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Thursday, 18 September 1941

Senator CAMERON (Victoria) . - The statement under consideration contains nothing which has not already been published in the newspapers. In presenting a statement of this nature to the Parliament, the Government should, if possible, say something in addition to what we have read in the press. Everything in the statement has been most carefully censored by officials who, although responsible to the Parliament, are privileged to know a great deal more than are members of the Parliament itself. I wish to direct attention to what is said in this statement in regard to Russia -

In this connexion, there is apparently a certain amount of misunderstanding regarding Australia's formal relations with the Soviet Union. The Government has received many representations suggesting that some specific step, such as exchange of diplomatic representatives with Moscow, should be taken to demonstrate our sympathy and moral solidarity with the Soviet Union in its present struggle. But the real position is perfectly straightforward. The King has been in diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union since 1924, and as is the case with every other European country, Australian representation in Russia is effected through the medium of the British Diplomatic and consular representatives.

Australia should have direct representation in Russia. If it is considered necessary to have direct representation in the United States of America, Japan, Canada, China and Great Britain, it follows that it will be an advantage to have direct representation in Russia rather than that our representation in that country should be through the medium of the British Diplomatic and Consular Service. Officials of that service are not responsible to this Parliament. If we allow such a position to remain unchallenged, these representatives, acting on their own responsibility and without any consultation at all with this Parliament or with the government of this country, may do and say whatever they consider fit, in the name of Australia. That is a most undesirable state of affairs, and this ' Parliament should not allow it to exist. Nor should it allow a statement of this kind to go unchallenged. If the British Diplomatic and Consular representatives wish to apeak in the name of Australia they should do so only after consultation with, and with the approval of, the Parliament of this country. The principle laid down here is one which Australia has challenged from its earliest days of settlement. We challenge a state of affairs which permits persons who owe no allegiance to Australia, and are not directly responsible to this Parliament, to make statements on behalf of Australia. I cannot see any justification for being satisfied with a state of affairs which means that Australia speaks only through the medium of the British Diplomatic and Consular Service. I suggest that that service represents interests which are not only different from, but in many important ways, are also in direct conflict with the interests of Australia. That is the only point in this statement to which I desire to direct attention; but it is a matter of outstanding importance.

I express the hope - it may be a vain hope - that in future we shall be told more about the war than hithherto we have been told in this Parliament. I have received communications from various sources which are most disquieting, in that they indicate that things are not going as well as ministerial statements would lead us to believe. The Government has nothing to lose by taking the Parliament into its confidence. "We have had secret sittings of senators and members, but most of what we have been told on those occasions had already appeared in the press. The fact is that this Parliament is subject to the control of the censors. That may be regarded by some as a statesmanlike attitude to adopt, but it is not very helpful, and the Government has no reasonable ground for objecting if suspicion which it finds hard to allay is aroused.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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