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Tuesday, 23 May 1939

Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The action 0f the contractors may be justified on legal grounds, but certainly not on moral grounds.

My second objection to the bill is that it. leaves too much to be done by regulation. The secret star-chamber methods for which we blame Germany and Italy ?>re not acceptable to the Opposition. The Prime Minister tells the members of the Millions Club flint we must defend our democracy, yet in this measure his Government proposes to act along the lines followed by dictator countries. This bill is the very antithesis of democracy, and is not likely to be accepted by a democratic people. The Labour party's defence programme includes' provision for a national survey of all industries in order to discover their potential value for defence purpose*. The Opposition is not opposed to what the Government seeks to do, but it maintains that democratic means of defending the country should be adopted. The contention that we must work along the lines of the dictatorships in Germany, Italy and elsewhere, is an admission that we have lost faith in democracy. Under this bill the GovernorGeneral may make regulations. That means that regulations will, in fact, be made by the Government, the GovernorGeneral merely signing what the Government desires. Regulations become law as soon as made.

Mr Gregory - That is changed now.

Mr Holt - Regulations do not become law until Parliament has an opportunity to consider them.

Mr HOLLOWAY - Honorable members know how easy it is to miss th significance of regulations which are laid on the table of the Blouse. Frequently the time for disallowance expires before honorable members are alive to the danger. Government by regulation is not democratic. Because this bill contains the evil features to which I have referred, it represents legislation decades behind present-day thought. It lets loose again the lust for profit from the making of armaments/ Many of us did not think that Australia would ever be made a cockpit of wars. In the future, Australia is to manufacture munitions, arms and gas appliances to standard patterns, thereby offering an enticement to foreign vessels to replenish their supplies in this country. Australia, which was supposed to be an outpost of the Empire which would carry on peacefully with all the world, is, almost overnight, engaging in warlike activities, and its people are being brought almost to a state of hysteria by reports of wars and rumours of war. People whose principles are opposed to legislation of this kind are almost forced to swallow their convictions. We must ask ourselves whether these things shall continue for' ever; whether under coercion we are to accept the things that wo bate. We are told that ati enemy is knocking at our doors. I do not believe that that is so, nor do I agree that this legislation is necessary. Australia is not likely to be attacked unless its people so far forget their manners as to insult the peoples of other nations.

In committee I intend to urge the adoption of the amendment which will be proposed by the honorable member for Bourke, which aims at testing the Minister's statement that the conditions of the working people of Australia will be safeguarded, and that people will not be dragooned by regulations into workshops for the purpose of munition or armament manufacture when wages and conditions built up over years are to be suspended. If the Government has- no desire to cut wages or to take away any of the privileges which the workers now hold dear, then it should have no objection to accepting the amendment which will be moved by the honorable member for Bourke. If it declines to accept that amendment, I hope every member of the Opposition will vote against this measure, lock, stock and barrel.

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