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Wednesday, 25 February 1959

Mr MACKINNON (Corangamite) . - Briefly answering some of the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), I say that he did himself and his party no great service by his offhand references to the many services to the nation and the British Commonwealth given in the past by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I think he was even more liable to criticism for his rather offhand references to those who sit behind him as types of the animal enticed by a carrot. I do not think he would get much credit for such statements from his own supporters.

The basis of the speech usually delivered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition each time this matter comes up for discussion is founded, I believe, on sour grapes. I believe that the Labour party would like to have a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee in order to use it as a sounding box for some criticism of the government of the day. Honorable members opposite have referred, in a rather woolly way, to what happens in other legislatures such as that of the United States of America. But what they fail to point out is that under the American system there is no possibility of direct criticism of the Minister in the legislative chamber. This has to be done, particularly in the Senate, by some other body, in the form of a foreign affairs committee. I believe that the whole basis of the Opposition's criticism is the fact that its members have felt they cannot use the Foreign Affairs Committee for their own ends if they should like to do so, even as a stick with which to beat the Government.

I feel, further, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) have not really expressed the wishes and desires of a great number of their supporters. I am quite satisfied, from my own knowledge of the intelligence of certain members on the Opposition benches, that they would appreciate the opportunity to serve on this committee and take advantage of the information that is made available. They could thus better inform themselves on foreign affairs and be able to play some part in moulding public opinion on Australia's foreign policy.

Honorable members may have gained the impression from the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the committee is completely circumscribed- in the subjects which it discusses. Anybody who has had any association with this committee knows that this is completely untrue. The committee can discuss any subject it likes, but there are limitations on the subjects on which it will make a report. In the past, according to my knowledge of the workings of this committee, although its work does not hit the headlines - and that is obviously natural or native to the security type of discussion of the committee - on a number of occasions it has provided information and a consensus of thought which has helped the Minister and the Government in making decisions on certain current problems.

I believe, in regard to paragraph 4 (g) of the motion, that when these recommendations were detailed and actually took the form of a report to the House, a copy of that report would naturally be submitted to the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If mem bers of the Labour party were serving on this committee, submissions from the committee which were passed on to the Government would, with the Minister's approval, be communicated also to the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy.

I feel that the whole of the arguments against this matter are so theatrical and unsound that the House should discard them and so should the people of Australia. If there is any subject about which we want to know more at the present time, particularly in this country which is remote from the centre of other governments, it is the problems and activities of other countries.

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