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Wednesday, 25 November 1931

Mr LATHAM (Kooyong) .- Recently this Parliament voted £250,000 for relief works, moved by a genuine desire to relieve the unemployed who are suffering distress. Soon after the grant was approved the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) stated in Melbourne that the only qualification for employment under the scheme would be hunger. The charge is now made that in Sydney a policy was adopted which favoured men who undertook to support the Government by their votes at the next election.

Mr Theodore - That is absolutely untrue.

Mr LATHAM - I am not concerned with the allocation of the grant between electorates, or with the complaints of individual members regarding the amounts spent in their constituencies. This money was provided for expenditure on Commonwealth works, and naturally the greatest expenditure would occur where the greatest Commonwealth activity was; I anticipated that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, being a large Commonwealth establishment, would receive a substantial share of the amount. But the gravamen of the charge is that steps have been taken, through the organizers of the political party in New South Wales that is supporting the present Commonwealth Administration, to prepare lists of men seeking employment on the basis of favoritism to those who would support the Government in the electorates. We have known for some time past that this charge would be made. It has been made, and has been denied specifically by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), and more generally by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley).I had expected, however, that testimony would have been forthcoming from Mr. MacPherson and other persons who have been mentioned.

Mr Scullin - To-day is the first time we have heard his name mentioned.

Mr LATHAM - I had expected that these persons would have spoken as to their part in the' activities mentioned. 1 have read in the newspapers that organizers of the Australian Labour Party were preparing lists of men who were to be favoured in obtaining employment. The Government might have been expected to produce some evidence in rebuttal of that statement. A further allegation is that a list of persons seeking employment was prepared at Cockatoo Island, but was subsequently altered. Surely there are official records of any changes in the basis upon which employment was to be given.

Mr Scullin - I undertook to investigate that. .

Mr LATHAM - That that charge would be made has been known for a week or ten days. If there are lists showing the men to be employed, and if such lists have been modified as a result of directions from a higher quarter, it should be easy to produce documentary evidence to that effect.

Motion (by Mr. Eldridge) put -

That the question be now put.

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