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Wednesday, 17 December 1941

Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) . - Much of what, has been said by honorable senators opposite can very easily be misconstrued and used by our enemies as propaganda against us. 1 emphasize that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are just as desirous as are honorable senators opposite, if not more so, to ensure that Australia is adequately defended. Senator Sampson stated that regardless of where Australian troops were fighting whether in Egypt, Europe, Malaya or anywhere else they were defending this country. With that we all agree. However, there is a limit to our capacity to send soldiers abroad, whether it be to Europe or Africa, and, at the same time, adequately protect our shores against an enemy which is now right at our very door. Honorable senators opposite, particularly Senator Sampson and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), declared it was our duty to keep up reinforcements to our troops now in Libya.

Senator McLeay - Does not the honorable senator agree with that?

Senator AYLETT - If we could spare such reinforcements my reply is " Yes " ; but to the implication that we should send soldiers overseas regardless of our own defence requirements, I say "No". Senator Sampson implied that we in Australia are merely sitting back and waiting for the enemy to come to our shores; that we are adopting an isolationist policy, and shall fight only on our own soil. On what information does the honorable senator base that implication? Apparently, his ears and eyes have been closed to what has been going on in this country. He would be of a different opinion if he were inundated with telephone calls and telegrams, as I have been, since I arrived in Canberra, dealing with the calling up of men from all sections of primary and secondary industry. Such facts prove that the Government is attending effectively and urgently to our defence requirements. The honorable senator, apparently, is not aware of those things. No honorable senator on this side has said that our troops in Malaya and Singapore should not be fully reinforced, or that the Government should not do everything possible to meet the enemy beyond our shores.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Government has not the power to send men abroad, even if it wanted to do so.

Senator AYLETT - The honorable senator is not aware of the whole of the facts. Honorable senators opposite are doing a greater disservice to this country by providing propaganda for our enemies when they say that this Government will not allow Australian soldiers to be sent beyond our shores, and suggest that we are not prepared to meet our enemy at Singapore and Malaya. That is the kind of statement I condemn when I describe certain remarks made by honorable senators opposite as propaganda. When I interjected to that effect Senator Sampson replied that any one who would make such a suggestion must have a very low mind indeed. If the honorable senator did not really mean what he said I readily forgive him; but that is my interpretation of his statement. Certainly our enemies will interpret his remarks to meanthat the Government of this country will not allow our soldiers to meet them beyond our shores.

Senator Sampson - I rise to a point of order. I cannot allow an honorable senator to put words into my mouth which I did not utter.

The DEPUT Y PRESIDENT (Senator Brown). - The honorable senator has not raiseda point of order.

Senator AYLETT - The Government is fully aware of our present difficulties. No honorable senator on this side has ever suggested that it is not prepared to meet our enemies beyond our shores; but that implication was apparent in practically the whole of the speech made by Senator Sampson. Such a speech was entirely wrong.

Senator Keane - And harmful.

Senator AYLETT - It provides propaganda of which our enemies will make the greatest possible use. Goebbels will certainly capitalize it. Honorable senators opposite advocate the setting up of a supreme war council. Such a body already exists.

Senator McLeay - With executive powers ?

Senator AYLETT - Yes; but the Leader of the Opposition is grieved because he is not a member of it. The members of that body are quite capable of dealing with the problems which confront them. If honorable senators opposite will give to the Government only 50 per cent. of the co-operation which we gave to the previous Government when we were in opposition they will have no cause to worry.

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