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Wednesday, 25 November 1931


Mr THEODORE (Dalley) (Treasurer) . - The speech of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) must have disappointed his colleagues in the corner party. He had allowed the impression to get abroad that he intended to launch a serious attack on the Government, and that Ministers would bc assailed on unanswerable charges. Yet for twenty minutes we have listened to sheer puerilities. The honorable member stated that his allegations would be supported by evidence, but what sort of evidence has he produced? I propose to answer, categorically, the innuendoes and charges relating to myself, against whom this attack appears to be mainly directed.

First, the honorable member stated that in connexion with the employment to be given under this Parliament's grant for relief works, an organization was established in Dalley, under my authority, to collect the names of persons desiring work at Cockatoo Island, apparently with, some kind of promise by me that the persons whose names were so collected would get preference. I deny that any such authority was given by me, or that such an organization as is alleged was set up in Dalley under my authority or with my cognizance.

Secondly, the honorable member stated that canvassers in his own electorate, as well as in Dalley, were instructed, at my request, to collect the names of 200 applicants for work. I deny that. No such request was made by me; if any person collected names and said that he had my authority or instruction to do so, he was stating a falsehood.

Thirdly, the honorable member stated that at the meeting of the Annandale branch of the Australian Labour Party which I addressed a week ago, some person asked me a question regarding employment at Cockatoo Island, and that I replied that the matter was in the bauds of Mr.. MacPherson, and that I would guarantee to get work for any persons whose names were collected by him. I deny that any such question was asked, or that any such answer was given by me. That denial is not given lightly, because there are at least 100 persons who could testify regarding what took place at that meeting.

Fourthly, the honorable member said that I sent for the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard to instruct him as to the method of selecting men for work. I deny that also. It is true that I had a consultation with the manager of the dockyard; that I shall explain later.

So soon as it became known that the Commonwealth Parliament had granted a sum of money for the provision of relief work, I, in common with other federal members representing New South Wales, received many applications for employment.


Mr Brennan - That did not happen only in New South Wales.


Mr THEODORE - No doubt members representing constituencies in other States had a similar experience. When the application indicated that the applicant was a former employee of Cockatoo Island, it was sent on to the management of the dockyard; where that was not indicated, the application was sent on to Mr. Todd, Commonwealth Works Director in New South Wales. All applications were forwarded for registration and 'consideration in the usual way. Probably two or three hundred applications passed through the hands of myself or my secretary, I did not ask for preference for any applicant, nor suggest that, others who had a superior claim should be overlooked in favour of those whose names had been forwarded by me. lft Balmain, Rozelle, and Leichhardt there was a general desire on the part of the hundreds of unemployed to have their names registered, and naturally they wrote to their member. Some of the letters I received contained lists of names, the writers apparently having gone to the trouble of collecting the names of others of their acquaintance who desired to be registered. I sent those names on to the appropriate quarter in the same way 'as the honorable members for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), East Sydney (Mt. Ward), and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) did. The numbers are not known to me, but probably as many electors of West Sydney as of Dalley are employed on this relief work; probably also the list of applicants forwarded by the honorable' member for West Sydney was larger than the list I submitted. I do not know how many names were on my list.


Mr Thompson - Why did not the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) apply that procedure to all honorable members?


Mr THEODORE - I applied no procedure; I merely forwarded to the appropriate quarters those applications which were addressed to me, and that was the common-sense course for any member to adopt. I am certain that if persons applied to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) for employment under the Commonwealth, he would forward their names to the department concerned. That is all I did.


Mr Marr - We did not get a chance to forward names until all the positions had been filled.


Mr THEODORE - I had no greater chance than any other honorable member.


Mr Marr - The Treasurer filled all the positions first.


Mr THEODORE - I did not. Speaking from memory, of the applications from Dalley that passed through my hands, not more than 120 were forwarded to Cockatoo Island. Probably the registrations at the dockyard numbered between 3,000 and 4,000; the number of men to be employed was about 400, and the state-, ment that I attempted to rush my constituents into these positions is without a tittle of justification. It is only part of the slanderous campaign that has been undertaken to discredit me. The honorable member for West Sydney speaks of evidence! What evidence has he produced which would impress anybody but a school boy?


Mr Gullett - He stated that he had several sworn statements.


Mr THEODORE - If the honorable member has definite particulars, why does he not disclose them, instead of merely making foolish insinuations to advance a vague and indefinite case? I received yesterday this letter referring to employment at Cockatoo Island - .

I notice in The World of to-day's date that Mr. Beasley is going to move a motion re £250,000 being used for political purposes.

I wish to inform you that while sitting in the union room of the Federated Ironworkers (Balmain branch), the secretary of the branch, Mr. Stacey, while telling the members who came whether they were among those chosen for work at Cockatoo Island, made the following statement: - "That he had had to stop Mr. Bensley and Mr. Dunn from sending men over to the island with letters to register their names who had never worked on the island; one of these was Mr. Dunn's brotherinlaw."

A man who complains in this Parliament of other members sending forward names for registration has been trying to work into a job at Cockatoo Island his brother-in-law, who had never previously been employed there. The chief cause of the chagrin that, is evident in the Corner party is that its members have not been able to work their own political stunts at Cockatoo Island and elsewhere.

I admit that the irregularities of the Lang Administration would not justify similar misconduct by the Federal Administration, but the fact is well known that the Lang Government has used its political power to exercise patronage of the worst and most tyrannous kind. It is common knowledge throughout New South Wales that railway and tramway employees dare not, for fear of losing their jobs, open their mouths against the so-called Lang plan or the State Government, or support the Australian Labour Party. There is ample evidence that a miserable, mean tyranny is practised by the State Government against the workers in New South Wales. These have been sacked and victimized by the Langites, yet members of that party in this Parliament have the hardihood to criticize the Commonwealth Labour Government for what is alleged to be unfair discrimination in the giving of employment. If this Commonwealth Government were guilty of one-tenth of the malpractices of the Lang Government, it would deserve to be censured, but no evidence of wrongdoing has been adduced. I have nothing to apologize for in connexion with the distribution of work under the relief grant.

The honorable member for West Sydney stated that I had sent for the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and instructed him how he should engage men. I have already denied that. In the absence of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley), I communicated with the manager of Cockatoo Island Dockyard in connexion with the grant of £5,000 by the Treasury for expenditure there. He produced a list of works which he intended to carry out, which, after discussion, I approved. We discussed nothing further, and he received no instruction from me in regard to the men he should employ, or the manner of preparing the employment register. If any persons in West Sydney or Dalley promised to get work at Cockatoo Island, they were not acting with my authority or knowledge. I can say no more.







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