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- Start of Business
- ARMED FORCES
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
- STEW LAW BY GOVERNMENT ON REDS
- STATUTORY DECLARATION
- ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Thursday, 9 September 1948
Mr FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How long is it since the honorable member himself was a Communist?
Mr HAMILTON - I was not a Communist, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) is. I was an independent. I had the courage to say what I thought. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the action of the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, that wellknown Communist named Healy, in tying up 72 ships in Sydney Harbour immediately after the passage last year by this Parliament of the legislation dealing with the stevedoring industry, was not nefarious. The people whom I represent, along with other Western Australians engaged in primary production, have only recently felt the repercussions of that event. It was the cause of their inability to obtain the superphosphate they required to grow the wheat and other products so badly needed by ourselves, our kith and kin in Great Britain and the starving multitudes in Europe. The lag in shipping caused by that hold-up has not yet been caught up. I challenge representatives of Western Australian constituencies on the Government side of the House to say that the people whom they represent can 'get what they need and that the deprivations that they are suffering have not been caused by the Communists. Wherever one goes in Western Australia one is confronted by shortages of everything needed for primary production. Farmers are crying out for water piping. When one makes representations to the authorities for additional supplies he is told that the State is receiving 8^ per cent, of all the water piping produced. More water piping is not produced because insufficient coal is mined to enable the steel works to produce all that they could produce. The basic cause of our shortages is the shortage of coal. The shortage of coal arises from the nefarious activities of the Communists on the coal-fields. I am not one to attack the workers. I know the conditions under which they toil. I am not like some of the gentlemen to whom the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture referred. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I have worked, and worked hard. I do not believe in adding to the hardship that the workers normally undergo. All that the Government needs to do is to deal with the "redraggers " in their midst. The Queensland railway strike was not merely a strike of the railway workers. It was a move by the Communists to prevent private enterprise from expending considerable sums of money on exploiting the Blair Athol coal resources, which, if properly handled, could supply all Australia's coal needs. During that trouble the Australian Government did not lift one finger against the Communists. I go so far as to say that I believe that it was because of pressure from this Government that the Queensland Labour Government, led by Mr. Hanlon, whose courageous anti.picketing legislation brought a sudden end to the Queensland transport strike, remitted the fines imposed upon the Communist ring-leaders for their breaches of that law and released them from gaol where they had been placed for having failed to pay their fines. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in his eulogy of this Government, also said that the Government of Victoria led by Mr. Holloway, had no backbone, but he knows that the Communists in Victoria have been very quiet since the advent of that Government. They are not game to do much, because they know that immediately they cause industrial trouble, the anti-strike legislation passed by the Victorian Parliament to curb their activities will be proclaimed and enforced. It is this Government, not the Victorian Government, which, as the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has said time and time again, has no intestinal fortitude, for 'it refuses to arraign the Communist leaders before the court for breaches of the Commonwealth Crimes Act when they cause industrial trouble extending beyond the limits of one State and to gaol them when they have been found guilty. There would be no need to gaol a thousand Communists, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said. His words were an attempt to wriggle out of the position in which he finds himself. If action were taken to gaol the ring-leaders and deport the agitators that were not bom in Australia, the rest of the Communists would not be able to find enough hollow logs to hide in, and would perish like rabbits in trying to cross the Nullabor Plain. I did not intend to talk for so long about communism. In fact, I did not intend to participate in this debate. But the words of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture goaded me into doing so.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) spoke about a certain matter earlier. I do not know all the details of the matter to which he referred.
Mr Dedman - The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) knows nothing about it.
Mr HAMILTON - I say in answer to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who would be more respected in Australia than he is if he paid more attention to post-war reconstruction, that I know that the expenditure of dollars was involved in bringing from America machinery for the manufacture of cement. Cement, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has stated, is certainly required and orders for it have been sent abroad, but cement need not be short in supply if the idle plant in Australia could be brought back into production, as it could be if sufficient coal were available for the fires to be lit and the plant set working. The first factor in the idleness of certain cement works is the shortage of coal ; the second is the shortage of labour. The second is understandable, to a degree; but the first is not. The Government should not have allowed the expenditure of precious dollars on the purchase of machinery of which we have an apparent abundance to produce cement; it should have taken effective action to ensure the production of sufficient coal to allow our already available machinery to operate. The Prime Minister has called for a production drive so that Australia shall be able to contribute its share to the feeding of the people of Great Britain and Europe. Yet he has allowed dollars to be wasted on the purchase of unnecessary machinery when primary producers cannot get the dollars to buy from America the spare parts that are needed to put into working order the tractors that they must operate if they are to produce the food that the people of Great Britain and Europe need. It is useless for Ministers to attribute the stortage of things that primary producers need to the unwillingness of merchants to sell and to say that they have ample stocks on their shelves. Nothing is farther from the truth. Farmers want spare parts for their tractors and cannot get them. I cannot buy a clutch for my tractor although I have been trying to do so for months and months. Some one stole the clutch of my machine during the war. But that is beside the point. The point is that where a merchant, before the war, imported £50,000 worth of tractor spare parts annually to satisfy his requirements, to-day he is allowed to import only £10,000 worth a year. This state of affairs is alarming. It is better to keep the tractors already in the country moving than to try to bring in new ones. The charges that have been laid by the honorable member for New England warrant the most searching inquiry to ascertain whether any wrong-doing has occurred. Any one guilty of wrong-doing or of telling untruths in obtaining the dollars to buy the machinery referred to by the honorable member for New England should be severely dealt with. The Australian people should be thankful that the honorable member for New. England has brought this matter before the House and thereby given the Government the opportunity of instituting a most searching inquiry into the facts.
