper motives to members of a tribunal leave themselves open to the suspicion that they themselves may be materially interested in the personnel of the tribunal. I have made a cursory glance through the list of shareholders of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and its subsidiaries. I say a cursory glance, because these days I am a very busy man. However, that company and its subsidiaries will be greatly interested in the personnel of this board and its decisions ; because certain of its subsidiaries are already employing increasing numbers of women. Glancing through the list of shareholders of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited I found the following entries : -

A.W. Fadden and A. E. Hannaford, investors,c/o A. W. Fadden and Hogan and Company, Sturt-street, Townsville - 328 shares.

Mr Fadden - The shares mentioned by the Minister are held by me as trustee for the estate of Hannaford. I have been misrepresented.

Mr WARD - Other shareholders shown were -

Ada Hughes, c/o Trustees Executives, Collins-street, Melbourne - 1,968 shares.

Lady Eleanor Latham, Washington-street, Toorak, Victoria -656 shares.

Rosa Menzies,c/o Blake and Riggall, William-street, Melbourne - 1,230 shares.

I do not know whether that lady is related to the right honorable member for Kooyong.

Mr Menzies - No relation of mine, I am afraid.

Mr WARD - Other shareholders were -

Jean W. Spender, C Fairfax-road, Bellevue Hill, New South Wales - 492 shares.

Emily M. Marr, The Grove, Roseville, New Sou th Wales - 400 shares.

Warwick Fairfax, 2,460 shares.

Vincent Fairfax, 2,624 shares.

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