16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last Thursday, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked me a question concerning the naval personnel stationed at Darwin. 1 have made inquiries, and am informed that there is no foundation, for the statement that discontent is prevalent among the men. The matter of leave is governed by established naval regulations, which are applicable to all members of the naval forces, irrespective of where they may be serving. These regulations provide for the granting of local leave according to the exigencies of the service, and permit of leave, accumulating at the rate of fourteen days for each year of service at Darwin or outside Australia, to be taken upon returning home. Short leave, although not identical, is reasonably comparable with that granted to members of the Australian Imperial Force at Darwin. Ratings at Darwin are medically examined upon completion of twelve months’ service at that port, and every three months thereafter. Those who, in the opinion of the medical officer, should not remain longer in the locality, are drafted for duty elsewhere.
Mr. PERKINS brought up an interim report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Social Security.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether the Air Board has been giving consideration to the granting of relief in respect of probate duties payable by the estates of members of the Royal Australian Air Force who have been killed in action abroad, and, if so, with what result?
– I cannot say whether or not this matter is under consideration, but I shall institute inquiries as to whether representations with respect to it have been made to the Air Board. The final decision would obviously be a matter of government policy.
– Will the Prime Minister state what Minister will act as Minister for Commerce during the absence in London of Sir Earle Page?
– During the absence in London of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), the Minister for Home ‘Security (Mr. Abbott) will be Acting Minister for Commerce. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) will be relieved of his duties as Assistant Minister for Commerce, and, as Minister assistingthe Treasurer, will concentrate on treasury duties, in order to relieve me of the bulk of detailed treasury administration. He will, however, continue to administer the Ministry of Transport.
– I understand that members of the Australian Imperial Force who have returned to Australia with wounds or other disabilities have to defray the cost of travelling to and from hospital in order to undergo treatment until they are discharged from the Army and are entitled to the benefits of the Repatriation Act. Will the Minister for the Army prevail upon the Government to grant to men who are receiving hospital treatmen under Army regulations privileges identical with those enjoyed by bene ficiaries under the Repatriation Act?
– I am prepared to investigate the matter, and think that I can assure the honorable member that it will receive the consideration he desires.
– Will the Prime Minister, as quickly as possible, obtain the services of a competent surgeon, in order to discover whether the Opposition is tongue-tied or thoughtbound ?
Question not answered.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service received a communication from the Queensland Government concerning the industrial disturbance at the railway workshops, Ipswich ? What steps are being taken to terminate the dispute?
– I have not received any information from the Queensland Government, but have had some advice from officers of my department. I understand that the Minister for Railways in the Queensland Government is personally attending to the matter. The particular aspect which bears upon Commonwealth policy, namely, the rates of pay which should apply to fifth-year apprentices, has been referred by me to Judge O’Mara, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, for investigation. I am informed that, at the conclusion of the metal trades case last Friday, a discussion took place before His Honour. I hope to have a decision from him in the near future.
Exemption of Rural Workers
– Has the Minister for the Army received a communication from the Australian Dried Fruits Association, in which the suggestion is made that universal trainees in the fruit-growing districts of Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia should be exempt from training during the harvesting period? If so, what decision has been reached?
– I have not received a letter in the terms mentioned. The matter of exempt occupations, as the honorable member knows, is one primarily for consideration by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. In order to meet the difficulties to which rural industries are being subjected, I am endeavouring to have men engaged in those industries called up at such times as will obviate interference with harvesting or any other rural occupations. The honorable member will realize that such a policy cannot be fully implemented. I shall, however, do my best.
– In view of the acute shortage of barbed wire and wire netting, and the desire of certain interests in Tasmania to plant bat-willow trees, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development endeavour to secure sufficient quantities of both wire and the netting to enable these trees to be protected in the early stages of their growth ?
– Has the Minister for
Health read the following passage which occurs in the report of the Royal Commissioner who investigated the charges made against the Abbco Bread Company : -
Evidence has undoubtedly established that flour of inferior quality was being supplied to the baking trade . . . Tests of the flour used on the 11th were made on the 10th June on behalf of the company by two chemists, and these established those deficiencies in flour which would produce light-weight bread.
Is it within the province of the honorable gentleman to order an investigation of the quality of flour? If not, will he take the matter up with the appropriate State authorities ?
– I have not perused the statement which the honorable gentleman has read, but I shall be pleased to do so with a view to seeing whether any action is demanded.
– Is the
Minister for the Army able to make a statement regarding the recent announcement that . 303 rifles were to be impressed from members of rifle clubs? What is the present position regarding such rifles, and what is the attitude of rifle clubs in the matter?
– I cannot give a reply to that question offhand, because it involves in part rifles of a kind known as match rifles, the definition of which is not exactly distinct. However, I shall have a full statement prepared and conveyed to the Houselater.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce take into consideration the closing of the Wheat Pools during the “war from approximately the end of October of each year, so that if wheat is to be stored beyond that time, the cost of such storage shall be the responsibility of the Commonwealth, and not of the growers?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s proposal.
– In view of the fact that hay-making operations have already commenced in several of the States, will the Acting Minister for Commerce ask the Wheat Stabilization Board to state what it is intended to do with the product of the excessive wheat acreage sown by many farmers?
– I shall take that matter up with the board immediately.
– Is it a fact that members of the Australian Imperial Force on active service are paid in the currency of the country in which they are serving, and that the cost of exchange is debited against the soldier in his pay book? If that be so, will the Minister, in view of the low rate of pay which the soldiers receive, take steps to have this anomaly rectified?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “Yes”. To the second part of the question I shall give consideration.
– When may we expect a statement from the Prime Minister regarding the policy of the Government in connexion with the establishment of a Mortgage Bank to alleviate the serious financial position of primary producers throughout Australia ?
– That matter has received the attention of the Government.
– In view of the great shortage in New South Wales of bran and pollard for poultry feeding, , will the Acting Minister for Commerce place more wheat for gristing purposes at the disposal of millers so that additional supplies of bran and pollard may be made available?
– The honorable member’s proposal will he taken into consideration.
Use of Intelligence Service Funds
– by leave - On Thursday night last, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, questions were asked, and some discussion occurred, regarding the use by the Government of funds for what were referred to in the discussion as “ secret purposes “. I did not at that stage make a full statement on the matter, because I considered that first all of the facts should be carefully ascertained, and certain confidential aspects of them discussed with the Advisory War Council.
The use of special funds in the Commonwealth for security purposes goes back to the year 1916, when the first moneys were advanced from the Treasury for confidential purposes. At that time, theCommonwealth was at war, and it was considered necessary that the Government should have at its disposal some means of countering espionage and other activities opposed to the war effort. Accordingly, a small fund was established in April, 1916, for such purposes. The organization to which the fund was paid, and to which at that time the controlling officer gave only a part of his time, was known as “The CounterEspionage Bureau”, the staff consisting of one or two detectives, whose services were lent by a State. From time to time, a voucher covering an advance of £500 for confidential purposes was prepared by the officer controlling the bureau, and submitted for the AttorneyGeneral’s written approval. Upon this approval being given, the voucher was submitted to the Treasury, which then made the money available to the officer controlling the bureau. All of the accounts for the bureau were submitted from time to time to the Auditor-General for audit, the work of auditing being done by the Auditor-General himself or one of his senior officers. This method of obtaining and controlling special funds has been followed consistently ever since the establishment of the fund.
For some time prior to 1919, the Commonwealth Government had felt the need for a body of trained investigators to inquire into alleged offences against the laws of the Commonwealth. It was accordingly decided in that year to establish an investigation branch, staffed mainly by officers of the Public Service, whose salaries would be shown on the Estimates. This was done in the financial year 1919-20, the director being appointed on and from the 1st November, 1919. The functions of this branch were -
The bulk of the funds of the Investigation Branch was voted by Parliament under the heading “ Commonwealth Investigation Branch “. It was, however, decided to retain the system of having certain special funds in order to provide means for carrying on work connected with the check on the growth of anticonstitutional bodies of the kinds to which I have already referred. In order to check the growth of such bodies, it is necessary to employ some persons having qualifications not ordinarily found in the Public Service, and in some cases to take special steps to obtain information.
The appointment of persons whose salaries are paid out of special funds is, however, subject to the approval of the Attorney-General, and all expenditure is - and I emphasize this point - subject to the scrutiny of the Auditor-General. This system has prevailed continuously up to the present day, and each AttorneyGeneral who has held office since 1920 has given his approval to the continuance of the system by signing, periodically, a voucher covering an “ advance for confidential purposes “. As I have already stated, the Treasury will not make available the moneys claimed unless the voucher bears the approval and signature of the Attorney-General. I gather that it is the practice of the Attorney-General’s Department to explain to each new Attorney-General, when submitting to him for signature the first voucher covering an advance for confidential purposes, that the voucher relates to secret funds, and that those funds have existed for many years.
I come now to an extension of the system of special funds, which took place in February, 1940. The outbreak of the war created conditions with which the Investigation Branch could not effectively deal. Cabinet, greatly concerned over the extent to which the nation’s war effort was being hampered by subversive bodies, felt that a vigorous campaign of counter-propaganda was imperative in order to combat their activities in the community.
This decision of policy arose after a series of events to which I shall now briefly refer. On the 3rd January, 1940, the service boards submitted to the “War Cabinet a memorandum on the activities of the Communist party. Their proposal was that the most suitable course of action lay in counter-propaganda.
On the5th January, the War Cabinet decided in favour of counter-propaganda, and resolved that a conference should be convened of representatives of the intelligence branches of the Navy, Army and Air Force, the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, the Police Commissioners of each State, and the relevant censorship sections of the Department of Information. This conference, on the 23rd January, made a report which included the following paragraph: -
Conference considers that there should be a stricter control through the censorship of all Communist and other publications which show a desire to indulge in subversive and near-subversive propaganda. -In this connexion it is felt that the term “ publications “ should include any reproduction of the written word, whether printed or otherwise. Conference further considers that there should be intense counter-propaganda conducted by publicity mediums.
In a subsequent report dated the 3rd February, the chairman of the conference said -
In the matter of counter-propaganda the recommendation is based on the opinion that the propaganda disseminated by various organs of subversive tendencies is of such a volume and nature that it is essential that it should be countered if the efficiency of Australia’s war effort is not to be seriously impaired.
To this stage it had been contemplated that the counter-propaganda should be conducted by the Department of Information, though, as honorable members will agree, there were considerations both for and against this particular method. .
On the 3rd February, the War Cabinet approved generally of the reports, but referred back the matter of drafting particular measures, at the same time deciding that a representative of the Attorney-General’s Department should be associated with such drafting. The matter thus reached the department of the Attorney-General. Subsequently, in February, 1940, my colleague brought the matter before the Full Cabinet, recommended active counter-propaganda and indicated that if Cabinet approved of the principle, he could readily organize such propaganda at, he thought, a cost not exceeding about £3,000 per annum. Cabinet, in approving the principle, felt that prosecution was not always an appropriate course, hut was sometimes a dangerous course because it gave a publicplatform for subversive doctrine, and that in any event it was better, wherever possible, to answer argument than to prevent; it.
All administrative details were left to the Attorney-General, and the matter did not again come before the Cabinet. My colleague thereafter established relations with a body known as The Australian Democratic Front, and funds were provided for meetings, salaries, travelling expenses, printing, and the like. Arrangements were then made for the creation of a special fund which was controlled and operated within the Attorney-General’s Department. I shall describe the procedure. From time to time the Treasury provided funds by issuing cheques on the voucher of the Solicitor-General, who is the permanent head of the Department of the Attorney-General. These cheques were paid into a private account which had been opened by the Solicitor-General in Sydney for that specific purpose. The Solicitor-General, in turn, gave cheques on this account to the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney, who cashed them and paid the proceeds into a special account which he opened in another bank. From the funds in this account, he made payments by cash from time to time. In general, the practice was for accounts to be presented to the Deputy Crown Solicitor by the organizing secretary of the Australian Democratic Front. As a general practice, these accounts were vouched for by the organizing secretary of the Australian Democratic Front, and were verified by the Deputy Crown Solicitor, so far as it was possible for him to do so.
The same checks which have heretofore prevailed in connexion with, special funds, that is, approval by the AttorneyGeneral of any staff employed, the obtaining of funds from the Treasury, and audit of the accounts by the AuditorGeneral, have been employed in this extension of the use of special funds on counter-propaganda.
From February, 1940, up to the present time, the Commonwealth Government has caused payments to be made from this confidential fund for the establishment and running expenses of The Australian Democratic Front, including salaries, organizers’ expenses, office furnishing at Prudential Building, Martin-place, Sydney, and also at Melbourne, rent, printing expenses, expenses of organizing meetings and of distributing pamphlets, handbills, &c. To the 13th September, 1941, the total expenditure was £4,818 8s. 4d. which has been classified as follows: -
This expenditure has been examined for the Commonwealth by either the AuditorGeneral or one of his senior officers.
Included in those amounts were payments totalling £300, which were made early in March of the present year, with the authorization of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) and of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), in circumstances that I shall outline to the House. The president of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, generally known as the Miners Federation, Mr. C. H. Nelson, and another official of the federation, about whose identity the Attorney-General is not certain, called upon the right honorable gentleman in his office at Sydney. The AttorneyGeneral states that the delegation pointed out to him, first, that the president and secretary of the federation had, following a recent strike, publicly stated that the miners would give continuous production during the war ; secondly, that it was important that every lodge of the federation should be visited so that the cause of industrial peace during the war could be widely and effectively advocated ; thirdly, that the attitude of the extremists in the organization would make it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain the funds from the union; and that the AttorneyGeneral should, in view of the special circumstances, make the necessary funds available.
The Attorney-General states that he was sympathetic to the request and at once referred the matter to me as Acting Prime Minister. Both the AttorneyGeneral and I approved of the proposal that payments should be made to Mr. Nelson.
Accordingly, with the authority of the Attorney-General and myself, three separate payments, each of £100, were authorized, and it was decided that the Deputy Crown Solicitor should be asked to arrange for the three payments to be made from the fund. This officer paid £100 in cash upon three occasions, namely, the 8th, 10th and 20th March, to the Assistant Commonwealth Publicity Officer for transmission to Mr. Nelson. The Assistant Commonwealth Publicity Officer gave receipts in the following form : -
Received from the Australian Democratic Front the sum of One hundred pounds (£100) for special expenditure in connexion with the coal industry.
Dated this eighth day of March, 1941. £1000s.0d. (Signed) J. Winkler.
On Monday last, certain officials of the Miners Federation, not including Mr. Nelson, visited Canberra and informed me that visits to the lodges were made during March by union officials, including Mr. Nelson, but that all travelling expenses were duly paid out of the funds of the federation to all such officials, in respect of all their visits to the lodges.
Except for the purposes which I have stated, no payments whatever were made from the fund to any association, trade union, religious or civil organization, or to any person. The confidential fund thus established and administered is quite distinct from the confidential fund of the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, which was created many years ago. To thai fund, I have already referred.
The whole of the expenditure of the Attorney-General’s Department on special funds has been examined by the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth or one of his senior officers. I have not heard of any expenditure having been queried by him.
Particular reference has been made to the payments made to officials of the Miners Federation. All that I need add is that when the Attorney-General spoke to me about the proposed payment of expenses to the union officials I had no hesitation in approving of the general idea of providing such expenses, because I had no doubt that the work to be done related directly to the maintenance of Australia’s war effort.
I have gone into this matter at some length, because I desire to satisfy honorable members that there is not a scrap >f justification for the suggestions and insinuations which have been made that there has been an improper use of public funds. The Government has gone to some pains to make its statement complete, because it believes that the public are entitled to satisfaction on such matters.
