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Thursday, 2 June 1949

Mr EDMONDS (Herbert) .- During the debate on this bill honorable members have taken the opportunity to touch on a wide range of subjects. It is my intention to deal with one or two of the matters that have occupied the attention of honorable members. At the outset I wish to refer to certain comments made last night by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) about the peanut industry. The honorable member said that no graders were employed in the industry. I do not want it to be thought that I have a personal interest in this matter. I do not know any graders or foremen in the industry, nor do I know any one who is interested in it, except the honorable member for Maranoa, who is chairman of the Peanut Board. In fairness to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who attacked on this subject by the honorable member for Maranoa last night, I think that I should state what I know of the industry. In 1945', prior to my election to this Parliament, I was State President of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Workers Union, and in my official capacity I prepared a log of claims for submission to the Arbitration Court covering workers in the peanut industry, which is the only industry of any magnitude in Queensland not covered by an award of the court. All endeavours by the union to obtain an award have been viciously opposed and rejected by the Peanut Board. That log, which was also bitterly opposed by the board and by the growers, included the designation of grader and a rate of wage to be paid to persons of that designation. There seems to be some confusion about the kind of graders mentioned in the debate last night. I do not know to what kind of graders either the Minister for Information or the honorable member for Maranoa referred. I am referring to a person who grades peanuts and upon whose grading the price of the crop is determined. It is unfortunate that an honorable member opposite, who poses as a believer in trade unionism, should offer such strong resistance to the granting of an award to an industry of the magnitude of the peanut industry.

Mr Duthie - How many employees are involved?

Mr EDMONDS - Hundreds are involved. The attack on the Government launched by honorable members opposite during this debate appears to have been principally directed against the Minister for Immigration- (Mr. Calwell). The Minister's work has been of outstanding value. If anybody has done a good job to secure the future of Australia that person is. the Minister for Immigration. I do not adopt the role of his defender because I believe that of all the members of this House the Minister is perhaps the best able to defend himself. He certainly does not need assistance from me. Whilst I have no wish to resort to the parish pump, I have no hesitation in saying that m the district which I represent in Queensland, the work of the Minister for Immigration has been of tremendous assistance. 1 invite honorable members opposite who seem to find great delight in criticizing the Minister and the Government's immigration policy, to come to Queensland and to say in front of the sugar-cane growers of that State, the things that they say about the Minister in this chamber. In only three districts of north Queensland, Herbert River, Tully and Innisfail, Bait workers out approximately -130,000 tons of sugar-cane last season. Members of the Australian Country party in this chamber who claim to be the champions of the man on the land, will have some understanding of what that means. Without immigrant labour, that cane would have remained unharvested, and its value would have been lost to the industry and to the country.

I was interested to read an article on immigration in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day. I am not one of those who believe that everything that appears in the press must be true. My experience has taught me that many press reports are completely without foundation, but I know that there is truth in this article.

It has a direct bearing on Australia's immigration policy, and upon the administration of that policy by the Minister for Immigration. It was written by Sir Frederic Eggleston, a former Australian Minister to China, in reply to an article on the immigration policy of the United States of America written by Dr. C. E. W. Bean and published on the 26th May. The article states -

Sir FredericEggleston, former Australian Minister to China and to the United States, has submitted the following statements in reply to an article on United States immigration policy by Dr.C. E. W. Bean, published on May 20 : -

I suppose all discerning readers have -ecu that the article by . Dr. C. E. W. Bean dealing with U.S. immigration policy does not justify the title it hears. The impression given to Dr. Bean's article, namely, that our policy is more harsh or more insulting than that of the United States, is not correct. America's exclusion of Orientals was always ruthless before the establishment of the quota systemand now, outside the quotas, it is still ruthless for all migrants. Few exceptions are made, and deportation follows any violation of temporary permits. Notwithstanding the trifling quota given to Orientals by the United States, Australia has always been, and still is, more lenient in her policy than America.

The difference is that American action is taken as a matter of course by the people of that country and is not ventilated in the press, whereas, in Australia, criticism has a political basis and is made without a knowledge of the circumstances of each case, in ignorance of Australian policy, and in ignorance of the policy of other countries.

