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Thursday, 26 March 1942


Mr SPE AKER - The honorable member for Hunter must not interject.


Mr James - Oh, put me out ! You don't seem to realize that we are at war.


Mr HOLT - I remind the honorable member that 200 of the 1,100 members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union at Port Melbourne know very well that there is a war on, because they served in the last war, and they are the men who, by the arbitrary exercise of the power conferred upon the Government, the honorable member seeks to throw out of the industrial movement.

Seventeen of them are members of the Australian Imperial Force.


Mr Beasley - It is not proposed to deprive them of their employment.


Mr HOLT - Of course it is not proposed to deprive them of their employment! But if a United Australia party government had declared that the Labour party,as from a specified date, could retain its present membership but would not be allowed to recruit additional members, the action would have been described as " the unwarranted exercise of arbitrary powers ". Yet that is the essence of the problem now under consideration. Yielding to pressure from a militant majority to which it looks for political support, the Government has said to a minority group " We shall wipe you out of existence; we regard you as a 'scab' organization ". The Opposition regards minority groups as possessing definite rights in this community. While we fight overseas to retain our liberties, we must be equally vigilant to see that our liberties are preserved at home.

The Opposition contends that the regulation is a political outrage. It is an outrage against our sense of fairness. It is an unjustifiable use of powers which Parliament has entrusted to the Executive for the purpose of conducting the war. Those powers are being exercised for political purposes by the party now in office. As an Opposition, we consider that the regulation should be disallowed. I emphasize that we do not object to the machinery that the regulation proposes to create; on the contrary, we consider that it is most desirable. If the previous government had remainedin office it would have taken similar action. But, in the creation of that machinery, the principles of fair play should be observed. The Government should have regard for the right of minority groups in the community.







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