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Thursday, 25 September 1941

Senator FRASER (Western. Australia) . - I am pleased to have heard the announcement by the Minister for In formation (Senator Foll) that the Government intends to appoint a royal commission to investigate this matter, and it will be interesting to read the terms of reference to the commission. The reasons advanced by the Government for the operations of the secret organization under discussion will astound the people.

Senator Herbert Hays - The powers of the royal commission will no doubt be wide.

Senator FRASER - They certainly should be.

Senator Herbert Hays - Perhaps the honorable senator himself would like to make the investigation.

Senator FRASER - Not at all, but I am not the only person who recognizes the fact that certain statements, other than those that have been revealed, have been made regarding the operations of the secret organization. I have yet to learn whether the people will be satisfied with the methods by which the Government is carrying out secret investigations. Does the Australian Democratic Front exist in every State of the Commonwealth or are its operations confined to New South Wales? I understand that it has an office in Martin-place, Sydney, but I have not heard of any office occupied by it elsewhere. I should like to know the extent of this organization's activities.

Senator Herbert Hays - The royal commission will find that out.

SenatorFRASER.- Evidently the honorable senator places great reliance on royal commissions, but in the past some of these bodies have not achieved a great deal. Honorable senators opposite appear to be willing to agree to public moneys being expended for purposes of which this Parliament has not approved. It is significant that the Australian Democratic Front was established shortly before the last general elections at which the present Government was returned with a greatly reduced majority. We have the statement of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) in the House of Representatives that the Government contemplated organizing an Industrial strike in order to enable the Government to contest an election on the issue of " law and order ". It may be hat this organization was set up by the Attorney-General in order to foment industrial strife.

Senator Collett - The honorable senator does not believe anything of the kind.

Senator FRASER - I do. I believe the statement made by Mr. McCall.

Senator Sampson - The Prime Minister gave the lie direct to his charge.

Senator FRASER - Of course he did. but that does not necessarily say that the charge was not well founded. Mr. McCall is a responsible member of the party to which the honorable senator belongs. Does the honorable senator think that he would make a statement to the press containing an accusation against the Prime Minister unless it were wellfounded ?

Senator Sampson - He is a disgruntled member of the party and is quite irresponsible.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown). - Honorable senators are not entitled to reflect upon other honorable senators or upon members of the House of Representatives.

Senator FRASER - I am not saying something which I have imagined ; I am re pea ting what has been said by a responsible member of the other branch of the legislature. I am reminded of the boy who was with his father in the street when a number of motor ears were passing to and fro. He pointed to various oats, and said, " That is a Studebakeror " That is an Oldsmobile", and so on. Approaching them was a somewhat dilapidated Ford car, and the father said to the lad, " What kind of a car is that? " The boy replied, " It is a bitzer". The Government is like that car ; it is a "bitzer", a government of parts. The statement' presented to the Senate contains the following paragraph : -

As a general practice these accounts were vouched for by the organizing secretary of the Australian Democratic Front, a.nd were verified by the Deputy Crown Solicitor so far as it was possible for him to do so. 1 ask honorable senators opposite whether theY, as business men, would act in that ay in their own businesses. Would they authorize the secretary of an outside organization to expend money on" their behalf? The statement which I have just read contains the admission that these -iccounts were not always verified by the Deputy Crown Solicitor. Surely that is unsatisfactory.

The statement also contains a reference to Mr. C H. Nelson, the president of the Miners Federation. I do not know Mr. Nelson, but for the cloud which is hanging over him to-day the Government is responsible, because the Prime Minister has publicly charged him with receiving a sum of money. I wish to know whether the royal commission will l)p empowered to investigate that charge, as well as other aspects of this matter which have not been revealed in this Parliament, or whether it will merely .be handed a copy of the Prime Minister's statement and be expected to furnish a report on the information contained in it. In an endeavour to mislead the people this statement has been presented to Parliament. It goes on to say -

Accordingly, with the authority of the Attorney-General and myself, three separate payments, each of £100, were authorized.

It is alleged that the first payment of £100 for transmission to Mr. Nelson was made on the 8th March, and that two days later another £100 was paid out for transmission to him, and that on the 20th March a similar sum was made available. Was any investigation made before the second and third payments were authorized?

Senator Keane - It is a smother-up.

Senator FRASER - Of course it is. The signature on the receipt does not indicate that Mr. Nelson received the money, and therefore I ask what authority there is for saying that the money was paid to him. The receipt is signed " J. Winkler ". I am not prepared to accept the Prime Minister's statement as setting out the whole of the facts, and therefore I welcome a full investigation. I desire, however, that it shall in fact be a thorough inquiry, and not confined to the statement presented to the Parliament. The whole of the facts should bc probed. The statement continues -

The Government has gone to some pains to make ite statement complete, because it feels that thu public are entitled to satisfaction on such mutters.

I agree with that part of the statement, and I hope that the royal commission will be empowered to investigate every aspect of these transactions and of this unsavoury phase of government administration. The whole of the facts should be revealed to the public.

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