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Thursday, 4 July 1946

Mr JAMES (Hunter) .- Thegenesis of the industrial dispute in Queensland is not difficult to discover. The workers are endeavouring to uphold the principle of seniority that workersthroughout Australia have supported for many years. If employees must be dismissed, those who were the last to be engaged should be the first to be discharged. The trouble occurred in Queensland because the employer dismissed men without regard to seniority, and, ' naturally, the employees resented it. Only the strenuous efforts of the Commonwealth Government have prevented the spread of the troubleto other States, with a further loss of production. The Leader of the Australian. Country party (Mr. Fadden) derives considerable satisfaction from this disputeMembers of the Opposition always welcome industrial turmoil at the approach of the general elections. They invariably blame the workers; .they never criticize the employers. But employers, as a class, are capable of "pin-pricking" the workers into striking, as happens in the coal- . mining industry. The coal-owners know that they have a diminishing asset. Because of the heavy taxation at the present time, they are not able to make substantial profits from that asset. Therefore, they do not favour maximum production . until taxes have been reduced.

The Leader of the Australian Country party exhorted the Government to intervene in the meat industry dispute in Queensland.' The right honorable gentleman considered that the strikers should be punished with the utmost rigour of the law. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) answered the Leader of the Australian Country party most effectively. He asked, whether the right honorable gentleman considered that the workers should be put in gaol. Of course, that would lead only to an extension of the dispute. Before the Government could put all the strikers in gaol, it would need to call out the armed forces, and that would result in serious disorders. The attitude which the Leader of the Australian Country party adopted this afternoon reminded me strongly of the attitude adopted by a former member of his party a few years ago, which earned for him the nickname of " Shoot 'em Down ". In future, the right honorable gentleman will be entitled to the name of " Shoot 'em Down Artie ".

Mr McEwen - That is only the honorable member's interpretation of the remarks of the Leader of the Australian Country party.

Mr JAMES - It is not.

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - It is a malicious interpretation.

Mr JAMES - In 1940, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, tried in every possible way to appease the coalminers. He went to the coal-fields, and the representatives of the men endeavoured to negotiate with the men. He had arranged for the proceedings to be broadcast, but he. was not prepared to allow the miners to state over the air their case in reply to his submissions. As he knows, his meeting was sabotaged. The hall at which he was to speak was empty. I grant that the right honorable gentleman was courageous enough to address the men at the park in which they were holding a meeting, but he was obliged to rely on appeasement. In response to their demands, he appoined the commission that awarded them the pension which they now enjoy, and a shorter working week.

Honorable members opposite accused the Government of not being prepared to co-operate with the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, in settling the dis'pute. That is not correct. The Commonwealth was told, in effect, to "keep its bib out of it ", because the dispute was a State matter. The Government of Queensland has now proclaimed a State of national emergency. I believe that if the Commonwealth possessed the necessary constitutional powers, it should intervene. But when, at the last referendum, we sought such power, the honorable members opposite opposed the granting of it. When they occupied the treasury-bench, they supported constitutional reform, but when they are in Opposition, they sabotage any proposals for granting to the Commonwealth increased powers. In my opinion, the Commonwealth should have complete authority over industrial matters, and I hope that at the forthcoming referendum the people will confer upon it that power.

In what I am about to say, I do not desire to be misunderstood. The Communist party is probably stronger in my . electorate than in any other constituency in Australia; but being a democrat, I cannot agree to the suggestion of the Leader of the Australian Country party that the Communist party should be declared an illegal organization. In a democracy, every individual, has the right to express, without fear of the consequences, his political opinion. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II., the then Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, declared the Communist party an illegal organization. What was the outcome? .The Communists then used as their mouthpiece in New South Wales the State Labour party, headed by the HughesEvans group. That was the only occasion on which their candidates did not forfeit their deposits at an election. In my opinion, the Communist party is blamed for many thing3 for which it is not responsible.

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