Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 9 November 1938

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) . - This morning a Sydney daily newspaper set out to misrepresent me and to create in the minds of people in my electorate, and other supporters, the impression that a statement I made recently was a fabrication. As I am called upon from time to time to make statements in connexion with my parliamentary duties, I take this opportunity to give the facts to the House, and to name some of the people concerned in this matter.

On Wednesday, the 14th September, 1938, the maritime unions connected with the port of Sydney, invited the secretary of the British Transport Workers Union, Mr. Ernest Bevin, to a luncheon at Usher's Hotel, Sydney. All the maritime unions were represented and others present included Mr. D. Clyne, M.L.A., representative for Darling Harbour, and I, as representing the ports. I was requested to propose the toast of the health of the visitor, which I did. I was supported by Mr. Clyne, and Mr. Bevin responded. At the conclusion of the luncheon, Mr. Bevin, accompanied by the secretary of the Maritime Unions' Council. Mr. J. Tudehope, visited me at the Federal Members' rooms on the eighth floor of the Commonwealth Bank Building, Martin-place, Sydney. A conversation took place. Mr. Bevin said he wished to discuss with me the advisability of him attending a dinner to be arranged by the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, Sir Alfred Davidson, at which representatives of the Heffron Labour party would attend. These would include the general secretary of the New South "Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union, Dr. Lloyd Ross, who is also a member of the political bureau of the Communist party; the secretary of the Heffron party, Mr. W. Evans; the organizer of the Clerks Union, Mr. J. Hughes, and the president of the Heffron party, Mr. F. O'Neill.

Before asking me for a reply, Mr. Bevin related the following experiences he had had with Sir Alfred Davidson : - Arriving in New Zealand, on his way to Australia, to attend the British Relations Conference at Lapstone, New South "Wales, he was met by a gentleman who stated that he represented Sir Alfred Davidson, and had been asked to inquire if he, Mr. Bevin, would meet Sir Alfred Davidson soon after arriving in Australia. More than likely that gentleman in New Zealand was one of «the representatives of the Bank of New South Wales in that dominion. Mr. Bevin said that he remarked to that gentleman that he was at a loss to know why Sir Alfred Davidson should want to see him, but finally said that, at that, stage, he could see no harm in the meeting taking place. Mr. Bevan duly arrived in Sydney and, according to arrangements made for delegates to the conference, went to the Hotel Australia. Not very long afterwards, Sir Alfred Davidson visited the hotel, presented his card, and was duly ushered in to see Mr. Bevin. After introducing himself, Sir Alfred Davidson1 early indicated his mission. The request he made to Mr. Bevin was that he should meet the representatives of the Heffron Labour party. At that stage Mr. Bevin had no knowledge of the Heffron Labour party, so he made some inquiries from Sir Alfred Davidson, who explained that it was a party that had broken away from the official Labour party of New South "Wales and formed another organization. He added that the Heffron party was anxious to discuss its problems with Mr. Bevin. Mr. Bevin's answer was to the effect that he had no desire to meet any breakaway organization. Such a discussion would, in his opinion, be in extremely bad taste, and con trary to the conduct which visiting labour representatives should observe. He further declared that if a representative of Labour in Australia went to London and engaged in consultations with breakaway movements in- England the action would be roundly condemned by the British Labour party. Therefore, he added : " I am not going to consult with or meet people in Australia that I certainly would not expect an Australian Labour representative to meet in Great Britain." So the conclusion of that interview was that Mr. Bevin refused to meet the breakaway organization. Sir Alfred Davidson apparently was not to be pushed aside by one refusal and he awaited another opportunity.

Mr. Bevincontinued his conversation with me by informing me that the programme of the conference at Lapstone included a garden party at the property of the Macarthur Onslow family at Camden. Many delegates attended, including Mr. Bevin. Mr. Bevin explained to me the happenings at the garden party. He said that Sir Alfred Davidson again appeared on the scene. He managed to engage Mr. Bevin in conversation by first discussing newspapers, directing attention to Mr. Bevin's association with the London Baily Herald. He informed Mr. Bevin that he was handling the accounts of The Labor Daily, of Sydney, and would like Mr. Bevin's comment on the paper. Mr. Bevin's comment was not very complimentary. However, Mr. Bevin said that he made some reference to two features appearing in the newspaper. He explained to me that his reason for that was to " try out " Sir Alfred. Davidson in order to ascertain what control and influence he had over the Labor Daily. This test had an effect, according to Mr. Bevin's advice to me, in that two days later he noticed that corrections had been made in the features. That fact was sufficient for him to know who was running the Labor Daily.

