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Thursday, 30 April 1942

Mr MORGAN (Reid) .- Unlike those members of the Opposition who have spoken, I do not agree in principle with this regulation, which is repugnant to me, and opposed to what I believe to bo the fundamental principles of democracy for which we are fighting. I' feel intuitively that the principle embodied in these regulations is fundamentally wrong, and that it is totalitarian in its essence, as was admitted by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). However, I have not the eloquence of the honorable member forBourke (Mr. Blackburn), who moved t he motion for the disallowance of Statutory Rule No. 77. I envy him because, on this occasion, he can not only speak, but also vote as he honestly thinks proper.

Mr Harrison - And cannot the honorable member also do that?

Mr MORGAN - I am convinced that there are other honorable members on this side of the House who feel on this matter as I do ; but, as pledged supporters of the Government, they regard it as their duty to vote for such measures as the Government introduces. As the Americans say " My country right or wrong ". On this occasion, it is "My Government right or wrong ". As a loyal supporter of the Government, I shall take no action likely to embarrass it or to substitute for it a reactionary government which would apply these regulations unsympathetically to the workers. Statutory Rule No. 77 is political dynamite for the Government, and the time may come when these regulations will smash it. I can understand why honorable members opposite support the Government on this occasion; they believe that, by so doing, they will give the Government an additional push towards destruction. In promulgating these regulations, the Government has been misled by press propaganda. Peculiarly enough, that propaganda has been intensified lately, in order to create panic in the minds of the people and stampede the Government into applying the regulations against the workers. Any true friend of the Government who appreciates the position must sound a note of warning as to the danger that confronts it.

I was impressed by the extraordinary alliance between the mover and the seconder of the motion. Whilst the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is the most democraticallyminded member of the House, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is the most autocraticallyminded member. Perhaps there is some significance in the alliance. Is the honorable member for Barker at last seeing the light? He is always sincere in expressing his views.

Mr Archie Cameron - I do not speak against a motion and then vote for it, as the honorable member proposes to do.

Mr MORGAN - On one celebrated occasion, the honorable member was alone in supporting a motion. If the honorable member for Bourke oan succeed in converting the honorable member for Barker, there will be some hope for democracy.

I appreciate the spirit in which the Government has promulgated the regulations, although I do not agree with them. In my opinion, there is no need to drive the Australian people. They will accept wise and courageous leadership without being driven to do their duty. The saying that " One volunteer is better than ten pressed men " still holds good, whether in the military or. industrial spheres.

Mr Archie Cameron - Will the honorable member vote as a volunteer or as a pressed man?

Mr MORGAN - Judging by the glint in the eye of the honorable member for Barker, it seems as if I shall be a pressed man very shortly. My experience as a member of this chamber has led me to believe that there is no need to drive Australians to do their duty. People in all walks of life wish to assist the Government to the best of their ability. It is only a matter of organizing the voluntary spirit that undoubtedly exists. The Government may take the view that, in a crisis, people must be prepared to accept a bitter pill. In my opinion, a good deal depends on the person who administers the pill. If it is given by a sympathetic matron, everything will be all right. But if it be given by a hard-hearted old hag, all will be wrong.

Who will administer the regulations? Although the Prime Minister has assured the House that he will personally supervise the matter, it will be physically impossible for him to do so. His attention is occupied with matters of higher strategy, and in that sphere he has rendered wonderful service in the interests of Australia. He should be permitted to concentrate upon higher strategy and should not be expected to deal with details. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) is one of the busiest members of the Government, and it is not physically possible for him properly to administer and police the regulations. That the Prime Minister must eventually delegate his authority to other persons is inevitable. This conclusion leads me to another thought. The Government has inherited unfortunate legacies from its predecessors. Many persons who were placed in key positions are not fitted to hold them. Having failed in the commercial sphere, they grasped an opportunity shortly after the outbreak of to gain key position?. Those misfits in civil life may now be called upon to administer these regulations.

