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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! The Minister must withdraw that remark.

Mr WARD - I withdraw it, and apologise to the jackals.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The Minister must withdraw unconditionally.

Mr WARD - I withdraw. I make it clear that I am not questioning a decision made by any authority. It is not for me to question the decisions of appropriate authorities. The conference has been called for to-morrow in the hope that reasonableness will prevail. If I can secure peace in this industry, and save the Government from serious embarrassment, I consider that, as a member of the Government, it is my duty to do it. That is all I have done, and that is all I did previously, when the Opposition staged its attack upon the Government because it wanted a change of government and was anxious to see a national government in. office, in which some of its members would have portfolios. Through the newspapers honorable gentlemen opposite have fomented industrial trouble and exaggerated the importance of troubles that have arisen. They have been disappointed and, in fact, greatly annoyed, because the Government has been able to prevail upon the men to return to their employment. They are displaying their annoyance this evening simply because, after the declaration made this afternoon by the Prime Minister, they had begun to gloat over what had happened. They thought they saw another opportunity to put the Government in a position from which it would not be able to extricate itself. This Government has no desire to use coercion against the workers of this country, and it has again prevailed upon the men to return to their employment.

In conclusion, I make no apology for any action that I have taken in this matter.

Mr Harrison - But the honorable gentleman will need to apologise to the Prime Minister to-morrow.

Mr WARD - If the members of the Opposition were less provocative in the statements they make in this Parliament and out of it, and if they were less ready to use the columns of the daily press for the purpose of venting their spleen against the workers of this country, and of trying to drive a wedge between the workers and the Labour Government, there would be more peace in industry, and we should be able to get on more effectively with our war effort. Any decision that I have made in the handling of this matter will, I am sure, meet with the full concurrence of my colleagues in the Government.

Mr Fadden - Did the honorable gentleman's action in calling a compulsory conference have the approval of the Prime Minister?

Mr WARD - I have the confidence of every member of the Government to such a degree that the friend of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Gregory Foster, appealed to the Prime Minister to do something to curb my activities, which, he said, were fomenting trouble on the coal-fields. It is also true that the spokesman of the Opposition - not the Canberra spokesman of the Government on this occasion - has indicated that if the Government will remove Ward as

Minister for Labour and National Service, numbers of members of the Opposition will be prepared to give it unqualified support. That is the word of the official spokesman of the Opposition. I hate to crash the hopes of the Opposition as frequently a3 they are crashed, but their campaign is not having any effect on the Labour party. My position has never been questioned, let alone challenged.

I now pay tribute to the coal-miners for the sensible attitude that they have adopted.

Mr Fadden - In striking !

Mr WARD - I compliment the miners upon their decision to return to work. I regret that there have been any stoppages of work at the coal pits or elsewhere while the nation is in such a critical position. Every ton of coal is required! If members of the Opposition intend to play the game of party politics, and if they wish to use this situation for party advantage, they will not help the country. The Opposition has been feeding and encouraging discontent and fomenting trouble, not only on the coal-fields, but elsewhere in industry. The Government is confident that the coal-miners will continue to work, and that they will do their best to assist the Government. I ask my colleagues not to allow . themselves to be sooled on " by members of the Opposition, or by the daily press of this country, to do things which, in their calmer moments, they must feel satisfied should not be done.

The conference has been summoned to meet at 11 a.m. to-morrow. I hope that when the parties assemble, there will be an exchange of views which will result in a settlement of this dispute. If the dispute be settled satisfactorily, it will deny to the Opposition an opportunity to gloat over the discomfiture of the Government, but it will also add to the achievements of the Government, and assist the country to make a maximum war effort.

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