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Thursday, 20 April 1961

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .-! want to make a reference to a remarkable speech made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) earlier to-day. The Treasurer was evidently rather peeved and upset over a press report of a very strenuous time he had had at his party meeting answering criticism by some back-bench members, lt is rather interesting to note that nobody supported the Treasurer's statement of the situation. The Treasurer came into the House and for the first time to my knowledge found some objection to the methods used by pressmen to obtain information about party meetings, which he now declares every one knows to be confidential. When there have been alleged leakages of information from Labour Party meetings, honorable members opposite have asked the Treasurer and other Ministers questions obviously aimed at embarrassing the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). It is only when we begin to get leakages from the Government party rooms that the Treasurer appeals to all members of the House to condemn roundly the tactics employed by pressmen.

The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), Deakin (Mr. Davis), Lyne (Mr. Lucock), Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and Phillip (Mr. Aston), who were all mentioned in the newspaper report of this very hectic meeting of the Government parties, have never yet given their version of what transpired. They have not said whether the report was accurate or inaccurate. I think the Treasurer is suffering from an early attack of election jitters. As the date of the election approaches, he naturally becomes a little disturbed and a little upset.

I want to say this to the Treasurer: It is rather peculiar that a government which claims to be controlling a democratic form of government should attempt to intimidate people who merely want to criticize its policy. The Government disciplines the members of the parties that support it and does not permit them to express criticism in this chamber. We have often heard the allegation that the Trades Hall controls the Australian Labour Party; but we do not hear voiced in this chamber the criticisms that are levelled by back-bench members of the Government parties in the party rooms, because these members are not permitted to speak about them. Honorable members on the Government side are just as rigidly under control as are any members of this Parliament, and they know it. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who was a member of the Constitutional Review Committee appointed by this Government, was not permitted recently, according to his own statement in the Parliament, to take part in the debate on the report of the committee. He was gagged by the Government that had appointed him and was not allowed to express his views.

I must direct attention to the peculiar attitude of certain officers of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. This body circularized all members of the Parliament and sent them a copy of the advertisement I now have in my hand. It sought their cooperation in raising the matter. We did not have time to raise it before Government supporters, particularly those in borderline seats, became alarmed. They began to protest in the party room and to criticize the Government and the Treasurer. They wanted to know what it was all about and what the Government intended to do about reversing its policy in order to save them in their border-line seats.

To-day the Treasurer quoted from a telegram which he said every member on the Government side had received from Mr. Gordon More, the president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. It is quite obvious that this was organized by the Treasurer. If it was not, why was the telegram not sent to every member of the Parliament, including Opposition members who also received this propaganda from the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures? The Treasurer gave the game away in his own speech, because what he said to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures was that he resented this form of activity and that the chamber was trying to intimidate the Government and make it change its policy. Surely in a democracy this organization has a right to criticize the Government's policy, to protest and to send its views to members of the Parliament so that we will all be aware of the attitude it is adopting.

I will tell honorable members why the advertisements that were exhibited in the Government parties room and brought into this chamber by the Treasurer will not appear in the press. They will not be published because the Treasurer has already issued an ultimatum to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. He has threatened reprisals against the chamber if it dares to continue to criticize the Government or to develop its plan. The result is that radio programmes, television programmes and newspaper advertisements that have been prepared will be abandoned. Mr. Gordon More, president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, has stated that the chamber did not mean to campaign against the Government. He now regrets that this impression has been formed from the activities of the chamber. I do not know what the chamber has to say about the advertisement, which was issued under the authority of the executive of the chamber. Why is the chamber now " going for water"? Is it because the chamber is afraid that in its anxiety to bring pressure to bear on the Government to change its policy, the campaign may go too far and may lead to the defeat of the Government? The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, or at least a section of it, does not want to bring about the defeat of the Government. The chamber merely wants the Government to change its policy.

I wish to direct the attention of the House now to another matter, which is related to unemployment, and which was touched on by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) this evening. Recently a Church of England clergyman - the Reverend R. Fraser - directed attention to a Department of Immigration pamphlet distributed overseas which states that a four to five-bedroom brick house may be rented in Australia for between 30s. and £3 10s. a week. What an utterly ridiculous, false and misleading statement! What does the Government think it is doing in using false propaganda of that type to induce unfortunate people to come to Australia? The Reverend Fraser has stated that he recently assisted a desperate English migrant to secure the tenancy of a furnished garage at Narrabeen in New South Wales at a rental of £11 lis. a week.

Here is the really interesting point. False propaganda of this type is being distributed amongst people overseas to encourage them to come to Australia. At present, in this country 82,000 people are registered as unemployed. In my view, the number of persons out of work is much higher than that figure. Despite the unemployment situation the Government has announced that this year it will increase the intake of migrants from 115,000 to 125,000. The Australian taxpayer is being taxed to bring those people to this country. At the same time New Zealand authorities are advertising in Australian newspapers seeking to obtain Australian building workers who are out of a job here as a result of the Government's policy. The New Zealand authorities are offering inducement to Australian workers to go to that country, not on a temporary basis but to settle there permanently. While we are attempting to bring new settlers to Australia the New Zealand authorities are inducing our skilled workers to emigrate! That is an indication of the utterly ridiculous situation that has developed in Australia. It is obvious that many skilled building workers, whose training has cost the country many nun.dreds, even thousands, of pounds, will be permanently lost to us. If the Government wants to claim that it is doing its best for the Australian community it should investigate the matters that I have raised.

I would like the honorable members opposite whom I accused of taking part in the fracas at the meeting of Government parties to rise in their places and tell the House what transpired. If they do not care to accept my invitation, is it because they are not permitted to do so? Are they browbeaten? Let us not forget that the big white father - the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - has warned that any leakages from the party room to the press will be dealt with drastically.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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