In addition, the .motives of some of these gentlemen are distinctly doubtful. Instances have been reported of collusion between departmental officers and business men for the purpose of exploiting the community or seizing the plant of other firms. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) cited an instance of that. When I visited a large munitions establishment recently I had an interesting discussion with the general manager. The Government had appointed him to that position because the output of the works, which played an important part in the war effort, was not satisfactory. The Government guaranteed the overdraft of the undertaking and 'installed the general manager to watch its interests and to reorganize the establishment. He informed me that the incompetency of a number of persons occupying important executive positions was responsible for the disorganization. To use his own words,. " They were not worth two bob ". He dismissed them, but subsequently, he found that they had secured positions in Commonwealth departments and were charged with carrying out important functions in connexion with the war effort. Persons of that kind may administer these regulations.

On a previous occasion, I referred to the machine tools dictatorship. Early this week, I learned that an establishment in my electorate which was manufacturing wood screws for the PostmasterGeneral's department for important defence work, required a certain machine to replace one which had become antiquated and had broken down. The manager discovered a suitable machine in a second-hand depot, where, it had lain for. four years. The proprietor had received no inquiries for it. Before the firm was permitted to purchase the machine, it was obliged to seek approval from the Director of Machine Tools'. He refused to give permission -and stated that his decision was irrevocable. The establishment made strenuous representations to have the decision reversed, and eventually its efforts were successful. How is it that a decision which was said to be irrevocable was later reversed? The explanation is that Nettlefold's Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, was the only supplier of wood screws. In other words, the business was a monopoly.

There is a great danger that the administration of these regulations will get into the hands of people who are unfit to shoulder the responsibility. A host of petty tyrants will be created who, for the first time in their lives, will feel a little power. They will begin to "throw their weight about ". An illustration of what can occur was provided only a few days ago. A dispute occurred at the Water Board works at Newcastle and representatives of the union, following a long established practice, began to reason with the mcn in an effort to settle the dispute. Thereupon, fifteen members of the Commonwealth police force ordered them to quit the premises. Drawing their revolvers, they issued a threat that if the union representatives did not leave voluntarily, they might be carried from the place. That is the sort of thing which . is likely to occur if these regulations are used.

Mr James - It occurred in my electorate.

Mr MORGAN - Yes, in the Hunter electorate, where, during the Rothbury riots, a miner was shot when the police came on the scene. Once these regulations are used against the workers, the process will have to be continued to the end, even to the length of using armed force, which will lead to disruption and possibly civil war.

There does not seem to be any inclination to use these regulations against the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), when Deputy Leader of the Opposition, promised to nationalize, but I am convinced that many small manufacturers, whether engaged on war production or not, will be driven out of business. .Some honorable members opposite, who were Ministers in previous adminis trations, will remember that I introduced to them deputation after deputation of manufacturers who wanted to bring their plants into the field of war industry. All honorable members will recall that in this House I have brought to the notice of Ministers the unavailing anxiety of various firms to play their part in the war effort. Some of them were engaged part-time on war production, but were anxious to devote 100 per cent, of their capacity to it. Others were conducting non-essential industries and wanted orders and credit facilities from the Government to enable them to switch to the production of war materials. In a great many cases their attempts were fruitless, and now they are being told that because they are not engaged on war work their plant will be taken over and handed to larger concerns. In order to instance the way in which regulations are being misapplied, I cite the case of an electro-plater who is engaged full-time on war work. He received from the general secretary of the Master Electro-platers, New South "Wales, a combine of which he is not a member, a circular in which he was asked, on the ground that it was the official representative of the Department of War Organization of Industry, to supply to a committee set up in connexion with his industry - .most of the members of the committee belong to the combine - confidential details of his business. I must say that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has since explained that the circular was issued without his knowledge and against his instructions, and that it was his intention, not that people should be required to supply to competitors secret details of their trade, but that such information should be supplied only to the department. That example shows how power placed in the hands of vested interests can be misused. In New South Wales alone about 100 electro-plating firms operate. The circular stated that the information asked for was needed to - . . provide an estimate of the production possible after consolidating the trade's machinery, plant, and man-power into four or five factories.

