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Monday, 9 November 1964

Senator SANDFORD - The Minister for Defence has criticised the Australian Labour Party on its defence policy. Will he now, for the edification of the Senate, detail the happenings in 1941 when, after being in office for two years in a period of total war, the present Prime Minister failed dismally to retain the confidence even of his own Party, and the prosecution of Australia's part in the Second World War devolved upon Mr. John Curtin, as leader of the Australian Labour Party?

Senator Prowse - What about the Duke of Wellington?

Senator Hannan - What about Caesar's Gallic Wars?

Senator SANDFORD - The honorable senator would be better at home dealing with Oliver Cromwell for whom he has a violent dislike. Will the Minister tell us of the happenings of the 7th October 1941, when Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, as he now is, deserted in the face of the enemy?

Senator PALTRIDGE - Mr. Deputy President-

Senator Cant - Has the Minister a written reply to this question?

Senator PALTRIDGE - No, but I can give chapter and verse. If the honorable senator provokes me, I will do so. Anyone who has any knowledge of the departure of the Menzies Government from office in 1941 will recall that this was brought about by the votes of two independent members. Those votes made it possible for the then Labour Opposition to form a government. No action was taken against the Menzies Government on the score of alleged neglect of the defence issue. Indeed, probably the best commendation that could have been made of the war effort of the Menzies Government up to the time when it was forced out of office was made by the succeeding Prime Minister, Mr. John Curtin. Immediately on assuming office in 1941, he made a public statement to the effect that everything that could have been done in the first two years of the war to strengthen Australia and to make possible a defence effort had been done by the retiring Government. That statement was made by Mr. John Curtin himself.

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