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Friday, 21 October 1949


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Is the motion supported?

Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion.


Mr WHITE - The subject-matter of this motion relates to what is now known us the Miller case, in which a carpenter, Mr. A. T. Miller, a member of the Building Workers Industrial Union and an employee of the Department of Works and Housing, who had presumed to question some expenditure in a balancesheet at a meeting of his union, was fined by the officials whom he had criticized. Feeling that he had been unjustly treated, as a free man in a democracy, he refused to pay the fine. As a result, he was hounded by Communist officials within his union, who declared " black " every job on which he worked. But he was not a man who could be intimidated. Later, he took his case to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and won it on a judgment given by Judge Kelly. But the Communists still pursued him and in their actions they were aided and abetted by certain Ministers. Workmen were ordered to cease work on every project on which Mr. Miller was employed. In order to be precise, I shall quote a case history from the deposition of John Joseph Brophy, an officer of the Department of Works and Housing, which gives the dates and sequence of events in this shameful affair and contains all the facts. It will be seen that two Ministers, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), were involved, and very much to their detriment. I regret that they are not present in the House, but when I acquainted you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of my intention to bring this matter before the House to-day I did not know that they would not be present. As the result of their actions certain senior officials of the Department of Works and Housing were placed in most unnecessary and invidious positions, and an officer of the department who wanted to see that justice was done to this persecuted ex-serviceman was officially reprimanded and removed from his post. Mr. Brophy's deposition reads-

A.   T. Miller commenced employment with the department in June, 1946. On the 17th April, 1947, Sturroch, the assistant secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union, rang . me and stated that a union organizer had located Miller on a departmental job at Craig's Buildings, that Miller was an unfinancial member with whom the union had been anxious to catch up for a long time, and that unless lie became financial by a p.m., it would be necessary to withdraw other men from the job. The time was then about 3 p.m.

I received an opinion from my head office that if an employee's refusal to abide by therules of his union was likely to lead to an industrial disturbance, it would be reasonable to terminate his services. I then had an interview with Miller, who gave mc his side of the story, viz., that he had been fined by the union, that because he considered the fine to be unjust lie would not pay it, and that as a union rule provided that monies received from a member should be applied firstly in payment of fines and levies, he was precluded from paying his union dues.

I informed Miller of the opinion I had received from my head office, and as lie was adamant on the matter of his fine, I asked him to call in the next morning for his money. I then informed Sturroch that Miller would not be on the job the next day. I was not happy about the position, and when Miller called to see me the next day, I asked him to agree to stand down for a couple of days until I had raised the matter again with my head office.

Miller agreed to do this, and I immediately prepared a statement covering the position, which statement was submitted to the Chief Administrative Officer of the department, and as a result of a subsequent discussion it was decided that we had no cause to terminate Miller's employment. I was accordingly directed to restore Miller, but on another project, which would be less affected by industrial action, should the B.W.I.U. contest the department's action. Miller re-commenced at the department's store at Salmon Street on the 19th April, 1947.

The Salmon-street store is associated with the long range weapons project. The deposition continues -

On the 12th May, 1947, Chandler, secretary of the B.W.I.U., rang me and stated that Miller had been located at Salmon Street, and if he was not dismissed that afternoon Salmon Street would be declared black and carpenters withdrawn. I informed Chandler of the reasons for the Department's refusal to sack Miller, and suggested that if Miller owed him a fine, lie could take the matter to Court. Chandler refused- to consider this, and on the same afternoon three carpenters were withdrawn from Salmon Street. On the 14th May, 1947, Chandler again rang me and announced his intention of extending the dispute to other jobs while at the same time preventing any new carpenters from starting with \is. I informed him that the matter was being submitted to the Industrial Registrar.

This industrial bully ordered the workmen off any job on which Miller was employed. Mr. Brophy's deposition continues -

On the 16th May, 1947, Chandler called at the job at Craig's Buildings where Miller was prevously working and ordered- the carpenters to cease work. On the 4th June, 1947, three carpenters were ordered off another job in the same building and were informed that they were not allowed to work anywhere for the department.

I have not sufficient time to read the whole of the deposition, hut I shall present as many of the facts as I can in the short time allowed to me. Mr. Miller challenged the union in. the court and the matter came before His Honour, Judge Kelly.


Mr Calwell - On what date?


Mr WHITE - In the first instance, in July, 1947. Mr. Brophy's deposition continues -

On the 10th September, 1947, judgment waa given in the case upholding Miller's contention that the fine was illegal and ordering the union to accept his subscription and treat him us a financial member. On the 15th September, 1947, having received notification that Miller's subscription had been received- by the union, I rang Chandler re starting men again . at Salmon Street and Craig's Building which had been idle since the imposition of the black bans. Chandler referred mc to Don Thomson, secretary of the Building Trades Fed oration.