One of the most important subjects dealt with in the Governor-General's Speech is defence. My colleague the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) to-day told us what he thought of conditions in Japan, and concluded his speech by saying that Japan offered the best opportunity for the training of our Regular Army. He urged that we should have a battalion in that country for training purposes and change its personnel annually. I believe that every honorable member will agree with that suggestion, particularly as it comes from one who served in two wars and knows only too well what jungle warfare means. If Australia is attacked again in the future, the assault will probably be made from Japan or its adjacent islands, and accordingly it is desirable that our fighting forces should be given training in those areas. However, I appeal to honorable members not to allow any threat of attack from that direction to cloud their views on Australian defence generally. Not one word was said in the Governor-General's Speech of my proposal to guard the 4,350 miles of the coast of Western Australia, extending from Esperance to Wyndham. What preparations have been made for the defence of that part of Australia? Apparently, not one defence installation is to be provided there, notwithstanding the fact that the lifeline between this country and the United Kingdom passes through Western Australia and across the Indian Ocean. Not one hint has been given by the Government that it has any plan for the defence of our vulnerable western coastline. There is trouble to-day in Indonesia and in Burma; there has been trouble in India;' there is trouble between the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine; and there is trouble, too, in Iran and Iraq. All of these countries are practically bordering on the Indian Ocean and trouble within their borders may jeopardise our security. With the present regime in Russia following almost exactly the policy of the czars, and gathering more and more territory under the Russian claw, it is feasible that, with the world shortage of oil, the Russians will endeavour to move down through
Iran and Iraq and thus be in a position to strike a blow at our lifeline to the United Kingdom. Yet, not one word was said about the need for defence preparations along the Western Australian coast. More than twenty years ago, the then Australian Government proposed to establish a naval base at Cockburn Sound, near Fremantle. The sound is sheltered by reefs and its entrance calls for very intricate navigation; but nothing has been done. Until some move has been made by the Government to establish defence strongposts along the Western Australian coast, we cannot look forward to any great development of secondary industries in Western Australia. Unfortunately, the secondary industries of Western Australia have not developed in keeping with its primary industries and consequently the State is lagging behind the eastern States industrially. When honorable members and the people generally have become fully aware of the great expanse of coastline in Western Australia which ' is open to an aggressor, they will clamour for its appropriate defence, and something may be done. At Albany there is a wonderful natural harbour, but until the present Western Australian Government took office nothing had been done to develop it. The present Western Australian Government proposes to expend over a period of years an amount of £1,300,000 in improving theharbour at Albany. When units of the British Navy were in Australian waters during World War II. a British admiral said that it was a crying shamethat the natural harbour at Albany had not been developed. He was amazed that we should be so short-sighted as to fashion our defence policy in such a way as to make essential the carrying- out of all repairs at the dockyards of Sydney and Melbourne. Why was no attempt madeto establish the naval base at Cockburn Sound? I remember vividly the great works that were planned for that area about twenty years ago, but not one shovelful of soil has yet been turned to implement them. In his Speech, the Governor-General alsoreferred to air projects. Again, thewhole of the Government's plans are related to the development of air routes across the Pacific. No mention was made of the development of air- routes extending from Western Australia and across the Indian Ocean to the United Kingdom. The present air route to England from Australia, through Darwin, Singapore, the top of India, Persia and on to England cannot be called an " all-red " route. An upheaval in any of the foreign countries traversed by the route might very well bring about a stoppage of the service. An alternative route for air travel to England would be from Western Australia to Cocos Islands, Diego Garcia Islands, Seychelles Islands, Mombasa, Khartoum and Malta and thence to England. The whole of that route would be over British territory. Whether this subject was discussed at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers I do not know; but at least it is time that some indication was given to the people of Western Australia that the Government is aware of the dangers that threaten the maintenance of our lifeline to the United Kingdom and that it proposes to do something about it. Dealing with this subject last year, a London writer said that he was certain of the awareness of the people of Western Australia of the dangers that confront us in the Indian Ocean, but that the people of Canberra were apparently blind to them. Until General Blarney returned from the Middle East during World War II., nothing had been done to protect our interests there; but immediately the danger was forcibly brought to the notice of the Government some attempt was made to minimize it. I bring these matters to the notice of the House with the object of awakening in the minds of members of the Government some idea of the need for making adequate preparations for the defence of our Western Australia coastline. Admittedly, the Australian Government, in association with the British Government, is constructing a guided weapons range in Central Australia. Some people may say that the development of long-range weapons of the rocket type will be of advantage to Western Australia's defence. Some of these missiles will travel across the north-west corner of Western Australia and drop into the ocean, but beyond that they will be of no direct benefit to the defence of Western Australia.
