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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr JAMES (Hunter) .- It is unfortunate that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) should have insinuated that the Commonwealth Government is more inclined, in these days, to court the friendship of the United States of America than that of Great Britain. I give the insinuation an emphatic denial. The truth is that the Government is adopting the policy enunciated by the late Mr. Chamberlain in the early days of the war when he declared that the duty of the British Government was to defend first Great Britain itself, then its trade routes, and, thirdly, its colonies. In my view the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) should be congratulated upon having made his appeal of December last to the United States of America. Following that appeal, America has sent assistance to Australia, not only in munitions, but also in man-power. We have been proud to welcome the Americans to our shores.

I have a great personal regard for Mr. Casey, although politically I have frequently disagreed with him. He probably rendered good service to Australia as a liaison officer. But his best service to this country was when he resigned as member for Corio, and opened the way for a good Labour representative to be elected in his place. I consider that in leaving his position in the United States of America Mr. Casey has infringed the laws of this country. It is well known that workers are to-day debarred from changing their jobs without permission. National security regulations issued under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 77, provide that a man-power committee shall determine whether a person shall be allowed to leave his work to take another job. I desired the Prime Minister to demur to Mr. Casey leaving his job, but I must admit that I was unable to locate the honorable gentleman in order to ask him to defer action against the miners at Glen Davis and Richmond Main. The Government caused the regulations under Statutory Rule? 1942, No. 77, to be issued when 1 was doing my best to settle certain disputes in the coal-mining industry. No consideration was given to the coalminers, and I cannot see any reason why special consideration should have been given to Mr. Casey. In my view Mr. Casey has deserted Australia* The petty excuse made on his behalf by some honorable gentleman that he was likely to " get the boot " carries no weight with me. He would never have got " the boot ". He never has been " booted " from a job in this country. He has always resigned his job. I hope that the precedent he set when he resigned as member for Corio will be followed by him again. Where did Mr. Casey get his start in life? Until 1930 he had spent ;he greater part of his life in England. All his interests, and most of his property, are in England. He came out to Australia in 1930, and in 1931 he was elected to this Parliament. Since then he has had a great deal of publicity. We all are well aware that he was Mr. Bruce's white-haired boy. In his latest position he was in the employ of Australia, and he has undoubtedly acted wrongly in leaving it, particularly as the Prime Minister made it clear that Australia desired him to " hold down the job ". He failed to do this. Although workers may be prosecuted for leaving their employment without permission, itappears that Mr. Casey is to be allowed to leave his position without penalty. In my view he has done a wrong to Australia. I do not agree with some honorable gentlemen opposite who have said that an attempt is being made to gain political capital out of this matter. Australia needs all the assistance it can get in these days, and we should be thankful for all the help that is given to us. In our present circumstances we are fully entitled to apply the policy enunciated at the beginning of the war by the late Mr. Chamberlain and endorsed by the British House of Commons. In following the law of self-preservation we are acting naturally. Australia should do its utmost to preserve itself. The honorable member for Wakefield' said, in the violent manner in which he is accustomed to address honorable members, that if we had listened to him years ago, we should have been wise, for be was the only one who saw the danger that threatened the country. But what about the workers? Did they not see the danger that threatened Australia when they went on strike as a protest against the export of pig iron to japan?

Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 119.

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