In other words, 100 small concerns are to be welded into four or five monopolies. I agree therefore with the Leader of the

Opposition (Mr. Eadden) that it is necessary in the administration of these 'regulations to have safeguards, hut I do not agree with the method suggested by him. If the Government intends to allow these regulations to remain in force, it should appoint a committee answerable to this House to administer them, because it is physically impossible for any one Minister personally to handle the administration. Alternatively, a committee should be appointed to give direct assistance to the Prime Minister in his administration of the regulations and to review all cases of supposed injustice, claims for compensation, 'and so on.

The troubles of the coal-mining industry will never be settled under the private ownership of the mines or by t the enforcement of regulations such as those contained in Statutory Rule No. 77. The right honorable member for North .Sydney (Mr. Hughes) once said in this House that it was easier to issue than to carry out regulations designed to compel the coal-miners to work. The right honorable gentleman knows from his long experience that men cannot be forced to do their duty, but that they can be led. I congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) on the excellent way in which he has settled the disputes in the coal-raining industry and other industries. I agree with his view that the proper way in which to settle disputes is by an appeal to reason and for the co-operation of the men. I know the psychology of the coalminers, for I was born in a coal district and lived there for years, and for many years I was associated with the coalmining industry in a professional capacity. The condition in the industry can be summed up in one word: "distrust". The mutual distrust among the miners and the owners is traditional and has been passed on from father to son. Young men in the industry know from their forebears that the coal-owners' only care is the exploitation of the coal seams and of the labour of the men. They have no caro for the social conditions of the miners. When have they ever taken any part, in the social life of the men? When have they ever sponsored housing schemes or any other proposals for the betterment of con- ditions on the coal-fields? Whatever benefits have been gained by the miners have been , wrung from the owners, mostly by direct action, unfortunately, for that seems to ,be the only way. I commend to honorable members who have never been down a coal-mine Dr. Cronin's ThStars Look Down, which will give to them a fine insight into the conditions of the mining industry. Every character in that, book I could duplicate from my memory. Honorable members who read it will realize that conditions in the industry are improved b.y the mine-owners only after a. catastrophe. For instance, the Mount Kembla catastrophe of 40 years ago was needed to induce the Government, to compel the management to introduce safety lamps in mines. I have no personal recollection of the events of that catastrophe beyond what. I was told by my farther. On behalf of the miners, he was examining the manager of the Mount Kembla mine, a man who was regarded as being among the most competent of the mine managers, and had just elicited from him the statement that the Mount Kembla mine was the safest on the South Coast when, with the words hardly said, there was a terrific explosion. Every body present rushed outside; and saw the Mount Kembla mine go up in smoke. In fairness, I must say that representatives of the men and the management went, into the mine pair by pair to rescue the entombed miners. One hundred lives were lost. Since it took a catastrophe of that magnitude to awaken the Government and the mine-owners to the necessity to introduce safety devices in the mines, is it any wonder that miners are restive people? It is little wonder that they become more restive when they are assailed by propaganda charging them with disloyalty. Why, a strike occurred directly as the result of that, sort of propaganda ! It is opposed to the interests 'of the country to create the illusion that we are divided among ourselves. To magnify the disputes which occur and to minimize the efforts the miners are making to maintain production is, in effect, to invite the enemy to come here.

The policy and actions of the Menzies Government contributed greatly to the present trouble in the coal-mining industry.For instance, the secret fund created a lack of confidence among the miners in their leaders and the Government. The miners' leaders were urging them to increase production, and they were competing amongst themselves to answer the appeal when the secret funds sensation broke. Advisedly, I say that the Government should end for all time the troubles in the coal-mining industry by taking control of the mines. The mineowners are out of sympathy with the policy of Labour and, accordingly, are by propaganda and other means doing what they can to bring this Government to an end. Their attitude is in line with that of certain employers in the United States of America who were taken to task by P resident Roosevelt for retarding production because of their reluctance to encourage the establishment of production committees in their industries. Production committeesin the coal-mining industry in Australia are discouraged by the management in certain collieries. Although myremarks are received with stony silence by Opposition members, not only the Labour party, but also many other liberallyminded men in the community are thinking along the same lines. I propose to read a newspaper extract on this subject.

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