Should Parliament, notwithstanding the protection of the public interests afforded by the scrutiny of both the Crown Law authorities and the AuditorGeneral, desire these facts to be further verified, the Government will have no reluctance whatever to appoint a royal commission to investigate and report. At i he same time, I point out that the facts which I have stated have themselves been carefully and scrupulously collated.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Special funds - Dso for security purposes - Ministerial statement. and move -
That the paper lie printed.
– I move an amendment -
That the following words be added: - “and this House disapproves of the wrong use of the fund established in February, 1940, for a special purpose “.
First, let me say that with the use of confidential funds by the Government for the purposes of inquiry in order that departments of State might have requisite information to enable them to carry out their proper functions, the Opposition lias no quarrel whatsoever. We quite agree that the police force or intelligence force, whether of the State or of the Commonwealth, must have available to it certain resources of money for the purpose of eliciting knowledge, that knowledge being deemed by the State or the Commonwealth, indispensable to the protection of the State or of the Commonwealth, as the case may be. We are not raising, in this matter, any question respecting the confidential funds which were administered by the Investigation Branch of the Commonwealth before February, 1940. Nor are we querying the fund as administered by the Investigation Branch for the purpose of collecting information ever since. That is not involved. What is involved is this £4,800 which has been voted for the purposes of what is called the Australian Democratic Front and which was drawn on for the purpose of paying the £300 to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) has referred as having been handled through Mr. Winkler. Briefly put, the Government says that in February, 1940, it had before it a proposal to employ counter propaganda for the purpose of combating subversive and near subversive propaganda. That is its purpose. It says, in the statement of the Prime Minister, that it acknowledged that there were arguments for and against that course. And it was apparently conscious of the arguments against when it decided to engage in subsidizing the Australian Democratic Front. I submit to the House that the arguments against that course are overwhelming and that the arguments in support of it in this country not only are weak in principle but also, in their application to the particular instrument that has been employed by the Government, are not worth a grain of salt.
I do not think it i3 necessary for me to recapitulate the essential facts. These were submitted to the Advisory War Council, .that is to say, the hare statement of the facts. Justification of the facts is a matter for the Government; criticism of the facts is a matter for myself and my colleagues. We take the view that the facts represent a wrong use of government funds. The Government will say that the facts are justified as being a right use of government funds. It was rather extraordinary that the travelling expenses of an officer or officers of a union should be debited to the Australian Democratic Front. That seems to me to be a proceeding quite at variance with everything that governments have ever done. It is no new thing in the history of this country for members of trade unions, their executives or their officers to be asked to travel as the result of government invitation. They are called by the Arbitration Court for compulsory conferences. They are called to Canberra for the purpose of consultation with Ministers in order to work out programmes and in order that policy may be decided upon by the Government after consultation with the appropriate trade unions. In those circumstances it is customary for the travelling expenses of such officers of the union to be met by the Prime Minister’s Department. In no case does an intermediary have to be employed in order that that money shall be duly passed to those who have incurred expense, to whom, indeed, it is only repayment of expense incurred. I do not know the precise circumstances associated with the visit to the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes). I have had consultations with the right honorable gentleman. He will not mind my saying that those conversations, instead of informing me, merely confused me. I say that to him here so that there may be on the part of the right honorable gentleman a clear appreciation of my view of this matter.
The Australian Democratic Front was formed at an inaugural meeting held in the vestibule of the Sydney Town Hall on the 15th February, 1941. The formation of the Australian Democratic Front apparently coincided with the decision of the Government to subsidize it. The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Alderman Crick, presided, and on the motion of the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes a resolution was passed endorsing the objects of the Australian Democratic Front and pledging support. The following office-bearers were elected : - President, Mr. G. Christie; vicepresidents, Dr. William Wood, Mrs. James Moyes, Miss K. Egan; and committee, Mrs. H. A. Sheller, Messrs. M. J. D. Page. A. S. Edwards, J. Brunton Gibb, and Henry Morrisey. Attendance at the meeting was by invitation card.
Now, let us have a look at the activities of the Australian Democratic Front. It is no new thing for me to refer to this organization from this very place in this House, for I find that on the 23rd April, 1940, when the Australian Democratic Front was newly born, when it was existing upon government money, I asked the then Postmaster-General (Mr. Thorby) the following question, relating to the literature which was being distributed : -
The leaflet which I produce carries the title, Communism : its aims, and methods. There is, in this leaflet, a most serious allegation against the loyalty of the officers of the honorable gentleman’s own department. I ask him whether he has seen the leaflet, which contains the following specific statement: - lu the General Post Office - the great nerve centre of our postal, telegraphic and telephone communications - under the guise of loyal servants of the people, the agents of communism await the zero hour. When it arrives, they will be able to cut all communications, hamstring any efforts to rally the armed forces that have not been seduced from their allegiance, and dislocate and paralyse the commercial, industrial and social life of the country. Then the revolution will begin in dead earnest.
This quotation was from a leaflet which we now know to have been paid for by the Commonwealth Government. My question continued -
I ask the Postmaster-General if there is. to his knowledge, any evidence at all which would war.rant this foul aspersion being made against officers and employees of an important government instrumentality? If there is no such evidence, will he, in justice to the members of the Commonwealth Public Service, see that those responsible for what would then be a libellous pamphlet - who appear to be the “ Australian Democratic Front”, of 3!) Martinplace. Sydney - are, dealt with as contributing to a state of civil disorder?
My recollection of this matter is not perfect, but it appears from Ilansard that, as is my practice with “sticky” questions, I had previously handed the leaflet to the Postmaster-General so that he might know what he was being called upon to answer. The honorable gentleman gave the following reply to my question : -
T have already had an opportunity to peruse the document to which the honorable member refers, and T have read very carefully the paragraph which he quoted, as well as the balance of the article. .1 have no knowledge whatever of the persons that may be referred to in the article. I have asked the persons responsible for the publication of the document to supply me with all information Uley have at their disposal which might justify the publication of such a statement. Naturally, I am not in a position to vouch for the integrity of every postal employee throughout the Commonwealth, but I feel that th. serious allegations contained in the article cannot be sustained against the members of the Postal Officers Association.
On the 1st May, I asked the following question in this House: -
Referring to the inquiry I made last week regarding allegations contained in a leaflet which had been circulated and which reflected on officers of the Postal Department, has the Postmaster-General made the inquiries he promised to undertake, and if so, with what result?
Mr. Thorby replied ;
I have made certain inquiries, but the information received does not throw very much light on the matter. I am making further inquiries and shall continue to do so.
I produce the leaflet containing the libel issued by the Australian Democratic Front.
The press had something to say about the matter, and the Sydney newspapers referred to my questions in Parliament. Mr. Christie, the president of the Australian Democratic Front, was reported by the Daily Telegraph of the 24th April, 1940, as having said -
We are satisfied that the facts in the pamphlet are quite true. It seems that Mr. Curtin is trying to make political capital out of the issues.
On the following day the Daily Telegraph reported that Mr. Thorby had said -
I have asked the Australian Democratic Front to substantiate, if possible, its charges that Communists employed in the General Post Office, Sydney, are ready to sabotage communications.
This issue also contained the following statement by Mr. Christie: -
We are satisfied about the accuracy of our information and if called upon will hand what we have over to Mr. Thorby.
On the 26th April the following item appeared in the Daily Telegraph : -
Mr. H. W. Parle, federal president, New South Wales section of the New South Wales Electricians Union urged government action against the Australian Democratic Front. He said the staff’s loyalty to the Empire was beyond reproach. Twenty-five per cent, of them were returned soldiers and incensed at the Australian Democratic Front’s libel. He emphatically denied the charges made in the pamphlet issued by the Australian Democratic Front.
The general secretary of the Postal Workers Union, Mr. Dwyer, said that the accusations were without foundation. On the 27th April, the Daily Telegraph stated that the president of the Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union, Mr. Heffernan, had threatened a libel action against Mr. Christie.
On the 28th April the Sunday Telegraph quoted Mr. Christie as saying -
There is no doubt that there are Communists in the Post Office.
On the 30th April the Daily Telegraph made the following statement -
Mr. Christie said he had posted Air. Thorby a letter yesterday which would enable him to take action against Communists in the General Post Office.
On the 1st May it published this report -
The accusations that there were Communist plotters in the General Post Office were not substantiated by the letter he had received from the Australian Democratic Front yesterday, said Postmaster-General Mr. Thorby. The letter gave no information of any value.
The report added that Mr. N. W. Burke,’ of the Postal Workers Union, has said that Mr. Thorby should investigate the Australian Democratic Front. This makes it clear that while one government department was publishing statements concerning the fidelity of officers of another government department, the Postmaster-General was being called upon in this House to reply to the libels which could not have been published but for the money found by his own colleague. It is an extraordinary state of affairs that this sort of thing could go on while the colleagues of the Attorney-General did not know that the Australian Democratic Front was not a public organization at all. Certainly it had officers - Mr. Christie and Mr. Barnes. I shall tell the House something of the activities of Mr. Barnes, so that honorable members may know what kind of man has been deputed to issue propaganda of which the Attorney-General must have approved, and for which he must have found finance. About 1915 or 19.16 Mr. Barnes left the Australian Labour party, and joined the organization which was founded by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). We describe him as a “Labour rat”, and I take full responsibility for those words. I do not bandy such words about, and when I use them I mean them to apply with full force. Mr. Barnes identified himself with the political activities of the right honorable member for North Sydney, but, with the passage of time, the need for that kind of political activity faded away, and he left Australia to become an officer of the Commonwealth Government associated with theselection of migrants in the United Kingdom. He stayed there for some considerable time before returning to Australia. After the further passage of time, he was selected by the right honorable gentleman to be the secretary of this organization, whose birth commenced with the decision of the Commonwealth Government to subvene it. The right honorable gentleman attended the inaugural meeting. I have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Barnes is a protege of the Attorney-General, who regards him as being a man who will do the kind of things that the AttorneyGeneral desires to have done.
Reference has been made by the Prime Minister to counter-Communist propaganda, for which this money was designed. With all the diligence in the world I have been able to trace only nine pamphlets circulated by the Australian Democratic Front, and five of those consisted of reprints of speeches made by the Attorney-General .
– Three, I think.
-Well, I have five of them here. The title pages read as follows : -
Australia Awake! ! by the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, Attorney-General for the Commonwealth - Broadcast from all National Stations - Printed by the Langlea Printery Proprietary Limited, of 433 Kent-street, Sydney, for and on behalf of the Australian Democratic Front, 39 Martin-place, Sydney.
The Need for National Unity, by the Eigne Honorable W. M. Hughes, Attorney-General for the Commonwealth - Broadcast from all National Stations- Printed by Messrs. Patterson and Beck Proprietary Limited, of 10 Boundary-street, Darlington, for and on behalf of the Australian Democratic Front, 39 Martinplace, Sydney.
The Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth - Broadcast from Station 2FC on Communism - Published by and on behalf of the Australian Democratic Front, 39 Martin-place, Sydney.
Call to the Nation, by the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, Attorney-General for the Commonwealth - Broadcast from Station 2FC -Printed by Messrs. Patterson and Beck Proprietary Limited, of 10 Boundary-street, Darlington, for and on behalf of the Australian Democratic Front, 39 Martin-place, Sydney.
Two Tears of War - WhereAustralia Stands To-day, by the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, Attorney-General for the Commonwealth - Broadcast from all National Stations - Printed by the Langlea Printery Proprietary Limited, of 433 Kent-street, Sydney, for and on behalf of the Australian Democratic Front, 39 Martinplace, Sydney.
– The right honorable gentleman seemed to be fighting the “Coms. “ on his own !
– I submit that no Minister of the Crown need resort to such a subterfuge in order that speeches he has publicly made, or articles which he has written, may be circulated to the people of Australia. The Department of Information could have done such work, or the cost of it could have been debited to the Prime Minister’s publicity fund, if that had been desired. It could have been decided to include such expenditure under the vote ‘ for miscellaneous publicity. But the idea was to be, presumably, that the Australian Democratic Front consisted of Australian citizens and was a representative public body which thought so much of these five speeches that it decided to reprint them out of its own resources. That is one presumption. The other presumption is that the Australian Democratic Front thought so little of the speeches of the then Prime Minister that it decided not to reprint them for circulation to the people of Australia! The fact is that the Australian Democratic Front had to give a quid pro quo and therefore Mr. Barnes said, “I will boost the right honorable gentleman as the pillar of democracy in Australia”. That is as I see it, and that is the wayI put it.
I do not know that it is necessary for me to establish the kind of organization this is, but the facts are that the Sydney Daily News sent a reporter to interview Mr. Barnes and Mr. Christie in order to get them to explain the position of the Australian Democratic Front. I hold in my hand one of the letterheads of the organization. It suggests that the Australian Democratic Front is a public body, which of course it is not. The interviews took place after the Australian Democratic Front had libelled certain trade unionists, and after the trade unionists had been asked not to be Communist: and had been told that their organization contained Communists who were awaiting the zero hour. The report of the interviews which was published on the 2nd May, 1940, read as follows : -
Mr. J. Barnes, at one time Assistant Director of Development and Migration at Australia House, London, said, “ I am simply loaned as adviser. The directors of my company in another State have made me available and they are footing the bill for my services. “ What was your industrial experience?” he was asked. “ I was President of the Meat Industry Employees Union in Queensland.”
Question. - Are you not interested in the source of the finance of the organization with which you work?
Answer. - I am simply on loan. My fellow directors have made me available.
Question. - How many members have you? What is the subscription and who provides the money ?
Mr. Barnes was angry and said, “Do not be presumptuous. You have no right to ask me those questions. See Mr. Christie - Mr. Christie was interviewed in his office, at 14 Martin-place, Sydney.
Daily News. - Why do you refuse to let the public know the names of your officials and committee men?
– Because that is the wish of the people for whom I am acting.
Question. - Who are those people?
Answer. - I see no reason to make that public.
Question. - Is your membership open to the public? Can the public join?
Answer. - No
Question. - Why not, if you are a democratic body?
Answer. - That is our business.
Question. - You have made certain accusations of communism in the Postal Department. Upon what evidence are they based?
Answer. - That information is for Mr. Thorby alone.
Question. - Who conducts the investigations?
Answer. - We have certain assistants.
Question. - Are these assistants paid for their work?
Answer. - I will not answer that.
Question. - Do you intend to make similar investigations into other Federal Departments?
Answer . - Probabl y .
Question. - What qualifications have you to be President of the Australian Democratic Front?
Answer. - I will not discuss what I have done in the past.
Question. - Have you ever been a member of the Labour party?
Answer. - No
Question. - Of the Communist party? Answer. - No.
Question. - Of the United Australia party?
Answer. - Yes. I have been for many years a member of and branch officer of the United Australia party.
Question. - Where ?
Answer. - Wherever I have been I have always belonged to the United Australia party.
Question. - Why did you form this organization?
Answer. - I thought it was desirable.
Question. - How did you bring it into existence?
Answer. - I will not discuss that.
Question. - How many members have you?
Answer. - I will not tell you.
Question. - Where is the source of your finance? Where do you get the money?
Answer. -I will say nothing about that.
Question. - What are your organization’s plans for the future?
Answer. - We have our own plans. I do not intend to disclose them.
Question. - Do you intend to take part in political campaigns?
Answer. - No, we have no political ambitions.
Question. - What are your ambitions?
Answer. - They are mainly to stabilize the public’s views on democracy and to combat subversive influences in the community.
Question. - How do you propose to achieve those ambitions democratically except by political campaigns?
Answer. - I will not say.
Question. - Does that mean that you have some other method in view which you are not prepared to disclose.?
Answer. - I am disclosing no method. We have our own method. That is all.
