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Thursday, 26 June 1941

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) (Leader of' the Opposition) . - The Opposition has just' taken certain action which is an indication of its definite policy on every occasion in the future on which a' formal motion for the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders shall be moved, unless the need for it be desperately urgent. Senators on this side of the chamber see no special reason for undue haste in the" consideration of this bill. We understand that the Treasury requires the measure to be passed at least before noon on the 30th June. The bill will be passed when we have finished with it. We have not had the same opportunities as members of the House of Representatives have had in recent days to discuss certain matters of great national importance which have arisen since we last met. We are here to do our duty, and we propose, as far as we can, to make it impossible for the Government in future to prevent us from doing our job as we think it ought to be done. We shall object to long adjournments, and Ave shall take every available . opportunity to see that the members of the Senate at least carry out honorablythe contract made by them with the members of the community at large to do their share of the work ofthis Parliament;. In the Houseof Representatives there is never such a. bustle in passing bills as is expected in this chamber. I admit that on some occasions measures of such urgency are brought before us that there is good reason for dealing with them with the utmost expedition.I hope that we shall be able to sort bills out for ourselves, and differentiatebetween those which should be fully debated and those which could be passed without lengthy discussion.

On this measure, it would be easy to liberate a flood of criticism in connexion with many matters.Formyself, I do not. propose to be unduly critical of events of recent weeks in connexion with the tremendous struggle that is proceeding on the other side of the world. Some of the matters that I have in mind have been fully debated in the other branch of the legislature. I' do not intend to indulge merely in destructive criticism which might hamper the Government in speeding up the war effort. Much time could be spent in discussing, occurrences in Greece and. Crete, and many other happenings within our own borders in connexion with the administration of the various war services, but I shall not lay undue emphasis upon them. Nevertheless, I invite the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay.) to accept a. little advice from me as Leader of the Opposition, and I tender it in a friendly spirit, desiring not only to make our democratic institutions what they ought to be, but also to prove that in a democratic country parliament can be made workable even under the present difficult circumstances. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has returned from a remarkable tour. He has made many speeches both abroad and at home. By means of an address broadcast over the air; he has spoken to the people of Australia, and he has addressed! many sectional organizations whose members have assembled to hear him. Hehas also add ressed public meetings, and hasspoken freely to members of this Parliament, both in open sessions and at secret meeting of senatorsandmembers. I shall not discuss those speeches except in certain details. I shall adopt that attitude, not because the Prime Minister's remarks do not leave the way open to effective criticism by the Opposition, but because he is the Prime Minister of Australia and the leader of a Government elected under a democratic constitution. The time has long since passed for making speeches, and the people have the right to demand action. Members of the Opposition and also, I think, honorable senators opposite are anxious to cease talking and to get on with the work that is waiting to be done.

I shall make a brief allusion to the address broadcast by the Prime Minister in what I understand was the greatest nation-wide hook-up that has ever been made in this country. In. that speech, he outlined the future policy of the Government and made many promises and statements as to his intentions, many of which could with fairness be critically examined. I shall content myself by saying that one remarkable and, I believe, regrettable feature of his latest broadcast was both sinister and prophetic. It was the only definite promise that he made. He suggested that certain action was necessary, and that he would bring down certain proposals, but, before he had made his speech, one of his proposals had been implemented by action and became opera- tive next morning. I refer to his threats against the liberty and freedom of organizations of the workers of Australia.

Senator McBride - Hedid not say that.

Senator COLLINGS - I am not quoting his exact words, but that is the only definite thing he did say. The morning after his speech, the machinery was in operation, and was ready to. restrict the liberties of the industrial organizations. But I tell the Government now that it lias not a, fighting chance of "getting away" with this action.

Senator McBride - Is the honorable senator in favour of allowing subversive activities to continue?

Senator COLLINGS - No.

Senator McBride - All that the Prime Minister said was that they should not be allowed to continue.

SenatorCOLLINGS-I intend to make my speechin my own way, and shall accept full responsibility for it. If a debate is to be indulged in about alleged subversive activities, I am ready for it.

For example, I might ask when is there to be one decent case of a prosecution of a profiteer in this country ?

Senator McBride - Has the honorable senator not read of one?

Senator COLLINGS - I referred to a "decent case" of a prosecutionof the profiteer. I do not desire the Government to deal only with the small men, but I do suggest that it should deal firmly with the greater scoundrels who profiteer on every war effort.

Senator McBride - The honorable senator wishes to classify the profiteers?

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