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Thursday, 29 September 1955

Mr PEARCE (Capricornia) . I am sorry that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition-

Mr Curtin - So are we.

Mr PEARCE - I am glad that honorable members opposite know who their deputy leader is; they do not know who their leader is. I am sorry that the honorable member for Melbourne tried to make political capital out of the matter raised by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). It is not a personal matter with him or with me, but one which concerns the good working of the Parliament. Over a period of time Government members have formed unofficial committees in order to learn more about the various subjects that come up for discussion in the Parliament. We attempt with all the information that Ministers gladly make available to us to inform ourselves to the fullest degree. This is not the first occasion on which the press has made unfair remarks and distorted comments about committees of this kind. We had a similar experience in respect of our mining committee which had done an excellent job of work at some expense and inconvenience to its members. Now, we have the latest attack by the press upon the unofficial communications committee that has been set up by Government supporters in this chamber.

In the particular article that was published in to-day's Sydney Daily Mirror it was claimed that this committee was operating in spite of the wishes of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony). As I happen to be secretary of the committee - the honorable member for Paterson is the chairman of it - I shall refer to the minutes of the meetings that have been held. At the inaugural meeting, a message was received from the PostmasterGeneral to the effect that he welcomed the suggestions made by the committee, and he promised every cooperation that he could extend to it. The Postmaster-General attended the second meeting of the committee and in the course of his remarks, as reported in the minutes of that meeting, he completely approved of the committee's activities. He said that it was rendering useful support to the Government parties and assistance to the Parliament and that he be would be prepared in future to allow departmental officers to attend meetings of the committee provided such requests were kept within reasonable limits. He also said that whenever important persons in his department came to Canberra, he would advise the committee in order to enable it to have discussions with such officers. This committee is not an isolated example. It is regrettable that whenever committees are set up these unfair comments should be made by members of the press who obtain their information by devious means or draw upon their imagination for their material. The committees cannot work properly under those conditions. The majority of thinking people are pleased to learn that private members of Parliament are so interested in their work here, and in the government of the Commonwealth of Australia, that they are prepared to undertake the task of forming themselves into committees so that they will be fully informed. I hope that the committee system will continue to expand and that each committee will receive from the respective Minister the degree of support that the Postmaster-General has promised to the Communications Committee.

Mr. CLYDECAMERON (Hindmarsh)

I'll. 22]. - I want to refer to a matter that is of far more importance than the matters that have been referred to by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) and the honorable member for

Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). All that they are trying to do is to cover up the fact that there is on the Government back benches a cave that is trying to undermine the authority of a Minister. What is going on is perfectly obvious to every one. These poor little creatures, whose attempts to become Prime Ministers or Postmasters-General have been thwarted, are trying to undermine and belittle the Ministry in the eyes of the Parliament and the community generally. They are doing this by holding undercover meetings to work out a way of cutting the ground from under the feet of Ministers. We should applaud, rather than condemn, the press for being sufficiently wide awake to the motives of the back-benchers. For once it has been able to see the under-cover moves of the cave in the ranks of Government supporters as clearly as it professes to see imaginary caves in the ranks of members behind the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).

Mr Davis - That is not a cave, but a tomb !

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