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Thursday, 25 September 1941

Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) . - At the outset of my remarks may I say that I regret that there were not a sufficient number of men in the House of Representatives last night who believed strongly enough that Australia was the wrong place in which to set up a " snide " organization such as the Australian Democratic Front to cross the floor to vote with the Opposition in order to allow the people to be the judges in this matter. We have been told that a royal commission is to be appointed to inquire into the distribution of moneys from the secret fund. If the royal commissioner is to act like the royal commissioner who inquired into the propriety of Mr. Treatt, a member of the New South Wales Mair Government, in reducing the fine imposed on the Abbco Bread Company for " crook " practices, his report will not be of much value to anybody. It will be remembered that the royal commissioner who investigated the Abbco bread scandal reported that Mr. Treatt had acted in good faith in reducing a fine imposed on a lot of " crooks ". Will that sort of thing be repeated on this occasion in the interests of the Government? 'I am inclined to think so. I regret that the Government set up an organization like the Australian Democratic Front. I am confident that the conference of intelligence officers of the Army and Navy and representatives of the State police forces which, it is stated, recommended that counterpropaganda be undertaken to offset subversive activities, would not have favoured the setting up of an organization of that kind. The Government, on ite own initiative, established that body. For this purpose, it selected a number of deadbeat United Australia party supporters. It? action was wrong in principle; but it had to do something in order to rehabilitate itself. It had: to buy somebody, and, it has been admitted, that the Attorney-General himself moved the motion for the election of the executive of the Australian Democratic Front. That organization was paid the sum of £4,500 to conduct work of a kind which stinks in the nostrils of the people. If the Government really believed that it was justified in undertaking such work in this way, it should have been prepared to go to the country on this issue in order to allow the people to pass judgment on iti action. However, the Government places its faith in the last throw. It believes that, by appointing a royal commission of inquiry, the matter will drag on for weeks, and, in the end, the Government will be whitewashed. It is prepared to allow one person to be made the scapegoat. The Government should disclose the names of the union officials who approached the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes). It should not, by innuendo, allow suspicion to hang over the heads of every official of the Miners Federation. It has been said that the accounts were audited. The Government agreed that it. was right to expend public funds in this way, yet it took no action to secure a receipt from the final recipient of the money. The Attorney-General possesses a receipt from Winkler only for the sum of £300, which, he alleges, was paid to the president of the Miners Federation. Evidently, the Government did not care, to whom the disbursement was finally paid so long as it obtained some sort of a receipt from one person. Certainly, it cannot feel proud of its behaviour in this respect. Not only the Commonwealth Police Force and the Military and Naval Intelligence Branches, as well a? the States police forces, but also the special force which ir set up quite recently, have been employed to do this work of counterpropaganda. The publication by the Australian Democratic Front of pamphlets featuring speeches 'by the AttorneyGeneral was just another form of propaganda in the interests of the Government. In one of those speeches, the Attorney-Central advocates that all persons who are accused of making subversive statements, or are alleged to be Communists, should be stood up against a wall and shot. We know how subversive elements are dealt with in Russia. But, since the outbreak of the war, the Government has forced the workers in every industry, first, the iron workers and then the engineers and crane drivers, to go on strike before it would agree that those workers should be paid the war loading of 6s. a week. The AttorneyGeneral now -urges the workers to adopt the Russian method of standing up against a wall all persons who are alleged to be Communists, providing, at the same time, of course, that the Australian Democratic Front shall say who are Communists. That is the class of speech that was published in the Australian Democratic Front's pamphlets, which were printed and circulated at the public expense. I trust that the royal commissioner to be appointed will have an Australian outlook, and will do his utmost to uphold our democratic form of government. I trust that if he finds that the AttorneyGeneral, or any officials of any union have been at fault, he will say so fearlessly. I also hope that the inquiry will be conducted expeditiously in order that the characters of the union officials concerned may be cleared as soon as possible.

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