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Friday, 6 March 1942

Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia) . - I understand that a minority report was presented with the report of the joint committee which considered the Government's economic organization regulation. The latter has been circulated among honorable senators. I should like to know whether a copy of the minority report will also be furnished.

Honorable senators will recall that a select committee of the Senate, which reported on the case of Captain Conway, recommended that an ex gratia payment of £100 be made to Conway, and that the previous Government refused to make such a payment. I should like to know whether this Government has given any consideration to that case, and whether it is prepared to make that payment, which 1 consider should be made.

Dealing with the point raised by Senator Brown, I am of the opinion that the greatest crime which any government can commit against its people is to withhold information concerning the war from them. Such a practice lulls them into a sense of false security, as has been shown by the experience of the peoples of many countries in Europe during the onward rush of the German hordes. I do not wish to see Australians have a similar experience. For that reason 1 support Senator Brown in urging the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) to ensure that proper and full information is given to the people concerning the war. The dissemination of such information, of course, must be subject to the requirements of national security. I also suggest that members of Parliament should be given more information than has been made available to them in the past. Such information should be given, not sporadically, but regularly. When the secret meeting of senators and members concluded, the Prime Minister intimated to those who had attended that all the facts had been given, but I am confident that all the facts were not given. I contend that we should have been consulted prior to the Malayan campaign. Secret meetings should be held more frequently in order that members of Parliament may know what is happening. In a statement made on behalf of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) last week, the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) hinted that there might be an inquiry inro the Malayan campaign. I hope that an actual court of inquiry will be set up so that the point raised by Senator Collett in regard to Major-General Gordon Bennett may be considered. I do not make this suggestion in any carping manner, but I think that the people of this country should be made aware of the facts. At present, even members of Parliament do not know the full facts. Members of Parliament, who are the representatives of the people, should bc told, at secret meetings if necessary, exactly what is happening, so that they may be of some assistance to the Government. At the last secret meeting, we, as private members, were of absolutely no assistance to the Government. Private members should be taken into the confidence of the Government, and their services used to a greater degree than at present.

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