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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) (Minister for Aircraft Production) . - I am a member of the minority in this place who do not think that this paper should simply be printed and the matter be allowed to rest there. Certain very vital principles are involved in the unfortunate controversy which has taken place between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of Great Britain within the last few days. It is rather remarkable that a man possessing the record of the Australian Minister at Washington, should have been invited to join the Government of the United Kingdom and should have had the termination of his services on behalf of the Australian Government accepted by that Government without, so far as I know, a solitary syllable of appreciation of his services in Washington having been uttered by any member of the Government.

Mr Curtin - He has not yet terminated his services. What is the honorable member talking about?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I am talking about the white paper.

Mr Curtin - The honorable member has not read it.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I have read the statements that have appeared in the press, and I heard a good deal about the matter over the air last Sunday night. The Prime Minister was badly beaten to the post. He threatened to lay the documents on the table of this House, but he was forestalled by their being read over the air on Sunday night.

Mr Curtin - I did not say a word about the matter until I was told that a portion of one telegram was to be quoted. My answer was that the right procedure was to quote all of them.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - There are some things which this Parliament has to consider. The request has been made from timeto time, I believe by this Government as well as by the previous Government, for some form of direct representation of Australia in an Imperial War Cabinet. It is a remarkable circumstance that so soon as one very distinguished member of the Australian community should have been offered a post in which he would be ableto do a very big job for the Commonwealth in connexion with the direction of the war, this controversy should have broken out. But I have one or two other things at the back of my mind. My mind goes back to a certain statement made by the Prime Minister on the 26th December last. I say to the honorable gentleman that for some time past there has been too much of a tendency on the part of himself and some of his colleagues to appear to be playing off Great Britain against the United States of America. I am very thankful for what the United States of America is proposing to do in regard to the prosecution of the war against Japan. I did not expect that country to engage in the conflict at a very early stage and in that estimate I was not wrong. There is too much of & tendency on the part of Ministers to attempt to make it appear that there is a rift between this country and the United Kingdom. There is no rift between Australia and Great Britain so far as 95 per cent, of the people of 'this country are concerned. There is no desire on the part of our people to look to Washington instead of to London as their racial and spiritual home. It is up to the Government to put a brake on such utterances. The way in which they are picked up and used to the common detriment of every one of us by the Japanese, Italian, and German radios shows how dangerous they are.

There is another point that I would put to the Prime Minister. Diplomatic business can never be conducted satisfactorily if, at some unknown time in the future, one party to the negotiations lays on the table of the House all the documents connected with the matter. In the cables that have been published in the press there were certain personal references to transactions and statements between man and man, which, I am perfectly sure, would never have been included in them had their author believed that within a week or two they would be published to the world. The Government has to take a grip of that situation. Within the last few weeks we have heard certain statements. The last statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) does not make very good reading in this regard. We ought to be very careful of the way in which we discuss relations between ourselves and allied governments.

I do not want to say much more, although there is a lot that I could say, but I do affirm that, this country ought to be very thankful that a former member of this House has been given the appointment he is to hold.

Mr Perkins - Why?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Because he is highly qualified for the .position. If there is one man in this country who is qualified for the position, ' it is the man who has it to-day.

Mr Marwick - Both as diplomat and soldier.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - He was also an excellent representative in this House, and he will display qualities of an equally high order wherever he goes. The time has come when the Government of this country must adopt an attitude towards the relationship of Australia and the United Kingdom very different from that which has characterized its public utterances over the last three months. If Ministers think that they are going to " cash in " on anything, by attempting to make it appear that we are more inclined to go to one side than another of the Atlantic, they completely misread public opinion in this country. Australia is, and will remain, whatever conies, part and parcel of the British Empire, and nothing else. It is on that, ground that the Government of the Commonwealth ought to take its stand. It is on that ground that I expect the Government of the Commonwealth to take its stand ; and I hope that in future there will be no more unfortunate lapses such as we have witnessed in the last few days in connexion with this rather intricate and interesting appointment.

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