I say that the Australian Democratic Front consists of political “ stooges “ which the right honorable gentleman used for the purpose, as he told Cabinet, of combating communism. But a body less capable of combating communism in Australia it would be hard to discover, for this body has no title and no authority, and is not a public organization. The Australian Democratic Front consists of persons picked out to receive Government money, but I submit that they carried on no effective campaign.
In addition to the five pamphlets to which I had already referred I know of only four others published by the Australian Democratic Front, and these four, like those to which I have already referred, probably consisted of diatribes against communism. The first four pamphlets which I named consisted of attacks by the Attorney-General upon Russia and the last one, curiously enough, consisted of a speech by the same right honorable gentleman attacking those who were attacking Russia ! The publication of the five pamphlets could have been paid for by the Commonwealth Government. There was no justification whatever for the Government engaging in the founding of a subvert - an organization which is not a public body - for the purpose of combating communism, for it had facilities open to it, through its own Department of Information, to publish whatever it thought would be useful to that end. TheGovernment knew that the great body of trade unionists in Australia, including all kinds of present-day representative figures, would, in the very nature of things, be much more influential in opening the eyes of the workers and much more effective in condemning Communists than Mr. Barnes, or Mr. Christie, or this illicit organization could possibly be. The organization has neither a body to be kicked or a soul to be damned. It is merely the recipient of government money. The only thing that it ever did, so far as I can see, was to libel postal officials without the PostmasterGeneral being able to get any information about the matter.
I come now to the rumours concerning the use of this fund. So far as the Labour members of the Advisory War Council are concerned, I consider it only just to the Prime Minister and his colleagues to say that I believe that they placed before the Advisory War Council the whole of the facts, as they knew them, in respect of the disbursement of this money. I entirely agree with the statement of the honorable gentleman that there is no ground whatever for the belief that any organization, either for or against religion, participated in any disbursement of public money, or had aid given to it in any shape or form, for purposes of propaganda. I also say that no trade union is involved in any way whatever in this matter, other than in respect of the £300 paid to Mr. Winkler, ostensibly for the purpose of enabling officers of the Miners Federation to carry out a campaign. The officers of that federation have been to me, and I have taken them to the Prime Minister. They said to him, as they said to me, that the whole of the costs incurred by officers of the federation in connexion with the tour which was made for the purpose of promoting industrial peace in Australia, were voted and paid by the organization, and that receipts for the expenditure are in the possession of the organization. From my long experience of trade unionism in Australia, I should be surprised to learn that any union would ask the Government to defray the cost of a campaign in which the union itself felt that its officers should engage.
– The officers of the union who waited upon me last Monday included all of the representative officers except the president; and he, I was told, was ill at the time, and therefore could not attend.
– What is the name of the president?
- Mr. Charles Nelson. I have known him for some time. I have not any knowledge of representations having been made to the Prime Minister. I point out, however, that very rarely do trade unions make representations to Ministers of theCrown without asking my aid in making them; if they are in a difficulty, if there is anything they want done, the invariable practice is to approach either the Leader or some representative member of the Labour party.
– We receive representations every day, without intervention.
– For purposes initiated by Ministers, when they wish to have a conference, or something of that description. I am speaking of conferences with a view to obtaining the assistance of the Government in respect of financial grants. They frequently come to me. I am not surprised that this matter was not referred to me, because I understand that the consultations with respect to it took place in Sydney; consequently, I had nothing at all to do with it. Whatever the Government did, it acted on the presumption that the union, as a union, desired it so to act ; but, instead of paying the money direct to officers of the union, as had been done in every other instance, the Government used this roundabout way of employing a secret fund, which was established for quite other purposes.
– Did Nelson get the £300?
– I do not know. He denied it when I questioned him regarding the receipt of any money. As the Prime Minister has said, the only receipt which the Government has is that of
Mr. Winkler. I believe that the Government acted as it did, believing that the £300 would be used to defray the travelling expenses of members of the union.
– There is no doubt about that.
– There is no doubt whatever about it. I say so here, in order that there shall be no misstatement of our view of the matter. But the Government took no steps to ensure that the money was used for that purpose; although, apparently, there mustbe something curious about it, otherwise the circumstances in which I gained my knowledge would not have been necessary.
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by “ something curious “ ?
-If this had been an ordinary exercise of departmental administration - that is to say, if this man had asked for expenses, and the department had decided to pay them - then the customary practice would have been employed, and the usual form of receipt would have gone to the department from the man who had received the money.
– Do I understand the honorable gentleman to say that he does not object to the purpose - that the purpose was legitimate - but that he objects to the means employed?
– Whether or not the Government should have yielded to the representation that financial help should be given to a union to do a certain thing, was entirely a matter for the judgment of the Government. I would not say that that was at all improper.
– Especially when the union itself carried out the mission.
– The Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) is not going to place me in the position of saying that the payment of £300 was all right, merely because I say that the purpose for which the money was voted was a perfectly proper one. Conceivably it was a perfectly proper purpose for the Prime Minister to have approved; nevertheless, I am not going to condone a single farthing of the expenditure of the Austral i an Democratic Front.
– The honorable gentleman does not deny that the purpose was a proper one?
– It must have been proper, because the union carried out the mission at its own expense.
– The union always intended that its officers should visit the lodges. Its rules contain provisions in respect of the expenses of officers when they do that sort of thing. [Extension of time granted.] I shall not deal with the circumstances in which this matter was brought to my notice. I did not make any solicitation whatever, nor did I know anything about the business. I am not in the habit of having secrets given to me by employees of the Crown. The first thing that I did, was to take the matter straight to the head of the Australian Government.
– Had the normal departmental routine been observed, there would have been no point whatever in bringing the matter to my notice.
– Why was it brought to the honorable member’s notice ?
– I do not know what were the motives of my informant when he brought it to me.
– He also took the other matter, which had no connexion with the Australian Democratic Front. The honorable gentleman accepted that, too, did he not?
– I accepted both.
– Of course.
– Both of them were taken to the Prime Minister. What is the implication of the right honorable gentleman?
– The implication is that which the honorable gentleman cares to make. He has been making, by implication, some very offensive statements against me.
– I cannot help that.
– Nor can I help this.
– Does the right honorable gentleman take the view that I ought to read all of the documents in this place? I do not, at the moment, consider that it is a matter for this House to decide.
– Hear, hear!
– There is a specific accusation, arising out of a question which I put to the Prime Minister last week in regard to secret funds. The words that I then used were, “the use of funds for purposes not approved by Parliament “.
– Let the Attorney-General “spill” the rest.
– Let him “spill” it, if he so desires. In order that there may be no “ come-back “ on me, I now say to the country that the head of the Australian Government has the text of both documents, and that they were made available to him for his perusal as early as it was practicable for me to hand them to him. There is, in the other document, nothing which involves the administration of public moneys.
– I do not say that there is.
– We are concerned with that matter only on its own account. I submit that the Government was not warranted in setting up the Australian Democratic Front. There is no subvention in respect of the Australian Democratic Front; it was a deliberate “setup “ by the Government. It is an organization which has not any public substance whatsoever. There was not, therefore, any occasion to employ Barnes, Christie, or the other persons mentioned, for governmental purposes in Australia. Never previously has any government had to do this sort of thing, and it was not necessary at the present juncture. The Department of Information could have printed the whole of the speeches of the Prime Minister and every other Minister. It could have made all the quotations it might choose to make from the speeches of hundreds of representative Labour men in Australia, with respect to the evil effects of Communism and disruption, and the justification for industrial peace. But the right honorable gentleman formed this organization, and approached Cabinet for the necessary funds to enable it to function. Having obtained the money, the work of the organization was commenced. For the most part, it consisted of a reprint of speeches by the right honorable gentleman libelling Commonwealth employees.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), instead of directing his remarks very pointedly and acidly to the alleged misuse of public funds - to which reference was made on Thursdaylast - has concentrated on the Australian Democratic Front. He has contrived, under such cover, to make an attack upon me personally, upon my administration, and upon Mr. Barnes. This is a sorry ending to a great national question. Last Thursday, the people of this country were invited to contemplate, with horror, alarm and indignation, an astounding revelation of wholesale bribery and corruption. It was said that the Government, by means of a secret fund was corrupting trade union officials, that it was bribing this man and that man in an endeavour, as it were, to foist its policy upon a reluctant people. To-day, they are told about Mr. Barnes.
I propose, first, to make a few remarks concerning the Australian Democratic Front. The honorable gentleman has made it appear that this is a mere instrument through which I exercise activities which otherwise would not be possible. On the face of it, that is an absurd thing to say. The honorable gentleman has admitted that I could have made all of these speeches to which he has referred - even he does not deny to me the rightof free speech - and that it was proper for the Government to print them. I therefore dismiss that part of his case; it has nothing whatever to do with the question with which we are dealing, namely, the improper use of public funds. But I must say a word about the honorable member’s attack on Mr. Barnes, who was employed by this organization. The honorable gentleman says that he is a Labour “ rat “. To prove his case, the honorable gentleman goes hack to 1915 or 1916, when this man committed theunforgivable sin : he left the Labour party. It is true that he left the party, hut he did not leave it alone; he left it in company with hundreds of thousands of others, and ever since their leaving it the Labour party has, with the exception of two years, been in the political wilderness. Therefore, if he went from the Labour party, he went in goodly company. The honorable member said some- thing about a rat. This man is not the only rat, I would have the honorable member know. A great deal of criticism has been directed against a number of people, including such pillars of the temple as Lloyd Boss, who has complained bitterly that he has been so stigmatized by the Communists, who have found a new champion in the honorable member, for the gravamen of his attack on me is that I have denounced and fought the Communists. That is all they can say against me - or against him. They cannot say that I have attacked the Labour party. It is true that I have attacked the Communists - I have attacked them in season and out of season. The honorable member denounces me for attacking them. The honorable member is not in very good company. Let me quote the following from The Tribune, the official organ of the banned Communist party, of the 22nd June, 1941:-
The main enemies of the interests of the workingpeople of this country are here. Their political leader is Menzies, whose leading henchman is Fadden, their left hand man is Curtin who has many agents in union offices.
Thus we see that the honorable member is, in the eyes of the Communist party, himself an enemy of the people, an enemy of the workers. Lloyd Boss complained bitterly of being called a rat, but The Tribune said he deserved the title. The Tribune says “ Cornered rats squeal ! “, andthe honorable member is bracketed by The Tribune with Lloyd Ross. If the honorable gentleman says that the offence for which he condemns Mr. Barnes and myself is that we left the Labour movement in 1916, the people of this country who approved our action will regard that as a very obvious attempt to sidetrack an issue which is now becoming very embarrassing to the honorable member. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) set out to justify that which his henchman had stated on Thursday, namely, that there had been bribery and corruption and improper use of public funds, and he has utterly failed to make out any case whatever. To-day he says that this expenditure was itself entirely proper. He justifies the payment of £300 to Nelson.
– He said nothing of the kind.
– Oh yes, he did. He admitted that that payment was proper, but he suggested that the setting up of the Australian DemocraticFront to combat communism was most improper. As I have said, the honorable member has failed utterly to make out a case. Indeed he made no attempt to do so. He has attempted to cover up what was becoming increasingly obvious - that this gentleman who supplied information to him had uncovered a dead cat which, as the days went by, began to smell more and more.
The Government has said “ If there is anything more that you want to find out, we shall appoint a royal commission and find it out”. Who is hanging back in the breeching now ? If there is anything further to be uncovered let us have a royal commission. The honorable gentleman knows very well that this information came to him through an officer of the Commonwealth waiting on him and supplying him with information and a document which he knew to be confidential and the property of the Commonwealth. In my opinion, he ought not to have received it, yet he not only received it, but also acted upon it. He made it known, but, as I have said, along with the information relating to the expenditure of public moneys, he was given by this public servant another document which he knew to be confidential. He must have known that the man who gave it to him committed an offence against the Crimes Act and Official Secrets Act. And this man cannot be brought to book unless and until the Leader of the Opposition gives evidence against him. Let the honorable gentleman and the country note this.
We come now to the charge which aroused the attention of the public - the uses to which this so-called secret fund has been put, and particularly the amount of £300 paid to a union official. The Leader of the Opposition has said that this was an entirely proper payment, but that the mode of payment was unusual and that there must have been something curious about it because Mr. Nelson did not acquaint him with it. Well, I had nothing to do with that. The honorable member knows that I am quite well acquaintedwith Mr. Nelson, and though I do not agree with him in politics, I have always regarded him as a unionist of a good type. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) has told the House, Mr. Nelson came to see me on a matter of public business. Just what were the circumstances under which he came is not quite clear in my mind. Whether he was introduced to me by a member of Parliament, as is usual in such cases, I cannot say, but that he saw me is certain. He stated that he and the secretary of the Miners Federation - of which he was the president - were desirous of putting into force the policy of continuity in their industry during the Avar. That is a policy in which I believe. It was to give effect to that policy that the Australian Democratic Front was established and these leaflets were written and published. He pointed out that his organization contained many Communists, or “ Reds who would oppose any attempt to popularize the policy of continuity in industry, and he therefore asked the Government to make available money for the purpose of enabling him to go about to the various lodges, and put the matter before the members. I discussed the proposal with my leader, who was then Acting Prime Minister. He agreed with me regarding it, and the money was made available. I venture to say that this was an entirely proper and laudable use of money.
– If it was an entirely proper thing to do, why charge the payment against, the secret funds of the Australian Democratic Front? Why was not the payment made from the ordinary vote of the Prime Minister’s Department? Why was not the money paid to Nelson direct?
– Either the payment was right or it was wrong. If it was wrong, then whatever fund it came from, it would still be wrong; and if it was right the fund, from which it came does not matter.
– The end justifies the means !
– The money was paid from that fund because it was convenient to do so. The Leader of the Opposition has himself said that the payment was entirely proper.
– I said that the decision of the Government to defray the travelling expenses of union officers was one that it was perfectly justified in making, but if it is stated that the payment had to be made from a secret fund through a stillborn organization, well-
– That will not do at all. A union official came to the head of the Government, and the AttorneyGeneral who administers the funds. He put a case before these representative Ministers. The Australian Democratic Front, as such, was not consulted or affected in any shape or form. Thu money came out of the same fund- under my control as was used for the purposes of the Australian Democratic Front, but it was not this organization which advanced the money to Nelson-
– It was the Government. But the receipt says that the Government’s officer received the money from the Australian Democratic Front.
– I do not know the man who waited on the honorable member and who signed the receipt. A man like that will say or do anything. The charge laid against the Government was, and is, that it has improperly used public moneys for the purpose of bribing and corrupting union officials and others in the performance of their duties. That charge has failed completely, and the Leader of the Opposition has not even taken the trouble to attempt to bolster it up. He has admitted that the payment was for a proper purpose. Anything he might have to say about the Australian Democratic Front is entirely beside the question, and represents his own opinion only. Returning to Mr. Barnes, the honorable member said that this man was entirely discredited-, that he left the Labour movement 25 years ago. Well, if we go back far enough we might find many men about whom we could say quite a number of things. But all of that has. nothing whatever to do with the case. Does the Leader of the Opposition say that this would have been a perfectly proper thing to do if the Government had appointed a man who would have pleased him?
– Have we reached the stage of having to go before the Leader of the Opposition, make low obeisance to him and say, “ Sir, do you mind looking this man over? Does he please you, because we want to employ him ? “
– This is the second time that the Government has employed this uran. The Attorney-General gave him a job in London and when that petered out, he appointed him to his present position.
