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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) . - I am surprised at the degree to which the Senate has devoted its attention during the last few months to matters entirely unconnected with the war effort.

Senator McBride - But this matter is connected with the war effort.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - The disallowance of these regulations will not help the war effort in any way. So far as I know, there is complete industrial peace in our munitions establishments, where most of our female labour is employed, and will be employed to an even greater degree in the future. With the Japanese at our gates, we find the Australian Senate devoting its time to motions for the disallowance of certain regulations, most of which have been framed by this Government - probably some of them would have been promulgated by the previous Government had it continued in office - to help the people of Australia during the war.

Senator Spicer - Does the honorable senator think that the tribunal provided for in these regulations is properly constituted?

Senator E B JOHNSTON - Anything that this Government does to help our war effort I shall not oppose whilst in matters of defence the position is so critical. I had no desire to see this Administration in office, and I did not help to put it there. It was put into office by those individuals on this side of the chamber and in the House of Representatives who by their intrigues displaced their efficient leader, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), whom I and others were returned to this Parliament to support. It is not my fault that a Labour government is in power, but now that it is there, I intend to give it a fair deal on all matters affecting the war effort, just as the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the right honorable member for Kooyong are doing. I have here a report which appeared in the Sydney Daily Mirror of the 29th March, 1942, and in other newspapers. It reads -

While ready and willing to give the fullest co-operation in the prosecution of the war,

Opposition members would not forgo the right to offer constructive criticism inside and outside of Parliament, with the design only of assisting the Ministry to achieve a maximum war effort, the Leader of the Federal Opposition (Mr. Fadden) said last night.

He added that the Government was failing to face up to the war situation, which demanded an all-in effort. A large section of the community had not been called upon to make a worthwhile contribution towards winning the war.

Only by compulsion could all citizens be made to shoulder the full responsibilities of the burden resting upon every individual shoulder.

The Opposition was watching every move, and next week would make a comprehensive review of all the regulations gazetted since the 1st January, after which it would take whatever action was deemed in the best interests of Australia.

Neither the Leader of the Opposition nor the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) in the House of Representatives has moved to disallow one regulation since that statement was made. This " battle of the regulations " has been proceeding in this chamber for weeks to the exclusion of all other business.

Senator McBride - There is no government business on the notice-paper.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - I see an item," International Affairs - Review of the War Situation - Ministerial Statement - Paper ". The Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator McLeay) is the only honorable gentleman on this side of the chamber who has had an opportunity to speak on that subject, and when the debate was adjourned he was granted leave to continue his speech at a later date. Even if there is no government business on the notice-paper, as Senator McBride states, it would be much better to allow Ministers of the Crown to remain in their offices as long as possible in order to look after the urgent business of the country.

Senator McBride - The Leader of the Senate called the Senate together ; we did not.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - We asked that the Senate should be called together some weeks ago, and when we adjourned we insisted that it should reassemble at an early date. During the war it would be much better if Ministers were free to carry on the business of the nation - if we have no better business to bring before the Senate than the proposed disallowance of statutory rules - than to keep them here week after week, as we have done. Although many motions have been submitted for the disallowance of statutory rules, only one has been successful. That was the statutory rule governing conscientious objectors, which was submitted by Senator Sampson. Those were the only regulations germane to the war in respect of which a motion to disallow has been moved since the present Government came into power. I intended to support Senator Sampson on that occasion, but apparently every other honorable senator had the 6ame intention and a division was not necessary. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives said that a most comprehensive review of all regulations would take place. It has taken place, and neither he nor the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in that chamber has, so far as I know, moved to disallow any statutory rules.

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