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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr CURTIN - Going back for how long?

Mr SPENDER - I do not care how far back the matter is taken, but I particularly desire that the last three or four months shall be covered. I have reason to believe that confirmation has been received from the commission of rertain verbal instructions.

Mr CURTIN - The previous Government did not have to issue any instructions, because it saw that, from its point of view, the right men were appointed to the commission.

Mr SPENDER - The same men have been in office since this Government has been in power. However, I do not wish to introduce any provocative matter into the debate. It should be a simple matter to check whether instructions have been issued in writing or whether written confirmation has been received from the commission of any verbal instructions.

The last matter to which I shall refer relates to certain industrial disturbances in recent months. The House is entitled to know what instructions have been issued in respect of broadcasting commentaries or announcements in relation to industrial disturbances. I refer in particular to a controversy involving the Moulders Union about Anniversary Day. There was an argument as to whether the moulders should work on that day. In fact, they did not work. I am not concerned at the moment as to whether they should or should not have worked. I am concerned with the refusal of the censors to allow certain statements to be published in the press concerning these matters. Another matter will give point to my argument. In Common Cause of the 2Sth February, a newspaper published by the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation there was an article which contained a number of statements such as -

We have not forgone the right to strike, and where the issue is a real one and other methods fail we will still agree to strike, but on!}' after full consideration of the issueand after attempts to use other methods fail.

Nor do we agree that conditions and wage.should remain static. We have during tinpast week submitted several important claim; to the Central .Reference Board, and we arc confident that real gains will accrue from this.

These claims are not very great, but the* will result, provided we are successful, ii. considerable gains to our members. There are too, quite a lot of other claims that have been listed since Inst August. Some of these have already been dealt with by local boardand others are listed. We have reserved the right to bring any or all of the remaining claims before the local boards when we think best, so what our programme really means in practice is that we really fight, but that we fight in a new way.

That article means that the miners intend to retain the right to strike, irrespective of conciliation or arbitration. As a reply to that article, another article was submitted to the censorship authorities. [Extension of time granted.^ It reads as follows : -

It will be remembered that recently the miners' representatives told the Central Coa) Reference Board that they had modified their original claims and were submitting in their place eight major items. They said that their aim, in view of the critical situation facing the country., was to level up present conditions of work.

At the time the colliery proprietors' repre sentatives on the board stated that in effect the miners had dropped nothing and had concentrated everything in eight claims, leaving other matters to be dealt with by district boards. Mr. J. Johnson said, " I can only say that the statement that you are dropping all but one or two points was made for propaganda purposes ".

All along I have given it as my impression that the miners are using the present national situation to force improved conditions and increased wages at the expense of the rest of the working community, and in Common Cause, dated the 2Sth February, the president of the Miners Federation, Mr. Harold Wells, makes the following statement to federation members : -

Then followed the extract from the article in Common Cause which I have already read. The article in reply submitted to the censor continued -

I would draw particular attention to Mr . Wells' statement that the Miners Federation does not agree that "conditions and wages should remain static". In view of the Prime

Minister's statement that " wages and conditions were to be pegged for the duration of the war", I think that the public is entitled to know whether Mr. Curtin's or Mr. Wells' policy is to be carried into effect.

The article was signed by the secretary of the Northern Collieries Limited, Mr. Gregory Forster. I should like to know what possible objection could have been taken to the publication of that article? Yet it was rejected by the State censorship authorities. If we are reduced to this kind of thing, I say to the Prime Minister, with great respect, that there is more than a little ground for the suspicion that the censorship is being used in this country for other than legitimate censorship purposes. I do not desire to make a provocative speech, but if the facts are as I have said, I ask that the whole question be remitted to a committee representative of private members on both sides of the House. Speaking as a member of the Advisory War Council, I, of course, have had an opportunity to see the instructions that have been issued, but in a democracy it is not too much to ask that, as the newspaper authorities are allowed to see copies of instructions, it should be permissible for private members of the Parliament also to see them. En this way they can determine whether our democracy is being preserved, or whether criticism is being stifled for alterior purposes.

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