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Thursday, 30 April 1942

Mr FALSTEIN (Watson) .- It must be obvious to even the least discerning person .that the motion for the disallowance of the regulations made under Statutory Rule; J 942, No. 77, is being used by honorable gentlemen opposite as a weapon with which to attack the Government.. If I am any judge, the Opposition intends to accept every conceivable opportunity that presents itself to embarrass and harass the Government. Yet these are the gentlemen who, by their Owl utterances and by means of their servants and agents, are trying to lead the people of Australia to believe that they alone favour an all-in war effort. They even go so far as to tell us that they are endeavouring to co-operate with the Government in the prosecution of the war. The tactics employed by some members of the Opposition are deplorable and are utterly inconsistent with their public statements and with statements made on their behalf in the press. Some honorable gentlemen opposite are extremely keen to regain office, -not because they would welcome the opportunity to cope with the problems of total war which confront the country, but because they would thereby obtain the opportunity to use the power provided by this Government. Undoubtedly they would use that power to bludgeon the workers more cruelly than they were bludgeoned during the Port Kembla pig-iron dispute. I was surprised to hear the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) say that certain provisions in these regula tions were not desirable. In fact, I would assume from the right honorable member's speech, that these regulations are almost as bad as were those contained in Statutory Rule No. 42a gazetted by his Government; that they are equally unfair in their incidence and in respect of the administrative acts that are possible under them. I believe that, like a bubble that has been pricked, these regulations will now be placed on the shelf, never to be used.

Mr Spender - Perhaps that is what was agreed upon in Caucus this morning.

Mr FALSTEIN - I assure the honorable gentleman that that is not what was agreed upon. Some members of the Opposition have suggested that the regulations are desirable because they supply a. weapon which will enable direct action to be taken against miners and other workers who have just grievances, in the same way as fifth columnists are dealt with in other countries. I remind the House that wherever fifth columnists have appeared they have not sprung from the ranks of the workers. Quisling himself, and the quislings of every other country, will never be found to have associations with the working classes of those countries.

Mr Rankin - What about Laval ?

Mr FALSTEIN - Laval is a quisling who sprang from the ranks of the bankers of France.

I desire to say in passing that whilst 1 welcomed the almost transcendental appreciation of the regulations voiced by the right honorable member for Kooyong. 1 greatly regret that it was spoilt by his reference to another honorable member as " a boneless wonder ". If ever there was a " boneless wonder " in this or any other Parliament of Australia, it was the right honorable gentleman himself; because, had he had the pluck or the spunk to do the job with which he was entrusted he might still have been Prime Minister of this country. I understand that he has always wanted to be called " Bob ". He is now being called "Pig-iron Bob".

Perhaps the most distressing matters mentioned by members of the Opposition were those that clearly showed that they have no appreciation of the problems of the coal industry or any other industry. But worse than that; not only have they no appreciation of those problems, but they have even been prepared to invent statements and to fabricate circumstances in accordance with whatever came into their minds, in order to make the industrial position appear to be worse than it was in fact. Indeed, one honorable gentleman said that employees in the State coal-mine had gone on strike. I know something of the facts of that matter, and can tell honorable members that at1½ minutes after 7 a.m. on the day on which the union had decided to call a stop-work meeting for the purpose of settling certain matters which needed adjustment, the management blew the "no-work" whistle, without inquiry from the union as to how long the meeting might last or what was the nature of the matters to be discussed at it.

Mr Rankin - Stop-workings are nor a custom, but a habit.

Mr.FALS TEIN. - I cannot speak for generals, but I can say that it is common sense that wherever grievances arise which are likely to interfere with production they should be resolved at the earliest possible moment. I was saying that this action was taken by the mine management. Even in nationalized coalmines, unless a rigorous policing of the management is undertaken it is possible that some persons who have not at heart rite interests of the miners will be anxious to do things that are detrimental to them. The miners at this particular mine work on contract; consequently they would be the only persons affected by their failure to enter the mine at 7 a.m. sharp. Loss of time at the coal face would mean reduced earning for them. This stoppage might have developed to the proportions of a lock-out. Honorable members will recall the circumstances. There is evidence to show that agencies which have not at heart the interests of the miners were at work in order to aggravate industrial trouble on the coal-fields. This kind of thing is engineered by persons both inside and outside of this Parliament who are actively engaged in doing everything in their power, either consciously or unconsciously, to wreck this Government. Whether honorable members are aware of it or not, many persons are endeavouring to wreck a government which, in this nation's hour of greatest trial, is coping magnificently with the problems that confront it from day to day. Honorable members opposite claim that the war effort is being" hampered by strikes. I can only reply that if the war effort has been hampered in any regard, it has been as the result of the policies of governments that preceded the present Government in office. If there is to be an election, and I tell my people in half-an-hour's speech the story of Australia's unpreparedness, not one man will vote for a candidate representing the party that sits opposite.

Mr Morgan - It is no secret.

Mr FALSTEIN - Ithank the honorable member for Reid for that reminder. I believe that the people know that had this Government not assumed office when it . did, Australia would to-day be occupied by the Japanese. There are certain matters which, for security reasons, I am precluded from mentioning. When I see the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) laugh at my statement, I can only assume that he has not applied his mind - if he has one - to the real problems that have to be tackled.

Mr SPENDER (WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable member is prevented by security reasons from mentioning the matters here, how will he be able to mention them to his electors ?

Mr FALSTEIN - One of the matters I am prevented from mentioning is that, which the honorable member for Warringah revealed in this House at a secret meeting. .

Mr Spender - In May of last year.

Mr FALSTEIN - Were that statement alone repeated-

Mr Spender - The honorable member knows very well the state of this country at the outbreak of war.

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