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Thursday, 21 May 1942

Mr BREEN (Calare) . - I desire to clear up a misunderstanding regarding the censorship of a speech made by me in this House some time ago. I propose to refer to remarks made by you, Mr. Speaker, on Friday last in reply to a statement by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). According to the Hansard proof before me, you stated, inter alia -

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.

I have here the Hansard transcript of the speech that I made on that occasion. Referring to Mr. Smith, I said -

Twelve months ago, when the subject of decentralization of industry was under discussion, a deputation from one of the western towns waited on Mr. Smith, the Director of Gun Ammunition, and urged that annexes should be set up in the west for the manufacture of munitions, as a means of achieving decentralization, and of ensuring that the production of munitions would not be interrupted should the coastal areas be attacked. Mr. Smith replied in these words: "When the first shell falls on Sydney, Australia's war effort will be finished".

That is all that I quoted of what Mr. Smith said.

Mr Guy - It would be unwise to allow a statement of that sort to go outside Australia.

Mr BREEN - I do not object to the elimination of that part of my speech, but I wish to clear up a misunderstanding. You, Mr. Speaker, are reported in Hansard as saying that I prefaced my remarks by quoting a statement by Mr. Smith that most of the important power stations in New South Wales were situated in certain localities. The fact is that Mr. Smith never said anything of the kind, and, as the transcript of my speech proves, I did not credit him with having done so. All I did was to draw certain inferences from what he said. I can understand that you would not remember the whole of my speech, but apparently something in the speech made a sufficient impression to induce you to consult me and suggest that a part of it should be eliminated. In the course of our discussion I suggested that you should eliminate only those parts in which I mentioned the names of localities where power stations are situated, and that you should do so without destroying the sense of the speech. As a matter of fact, the eliminations which you made completely destroyed the sense of the speech. Therefore, I contend that I did not agree to what was done, as you saidI did. Apparently, we ascribe different meanings to the word " agree ''. I consulted the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), for whose legal knowledge I have a high respect, but he satisfied me that the claims which I have made to him could not be wholly justified, and for that reason I did not take any further action. I am not cavilling at your action in eliminating certain parts of the speech, but I think that you acted severely in regard to the quantity of matter which was eliminated. I have here a copy of the Report on Electrical Development in New South Wales, by Rendel, Palmer and Tritton, consulting engineers to the Government of New South Wales. The information conveyed in my speech was substantially the same as is contained in this report. If it were really necessary to eliminate so much of my speech, you ought, I think, to call the attention of the authorities to the availability of this report to the general public.

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