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Wednesday, 31 October 1956

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) . - I shall not detain the House for very long. It was regrettable that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) referred time and time again - perhaps inadvertently - to our security service " police ". Of course, there is no such thing, and the bill makes this clear in clause 5 - (2.) It is not a function of the Organization to carry out or enforce measures for security. £t is an intelligence organization, and in no sense a secret police body. It is regrettable that the honorable member, perhaps through inadvertence, endeavoured to equate the security service to the secret police of Communist-controlled countries.

The honorable member was guilty of a fundamental error in failing to distinguish between fascism and communism which, basically, are variants of the same tendency. Liberal party and Country party members of this Parliament stand against both those tendencies. I only hope that at some time in the future Opposition members will be able to say that with equal sincerity. One finds running through all their speeches the idea that a thing is all right when it is done in the Communist cause, but all wrong when it is done against the Communist or fascist cause. If one looks back through " Hansard " one finds that Labour has a hatred, not only of the security service, but also of the fact that a security service is operating at all. I often wonder whether that hatred springs from fear.

Mr Curtin - Fear of what?

Mr WENTWORTH - Fear that you will be found out. We all regret that there are in the world forces of subversion which must be watched by an intelligence service, so we shall know what they are. The Communists have devised a technique of subversion which is, unfortunately, successful when employed against an unsuspecting democracy. It is the function of our intelligence service to see that, through ignorance, we are not victims of that kind of subversion. I should have thought that every well-intentioned member of this House, on either side, would applaud the principle of having an intelligence service of that character. There may even be room for criticism, but we have not heard from Opposition members one word in praise of the general principle - " praise " is not, perhaps, the right word, because we regret the necessity - that a democracy has a right to protect itself against subversion. Countries which do not afford themselves that protection are likely to go down.

Having said that, I want to add that I am not entirely satisfied that the manner in which we are carrying out our function of protection is completely adequate to the situation. I want to suggest one or two things which seem to me to be not alien to the professions of Opposition members. I hope that they will receive Labour's full support. First, I agree that in some cases there is a need for secrecy. I should like to see the ambit of secrecy as narrow as possible. A good deal more could profitably, be done in the open. I do not say that this would be in any way inimical to the views of the security service itself as it at present exists, and I have no means of knowing that it would be opposed to it at all. There are some things which can be done in the open. Let us go back to 1916 and 1917 and to what was happening in Russia at that time, because it is relevant. That was when the Communist party, as a tiny minority, seized and kept power and perfected its tyranny over the Russian masses. At that time there was in Russia a security service: in fact, it could be called a security police. It was different from our Australian security service because it went much, much further. It did keep records of movements and secret conversations; it had far more in detail than our security organization could have, I would think, although I know very little about our organization, lt is known from the records in regard to Russia of those days that the Czarist secret police was not like our security service. It had fairly detailed records of the movements of the various Communist agents, and of their speeches. lt knew everything about those agents except one thing, namely, the methods by which they were operating, because, although this thing in Russia was a subversive conspiracy, it was operating very largely in the field of political propaganda.

If we are to learn a lesson from those times we must realize that there should be out in the open - this should commend itself to honorable .members opposite if they have any honesty - a proper machine for the identification of Communist propaganda and its confrontation. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, I think, was trying to make this point, from an opposite motive perhaps, but still it was his point: We should be able to identify openly, not in any secret file, but subject to proper safeguards, the Communist agents concerned. Some of them are known to our security service, I am quite certain, but it is impossible for us to identify them because we just do not have the material. I know there need to be safeguards, but I hope that ii would not be beyond the wit of man to devise some means of identification publicly of these Communist agents so that they could be known and, by their being known, their influence would be very much reduced or eliminated in the community. These people are operating on the propaganda front, the front on which Lenin won in 1918. They are operating here in the Australian community, but they cannot be publicly identified. I think it is a reproach to this Government, to this Parliament, and perhaps to us all, that there does not exist as yet a means of publicly identifying these persons.

Let me give the House one example. I do not want to pretend that it is of earthshaking significance. I give it because it is something that came to my notice only in the last two or three days. On 27th October there appeared in the " Sydney Morning Herald " a letter written by a man called A. W. Sheppard, who for very many years has been running a line of propaganda which will be very helpful to the Communists. About the 26th October, a letter from a new Australian ca''-i Shepanski had been published, saying V Sheppard had endeavoured to indoctrinate Shepanski's son into the Eureka Youth League, and that Sheppard would therefore have some connexion with the Communist party.


