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Wednesday, 1 October 1958

Mr WHEELER (Mitchell) .I have offered my explanation to the House for speaking on an entirely different subject, but' I have not had the opportunity to raise this matter before. I take this opportunity as the only avenue open to a private member to express his views on a matter which has exercised his mind. I am encouraged by the remarks of the honorable member for Newcastle' (Mr. Watkins), who said that one strives and must strive to do his best in the interests of what he believes. I realize that this may be somewhat of an anticlimax after the expressions of good will marking the end of the session and farewells to- a departing Clerk. As I have already said, I have had no previous opportunity to raise this matter.

I have to bring before the notice of the House the strange story of one of Australia's principal centres for tha dissemination of hatred - I hesitate to use the word in this atmosphere - hatred of democracy, of Australia and of our allies, Britain and America. This is the Waterside Workers Federation building at 60-66 Sussex-street, Sydney. This building is a principal centre for propaganda in praise of the Soviet and of communism. This is done from a site worth many thousands of pounds, provided almost rent free to the wealthy Waterside Workers Federation by the New South Wales Labour Government.

I produce here a copy of the lease - a remarkable document signed by one John Joseph Cahill, now Premier of New South Wales granting the area for the trustees of the Communist-controlled Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation for ten years from September, 1947, at a rental of £1 a year. The lease covers land with a frontage of approximately 60 feet to Sussexstreet in: the heart of Sydney's shipping quarter, with frontages also at the side and rear- of Sussex-lane. On it is a very substantial three-story brick building. I note that the lease actually expired in September of last year, but a little matter like that is nothing between friends. The Communists are still in occupation and no doubt amicable discussions are now going on with Mr. Cahill about renewal. In effect, this New South Wales Labour Government, which is continually complaining about having no money and which has starved its schools and hospitals, still has money for what in effect is a subsidy on a Communist propaganda centre. Very possibly, the lease granted in 1947 was a renewal. I think the federation has been in possession for quite a long time. However, it is only in recent years that it has engaged so extensively in these vicious anti-democratic and pro-Communist propaganda campaigns.

The Waterside Workers Federation is, of course, a very wealthy body. The Sydney branch has an income of over £40,000 a year and should be able to pay whatever is the fair rental for premises it uses. Whatever may have been the reasons for granting it rent-free possession originally of this very valuable site, the conduct of its officials in the last two decades has stamped them as enemies of Australia, and no government which claims to be democratic or antiCommunist can possibly excuse this privileged treatment.

Some of the conditions of the lease are very interesting. Clause 7 says that the premises shall be used for the purposes of recreation and as a reading room by members of the Waterside Workers Institute as at present constituted and for no other purpose whatever. Apparently, the showing of Communist films and plays is the Waterside Workers Federation's idea of recreation and Mr. Cahill must agree with this view, because if he did not, he has the power to terminate the lease immediately. Clause 12 gives him this power if the said premises are used otherwise than in accordance with clause 7. On the premises are also established the head-quarters of the Sydney branch of the federation with extensive offices. How Mr. Cahill can consider this to be within the definition of recreation is puzzling. Last week-end, to my knowledge, the building was the venue for an all-ports conference of delegates. It is very nice indeed for this wealthy union to have rent-free premises for such meetings, at which some of our most damaging strike plots are hatched.

It is probable that since the new multistory building in Phillip-street has been completed . by the Waterside Workers Federation parent body with its up-to-date equipment for the display of propaganda films, there has been less activity in this department in Sussex-street. However, the policy of producing class-warfare plays is still being pursued vigorously. Every Saturday and Sunday night, until fairly recently, the hall was used for public presentations of a propagandist effort by left-wing writer, Frank Hardy, who has recently returned from Moscow. Another opus which had its world premiere at the Sussexstreet hall was " November Victory ", a lurid caricature of the waterfront strike of 1954, which was so violently antidemocratic in character that it won high praise and, I believe, an award at a film festival held behind the iron curtain. Even if the premises were not being used as a centre for the distribution of Communist propaganda, this extremely valuable property should not be placed rent free at the disposal of the Waterside Workers Federation. In effect, the Labour government has made this Communist-controlled organization a privileged beneficiary of the taxpayer while unions which support the Australian Labour party are required to provide their own premises at the expense of their members.

Possession of these premises without the obligation to pay rent has released large sums of money from the funds of the federation that have been misused to the detriment of the Australian community. The Waterside Workers Federation is able to publish and distribute scurrilous broadsheets which, by misrepresentation, rouse its members to such a pitch of ill feeling that the officials are in a position to call on constant illegal strikes. They have thus been able to disrupt the lives of ordinary citizens and, at the same time, raise considerably the Australian cost of living. No person or body in the Commonwealth is less worthy of this privilege of free accommodation than the Waterside Workers Federation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 1.11 a.m. (Thursday), to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.

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