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Thursday, 7 November 1946

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - In delivering his Speech to members of both houses of this legislature yesterday, His Royal Highness the Governor-General formally and officially set the Eighteenth Commonwealth Parliament on its course. I have now had an opportunity to hear five such opening speeches in this Parliament. There are certain matters in the Speech of His 1 loyal Highness to which I wish to refer. My first observation is in relation to the most recent election campaign. I had always believed, apparently quite erroneously, that the object of having an election campaign was to enable the respective claimants of high office to deliver to the electorate their views as to how the government of the country should be carried on. In the last campaign, it is true, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) delivered a policy speech - the first of the campaign - and may I say, with great respect, there was nothing wrong with that policy speech. It contained references to many things that must be done if the Commonwealth of Australia is to be placed upon a secure and firm peace-time footing. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) also made some important statements in almost the same manner, form and volume. On the other hand, we had the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), which I consider to be one of the most vacant allotments that this country has ever inspected. The right honorable gentleman did not promise anything. I have always understood that the object of holding elections is to enable a government to declare where it stands on important questions. Virtually, what the Prime Minister said to the electorate was, "You know who I am and you know the people I have with me. 1' do not promise anything. If you return me 'and give my party a majority in the Parliament, I shall open Pandora's box any time I happen to think fit, and what emerges from that box will be what you have authorized me to produce ".

Mr Sheehan - The Prime Minister has a good reputation.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I have known good reputations to be blasted in a short time, and I advise the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) not to bank very strongly on them. I have seen good reputations in politics sink suddenly and irretrievably. Other Labour candidates at the elections, so far as I could see, placed their implicit faith in the leader of their party, although for a long time there were some misgivings and rumblings in the State capitals. Some honorable members opposite were questioning whether or not " Ben " was on the right track. They thought he might have mistaken the turn; but he eventually arrived at the station, and the train was in perfect order from his point of view. And on that I congratulate him. I congratulate the right honorable gentleman on being the first leader of a government in the history of British politics, so far as my reading goes, who ever went to the country, promised nothing, asked for a blank cheque, and, incidentally, got away with it. Last week, it was my pleasure - looking back upon it I would not have missed it for many pounds - to be in this capital city, and in this building when members of the Labour party, fresh from their victories, went painfully through the process of selecting a cabinet. That was an education in itself. The selection of a cabinet having been accomplished, we are entitled to have a look at some of the results. It was not surprising that the Prime Minister should have been re-elected, unopposed, to the leadership of the party. Any other vote on that issue would have been most disastrous - I need not say any more about that. My friend, the AttorneyGeneral and Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), cast his bread upon the waters, and for him, too, the results were satisfactory. We sec hi:n now in second position, as deputy leader of the party. I remind him, however, that the history of deputy leaders of all parties is that they seldom succeed to leadership. They are, by no means, in the same relationship to the leader as is a Crown prince or hair-apparent to a throne. So t have great misgivings about the Attorney-General, because I believe, that if I were to charge him with being politically ambitious, most of his colleagues would agree that the charge was well founded, and, of course, he has some ability - sometimes quite out of the ordinary - to justify that ambition. The next important matter was to observe the degree to which left-wing politics had penetrated into the Labour party, and the support which was accorded to that very stormy petrel, the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), in his attempt to secure the deputy leadership of the party.

Mr Haylen - Is the honorable member making a speech or quoting from the Sydney MorningHerald "ifr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - I am not I noting from the Sydney MorningHerald, nor from some of the honorable member's printed apologies. No one would accuse the Minister for Transport of having contested the deputy leadership with a view to that being the end of his political aspirations, because, he, too, I believe, is ambitious.

Mr.- Holloway.- And why should he not bc?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I am raying that there is nothing wrong with that. Everybody has a right to be ambitions; but. in some circles in which 1 have moved, and in others in which I have observed the goings on, it seems that that is something which should be reserved for an exclusive view. 1 notice, too, that the Prime Minister decided to maintain the strength of the Cabinet at nineteen Ministers. I should be interested to hear the right honorable gentleman endeavour to justify that strength under peace-time conditions. From what knowledge 1 have of the work of a Commonwealth Government, I say that that strength cannot be justified.