Mr WENTWORTH - Yes. About the 27th October, Sheppard replied to Shepanski in the columns of the " Sydney Morning Herald " and denied that he had done this to the boy. I have been informed that a statutory declaration has been sworn, to the effect that Sheppard did in fact do this, and so it would seem to be one man's word against a statutory declaration; but is it? If one looks at the file on Sheppard one will see that he is known to the authorities - this is something that has been mentioned in this House - and that he has a long record of lying and misrepresentation. He was put out of the Army, not by this Government, but by the preceding Government, for misrepresenting and lying in regard to various matters, so one can see that it is now a question of weighing one man's word against another; it is a question of weighing a statutory declaration against the word of a man who is known to the authorities to be habitually guilty of misrepresentation. It was not a single instance; there were very many instances. The misrepresentation to which I refer happened under the Labour government, and before I was in Parliament. The action taken in regard to this man was taken by the Labour government. Surely there should be somebody who is capable of stepping in and showing up this man for what he is, so that his Communist connexions would be known; whether or not they are still existing, I do not know, but it is certain that in recent times he has been tr.king a line of propaganda which gives aid and comfort to the Communists. It is only a question of knowing the facts. If the facts were known, the public would bc able to make up its mind and the propaganda would be less persuasive. This man. I understand, is connected with a publishing venture. He is connected with a bookshop and is in a position to help to mould public opinion. 1 do not put this forward as something which is earth-shaking. It is simply one instance that comes to my mind from something which was published in the columns of the " Sydney Morning Herald of the last few days, and I think that it. shows the need for being able to identify these people publicly. I believe also that it would be a good thing if we had available, not only to honorable members or to the press, but to all people, a list of the published references to these people. I am not asking for a list containing any secret information. I am asking for a list, which simply collates the information which has been published in regard to them. I do not ask for any secret documents; I do not suggest that for a moment. All I suggest is that, for the convenience of honorable members, the press and the public, there should be some collation of the material in regard to these Communist associates which has already been published, so that when a person comes before the spotlight of public opinion, it may be known with what causes he has been connected in the past. I mean the things with which he has publicly, not secretly, chosen to identify himself in the past. People could then more correctly evaluate his role under present propaganda.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - How far back would the honorable member go?

Mr WENTWORTH - I should not like to try to answer that question. I think one should go back a considerable way. lt may depend on the case. Anything that is relevant should certainly be carried back, il, at any rate, there is some continuous chain of activity. The honorable member mentioned somebody who belonged to a youth league for a week or two and then left. 1 am not suggesting that that kind of thing is necessarily important. But it is important that the chain should be followed right back when a person is found at the present moment to be associated with Communist activities. 1 am not suggesting that there should be any collation of secret files. I am suggesting only that what is known publicly should be collated and that the information should be available. I should think that this proposition would commend itself to honorable members on the other side if they were honest in regard to this matter. When people come out into the open and espouse a line of propaganda which happens to be the Communist line, their previous Communist connexions should be known.

Some people will say that this is witchhunting. I mention the word " witchhunting" because it is a Communist smear word. Let the House think for a moment. When we say " witch-hunting ". we mean trying to convict people of imaginary crimes - trying to convict old women of being witches and burning them for something that they did not do. Is communism and Communist subversion imaginary? Everybody knows that this is a method which, in the last 30 years, has succeeded in subjecting nearly one-third of the world's population to Communist tyranny. Anybody who slightingly refers to the endeavour to identify Communists as witch-hunting is himself guilty, perhaps unconsciously, of Communist propaganda. It is a Communist smear word invented to protect the Communists from the one thing that they really fear - public exposure.

Throughout the community to-day Communists are endeavouring to get into organizations such as progress associations and' the little local organizations. By controlling them, by assiduity in attendance and by pretending that they are not Communists - butter would not melt in their mouths - they are endeavouring, at those meetings, to worm their way into positions of authority. That has been done in the trade union movement from time to time. Honorable members opposite would know very much more about that than I would. Let them come out and say honestly, in this House, what they know!

There is one other thing in which, I think, the Government has failed. I do not think that we have faced the duty of getting rid of Communists from the Commonwealth Public Service. By Communists I do not mean people with left-wing leanings; I mean members of the Communist party. No authority is contained in the statute to dismiss from the Service known members of the Communist party. I. should have thought that the recent royal commission would have sufficiently shown the danger of allowing members of the Communist party - and I use the phrase in its most exact sense - to remain within the Commonwealth Public Service. I believe that we will be failing in our duty if we do not do something about this and do it pretty promptly. It is already very much overdue.

I put forward these ideas, not in any tone of great vehemence, but as constructive suggestions which might be borne in mind, and which should, in principle at any rate, commend themselves to honorable members of the Opposition. First, we should endeavour, where possible, to identity publicly the people who are associated with communism. That must be done with proper safeguards, and I hope that honorable members on the other side will look at this problem constructively, and endeavour to find a means of working out such safeguards. Secondly, I believe that we should remove from the Commonwealth Public Service members of the Communist party. Thirdly, I believe that, if honorable members opposite are sincere in their opposition to communism, they will be, perhaps, not the first, but at least the second, to support the principle of the bill, lt may be that there would be differences - there is room for differences - about the method of implementation. Maybe we can think of safeguards which will be acceptable to all honest and sincere people. But do not let us continue to do what we have done - anc! that is to put off the whole problem indefinitely.

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