Thomson is a known Communist who lias gone overseas to attend conferences of which this Government has cognizance. The deposition continues -

In a subsequent conversation with Thomson, he informed me that the federation had no intention of permitting any of its members to work with Miller, who was a " scab ", because he had worked on a black job. The B.W.I.U., he said, had- accepted Miller's subscription as they had no alternative under Judge Kelly's order, but their attitude had not altered, and if the Department wished to fight the B.T.F. by opening the black jobs, they were welcome.

On receiving instructions to have men placed on the jobs, I took the necessary action, and the jobs were re-opened on September 22, 1947. I requested the store's manager at Salmon Street to allow no B.T.F. organizers on the job without reference to me.

On the afternoon of September 24, 1947, Thomson rang me and demanded to know who had issued the order refusing entry to his organizers. I informed him that I had, under a general order from Judge Kelly deleting the right of entry. I asked Thomson the reasons for desiring his organizers to enter Salmon Street, and he stated that he wished to order any B.T.F. men off the job as it was " black ".

He said further that no matter what any court ordered, a Commonwealth department under a Labour Government should not deny this right of entry. I informed Thomson that I considered the business of his organizers at Salmon Street illegal, and that I would not give them permission to enter the yard. Thomson was furious, and announced his intention of closing every departmental job.

On September 25, 1947, I visited the Salmon Street job and personally refused admittance to an organizer of the B.W.I.U. Later in the day, however, he had a message sent to the carpenters ordering them off the job. At the same time he ordered all tradesmen and labourers off a contract job at the storeyard

Still later, he visited Craig's Buildings and ordered three tradesmen to stop work. On 12 October, 1947, work was stopped at Manchester Unity Buildings (T.A.A.), 339 Swanston Street, and on 2nd October, work at the Balaclava exchange was stopped. On the four jobs stopped, about 40 men were involved.

The position then was that though Miller had obtained a court order vindicating his stand against the union, he was faced with a fight by the B.W.I.U., the Painters Union, the Plumbers Union, the Builders' Labourers Union and the A.E.U.

The deposition continues -

On 4 October, the chief industrial officer of the Department (C. Blanch) rang me and stated that the situation was causing Ministers in Canberra some concern in view of the proximity of the Victorian elections, and that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) was coming to Melbourne to negotiate a settlement.

I ask the House to listen to the terms of the settlement. They are as follows: -

On the afternoon of October 8, 1947, Blanch rang and informed me that a settlement had keen reached on the following terms: -

(   1 ) I was to allow free entry to all organizers to jobs;

(2)   The ban on all jobs other than Salmon Street was to be lifted as from 9 October, 1947;

(3)   Miller was to be brought before his union and fined on a new charge;

(4)   On the imposition of the fine, Salmon Street was to be re-opened.

The Minister connived with a Communist organizer to bring about a state of affairs in which a man, as a condition of retaining his job, should be fined. Mr. Brophy's deposition continues -

I asked Blanch whether Miller was a party to the arrangement regarding the new fine. Blanch stated that as far as he was aware Miller was not a party, but the fine was to be a nominal one (he mentioned 10/-) and Miller would be expected to pay it.

In accordance with the terms of settlement, work resumed on jobs other than Salmon Street on October 9th. On 10th October, 1947, Miller rang me and informed me that he had received notice from his union to answer a new charge. I informed him of the settlement terms and asked whether Holloway had seen him on the matter. He replied in the negative and stated that with regard to the proposed fine, he would be guided by his solicitor's advice.

On 12th October he rang and gave me an account of the meeting on the 11th October at which he was charged with working on a "black" job on September 25, 1947, and had been fined £5. He stated that the union officials had informed him that he was not in the Arbitration Court this time. Needless to Bay, he had no intention of paying the fine.

I have not sufficient time in which to read the whole of the deposition, and I am omitting some portions of it. It continues -

A couple of days later he (Blanch) rang to say that Miller's position was precarious. On 12th March, 1948, at approximately 11 a.m. Blanch visited me at my office and stated that he had been instructed to give me the following direction, viz., that I was to call Miller up and inform him that the Department would no longer be involved in his domestic dispute with his union, and that in the event of any recurrence of industrial trouble on this account his services were to he terminated.

I now come to a matter of the greatest importance. Mr. Brophy states -

At the same time he showed me aletter addressed from Parliament House, Canberra, dated March 8, 1948, and reading as follows: -

My dear Minister,

With reference to the fine on A. T. Miller by the B.W.I.U., it is suggested that the

Department of Works and Housing pay the fine and collect from Miller by instalments. In the event of Miller refusing to agree to this arrangement, it is suggested that his services be terminated.

