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Tuesday, 22 November 1960

Mr CAIRNS (Yarra) .- It is clear that the proposed provision imposes a restriction upon Commonwealth public servants and former Commonwealth public servants not to disclose certain information which it is their duty not to disclose. There is no reference to that information being secret, or classified, or of importance to defence. The provision merely states that it is the duty of public servants not to dis close certain information. A public servant could receive an instruction from a superior officer that it was not his duty to disclose information, and from then on,if at some subsequent time that information was disclosed, that part of the offence would be complete.

It may well be the duty and the responsibility of a public servant or a former public servant to disclose certain information which it is in the public interest to disclose. If that information isnot secret and important, he should have the right and the responsibility to do so. He should not have to seek the permission of some member of a department who may want to keep that information secret for his own personal reasons. There are many reasons for that being done, and there have been many instances of it. I am reminded of the position of Major-General Legge with regard to the St. Mary's ammunition filling factory. That was a classical example. The Minister, by interjection, has suggested that he wants a public servant to resign in order to be able to do this, and to endanger his job and career. The Government, above everything else, stands in favour of restriction and the Opposition in favour of freedom.

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