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Thursday, 25 August 1960

Mr WIGHT (Lilley) .- Last night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) instructed the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to rise in his place and read to this Parliament a telegram that his leader had received from a Trades and Labour Council branch in Queensland. The honorable member for Kennedy did as he was instructed by his leader, but with obvious reluctance. He was emotionally upset, as was obvious to everybody in the chamber, and he read the telegram with great reluctance. There was a very good reason for his reluctance, and there was a very strong motive behind the action of the Leader of the Opposition in instructing him to read the telegram, as the honorable member told us in his speech, and the intervention of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in the debate in an endeavour to extricate the honorable member for Kennedy from the difficulties in which he had placed himself as a result of the speech he delivered in relation to that telegram.

Let us look at the facts. The Trades and Labour Council in Townsville called a conference to consider the problem of unemployment of meat workers. To that conference it invited the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) and the honorable member for Kennedy. The honorable member for Kennedy travelled from Brisbane, where he lives, to Townsville to attend the conference; but on his arrival at Townsville he received instructions from some source not to attend the conference because it was a Communist-controlled conference. When the honorable member for Kennedy was asked publicly why he did not attend, he said, " It is being run by a bunch of Commos. It is a Communist conference and no Labour men are going." He then denied that any Labour man attended that conference. In other words, by claiming publicly that no Labour man had attended that conference, and by saying that it was a Communist conference, he accused everybody who attended it of being Communists. Many who attended it came from the Ross River meat works and were not Communists, as the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) clearly told the House last night. The honorable member for Kennedy at that time was within a stone's throw of his own electorate, having travelled 1,000 miles from where he lived. One might therefore have concluded that, being so close to his electorate, he would have entered his electorate to see whether any of his constituents had any problems to put before him. But no, he obtained a seat on the aircraft he wanted to catch and returned to Brisbane to his banana farm on the outskirts of that city.

That might have been the end of the incident had not a further event occurred in Queensland. Mr. Jim Keeffe, who will probably be the next secretary of the Queensland branch of the Australian Labour Party - at present he is one of its organizers - made a survey of the Labour Party's chances in Queensland at the next federal general election, and he came to a conclusion that was considered by the Queensland Central Executive of the party. This was to the effect that the Labour Party could well lose two more seats in Queensland. One of them is the electorate of Brisbane. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has indicated that he will retire, and it is well known that he has held that seat because of the high regard and personal esteem in which he is held by everybody regardless of party in Queensland. With his retirement, Brisbane, in the opinion of the Queensland Central Executive of the Labour Party, might well be won by the Liberal Party. Leichhardt, the most northerly division in Queensland, has been held since the last election by a member who returns to his home in the electorate every week-end and interviews his constituents regularly about their problems. The honorable member for Herbert has set up his federal member's rooms in his electorate and regularly interviews his constituents there; and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) lives in his electorate and interviews his constituents there. Bearing these facts in mind, the opinion has gained ground that the electorate of Kennedy, which adjoins all of those electorates, might well be lost to the Labour Party because the honorable member for Kennedy is seen in the electorate only at election time or about once a year when he tours the electorate to let his constituents know that he is still alive.

The previous representative of the electorate of Herbert did not visit his electorate very frequently. Knowing the regularity with which the present member for Herbert attends to his duties, and knowing that the member for Leichhardt does likewise, although he has to travel much further from Canberra than has the honorable member for Kennedy, the electors of Kennedy want to know why their representative returns from Canberra only to his home in Brisbane instead of his electorate to attend to his constituents. So, the Queensland Central Executive of the Labour Party communicated with the Leader of the Opposition and indicated that it had some doubt about the chances of the honorable member for Kennedy continuing to hold his seat. The executive considered it wise that he should not adopt his dictatorial attitude towards the Trades and Labour Council in Townsville, and that a little more co-operation on the part of the honorable member, even where Communists were involved, might help him to hold his seat.

The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) says, "Ha"; but the attitude of the honorable member for Kennedy to Communism was clearly displayed in the caucus when the split occurred in the Labour Party some years ago. The honorable member for Parkes will recall that when the Keon-Mullens group within the Labour Party, which later crossed the floor of the House, was recording a vote about that time in the caucus, the honorable member for Kennedy voted with that group. He voted for the anti-Communist movement within the Labour Party. But when he discovered that he was in a minority group, he went back to Brisbane and did not attend any more caucus meetings until that problem had been resolved. Then he threw in his hat with the winning side. These facts are not unknown in the electorate of Kennedy or to the Trades and Labour Council in Townsville. Consequently, as the honorable member for Kennedy is under attack from within the

Labour movement and as he is in grave danger of losing his seat at the next election, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made an attempt to discredit honorable members on this side of the House on the basis that we had not supported the subsidization by this Government of the re-building of the Mount Isa railway line.

That argument was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition last night. The policy of the Labour Party, expressed a thousand times by a thousand spokesmen, is definitely opposed to overseas capital investment in Australia on the ground, as I heard said even to-night, that such investment means selling the assets of the Australian community. Let us look at the facts. Mount Isa Mines Limited is American owned and controlled. We welcome the money that comes to this country from American shareholders. We are only too glad to see these people invest their money in this country and we wish every possible success to the Mount Isa mine. How does the Australian Labour Party reconcile these two conflicting ideas? On the one hand, it condemns the investment of overseas capital in Australia, but on the other hand it says that the railway line should be re-built at the expense of the Australian taxpayers, which would mean that the American shareholders in Mount Isa Mines Limited would receive increased dividends. The proposition that has been agreed to by the Government and Mount Isa Mines Limited is quite fair.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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