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Thursday, 20 April 1961


Mr COPE (Watson) .- There is no doubt in my mind that there is just as much discipline on the Government side of the House as there is on the Opposition side when it comes to party policy. I quote as an illustration an incident which occurred in the House last Tuesday week when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was making his statement about overseas affairs. On that occasion, I noticed that the Leader of the House called down the Government Whip and whispered something in his ear, and the Whip immediately went around the chamber and told Government supporters what they were to do. I heard him say to the Country Party Whip, " Do your best to keep awake, boys, and do not forget to give a rousing cheer when the Prime Minister finishes his speech ". That is exactly what happened. Let us look at another aspect of the so-called discipline practised in the Government parties. There are a few Liberal Party members who agree with me that the Opposition's system of selecting our Leader and Deputy Leader is a democratic one. I put that view to one Minister, because there is no doubt that of the very unsatisfactory lot who occupy the front bench at present there would be at least four of five alterations if members of the Ministry were elected in a democratic way.

Look at what happened to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) because they dared to stand up to the master. When I was talking to one Minister on this subject, he said, " You have only to take your fellows up and shout them a glass of beer to get their votes ". This incident happened just after the Prime Minister's daughter got married, and I said to this Minister, " Whoever did not take a present to the wedding party did not get into Cabinet". Let us look at this so-called party which says its members are not disciplined individually. I have in mind one member of the Government parties who is a bit fanatical in his point of view but at times advances some very worthwhile proposals in this House and probably has more intelligence than half the members of the Ministry. This gentleman criticizes his own party and his Leader. I refer to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). He has no chance of making the grade; but if there was a democratic election, I suggest he would be elected to the Ministry.

I rose, primarily, to bring up a very serious matter. I register my emphatic protest against the policy of this Government in allowing into this country imports that are adversely affecting our primary and secondary industries. In the case of secondary industries, we find that tinned ham is being imported into this country. Yet the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), whose electorate is one of the biggest ham-producing areas in Australia, has not said a word in protest. Has he no feelings for the primary producers who produce ham? Over 500,000 lb. of tinned chicken has been imported into this country. I point out from 10 to 12 lb. of wheat is used to produce one table bird. So, these imports mean that less wheat is being sold in Australia. The result is that many small poultry-farmers are being forced into bankruptcy. That is no exaggeration. I can supply proof of that statement if honorable members want it. But there is no protest from the so-called representatives of the primary producers.

Despite the fact that we produce in Australia cheese of superb quality, we find cheese being imported. Cheese produced in Australia is the equal of that produced anywhere in the world, but we do not find these great protectors of the dairy industry protesting against these imports. We see breakfast cereals, with a big wheat content, coming into this country, but again members of the Country Party remain silent. Jam and preserves are being imported, and again there is no voice, of protest from members of the Country Party. These imports have a big sugar content, yet we are ploughing thousands of tons of sugar into the ground in Queensland. Confectionery is being imported into Australia. Although I have no shares in any Australian confectionery factory, I would say our local product is equal in quality to that produced anywhere in the world; yet confectionery with a big sugar content is being brought into this country. We see pickles and tomato sauce being imported. Has any one ever heard of anything so ridiculous? It is like bringing coal to Newcastle. We see tinned vegetables and fruit coming into this country, but there is no protest from the representatives of the primary producers.

Let us examine the effect of some of these imports on the. secondary industries of Australia. The importation of paper has practically brought Australian paper manufacture to a stand-still. There are many employees at the paper mill in my electorate, but the stage has now been reached where they are frightened to get their pay packets on a Friday for fear that they will contain a dismissal notice. They are being told to take their long service leave, and retrenchments have been started. Unless things pick up by June of this year, more than 52 per cent, of these employees will have been retrenched by that time. Yet we see this Government bringing imported paper into Australia and destroying this Australian industry and putting Australians out of work. When the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) stated that the unemployment situation was getting worse, Government members accused the Opposition of using that fact for political purposes. Nothing is further from the truth. It is our duty, as the Opposition, to point out these injustices which we say are4 occurring in Australia to-day. Even if there were only 20,000 instead of 80,000 people registered for employment, they would be entitled to jobs. These people are just as entitled to earn a living as any man who sits on the benches in this Parliament. Why should we not worry about them, whether there are 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 or 80,000 registered for employment? When the Opposition brings these matters to light it does not do so for political reasons. It is our duty to do so. I have mentioned this matter to-night because the people affected live in my electorate. I have written to the firm asking for information, and I have been informed that the industry is in dire straits. As I mentioned before, unless something is done, the industry will have to practically close its doors in the very near future.

The Government stands condemned for its stupid policy of abolishing import controls, which is affecting Australian industry and putting men out of work. I believe that before the next election the people of Australia will wake up to the fact that this Government does not really represent them, but represents only overseas vested interests and the capitalists.







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