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Thursday, 4 July 1946

Mr FALSTEIN (Watson) .- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has made a personal . attack on me, and if for no other reason than that, I should certainly have taken this opportunity to reply to it. The method of attack was particularly despicable. The honorable member said that he had received certain information. I shall inform the House of the source from which he received it. He obtained it from the Sydney Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Harrison - The honorable member is definitely wrong.

Mr FALSTEIN - The same information that was supplied to the honorable gentleman was also the subject of a communication to the Comptroller-General of Customs, . Mr. Kennedy. The reply was similar to that which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser) gave to the honorable member.

Mr HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - J assure the honorable member that I did not receive any com- - muirlea tion from the .Chamber of Commerce.

Mr FALSTEIN - I happen to know the truth, and I shall state it in unequivocal terms. This incident affords abundant proof of the justice of the claim made from time to time by Government supporters that members of the Opposition are the willing and pliant tools of the Chamber of Commerce and, big business interests.

The second claim by the honorable member for Wentworth was that, when provision was being made for assistance in the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen in the watch trade, all members of the trade * had their import quotas reduced by 33-j per cent. That is true, but at that time they ..were enjoying a quota of 150 per cent, of the imports in their base year. The reduction of 33-\ per cent, was made to ensure that they would still be receiving 100 per cent, of their base-year imports. The third assertion of the honorable member, which is totally incorrect, ' although he may not have been aware of it, was that these quotas were given only to base-year importers. The opposite is the case. The quotas were given to exservicemen who were not base-year importers. That was the basis of the ministerial ruling in the first instance.

With regard to my being a member of the legal profession while also an importer of watches, I have to say that I am a member of the legal profession, but I have been unable, since my discharge, to secure chambers in which I could practise. My plight _ in that regard is no different from that of a large number of the members of the bar in New South Whales. There is a great lack of office accommodation in Sydney suitable for them. I thought it would be desirable for me to enter a trade, as many other members of the' New South Wales bar have done. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is in no better position in that respect than I am, fromthe point of view of legal ethics, a.nd certain members of State parliaments who are members of the bar are similarly engaged. I consider that I was not acting improperly in applying for an import licence to assist hie in the importing business in which I am engaged. The importation of watches is not the only activity of the business. It is not necessary to obtain special licences or quotas for the importation from the United Kingdom of. such goods as crockery and ceramic ware, and I see no harm in pursuing a. trade of that nature.

The honorable member for Wentworth, who is always pointing to the returned soldier's badge, and saying how much is being done by the Opposition for exservicemen, will, no doubt, make an attempt to justify the bringing into Australia by Mr. Frank Packer, managing director of Consolidated Press Limited, of a quantity of furs from non-sterling countries. This was done without application being made to the Department of Trade and Customs. Mr. Packer did it " off his own bat ", because he had sufficient money for the purpose. I do not think he would have relied on his war service to be treated as an .ex-serviceman. The honorable member for Wentworth claims to be an ex-serviceman of World War II., although I believe that his military work was confined to his duties as a liaison officer with the American forces in Sydney. How does he justify the bringing into Australia of furs, which are prohibited imports, unless obtained by importers holding base-year licences? Was action taken by the department to confiscate those furs, in view of the fact that the regulations provide that if such goods are imported without a licence they must be immediately confiscated? Mr. Packer had a scream head-line in the press this morning about my activities, and declared that the accusation against me had not, been made because of a desire to gain party political capital from it. The honorable member for Wentworth claims to be jealous of the privileges of this House, and anxious to give honorable members an opportunity to express their, views, if they had any doubt" in their minds. Mr. Packer published an article headed " Labour M.H.R. given a Licence to Import Watches ". Had I been an anti-Labour member of this chamber, probably nothing would have been heard of this matter.

I shall not allow members of the Opposition, acting on behalf of vested interests in particular trades or industries, to run mc or any other ex-serviceman out of business. When the watches which I shall import reach Australia, they will be sold at a price slightly below that fixed by the Prices Commissioner, as a protest against the blackmaarketeering which has been practised in this trade. I hope that I have cleared, up any doubt which honorable members may have as to whether I still hold a quota import licence. I do, and I -propose to' avail myself of it as long as I am able to do so. As for the honorable member saying that, as a member of the bar, I ought not to engage in a trade, perhaps he -will explain why a gentleman posing as a barrister has canvassed from door to door among homes and flats at Double Bay. This man came to my mother's flat, at Double Bay, soliciting subscriptions at 2s. 6d. each from persons willing to join the Liberal party. If advantages have been obtained by reason of the quota system in connexion with import licensing, and the continuance of the Division of Import Procurement, firms which support the Opposition politically have mostly derived those benefits. Recently Mr. Arthur Moore, Director of the Division of Import Procurement, after having been as generous' as he could " get away with " in his treatment of firms such as Sydney Snow Limited and David Jones Limited, has now been paid off by receiving employment with those firms. That happened just after he returned from abroad after an absence of several months at the expense of the Commonwealth. I have nothing to hide in regard to this matter, but I believe that some honorable members of the Opposition are not in that position. They have much to hide in respect of their administration of departments when Ministers and in connexion with other matters, also. If there are to bc explanations, let their explanations be as full as possible so that we shall know where every honorable member in this House stands. Should there still be some lingering doubts in the minds of honorable members opposite regarding the transactions with which I arn concerned I shall be glad to remove them at any time. I base the- justification for the granting of this licence to me on the fact that I am an ex-serviceman, and have not been given anything to which other servicemen are not entitled.

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