Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 2 May 1930

Senator SAMPSON - I shall deal with that in a moment.

Senator Barnes - I wish the honorable senator would.

Senator SAMPSON - I do not wish to debate this important subject from a political view-point - I do not wish to bring it down to that level - but I cannot help recalling the "slobbering" over returned soldiers that was indulged in by the members of the Labour party prior to the last general election. In a pamphlet issued by the campaign director of the Labour party, Mr. Theodore, promises were made to returned men that could not possibly be fulfilled, but they influenced unthinking persons to support the Labour candidates. I feel sick and sorry when I think of the way in which members of the Labour party, during the last election campaign, absolutely slobbered over returned soldiers who, as I have said, were the saviours of the country. These men went away because they believed that we should be free to run our own country in the way we desired, and that our men and women should be able to live according to their lights so long as those lights did not interfere with the rights of others. That would have gone by the board had not the allied forces been victorious; we should have been dominated by " Fritz." After all this slobbering the action of the Government appears to me to be a Judas-like betrayal. Let us consider the position as it now is with respect to preference to returned soldiers who are trade unionists. Will a contractor be able to select his own employees? I submit he will not. Applications will have to go through the hands of the secretary of the union, and it will depend upon that official whether returned soldier unionists shall or shall not receive preference. The decision will be left entirely in the hands of a person who may be hostile to returned soldiers, and if that is so, it will not be hard to imagine what will happen.

Senator Barnes - But supposing there are no contractors?

Senator Sir George Pearce - This applies to contracts.

Senator SAMPSON - Yes. I take it that this preference provision, in accordance with the Government's policy, will be inserted in the conditions of all contracts and will provide that returned soldier unionists shall have first preference and then ordinary unionists. The returned soldier non-unionist is not even to be considered. That is absolute compulsion. The Australian Imperial Force was not a compulsory force, it consisted of volunteers as our defence force does to-day. The principle underlying the Government's policy in this respect is to compel people to become unionists. I think that compulsory unionism is repugnant to every rightthinking Australian, particularly when we boast about our freedom as a people and of Australia as a free country. The members of the Australian Imperial Force went overseas to fight for freedom as they understood it. Politicians, pedants and historians may argue for years and search blue books, white papers and other documents in order to determine the cause of the great world conflagration ; but we knew what the diggers were fighting for. They knew that the freedom of this country was at stake. That is why we went away to fight; that is why Ave endured, suffered and stuck it out to the bitter end. But what the Government has done cuts away our freedom. In the last analysis it amounts to compulsory unionism. A returned man must join a union to get work. I am speaking without heat and trying to look at the matter as calmly and dispassionately as I can, but I regard it as pitiful and paltry indeed that the present Government should set aside a policy approved by the great bulk of the citizens of this country and by all rightthinking people - that the men, who in those days of dire peril to Australia, went away to fight and suffered and bore the heat and burden, should have something tangible, although not wonderful, in the shape of preference in employment. It was a slight recognition by the people that the men who had served deserved well of their country, and it is not too late even now for the Government to give back to the returned soldiers that which they have enjoyed practically since the cessation of hostilities.

Suggest corrections