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Thursday, 8 December 1938

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- In referring to observations made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and bearing in mind the season to which our attention has been directed, I intend to clothe my attitude towards the Government in the mantle of a dignified silence. So far as the right honorable gentleman has availed himself of the opportunity to express his appreciation of the work of the officers of the House, I cordially join in what may be described as a vote of thanks, because I was very early taught to say " Thank you " for services rendered ; that has always been considered a mark of elementary politeness. Although I feel that, in speeches delivered on the occasion of Christmas partings and obituaries, a good deal of " hooey " is developed, still it is customary, and tradition must be served; the thing which is done must be done, and that which is not done must be avoided.

But it was not for the purpose of making these observations that I rose to speak. I am sorry that I shall have to strike, I shall not say a discordant note because, as a matter of fact, I am about to sing a little ditty of my own, in perfect tune, but perhaps a note out of harmony with some of the observations already made. I desire to refer to a compliment which, in a certain sense, has been paid to me, in that I have been mentioned on the front page of the Argus, a journal published in Melbourne and circulating on occasion in Canberra. The article is dated the 8th December, 1938, and appears under the heading "Defence Tax may be Higher " ; " Labour Division on Policy ". In it are some very interesting observations, not in the bolder or black type, nor in the highest class of conspicuous misrepresentation, but in the gradually fading type used in that process of diminuendo which leads the unsuspecting public to believe that an element of tru'th is at last to be found in these inspired press articles. I quote the following paragraph: -

A split has developed in the Federal Parliamentary Labour party as the result of the refusal of a small section of the party. Icd by Mr. Brennan, to accept the majority decision of the caucus on defence.

Much too great praise is bestowed on me in the suggestion that I am the leader of a party. I disavow, entirely, the soft impeachment, or that there is any such impeachment. I desire to refer more particularly to the . following paragraph : -

After a clash in the party room this morning, extraordinary scenes occurred in the House of Representatives this afternoon when, after moving to a seat in the back Labour benches, Mr. Brennan engaged in a number of demonstrations of hostility against the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin.

Mr Lane - The honorable member should not do it.

Mr BRENNAN - I have many critics in this House, among them the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), but in regard to the statement, "Mr. Brennan engaged in a number of demonstrations of hostility against the Leader of the Oppo sition Mr. Curtin ", I wish to say simply that there is not a scintilla of truth in it. I do not think that among my most severe critics in this . Parliament, there is one who listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, who would so far forget what he owes to truth and decency as between honorable members, as to say that there is even the faintest atom of truth' in that statement. I engaged in no demonstration at all, much less in any demonstration against the Leader of the Opposition. I made one mild and innocuous interjection to which I referred later in the course of my address. It was merely a friendly suggestion on a matter which did not involve policy at all, and which rightly, as I said later on, passed unnoticed. But there was no attack made by me, and no unfriendly suggestion, not even a whisper in the ear of a colleague. I listened with the marked attention due to my leader's eloquent and for the most part admirable speech. The reference 'to my moving to the back benches, that part of the chamber from which I am now speaking, was made on another occasion, and I then regarded it as too silly for notice, but as the statement has been repeated, and one can only gather that it is likely to be repeated again, I point out that, although my usual place is on the front Opposition bench, I have for several months past found it convenient to address the Chair from this corner of the House for tire very simple reason that desks which are not available to honorable members using the front bench, are provided here. I am not at all concerned as to the views which the Argils may hold with regard to the policy for which' I stand, nor am I concerned to make any explanation whatever to the proprietors or the editor of the Argus; nor again do I comment on their wild guess-work as to what happened in the party room. But I am concerned inasmuch as the integrity of the Labour party is called into question, and inasmuch as my relationship to the Leader of the Opposition has been grossly misrepresented, and as it is desirable that this united Labour party should proceed on its victorious course up to and after the next election, I have thought it my duty to the people who sent me here and to my leader, to make a complete disavowal of this utterly mendacious report which has been circulated with the obvious intention of injuring me in the public mind and in the mind of my electors, and, incidentally, of promoting the view that this party is crumbling as the Government nas been crumbling and very ominously for some time past.

As this is the Christmas season, and relevant to the speech which I made last night and also to the report which appeared in the Argus, I take leave to make a couple of short quotations from the most recent issue of the Sydney Bulletin, dated the 7th December, to which paper has been contributed as an editorial a very delightful satire upon what it calls " The great war of words," now proceeding in connexion with the unhappy propaganda with which the people are being afflicted. I take leave at this most appropriate season to quote from that article the words of two leading statesmen, representative in each case of sister dominions, namely, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and General Smuts of South Africa. I could add indefinitely to these excellent contributions to world peace and sanity, but it would not be fair at this late hour to detain honorable members. I shall content myself with quoting these two admirable passages, containing as they do words of wisdom and advice, for the benefit of honorable members opposite and, more particularly, for the benefit of the Government. Mr. Chamberlain is quoted as saying -

Christmas is coming, and I see no reason why we should not prepare ourselves for the festive season in a spirit of cheerfulness and confidence. Political conditions in Europe are now settling down to quieter times. In this brightening atmosphere, let us not conjure up troubles which may never arise. Let us rather set about our several tasks with a determination that the new year shall be more prosperous and happier than the old.

General Smuts stated -

There has been special progress in one direction of very profound significance. There has been a far-reaching change in the temper of the nations and their attitude to war. Everywhere the pacific temper is growing beneath the surface. This is a real advance since 1914, when the warlike temper among, at any rate, some nations did much to force the hand of their Governments.

Those gentlemen stand for a political system to which I by no means subscribe.

I have drawn attention to their views because it occurs to me that they might have some influence upon the Government and upon Government supporters in inducing a saner and wiser outlook-

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