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Wednesday, 4 July 1906
Page: 1041

Mr WILSON (Corangamite) .- The Vice-President of the Executive Council appears to have made this a personal matter between the honorable member for Wentworth and himself. The indictment of the honorable member for Wentworth was not against the Minister, but against those controlling the Department of Defence. I am sorry to say that I have been subjected to the same sort of treatment as has been meted out to the honorable member for Wentworth, so far as replies to the questions which I asked regarding the men who have been dismissed from the Field Artillery at Warrnambool are concerned. I desire, therefore, to emphasize his protest. I asked certain questions, and I was told that certain information would be supplied to me. To-day I again put the questions, but I find that more information has been given to the daily newspapers than has been supplied to me. I say that that is not right.

Mr Watson - Has it been supplied to the newspapers?

Mr WILSON - At any rate, it appears in the newspapers. The information which the press has published is, I believe, correct, and could only have emanated from the Department of Defence. I maintain that members of this House are entitled to the fullest information from any Department, and it should be supplied to them before it is given to any newspaper. I emphasize the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth that the Defence Department is to blame in this matter. The Vice-President of the Executive Council must recollect that the members of this House who ask the questions which appear upon the business-paper ave not the only persons who are interested in the replies which are given. They are of interest to a number of people outside. Those who are vitally interested in these matters have a right to get the. information. I hold that, at all times, the House is entitled to the fullest information that can be supplied, without the Department giving away secrets to the disadvantage of the country. We only ask for the kind of information which can be given to the newspapers.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta [11.31]. - I hope that this discussion will lead to the clearing up of this matter. I, for one, shall be glad if it leads to a different attitude on the part of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence here. Generally, with regard to questions which are asked by honorable members on this side of the Chamber, he seems, at any time, to be more disposed to raise a laugh at their expense than to answer civil questions. I have no doubt that he would feel as we do sometimes if he were constantly made the butt of some jocular remarks when he was asking a serious question of a Minister.

Mr Watson - We experienced that when we were in opposition.

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