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Friday, 18 September 1942

Senator McLEAY (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition) - by leave - I am sure that all honorable senators will commend the interesting statement made by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) in relation to the Allied Works Council. Having regard to the seriousness of the war situation, I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister upon his .statement. I, personally, received a letter from an American officer paying tribute to the work that is being done. Individuals, like Thomas and Hansford, are doing a great disservice to Australia, and to unionists generally, and action should be taken against them. After all, such extremists represent only a small proportion of our .population. 1 commend the Minister for the courage that he has displayed, and I trust that consideration will be given to the internwent .of these men who in fact are fifth columnists

Senator COLLINGS(Queensland- Minister far the Interior). - by leave - I do not appreciate the attempt that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) to make -party political capital out of my statement on this matter. The honorable senator endeavoured .to make it appear that I had some grievance against Thomas or Hansford, whereas I do not know either of them, and I have no power to intern them. I have not .criticized them as fifth columnists. In dealing with matters such as this my method of approach is to ascertain first of all whether there is any basis of truth in the accusations. If so, then I take action to have the matter remedied immediately. So .far, I 'have been unable to discover any truth in the statements that have been made by either of these men.

Senator McLEAY -The Minister said that they were doing .a great disservice to the country.

Senator COLLINGS - They are .doing a great disservice. I have no wish to indulge in personalities but there are times when I feel that honorable senators opposite are doing just as great a disservice to our war effort. I deplore the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to make some political capital out of the fact that I mentioned two names. It is not my practice to deal with persons without mentioning names, and so I made their names known to honorable senators. I consider that there is no need for action in connexion with either of these gentlemen. In both cases the union concerned took action and repudiated the statements. In regard to Hansford, the union asked that he be not sent again to interfere in disputes because he was not capable of doing the job properly. Surely that is enough. What more do honorable senators opposite want? Do they wish to throw a spanner into the works? I can assure them that no such action will affect my conduct in regard to these matters. I repeat that I have no authority to intern these men, and I have not the slightest desire to do so. My only responsibility is to see whether there is any truth in such complaints, and, if so, to take action immediately.

Senator Amour - Will the Leader of the Senate move that the paper in which a scurrilous attack has been made upon his colleagues in the trade unions be printed in order that thissubject may be further discussed?

Senator COLLINGS - No.

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