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Wednesday, 25 November 1931

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I have received from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) an intimation that he desires to move tire adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, " The method adopted by the Government in the selection of men to be employed in connexion with the recent federal grant for the relief of unemployed ".

Five honorable members having risen in their places,

Question proposed.

Mr. BEASLEY(West Sydney) [3.29J. - On the 30th September last I was requested by the Glebe Municipal Council to inquire whether the Government intended to make money available this year for Christmas relief, as was done on previous occasions. The Prime Minister answered that the Government intended to do much more before Christmas than had been done in other years. In a cynical way the right Honorable gentleman suggested that if we Sad to wait until Christinas to do something in this- matter, the relief given would bc rather overdue.

On the 23rd October, the Prime Minister made a statement in this chamber to the effect that the amount of £250,000 would be made available for_ relief work just prior to Christmas. That sum was to be spread over the whole of the States, and £90,000 of it was allocated to New South Wales. Thereupon honorable members who belong to this group made inquiries as to the way in which the money would be distributed in New South Wales. They were anxious to know whether the Government intended that the money would be expended through municipal councils, as was done previously, and to learn just how the labour was to be engaged. That was important to mc and to all the members of this group, as we desired that the expenditure should assist the greatest number possible of needy unemployed persons. We failed to get any satisfactory reply to our inquiries. We were told, in answer to our questions, that the Government had not determined the details of the scheme, and consequently, could not enlighten us on the subject. On the 5th November, Senator Dooley made a statement in another place outlining the intentions of the Government, and particularizing the work that was to be undertaken in New South Wales. Following on that utterance, representatives of this group waited upon the Works Director at the Customs House, Sydney, on the 7th November, and asked what he proposed to do with regard to the engagement of the labour. That gentleman informed us that he had received a circular from the Government detailing the procedure to bc followed. That circular was dated the 30th October, which makes it clear that the Government had arrived at a decision before the announcement was made by Senator Dooley. My colleagues persisted in our inquiries as to the method that was to bc employed with regard to the engagement of the labour, and were informed that the names of the men desiring work would bc registered at the Sydney Customs House, and at the office of the superintendent of the engineers branch of the Postmaster-General's Department in Castlereagh-street, Sydney. Men seeking work proceeded to register at those places, particularly on the following Monday and

Tuesday. So many thousands sought registration that the authorities decided to call a halt, and made a public announcement that sufficient names had been recorded. To the surprise of myself and my colleagues, we found that between the time of the determination of the method by which the money would be spent, as set forth in the circular of the 30th October, and the statement that was made by Senator Dooley on the 5th November, supporters of the Government had been secretly informed as to the procedure to be followed. That gave them an opportunity to canvass the unemployed in their centres who favoured their political opinions, with the result that those persons received priority of registration. In the circumstances, it was not strange that a sufficient number of names was recorded on the Monday and the Tuesday, and that the list was then promptly closed, causing many applicants to be turned away.

Our contention is that the Government divulged to its own supporters information denied to other honorable members which provided them with an opportunity to get their friends registered early, thus assisting their political organization, at all events, in New South Wales. We chirn that the money that was voted by the Parliament was intended for the benefit of the unemployed generally, and that any announcement by the Government of the procedure of distribution should have been made publicly; such information should not have been kept confined to those who were supporters of the Government; members of my group, and other honorable members of this House, should have been informed simultaneously, so giving no undue advantage to anybody.

I desire to pay the highest tribute to Mr. Todd, the Works Director for New South Wales. I have no grievance against that gentleman for anything that he, lias done in this matter. He frankly informed us as to the position, and stated that, in the circumstances, the only course open to myself and my colleagues was to send along the names and addresses of those who came to us for employment. After the registration, had closed on the 10th November, there was a positive stampede of applicants to myself and my colleagues both at the offices of the Commonwealth Bank and at our homes. As a matter of fact, when men called at the Postal Department's office in Castlereagh-street, the officer in charge informed them that they should go to their local member, and register through him. We contend that it was then too (ate to do anything; that the men who came to us were not given a fair opportunity to obtain employment, as supporters of the Government had already submitted names for registration, and in many instances the men had already obtained employment. I shall not dilate further upon that aspect of the matter, as my time is limited. My colleagues will amplify my remarks if they get the opportunity to do so.

Of the £90,000- that was made available for expenditure in New South Wales, £5,000 was set aside for special work at the naval dockyard at Cockatoo Island. The management of that dockyard determined upon the procedure to be followed when registering names. For about a week the names of men were registered at the dockyard - that is to say, the fact that it was necessary to register was publicly known for about a week. Over 1,000 men registered, and the management then, declared that they had sufficient for their purpose. In order to prevent any more men coming from the mainland, they posted notices on the Sydney wharfs and at Balmain, informing those seeking employment that sufficient men had already registered. They were then troubled about how to choose the number needed from among the names registered, confining the work available to men who had formerly been employed at the dock. A number of those registered bad not been employed at the dockyard for upwards of ten years. The management decided to engage only those who had been employed at the dockyard within the last four or five years, claiming that such men. were more familiar with the work, and because they had not worked elsewhere but had depended on the dockyard for their means of subsistence, they should have preference of employment. The welfare committee at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, which is composed of representatives of various organizations, had also discussed this matter, and it arrived at the conclusion that the work should be made available for former dockyard employees. The matter then became a very live issue in the residential centres surrounding the dockyard, which is situated on an island among a number of electorates adjoining the surrounding water. The dockyard itself is in the subdivision of Darling Harbour, in my own electorate, but most of the employees live in adjoining electorates, including Martin, Dalley, West Sydney, North Sydney, and Parkes.

After it had been made known that £5,000 was to be available for this work, it was discovered that' an organization in the Dalley electorate was busily engaged collecting names, to enable its nominees to obtain preference of employment. The Bailey-Theodore organization had sent out its paid organizer, Mr. Macpherson, in association with Alderman Thompson, of Balmain, who is also an. organizer for the Federal Treasurer, and is now working on The World newspaper, to collect names to be submitted for employment. I have here a number of declarations from men who were visited by those two persons, in which arc set out the reasons that the latter advanced for their activities. One declaration contained this statement -

I.   have been approached by nien working in the interests of 'Mr. Theodore, and promised mi his account relief work at Cockatoo in lieu of my support at the forthcoming elections.

In another declaration the following statement is made: -

Having registered for relief work at Cockatoo, T was naturally anxious to get a position by fair competition. In conversation with a Mr. Simons and Mr. Stein, I was informed by Mr. Simons that to make a certainty of a position all that was necessary to do was to attend the Theodore league and get in. touch with Theodore or Thompson.

Still another declaration contains this statement -

I was approached by a Mr. Frank Murphy and told to go to Cockatoo Dock and put my name down for employment, and probably a letter would follow notifying me of a job.

The last declaration which I shall quote states -

A.   representative of. Alderman Thompson called at my residence mi advised me to register my name at Cockatoo Dockyard for relief work. I wag: told {Hat if I did sp

Thompson would see that I was included among those selected, but that 1 must register my name as a matter of form.

Mr Gullett - Are these sworn statements?

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