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Thursday, 19 February 1959

Debate resumed (vide page 132).

Mr.CURTIN (Kingsford-Smith) [4.7].- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to congratulate Mr. Speaker on his success in being elected again as the Speaker of this honorable House. But I also wish to express grave concern at the vicious attacks which were made upon him in an attempt to defeat his election to that high and honorable position which he has already held with great dignity. The most disconcerting feature was the association between the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and certain back-benchers to cause this upset. People who live in Canberra and those who are in close contact with what is on in politics in Canberra know the story, but the people of Australia do not know it and are not aware of the wide split that exists in the Liberal party. I want to put forward my opinions, which I think are very exact.

The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), who is a close personal friend of the Prime Minister, was the vehicle selected for this operation. He had been denied the Attorney-Generalship after his divorce bill was thrown into the limbo of forgotten things and the Prime Minister tried to find a way to compensate him. The post of Attorney-General was beyond the reach of my honorable friend from Balaclava. The big bankers had stepped in because they could not bear any interruption to the re-introduction of the bills now being prepared by the architect of destruction of £700,000,000 worth of the people's assets in our great Commonwealth Bank. This destruction and pillaging of the people's money had to go on, they said, and they gently - or it could have been violently - removed the honorable member for Balaclava from the scene.

The Prime Minister became aware that his power was being interfered with. His star is on the wane. The Great One has come to the brink; there is a challenge to his authority. But big business has no friends, and it will bear no interruption to its plans. However, the Prime Minister, who is a very shrewd campaigner, was not to be pushed into the discard, so he had a look around for a way out for his personal friend, the honorable member for Balaclava. It is nice to have personal friends who will go that far for one. But I personally think that the Prime Minister was more distraught over the fact that his control over the Liberal party is slipping. Then the night of the long knives began. That is a favourite expression of the putrid press of Australia when it comments on affairs of the Australian Labour party.

Mr Wheeler - What about the hatchet men?

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