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Wednesday, 25 February 1959

Mr WARD (East Sydney) . - I had no intention of speaking this evening, but I am prompted by the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) to direct attention to another dismissal which is of much more interest, I should imagine, in this country than the one to which he has directed attention. I refer to the dismissal of the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) from the Cabinet under rather strange circumstances. Anti-Labour Cabinets are selected according to a most undemocratic procedure, because although the people of this country elect the Parliament they have no say - and neither do the members they elect, while this Government is in control - in who is to constitute a Cabinet. I can think of any number of reasons why the honorable member for Paterson should not be in the Cabinet, but, while they do not seem to be important, when I glance around the House and see the mediocrities that have been selected to occupy Cabinet rank it occurs to me that there is something wrong in the selection of anti-Labour Cabinets.

The honorable- member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) went out of the Cabinet in 1956, I think, under very similar circumstances. If I recollect correctly, I read in the press that the honorable member has sympathized with the honorable member for Paterson, and said that he suffered the same fate. According to the honorable member for Chisholm, the honorable member for Paterson was dropped from the Cabinet, not because he was regarded as not administering his department efficiently, but for some other reason, which the honorable member for Chisholm attributed to the activities and intriguing of certain public servants in this capital city. I think that that is a very serious matter. It is well known that the Prime Minister has no particular liking for the honorable member for Chisholm, and I am not suggesting that he needed a great deal of urging to remove him from the Cabinet when he did so, but I think it is a terrible thing for this country when a Cabinet is selected on the basis of the likes and dislikes of certain public servants and the likes and dislikes of the Prime Minister.

I hate anti-Labour governments, and I hate to see any anti-Labour Ministers at all; but when we have to suffer them because of the decision of the people, at least we want to see a Cabinet comprising the best men that the Government can select from a very poor lot - and I am afraid that that is not so on this occasion. There are only four Cabinet Ministers present at the moment. Look at them! A dejected look on their faces! They are despondent because they know that what I am saying is the truth. It is nothing short of a miracle that some of them made the Cabinet at all. It appears to me that the Prime Minister sets out not to select men who might be regarded as having some ability, but to surround himself with mediocrities, because then his figure looms large on the political horizon and his star is in the ascendant. That is apparently the attitude of the Prime Minister.

I return to my earlier remarks. I wish that the Prime Minister were here, but we see him infrequently in the Parliament. He leaves his-, juniors - his office boys - to sit here during the debate on the adjournment when such- matters as this are raised. I do not suggest that they know anything about it, but I desire to have the information that the statement made by the. honorable member for Chisholm to the press seems to call for, and perhaps that honorable member may be provoked to come into this debate. I should like the honorable member for Chisholm to tell us who are those public servants whom he blames for his dismissal from the Cabinet, and who are the public servants whom he blames for influencing the Prime Minister to remove the honorable member for Paterson from the Cabinet. It looks to me as if becoming Minister for the Interior in an anti-Labour government is the kiss of death. You are on the way out if you are appointed to this portfolio. I am very curious to know who these individuals are, because at least when a Labour government is in office in this country we appoint our Cabinet democratically. The elected representatives of the Labour party select the Cabinet. But on the other side of the House you are just like a gang that lines up, and then the Prime Minister goes along the line and says, " You, you, you, you, you and you, step out ", and that is how the Cabinet is selected. Now have a look at the men who sit on the back benches. They do their best to keep themselves in the public eye. The honorable member for

Moreton delves into books and newspapers in the library and then makes a speech in the House on some matter or other. He has an obsession about communism growing in this country. Then we have the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who, on television, charged this Government with having neglected our defences. He said that the Government has missed the bus, that it is behind the times, and that our defences are in a deplorable condition. He is a leading member of the Government parties and a member of their Foreign Affairs Committee. Yet the Prime Minister has the audacity to say in this House that he has not read or heard what the honorable member said although it was plastered over every newspaper in the country! I think the Government is running the affairs of the country in a strange way.

I hope that the honorable member for Chisholm, if he cannot be provoked into doing it to-night, will come into the House when he feels he has more courage, and instead of hiding behind a newspaper statement, will tackle the Prime Minister face to face. I hope that he will let the Parliament and the country know who were the public servants responsible for his removal and the removal of the honorable member for Paterson, from the Cabinet.

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