That is the very root of the trouble in this country. The article continues -

In addition, the liaison between the Australian Associated Press and Reuters is used to ventilate cases in Asiatic countries in order to get an additional stick tobeat the political tom-tom. The result is that grave damage is done to Australian interests without any real cause whatever.

The U.S.S.R. totally excludes all migration. Malaya, Siam, the Philippines, and Indonesia all have exclusion policies with small quotas or none at all. Most of these countries have internal discriminations against foreigners, while there are practically none in Australia. Canada and New Zealand, I understand, have a passport system of entry by which complete control is retained over admissions. These countries escape criticism while we, by the action of the Australian Press, are made the Aunt Sally for attack in South-East Asia.

It must be obvious to the meanest intelligence that nobody can say whether we are unjust to the Filipinos in the person of SergeantGamboa unless the treatment of Filipinios generally is known, nor can he say whether Indonesia has been treated badly in the case of Mrs. O'Keefe unless he understands that thousands of Indonesians, who were given sanctuary here during the war on a solemn promise to return, have gone back in pursuance of the promise given.

It is also clear that the leniency of the Australian Government in extending permits for long periods enables some people to make " hard cases ", and this is one of the main causes of the outcry against Australia's policy. Readers of my article in " Pacific Affairs , quoted by Dr. Bean, will know that I am not in favour of a completely exclusive policy, but the transition to the policy whichI advocate will be a difficult one and will be made almost impossible by the press campaign.

When it is realized that no Australian party proposes any change in the immigration policy at the next election, the futility of the press campaign can be realized.

That is the answer to all the fuss that has been made about our immigration laws. I am sure that all Opposition members, whether they be members of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party, will, if they forget party politics, agree with the writer of that article.

This debate reached a climax last night with a discussion on communism. I have something to say about that matter. It is quite easy for people to make general statements and broad accusations about the alleged failure of somebody or other to take a certain course of action. It is much more difficult to make concrete suggestions for the solution of the problem. I say at once, in spite of what may be said to the contrary, that communism is a menace. I for one disagree with the statement by my leader that communism is only another political philosophy. I say that communism is a menace. Its growth must be arrested, and the problem that it presents must be tackled by somebody sooner or later.

Mr Archie Cameron - Has the honorable member bought a few shares in Allan Fraser's newspaper?

Mr EDMONDS - I have notbought shares in any newspaper. I hate newspapers. It is one thing for members of Parliament and other people to talk about industrial disturbances caused by Communists, but it is another for them to suggest how we shall overcome the trouble. The only suggestion that we have had so far is that the Communist party should be banned. I give credit to the Australian Country party that at least its members have been united for some time in advocating that the Communist party should be banned, but the Liberal party cannot claim to have been united in similar advocacy for long. It is commonly known, not only in this House and its environs but also throughout Australia, that until quite recently there were two groups in the Liberal party holding different views regarding communism. There was the " ban " group, led by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and the " anti-ban " group, led by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Ryan - Where did the honorable member get that information?

Mr EDMONDS - Probably from a source similar to that from which the press gets information about what happens at our party meetings. These things leak out.

Mr Ryan - The honorable gentleman's information is wrong.

Mr EDMONDS - It is not, because the Leader of the Opposition made a public statement about the Liberal party's new policy. I do not propose to argue about details, but the attitude of the right honorable gentleman on the banning of the Communist party has changed. What does the placing of a ban on the Communist party mean? Do honorable members of the Opposition claim that, by legislating to declare the Communist party an illegal organization, the problem of what to do about the Communists would be solved?

Mr Turnbull - We say that it would restrict their activities.

