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Thursday, 27 June 1946

Mr WARD (East Sydney) (Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories) (12:50 PM) . - The amendment moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) proves conclusively that he is the squib that I said he was. The honorable member started off by saying that he' was going to call my bluff and give me the opportunity of producing whatever evidence I might have to -substantiate my charges against preceding governments. The amendment asks for the tabling of some official papers. I have never contended that my charges were based entirely upon whatever the official records may disclose. If the honorable gentleman wants a proper .investigation he should move for one, not merely for the tabling of some papers. But he is just a squib. He has alternated independence with membership of, first, the United Australia party, and, now, the Liberal party. He has been in and out of the party, but he has never faced up to an issue. I tell him and his colleagues that I should welcome a proper investigation of all matters concerning the unprepared state of this country's defences when the Labour party took office. I will discuss this matter with my party when it meets again, and tell- it that it might he a good thing for this Government to have the people know the unprepared state of the country's defences when we took over the administration. I believe that such an investigation would be a good thing, particularly as it- would cover the period when the " Baron of Bardia " was Minis ter for the Army. I remember well how the honorable member for Warringah came back to Australia and told us how he conferred with the generals at midnight just before the attack. Yes, we ought to have an investigation of the state of affairs in this country when the. honorable member for Warringah was Minister for the Army. The investigation also ought to cover the activities of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) when he -was Minister for Air and enemy vessels were able to lay mines in the waters south of Australia, and much farther south than " the Brisbane line ", undetected because we did not have enough aircraft to patrol the Australian coast. The investigation ought to cover the fact that the Royal Australian Air Force at the Japanese attack on Rabaul, about which there had been bo much talk to-night was equipped with Wirraway training aeroplanes - to meet the most modern aircraft of Japan. If the honorable member for Warringah really wants an investigation, he will do very little to clear up the matter by persisting with his puny amendment. The only way in which it can be cleared up is by presenting an accurate picture to the people, and that can be done only by a thorough investigation of the. state of this country's defences when we, fortunately for Australia, became the Government in October, 1941. So I propose to discuss the matter with my party with a view to having a proper investigation made. Honorable members opposite have never asked for an investigation. The honorable member for Warringah, by insinuation and otherwise, made a personal attack upon me when he lost his temper. What I have said to him, by way of interjection, about his activities as Minister for the Army -will bear examination. The records of this Parliament show that, when I challenged him from the Opposition benches, he admitted having communicated with the authorities with regard to the arrest of his brotherinlaw, Phillip Raoul Hentze. But the honorable member is not genuine in his amendment, and, because he is only 6ham-fighting, we should waste no moro time in considering it.

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