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Wednesday, 27 November 1935

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) - Minister for External Affairs) [6.0]. - Honorable senators who support the Government are just as anxious and determined as is Senator Brown to protect the bona fide trade unions of this country. This bill will help to shield them from a menace against which the trades unions themselves have had to take action - the Communists, who are endeavouring to whiteant the trade union movement in Australia. I emphasize that the trades unions themselves and. some trades councils have been compelled, for their own protection, to take drastic action against Communist organizations. Senator Brown should be aware of that. Quite recently the Melbourne Trades Hall Council declared that the Council Against War, an organization promoted by the Communist party in Melbourne, has anti-trade union objectives, and even outlawed certain of its own officials because of their membership of that body.

Senator Brown - But the trade unions did not ask the Government to give greater powers to the police.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - The honorable senator pretended to believe that this legislation is directed against trade unions. Far from being so, it is directed against the enemies of trade unions. Senator Brown knows full well that many unions have been obliged to expel some of their officials because they recognized them as being agents of communism, seeking to white ant the trade union movement. The legitimate trade unions do not lend themselves to propaganda for the overthrow of government by force or violence, which is the object of the Communists. If the Government can stamp out this menace, no organizations should be more grateful to the Government than the trade unions. The Communist bodies are like the chameleon in that they change their colours. Whenever one is declared an unlawful body it suddenly disappears, only to bob up again under another name. Nevertheless, the funds, books and assets are all by some mysterious method transferred from one to the other. Every country which has taken action against the Communist organizations has experienced the difficulty of tracing them from one name to another. The clause under discussion will overcome this obstacle. The officials of the organization, when it goes underground, know full well what becomes of the books and assets, and this proposed new sub-section is' to enable the law to call upon them to answer certain questions. Both Senator Collings and Senator Brown referred at length to the first part of the sub-section, but did not read the nature of the questions to be directed to such persons. Paragraph el. for example, deals with - any money, property or funds belonging to or held by or on behalf of an unlawful association, or as to which there is reasonable cause to believe that they belong to or are held by or on behalf of an unlawful association.

No inquisitorial prying into a person's private property or funds is contemplated. The subject of the examination will be the money and documents of the organization which has been declared unlawful and has gone underground. This is for the protection of society and of bona fide trade union organizations against the white-anting activities of Communists. Paragraph e reads -

Any payments made directly or indirectly by, to, or on behalf of, any unlawful association, or as to which there is reasonable cause to believe they are to be made.

A person may be asked whether any money has been received from Russia, and, if so, what became of it. There have been instances in which movements aimed at the overthrow of society and the white-anting of trade unionism have been financed by money from the head of the Communist organization in Russia. Paragraph / reads -

Any transaction to which an unlawful association is or is reasonably believed to be a party.

If the person interrogated has never been associated with an unlawful organization what will he have to fear if called upon by a person authorized by the AttorneyGeneral to answer these questions? All he need say is that he is not, and has never been, a member of an unlawful association. If he has never handled the money or the property of an unlawful association what disability will he be under? He should welcome the opportunity to say that he has never had any association with such organizations. If honorable senators opposite wish to protect bona fide trade unions they should support this clause. Trade unionists have had to protect themselves against the Communists and this provision will assist them. If honorable senators opposite wish, to shield those who are white-anting the trade union organizations in Australia by trying to divert them from their perfectly legitimate work of improving the lot of the workers, and to convert them into revolutionary organizations they will oppose this clause. This provision is aimed at that class of individual, and not at the bona fide- trade unionists.

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