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Friday, 23 October 1931

Mr JAMES (Hunter) .- I can hardly believe that the proposal of the seamen to withdraw crews from all ships at 5 o'clock to-night has not been approved without good cause. It is to be regretted that the Prime Minister did not get into touch with the Seamen's Union to learn their side of the case. It is incredible that the proposed action is to be taken at the behest of a few irresponsibles, or communists, as is claimed. I am convinced that if these men walk off the ships at 5 o'clock this afternoon, it will be because some of their number have been subjected to victimization. Probably very few honorable members in this chamber have experienced victimization. I know what it means. My personal experience was not the result of my entertaining any communist tendencies. It is usually caused by the spite of the employers, because men persist in holding out for their rights. I know what those who stand up for what they consider their rights suffer when victimized. It is impossible for them to obtain work, and their families go hungry.

I want to contrast the action of the Prime Minister on this occasion with that adopted by him when the coal-owners held the State of New South Wales at ransom. I recall the promises that he and his colleagues made. If the Bruce-Page Government were displaced from office, the sufferings of the miners would cease. The right honorable gentleman went through my electorate during those troublous times, and severely condemned the Bruce-Page administration for its inactivity, and for countenancing the lockout. When addressing the men and womenfolk he referred to the sufferings inflicted on the people of a country that was being blockaded during wartime, and he added " How much greater are the sufferings to which you are subjected when your husbands are denied work simply because they desire to obey the award of the Federal Arbitration Court." He promised that if the Bruce-Page Government were cast out, the resultant Labour

Government would immediately bring about a settlement. The Bruce-Page Government was removed from office, and we know what happened. We know that the miners had to bring about their own salvation. This Government made no attempt to prosecute the coal-owners, although, when in opposition, its members had moved the adjournment of the House in an endeavour to force the Bruce-Page Government to take that action against the late John Brown and his colleagues.

Now it appears that men are again standing up for their rights, resisting victimization. The Prime Minister threatens, by innuendo, that drastic action will be taken against them if they persist in their attitude. I hold no brief for anybody who espouses communist doctrines. The political aspect of these matters does not influence me. I think only of the suffering and hardship that is inflicted on the workers and their families when they are victimized. Obviously, the first tiling that the Prime Minister should do is to obtain the facts from the union so that he may be in a position to judge. It is regrettable that he should have threatened to invoke the aid of the law against the workers after hearing only one side of the case. I exhort the Prime Minister to set about making himself conversant with both sides of the question before he takes further action.

Question resolved in the negative.

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