– ls re-employment such a reprehensive reward for faithful service? This man served his country faithfully. I sent him to London on an important mission which he carried out so efficiently that, in a weak moment, I gave him this new position. Is that a crime? Evidently, it displeases the Leader of the Opposition. What I should have done was to kick him out. Only six or eight months ago, I appointed three men, who formerly were supporters of Labour in this House, as inspectors under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act. I searched from Dan to Beersheba to find a Labour man who would take on this work of denouncing communism, but without avail. Honorable members opposite may say what they please, but they will not come out and fight communism in the open. They are afraid to do so. The trouble is that the tail is wagging the dog. That is what the matter is with the honorable member and his followers. The Australian Democratic Front was left to fight battles that honorable members opposite should have fought. In this fight against communism, the Government received no assistance from the Opposition. I quote from a broadcast I made on The Need for National Unity which was republished by the Australian Democratic Front. The honorable member has sneered at this. To advocate national unity is to commit an unforgiveable crime! Fancy having national unity in an emergency such as the present -
The stirring broadcast of Mr. Curtin has given us an assurance of the wholehearted cooperation of the Labour, political and industrial. The great industrial organizations are appointing representatives to the Advisory Panel which is to guide and advise the Government, so that in the exercise of these unlimited powers, the maximum effort of the nation shall be ensured and the interests of labour be protected.
For preaching that, I have been condemned. For printing that, the Aus-, tralian Democratic Front is now pilloried. Because Mr. Barnes has been a faithful servant who has worked for Australia in the Labour movement and elsewhere, he is to be cast into outer darkness. I will not do it for the Leader of the Opposition or anybody else.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make one reference, if only one, to the matter which was published reflecting on the postal employees?
– The Leader of the Opposition harks back to ancient days. He spoke of a Postmaster-General who is no longer with us. He said in effect, “ I drew the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to this cruel, scurrilous libel on the employees, those peaceful law-abiding Communists in the Post Office. As is my practice, I handed this to the PostmasterGeneral beforehand and the PostmasterGeneral said that he knew nothing whatever about it “. Is the Leader of the Opposition Alice in Wonderland that he thinks that Communists wear a label bearing the words “ I am a Communist “ ? Does he not believe that Communists exist ?
– Where, in the Post Office?
– And everywhere else ! The Leader of the Opposition need not look very far for some. The trouble is that he is silent when he should speak. He must make up his mind on which side be will range himself. He denounces me for attacking Communists. Everything which the Government and I have done in. this matter has been properly, lawfully and legitimately done. Australia’s maximum war effort is vital to the safety of the Commonwealth, and this is impossible without peace in industry. The Leader of the Opposition made reference to Thornton. Does the honorable gentleman know Thornton?
– I have heard of him.
– He is a very active worker in the Communist vineyard. In Freedom’s Voice he expressed this opinion on tine 6th November, 1940 -
Although it would not lie true to sa.y that a strike wave is in process, nevertheless there are the rumblings of the beginnings. On questions of hours, margins, and wages, industry after industry is beginning to feel the strength of organized unionism. In Port Kembla the iron workers and Australian Workers Union. In Victoria thebuilding trades. In Newcastle the ironworkers. In Cockatoo the engineers. In Mort’s Dock the ironworkers. In Bulli the miners. In all the above strikes are in process, while in the textile industry and the gas industry and the sheet metal workers in Clyde, the situation is fast approaching a showdown.
Communists are ceaselessly active in fomenting industrial strife. Over and over again, the Leader of the Opposition has declared that Australia must put forward its maximum war effort; hut these men seek to prevent us from doing so. Because the Australian Democratic Front has exposed them, the Government is denounced. I say, let the people judge between us. On whose side is the Leader of the Opposition?
– Why cannot an honest man, in the open day, oppose them ? The Government has employed an unknown and furtive organization.
– Unknown ; my grandmother !
– It has not a single member.
– The Leader of the Opposition should take a walk in the fresh air. He is swollen to portentous dimensions. He declares that Mr. Christie and the men and women who are working with him on the executive committee are not reputable persons. To be reputable, evidently, people must win the good graces of the Leader of the Opposition. The respectability and reputation of members of the Australian Democratic Front will compare quite favorably with those of the friends of the honorable gentleman. The need for the Australian Democratic Front and vigorous propaganda to expose communism for what it is was urgent, because Communists were ceaselessly at work. Regarding every strike that has occurred during the last twelve months, they have had a finger in the pie. Everybody knows that. Every honorable member opposite is aware of it. but instead of denouncing Communists and smiting them hip and thigh, members of the Opposition endeavoured, as it were, to temper the wind to the shorn lamb.
– One man was acquitted without a stain on his character.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. M. Nairn). Order! The honorable member for Melbourne is interjecting too frequently.
– The Communists are against the war, against peace in industry. A trade union official who was recently arrested for engaging in subversive propaganda was convicted and is now serving a sentence. The federal secretary of the organization to which the man belonged protested most vehemently against what he described as the “unjust sentence”. Unjust! Let the people judge for themselves. The man was convicted because, inter alia, he had a document in his possession which read -
In character and essence, the present war is, on the part of both warring sides, an imperialist, unjust war, despite the fraudulent slogans being used by the ruling classes of the warring capitalist States in their endeavour to hide their real aims from the masses of the people. . . .
That case occurred last month. Every clay, such men are ceaselessly active in their endeavour to undermine unionism. If it will not servetheir purpose, they work determinedly to destroy it. No one can deny that. I could quote a thousand instances to prove my statement. The Australian Democratic Front was established as a result of a conference which was attended by representatives of the Services and the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, and the State Police Commissioners. The conference was strongly of opinion that communism could be coped with only by active counter-propaganda. For that reason, this organization was established. The Government understood precisely its functions, and it has been carrying on its work. The statement of the Leader of the Opposition that its activities have been limited to the production of nine pamphlets is not correct; it has addressed hundreds of meetings throughout the country.If the honorable member were familiar with the activities of communism in New South Wales, he would know that meetings have been held day after day. The work of counter propaganda should be undertaken by honorable members opposite. Failing that, the least they can do is to support the campaign against communism in season and out of season.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate being continued.
.- In view of the many misrepresentations indulged in by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), and the red herrings drawn across the trail, it is necessary to get back to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the reasons for that amendment. The Leader of the Opposition moved to add to the motion, that the paper be printed, the words - . . and this House disapproves of the wrong use of the fund established in February, 1940, for a special purpose.
There is not a scintilla of truth in all of the wild talk of the Attorney-General about the Leader of the Opposition condemning the right honorable gentleman for his attack on communism. The Attorney-General’s speech consisted of balderdash and nonsense. Being unable to reply to the telling points made by the Leader of the Opposition, he tried to cloud the issue by irrelevant misrepresentation. His accusations that the Leader of the Opposition indulged in wild and extravagant charges of bribery and corruption are absolutely without foundation. Last Thursday the Leader of the Opposition said -
The Prime Minister knows that the question I put to him yesterday involved the payment of government funds to a person or persons for purposes not approved by the Parliament. I now ask the honorable gentleman what course the Government has decided upon in order to enable this House to determine the propriety of what has been done?
That was the simple question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. He has at no time made any accusations of bribery and corruption. He said that certain information had been put in his possession, and that in his opinion the known and admitted facts proved that there had been a wrongful use of funds. At no time did he condemn the Attorney-General for his attack on communism. That did not enter into the matter at all. He did criticize what he termed the wrong use of public funds in a mysterious way. If all of the transactions were as open and above-board as the AttorneyGeneral claimed, would some temporary public servant be employed to handle money in cash and sign a receipt for it as having been received from the Australian Democratic Front when, as a matter of fact, he had received it not from the Australian Democratic Front, but from the Government? According to the Prime Minister’s statement, the receipt reads -
Received from the Australian Democratic Front the sum of one hundred pounds (£100) for special expenditure in connexion with the coal industry.
Dated this eighth day of March, 1941. £100 0s.6d. (Signed) J. Winkler.
That and two other receipts were so worded by the Government or its agents in order to deceive. The Government has no proof of where the money went. The Leader of the Opposition has a right to say that it was the elementary duty of somebody, if certain union officials had said that the union had no funds with which to pay travelling expenses, to ascertain whether the story was true. By a mere telephone inquiry of the treasurer of the union, the Government could have ascertained whether the union was in the alleged impecunious position. But that was not clone, and, on the admission of the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden), the Attorney-General, with his approval, agreed to pay £300 to two officials of the Miners Federation; the destination intended when approval was given by the Government. Payment by means of a crossed cheque would have enabled the Government to ensure that the money would reach the funds of the Miners Federation. Owing to the methods employed, the Government has to admit that it does not know where the money went, or whether it ever reached its intended destination. Is not the Leader of the Opposition justified, therefore, in saying that the Government has been guilty of the wrongful use of public funds? Even if the Government believed that the payment of this £300 was justified it acted wrongly in paying the money without ascertaining from the union whether it was needed.
As a matter of fact, that the union, did not. need .the money was proved a few flays ago, when it was ascertained .from officials of the union on a visit to Canberra that the union had substantial credit funds in March last, and paid the expenses of its officials when they were on tour. The Leader of the Opposition has proved to the hilt his charge that ellis alleged payment and also the funds paid to the Australian Democratic Front constitute a wrongful use of public money.
One has only to remember some of the statements made by its officials or articles in the press to be able to prove that the Australian Democratic Front is a party political organization, under the influence of the Attorney-General. The Daily News, on the 2nd May, 1940, said -
Strong evidence was found yesterday that Mie Australian Democratic Front is actually a camouflaged agency of the United Australia [tarty. Its president has been a United Australia party official and brunch member fur many years. Membership of the Australian Democratic Front is not open to the public. The Australian Democratic Front has a commodious suite in the Prudential Building, Martin-place, Sydney, next to the office of the ex-United Australia party Premier Stevens. The Daily News representative found two stenographers at work and a rotund, jovial, middle-aged gentleman behind a desk filled with “Rod Menace” pamphlets. Mr. J. Barnes, at one time Assistant - Director of Development and Migration at Australia House, London, said : “I am simply loaned us adviser. The directors of my company in another State have made me available and they are footing the bill for my services.” “Was that not done to deceive somebody? Was there not something underhand about it? I submit that that is not the way in which a government should deal with public money. If everything is open and above-board, what was the necessity to use subterranean channels and to have a temporary official tiptoeing through corridors in order to pay cash or notes to some individual if that individual has a legitimate claim on the Government for that money, whether he be a representative of the Australian Democratic Front or of a union? The Government committed a grave blunder when it took this step.
I was amazed that the Prime Minister should spend so much time in dealing with the Commonwealth Investigation Branch Fund, which is something entirely dif- ferent from the fund which was established in February, 1940, and from which payments were made to the Australian Democratic Front and to certain personsThe Commonwealth Investigation Branch was established away back in 1916 and the payments made to Lieutenant-Colonel Jones were on a footing entirely different from the payments made to the Australian Democratic Front. From the facts, which are not disputed by the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, iv the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) or anybody else, it is clear that there is no similarity between the funds of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch and the special fund which has been used “for the purpose of the establishment of running expenses of the Australian Democratic Front, including salaries, organizers’ expenses, office furnishing at Prudential Building, Martinplace, Sydney, and also at Melbourne, vent “ and so on. We have the admission of the president, Mr. George Christie, a well-known solicitor in Sydney, that all his life he has been a supporter of the United Australia party, and for some years an official of a suburban branch of that party. He made that admission in a statement published in the press last year. We know also that the Attorney-General obtained a great deal of publicity as the result of the establishment of the Australian Democratic Front. He occupied the star position al the inaugural meeting, at which he moved a resolution applauding the self-sacrifice of the individuals who had attended in order to form the Australian Democratic Front. He said that those gentlemen were to be commended for their high standard of citizenship, and so on. .Showing the gratitude of the Australian Democratic Front for what he said, five of the nine pamphlets issued by the Australian Democratic Front were issued, giving wide circulation to speeches by the Attorney-General. Four of those pamphlets criticized Russia, and the fifth praised Russia and criticized those who were condemning Russia and Communism. He put it in these words -
The pact between RusSia and Britain, in which the parties bound themselves to give mutual aid and not to make a separate peace, was enthusiastically welcomed by the great majority of the people of Australia. A numerically small section (mainly composed of the “very nicest people”), however, viewed it with grave suspicion and distrust, they see in Russia’s entry into the war against our common enemy the dark and menacing shape of Communism, and gathering their robes around them, hasten to pass by on the other side. In their eyes it is better that Nazi-ism should win the war than that the Soviet armies should help to save us from Nazi domination.
No doubt it takes all sorts to make a world, but God Save us from such narrow-minded futile and unpatriotic counsels. As for me, I welcome an alliance with this great power with its vast resources, immense territories, and huge population, and hail it with unbounded satisfaction.
Now the right honorable gentleman tells us that we are condemning him because of his criticism of communism. Nothing of the kind! Any one who makes that suggestion in criticism of what the Leader of the Opposition has done is wilfully misrepresenting the whole position.
The Attorney-General has not uttered one word of criticism of the unwarranted attack made by this United Australia party branch official, Mr. George Christie, as president of the Australian Democratic Front, on the probity, integrity and honour of the Postal Workers Union of Australia. That gentleman thought that he would receive a lot of notoriety by criticizing the postal employees. The Leader of the Opposition was amply justified when, on the 23rd April, 1940, he asked the Postmaster-General whether he had seen a leaflet which contained the following specific statement: -
In the General Post Office - thu great nerve centre of our postal, telegraphic and telephone communications - under the guise of loyal servants of the people, the agents of Communism await the zero hour. When it arrive, they will bo able to cut all communication., hamstring any efforts to rally the armed forces that have not been seduced from their allegiance, and dislocate and paralyse the commercial, industrial and social life of the country. Then the revolution will begin in dead earnest.
The Leader of the Opposition also asked if there was to his knowledge any evidence at all which would warrant that foul aspersion was being cast upon officers and employees of an important government instrumentality. Be it said to the credit of Mr. Thorby that he stated, on the 1st May, 1940-
The accusations that there are Communist plotters in the General Post Office are not substantiated by the letters I received from the Australian Democratic Front yesterday. The letter gave no information of any value whatever.
That was the admission of a member of the Government which was financing the Australian Democratic Front. Who was the real libeller of the army of public servants employed by the Postal Department? He was the “stooge” of the Government, in the person of Mr. George Christie, the president of the Australian Democratic Front. The Government was not prepared to come out in the open to make these accusations, but, in order to achieve its purpose, it financed the Australian Democratic Front to the amount of £4,500 of the taxpayers’ money. The president of the organization is a prominent official of the United Australia party, and the secretary is a deserter from the Labour movement who, because of his betrayal of the trust Teposed in him by the industrial unions of Australia, has no standing amongst those unions and was about the worst possible man who could be selected to attend union meetings, visit the waterfront, or fraternize with members of his old union - the meatworkers union - and appeal to them not to adopt this doctrine or that doctrine. If we investigate this matter further, we shall probably find that he did very little public speaking in order to try to convince anybody. Evidently the Attorney-General decided to place his faithful old servant in a good position after his job in London dealing with migration fizzled out. The AttorneyGeneral hoodwinked the people when he rose at the Sydney Town Hall and applauded the Australian Democratic Front as an organization which had been formed “ out of the blue “, as it were, in order to do a great national service. There is no doubt that its formation was inspired by him, as the representative of the Government, and that its officials were handpicked. Its secretary was given a salary of £500 per annum, but it was not paid in the way that salaries are ordinarily paid to public servants. The payments were not made above board, but stealthily, through secret accounts, one of which was not kept with the Commonwealth Bank. Probably, the money was paid over in a corridor somewhere by some official on tiptoe, hoping that nobody would learn anything about it.
