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Thursday, 8 December 1938


Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- While I join in all the good wishes, I remind members of this House, and especially the Ministry, that to-day is a day on which a great deal of menace and possible destruction has been brought into the homes of a great number of people in this country, and on which the Government has engaged in a conflict with a number of working people, the end of which no one can foresee. At Port Kembla, whether or not one agrees with what they are doing, the waterside workers are doing what they believe is right in the interests of their class and the country, 'by refusing to ship to Japan material which they believe can be used against this country or against the people of China. From their point of view, they believe they are doing right in refusing to load this material. Although I have abstained from saying anything that would lead these people to incurring a penalty which 1 should not incur myself, I believe from my heart and soul that they are doing the right thing, and that they will be supported in this struggle, not only by the working class, but also by a vast number, of people who support the parties which stand behind the Government; because they know that they are doing what they honestly believe to be right, and because the correctness of what they are doing was shown by the pronouncement by the representative of the Government of Government policy for the defence of this country. If the pronouncement by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) means anything it mean* that "we have one enemy. If the policy of compelling the workers to load pig iron destined for Japan means anything, it means that to that enemy we insist upon supplying things which could ultimately be used against this country. I believe from every point of view that the action taken by them will have the sympathy, silent support and, as far' ae possible, active support of the people of this country, and not merely the working class. I believe that the Government is making a gigantic mistake in attacking these men. It would not attack the doctors when they threatened to lay in waste its national insurance project. We heard no proposal to coerce the doctors to work under that scheme when they refused to do so; but it is pro posed that people who, according to their beliefs, are doing- their duty in refusing to load pig iron, shall be forced into industrial conscription with their livelihood taken away from them unless they pledge themselves to load as many cargoes of pig iron as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited cares for years to come to ship to Japan. Of what use is it to ban the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound when the Government allows pig iron to be exported? The policy of the Government is that our raw material must not be exported. It must be kept in this country so that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited may work it up and make a profit. The ban on the export of iron ore is not preventing Japan from getting our iron. The Government says, " You shall not take our ore that you may treat it yourselves. That would mean: taking away from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited its profits. "We shall see to it that the iron ore is kept in Australia to be worked by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to its greater glory and to the greater profit of its shareholders. Our iron shall be sold for the profit of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited" to any customers from outside Australia even though it may ultimately mean ruin to Australia ". In 1917 the waterside workers refused to load wheat for shipment to Java, because they believed that, it was being consigned to Java as a subterfuge, and that ultimately it would be sent to countries which were at war with Great Britain. At that time and since the people believed that the waterside workers were right in what they believed.

I ask the Government to reconsider the position. I ask that honorable members of this house who are breaking up for a season of rest, holiday and enjoyment, in an atmosphere of peace on earth and goodwill toward men, to give a thought to the predicament of the waterside workers at Port Kembla. I ask the Government, before it is too late, to refrain from applying industrial conscription to them, because, if it does apply it, it will have against it the whole working class of Australia. Whether the men are beaten into submission or not their souls and spirits will live. They will have, not only the sympathy of the masses, but also on this occasion, that of the middle classes of Australia, the people who believe in international causes - and the patriots who believe that the vital necessities of this country have been sacrificed by this Government in its attempt to secure the dividend-earning capacity of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.







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