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Monday, 5 June 1939

Debate resumed.

Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [8.1].- The billbefore the House is to provide for the taking of censuses for the purpose of national registration, for the establishment of a national register and for other purposes. And the motion before us is that the bill be read a second time. I am opposed to the bill and to the motion. At the outset I should like to state my grounds of objection in general terms as follows : -

(1)   The Government has no mandate from the people for this measure.

(2)   It represents a further instalment of militarist policy which the Government is pursuing to the neglect of all social and economic improvement, and, to that extent, it is a further violation of and a further invasion upon, our civil liberty.

(3)   Insofar as it deals with industrial matters - employment, unemployment, sustenance, &c. - the bill disregards the needs of the workers and is directed entirely to the coercion of the working class.

(4)   The bill involves re-duplication and wasted effort on matters sufficiently dealt with, or capable of being dealt with, so far as it is desirable that they should be dealt with, by the existing Department of Census and Statistics.

I shall take the first two of those propositions together. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), in introducing the bill, quoted from a speech made by himself last December, in which he referred to a speech delivered by the late Prime Minister (Mr Lyons) some time prior to that date as manifesting the snail-like celerity with which this Government is dealing with this extraordinary " time of emergency." He said -

The late Prime Minister said it is the intention to press on with the completion of plans for all phases of national activity in an emergency.

I have taken leave to say before that we have lived in a curious succession of emergencies for many months past. Even the last elections were conducted in an atmosphere of emergency. These fireworks seem to havebeen operated by somewhat dampened powder, and government crackers are now quoted at about two a penny in the matter of emergencies. If I may be allowed just a passing reference to the question of emergencies with which we are still dealing in this bill, I note that we are so far restored to normal that the Government is liable to switch off at a moment's notice to, say, a fight for office, or the reconstruction of the remnants of national insurance, or the Sydney General Post Office contract, or margarine versus butter, or matters of that kind which are dull in the emergency market. My first point is that from, and including, the last elections the evidence is that the attempts of the Government to create and foster war hysteria are a record of failure and futility. I should not be permitted, I am sure, to go into details of history to justify that statement, but I may properly refer to them in general terms. As far back as the last general elections, on. an appeal to the people of the Commonwealth for the election of a Senate on the ground claimed by the Government that we were living in a time of great international unrest and that stable government was required, the overwhelming vote of the people was against the Government. In all of the by-elections since held the vote has gone against the Government, and, in addition, in the 1937 election the then Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, the head and front of the militarist propaganda, was himself defeated, together with a number of other members in another place who were active in imperialist propaganda. These facts to an individual in normal times would not, perhaps, have been peculiarly significant. There has been a general progress on the part of the Opposition and the Labour party, hut I should not claim, in normal times, that it was significantly great.

Mr Archie Cameron - The honorable member admits that the times are abnormal.

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