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Wednesday, 17 July 1946

Mr CALWELL (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) (Minister for Immigration) - I was rather amazed and confounded when my attention was first drawn to this matter. I could not believe that such a questionnaire could have been prepared by an officer of my department. Unfortunately, the fact is that such a questionnaire was prepared by a junior member of the staff, and circulated without reference to the Director-General of Information. When the DirectorGeneral ascertained that this action had been taken without any reference at all to any other officer, he immediately sent telegrams to the headmasters of the schools concerned,and told them to take no notice of the questionnaire. The Argus newspaper, which published this questionnaire, sent one of its reporters to see me, and when I declined to discuss the matter the honorable member for Wimmera was apparently requested to ask a question in the House. The questions included in the questionnaire gave me a good deal of concern. It is not the function of any officer of the Department of Information to question Australia's membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations, or to cast doubt upon it. Neither is it desirable to raise any doubt about whether we should have the closest association with the United States of America. I do not know where the question about the " steady girl friend " came from, and can only put it down to the youthf ulness of the officer concerned. I admit that an error was made. I have taken steps to see that it does not happen again. But if every error committed by a member of the Argus staff were elevated into a public or political issue, it would hasten the decline that is already noticeable in that once influential newspaper.

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