Mr EDMONDS - The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), who knows more about rabbits than Communists, says "We say that it would restrict their activities ". Let us examine that statement. The Menzies Government banned the Communist party. While the ban was on, I was an official of the Australian Workers Union in north Queensland. I say without hesitation and without fear of successful contradiction that thu Communists made greater progress then than at any other stage of their history. I know what I am talking about. I have always been fighting the " roosters ". While honorable gentlemen opposite were on the platform with the Communists and waving flags with them, the Australian Workers Union continued to fight the Communists. Immediately after the party had been banned, the only Communist ever elected to a parliament in Australia was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly. I refer to Mr. F. W. Paterson. Notwithstanding the ban, Communist-inspired industrial turmoil took place in New South Wales. The honorable member for Wimmera said that the banning of the Communist party would restrict its members' activities. I suppose, therefore, that one could reasonably assume that more coal would be produced if the party were banned. Yet, during the period in which it was banned, instead of more coal being produced, less was produced, owing to industrial disturbances on the coal-fields. The coal industry is one industry that is dominated by the Communists, and so effective was the ban, thai it was necessary for the government of the day to bribe the president of the miners federation to prevent strikes. I have the report of the royal commissioner, and not the slightest doubt exists that money was paid to the leader of the coal-miners for that purpose. Despite the ban and despite the bribe, the country still did not get enough coal. The Leader of the Opposition could tell a lovely story about what happened. He said, " If the hill will not come to Mahomet. Mahomet will go to the hill ", and when the coal-miners would not go to the advertised place to hear him, he went to them, but they still would not hear him. When that sort of thing happened during the period of the ban, what on earth is the good of talking about banning the Communists again, unless we are prepared to reinforce the ban ? The banning of the Communist party would be only the first step. Once the ban was imposed, it would have to be made effective. The next step would be to hound down every Communist, every person with the slightest pretentions of being a Communist and every one who supported the Communists in any shape or form. Then what would the advocates of the ban do? They could not say to them, " You must not do that again, naughty; don't do that any more ". They would have to build political prisons and put the Communists and their sympathizers behind barbed wire. Banning of the Communists would be only the first step; the next .and final step would be to place them in concentration camps or political prisons. If any one else in the Parliament wants to be a party to that, I do not.

Mr Archie Cameron - What did the Australian Workers Union do?

Mr EDMONDS - I shall tell the honorable member the story about that later. A man named Goebbels did that and then, instead of being the hunter, he became the hunted, and that will be the position of any one who does it in Australia.

The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said last night that the Australian Government employed Communists. Of course it employs them and so do the tory governments of Victoria. South Australia and Western Australia, and Communists are employed also by private enterprise. When Concrete Constructions Limited, the company that is building the administrative block at Canberra, installed the sewerage at Townsville, it always promoted any man whom it found to be a Communist and whom it regarded as likely to create dissension among the workers. The company made him a ganger and boasted about doing so. Its attitude can be summed up in these words, " The Communist is the best ganger we ever had, for, having been appointed a ganger, he becomes almost a slave driver ". So, what on earth is the good of talking about the Government employing Communists? My mind flies back to 1945, immediately before I was elected to the House. The Communists staged a strike in the pastoral industry in New South Wales and Queensland. The Australian Workers Union had filed applications in both the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the Queensland Arbitration Court for increased shearing rates. There was a good chance of the union's being successful, and the Communists did not want it to get the credit. As a matter of fact, they did not want the increase, because they did not want contentment and harmony; for they thrive on discontent and discord. They formed themselves into bogus committees all over the country and told the shearers to reject the instructions of the federal executive and the State executives of the Australian Workers Union not to join in the strike. The only way in which a man could then get work in the pastoral industry was by going to the Communist bogus organizations and paying them a fee. In Queensland, the fee was £1. The Communists described it as a " clearance fee ". Our advice to the members of the Australian Workers Union was to ignore the Communists, to refuse to pay the fee and to tell the graziers that they were willing to shear. Many of our members tried to follow that advice, but they were not successful, because, when they went to a grazier, the response was, "Show me your clearance ". When a shearer replied, "My union has told me not to pay the clearance fee because it is illegally charged by a bogus body", he was told, "I do not want any trouble, and, until you pay your fi to the ' Communistshow ' and bring me your clearance, I cannot employ you". Mr. Tom Dougherty, the general secretary of the Australian Workers Union, has a letter at his head office in Sydney from a grazier in New South Wales stating exactly the same thing. Honorable members opposite condemn the Communists now, but the only men whom the graziers would employ were Communists or dupes who had fallen into the trap and paid fees to their illegal organization. Incidentally, those funds were afterwards used to defend Communist enemies of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland courts. The money was paid to Max Julius, a Communist barrister who practises in Brisbane. What did honorable members opposite expect the members of the Australian Workers Union to do when the graziers of New South Wales and Queensland refused point-blank to employ them because, in effect, they were not Communists or had not subscribed to the bogus organization established by the Communists ?

