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Wednesday, 25 February 1942

Mr PERKINS (Eden) (Monaro) . - A change has been made in the system of news broadcasts. A broadcast of news is made from Canberra ahead of the overseas news. Moving around the country and, indeed, in the city also, one finds that this is generally resented. People of importance whowish to devote the few minutes at their disposal to listening in to the broadcast of overseas news, in which they are very deeply interested, find that they have first to listen to the news that is broadcast from Canberra. Doubtless some of this latter is important; but much of itis neither important nor significant. Very nasty remarks are made concerning it. It is described as government propaganda. I do not subscribe to that view. There is the belief that it is put over in order to push Ministers into the public eye at a time when the people most desire to hear what is occurring overseas. I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), either that the old practice be reverted to or that the Canberra news and the overseas news be broadcast at stated times, so that those persons who wish to listen only to one will not be obliged to listen to both.

Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle- Prime Minister) [6.25]. - in reply - I assure the honorable member for Dallcy (Mr. Rosevear) that theflat-rate rationing of petrol will be reviewed by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley). I am quite certain that the Government will consider any recommendation that he may make.

Mr Rosevear - What about thewaste of petrol?

Mr.CURTIN. - I shall ask. the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to assure me that that matter will be most rigorously dealt with. I know that there have been very many reportsof that nature. Some of them Ihave investigated personally, and have found them to be not justified.

Mr Rosevear - Most of the decisions are made on military reports. What about setting up a private body?

Mr CURTIN - I assure the honorable member that the matter will be investigated.

I shall be glad if the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will acquaint me with the nature of the rumours he has mentioned, in order that I may have some knowledge of them. I shall then tell him whether or not they are in accordance with the facts. Not only have we had the reports which would ordinarily be received, but to-day we have had, in addition, reports from other officers. These do not add anything to the broad picture, but merely fill hi details. I can only say to the honorable gentleman that it would not be to the advantage of Australia for a public statement to be made of the extent and nature of the damage which the enemy inflicted on Darwin, because that would reveal to the enemy the degree of its success or failure in the attainment of its objectives. National security makes it essential that when the enemy launches an assault Against any part of Australia, however disturbing it may be to us, we must not reveal the degree of our discomfiture.

Mr Calwell - That argument 'would be valid if we were given the information at a private meeting.

Mr CURTIN - If the honorable gentleman will have a conversation with me, I shall he glad to learn what he has in mind. Speaking broadly, I shall notput myself in the position of either denying or admitting something, merely because the enemy desires to verify its knowledge of -what we are doing or have not done.

With respect to the matter raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), I can only say that I sincerely hope that a government instrumentality 'will be fairly, properly, and usefully employed. I know that there have been expressions of discontent, and criticism of the way in which the news service has been conducted. Whether or not that is justified, I do not know, because1 I Have not had an opportunity to listen to the broadcasts. I assure the honorable gentleman that I shall take the matter up, and that, if improvement can be made, we shall make it. We shall not tolerate .anything that is not satisfactory.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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