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Friday, 13 July 1906

Mr DEAKIN (BALLAARAT, VICTORIA) (Minister for External Affairs) - I have within the last few weeks addressed the Home authorities by despatch with regard to the very inconvenient and uncertain practice at present obtaining of marking " confidential " certain communications passing between them and ourselves. The principle followed is not at all clear, though we have been at some pains to try to discover it. The request preferred was for a complete scheme of Australian defence, which must necessarily be discussed by Parliament. When Ministers have had an opportunity to read the document, and it has been considered by the Minister of Defence and his advisers, I propose to inquire whether it is inadvisable to make public any part of it. From a cursory inspection, I think that there are few, if any, passages which should not be published. If our views differ in any respect from the advice given by the high authority, whose opinion we have asked, it is only fair that we should give the reasons for the difference. We are not compelled to accept that advice, but we are bound to give our grounds for not following it. Honorable members will agree that the fullest information should be put before Parliament, so long as we do not touch on points which may indicate weakness in our chain of defence, or possibilities which it is not advisable to suggest. The whole matter should, and must, be laid before Parliament if it is to be effectively dealt with.

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