Mr Rankin - Did not the Labour governments of Queensland and New South Wales allow the Communists "to intimidate graziers by burning their woolsheds and pastures?

Mr EDMONDS - Certainly not, as the honorable member is well aware. There is no greater distorter of facts in this House than the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). The suggestion is absolutely untrue, and he knows that it is. Even yet members of the Liberal party are not unanimous on the subject of the proposed Communist ban. It is time that they made up their minds. Only about two weeks ago, on the 20th May, delegates to a Liberal party convention at Hobart expressed varying opinions about the desirability of banning the Communist party. Mr. G. T. Wright, a delegate from Burnie, said -

I put Communists in the same category as the rabbit menace in Australia. We ought to drive them underground and fill in the hole after them.

Mr. Wrightwas speaking to the following motion, not an amendment, that had been submitted to the convention : -

It is the opinion of this convention that it would be an unwise move to ban the Communist party, but that justice could be better served by prosecuting in the courts of law all persons charged with seditious or treasonable crimes, whatever their political party.

Honorable members opposite ought to examine the credentials of that fellow, because he was expressing Labour policy. Mr. D. Gunn, of Launceston, said -

Banning the Communist party would not rid the country of its members, but would simply drive them underground.

The move to ban the Communist party was defeated by the conference, but delegates decided to urge the Commonwealth Government and State governments to prosecute according to the law all persons guilty of seditious and treasonable crimes. That is exactly what the Australian Government is doing. What does the Liberal party really want? I suppose that its members are entitled to change their minds, but they ought to make a. final decision soon because an election is looming, and, unless they do so, people will be wondering what on earth they really intend to do about communism. My attention was attracted recently to a statement made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). When somebody asked him whether he would provide ships to send Communists to Russia, the gallant old gentleman said. " No. Let 'em swim." Nobody knows better than the right honorable member that, whether the Government provided ships, planes, trains or billygoat carts, or let them swim, it would have no right to deport them anyhow because a majority, if not all, of the people operating in Australia as Communists are Australian born. So what on earth is the good of talking about deporting them? Such talk only gives people something to laugh at, unless they happen to be fanatics, because it is very amusing. There was a time when the right honorable member for North Sydney did not want to deport Communists. He was a great mate of the " Corns " then. After Russia entered World War II., organizations known as " aid to Russia committees " were established throughout Australia. Everybody remembers that, until circumstances suddenly, compelled Russia to join the Allies, the Communists had decried the conflict as an "imperialistic war". However, when Germany invaded Russia there was a tremendous stampede by antiLabour flag-wavers to join the aid to Russia committees alongside the Communists. At that time, the federal conference of the Australian Labour party was placed in the position of having to declare its attitude towards aid to Russia committees. It had to decide whether they were, in fact, patriotic bodies designed to assist the war effort or merely another means for the Communists to disseminate their filthy propaganda. The conference arrived at the conclusion that the committees were, in fact, subsidiaries of the Communist party. Each State executive of the party, and each branch within each State, was notified of the decision and informed that any member of the party then taking part in the work of aid to Russia committees must be withdrawn from such activities. We were fighting communism then, when many people who now accuse us of being either Communists or associates of Communists were working alongside Communists on those committees. They thought that the Communists were a great team of chaps in those days! One of 'the most ardent of those flag-wavers was the right honorable member for North Sydney, who said, when he shook hands with no less an identity than Jack

Sharkey, " The sins that you have committed in the past do not matter, comrade. We are pals now. Good on you J ack Sharkey ! " Yet the right honorable gentleman and his. colleagues now have the indecent temerity to accuse members of the Australian Labour party of being Communists or Communist sympathizers! In Queensland, the Australian Labour party organization was torn to shredsbecause it refused to allow its members to take part in the activities of aid to Russia committees. Members of the party, and even entire branches, were expelled in the fight against the Communists, while the people who now point the finger of scorn at good Labour men actually helped them. The truth behind the Opposition's present antiCommunist campaign is that it is devoid of any constructive proposals to submit to the people in its efforts to defeat the Government. It is obliged to use any sort of propaganda, honest or otherwise, and it has chosen communism as its catch-cry. Only a short time ago, hopes ran high in the Opposition camp. When the campaign against the Government's banking legislation was at its height, honorable members opposite thought they were home and dried. They could not see how they could possibly lose the forthcoming election. But their prospects are not so favorable to-day. They are like many of the race-horses that I have backed. They go very hard, but they do not go fast enough. They go up and down in the one spot. They race too hard for the first two furlongs, forgetting that they must travel another six or eight furlongs, and, consequently, they have no breath for a finishing burst.

