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Thursday, 25 August 1960

Mr KEARNEY (Cunningham) .- Last night I listened with absolute disgust to an attack on the workers of this country by three honorable members on the Government side, whose personal status with the trade union movement would be nil. I refer to the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Killen), Lilley (Mr. Wight) and Phillip (Mr. Aston). Those three traducers of the workers sought to smear an honorable member who is beyond reproach.

Mr Wight - I did not speak last night.

Mr KEARNEY - I exclude the honorable member for Lilley from my reference to last night, but I include him in my charge now because of the speech he has just concluded. He took advantage of the absence of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to suggest that that honorable member had some degree of reluctance in presenting to this House a plea on behalf of the organized trade unionists of north Queensland. The unionists needed someone to champion them because they were in danger of suffering a miniature depression. Because of various factors in the employment situation in Queensland, they were being deprived of the opportunity for continuous employment. The honorable member for Lilley attacked the honorable member for Kennedy in his absence on the ground that he was reluctant to present the workers' plea.

The honorable member for Kennedy had no reluctance in presenting a plea to the Government to bridge the gap in continuous employment for these people in north Queensland. That amounted to a plea to prevent the workers going on the meagre allowance that this Government is prepared to make out of a Budget of £1,700,000,000 for those who suffer unemployment. I support the honorable member for Kennedy completely. What else could the honorable member have done? Last night, the supporters of the Government whom I have named sought to bait the Opposition by calling us " reds ". This is a form of McCarthyism that no Australian is prepared to accept. They stand condemned for their deceit and their deliberate attempt to bring into disrepute the workers who are organized as trade unionists. As a former trade union official, I say that you people opposite are not competent in any degree, or on any pretext, to rise in this Parliament and try to traduce the trade unionists of this country, in north Queensland, Port Kembla, or anywhere else. The fact is that you know simply nothing about trade unionism. Your instincts are against the trade unions. You are the puppets of high finance.

Mr Browne - I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the honorable member in order in disregarding the Standing Orders which state than an honorable member must address the Chair.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member is addressing the Chair.

Mr KEARNEY - It is evident, Mr. Speaker, that you, as a man of the world, understand that I do not intend to cast any aspersions on your high and august office. These honorable members are like the butcher's dog - they can hand it out but they can't take it. None of these three honorable members has the status or justification, economically, socially or otherwise, to try to traduce the organized unions of Australia. The honorable member for Kennedy did what I would have done, and what any Australian unionist would do; he presented a plea on behalf of the workers in the State from which he comes that they should be able to earn enough to buy bread. That was the simple equation behind the telegram that was read by the honorable member for Kennedy.

Mr Curtin - The Government supporters would not know about that.

Mr KEARNEY - As the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has said, they would not know. They have not been through the mill. They have come here as the servants of Mammon, and they are prepared to sell their heritage for a mess of potage. They are exploited before they come here, and exploited while they are here. We on this side of the Parliament are not subservient to Mammon, and we will not sell our heritage. We have sacked our masters before to-day, and we will sack them again tomorrow. We are still able to carry on as Australian workers despite the imperfections of the system and the fact that we have seen too many men out of work and on the dole. I was one of them. For three years I was on the dole of the capitalist society of this country. That society had no justification in the 1930's for sacking one man, let alone half a million good Australians who were put out of work and forced to eat the leek. Some honorable members on the Government side are not old enough to remember those days. They are still wet behind the ears. The sooner they realize that those days were real and that it is possible for the same conditions to appear to-morrow, given the proper circumstances, the sooner they will gain stature as members of the Commonwealth Parliament and understand the issues I am talking about.

In relation to the attack that was made last night on the Labour movement I, as a trade unionist, say that big business in Australia could well take to its bosom the trading instincts of other countries and the knowledge possessed by international visitors, no matter where they come from. As the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) indicated this morning, something like one-tenth of our exports from Australia are arranged through trade channels, lt is fair to say that that one-tenth represents sales of Australian commodities by primary producers and manufacturers to Communistcontrolled countries. There has been co-ordination, connivance, cooperation, discourse and contact in respect of those people, but the honorable members for Moreton and Phillip saw fit to say last night that while it is good enough for big business to connive with the Communist countries in order to make a quid for the industrialists, it is not proper for the workers to exchange with unionists from those countries ideas on technical processes for development, to co-operate on international thought, and to develop understanding between the nations.

It is more important to the long-range welfare of this country that we have mutual understanding between the nations of the world than it is to make a profit of a few pounds on the sale of goods overseas. It is much more important, in fact, because the destinies of the unborn children of Australia are wrapped up in this mutual understanding. We must recognize that unless we have complete freedom, an unfettered exchange of thoughts, and mutual trust between the workers of Australia and the peoples of other nations, we shall never have international understanding. Instead, we will have international discord, disruption and decay. I say to honorable members on the Government side: Lift your sights to a more distant horizon. If we, cannot stand as a fully grown nation in world affairs, we are no better than pigmies. I object to this Government or any of its minions suggesting that I, as an Australian-

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

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