I strongly object to the attitude of the president of the Australian Democratic Front, who, when he was asked whether he had read about the question asked in Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition, said -
We arc satisfied that -the facts in the pamphlet are quite true. It seems that Mr. Curtin is trying to make political capital out of the issues.
Later, Mr. Thorby admitted that, after a searching investigation, he had found that there was not a scintilla of truth in the accusations that had been made by the Australian Democratic Front. All of this took place in April and May, 1940. Was that not the time when the Government should have disbanded the organization? It should have realized that the Australian Democratic Front was being used for party political purposes by an individual, who admitted that for a lifetime be had been a member of the United Australia party, and who was, in 1940, a prominent member of a branch of the party. Although it was the voice of Mr. George Christie which libelled the Public Service unions of Australia, it was the money of the Commonwealth Government, subscribed by the taxpayers, which made that libel possible. Although other items of public expenditure are open for the scrutiny of members of Parliament, this fund was not submitted for investigation and honorable members were not told about it. Disbursements had to be made in some mysterious manner, in one instance, we are told, by a temporary employee of the Government, without the Government being aware whether the money had reached its destination, and without any check being made to ascertain whether the union mentioned was in need of the money. The facts show that the organization did not ask for the money, was not in need of it, and paid the travelling expenses of its officers. Responsibility for the gross libelling of the public servants of Australia must be laid at the door of the Commonwealth Government, which financed the Australian Democratic Front. The actions of the Government in this matter, and in other ways which have been admitted by the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral, prove t/hat the Government has betrayed tha trust reposed in it.
The Attorney-General said this afternoon that the Government had offered to appoint a royal commission to inquire into this matter. Usually a royal commission is appointed in order to elicit facts, but the facts in regard to the charge made by an ex-official of the Commonwealth about the wrongful use of funds have already been admitted by the Government. They are not questioned. The Opposition is not opposed to the appointment of a royal commission, but it would object to the appointment of a “whitewashing” commission, which would hold the matter up for three or four months, without any attempt being made to clear the atmosphere here and now. Honorable members on this side of the House did not select the Advisory War Council as the body .to which the facts of the case should be stated. That was the decision of the Government. I give credit to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence Co-ordination and the Attorney-General for having placed all of the facts before tlie council. These facts prove that public funds have been wrongfully used. Therefore the Government deserves censure for the slipshod and haphazard manner in which it has handled them.
– Where can we get these facts?
– They were related in detail by the Prime Minister. I have a typewritten copy of them here ; they were typed after collaboration between a Labour member of the Advisory War Council and a member of the Government, and they were stated this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition. Although they were also stated by the Prime Minister, he concealed them in a labyrinth of words. He spoke for twenty minutes about the administration of the funds of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, which were not in dispute, before he gave certain information regarding the use of money from the fund which was created in February, 1940. The amendment which has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition should be agreed to by honorable members. I believe that if Government members were freed of party ties they would overwhelmingly support the amendment. This
Parliament should be jealous of the reputation of ‘ the Commonwealth Government, and it should not condone any misuse of public money. The Leader of the Opposition made out a very effective case in support of his amendment, and it was not answered by the AttorneyGeneral, who adopted a burlesque role, which has become characteristic of him in recent years. Instead of endeavouring to reply to the salient points of the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition, he tried .to draw red herrings across the trail, and implied that the Leader of the Opposition had attacked him because of his fight against communism; that was not true. There is a right way and a wrong way of using public moneys, and the Government has used the wrong way. Therefore, Parliament should agree to this amendment, and thereby censure the Government.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has said that he believes that all of the facts of this case have been presented to the House.
– I did not say that at all. I said that the Government had assured the Opposition that it had given all of the facts to the War Council. If the Government is lying, that is another matter.
– If the facts have been given to the Advisory War Council, I say that they have not been presented in full to this House, because there is a second side to this picture to which very little reference has been made this afternoon. The Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) suggested that the Opposition might agree to the appointment of a royal commission, but that challenge - and in effect it was a. challenge - has not been accepted. Therefore, it appears to me that there are certain facts which the Opposition does not desire to have ventilated in this House.
– Nonsense! Let us have the lot.
– Such a course is necessary in a matter of such great national importance. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that, irrespective of any evidence that might be secured by a royal commission, the proper place in which to have this matter fully ventilated is this House. A great deal has been said about the establishment of a secret fund. The Leader of the Opposition has made out a case, which has been supported by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and a very effective and convincing reply has been given by the Attorney-General. However, the side of the picture which I propose to present has not been dealt with as it should have been. I refer to a statement which was made to the press, but not to thi3 Parliament, by the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable gentleman said that he believed that the action of the departmental officer, Mr. Winkler, in surreptitiously placing information in his hands, was for the specific purpose of damaging the reputation of the Prime . Minister and bringing about a political upheaval. The press has paid a lot of attention to this statement; leading articles have been written about it and there has been a great deal of public discussion. Therefore, the subject should be ventilated in this chamber, and some of the charges which have been made should be answered. A leading article published in the Melbourne Herald contained the following statements : -
In the background there is an atmosphere of deep intrigue and treachery against Mr. Fadden, in which the principal part has been acted by a confidential officer in the Prime Minister’s Department. Mr. Curtin has revealed that the contents of documents which were quoted iu the dossier which this officer had compiled, and already communicated to at least one other person, were of a nature that should not have been known to anyone but the head of the Government. Whether this is an aspect of the affair which can satisfactorily be left to be. dealt with as a matter merely of public service administration is one question which Parliament will no doubt consider. However that information was obtained, and for whatever purpose, it was deliberately used in an attempt to further a treacherous political and personal intrigue.
Those charges are of the gravest character. I believe that they are true; the act of this officer was dastardly and treacherous, and was intended to undermine public confidence in the Government. Of all the facts that have been given to us, the most disturbing, in my opinion, was stated by the Attorney-General, who said that action could not be taken against Mr. Winkler unless the Leader of the Opposition., who was the recipient of this information, laid charges against him. I do not dispute the accuracy of the Attorney-General’s statement, but I am staggered to learn that, notwithstanding the categorical evidence put ‘before us of the violation of trust and the traitorous act committed by this man, he could not be arrested immediately and held pending trial. Hundreds, if not thousands, of men have been arrested in Australia on suspicion during the war, and they have been held, in custody until the suspicion has been dissipated. I wish to know why Winkler is still at large. How comes it that the representative of a Sydney newspaper who, after great trouble, discovered this man in a public park in Sydney and questioned him, was refused any information? I understand that Winkler said that he intended to go away to a quiet country resort where he could not be harassed or interrogated. The House should be informed by the Leader of the Opposition whether be disagrees with the statement of the Attorney-General, whether he intends to make a charge against this man, or whether he intends to accept the view of the AttorneyGeneral that nothing can be done about the matter. The Leader of the Opposition made the definite statement that Winkler had been guilty of a gross breach of confidence.
Let me devote a few minutes to the position of Winkler. I stand subject to correction on the statements I am about to make, and if what I say is wrong, 1 trust .that the Minister concerned will say so. I understand that Winkler was formerly an employee of the Labor Daily newspaper. How be came to obtain employment from the Commonwealth Government I do not know. However, he obtained an appointment in the Prime Minister’s Department and I understand was, for a time, Assistant Publicity Officer to the former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). According to the Leader of the Opposition, Winkler appeared in the bedroom of that honorable gentleman one morning and handed him a document which contained information obtained from certain secret cables which were said to have passed from the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) while the latter was abroad.
– Who gave that information to the honorable member?
– I obtained it from a reliable source. If the honorable member for Griffith is not aware of certain facts in relation to this matter, 1 suggest he should read the newspapers. He will find many details in them. The Leader of the Opposition has also informed us this afternoon that he was handed a document concerning certain secret funds. It has been stated that that document was a copy, so the inference is that the original was handed to some other person. I do not know whether this is true or not, but it seems clear that this document has had a fairly wide circulation. When it was discovered that information with relation to the deliberations of the Advisory War Council had appeared in certain Melbourne newspapers and that some of the statements were not in accordance with the facts, investigations were ordered. It was finally revealed, I understand, that Winkler had telephoned to the representatives of two daily newspapers and had given them certain information. I understand that he also telephoned to the representative of a large financial institution in Melbourne.
– Who was that?
– I understand that it was Mr. Ricketson, of J. P». Were and Son. I am informed that he also telephoned a Minister of the Government.
– Who was that?
– The former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I do not know whether these statements are facts, but the points have not yet been brought to light in this debate. I am informed that the telephone calls were made from a private room in this House, and were not authorized.
– Whose room?
– The Minister for Defence Co-ordination.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– No ; let us have the story.
– I also understand that these unauthorized telephone calls were of considerable duration, running into as long as twenty minutes. When the Prime Minister discovered that a great deal of information of a confidential character had been given, I understand that he dismissed Winkler immediately. This is positive proof that the Prime Minister was fully convinced that the man had violated his trust. I am informed that a short time after Winkler was dismissed he was re-instated by the Minister for Defence Co-ordination.
– That is untrue.
– I am pleased to have the right honorable gentleman’s denial. These rumours have been circulated in the public press, and they should be denied if they are untrue. One of the questions asked by the Melbourne Herald in its article on the 23rd September, 1941, was -
The rumour that he was re-appointed by the Minister for Defence Co-ordination should be denied in this House if it is untrue. If I am to be expected to tell the people of New South Wales from the public platform what actually happened in connexion with this matter, I wish to know all of the facts of the case. I do not desire to be faced with a statement that certain information has not been disclosed. I am informed that it was after the Prime Minister had dispensed with the services of Winkler that the Leader of the Opposition received from him the secret document upon which this whole discussion hinges.
– When was Winkler dismissed ?
– I understand that it was on the Friday.
– That is not so. He was not dismissed until the Monday night. He gave the information on the previous Saturday morning.
– Then evidently the facts are that Winkler gave certain infor- mation to the Leader of the Opposition on the Saturday morning, and was dismissed on the Monday.
– When was he reinstated - on the Monday night or the Tuesday morning?
– I am not quite certain on that point, but perhaps we may be given that information.
The aspect of the subject which chiefly concerns me is that although it appears to have been proved that a public servant committed a grave breach of public trust in revealing secret information, and was therefore guilty of treachery, no action has been, or can be, taken against him. The sooner this point is clarified the better it will be. This debate should not terminate until all the details in this connexion have been put before honorable members.
.- The good name of our parliamentary institution is, I am sure, a matter of great concern to the people of Australia. They desire that nothing shall be done, or condoned, which may in any way reflect upon the honesty and integrity of the people associated with the public life of Australia. For this reason the most searching investigation into this whole subject is desirable. The nation owes a great debt to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for having ventilated on the floor of this House all of the circumstances of this case. It is to the great credit of the Leader of the Opposition that at the earliest possible moment he revealed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) and to the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) the fact that certain secret documents had come into his hands, and we all are indebted to him for his frank and straightforward conduct in this matter. The honorable gentleman acted in accordance with the highest standards of integrity. Not even the slightest suspicion can be cast on his bona fides or straightforwardness. But the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) employed all of his political witchcraft in dealing with the subject this afternoon and showed himself ready to speak on any subject except the one directly at issue. Clearly, he was not prepared to give to honorable members a frank explanation of his reasons for establishing this secret fund or for employing such devious methods of using the moneys under his control. He skilfully evaded these issues and gave us no justification whatever for his actions. In my view the disbursement of these moneys was not in accordance with precedent, nor were the expenses incurred legitimately or in such a way as to inspire public confidence. In the course of his statement the Prime Minister described the establishment of this fund in the following terms: -
From time to time the Treasury provided funds by issuing cheques on the voucher of the Solicitor-General, who is the permanent head of the Department of the AttorneyGeneral. These cheques were paid into a private account opened by the SolicitorGeneral in Sydney for that specific purpose. The Solicitor-General, in turn, gave cheques on this account to the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney, who cashed them and paid the proceeds into a special account which he opened in another bank. From the funds in this accounthe made payments by cash from time to time.
Why should a public officer need to open a private account into which he paid public moneys? Why was there any need for the employment of an intermediary in connexion with the disbursement of these funds? Why could not the money have been used straight out for the purpose for which it was intended? Would any honorable gentleman suggest that the methods that were employed were straightforward and such us the Commonwealth Government should use? In my opinion the Prime Minister has practically admitted irregularity in the disbursement of moneys from this fund. If it were an honorable transaction, why was not the cheque of the Commonwealth Government paid in a straightforward way to the person for whom it was intended? Even now, the Government does not know whether the money did, in fact, reach that person. That fact alone convicts the Government of incapacity in connexion with the custody and control of public funds. It is true that a receipt was given for the money, but that receipt was signed, not by the person to whom the money was ultimately supposed to be paid, but by an intermediary. That does not satisfy me as a representative of the electors, and I am astounded that the Auditor-General should give his certificate in such circumstances.
– Has the AuditorGeneral given a certificate?
– According to a statement made by the Prime Minister this afternoon, the accounts have been audited by either the Auditor-General himself or one of his senior officers. Some further explanation is certainly called for.
What I have heard so far does not at all satisfy me in regard to the disbursement of these public funds. The circumstances surrounding these transactions make me wonder what has happened in connexion with other moneys paid out ostensibly for war purposes. There is good reason for demanding a drastic revision of the methods employed by the Government in connexion with the expenditure of public funds. This afternoon, when the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes) sought to twist the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), some of the foremost members of the Ministry cheered the right honorable gentleman from the front ministerial bench, although they knew that ‘he was acting irregularly. I mention, in particular, the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart).
– To what is the honorable gentleman referring? Does he disagree with the statement of his leader?
– The Minister for Social Services is implying something that is totally untrue.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask that the honorable member be called upon to withdraw that statement.
– Objection having been taken to an unparliamentary remark. I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw it.
– In deference to you. sir, I withdraw it.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the payment of travelling expenses to union officials who have business with the Government was a legitimate expenditure.
– The Leader of the Opposition was much more specific than that.
– He said also that such payments were usually made openly by the Prime Minister’s Department.
– That is not what the Leader of the Opposition said in answer to an interjection by the Minister for the Army.
– These payments were not made in a proper and regular way. and that is why the Leader of the Opposition challenged them. He objected to hole-and-corner methods being employed.
First, this money was paid into a private account opened by the .SolicitorGeneral in Sydney ; then that officer drew a cheque, which he paid to another public servant, who, in turn, cashed the cheque, and paid the money to some other person who was supposed to pass it on to the person for whom it was finally intended. Do honora’ble members opposite claim that those are honorable and straightforward methods of disbursing public funds? I ask the Minister for Social Services whether they are methods which he, himself, would employ? If his answer is in the affirmative, I can only say that I am astounded at his standard of honour. The country will not be satisfied with such methods, or with the explanation that ha3 been offered concerning them. There is the further point that an organization which has no legal standing in this community entered into the transactions. Public money has passed through devious courses in order to reach ite intended destination. If honorable members supporting the Government are satisfied with the methods which have been adopted in connexion with these moneys, I can only say that their standards of honour and integrity do not square with those which we, on this side of the House, wish to see observed.
The honorable member for Bendigo interjecting,
– I am surprised that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) should lend himself to such, methods. He should have some consideration for the good name and standing of this Parliament in the estimation of honest people. This & one of the rare occasions on which the breath of scandal has been associated with the expenditure of Commonwealth funds, and this House should not rest satisfied until doubt has been removed from these transactions.
– What about dic appointment of a royal commission?
– I want a thorough investigation of these charges, not the appointment of a tribunal which is designed to “whitewash” the Government or to condone its action. I am not prepared to agree that the Minister for Social Services and his Ministerial colleagues shall have the choice of that tribunal.
