Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 21 October 1949


Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini) - Order! The honorable member for Indi must refrain from interjecting.


Mr CALWELL - I hope that tho honorable gentleman will contain himself for a moment while I inform him that the matter before the court concerned the alleged victimization of Miller, and that no evidence was adduced to justify a charge that two Ministers of State had aided and abetted the attempted victimization of that man. Inquiries have been held into the matter by exservicemen who are employees of the Public Service Board, the Chairman of which is an ex-serviceman, and by the Public Service Inspector of Victoria, who also is an ex-serviceman. Those persons have no interests to serve other than the interests of justice.


Mr White - Does the Minister deny that letter?


Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for Balaclava was heard in silence. I ask him to extend the same courtesy to thu Minister.


Mr CALWELL - I shall explain to the House what the departmental file establishes. On the18th April, 1946, Mr. Brophy, who is now trying to prevail upon members of the Opposition to listen to his grievance, was prepared to terminate the services of Mr. Miller, following a submission by the union that he was an unfinancial member.

Mr.White. - I read that.


Mr CALWELL - The honorable member did not read the statement that Brophy was prepared to recommend the dismissal of Miller.


Mr White - I did. He was prepared, under orders, to recommend the dismissal of Miller.


Mr CALWELL - No, not under orders at all. On the 22nd April, 1946, the chief administrative officer of the Department of Works and Housing advised Brophy that the employment of a person should not be terminated on the ground that he was an unfinancial member of a union. That information is contained in the file. But all these details are ancient history. Mr. Miller has been working ever since the matter arose.


Mr White - Brophy is still displaced.


Mr CALWELL - Brophy was transferred.


Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! I shall not warn the honorable member for Balaclava again. He made his speech without interruption, and he should now be prepared to hear the other side of the case without interjecting.


Mr CALWELL - In the opinion of the Public Service Board, Brophy was an officer with very little balance. He was transferred to the finance section, from which he had come, without loss of status. He suffered no financial loss. Hr was reprimanded for having improperly disclosed the contents of an official file to unauthorized persons. He claimed, in extenuation of his actions, that he had disclosed the contents of the file confidentially, hut that the person to whom he had disclosed the information had rushed to the press, thereby greatly embarrassing him.


Mr Ward - Who was that?


Mr CALWELL - It was a person of no great consequence. On the 12th

May, 1947, the chief administrative officer of the department instructed Mr. Blanch to inform the secretary of the union that the department had no ground for dismissing Miller. Mr. Blanch did not give the directions that Mr. Brophy claims he received. The inquiry conducted by the Public Service Inspector, when Mr. Yoxen and Mr. Blanch and Mr. Brophy were all interrogated, established that Mr. Blanch had not done what Mr. Brophy alleged had been done. On the 3rd October, 1947, the DirectorGeneral of Works and Housing, Mr. Loder, who himself is an ex-serviceman, and a very brilliant man, informed his Minister that there was no issue between the department and the union other than the continued employment of Miller, and that the department had no reason to dispense with his services, as he was performing his work to its satisfaction, and was, in addition, an ex-serviceman. On the 21st April, 194S, the Director-General advised the Minister as follows: -

There would appear to bo nn doubt that the union intends to persecute Miller, and in so far us the department is concerned it has no grounds whatever for contemplating the dismissal of Miller, as he is a reliable tradesman, and cannot be discharged for disciplinary reasons.

A week later, the Director-General expressed similar views in a letter addressed to the Industrial Registrar. That puts the Minister for Works and Housing in the clear when charges are laid that Ministers supported a Communistcontrolled union in attempts to persecute Miller. The Minister then addressed a letter to the secretary of the Australian Labour party, because the matter had gone to the central executive as a result of the improper disclosure of the contents of an official file to an unauthorized person. It is true that the disclosure was made in confidence, but the person to whom it was made gave the information to the press. An inquiry was held, and so satisfied was the executive that there had been no victimization, or attempt at victimization, that it allowed the matter to drop. If there had been any attempt by a Minister of State, who was also a member of the Australian Labour party in Victoria, to persecute a member of the organization because he fought the Communists, the anti-Communist executive of the Victorian Labour party would have taken a very serious view of the matter.

