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Wednesday, 25 February 1942

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - I well remember a Friday morning eighteen months ago, when this House was engaged in a debate very similar to that in which it is now engaging, the subject being the length of the then proposed adjournment. One of the leading figures in that debate was the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who declared that it was unwise for the Parliament, in time of war, to meet less often than one week in every mouth. I expressed myself in entire agreement with that contention at the time. I still believe that it would be a good thing if there , were regular meetings of this House; if every honorable member knew that he was expected to be here in, say, the first week in every month; if every Minister knew that he would be able so to administer his department, subject always to certain exigencies of .war, that he would on such occasions be here to put the case as the Government saw it. We heard a lot last week, and it is now proposed that we shall adjourn until next week. I do not intend to oppose that proposal, because I can well believe that the Prime Minister would not make it unless there were weighty reasons in support of it. I endorse the statement of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that there is abroad in this country to-day a spirit of disquiet, of criticism, of questioning, in regard to the activities of this Parliament. That has not arisen since the present Government came into power: it has been in existence for quite a while. The manner in which the parliamentary business of this nation has been conducted during the war does not appeal to the electorate. There have been occasions when we could adjourn for a little while. The people are drawing very sharp contrasts between the sittings of this Parliament and those of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which is - or was until a few days ago - much closer than we to the seat of war. The Houses of Parliament at Westminster have been bombed and blasted to smithereens, yet the House of Commons still meets. It is the authority to .which Mr. Winston Churchill explains, and before which he defends, his policy. There has been practically nothing of that sort in Australia. There are a few questions in relation to the war that I wish to discuss in this Parliament before very long. There are .matters which relate to higher strategy, to the organization, or the lack of it, of the Forces within this country, and to the industrial situation. The frequency with which the Prime Minister has made a last appeal to the miners to return to their work reminds me of Madame Melba's numerous last appearances on the platform. When does the honorable gentleman intend to make his final appeal? We know that there are difficulties on the waterfront, in regard to shipping. A degree of restriction has been imposed upon open criticism of certain measures', at least, we understand so, from a question that was asked by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) this afternoon. Every honorable member desires to assist the Government, if that be possible. We must be shown some consideration.

The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has raised a point that I had intended to raise. Last week, upon my return to Canberra, I found my letter box crammed full with regulations.

Mr Lazzarini - That was the fault of the honorable member.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - It was not. Before this Government came into power, I received through the mail copies of any regulations that were gazetted. Since this House rose in December, I have not seen a regulation. Honorable gentlemen who are now Ministers have said on different occasions that if they were in office they would not govern by regulation, because they did not approve of such a practice.

Mr Curtin - Who said that?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Quite a few of those who are now in the Ministry. We are entitled to have regulations posted to us. I am quite sure that newspaper proprietors do not regard it as a part of their duty to endeavour to educate me in regard to what the Government proposes to do. Therefore, the information should come to me through official channels. I learned through the press that some important regulations had been promulgated, but I did not dream that there was such a huge pile of them as I found here last week. If honorable members received them through the post, it would be their own fault if they did not acquaint themselves with what they contained.

I agree to the proposed adjournment ; but I put it to the Prime Minister that, apart from consideration of the regulations, to which some reference has already been made, it is vitally necessary that the House of Representatives shall proceed to a thorough review of the war.

I have mentioned the spirit of disquiet that exists in the community. It is a spirit that will not be kept bottled up for very long. It will not be allayed by press advertisements, or be brushed aside by speeches broadcast by Ministers. It cannot be dismissed by the declaration that we are a completely united nation. Every man who can think for himself knows that we are united only in those things which do not matter; in the big things that matter, there is not yet a measure of unity in this country. It may be forced on us before long; I believe that it will be. It would be far better if this Parliament were to face the facts and devise means for meeting the situation, than that such action should be forced on Parliament, as it well may be in the not-far-distant future if steps to avert such a happening be not taken.

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