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Friday, 2 May 1930

Senator GUTHRIE - Not at all. Certain trades unionists, who are supporters of the Labour party, refused to load food supplies and Red Cross comforts and also provisions which were being sent to the boys overseas for use during the Christmas season. The official attitude of the Labour party in 1916 was a disgrace to the Labour movement. In declining to load Red Cross supplies, a section of trades unionists let down the soldiers badly, and acted in a manner detrimental to the Empire. The attitude of the Labour party at that time differed greatly from that of the Labour party led by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, who, on behalf- of his party, promised to assist the Empire to the last man and the last shilling. What became of that high ideal? As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, from 1916 onwards the members of the official Labour party were the enemies and not the supporters of the soldiers. The waterside workers refused to load comforts and the party refused to encourage recruiting in any way, because they had no intention of assisting the war to a successful conclusion. We also recall the resolution passed at the Labour conference in Perth to the effect that no more recruits should be sent from Australia, and that the Allies should secure peace by negotiation. That resolution was passed when the Allied forces were fighting with their backs to the wall for our very existence.

The fact that this change of policy was brought into operation on the 1st May proves conclusively that the Government is pandering to the " red " element of the party. We have also seen the edict recently issued from the trades union conference in Melbourne. We cannot forget what the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) and some other members of the Labour party were reported to have said to the effect that the blind, lame, and tubercular soldiers got their desserts. While many trade unionists enlisted, he and other ablebodied men stayed at home and abused the soldiers. The Leader of the Opposition said that the people of Australia and the returned soldiers should have expected action such as this on the part of the Labour Government; but I am sure that the public of Australia will not tolerate it. When these men went to the war they were promised practically everything on their return, but this Government is now giving preference in employment to many who did not experience any of the hardships or sufferings in the great fight for freedom. It would be interesting to know when the promises made by Mr. Theodore in this green " rag " are to be honoured. When a deputation of limbless soldiers presented to this Government certain claims for assistance I asked a member of that deputation how he got on. He replied: "We did not get anything; we hardly expected it from this crowd." In view of the recent decision of the Government the returned soldiers will surely realize that as in the past and during the war they will have to look to the Nationalist rather than to the Labour party for some measure of justice. The returned soldiers have been turned clown by the Labour party as they were during the dark days of the war, and I am sure it will not be long before the people of Australia will show in no unmistakable way their disgust at the action which the Government has taken.

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