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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr POLLARD (Ballarat) .- This discussion is doubly regrettable in view of the fact that last week I exposed what was undoubtedly a deliberate plot by honorable members opposite to play a diabolical party political game while the nation is engaged in this dreadful war. I have never said that I do not believe in party politics. As a matter of fact, I am a fervent believer in the party system, for I realize that under that system a government's administration will be closely studied and, when necessary, vigorously criticized. Honorable gentlemen opposite, however, have asserted frequently that during the war party politics should be discontinued. Yet they have continued almost incessantly, since Parliament re-assembled on the 2nd September, to play a diabolical game of party politics. This was shown clearly in the letter to which I referred last Friday. Honorable gentlemen have used every petty excuse that they could find in the last three weeks to belittle and embarrass the Government. The subject of compulsory trade unionism was No. 1 on the list of items given in the letter circulated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), in which he asked Opposition members to assist him to frame an attack on the Government.

Mr Harrison - The honorable gentleman is referring to the confidential and private letter which he read.

Mr POLLARD - The letter was addressed to me. Because the words "Private and confidential" may be put on a document, sent to me by an honorable member opposite, I do not consider that I am under obligation to regard the document as private and confidential. Let us examine the character of these honorable gentlemen who have made the attack to-night. One is the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). Does he believe in compulsory unionism? He is the respected and, doubtless, efficient secretary of the Film Exhibitors Association. That association practises the policy that unless a film exhibitor is a member of the association, fine care shall be taken to ensure that he shall not get any films to exhibit; if he remains obdurate he is forced out of business. Then there are the honorable members for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and Indi (Mr. McEwen). Throughout their political careers, they have been hostile to the organization of trade unions. Not once have I heard either of them say in this chamber a word in favour of the organization of rural workers in order that they might obtain an award and so become emancipated from the conditions under which they have laboured for years. It is not to be wondered at that the honorable member for Indi objects to pressure being used to induce men to join a union. He entered politics for a specific purpose as the political luminary of the Victorian Country party. He then ran out on the organization that raised him to political eminence, and is now a member of the Country Liberal party of Victoria.

Mr McEwen - That is typical of the misrepresentation which we have come to expect from the honorable member.

Mr POLLARD - It is fact, however hot under the collar the honorable member may be. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) slipped into this Parliament as an independent, and had no scruples about subsequently slipping into the United Australia party, because membership of it gave him an opportunity to get into the Cabinet. He is in the same category as the man who evades joining a union that covers his trade or calling notwithstanding that he believes in its principles. Then there is the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who was a member of a fascist organization before the war. These are the honorable gentlemen who to-night delivered an attack on the Government, merely because they had failed to stampede tho Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) into answering " yes " or " no " to a question he had been asked. With equal justification, I could ask the honorable member for Indi the well-known question, " Have you ceased beating your wife V If the answer were "no ", he would be in bad repute, and if it were " yes " he would be in equally bad repute. Because an answer to another trick question could not be obtained from the Prime Minister, this party political fight has been staged tonight. I am confident that when the people throughout Australia read the report of the debate, and particularly the revelations that were made last week, in conjunction with reports of other attacks on the Government, they will be more disgusted than ever with those responsible for such a deplorable display. After all, the advent to this Parliament of every honorable member opposite was sponsored by organizations which in their own ranks enforce compulsory unionism of a kind. There is the manufacturing grocery organization. No grocer who is a member of it may sell a tin of Nugget boot polish, a packet of McAlpine's flour, or a packet of Wheaties, except at the price listed by it. This practice operates throughout the ramifications of big business, the object being to protect the interests of its mem bers. Only when the Government says that the interests of the wage-earners shall be similarly protected, is there a howl of protests from honorable members opposite. Compulsory unionism is good for members of the Opposition, for the people who support them, and for every body associated with them, but quite wrong for the working man.

Rarely indeed do I find myself at variance with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I differ from him, not in connexion with his protests against the brevity of the period that elapses before a man is called up to work for the Allied Works Council, but in regard to what I assume to be a protest by bini against men who have been in clerical and other sedentary occupations being put on labouring work. Unfortunately, we are at war. That we have to fight for our very existence, is accepted. What happens to the soldier who is conscripted ? He is young and virile. Irrespective of whether he has come from a clerical or a sedentary occupation, he has to do his share of trench digging and other manual labour. If the clerical workers of this country, be they accountants, lawyers, shop assistants, clerks, insurance agents or commercial travellers, think that there are enough clerical positions in the Allied Works Council for them to be employed in sedentary occupations, they have " another think " coining. A world of good would be done to a lot of people who have been in clerical positions m the past if they had to do some form of manual labour. 1 believe that, as the result of their experiences, a large number of people of that class will be more sympathetic to the manual worker than they have been in the past. For a number of years, I have had the privilege and pleasure of travelling first class on the railways, due to the good grace of the electors of Ballarat. On many occasions I have heard white-collar gentlemen, not unlike honorable members who occupy the front bench opposite, when they have seen a railway navvy resting as the train went by, pass such derogatory remarks as " The government stroke " and " The lazy working man ". If the honorable members for Warringah, Indi, Deakin and Wentworth were enlisted in the Civil Constructional

Corps, arid were put on the end of a pick and shovel for a while, they would have a lot more sympathy than they now have for the manual worker. The work would do them good, and be of great benefit to this country. I regret that this sort of party political propaganda has been persisted in by the Opposition against the Government, which is doing a good job in carrying the war effort to a successful conclusion in this country.

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