The conversation between Sir Alfred Davidson and Mr. Bevin continued, and Sir Alfred Davidson again pressed Mr. Bevin to meet representatives of the Heffron Labour party. Mr. Bevin was of the same mind as at the previous interview', but Sir Alfred Davidson continued to press his request. There the matter rested for the time being, and so concluded the talk between Mr. Bevin, Mr. Tudehope, aud myself.

Mr. Bevinreturned to Lapstone. The conference later concluded, Mr. Bevin arrived hack iu Sydney, and, after meeting Sir Alfred Davidson, dined with him at the bend office of the Bank of New South Wales. The conversation that took place at that dinner was told to me by Mr. Bevin in Canberra on the 23rd September when he arrived here on his way to Melbourne, en route for England.

At the dinner, Sir Alfred Davidson put several points to Mr. Bevin. These were as follows : " We want to alter the rules of the Labour party in New South Wales. We want to remove Mr. Lang from the leadership of the party. We want the party and not the conference to elect the leader. Generally, a new Labour organization is required in New South Wales ". In speaking of the rules of the party, Mr. Bevin said he told Sir Alfred Davidson that he thought it was a matter for the members of the party, as was the cas» elsewhere, and that if the members wished to alter the rules it was within their power to do so. Sir Alfred Davidson's answer was to the effect that the Heffron party, lacking the numbers, was unable to do that, so another organization had been set up.

Referring to the leadership, Sir Alfred Davidson said that the Heffron party claimed that Labour could not win with Mr. Lang and that he, Sir Alfred Davidson, was in agreement with that view. Mr. Bevin inquired whether it was a fact that his, Sir Alfred Davidson's, government was in power, and if so, why he wanted Labour to win. Sir Alfred Davidson's reply was to the effect that Mr. Bevin did not quite understand politics in New South Wales. Sir Alfred Davidson said: "You know, Bevin, it is different here from what it is in your country. What we want here In New South Wales is a ' properly-led ' Opposition. We have not got that with Lang. I know the Government in power is to tuy liking, but I am concerned with the future, and, in fact, I feel that we want an Opposition Leader who is respected. In effect, we want a properly- led Opposition, and that is what the Heffron party is fighting for. Do you know, Bevin, that this Lang also selects his own Ministers? Now we want to change all that. Lang has raised the Communist issue against us in this fight, but I want you to disbelieve that, although I admit that Communists are in the Heffron organization. They have attached themselves to the movement."

Air. Bevin. replied that he felt it was none of his business. While Sir Alfred Davidson's statements were all very interesting, he, Mr. Bevin, recognized the official movement, and it was not within his province, as a visitor to Australia, to interfere in the domestic affairs of the Labour party of New South Wales.

Naturally, I inquired from Mr. Bevin what his reactions were to the whole affair. Mr. Bevin replied: "It is all very strange to me to find a leading banker so deeply interested in the domestic affairs of the Labour party as to have such a close alliance with men who claim to be militant Labour representatives. I do not know all the details, but Sir Alfred Davidson's anxiety about Lang was most pronounced He had Lang firmly impressed in bis mind, and, it appeared to me, that he would do all in his power to remove him. It is a strange alliance. I know what I would think of such a position in England. It is natural that I must think the same of it in Australia". Ho concluded by particularly requesting me to work for the success of the Dominions Labour Conference in New Zealand in 1940.

I have made this definite statement on the floor of this House for very specific reasons. First of all, it will explain an attempt made by a newspaper this morning to make it appear that any references which I have previously made to the subject are mere fabrications. I point out that I have corroboration for all that I have said. Mr. Tudehope will substantiate my statement of what took place at the first interview with Mr. Bevin. and corroboration of all of the other incidents which I have mentioned can be given by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). My main purpose in making this statement in this Parliament is to convey to the electors whom I represent my attitude on this matter, and to make perfectly clear my determination to disclose, so far as 1 am able, what appears to be an unholy alliance between Sir Alfred Davidson and the Heffron party, and also to warn supporters of the Labour movement of what is actually going on. I wish also to reveal to them the manner in which a leading banker is dabbling, interfering and assisting financially, and otherwise, certain people, some of whom I have named, for the purpose of gaining complete control of political affairs in the State of New South Wales. I thank honorable members for their courtesy in allowing me to make this statement.

Mr JOHN LAWSON (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That explains Mr. Bevin's statement that he had never previously come into contact with a Labour party with so many rich friends.

Mr BEASLEY - That is so; the honorable member's interjection bears out largely the truth and candour of the conversations I have just described. I feel sure that my statement will serve to clear the minds of not only people resident in my electorate, but also others who may be interested in this matter.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Suggest corrections