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Wednesday, 29 November 1944

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The Minister knows that they are confidential and should not be quoted from.

Mr CALWELL - If what I have read is not a correct report of what the honorable member for Barker said, he may have an argument with the Hansard reporters, but the Leader of the Opposition had only the same document as I have to quote from and he deliberately ignored the recorded statements of the honorable member for Barker. That honorable gentleman went on to say -

I am one of those who have kindly feelings towards the Chief Justice, but I cannot understand why, on an issue which called for an interpretation of the Constitution, he should see fit to suggest to the litigants that they might confer in an endeavour to reach a settlement.

Surely that is a criticism of the Chief Justice! Whether it is a valid criticism or not is beside the point at' the moment. If I am to be condemned because I sometimes use rhetorical flourishes in my remarks, what about the honorable member for Barker who usually expresses himself in much the same way but in more prosaic terms?

In making the remarks which I am quoting concerning the Chief Justice the honorable gentleman accused that distinguished and learned gentleman of, to use the vernacular, " duck shoving ". He went on to say -

I trust that this will prove to be the last time that a member of the High Court Bench will adopt the role of mediator.

In other words he accused the Chief Justice of throwing away his wig and abandoning his judicial function in order to become, to use the vernacular once more, a " fixer ".

Mr Archie Cameron - Is the honorable member defending the Chief Justice?

Mr CALWELL - I am defending myself. I am neither accusing nor defending the honorable member for Barker in respect of his actions; I am merely using him as " Exhibit No. 1 ". I say to the learned King's Counsel, who happens to be the Leader of the Opposition, "While you are making charges against me of doing so and so, will you please explain the position of the honorable member for barker, who, at least in principle, did precisely what I did ". Am I right with the honorable member for Barker, or am I wrong with him? The Leader of the Opposition seeks to make a difference of principle, not of degree, between us. The honorable member for Barker then also said that the Chief Justice should not - suggest that the parties should compromise on an issue involving the interpretation of the Constitution.

Not one honorable gentleman opposite challenged the honorable member for Barker while he was speaking, nor did one of them challenge me while I was speaking. If I could judge the effect of my. speech on them by their more than usually vacant stares I would he entitled to believe that my sentiments received approval. A few days pass, and then the Deputy Leader of the United Australia party (Mr. Harrison) comes into this House with fury and indignation! But he was present last Friday and he did not raise a point of order, or criticize me, or interject while I was speaking. He did not even call for a division on a motion by the honorable member for Barker. He seemed quite glad that the issue was resolved and finished with. But then the gutless wonder from Kooyong-

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The Minister must use parliamentary language in describing other honorable members.

Mr CALWELL - The Leader of the Opposition, in making his motion this morning, attempted to stigmatize me as dastardly and contemptible. I suggest that such language is unbridled, intemperate and reckless. I usually express my views in guarded terms, but there have been very many incidents in this Parliament to which I could properly apply such epithets, adjectives, and adverbs as those which the Leader of the Opposition attached to me in the course of his outburst this morning. He said that my contribution to the debate constituted an "unsavoury incident ". Any fair-minded person would apply a similar expression to the part played by the honorable member for Barker. I do not say that that honorable member contributed to any "unsavoury incident". He criticized the Chief Justice of the High Court, and I defended him.

Subsequently I proceeded to make some remarks about censorship which was the suBject on which the honorable member for Barker had been speaking. In effect, I said that Mr. Justice Starke, Mr. Justice Rich and Mr. Justice Williams had given a decision which, on the evidence, I consider they should not have given. Surely I am entitled to say that much. Are justices of the

High Court, or members of the Executive Council, or members of .the Parliament, to be above reproach or criticism in regard to their actions? I did not criticize the judicial system as such, nor did I criticize the judiciary. I made some observations in regard to a majority decision which was given in one case by three members of the High Court and, for doing so, I had the terms " dastardly " and " contemptible " applied to me. Before I conclude my speech I shall involve honorable members opposite - including some of those who have interjected - in certain incidents to which those terms could be applied.

The Leader of the Opposition talked about a " rabble ". When he uses that expression, of course he means it to apply to the people who vote for Labour party candidates. When he talks about the working men and women of Australia as a rabble he is attacking them because they will not vote for him or accept him at his own valuation. They have refused to place him back on the ministerial bench, and so he talks of them as rabble.

Mr White - He did not mention working people.

Mr CALWELL - He did not use the words " working people ", but his remarks could be applied only to the supporters of the Labour party, who, in his opinion, are the rabble of this country.

Mr Harrison - Only a diseased mind could put that interpretation on his words.

Mr CALWELL - The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has favoured me with an interjection.

Mr White - Quite so !

Mr CALWELL - He also was in the chamber last Friday and he made no protest against my remarks. Like the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) he is the victim of a delayed action bomb.

Mr Harrison - No action was taken because the Treasurer moved the " gag ".

Mr CALWELL - The honorable member for Wentworth did not object to my remarks or criticize me, nor did he call for a division when the closure was moved. The honorable gentleman "squibbed it" then, and he will doubtless " squib it " again.