Sooner or later there will be a complete investigation of this matter, for should Labour assume office in the Commonwealth, the pigeon-holes and files will be examined in order to ascertain whether other irregular payments have occurred. The Leader of the Opposition has rendered a splendid service to this country in giving to the Parliament this opportunity to investigate the methods by which public funds are disbursed. Notwithstanding that the Government seeks to glass over its action, and to associate the Opposition with communism, the question that still requires to be answered is why these moneys were paid, not out of the regular fund provided for dealing with subversive elements in the community, but out of a special fund and used in an irregular way. There is no need to resort to improper practices in order to suppress subversive activities in the community, because the Government has all the power necessary to deal effectively with any person or organization which is working against the best interests of the nation.
– And if action is taken against them, the Opposition “ squeals “.
– The Opposition has assisted to clothe the Government with full powers to deal with all persons who are acting against the best interests of the nation; the Government can deal effectively with communism or any other “ ism “ in the community which is acting in a subversive way. However, the Government is not prepared to use those powers openly; it seeks to cover its unworthy tracks by endeavouring to associate the Opposition with the subversive elements in the community. The action of the Leader of the Opposition, and of the Labour movement generally throughout Australia, gives a clear and distinct denial to any charge that the Opposition is in league with the Communists, for so late as last Saturday the federal executive of the Australian Labour party again entirely dissociated itself from the philosophy of communism. It is these elements that Labour has fought at successive elections. They rarely seek to challenge Government members. It cannot be denied that at all times the Leader of the Opposition has set a high standard of honour and integrity, and has done his utmost to ensure that the best effort of the nation shall be forthcoming in the prosecution of the war, in the interests of the British race and of civilization generally. The cheap gibes in. which some honorable members on the Government side of the House have indulged should not deflect this House from its obvious duty to carry the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise to a personal explanation. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall)- who, I regret to say, departed from the chamber after making his speech - saw fit, in the course of it, to make some remarks containing imputations against myself, in connexion with certain telephoning which is alleged to have taken place from Canberra^ I read these imputations in a section of the Melbourne press that is notably hostile to me, over the weekend. When I returned to Canberra yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) whether he would give to me information in regard to the telephoning in question; because I knew that the honorable gentleman had had an investigation made of it. He was good enough to give the information to me. It transpired that, while I was at Mount Macedon, in the State of Victoria, on six days’ leave, and while my personal staff - my secretary, typist and messenger - were in Melbourne at the Department, of Defence Co-ordination, and the rooms occupied by us at Canberra were, therefore, quite vacant, some telephoning took place from my secretary’s office. I was absent; they were absent; yet the telephoning took place, I assure honorable members, without any consultation with us or any knowledge on our part. It appears that one of the telephone calls from the office on the night in question was to myself; I was rung up at Mount Macedon. I remember the occasion very well, because it was the first time that I had been caught by the telephone in the course of six days. I was rung up by the Assistant Publicity Officer to the Government. His conversation with me was one which, quite properly, could take place between an Assistant Publicity Officer and a senior Minister who is also the leader of a party; in other words, it related entirely to press news, and had not the slightest relation, either directly or indirectly, to the matters which are being discussed in this Parliament to-day.
The honorable member for Martin went on to say that this man, after being dismissed by the Prime Minister, had in some way come into my employment. There need be no mystery about the matter. This gentleman was Assistant Publicity Officer to the Government for a period of about a year, and was attached to the Prime Minister’s Department. 1 have gathered from the Prime Minister - who, in fact, was good enough to show me the letter which he sent - that on Monday of last week he gave notice to this officer terminating his employment in the Prime Minister’s Department as from the 23rd .September, which was yesterday. The officer, therefore, did not, and could not have come into my employment; because I understand that he left Canberra on Wednesday of last week. I may say that I bad a conversation with him before I left Canberra, because in the meantime the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had been courteous enough, to show to me the copy of the document that he had. shown to the Prime Minister.
– And what was in that?
– That is not a matter for me to state. All that I need say is, that it struck me as an atrociously improper document; and I said so. I expressed my surprise to the Leader of the Opposition, and within an hour, or at the first opportunity, I went along to have a talk about it with my friend and colleague, the Prime Minister. He will remember that we had a little chat as to certain aspects of the matter. This officer, who had apparently been responsible for handing over the document, being in the building, I sent for him and told him, in words that I hope that I need not reproduce, exactly what I thought; and he left my room. It is, therefore, untrue to say that I knew anything about the telephoning of which mention has been made, and which I have no doubt has been made mysterious by those who are opposed to me in order to work up an atmosphere of mystery against me. It is equally clear that there is no foundation for the statement that this officer, in some fashion, passed into my employment for a day or two, presumably in order that I might use him - I do not know how. All that I can do on a personal explanation is to state the facts, in the matter-of-fact fashion I have adopted. I have no doubt that every honorable member will have no difficulty in accepting my statement.
.- It is apparent that this Parliament has not yet been made aware of the whole of the facts in regard to this particular scandal, which involves the misuse of government funds. The Government may have made available all of the evidence in connexion with the disbursements which have been made from this fund, as its members, as well as members of the Labour party on the Advisory War Council, have stated, or it may not. At least, it is apparent that such evidence has not been made available to this Parliament. By degrees, as the debate proceeds, we are learning a little more than we previously knew in regard to the activities of members of the Government in connexion with these particular matters. It is now stated that this inquiry, if it can be so described, was the outcome of. two documents having been taken by an officer of the Prime Minister’s Department to the Loader of the Opposition (Mr. ‘Curtin). Wild rumours of all sorts have circulated with respect to the motives which this man may have had for his action. One suggestion has now been partially exploded by the personal explanation of the Minis tei1 for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) ; because it was rumoured in the corridors that the motive was to injure the present Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden), to the advantage of the man whom he had supplanted in that office. I do not know what Winkler’s motives may have been, or what it is suggested they may have been; but I am prepared to concede that it has not yet been established that he may not have been imbued with the very highest of motives. If, as a citizen of this country, he found, in any capacity in which he might have been engaged, that the Government was indulging in discreditable practices, that it was misusing public funds, do honorable members opposite suggest that his duty to the Government was greater than his duty to the Australian community which really employs him? I understand that the two documents in question have been read to certain members of the Labour party, and that they have also been placed in possession of certain Government members. If there be nothing to hide, why have their contents not been revealed to this Parliament? It is rumoured that one document contains certain statements very damaging to the present Prime Minister. I do not knowthat Winkler would be so irresponsible-^ it has not been suggested that he is - as to take to the Leader of the Opposition a statement containing certain matters reflecting upon the Prime Minister, unless he was satisfied that he had a sound basis on which to act. The matter cannot be properly cleared up unless this Parliament is mr.de aware of the whole of the facts. The little that the Parliament has already learned has not come into its possession as the result of the anxiety of some members to make us acquainted with the facts. All sorts of means have been used in order to prevent the Parliament and the public from learning the facts. In an interview with pressmen, the Prime Minister said that certain religious organizations had received finance from this particular fund ; but in the statement that he made to-day, the honorable gentleman corrected that.
– I said that I had been informed. I have since found that I was misinformed.
– That bears out what I have said, namely, that in the first place the Prime Minister stated that various organizations with religious affiliations had received payments from this fund. The honorable gentleman now says that lie has since found that he was wrong.
– That I was misinformed, which is a different thing.
– That is merely splitting straws. The honorable gentleman would probably not repeat a rumour that he had heard in a corridor of this Parliament. I ask him to state by whom he was misinformed in this importantmatter. If he claims to have been misinformed, surely this Parliament has the right to know the name of the person responsible, and whether he is a member of this legislature ! Any man who would do such a thing ought to be exposed in this Parliament. I hope that the Prime Minister will avail himself of the earliest opportunity to let us know who the particular individual was. I am not yet satisfied that we have been told all that has happened in regard to the fund. We have heard it stated that a great deal of money was made available to an organization which is known as the Australian Democratic Front. Then again, we have been told by the Prime Minister that the purpose of this fund was to combat tlie activities of anti-constitutional organizations. I should like to know what the objects of this particular organization may be. So far as we know, it has not any rules, or a constitution. Apparently, a group of individuals who are favorably disposed to the Government have banded together, and are financed by the Government in order that they may carry out its propaganda, work. Why has not the Government the courage to do - that particular work through its own organization? The reason is, that whilst the United Australia party still claims to be a democratic organization, which believes in upholding the parliamentary system of government and democratic institutions in this country, different members of it have for some years been without faith in democracy, if they ever had such faith or belief. On the Government benches are men who believe in Nazi and Fascist methods of government, men who belonged to anti-constitutional organizations which were prepared to use force in order to overthrow constitutional government in this country. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison), who repeatedly interjected while one of my colleagues was speaking, was a member of an organization which believed in overthrowing constitutional government in this country. He is not alone in that regard; there are many men on the other side of the chamber who, at one time or another, had associations with ihe New Guard in New South Wales, an organization which desired to kidnap our legislators, to take them away and imprison them, and to throw the city of Sydney into darkness, causing anarchy and chaos, and risking the lives of its citizens. These are the men who talk to-day about combating unconstitutional organizations. If the members of the United Australia party thought for one moment that a Labour Government with the courage to carry out its policy was likely to be placed in control of this country they would be prepared to establish any kind of organisation to prevent such a government from functioning. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison), who has .freely interjected during this debate, was a member of an organization the. members of which drilled under arms which, it was proved beyond doubt, had been stolen from the barracks. As a member of the organization the Minister knew that these activities were going on. Yet these men are now appealing to the youth of Australia to fight against Nazi and Fascist methods. They say to the people “ Let everything else be swept aside for the moment; we must unite in order to fight Nazi-ism and Fascism abroad “. But it is apparent from what has already been disclosed that this Government is not anxious to stamp out Nazi-ism and Fascism entirely. Those who support it may favour at the moment the defeat of totalitarianism in certain parts of the world, but many of them would welcome with open arms the opportunity to destroy democracy in this country and to establish a dictatorship in its place. It has been said that this fund was established for secret purposes and that the sum of £300 was paid out of the fund to certain officials of the Miners Federation. Whether or not, such a payment was made, I do not know, but no evidence has been given to prove that any money was paid from the fund to a member or to members of the Miners Federation.
– Mr. Nelson said that he did not get it.
– It is said that certain moneys were paid to the Miners Federation through an intermediary, but no evidence has been forthcoming to prove that it eventually reached any official of the federation. The Prime Minister has stated that certain moneys made available to the Australian Democratic Front were used for the purpose of paying for stationery, printing and telephone
– They were too straight to undertake the work which the Government had in mind.
-Apparently, in order to get this information, the Government had to fall back on the services of the dregs of the cities and country towns. During the last war when the Government of the clay wanted to “frame” the members of the Independent Workers of the World on false evidence, it employed McAlister and Goldstein and men of the lowest type to place waste and chemicals in the pockets and workbags of members of that organization. Evidence was concocted in that way in order to secure convictions. Who is to say that that sort of thing is not happening now? Who is to say that there is not a conspiracy afoot, to “ railroad “ certain trade union officials? Is it not true that the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) not long ago made it well known in this country that the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies), who was then Prime Minister, asked that a special meeting of the National Consultative Council ofthe United Australia party be convened in order to discuss the possibilities of a general election on a law and order issue? Is it not true that the right honorable gentleman, on that occasion, suggested that one or two permanent trade union officials might he seized and placed in prison for the purpose of causing an industrial upheaval, so that the Government would have an opportunity to face the electors on an appeal for the restoration of law and order? It should be obvious to the rn embers of this Parliament and to the people generally that all sorts of things havebeen happening of which they were unaware. It is well within the realm of possibility that many industrial troubles have been brought about as the result of the work of government agents, and that the Government has fomented industrial strife in order to discredit the Labour movement and to keep its parliamentary representatives from the control of the treasury bench.
– Will the honorable member explain the letter written by certain union officials to his leader offering peace in industry if he would agree to certain conditions laid down by them?
– The Minister, an exmember of the New Guard, seems to think that there is something wrong because an organization says to the Leader of the Labour party : “ If you make a bid for power and secure control of this country, wc are prepared, to give certain guarantees.” I say to the honorable gentleman that the trade unions asked the Labour party to assume office simply because they know that there is not the slightest chance of securing industrial peace during the war or any other period while there remains in office in Australia a government which is prepared to condone the rapacity of profiteers. They say that those who are prepared to sell their support to any organization that, offers to buy them should be cast out of office and their places taken by representatives of tlie Labour party, whose organizations are not financed by vested interests, and who are not dictated to by wealthy profiteers and monopolists who sap the life-blood of this country. Those who condone the payment of bribes to unscrupulous people in this country should be thrown out of office. When the people first heard that the Government had been accused of making funds available to grafters they were up in arms immediately, but they have waited in patience because they were told that the Prime Minister would reveal the whole of the facts associated with these payments. The honorable gentleman has failed to do so. He has contented himself by saying: “There is nothing wrong with it; everything is above-board. The Attorney-General must approve of the payments “. I have a clear recollection of the Attorney-General taking strong exception when the term “ Labour rat “ was applied to him when he sold his colleagues in the Labour party and went over to the enemy. The right honorable gentleman, however, was well rewarded by the section of the community which profited by his defection. I have never yet heard of a member of the Labour party, of a Communist or a trade union official in this country who was affluent enough to subscribe £25,000 to any member of this Parliament for special services rendered. Though it is obvious from what quarter that solatium came, no information concerning it has yet been given to the people of this country.
Silting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I now discover to my amazement that already a newspaper has been able to publish a story in which it is claimed that there is agreement between certain members of the Government parties and members of the Opposition to curtail the discussion on this matter by confining it within certain limits. 1 should like to know exactly what the position is. I want to know why the matter was ever taken to the Advisory Wai1 Council. If there was nothing whatever wrong with the Government’s fiction, as Government spokesmen would have ns believe, if everything is aboveboard and in order, then what was the need to take the matter to the Advisory War Council, the members of which are sworn to secrecy? Why not let it be discussed in open Parliament? So far, wc have been told practically nothing.
– The honorable member can have a royal commission if he likes.
– The Minister for Customs tells us that we may have a royal coin mission if we like. The idea seems to be that we can have a royal commission so that some dead-beat member of the United Australia party who has been elevated to the bench may be appointed a commissioner to drag out the inquiry for months, and eventually bring in a report “whitewashing” the Government regarding its alleged activities to combat communism. What need is there for a royal commission? Why not let us have the facts now? There is no need for a royal commission if the Government will now place before the House all of the facts in its possession. It should not keep the evidence for a royal commission, but should give the facts to us now. I said earlier that the Prime Minister had, by misrepresentation, endeavoured to start a fight in the ranks of the Labour party on a sectarian issue by suggesting that certain moneys had been paid out of this fund to bodies with religious affiliations. Then the Prime
Minister said that he had been misled in regard to this matter, but he has not told us who misled him. I heard a rumour in the corridors that it was the Attorney-General who made this suggestion, but why did the AttorneyGeneral make no reference to the matter in his own speech? I believe that this suggestion was merely a figment of the Prime Minister’s imagination, and indicated that the Government was desparately anxious to prevent the matter from being discussed at all. All sorts of methods, intimidatory and otherwise, have been adopted in order to prevent the Opposition from pursuing this subject. 1 understand that, during the dinner recess, pressmen were given a further interview by the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman, who has stated that everything is fair and above-board, and that he does not care what facts are brought to light, cut loose on the pressmen, demanding to know how this information had been given to me, and endeavouring to intimidate them. I am not going to tell the Prime Minister how I received the information. I think that it is a very good thing that we are able to obtain information in regard to certain activities of the Government. Have honorable members forgotten Holman’s secret memorandum during the last war? Have they forgotten that the public would never have been aware of it if the Labour party had not made the facts known? The disclosure assisted materially in convincing the public that it was unwise to place its trust further in a Government which was capable of doing such things. The same position has arisen now in regard to the Australian Democratic Front. I understand that this organization has received £4,818 of public moneys, of which, according to the statement of the Prime Minister, £300 has been paid to certain officials of the Miners Federation. Already one of the miners’ officials mentioned - indeed, the only one so far mentioned - has denied that he ever received any moneys from this source. What evidence does the Government possess that he ever received it? The Government says that the money was paid through an intermediary, but there is no evidence that any member of any trade union received any money by these subterranean means.