It will be contended that the letter does not exist. That will be the Government's defence.

I turn now to the reprimand that this official received because he stood up for a man. It is as follows: -

I refer to your memorandum of 9th August, 1948, in which you confirm a verbal statement made to the Chief Administrative Officer that you disclosed the contents of a letter signed by the Hon. E. J. Holloway which had been sighted by you in the course of your official duties in connection with the matter of an employee . . . Your admission was further confirmed by an interview which you had with me on the afternoon of 16th August, 1948.

Your action, which you have admitted, is a breach of the provisions of Public Service Regulation 34 (a) . . . and you are therefore regarded as guilty of committing an offence within the meaning of Section 55 ( 1 ) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-47.

In accordance with the provisions of Section 55 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, 1 now reprimand you for the offence which you have committed and require that, in future, your conduct shall' comply strictly with the requirements of the Public Service Act and Regulations.

If the Government denies the existence of the letter, I point out that the reprimand that Mr. Brophy received shows that it did exist. Mr. Brophy's deposition, dealing with what occurred after he had been shown the letter of the 8th March, 1948, continues -

I informed Blanch that I refused to accept the direction, and gave him my reason. I told him further that if those who had in structed him were to give me a written order I would be happy to refuse in a similar manner. Blanch returned to his office, and a little later (approximately 11.45 a.m.) rang and asked me to call Miller up and obtain from him a statement as to his intention regarding the fine. I rang Salmon Street and arranged for Miller to see me at 2.15 p.m. that afternoon. On Miller's arrival that afternoon, I obtained a statement from him that, acting on legal advice, he had no intention of paying the fine and would leave it to the union to take any action in the matter.

I then informed Miller that I found it necessary to step outside my official position by narrating to him the morning's interview with Blanch. I informed him that it was my belief that the Ministers concerned had put pressure on the heads of my department to " put the skids under him ".

I have unfortunately been compelled to omit a great deal of the deposition.

I turn now to Mr. Brophy's protest, the last paragraph of which reads as follows : -

Mr. Blanch'sinterview with me convinced me that an illicit conspiracy had been entered into between two Federal Ministers and a Communist group, to subvert normal justice in the case of A. T. Miller, a citizen like myself. Certain officers of the department, well knowing the illegality of the proposals, were prepared to aid and abet this conspiracy. I was affronted at being asked to join in this conspiracy, as my connexion with the Public Service dates back to 1914 and I am what the name implies, a servant of the public, i.e., my fellow citizens. It is an established principle that no .person can legally be bound to secrecy regarding an illicit transaction, and I acted on this principle in disclosing the information acquired by me.

Mr. Brophywas an exserviceman, as was Mr. Miller. Mr. Brophy said that he was not going to see him let down.

In the few moments that remain to me, I want to say that two of . the freedoms that we should cherish are freedom to work and freedom of speech. Because this carpenter insisted upon freedom of speech he was persecuted, and because a man in the Public Service espoused his cause and attempted to ensure that he was not injured, he was punished and reprimanded. Mr. Brophy has asked for an inquiry, but his request has been refused. He has asked to be supplied with a copy of the confidential report upon him that he claims was read at a conference. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) had to face the union and explain this matter. They took the official files with them to that conference, but Mr. Brophy has not been allowed to see them. I leave it to the House to decide which of those two Ministers is the more culpable. There is not the slightest doubt that they went to great pains to appease Communists - those enemies of the community and traders in deceit and discord. It may almost be said that they have transgressed their oaths of office by what they have done. I regret that I have not been able to read the whole of the story to the House, because there is much more in it that damns Ministers and the Government. I have related the details of the case, as given to me by Mr. Brophy, and I have no reason to doubt his statements. The final paragraph of his protest to the Public Service inspector reads as follows : -

The position is, therefore, that on August 9, 1948, and again on August 31, 1948, I made certain definite and serious charges against Ministers and departmental officials. Neither verbally nor by written memorandum has this statement been contradicted.

I received a reprimand for disclosing the terms of a letter, and was removed from my position without explanation, but was left free to repeat my allegations and am free to do so to-day.

Regarding my removal from my position, it was well known in the Department, and was admitted by the Director-General, that the Communists had openly declared that they would have me shifted.

I urge the Government to- conduct a public inquiry into all the circumstances. Mr. Miller, who has been persecuted, is engaged in fighting a powerful union. The other person involved is an official who conscientiously believed that he was doing the proper thing. Ministers have an opportunity to state in public the part that they took in the matter. It is infamous that directions such as are disclosed in these depositions should have been given in order that an official might be persecuted. I hope that an inquiry will be held, and that right will be done.







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