Mr James - The honorable member would not hold that view if he were on this side of the chamber.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - If the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Tames) will cast his mind hack to 1941. when the size of the Cabinet was increased, he will recall certain remarks made by some- of us on the Government side.

Mr Hadley - We may remember a lot of other things, too.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The honorable member may remember them and he may quote them any time he desires. They are good things, and will stand quoting.

According to the Governor-General's Speech, the most important matter with which the Commonwealth Government will be concerned in the near future will be defence, because that subject takes up the greatest proportion of the 51 paragraphs of the Speech; yet, notwithstanding the f act that the Prime Minister himself, deliberately I assume, selected defence as the most important aspect of Commonwealth affairs, he has allotted defence portfolios to some of the junior Ministers in the new Government. I assume, alao, that the degree of juniority depends upon the order in which honorable members opposite were selected by ballots. That, I think, demands an explanation from the right honorable gentleman, or from some of his colleagues.

There was recently an election for both Houses of the Parliament. I am a member of the Opposition. I think it will be generally conceded, that in the election of three years ago, the Opposition suffered a defeat. At that time, we might have been entitled to say that the electorate had made a mistake, and that it would reverse its decision in three years' time. After the recent election we have no right to say anything of the kind. In too many instances the electorate confirmed the decision given in August, 1943. In fact, it has almost wiped out the Opposition in the Senate. When I entered Parliament twelve years ago, the Senate Opposition consisted of three Labour members, and I maintain that a Senate consisting of 33 members of one party and only three of another is not a workable chamber. The disparity is too great. If the Senate is not to degenerate into a subordinate and practically useless body there will have to be a revision of the method of electing members of that chamber.

Mr Edmonds - What were the honorable member's views when his party had an overwhelming majority in the Senate ?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - They were the same as now. As one who has for long been a member of the Proportional Representation Society, I may be believed when I make that statement. We should try to make of the Senate what the founders of the Constitution intended it to be, namely, a house of review in which the rights of the six States might be considered in a proper atmosphere. As at present constituted, and as it has been for a long time past, the Senate is much more a party chamber than one concerned with the rights of the

States, and that applied when my party was in a majority just as much as it does now. However, there was this difference ; many representatives of my party in the Senate were prepared, when t.hey thought the situation justified it, to take a stand against the government which, in general, they supported. Under the constitution of the Australian Labour party, no Labour senator may take such a stand. Whatever may be their private views, they must conform to the party policy which they signed and on which chey were elected. If they failed to do so they must seek a career elsewhere. I believe that an all-party committee of this Parliament should be appointed to consider proposals for reforming the method of electing the Senate. This is not -a question of administration or of party politics, but of trying to make of the Senate a useful and workable part of the legislature.

Turning now to the House of Representatives, we note that there are not many changes as a result of the recent elections. I see before me among Government supporters some faces which, frankly, I expected to be absent. On the other hand, I note the absence of some whom I had expected to be here. Among the newcomers I see the masculine form of ray .acquaintance of only yesterday, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). I have been expecting his arrival here for many years. When I first entered this Parliament I occupied a seat almost immediately in front of where he is now sitting, and I frequently heard from the lips of his admirers the slogan, Lang is right ", and sometimes, " Lang is greater than Lenin ". It is not for me to question the decision of the electorate which sent the honorable member here, ft is sufficient for me to recall that he has been one of the most outstanding, the most criticized and the most sinister figures in Australia's political history. I was relieved when I observed yesterday that he was alone, not being attended even by Captain de Groot. As one who will be an uncompromising opponent of practically everything the honorable member advocates, I can inform him that I will do for him, if necessary, what I have done for others, including the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr.

Blain) and the former honorable member for Bourke, Mr. Bryson: if he wants a seconder for a motion, no matter what it may be, I will second it, because I believe that every member of this Parliament should be allowed to speak his mind, and to express the opinions which he honestly and sincerely holds. One cannot help observing how the party which once professed to support the honorable member for Reid seems to have faded away. We have heard of the Master being denied, but I have heard no actual denial from his former friends. I have not heard any one of them get up and say, " Lang is wrong ", or that he had been wrong. I know that you will bear with me, Mr. Speaker, whan I refer to these matters, which must strike a responsive note in your own breast. Your own political career has been, like Joseph's coat, a thing of many colours, for one of which the honorable member for Reid was responsible. When I first entered the Commonwealth Parliament, what was called the Lang Labour party consisted of ten members. Watching them, I recalled what was written in one of the Book of Kings about those who supported the rebellion of Absalom, the Son of King David : " They went forth in their innocence, and they knew not anything ".