– Apparently there can be no proof, because no receipts were given.
– It seems evident that there must be something wrong with the payments if the authorities were not even game to demand receipts. If £300 can go astray, and no account be demanded for the money, who can say how much more may have gone astray? For my part, I am not satisfied that only £4,818is involved. The Government admitted the disbursement of this amount because it hoped, by doing so, to in- criminate the Miners Federation, and thus restrain the Labour party from probing too deeply into the matter.
– The honorable member forgets that the Auditor-General must scrutinize all payments.
– I suppose the Minister for Trade and Customs cannot help being ignorant in regard to these matter?. He ought to know that the Auditor-General is concerned only as to whether outgoings from the fund are balanced by receipts. So far as he is concerned, the payments can be made to “Mr. X” or “Mr. Y” or “ Mr. Z “ so long as he can satisfy himself that receipts have been received for the payments.
– Receipts were received from Mr. Winkler.
– Honorable members will agree that receipts are not always given for payments from funds of this kind. I doubt whether receipts were given in connexion with payments to the Hughes testimonial after the last war. In order to impress the public that this fund was subscribed by a grateful public in gratitude for the services of a great public figure, they searched high and low fora one-legged returned soldier prepared to make the presentation, but could not find one. They succeeded in finding a widow who had contributed a shilling, which they dubbed the widow’s mite, but we heard nothing about the big shipowners who subscribed to the fund. I want to know the nature of the document that was handed over by Mr. Winkler. It is not suggested that he sold information, or wanted to sell it. The fact is that information came into the possession of the Opposition. This is not an investigation of whether Mr. Winkler’s action was right or wrong. I have my own ideas regarding that. I say that any man, no matter what position he occupies, is justified in disclosing information if he is able to show that the Government, or any member of the Government, is engaged upon activities detrimental to the welfare of the country. In such circumstances, it is his duty to make that information available to the public. [Extension of time granted.] I should like to hear Mr. Winkler’s side of the story. I am. not at all satisfied that he did not lose his position merely because hemade this information available.
– He had lost it before that.
– There is some question as to when he received his official notice of dismissal. The Prime Minister said that he gave the information on the Saturday, but that he had lost his position on the following Monday.
– At the time when he was dismissed I did not know that he had made the information available.
– The trouble is the Prime Minister has been so very misleading inthe statements he has made.
– The papers were handed to me on the Saturday. On the following Tuesday the Prime Minister informed me that Mr. Winkler had been dismissed, and thereupon I handed to the Prime Minister the documents which Mr. Winkler had given to me.
– Those facts have never been doubted.
– Not until the present moment, and then only by one honorable member.
– It is only as we go along that the facts leak out.
– I assure the honorable member that every thing I have said in the House on this matter is unquestionably true.
– I do not doubt that, hut I hope the Leader of the Opposition does not expect me to extend my belief to what members of the Government have said, because frankly I do not believe them. I do not know what information was placed before the Advisory War Council, but I am entitled to know. I want to know the contents of the documents that were handed over to the Leader of the Opposition. The public is entitled to know their contents. The Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) said that, when the documents were shown to him by Mr. Winkler, he described them as atrocious. What was atrocious about them? What did they contain? Is it a fact that one of the documents contained what purported to bo. copies of cables despatched by the then Acting Prime Minister to the then Prime Minister while he was abroad, appealing to him for aid in the fight against certain elements in this country who were exposing the actions of the Government in protecting profiteers? No doubthe wanted the slush fund to be augmented. Perhaps there were a few more people whom members of the Government wanted to bribe. The Government has adopted rather a peculiar policy in order that it. might remain in power. In order to silence criticism of its actions, various ways and methods are employed, such as the offering of certain positions to its critics. On the other hand it may offer straight-out monetary bribes in order to buy support. It is useless to mix words. The Government can talk for as long as it likes about financing propaganda in order to combat communism. I recall that the AttorneyGeneral declared that this war was a fight against communism as much as it was a fight against Nazi-ism. He said that the Communists were retarding our war effort. And it is not so long since certain members of the Government told us that the Communists in Australia were receiving their orders from Moscow. If they are receiving their orders to-day from. Moscow, would they be retarding our war effort? The methods now being employed by the Government are practically identical with those which Hitler employed when he was making his bid for power in Germany. The Government commences by using certain catch-cries in order to win the support of Labour organizations. I have no doubt that when it financed a mushroom organization like the Australian Democratic Front, it intended to use that organization to fight real democracy. That body has no rules, or constitution; and so far as we have yet been informed, it has very few members. At the same time, however, it has any amount of funds to do its work. Honorable members opposite have often changed the name of their political party. They called themselves the United Australia party when they realized that under their old name they had discredited themselves in the eyes of the people. When it seemed certain that the people were about to reject them, they adopted another name. I have no doubt that they were preparing to employ the same tactics on this occasion. Believing that Labour was ready and willing to make a direct: challenge to the Government and to take control of affairs in this Parliament, some honorable members opposite no doubt were willing to get behind such a body as the Australian Democratic Front, simply in order to set up a dictatorship in this country. The use of the word “ democratic “ in that organization’s title is a misnomer ; it does not mean a thing. It is on a par with “ National Socialism “ in Germany. The title of “democratic” has been adopted in this instance merely in order to mislead the public. Let us consider for a moment who is Mr. Barnes, the organizing secretary of that body. It has been said that he secured a post in London from tie Attorney-General, and that on his return to Australia he secured another post in this country from the right honorable gentleman. I have also been informed that he was an organizer of the Hughes testimonial fund. It is evident that the inner group of the United Australia party is able to do many things in this country of which the people are not aware. We want the facts of this position. ‘Certain people may ask for an inquiry by a royal commission, believing that such an inquiry will do a great deal of good. Personally, I should not object to the appointment of a parliamentary select committee to inquire into the matter. Certainly, the position should not be allowed to remain as it is at the moment. We have not been told the facts. The Advisory War Council had no right to consider this matter. That body was established in order to enable representatives of the Government and the Opposition to confer on matters directly concerning the nation’s war efforts, and not for the purpose of meeting in secret conclave to cover up graft. That is what it means. What has become of the money paid to the Australian Democratic Front? I should like to know how it has been distributed. Vague as is the information that has been submitted to the House, it indicates that money was paid to the Australian Democratic Front, not alone in order to met office expenditure of that organization, but for distribution to other people. It has been admitted that £4,818 was paid to that body, and that £300 of that sum was paid to officers of the Miners Federation by the Government. I do notknow whether there is a personal feud against a certain officer of the Miners Federation, but whereas two men interviewed the Attorney-General, we have been told the name of only one of those men. Why has not the Government told us the name of the second man ? Or, does the second man really exist? We have been given no proof that he does. Does the fact that his name has been withheld indicate that he is still serving the Government, and doing work of this kind ? What conclusion must we draw from the fact that the Government will not divulge that man’s name? I repeat that we want the facts. The sooner the Government makes them available to Parliament and the people the sooner will this matter be cleared up. The distribution of public money without the authority of Parliament cannot be tolerated. A few days ago I read a report in the press that leading members of the Government claimed that this fund had been in existence since 1916. The fund that we are now dealing with was established only in 1940 for secret purposes.
– Leading members of the Government told deliberate lies.
– That is so ; leading members of the Government have been guilty of telling deliberate lies to this Parliament and to the public.
– The honorable member is not in order in alleging that members of the Government have told deliberate lies, and I ask him to withdraw that statement.
Mr.WARD. - I withdraw it. I was only repeating what the honorable member for Ballarat told me.
– But the honorable member agrees with him.
– That is true; I agree with what he said, although I am not allowed to say so. As I indicated earlier, certain honorable members opposite were members of the New Guard, an organization which did not believe in democratic government.
– No objection is taken to that statement.
– No; no honorable member opposite objects to that statement. Prior to the outbreak of the war many honorable members on the Government side championed Hitler and applauded Hitler for what, according to their views, he was able to achieve for the German nation. It was fashionable in antiLabour circles in those days to deliver pro-Hitler speeches, but it is not so fashionable to-day because Russia is now. on our side. Instead of talking of aid to the Soviet and of activities in this country which they describe as subversive, honorable members opposite would be better engaged in dealing effectively with profiteers in the country, and in perfecting our defence preparations. I, and I believe many honorable members on this side, will not be satisfied to leave this matter where it stands. It has been said that members of the Advisory War Council are in possession of all of the facts. That is not sufficient; we ourselves want to know the facts. What are they ? Let the documents in question be produced. They should either be tabled or read to the House in order that every honorable member may know their contents, and will thus be enabled to satisfy himself whetherwe have been told the truth, and all of the truth. We are not at this moment urging the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into this matter, because such a body would only drag out its inquiry for months, and do nothing but “ whitewash “ the Government. The Government is in possession of all of the evidence, and if it has nothing to hide it will give that information to us. Probably some honorable members opposite were not aware of what was going on. At the same time we do not expect that those who were directly involved are anxious to have the matter cleared up. Surely, however, one or two honorable members opposite believe in clean politics, and object to the Government using public funds for corrupt purposes, or to pay men to pimp and spy on their friends and those who previously employed them. If there are any such honorable members opposite they should demand full information. However, I despair of finding even one supporter of the Government who is anxious to have the full facts disclosed.
– The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
– After listening to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) one would think that it was a matter for congratulation that the Government employed in a trusted position a person who grossly betrayed his trust to not only the Government but also the country. The honorable gentleman practically apologised for the despicable action of that individual. He said that if that man considered that a confidential document which came into his hands contained something that should be made public he was perfectly justified in disclosing such information. I am sure that the views expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney are not those of the majority of honorable members opposite. This officer was placed in a position of trust. He was knownpreviously to be a supporter of the Labour party, and the editor of various Labour journals; but that fact did not prejudice the Government against employing him. If a. government were to adopt the attitude that any man who has been connected with its opponents in politics is not to be trusted in any government job, we should soon reach an intolerable position. The man referred to grossly abused the confidence reposed in him, and I was very sorry to hear the honorable member for East Sydney attempt to condone his action. The contention that any member of this Parliament, or anybody outside, has a right to he informed of the contents of a stolen document is rather amazing, particularly when it contains confidential war information which passed between the then Acting Prime Minister and the then Prime Minister when the latter was in England doing Australia’s war job.
– And the document is now described by the Minister for Defence Co-ordination as atrocious.
– I do not know what is in the document, because it has not been made available to any member of the Government who had no right to see it. But it is extraordinary to contend that because a Government document is stolen from a confidential file its contents must on that account be made known to the world. We could not keep any information from the enemy if that were our method. Let us see just what this hubbub is about. It has arisen because the Government has considered that its duty is to try to counter Fifth Columnist and subversive activity in this country. The action of the particular individual who disclosed this information bears all of the hall marks of Fifth Column activity. What did the Fifth Columnists do in France and other countries? First, they undermined confidence in the government of the country by spreading rumours that it was engaged in secret, underhand plotting and scheming until the population became nervous and lost faith in it. In that manner, the Fifth Column works. What has happened is real evidence of the work of the Fifth Column in Australia. If Mr. Joseph Winkler, the individual in question, were a paid agent of Hitler, he could not have done a better job. Though we are engaged in a vital war, he has managed to hold up the government of the country for two days, which have been devoted to the discussion of a fund of £4,000 that was created for the purpose of countering this sort of activity, Fifth Column activity. Does anybody deny that no need exists, in time of war, to counter subversive activity in Australia? Who would be so dogmatic as t,o declare that there are no treacherous elements in this country? Have all of the strikes during the last twelve months resulted from genuine grievances on the part of the workers, or have they been fomented by Communist agents in our midst? Would honorable members opposite dare to say that he believes that every strike during that period has been justified? We know that the great majority of strikes have resulted from the work of Communists and other subversive bodies. Do honorable members believe that we should fight these people under Marquis of Queensberry rules, though they are using knife, boot and claw? Every cabinet, in every country, which is attempting to uphold constitutional government combats subversive elements with weapons such as those which have been made possible by the establishment of the secret service fund in 1916.
What have the Communists done to impede our Avar effort? Some evidence of their activities has come under my notice, as Minister for Transport. As a precautionary measure, the necessity of which will be felt if war is brought nearer to Australia, the Government decided to establish -reserves of coal at strategic points where the munitions industries are functioning. Reserves, in fact, have been at a fairly low ebb. Since April, as the result of strikes on the coal-fields, we have lost through dislocation of industry a production of approximately 800,000 tons of coal. That quantity should have been mined during the last four or five months, and would have been mined if petty troubles had not constantly occurred. Those troubles can be traced to Communist agitation.
– Low wages are the causes of strikes.
– Low wages have nothing to do with it. The Government is- responsible for safeguarding the security of Australia by countering any activity that will result in a lessening of the war effort.
– Why not take action against the profiteers?
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) received a very fair hearing, and should extend the same courtesy to the Minister.
– A very small and lonely organization, which is known as the Australian Democratic Front, was granted assistance in order to counter blasts from the subversive elements in the community. Since the outbreak of war, no member of the Opposition has dared to raise his voice against communism. As the Attorney-General* (Mr. Hughes) stated, the Australian Democratic Front did a job which many honorable members opposite should have undertaken. They now state that if these disbursements had been made in accordance with ordinary Government practice through the Department of Information, or directly through the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, no exception would have been taken to them; but because the payments were made under some other name, they consider that they have every reason to object. Do our opponents work in that manner? The Communists do not call themselves the Communist party, but masquerade under a dozen names. Although they have been banned a dozen times, they bob up again and again in a new guise. I mention the names of a number of publications which have been banned since May, 1940, because of their communistic associations and subversive activities. They are The Tribune, Tha Wharfie, World Peace, The Guardian, The Workers’ Star, The North Queensland Guardian and The Militant. Organizations which have been banned because of their Communist associations, but whose names do not disclose their real purposes, include the Australian League of Peace and Democracy.
– Has that body been banned ?
– Yes. Other mas.queraders are the Minority Movement, and the Australian Youth Council. But because the Government establishes an organization to counteract the subversive activities of those journals and bodies, the Opposition contends that its action is an atrocity in a democratic community. How can the Government fight these organizations unless it uses methods which they understand ?
The only basis on which this issue should be judged is the kind of work which is being accomplished in order to counteract communism and other subversive activities. The statement has been made that £300 was paid to execu tives of the Coal Miners’ Federation to recoup them for expenses incurred in travelling to various parts of the country for the purpose of assisting the war effort, preventing strikes in industry, keeping the coal-mines and munitions factories in operation, and doing all those things which we should be doing in order to double the war effort. Can exception be taken to expenditure of money for that purpose, and to put, down the Communists and assist the moderate elements? If any honorable members opposite have real sympathy with the Communists at the present time, let them declare themselves. If not, why have they raised this hubbub about the expenditure of money for the purpose of educating people in tlie constitutional ideals of our democracy? Communists desire to break down the ramparts of democracy and substitute their own system for every form of constitutional government. If we believe in the democratic way of life, what is the objection to the expenditure of money for the purpose of upholding it?
