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Thursday, 2 August 1934

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) . - The only point made by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) was his reference to the failure of the Opposition to raise any protest against this proposal until the Estimates were under consideration. For instance, he said that tho proposal was outlined in the budget speech, and that we might have availed ourselves of that opportunity to raise our protest. He has already been reminded that that opportunity has not yet been presented to us. We also gleaned from the Minister's reply that the defence programme was outlined by the Minister for Defence ("Senator Pearce) at a meeting of the Millions Club held in Sydney last year.

Is it necessary that members of Parliament should have to attend the Millions Club to learn matters of government policy ?

Mr.ArchdaleParkhill. - It was a public speech by a responsible Minister, and was made in accordance with the usual practice.

Mr BEASLEY - I believe that it was the first time the policy of the Government on a very important matter has been delivered outside of Parliament. When honorable members ask questions on notice in regard to matters of policy the Government invariably replies that it is not the practice in answer to questions to state matters of policy. Yet on this matter the facts could be made known to a body not supposed to be associated with the Parliament. The Minister's action in delivering this speech at the Millions Club was widely commented on at the time. But the reason for making the speech was obvious. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had commenced an agitation in association with the Associated Press of Sydney, and the Governmentbecame alarmed at the publicity he received. This departure by the Minister for Defence from the ordinary procedure shows just how much respect the Government has for Parliament. Tosome extent it justifies the protest which has been made by honorable members on this side of the House against the affairs of the country being determined in places outside Parliament. The PostmasterGeneral has stated that it is impossible to construct certain parts of the vessel in Australia. His mere bald statement is not sufficient. Details should have been supplied as to what parts cannot be manufactured in Australia. At Garden Island to-day men are employed on most intricate work dealing with gun mountings and altering the ranges of guns. At the present time the guns of our coastal defences are being reconditioned at Garden Island by skilled Australian workmen, who, in their work, display the highest standard of efficiency and are converting this type of armament into equipment equal to the best that could be imported.

Mr.Watkins. - What about themen at Walsh Island?

Mr BEASLEY - Those men are equally as capable, although they are mainly concerned with the building of merchant vessels. The new cruiser is already almost completed. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) said that it would be ready for delivery in August of next year. We have been told that ordinarily three years are occupied in the building of a cruiser in Great Britain, so this vessel must have been well on the road to construction twelve or eighteen months before the Minister for Defence made his speech at the Millions Club in Sydney about the need for the " adequate " defence of Australia. The case presented on behalf of the Government is the weakest ever submitted in this Parliament on a defence proposal. The Opposition is justified in the course it has taken, for it has adopted the only means by which it can direct public attention tothis matter.

Progress reported.

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