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Tuesday, 8 November 1938

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - by leave- I, this afternoon, sent the following letter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) : -

My dearPrime Minister,

I was surprised to read in the press this morning in an "official announcement" attributed to you that, inter alia, "It was proposed that a senior Cabinet group should deal with major matters of national significance and government policy. The remainder of the Cabinet would be divided into two subcommittees to be presided overby one of the three senior Cabinet Ministers ". The names of the l.'rime Minister, the Minister for Commerce, the Attorney-General, the Minister for External Affairs, the Treasurer, and the Minister for Civil Aviation, defence and other works, were mentioned as comprising the Cabinet group.

I.   had intended to question the wisdom of such action in putting government policy into the hands of a coterie as toeing a departure from the best democratic principles, and did suggest, after you had mentioned that Iwas to be a member of such a Cabinet group, that if expedition in attention to Cabinet matters wasthe objective, it could be attained by more ordered discussion.

Immediately after the Cabinet meeting you sent for me and informed me that a mistake had been made and that I would not be one of the Ministers taking the responsibility for policy.

I pointed out to you that to allow Australian tariff matters and the welfare of secondary industries to toe subordinatedto a group on which the Customs Minister was not represented was tomake this important branch of government, responsible as it is for the protection of Australian industries and the welfare of so many of its citizens, as well as for the collection of thebulk of Commonwealth revenue, merely an administrative department dominated by an inner group.

In justice to these considerations and the preservation of a protective policy, which I have endeavoured to carry out -for nearly six years.I feel thatI could no longer hold the Trade and Customsportfolio under such conditions.

As you arc aware I have alsobeenin disagreement with the Government's policy on Defence for some timepast, but, as you know, did not wish to embarrass the Government by resigning during the period of the censure motion.

Your recent action, so soon after the reconstruction, in subordinating so importanta branch of Australia's economy to an inner group of Cabinet,makesmy position now untenable, and consequently I tender my resignation.

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