I was interested to note that after the selection of the Cabinet, there took place the distribution of consolation prizes, as a result of which my friend, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), whom I have sometimes looked upon as a character out of Alice in Wonderland, is to proceed overseas. Perhaps his colleagues also saw the resemblance, and decided that it was better that he should fill the role of the March Hare. Hence, he is not with us to-day.

Many important matters await the attention of the Parliament. An event which may have far-reaching consequences, particularly should we become involved in another war, was the decision reached by the court in the Nuremberg trials. I confess that I do not know just where the world is heading in regard to these matters, and it behoves us to study very carefully the effect of the verdicts of this court upon international law and practice. Precedents set up there may be extended into domains which were not touched upon at the trials. The composition of the Bench at Nuremberg to my mind was a rather strange mixture. One of the greatest dictatorships in the world was represented, and I compliment the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) on what he said about certain things in that connexion this afternoon. All I have to say is that, for the future of world history, it might have been better if the Soviet representatives had been in the dock instead of on the Bench. That is my view on that subject.

I refer again the Governor-General's Speech and to the important part occupied in it by the subject of defence. Sooner or la tei- this Government must make up its mind about defence. One can examine the" Speech without finding anything which will give a direct indication of the Government's attitude to postwar defence. Obviously, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out this afternoon, Australia's attitude to defence depends largely on its attitude to the United Nations. This Parliament ought to have a good look at the constitution of the United Nations before long. The Minister for External Affairs is back home, and I hope, for the good of Australia, that he will stay here for some time because there are many things that require his personal attendance in this Parliament and in certain departments over which he has control. In regard to the United Nations, I stand exactly where I stood in regard to the League of Nations. I say that the United Nations is a bigger, more expensive and more deceptive institution than the League of Nations ever could have been, with this bit of spice added, that any one of the " Big Five " can wreck its decisions whenever it chooses to do so. It cannot carry on under that arrangement. As I have said before, the idea of raising armed forces and placing them at the disposal of some authority other than our own kith and kin has not been carefully considered by the Parliament or the people of this country. There is no indication in the GovernorGeneral's Speech that the Government proposes to consider the idea at any stage. To my mind, our first consideration should be self-defence - the defence of our own country. After that, the thing that we must rely on through most of our future history, will be the closest possible defensive arrangement between ourselves and, first, our kith and kin inside the British Empire, and, secondly, the United States of America. Anything that the Minister for External Affairs may have to say on this subject will be heard with great interest by myself, and, I believe, by every honorable member in Opposition.

I notice that the Governor-General's Speech has very little to say about world trade. It is referred to only in one paragraph and then in a cursory sort of way. There is nothing about world finance. A question on this subject was answered in some measure to-day by a Minister, but in view of the length of time that has elapsed since the Bretton Woods conference and other conferences in the United States of America, and in view of the investigations that must have been made by different ministers and senior officers, it is surprising that the GovernorGeneral's Speech should be absolutely devoid of any reference to Australia's proposed commitments under international financial and monetary agreements. The reason is not far to seek. The Labour party has not made up its mind. I always hope to see peace and quietness, but it seems that there are two factions within the Labour party and that its ranks are divided on this important subject. I refer again to world trade. Paragraph 18 of the GovernorGeneral's speech contains a statement for which I am sure the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs must have been responsible. It is as follows : -

Following the conclusion of the final peace agreement with Siam, which was negotiated by Australia as a party principal the Government lias been concerned to secure the full protection of Australian interests in Siam.

I do not know whether or not the honorable gentleman carries a microscope. The paragraph continues -

An Australian Consulate-General has .beenestablished at Bangkok.

