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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator FOLL (Queensland) (Minister for the Interior) . - I trust that this motion will not be carried. All the remarks made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) in opposition toa motion of a similar character moved this morning apply equally in this case. My only reason for rising at this stage is to refer to a statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane) in regard to the application of censorship. Quite frankly, I admit that this would be one of the worst possible matters to which censorship could be applied. Censorship should be applied only to statements of a subversive character or to information relating to troop movements, the movements of ships, the production of munition factories and so on, which would endanger the nation should such information reach the enemy. It is strange that the application of censorship should beurged in this chamber, whereas in the House of Representatives to-day a strong protest was made because censorship had been applied to statements which, had they been transmitted overseas, would be of definite value to the enemy. In regard to what occurred last night I assure honorable senators that it was not a question of speeches as such being censored. The instructions given were of a specific nature, and referred only to certain statements.

Senator Keane - A whole speech was censored.

Senator FOLL - If that be so, it was done in error. No instructions were issued thatthe whole of any speech should he censored. Following discussions with my colleagues, and with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I issued instructions that no censorship was to be applied to the debate that took place this morning. I believe that censorship should be used only in regard to statements which if published would be of value to the enemy. I remind honorable senators that a number of statements made by individuals, and published in the press, have been quickly seized upon by the Axis Powers and used for propaganda purposes in an endeavour to disintegrate the Empire and impair our war effort. My view is that censorship should be used very carefully indeed because one privilege which we should jealously guard in this country should be freedom of speech, thought, and publicity. I should also point out that the censorship is not confined to the speeches of private members of this Parliament or to the utterances of members of any particular party. Statements by Ministers are subject to censorship. Some of my own statements have been censored, because information contained in them, such as the location of a particular factory, or the position of an important roadway, might have been of value to the enemy. That is the only basis upon which censorship should operate, and I should be strongly opposed to allowing such a matter as this to become the subject of any form of censorship.

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