When a sick person is going to die, he sometimes suffers great pain for a period, then the pain passes and he becomes delirious. Members of the Opposition, particularly the supporters of the Liberal party, are now in a similar position. They have had a number of discussions about the allotment of portfolios after the next election. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) may invite me to state where I have obtained that news. If he desires to know how the news gets out from the Opposition party room, he should seek the leak, in the same way as members of the Labour party must seek to discover how news gets out from caucus. However, honorable members opposite have lined up the allotment of portfolios. The only difficulty is that three or four honorable gentleman believe that they will make a better Prime Minister than the right honorable member for Kooyong will. There will be a terrific scrap for that position. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) does not want to be Minister for the Army again, because it is just too silly to make oneself a lieutenant-colonel in peace-time when no honour and glory are associated with the rank.

Mr Archie Cameron - There is great safety, though.

Mr EDMONDS - The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is a perfect "sitter " for the job of Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Nobody would know better than he how to grow cabbages and beans, and, furthermore, his department would be run cheaply, because court records disclose that, sometimes, he forgets to pay his employees. So, if he does not have a wages bill, the cost of running the department will be infinitely less. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is home and dried for the position of Treasurer, because his great knowledge of finance and figures would make Sir Stafford Cripps, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, look like an auditor of petty cash. The portfolio of Treasurer cannot be taken from him. The graceful and athletic figure of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) will not adorn the Australian Country party benches in this chamber next year, because he has a nice little spot picked out for himself. The Australian Country party will throw him into the Senate. That will make it easier for the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen).I believe that the honorable member should be a member of the Cabinet, because he is ideally suited to control the gestapo that will hound down every man in industry who is prepared to claim and defend his industrial and social rights. Australians will be called upon to defend their industrial and social rights if the Opposition parties impose the ban that they have forecast. The only member of the Opposition whose job is assured in the new Parliament, always provided the Opposition parties win the next election, is the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who will be Mr. Speaker. I offer honorable members one guess as to why the honorable member for Barker will be elected Mr. Speaker. I believe that such a placid and agreeable person as he is should be retained in the Cabinet, even if his function is only to maintain peace and harmony there. That is the kind of talk that is heard in the party room.

However, like a dying man, honorable members opposite suddenly open their eyes in their delirium, and say, " Before we can form a government, we must remove these terrible engine-drivers, clerks, union officials and farmers from the treasury bench. How can we do that?" They have set themselves an impossible task. They cannot tell the wheat-grower that they have paid him a better price for his product than the Labour Government has paid him. They cannot convince the wool-grower that, when they were in office, he received a better price for wool than he receives under the Labour Government. They cannot tell the dairy-farmer, who lived in a. state of semi-starvation under antiLabour rule, that his conditions have not improved since the Labour Government has been in office. They cannot satisfy the workers that they had a greater degree of social security under their administration than they have under the Labour Government. And they cannot tell the pensioners that 17s. 6d. or 21s. a week is as much as £2 2s. a week, which they receive from the Labour Government. They cannot even claim that the means test is comparable now with what it was when they were in office. The plain truth is that the Opposition parties have no means of convincing the people that they should be returned to office, and, therefore, they grab at communism as a popular catchcry and will continue to bark it until the next election. However, honorable members opposite have run their race. The people are sick and tired of hearing the two political parties that could not govern this country in wartime, when they had a majority in both chambers, tell the successful Labour Go vernment how it should administer the affairs of the Commonwealth. How on earth do honorable members opposite expect the people to believe anything that they say about the Communists, or any other subject? I hope that they will continue to tell the people stupid lies about decent and honorable Labour men being tied up with communism, because such talk will not get them anywhere. Honorable members opposite know that they are doomed to political defeat. As a man dies, the breath leaves his body. In the same way, the political breath has left the Opposition. I warn honorable members opposite to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln, " You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time".

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