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Friday, 20 February 1942
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Mr CURTIN (Fremantle) (Prime Minister) . - by leave - I move -

That a joint meeting of members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives be convened for 4 p.m. this day, for the purpose of discussing in secret the present war, and hearing confidential reports in relation thereto.

In anticipation of that motion being carried a regulation has been gazetted providing that there shall be complete observance of the obligation of secrecy upon both the country and members of the legislature. That regulation reads- 1.The proceedings at any meeting of the Senate and of the House of Representatives convened by the Prime Minister, the President of the Senate, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, or by any or all of those persons, for the purpose of discussing in secret the present war and hearing confidential reports in relation thereto, shall be kept secret.

2.   A person shall not divulge any information made known at any such meeting, or publish or cause to be published any report being or purporting to be a report of any such proceedings, or of any portion thereof, except a report made officially by the Prime Minister.

This regulation shall not apply to anyjoint meeting of members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives unless each House has carried a resolution that a joint meeting of members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives be convened for the purpose of discussing in secret the present war and hearing confidential reports in relation thereto.

I put it to the House that it is utterly impossible, having regard to the requirements of security, for all of the circumstances in relation to the present position of the war to be discussed openly in public places. That necessarily includes this chamber and another place, because of the publicity which inevitably is given to the proceedings in Parliament. Anything less than a full and frank debate, would be, in the circumstances, a travesty of what the country requires. Whatever we may do subsequently, it is at least the duty of this Parliament to know all that can be known, and to express itself freely in respect of what is known, so that what has been, isbeing, and may be done, may be reviewed, and such wisdom as may be deducible from all of it may be applied to the requirements, which are very great and involve the security of Australia. I have only to add that the trusteeship which devolves upon all of us has never previously in the history of our country been so exacting. I feel the position very deeply, but no more, I am sure, than does any other honorable member of this House. I submit that the motion is a proper one, and that the procedure proposed is a necessary preliminary to any other discussions that we may have.


Mr Menzies - This will not exclude future public discussion?


Mr CURTIN - No. When this motion is carried, I propose merely to ask the House to suspend the sitting.







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