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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- I direct attention to certain matters in relation to the activities of the Allied Works Council, involving, not so much

Le operations of the council, as attacks upon it by members of the Government. I ask whether bodies such as the Allied Works Council are to be subjected to continual attacks by certain Ministers in this chamber without any defence being offered by responsible Ministers. I have ' in mind, in particular, the recent attack made on the Allied Works 'Council by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). The Allied Works Council is, in some respects, as important a part of our defence services as the Army itself, for it is charged with the construction of various strategic works, including aerodromes and roads. The number of persons employed by the Allied Works Council is equivalent to one or two army divisions, and it is essential that the morale of these employees be maintained. The men should be encouraged to do their best for the Government. In view of the repeated attacks on the Allied Works Council by the Minister for Labour and National Service, I asked a question of the Prime Minister last week which led that right honorable gentleman to say that the Director-General of Allied Works, Mr. Theodore, was doing an excellent job which was appreciated by the Government. Last night, a further attack was made upon this body by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). I am not able to say whether certain of his charges are true or not ; but I know that one of them is not, because I have in my hand evidence to that effect. The honorable member said that the Allied Works Council had shown such poor business management in Sydney that it was issuing vouchers entitling the recipients of them to certain payments to which they were not really entitled. He alleged that these vouchers were being distributed to many women around Sydney, and entitled the allottee or the dependant of an employee of the council to a payment of £6. I have inspected these vouchers. The substance of the matter is that they are sent to dependants and allottees of employees of the council, who are required to fill in and sign them in order to indicate that they are the persons who are entitled to the allotment. If the remainder of the charges of the honorable member are as accurate as that one, they have no substance. The making of such a charge indicates that the person who made it has no knowledge of business routine. Yet he has been appointed by the Government as Controller of Leather and Footwear! Any schoolboy can see that these vouchers do not constitute entitlement to payment. The honorable member, therefore, has shown that he is devoid of business knowledge. Consequently, his qualifications for the position that he holds are questionable. I am interested in the matter since no member of the Government is defending its officers.

Mr Conelan - The Prime Minister eulogized the Director-general of Allied Works.

Mr ANTHONY - The right honorable gentleman eulogized the DirectorGeneral after I had brought him to his feet by means of questions. Not a word would have been said had I not raised the matter. I am concerned about the protection that is afforded by the Government to public men, who give their services to the 'Commonwealth, in the performance of their duties. Indiscriminate attacks upon them by Ministers of the Crown, and by other persons instigated by Ministers, should not be permitted, and charges made against them should not be left unanswered; otherwise, it is doubtful whether men of high qualifications will offer their services to the Commonwealth. I should like to know who is to speak for this body in this chamber in future. The honorable member for Dalley said last night that Senator Collings had been haled before the Trades Hall because of answers he had made in reply to attacks on the Allied Works Council, and had been required to take with him a report of his remarks. Ap that report was not regarded as satisfactory, he was required to make another trip, and take with him Hansard proofs of his speech. We are reaching a sorry pass if a Minister administering such an important department as the Department of the Interior is obliged to answer for his actions, not to the Parliament, but to an outside junta. I ask the Government to explain exactly where it stands. If it does not consider that this body is doing a good job, the Prime Minister should change it; but if the Govern ment considers that it i3 discharging its duties well, that there is grave need for the very best service to be rendered in the development of our strategic works, and that this requires the very best directive powers available, it must alter its attitude of doing nothing and allowing attacks to be made on its officers with impunity.

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