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Thursday, 20 September 1928

Mr ANSTEY (Bourke) . - I object. I understand that the object of the motion is that the Prime Minister may have leave to introduce a bill to deal with trade and commerce between Australia and foreign countries and between the States. As a matter of fact, trade and commerce with foreign countries has been conducted up to the present without restriction under the present law. When this Government went to the electors in 1925, it sought a mandate from the people to bring about industrial peace. During the last three years it has introduced and passed a number of measures, including the Crimes Act, and an amended Arbitration Act, under which it has unlimited power to deal with employment in relation to trade and commerce. What greater power does it require than that which it already possesses? Cannot this Government, under the existing law, do all that it is proposed to do under this new bill? What is the need for such a measure at this particular juncture?

We were told that the amended Arbitration Act would make it possible to ensure peace, order and good government in this country, and that under the Crimes Act the Government would be in a position to maintain peace, order and good government. Actually, under the Crimes Act it has all the power that it needs in the event of any situation arising that threatens to interfere with trade and commerce between Australia and other countries. Has it not the power to declare certain organizations unlawful associations, and similarly to take the necessary action against any person who may in the opinion of the Government be doing an unlawful act ? There is no limit to the power which this Government possesses if it cares to exercise it. I say, therefore, that there is no necessity for the introduction of this bill, to occupy public attention by its discussion. We are not unaware of what is behind this move. The Government desires to display this measure as a political poster. That is what it is after. We are led to believe that the legislation proposed 'is necessary in order to enable the Government to control trade and commerce. I presume that under this proposed new law the Government will have authority to deal with1 such firms as Paterson, Laing and Bruce, which for 40 years has offered the most determined opposition to the trade union movement. During that time it has kept its gang of hired thugs to beat down any one who stood for trade unionism. This Government now proposes to do something to stimulate employment in relation to trade and "commerce. Does it propose to deal with firms like that I have just mentioned, which only a few weeks ago was haled before the courts for having acted in defiance of the industrial laws of this country. Only the other day, I noticed a report in the public press that this firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce, which presumably stands for peace, order and good government, and for the maintenance of our industrial laws and for fair dealing as between master and man, had a number of thieves amongst, its employees. Evidence given in the course of the trial disclosed that a number of these men were in receipt of only £3 and £4 a week, and I presume that the bill which this Government proposes to introduce will enable it still more effectively to suppress the facts in prosecutions of that nature.

What justification can the Prime Minister offer for the introduction of the bill at this time? Already the Government possesses all the powers that it is seeking. There is nothing that it could not do, if it had the will, to preserve peace, order, and good government and to promote employment in this country. At the last election the Government kept its gang of thugs, its urgers, creating trouble along the waterfront. These men were to be seen at work in Western Australia. They are well supplied with money. A few months later they were to be found in South Australian ports, and later m Queensland ports. After they had done their dirty work, they were to be found in good jobs, in the " get-together " league, and supplied with hotels and businesses. We have been told that the funds with which they have been paid came from some communistic source; that the money came from Moscow. It comes from the Employers' Federation, which reaps some advantage from the employment of these political thugs, whose purpose seems to be to defeat the efforts of those who are doing their utmost to ensure peace upon the waterfront. These hired urgers are making the path of the real leaders of the working class more and more difficult. After their dirty work is done, after the elections are over, they are given decent jobs and so retire into the background.

This Government has power to regulate trade and commerce on the waterfront. It has power to deal with employment and with the tying up of vessels upon this coast. They have seen men meeting together in conference in different parts of the Commonwealth, and coming to certain decisions in secret conclave. There is a law against such gatherings, and it could have been given effect. But this Government did not put that law into operation. It did not want to suppress the trouble in the bud, or to seize the leaders at that moment. It wanted the trouble to grow, and the dislocation of work upon the waterfront to take place. The Government waited until these men were able to take control, and were again creating disturbances on the waterfront. There is a Crimes Act upon the statute-book, and what cannot be done under that legislation? The Government may declare any organization to be a seditious one. It can declare any utterance or word to be seditious. It is a seditious act for any one to bring about disaffection and dissatisfaction between one body of men and another. There is not a single thing that does not come under the purview of the Crimes Act. The Government can declare every workman upon the waterfront to be a member of an unlawful organization. It can prosecute and punish with imprisonment for from one to three years any man in this country who offers one penny to the men on the waterfront who are involved in this trouble. It can punish with imprisonment for from one to three years any man who offers any woman on the waterfront a crust of bread. But the Government does not wish to use its powers.

In 1917 when Mr. Hughes was Prime Minister, the first Unlawful Associations Act was passed. Under it the Industrial Workers of the World was declared an unlawful association. It disappeared after the war, but was re-enacted in the form of the Crimes Act. Under the Unlawful Associations Act any organization could be declared illegal or unlawful. There was a penalty for belonging to such an organization. Although this Government could, under the Crimes Act, declare any organization to be a pernicious and unlawful institution, no action has been taken by it. Certain institutions are allowed to flourish in the land and to publish their propaganda in the leading newspapers. Who supplies the funds to keep them going ? It is said that the funds come from Moscow. Government supporters say that the men on the waterfront, who are at present dislocating trade, are communists. There is published in Sydney a newspaper known as the Communist Journal. Why not declare that an unlawful publication ? Who supplies it with money? It is not Moscow, but the gentlemen behind the Nationalist party. They keep the communists fat, and pander to them.

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