The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) read his speech. He generally reads what somebody else has written for him. I might add that he did not read it very well. What he said was merely a re-hash of what previously had been said by the Leader of the Opposition who, apparently knowing something of the subject, gave to the Country party Leader a carbon copy of his speech in order to help him out. Then we had the spectacle of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the independent gentleman who is also a King's Counsel, addressing this House. It is particularly easy to deal with King's Counsel in debate. This honorable gentleman, who criticized me so bitterly today, and said that I should have to answer to the country for what I had done, knows at least that what I say and do I say and do in the open. For weeks past, he has been crawling to Ministers, seeking travel priorities to America. He even approached the Director-General of my department for special facilities in America, so that he could pose there as Australia's Abraham Lincoln. The honorable gentleman knows that his political days are numbered, and that he will not be a member of the eighteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth. I congratulate, in advance, the members of that Parliament, on the fact that its atmosphere will not be poisoned by the pestiferous presence of the honorable gentleman who now represents Warringah. "Dastardly" and "contemptible" are the terms that have been used in regard to me and other Ministers of this Government. Nothing could be more dastardly or contemptible than the actions of honorable members opposite when they were the Government of this country, in failing to provide for its defence. Their incapacity made the position such that, had they remained in office, the whole of Australia north of the Brisbane line and north of the Perth line would have been abandoned to the advancing Japanese. These persons who talk about dastardly and contemptible conduct are those who sold pig iron to the Japanese before Japan entered the war. They have a lot to answer for at the bar of public opinion, to the present generation of Australians ns well as to posterity. It would seem that the honorable member for Warringah desires to ingratiate himself once more with the powers that control the finances of the anti-Labour parties. He spoke about trying to "stir up the rabble ". That is a European expression. We who sit on this side of the House are an Australian Labour party and government; in fact, we are the only. Australian party in this Parliament. Those with European appreciations of and outlook on our problems are entirely unfitted again to be entrusted with the government of this country. The Leader of the Opposition was particularly offensive in the style of his delivery. He talked about " the rabble", "dastardly and contemptible conduct ", and " unsavoury incidents ". Yet he is the person who addressed the last meeting in Canberra of the Summer School of the Institute of Political Science, and the best subject that he could think of for his speech was a plea for a prosperous postwar Japan. He made it at a time when men were still fighting for Australia, and everybody in this country was realizing that, if Japan were prosperous and strong in the post-war world, the peace would be only an interlude between this war and another and more terrible war. I am entitled to say of the right honorable gentleman, and of those who cheered him, that that attitude was dastardly and contemptible. There are honorable members opposite who do .not agree with his sentiments, yet none of them has yet repudiated him. I know that the vast majority of them do not believe in the dictum which he uttered because he thought that it might suit international finance. I could talk about a lot of other things which the right honorable gentleman has said and done in the past. I can best comment upon his conduct by repeating what was said of him as late as the 20th October last by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The press reported that right honorable gentleman as having said -

People will remember that the man who ls to-day appealing for unity led the breakaway movement when I was leading the United Australia party. It was awfully good of Menzies to say I could join the new show if I applied. Menzies formed a group of the outstanding tories under the style of the national service group; he damagingly renounced overnight the post-war credits points of the 1943 policy speech, jolting the then Leader of the Opposition into the cry that he had been stabbed in theback. No one is going to be leader if Menzies cannot.

There is no need to " paint the lily ", to " gild refined gold ". That is the statement of one who knows the Leader of the Opposition better than he is known by any one else. The right honorable member for Kooyong also accused the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and me of breaking Cabinet solidarity, and of being a law unto ourselves. He has always been a law unto himself. He is the only political leader in Australian history who has succeeded in dividing his own Cabinet on the floor of this House. The honorable member for Warringah also talked about Cabinet solidarity and collective responsibility. On the 30th May, 1940, the House of Representatives divided on the subject of the Motor "Vehicles Agreement Bill. Every Australian Country party Minister in the Government of that day voted against it, and all United Australia Party members voted with the Australian Labour party after the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had asked for leave to withdraw an amendment he had moved. There has been no division in the present Cabinet: there have been no crises of that sort. Before the Leader of the Opposition ran successfully charge the Minister for Transport and me with breaking Cabinet solidarity he will have to explain, if possible, how he obtained leadership of a government at a time when the then Prime Minister described him as lacking in loyalty, courage, and a lot of other things, and how he eventually proceeded to the point of destroying that same government. He took three new men into his Government, in the hope that he would thereby secure a majority in his favour; he created three new portfolios to bring them in, but it did not take those new Ministers long to find out the real position. . They soon voted the right honorable gentleman out and voted in as Prime Minister the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr.Fadden). Yet he stands here to-day. and presumes to lecture this Government ! He has made the incident of last Friday the important one on which to base his charges. His motion to-day is a fivepoint programme. He had a. fivepoint programme last week, and he will have another when we meet again. He will try to censure or criticize us on some collection of five points that will arise between now and the next meeting of the Parliament. All that I have to say is that I accept responsibility for what I did; but I refuse to accept the interpretations that have been placed upon my actions. I have been attacked in this Parliament, and in the press of this country. The Leader of the Country party built a part of his case on the fact that my speech had been featured in the press, of this country. I care nothing for the press. I am concerned about only the common people of Australia and their interests. If people malign me in this House, I shall defend myself as best I can ; and when I am maligned and attacked outside this Parliment I shall take such action as will ensure my protection. I was attacked in a certain newspaper last Saturday, and was called " a malicious liar ". I have to-day issued a writ in the High Court of Australia, claiming damages for libel, and have set the amount of the damages at £25,000. Whatever may be charged or alleged against me, it can never be said that I have uttered sentiments in favour of Germany or Japan. In reply to the talk of dastardly and contemptible conduct, I quote finally the words uttered by the gentleman who now leads the Opposition after his return from Germany in 1938. The words more fittingly apply to him. He then said -

Justice must be done to Germany, in spite of the dreadful things done there, and we must do justice without fear of being called proGerman, or - as I have been called - a Fascist.

Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -

That the question be now put.

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