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Thursday, 8 December 1938


Mr ROSEVEAR (Dalley) .-! reciprocate the good wishes which were expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his appreciation of the efforts of the Opposition to carry on the business of the country. But I suggest that had he not heeded the advice of the Opposition, the Government would have crashed long ago. I particularly desire to refer to the swan song of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies).


Mr Gander - Be careful ! He is behind the honorable member with a tomahawk.


Mr ROSEVEAR - If rumour be true, the Attorney-General has one foot in his political grave and the other on a banana skin. The right honorable gentleman referred at length to his interview with the representatives of the workers of Port Kembla. It will be noted, in the- first place, that he was the chairman of the meeting. Otherwise, 1 doubt whether half the speech which he read here tonight would have been permitted. Of course, being the chairman and the principal speaker, anything that he said was allowed. Apparently, he had a competent stenographer present to record all that ho said about the Port Kembla dispute; but we have heard nothing of what the workers' representatives said. Having had an " open go " at the interview with the representatives of the workers of Port Kembla, he decided to unload here to-night the speech which he then delivered. When we study the remarks of the right honorable gentleman we realize the one essential fact that he missed was that, whilst his Government is asking this country to agree to enormous expenditure on defence, and, by innuendo, indicates that our potential enemy is Japan - although it has not the courage to say so - the Attorney-General condemns the workers of Port Kembla because they have the courage to do what the Government is afraid to do. Had the Government the courage to practise what it preaches, it would have done what it refuses permission to the waterside workers of Port Kembla to do. The Government has given permission for the export of iron ore to Japan, but the waterside workers at Port Kembla conscientiously believe that pig iron, which is iron ore in a more advanced stage of manufacture, should not be exported to a country which is a potential enemy of Australia. Whilst this Government preaches a policy of defence of Australia against aggression and by innuendo indicates that Japan is our potential enemy, and whilst it asks the people of Australia to submit to an unparalleled sacrifice in order to provide the means to defend Australia, it penalizes the workers of Port Kembla, because they refuse to be the ally, as it were, of the Japanese Government, first, in the massacre of Chinese citizens, and secondly, in a possible attack upon this country, made possible by war materials, manufactured from iron ore produced in this country. When we look at the ramifications of the armament firms in bygone conflicts, when we realize that a former Prime Minister of Great Britain went to Turkey and discovered, there that some of the munitions and guns which were used for the purpose of massacring Australian troops on Gallipoli were manufactured in Great Britain, we wonder whether, with the connivance of this Government, pig iron, which is being exported to Japan to-day will be used for the purpose of massacring Australian citizens at some future time. History has an awkward habit of repeating itself. We have evidence to-day that those ruthless seekers of profit who made fortunes out of the manufacture of munitions of war, had no scruples about selling munitions to the Turkish Government to be used for the extermination of Australia's son3 at Gallipoli, and we hesitate to think what scruples has this Government which vaguely suggests to the people of this country that the potential enemy of Australia is Japan - although it has not the courage to say it openly - and at the same time has the temerity, to seek to' force upon a section of the Australian workers one of the most reprehensible pieces of Commonwealth legislation as a' penalty for their refusal to export to Japan the very materials which in the near future might be used for the purpose of massacring the people of Australia. If it is a good thing for the Government of Australia by executive act to refuse to export iron ore to Japan, it is a good thing, I think, for a section of the workers of Australia who view this problem from an entirely different aspect for conscientious reasons to refuse to export to Japan precisely the same ingredients of the materials of war which might ultimately be used for the purpose of assailing the men, women, and children of Australia. When we realize these facts, we realize also what consummate humbug it is for the AttorneyGeneral to unload upon this House to-night a speech which he made to the representatives of the workers at Port Kembla prior to his subjecting them to what is commonly known as " the dog collar act " under which they will be licensed in much the same fashion as a dog is licensed, because they refuse to be unpatriotic to the people of Australia. The honorable gentleman has the effrontery to come here to-night with a speech that was probably prepared before he ever met the delegation to which it was delivered. Had the meeting been under the control of another chairman, he might not have been permitted to make such a speech, but because he was chairman of the meeting and because he was a representative of a government which tc-day is staggering towards its doom, he was able to unload it. on the representatives of the workers at Port Kembla who, when the whole fundamentals of the situation are considered, are taking a real patriotic attitude. Whatever might be said about the pros and cons of the case of the workers of Port Kembla, let it at least be said to their credit that they are fighting a lone battle from which irrespective of the outcome, they have everything to lose. Had those men been actuated by personal motives they would have agreed to load anything for Japan. If any section of the community has anything to lose by the attitude the Port Kembla workers are taking in this crisis, it is the very workers themselves, because, after all, the Government is using to-day against them the same system of industrial terrorism that it has used ever since it has .been in power. Because those men, for conscientious reasons, believe that it is not in the interests of the workers or of the people of Australia to pile up the ingredients of materials of war in the country of a potential enemy, they are being victimized. I say that they are making a great sacrifice on behalf of the whole of the people of Australia. I would go further, and say that they are sacrificing, not only their livelihood, but also everything for which their organization has fought and for which it has expended unlimited funds in order to bring about the conditions which they enjoy to-day. By the simple stroke of the pen of a man who to-day, because of the instability of his Government, stands with one foot in his political grave and the other on a banana skin, the workers of Port Kembla are to be victimized in this iniquitous fashion. If ever colossal humbug was talked in this House we had

An instance of it to-night, when the Attorney-General referred to the right of the Government to determine this question. Is any right superior to the right of this body 0f men to act in accordance with the dictates of conscience? Does the Government achieve anything by driving people to do something which they conscientiously believe to be against the interests of their country and their class ? I think not. After listening to the diatribe of humbug repeated by the AttorneyGeneral to-night, 1 say that, in the test of patriotism, he suffers badly by comparison with those upon whom he has imposed, by the exercise of some temporary power, " the dog-collar act ". By the exercise of this power, the AttorneyGeneral would ruin the prospects of hundreds of workers of this country. He would degrade and prevent them from earning their legitimate livelihood because of their patriotism, and because they have displayed an evidence of decency which the right honorable gentleman does not himself possess.







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