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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - At the outset, I assure honorable senators that I hold no brief from outside in this matter. When we consider the present imminent terrible threat to our country, to our lives and to our liberties, it is as well, perhaps, to devote a few thoughts to the subject as to how we as a people are preparing to meet that danger which is ever drawing nearer. That danger is imminent. Therefore, this is not a time for levity. I ask myself whether we are conducting ourselves as a rational people, or as a people who have every reason to know that a brutal, ruthless, resourceful, implacable, and, up to now, an invincible foe, is preparing to make a furious onslaught on our coast. I ask myself whether we, to-day, are better prepared than was Malaya or Burma. From a military point of view, I think that we are. I devoutly hope so ; but I think that the answer to the first part of my question, although it seems wellnigh incredible to say so, is "No". Our position to-day politically is deplorable. It is little better than the political situation that existed in France before the debacle in that country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin ) has said, " It is the clear-cut determination of the Government to yield no part of the country to the enemy ". I support that statement up to the hilt. It .is a most excellent aspiration. However, the Prime Minister and his Ministers have already yielded the coal-fields of New South Wales to the enemy within our gates. Week by week, the Government permits the coal industry, which is the key cf our nacional defence, to be disted by a campaign of persistent industrial anarchy. We cannot get away from that fact. One Minister, whose special province is to see 'that industrial discipline is maintained, has succeeded, under the guise of an alleged peace mission to the coal-fields, to further accentuate the disorder and idleness, and reckless defiance of authority. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), whose biased and inflammatory public statements, and open support of the more militant coal-miners, are unprecedented examples of ministerial irresponsibility, has acted utterly in contempt of the rules of Cabinet administration. He should have been dismissed from office long ago. Without a blush he gives the lie direct to the Prime Minister. After considering the facts, the Prime Minister said some little time ago that, in his opinion, the coal mine-owners were not to blame for the troubles on the coalfields. But the Minister for Labour and National Service said that the owners were to blame ; and the miners themselves continue to give the lie to the Minister by stopping work on frivolous excuses.

At present a general stoppage of the mines is threatened because the Miners Federation is at loggerheads with the Federated Engine-drivers and Firemen's Union over some union rivalry. I ask myself: Is it possible that these misguided men fail to realize the frightful peril that confronts all unions and unionists in this country? Has not the Minister for Labour and National Service sufficient brains and common sense to realize what will happen to our industrial system under the tender mercies of the Japanese? Apparently, judging by his conduct, he has not.

Senator Ashley - Is the honorable senator in order in describing a Minister as lacking in brains and common sense?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) . - I have listened carefully to the honorable senator's speech, and J have not yet heard him make a statement that is unparliamentary.

Senator SAMPSON - This Government must realize the awful possibility of our defeat at the hands of the enemy, and it must know that the possibility cannot but be heightened by the partial paralysis of the coal industry. I suggest that the present inaction of the Government is sheer madness, and I ask this question : Will the Government still play at party politics, and will it suffer itself to be blackmailed and bullied by a small but loud-voiced band of traitorous men. I know that it will require courage to scotch this trouble, but the trouble must be scotched if we are to win through and obtain the best from the resources of this country. It is, in my humble opinion, a palpable and evergrowing threat to our national security, endangering every Australian man, woman, and child. More disgraceful still, it adds to the perils so unselfishly confronted by those large numbers of gallant allies who have come to the aid of this country in its dire peril. It is time, and high time, that this crazy and sordid industrial brawl was put to an end, because, if that is not done, we shall be betraying the common cause, our friends, and ourselves.

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