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Thursday, 30 April 1942

Mr ABBOTT (New England) (12:16 PM) . - At this late hour, I do not propose to speak at length. However, I desire to make a few observations with regard to these regulations. The honorable member for Watson (Mr.Falstein) has complained of the criticism levelled against the Government. He implied that the criticism came from this side of the House. I have listened very carefully to the whole of this debate. Very little criticism of the Government in respect of these regulations has been voiced by the Opposition. All that I heard emanated from honorable members opposite. The honorable member went on to explain the reason for every coal strike which has taken place in New South Wales in recent weeks. Listening to him, I came to the conclusion that the gentleman " doth protest too much ". The blame could not have been so much on one side as he endeavoured to make out. Regulation 3 of Statutory Rule No. 77 declares that the purpose of these regulations is to enable the Commonwealth, during the present war, to use for the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth and its territories, the services and property of all persons and companies in Australia and its territories. Surely nobody will complain about that. It means the utilization of the whole of our resources of man-power and wealth, and the physical resources of this country, for the waging of the war to prevent the capture of Australia by the enemy who is now hammering at our gate. We have been told that these regulations will be used in all sorts of ways; that they will be used to destroy the workers, or to destroy the owners of capital in this country. But I submit they can only be used for the preservation of the Commonwealth. Why are such powers necessary? If we were living in the piping times of peace no necessity for them would exist; but, to-day, we are living under the shadow, of a grave and desperate danger. Honorable members realize the appalling danger that confronts us to-day. Australia may be invaded at any moment. Consequently, the Government must have certain power which it can use swiftly should the need arise. Thus, a definite necessity for these regulations exists.

I should like to comment upon the remarks made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) in this House yesterday afternoon. He said that the workers cannot be coerced, that these regulations will not make them work. I do not think that anybody wants to coerce the workers; but when these regulations are applied the design is that the workers or the owners of property against whom they are used should be made to pull their weight in the defence of the Commonwealth against the danger which threatens us.. The Minister went on to say that the workers of Australia would not work if these regulations were used against them. I have a very clear recollection of an event which took place within the last three or four weeks in connexion with the construction of the new Melbourne hospital. These regulations were invoked against the workers who were on strike on that job, and the men went back on the following morning without the slightest complaint and have since worked on that job continuously. Consequently, it is so much moonshine to say that the workers would not work if these regulations were enforced against them.

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