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Thursday, 11 April 1946

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) are about to leave Australia for the purpose of attending a peace conference. To date, honorable members have not had an opportunity to discuss what those delegates should do overseas.

Mr Blain - We have not been consulted.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Even the Prime Minister may not know what proposals have been formulated. This peace conference will not be conducted in a manner similar to the conference after the conclusion of the war of 1914-18. The proceedings at that conference evidently developed into a debate very similar to a stormy debate in the House of Representatives, but the conference finally arrived at determinations. On this occasion, it appears that the main decisions will be reached by three powers only, and it seems to me to be extremely doubtful whether the other powers will receive any consideration in the matter. Notwithstanding . that, the Commonwealth Government is under an obligation to inform the House regarding the attitude that the delegates will adopt towards the problems which will arise at the peace conference. No doubt we shall receive reports when the delegates return. Whether those reports will be debated before the election remains to be seen.

Yesterday, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) read a very good " curtain lecture " to the Government of South Australia on the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land.'

From my knowledge of affairs in South Australia, the State Government purchased land for the settlement of ex-servicemen long before the Commonwealth introduced the Re-establishment and Employment Bill. The first purchase of land to my knowledge was made in the electorate Of Barker in January, 1945. I await with interest the reply of the. Government of South Australia to the Minister's comments. The honorable gentleman will probably be involved in another wordy controversy similar to that in which he indulged over the Loxton irrigation scheme. Ultimately, . he hoisted a white flag, and agreed to the State's proposals. If he is engaging in another controversy with the Premier of South Australia, I advise him to keep a few pieces of white calico handy.

I proposed to place upon the noticepaper a question relating to the sale by the Commonwealth of certain naval vessels, but I have since heard that the Government, instead of making a direct sale to a certain power, is selling, donating or trading the ships to the British Admiralty. I am not able to distinguish any great difference between an outright sale and negotiations of that sort. If any deal of that kind is to take place, a direct sale rather than an indirect sale is advisable. Before the outbreak of war in 1939, I delivered a speech about the important part which is played in peacetime by the traffic in armaments, including warships, aircraft, artillery and munitions. On this matter; the Commonwealth electorate will desire a clear and unequivocal statement from the Government, regardless of its political beliefs.

The fate of some Australian garrisons in the Pacific has been the subject of correspondence between the Prime Minister and myself, hut since then, exservicemen's associations, including the Sth Division Association and the 23rd Brigade Association in Victoria have taken a vigorous interest in the matter. They ask, quite rightly, for an inquiry by the Commonwealth into the fate of these garrisons shortly after Japan entered the war. No satisfactory statement, and certainly no authoritative statement, has been made by the Government. I put it to the Government, as some exservicemen's associations have put it vigorously to members of this Parliament, that the Government had no hesitation in sending a special court of inquiry to discover whether there were too many Koreans on a Japanese destroyer when it left Sydney a few weeks ago. Surely then, in justice, we should pay the same attention to the feelings of the parents of our lost troops, and endeavour by inquiry to clear up once and for all what really happened to Australian garrisons posted in various parts of the Pacific and the East Indies shortly after Japan entered the war.

Mr Blain - 'Joes the honorable member refer to Ambon?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Ambon, Rabaul and Koepang and other places where fighting took place. This is a direct and inescapable obligation of the Parliament, and honorable members will sooner or later have to recognize it.

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