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Friday, 30 April 1915

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I regret that Senator McDougall has not told me in what particular the replies to his questions were contradictory. He is not present now, but during next week I will ask him to supply me with particularsof what he requires. I do not know how the answers are contradictory. Regarding the question of censorship raised by Senator O'Keefe, we must take care that, in trying to avoid one evil, we do not get into a greater evil. One of the severest criticisms launched against the censorship both in England and Australia, in some sections of the press at times, is that the censors are keeping news from the. public. There are two kinds of news, namely, news which comes from official and local sources, and news which is circulated from enemy or neutral sources. Some of the news referred to by Senator O'Keefe comes from enemy sources. He suggests that the publication ofsuch news should be stopped until the official account is supplied. That is a very easy suggestion to make; but one can quite conceive a set of circumstances in which great objection would be taken outside. The public might say, "We are not allowed to know; you conceal the facts fromus." In allowing the publication of enemy communications, the public have the assurance that the worst which can be said is allowed to appear. That is to say, they not only get the British version of what took place, but, side by side with that version, they have a version from Berlin.

Senator O'Keefe - My complaint is that you have not the British version side by side with the other.

Senator PEARCE - As a matter of fact, we have the statement which has been read to Parliament that our troops hare been engaged.

Senator O'Keefe - Quite so; but nothing relating to casualties.

Senator PEARCE - No; but the statement is true that the troops have been engaged. The statement that there have been casualties is, so far, only an enemy statement. If we ask the British Government to prevent any of these statements from enemy or neutral sources from coming to Australia until side by side therewith they send their own version, I can imagine some honorable senators rising here in the future and denouncing us for not allowing news from other than official sources to be circulated. However, I will look into the question. There is something to be said for the honorable senator's suggestion, and I can also see something to be said against it.

Senator Guthrie - Is it a fact, as rumoured, that there is a large number of Germans and Turks on the staff of censors ?

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