The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) wrote as follows to Mr. D. Lovegrove, the organizing secretary of the Australian Labour party :-

In the special case known as the Miller case the statement that I recommended his dismissal is not true. My only connexion with this case was as the result of being asked by Mr. Lemmon, Minister for Works and Housing, to find out from the Union what the trouble was about and try and prevent the holding up of the work on Government jobs, which tho Union had threatened to declare black. I did what I was asked to do, which as you know is part of the work I have always done - carry out negotiations with a view to preventing actual stoppages of work, and when it is a case of alleged victimization by a Union or an employer against a worker I have (and my Industrial Officer, Mr. L. M. Brady, will bear this out) always stressed the right to work, and the impossible policy of driving a man you do not like out of one Union, or from one job to another. It must lead to denying thi> man the right to work and live if you pursue any other line of action, and I have stressed the fact that I would not agree to such a policy and generally have succeeded in finding a sane solution.

I asked Mr. Chandler to see me, which he did. I told him Mr. Lemmon had asked me to try and find a solution to the trouble, but I was sure the Minister would not attempt to compel Miller to pay a fine, which the Court had said after hearing both sides should not be paid. I also said Mr. Lemmon could not deny a man the right to work. Mr. Chandler told me that the Union had accepted the Court's decision, although they thought it was wrong and they had withdrawn the demand that Miller pay that fine; but the present dispute was over a fine against Miller for continuing to work on a job which the Union, of which he is a member, had declared black. The action now proposed, to declare other Commonwealth Government jobs black was because Miller would not pay the fine or his Union dues. I asked was the Union preventing Miller from earning his living, and he tola me Miller had been at work all the time and was still working and had not lost time because of the Union's actions, but they had decided not to wait any longer for the Department to take action. I asked Mr. Chandler to prevent any action so that I could report back to Mr. Lemmon and give him time to discuss the matter with his officers and get the other side of the story. Mr. Chandler promised he would do this and he did so.

That ended the association of the Minister for Labour and National Service with the case. The honorable member for Balaclava would not have known anything about this piece of dead history had not

Brophy, smarting under the reprimand he had received for improperly disclosing the contents of official documents to an unauthorized person, asked that honorable member to air his grievance.


Mr White - The matter was published in the newspapers.


Mr CALWELL - Yes, as the result of improper disclosure of official information.


Mr Holt - Is it proper for the Minister to disclose the report of the Public Service Board on the subject?


Mr CALWELL - It is, when I am called upon to answer charges improperly laid by persons outside the Parliament against Ministers whom I am here to defend. However, I am here, not to give my own testimony - valuable as that might be - but to answer the charges by referring to official documents, which even the most purblind of my political opponents would not have the nerve to challenge. I have cited the opinions of those who investigated the case, and I have told the whole story. Mr. Brophy was not satisfied. Apparently, he expected to be promoted for having committed a breach of the Public Service Act and regulations. If his behaviour were condoned, no Minister of to-day or to-morrow would be safe from the stupidity or wrong-headedness of a public servant who, because of a real or an imaginary grievance, or a desire for publicity, or to exploit a prevailing mood, sought his own advancement at the cost of the public welfare. I do not think that the honorable member for Balaclava has made out a case for censuring either of the Ministers named. The Government's action in giving Miller means to prevent a Communist-controlled union from victimizing him is complete evidence of its bona fides in this case. There has been no complaint from Miller since the Government took the action referred to. There has been no complaint from any one associated with the case, except from tho man who started the trouble, the man who feels, apparently, that he is a modern John the Baptist, the precursor of a new Messiah, with a mission to reform the world. Mr. Brophy has a bloated idea of his own importance. Many public servants have had to deal with difficult problems, but they have not done as Brophy did; they have not given a bad exhibition of diseased egotism.







Suggest corrections