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Thursday, 27 June 1946

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Leader of the Opposition) (1:14 AM) . - I have not taken part in this discussion to-night, although 1 have listened to some of it with a great deal of interest, and to other parts of. it with some astonishment. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) cannot, however, leave this matter where it stands. He has rebuked the Opposition for certain observations made in the course of a rather heated debate.

Mr Chifley -. - I spoke also of previous debates.

Mr MENZIES - When the Prime Minister says that he is not a great believer in post-mortems, I, personally, agree with him. I think that the time has not yet arrived for sorting out the incidents of the. war that ended less than a year ago, although I, on my own behalf and on behalf of my colleagues who shared the responsibility of government, would welcome any inquiry at any time into any aspect of Australia's participation in the conflict. But while it may be true as a general statement that nothing much is gained by investigations undertaken simply because somebody somewhere has made an allegation, what the right honorable gentleman has completely failed to realize Ls that the heated discussion to-night has arisen once more out of the repetition by one of his Cabinet Ministers of a charge of the gravest magnitude against the right honorable gentleman's predecessors in office. This charge about what has frequently been referred to as " the Brisbane line", cannot be brushed aside lightly. It has not been made by some irresponsible person outside the Parliament, nor is it the controversial statement of some war correspondent. It is a charge made in this House by a Minister of the present Cabinet, speaking as such. The country is becoming tired of the facility with which the Prime Minister disavows all responsibility for statements made by other Ministers. But when a Minister repeatedly makes an allegation and is never rebuked for it, we are bound to accept it as an. allegation made on behalf of the Government. On the one occasion on which the Minister in question had an opportunity to say something in support of the allegation, which he garnished with a further allegation that a file was missing in suspicious circumstances, he declined to be sworn or crossexamined, for reasons that every one can understand. The judge who inquired into that case stated in his report in clear terms that, on the evidence before him, there was, first, no missing file - something which the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, had told us- and, secondly, that the military people who had been called all said that the first time that they heard of " the Brisbane line " was when they heard the public allegation of the Minister. But the allegation is repeated. I say without any heat that I am wearyof hearing this allegation made, but I also say to the Prime Minister that his duty in this matter is either to state categorically that this charge is not made on behalf of the Government and is not supported by him, or if it is made on behalf of the Government, to say that it will be investigated promptly in justice to every one concerned, and in justice to the people of Australia.

Question put -

That the clause be postponed (Mr. Spender's amendment) .

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