The Government claims that since 1939 the number of persons engaged in civil employment has increased by 640,000. That figure may be correct, but the manner in which the information is used in the Governor-General's Speech is intended to convey to the people that the Government has been responsible for lifting the unemployment figure. The true position is that the Government can claim to have been responsible for the employment of only 220,000 of the 640,000 additional now employed. The remainder can be accounted for by the natural increase of young people reaching the age of sixteen years since 1939, the influx of migrants and the employment in industry of persons who were formerly selfemployed but who, as the result of the stupid policy adopted by the Government in maintaining high taxes, have been forced to abandon their businesses and work for wages. Probably many of them are employed in the Public Service at a wage in excess of that earned by them when they were self-employed. I refer to this subject briefly, for the purpose of dispelling any idea from the minds of the people that these additional 640,000 persons may have gained employment as the result of the policy of the present Government.
The Governor-General's Speech contains a lengthy statement on immigration. Everybody in Australia appreciates our need of a greatly increased population; but it is encumbent upon the Government to ensure that the Australian people are suitably housed before we add to our housing difficulties by bringing in thousands of others. The present immigration policy might have much more to commend it if the Minister for Immigration had arranged for the migration of artisans to be engaged in Australia solely in the building trade. During this debate much has been said about the need for improving the living conditions of the people in order to defeat the insidious propaganda of the Communists. What could contribute more to the comfort of the people than the provision of comfortable homes? The housing position to-day is as bad as it ever was. Exservicemen and their families are still living in garages, sheds and caravans because they cannot obtain homes. One of the contributing factors to the shortage of housing in Australia is the repeated industrial upheavals which are instigated by the Communist leaders of key unions. With the influx of the thousands of migrants forecast by the GovernorGeneral and by the Minister for Immigration, the housing position will become more and more acute. It is the responsibility of the Government to house our own people first rather than to aggravate the position by bringing in others. I believe that everybody will agree that the root cause of the housing problem is the coal shortage. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) ' have recently appealed to the miners to increase coal production. Recently the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) cited figures relating to the quantity of coal consumed at the Bunnerong power-house. It is common knowledge that more coal is being used to-day than was used before the war and that greater quantities of coal are needed to meet the needs of our expanded secondary industries. However, honorable members opposite have only short memories if they have forgotten so soon the threat of the leaders of the miners federation who, not so long ago, said, " We will not build up one day's reserve of coal for big business and private enterprise to use against us ". It is this refusal to build up reserve stocks of coal which is responsible in the main for the existing coal shortage. I agree that the conditions under which miners work are not as good as they might be and that we should do everything possible to improve them; but I do not agree that the leaders of any union have the right to say that the members of their organization will not establish reserve stocks because of a fear that such reserves may be used against the workers in the event of subsequent industrial trouble. If we set ourselves out to give the coal miners the best of conditions and provide them with suitable amenities, the least we can expect is that the miners will play the game and give Australia a " fair crack of the whip ". Union leaders would not dare to make such statements in the country whose ideology the Communists propound in this country. It is within the power of this Government to take the necessary measures to prevent a repetition of that kind of threat. The ordinary law-abiding, self-respecting unionists to-day are endeavouring to get rid of their Communist dictators. But they know perfectly well, as honorable members opposite know, that when they endeavour to propound their ideas at union meetings, they are threatened with dire penalties. Therefore, it behoves the Government to give these unionists every possible assistance. By doin? so, the Government will earn the respect of all the honest unionists. One form of assistance that the Government can render is to introduce legislation to make it compulsory that unions shall not countenance stoppages of work without first taking a secret ballot of their members. Unionists throughout Western Australia have told me repeatedly that they would prefer the secret ballots to be conducted, not by the executives of the unions, but by a judge of the Supreme Court or by_thi Chief Electoral Officer of the State. That is an amazing situation. Is it not sufficient proof that unionists do not trust their own executives and want to get rid of them? But they are not able to do so. When they venture to express their opinions at union meetings, they are told to sit down or they will be "thugged ". That has happened. The Government should give the genuine unionists every possible assistance to enable them to rid themselves of the- disruptionists. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) has stated in this House that the Locomotive Enginemen's and Firemen's Association succeeded in getting rid of them, and I believe that it did. The Australian Workers Union also has fought them tooth and nail. But what is the use of the engine-driver getting rid of men who cause strikes when the union of which the guard is a member retains them? That is exactly what is happening. The president of the Australian Railways Union, " Red " Brown, can apply the Westinghouse brake whenever he pleases, and stop the train. Therefore, the honest unionists need assistance to get rid of the disruptionists. The members of the Labour party who vote against the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) will not be helping law-abiding, self-respecting unionists to rid themselves of these termites, who have " white-anted " the unions and caused untold trouble not only in industrial circles but also throughout Australia.