No doubt that caused a flutter on the political seismograph, if it was in operation. That paragraph, taken in conjunction with the Government's failure to refer to world trade, is very significant. Trade must be infinitely more valuable and of greater importance to Australia than 50 consulate-generals.

The Speech contains no reference worth mentioning to the future of agriculture in Australia. Is this because the honor-

Able member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who was so recently promoted to the office of Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, has not had a chance to exercise his influence in Cabinet yet? I can hardly believe that he had a finger in a political pie in which primary industry was a relatively unimportant ingredient. The subject is mentioned only cursorily in paragraphs 40 and 41 of the GovernorGeneral's Speech, whereas the establishment of a consulate-general at Bangkok had a whole paragraph to itself. The two things 'are entirely out of proportion.

Mr Pollard - When the honorable member wa3 Minister for Commerce there were plenty of references but no action.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The honorable gentleman may have a debate with me on that subject at any time he likes. I recall him moving the adjournment of the House because he objected to action which I had taken. His references to that action are still on record. The items which I have mentioned show a complete lack of proportion politically on the part of the Government. The Speech also contains a few pious hopes regarding the settlement of industrial disputes. It states that the Government is " desirous of securing greater and more continuous production and it intends to do everything possible to eliminate causes of industrial discontent". I shall take a great deal of convincing on that point. [ freely admit that, after the conclusion of any great wai", there is always a period of discontent in any country which has been a party to that war, but the present discontent in Australia is out of all proportion to the grievances which the working men have, and many of the strikes have been deliberately engineered by the emissaries referred to this afternoon by the honorable member for Herbert. These men owe their allegiance to some authority and power outside Australia. These men and their activities have been condemned by the Labour party in South Australia, for which the honorable mem ber for Hindmarsh (Mi1. Thompson), who is no stranger to me, can speak. They were condemned, I believe, as being anti-Australian, anti-British and antiworking class. Nevertheless, the only action of the Labour Government in regard to them has been to remove the ban of illegality placed upon them by a Government in 1940. I would be interested to hear whether or not this Government has a policy in regard to them and, if so, what that policy is. At the town of Murray Bridge, in my electorate, I was asked by one of these emissaries why I supported the viewpoint of the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) on this matter rather than that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). My answer was fairly effective, and there is no copyright over it. It was to the effect that, if my questioner went back to his home that night, walked into his bedroom and found a tiger snake, he would kill it. He would not argue with it. That is the situation which faces the Commonwealth Government on this important subject. Even at this early stage after its defeat on the 28 th September, the Opposition must look ahead. From my point of view, and from the point of view of the electorate which I represent, the only hope for Australia lies in the replacement of the present Government by one composed of honorable members from the Opposition benches. As a prerequisite to such a desirable change there must be a firm and close understanding between the two Opposition parties. Any attempt on the part of one of those parties to swallow the other will result in the swallower dying from political indigestion at a fairly early date. Each must recognize the right of the other to live and to represent those interests which it can best represent in this Parliament. There were certain contests at the recent elections which were obviously not in the best interests of the people of Australia. I hope that before the next election many of the differences betwen the two Opposition parties will have been resolved. I have no desire to go deeply into that, however, because I have been a member of both parties on this side of the House. As a matter of fact, just over half of my political career was spent in the service of the one of which I am not now a member. What this country needs above all things is a recognition of the rights, not of the unions, but of the men who comprise them, and of the tens of thousands of individuals who are not members of any union. First and foremost, we need in office in this Commonwealth a government which recognizes the right of every man to earn, to save, and to own property. Once that is conceded the Opposition and the Australian Labour party must come into sharp conflict, and either one or the other must go down. There can be no half-way house, no middle of the road in this matter, and the electors must make up their minds about it in the not distant future. Honorable members opposite are in the habit of referring to the terrible monopolies that exist in this country. I was interested recently to see that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, more than half of the shares of which are owned by the Commonwealth Government, had paid a dividend of no less than 32 per cent. As time goes by I have no doubt that our friends opposite will continue to rant against combines and monopolies while important questions are still left unanswered. I have a strong suspicion that when the next elections are held, three years hence, many of these important questions will still remain unresolved, while too many of the things that do not matter will have received a great deal of attention, much discussion and perhaps great or little reinedy; time alone will tell.

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