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Thursday, 23 June 1949

Mr BEALE (Parramatta) .- In this clause provision is made for the authority to appoint such officers as it thinks necessary for the purposes of the act. I agree that such appointments should be made in accordance with the requirements of the Public Service Board, as is- provided for in sub-clause 2. I agree with the provisions of sub-clause S, subject to one qualification. The subclause provides that a person shall not be appointed as an officer of the authority unless (a) be is a British subject; (b) the commissioner or an associate commissioner is satisfied, upon medical examination, as to his health and physical fitness, and (c) he makes and subscribes an oath or affirmation of allegiance in accordance with the form in the schedule to the Constitution. That sub-clause is subject to sub-clause 4, which reads as follows : -

The Authority may, with the approval of the Minister, appoint a person who is not a British subject and has not made and subscribed the oath or affirmation of allegiance.

That raises a matter of principle that has been debated in this chamber previously. When certain measures were under discussion, honorable members on this side of the chamber took the view that, having regard to the present trend of events in Australia, the Australian people should have some protection against undesirable and subversive persons being appointed to important offices in public instrumentalities. I suppose that the Snowy Mountains scheme is the largest scheme ever to be proposed in Australia. It will cost approximately £200,000,000. It has been repeatedly emphasized by the Minister and honorable gentlemen opposite that it is a defence undertaking. We have been told that it is part of a development due to the arrival of the atomic age, although I suspect that there is a bit of eye-wash about that statement. We have been told also that it is part of a great scheme to assist in the defence of the British Commonwealth. Although honorable members on this side of the chamber take that statement with -a grain of salt, I shall assume for the moment that it is true. If the scheme i3 justified at all, it is, at least in part, a defence undertaking, hut in sub-clause 4. it is provided that the authority, which is the body that is to be established to manage this vast undertaking, may, with 5the approval of the Minister, appoint a person who is not a British subject and has not made and subscribed the oath ot affirmation of allegiance. I agree that circumstances may exist in which it would be desirable to appoint as an officer of the authority a person who is not a British subject. I am not bigoted enough to think that we should not try to secure the best brains in the world. We know that the world is, and is likely to continue to he, divided into two camps. We know that our way of life is threatened. Therefore, I suggest to the Government that the provisions of subclause 4 should be subject to a proviso. I move, as an amendment -

That the following proviso be added to sub-clause (4.): - " Provided that the Minister is satisfied that the person proposed to be appointed is not Communist or a person likely to act in any way inimical to the interests of the Commonwealth.".

I do not think that in his heart any honorable member opposite could object seriously to that proviso. Is it suggested that members of the Labour party want Communists to be appointed to high positions in this key defence undertaking? One honorable gentleman on this side of the chamber has interjected and said, " Of course they do.". Honorable members oppo- site will have an opportunity later to repudiate that allegation by voting for this amendment. Is it suggested that they want as an officer of the authority somebody who, even though he may not be labelled " Communist " would he prepared to betray Australia? There are some people in this country who are traitors hut who do not bear the label " Communist ". Is it suggested that the members of this Government, who are supposed to be patriots and most of whom. I believe, are patriots, want the key positions in this great undertaking to bp occupied by persons who will ultimately betray our secrets? This amendment, which is pitched on a low note, is the least that we can ask the Government to accept.

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