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) suggested that the money was used for the purpose of corrupting persons in the community. Where is the evidence that one penny was so employed ? The Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden), in his statement, enumerated tlie items which absorbed the £4,800. The list included salaries, rent of offices, furnishings and clerical assistance. If the money were used in order to corrupt the community, the most that could have been employed for that purpose was a few hundred pounds, which was unaccounted for in the items to which I referred. Is it suggested that a few hundred pounds could buy the great Labour movement, including the presidents and secretaries of trade unions? If it were so, it would be a very sorry thing for the Labour movement. I have sufficient regard and esteem for most of the gentlemen who are trying to guide th, Labour movement to believe that they are not so easily corrupted. The real problem which we have to consider this evening is how best we can prosecute the war effort. Australia is falling down on the job. Despite the international crisis. Parliament has devoted two days to the discussion of a twopenny-ha’penny matter. That is a reflection on Parliament, and, if anything, on our democratic system. The enemy could have desired nothing better than this trivial matter for the purpose of dividing us. If Hitler’s agents had engineered this job, they could not have served their master better. The time has come when we should get down to the real business of government. The budget, which should have been presented to the House to-day, has been delayed as the result of this debate.
-i invited the Prime Minister yesterday to present the budget to the House to-day.
– It is of no use the Leader of the Opposition trying to put himself “on side” in that way.
– I tried in vain to get the Prime Minister to present his budget to-day.
– The Prime Minister would have been foolish indeed had he brought down the budget in the atmosphere of suspicion created by this incident. The Government has to dispose of this matter, and Parliament has to dispose of it. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and others have said : “ We want the whole of the facts placed before Parliament “. I ask these honorable members how confidential would these facts be if they were brought before Parliament? How could the information contained in these documents be kept secret if it were given to Parliament? Obviously it would get out in some way or other. That suggestion is beyond the realm of practical politics. The Prime Minister stated definitelyall members of the Government are behind him - that if this matter required further ventilation, or if the members of the Opposition considered that a further examination should be made because there was something sinister about the whole affair, a royal commission would be set up without any hesitation whatsoever, and if necessary, confidential matters could be heard in camera. Certain members of the Opposition have suggested already that it would be a “whitewashing” royal commission. How do they know that? Why do they say that? Simply because they are already con vinced in their own minds that there nothing further to be brought to light, and that it would not be worth while setting up a royal commission. However, I repeat that if a royal commission is wanted the Government is prepared to grant it.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. A few minutes ago while the Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) was speaking an offensive interjection was made across the chamber. Thinking that it came from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), I replied to him in an equally offensive manner. I have since learned that the interjection was made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and I apologize to the honorable member for Bendigo.
.- All my life I have been associated with the Miners Federation. In fact, I have never belonged to any other organization. When certain allegations were made in this chamber last Thursday concerning officials of that organization I asked that a royal commission be appointed. I stand by that request now. However, I have no desire to see the royal commissioner appointed by honorable members opposite. The Labour party will have that right immediately this motion is disposed of, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is sent for by the Governor-General to form a Ministry. We shall then appoint a royal commission or at least a select committee of this Parliament to investigate this matter.
The contribution to this debate by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) was really an attack upon honorable members on this side of the House. If the Minister were a little more conversant with the subject-matter which he introduced, he would not have said what he. did in regard to the Labour party holding up the country’s war effort. I think it will be admitted by all. - in fact it has been admitted - that the Opposition has pulled its full weight in our war effort. The honorable gentleman spoke of subversive activities, and said that reserves of coal were low owing to strikes. The fact is, that many of the strikes to which he referred were lockouts by the mine-owners. When lockouts occur, no members on the Government side of the House are prepared to invoke the law, and take steps to see that their friends, the mine-owners, are prosecuted to the limit, because of their endeavours to starve the miners into accepting lower rates of pay and the installation of dangerous mechanical units such as the machines working in pillars. That is the most hazardous operation in coal-mining, and is the cause of a great number of casualties. I have worked in a number of coal-mines. In the mine which I left to enter this House, I saw six of my comrades carried’ out in five weeks. A considerable amount of trouble was caused among the miners by a man named Miller, who held up the mines for eight weeks when he proposed to introduce a coal-cutting machine for pillarwork at Millfield Colliery. The Minister spoke of a. shortage of coal, but this trouble is clue to the failure of this Government to provide the ships required to carry coal from Newcastle to the States which are in need of it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) stated that this fund, which was referred to appropriately as “ slush “ money by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), has been in existence since 1916, and that each succeeding Attorney -^General has been aware of it. The honorable gentleman went ou to say that in 1940 the services and the Investigation Department had recommended an increase of the vote in order to combat subversive activities. Contact was then made with an organization known as the Australian Democratic Front. The Prime Minister admitted that £4,818 had been paid to the Attorney-General’s Department, and spent through the Australian Democratic Front, plus £300 drawn by Winkler, the Government’s Assistant Publicity Officer. It is alleged - I use the word advisedly - that Winkler was a “go-between” and that it was through him that money was paid to the president of the Miners Federation, Mr. Nelson. Unfortunately, Mr. Nelson is not here and cannot be heard. Who can prove that Nelson received the money and w-ho was with him when he is alleged to have approached the Attorney-General? Did he or any other miners’ representative sign receipts for the money? These tilings should be cleared up before we condemn any one other than the Government for its action of bribery for which Ministers admit the secret fund was used. I have known the gentleman for 25 or 30 years, and I have not found him dishonest in any way. I am not prepared to condemn Mr. Nelson because of the evidence that has been submitted, and charges that have been made against him in this House. In the name of British justice, is it fair that a man who has fought hard in the interest of the workers and who is not able to come before this Parliament, to defend himself, should be spoken of in such a way that he may be forced out of his job on to the dole? ls he to be condemned on charges made against him by some servant of the Government? Not so far as I am concerned. I say definitely that it is only fair that there should be an open inquiry. I know that on one occasion certain charges were made against an individual who was a member of Parliament, but he had the right to demand an inquiry and did so. Mr. Nelson cannot demand an inquiry. This Government must stand up to its actions. If it is prepared to set ‘aside. money which may ruin a man not only industrially, but also politically, it must be prepared to take what is coming to it. The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) indulged in a. tirade of abuse, and claimed that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had taken advantage of the position to make an attack upon the Australian Democratic Front which the right honorable gentleman had been instrumental in forming in February, .1940 - the time coinciding with the allocation of the extra vote to the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department. The Australian Democratic Front was definitely financed out of this special fund. Let the Attorney-General measure up to what he said to the mine2-s’ deputation only on Monday last. It is a pity that, when charges such as this are made; the right honorable gentleman is not iri the’ House to see the debate carried to a conclusion. I was unable to ask a question by way of interjection because of the right honorable gentleman’s defective hearing, but I should like to have my question answered now. It is unfair that the House should not have the advantage of hearing the question and the answer. When the miners’ representatives came to Canberra on Monday last to inquire further into this matter, the AttorneyGeneral said that he was sure that one man, Nelson, had come to him and suggested that money should be made available to pay the travelling expenses of certain individuals who wished to travel around and prevent further industrial trouble. The Attorney-General and this House should know that there is no need for money to be paid to miners’ officials to cover travelling expenses because the Miners Federation makes available first class tickets to its servants. The Attorney-General also said that another man had been with Nelson and he mentioned the man’s name. The man whom he mentioned said “ Take a good look at me please, Mr. Hughes, and see whether I am the man you mean?’’ The Attorney-General said “ I cannot say that you were the man “. “ Well “, said the man, “ I am the individual you have mentioned as having accompanied Mr. Nelson “. Apparently the right honorable gentleman just made a wild charge without even knowing the man. The Attorney-General also told that deputation that when Mr. Nelson and the other man approached him the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) was present in his capacity as Acting Prime Minister. The Attorney-General said that he was not sure who accompanied Mr. Nelson and that he did not know whether he was introduced to him by a member of Parliament or not. Many deputations from the Miners Federation have waited on Commonwealth Ministers since the war began and I have always been asked to introduce them. The right honorable gentleman’s statement, therefore, is a reflection on me. I demand the opportunity to clear myself of complicity. I have the greatest admiration for the Miners Federation which is one of the most honest and sincere industrial organizations in Australia, much more so than the Australian DemocraticFront, the members of which are political rejects, “ deadbeats “ and political “ rats “. It is typical of the United Australia party that the members of the Australian Democratic Front should include renegades who have “ ratted “ on the Labour party, because the United Australia party has always welcomed any one who likes to “rat” on the Labour party. It is because the Labour party will not associate with “rats” that it refuses to assist in the formation of a government which would have the support of some honorable members who might be prepared to “rat” on the United Australia party. Our principle is once a “rat” always a “rat”, and we should be fearful that a man who “ratted” on the United Australia party ro-day would “ rat “ on the Labour party to-morrow.
The Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) declared that the government of the country was being held up by this debate. I answer that statement by pointing out how infrequently Parliament has sat since the war began. We have even been brought here to attend a secret meeting of senators and members and then sent away again because the Government had no business for us to transact. How can we be charged with holding up the work of the Government? In order to show how ineffective the Government’s work is, let me instance the state of affairs which exists in my electorate. Both the former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his predecessor (Mr. Lyons) visited the northern coalfields and were appalled by the volume of unemployment there. Thousands are still unemployed on those coalfields to-day. The Government could increase the war effort by bringing those men into the manufacture of munitions in a factory established in the district. It prefers, however, at the expense of the countryside, to use what little energy it has in order to serve the interests of the metropolitan areas of Australia, wherein lie the interests of its political masters, the monopolists. Notwithstanding that, the Government expects the young men of the country districts, including the coalfields, to fight, as they are fighting in their thousands because they realize that even the dole of democracy is better than the tyranny of totalitarianism. Instead of flailing his arms in this chamber, the Minister for Transport should apply his energies in the Cabinet room in an endeavour to convince his colleagues of the wisdom and strategy of decentralizing the manufacture of munitions.
-Order! The debate must not go beyond the ambit of the motion and the amendment.
– The Minister for Transport wandered, from the motion and the amendment. I conclude by appealing to the Government to give all concerned in this matter the opportunity to clear themselves before a full and open inquiry. Telegrams and letters from all coal-miners’ lodges have asked me and other honorable members to press for such an inquiry. I ask for it sincerely, but I ‘ do not expect it to be granted by the present Government, because it will not have the opportunity to do so, since it will not be in office for another 24 hours. The Labour government which will succeed it will have the whole matter investigated.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) 1 9.10]. - The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. .lames) and other honorable members of the Opposition have referred to charges laid against officers of the Coal Miners Federation and other industrial unions of this country and have claimed that means by which they may clear themselves must be provided through an open inquiry. This matter was first ventilated last Thursday, but no Government supporter made any allegations about the distribution of secret funds to unionists. Those allegations were made, not by us, but by the honorable member for Hunter and some of his colleagues. We knew nothing about them. The honorable member for Hunter on Thursday said that pressmen had approached him and asked him whether he had heard this, that and the other thing about certain funds having been appropriated and given to unionists. The House was staggered, pressmen were staggered, and, as the honorable gentleman said it would be, the public was staggered when it read its morning newspapers. Speeches on the subject were also delivered by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in which they alleged that the Government had made certain secret funds available to unionists in order to buy their services for subversive political work in the interests of the Government. To-day that charge was proved to be baseless. It was further said that religious organizations had had funds given to them. To-day that statement was contradicted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) himself. He said, that there was no foundation for that charge. The third charge laid against the Government was that money was being expended in order to create strikes in industry for the purpose of creating a. favorable setting for an election. Nothing move damaging to the unions could have been said. No Government supporter spoke last Thursday. We awaited information. We said none of the things about the unions of which Opposition members wish to clear unionists. Those things were said by Opposition members themselves. As the result of ill-founded statements made by Opposition members, statements which besmirched the name of the National Parliament, and which were without a vestige of truth, appeared in the issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph of last Saturday. The following paragraph was published in that newspaper: - “ The question “, to quote the Leader of tlie Opposition, “‘involves the payment of government funds to a person or persons for purposes not approved by Parliament”.
Those payments were made from a vote which is made by Parliament year after year for the Attorney-General’s Department. The dockets and receipts relating to the fund are audited by the AuditorGeneral. The newspaper article continued -
Mr. Fadden’s reticence led to a debate in which allegations of bribery and corruption were made.
– Hear, hear!
– All the allegations came from the opposite side of the House, and those made by the honorable member for East Sydney, were the most serious.
– And they were all true.
– I made a note of some of the statements that were made at the time. The honorable member for East Sydney said that he had gathered, from wild rumours flying about the House, that persons were paid in order to corrupt them so that they would support “the Government’s crooked policy”. The honorable member says that that is correct, even after hearing the full statement of the Prime Minister. The honorable member said further, if “the funds are used for bribery” - he gave to the press the terrible word “ bribery “, which made us almost ashamed of ourselves until the Prime Minister made his statement to the people of Australia to-day. These funds have been used for-
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney is persistently interjecting in defiance of the directions of the Chair. If he continues to do so, I shall name him.
– The greatest sin that the Government committed was to use this fund in order to suppress subversive activity, chiefly communistic, and the honorable member for East Sydney has been foremost in protesting against this being done. He has demanded that the general work of this Government organization should be made known so that his subversive friends might learn of its operations. The Sydney newspapers of last Monday published a protest from Mr. Thornton, a union secretary and member of the Trades and Labour Council, who asked that all of the activities of the organization be made public. Mr. Thornton wants these facts published because he himself is an avowed Communist and the organization is interfering with his work of preaching the doctrine of communism throughout New SouthWales. Let, the honorable member for East Sydney, or anybody else, contradict that statement.
– Mr. Speaker will not allow me to do so.
– It is the truth of my statement that has stopped the honorable member from interjecting, not the direction given by Mr. Speaker. The honorable member demanded an open discussion of this subject. It was discussed in this chamber last week and is being debated again to-day. The Government is now in a position to offer to the Labour party the appointment of a royal commission to probe still further into the allegations of bribery and corruption for political advantage. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said last week that he wanted to have more discussion than occurred in the “secret society”, as he termed the Advisory War Council. The formation of that council was proposed by the Labour party. It was offered to the Government as the maximum measure of assistance that the Labour party was prepared to give to it in the conduct of the war effort. The honorable member for Hunter said that the matter demanded something more than discussion by the Advisory War Council.
– Does the honorable member say that the Advisory War Council asked for this secret information?
– I have not mentioned that. I said that the Labour party offered the formation of the War Council as the alternative to a national government. The honorable member for Hunter said that current rumours had cast aspersions on the industrial organization with which he is associated, which was entitled to know what was being said about it. Who made these statements about that organization? Certainly it was nobody on this side of the House. Only the utterances of the honorable member himself and some of his colleagues enabled the Daily Telegraph to make the following statement in its leading article: -
YesterdayMr. Curtin thickened the plot in a public statement which introduced a mysterious bedroom visitor, dark references to “secret funds”, and the atmosphere of a crime club thriller.
That sort of thing was doled out to the public as the result of the statements that were made by honorable members opposite. They have besmirched the reputation of our democratic institutions and parliamentary system of government, for which we and the rest of the British Empire are fighting to-day. The honorable members made their irresponsible statements for political gain, and the newspapers made use of their comments which varied between the subversive and the stupid.
– The Opposition has made statements; honorable members opposite have used public money for improper purposes.
– Public money has been expended only in the interests of the country.
– Then why were underhand methods used?
– Such funds are provided by all democratic parliaments throughout the world. In Great Britain hundreds of thousands of pounds are appropriated annually, and the procedure there is that no word shall be spoken about it in Parliament, and that the names of recipients of any disbursements from the fund shall not be mentioned in Parliament. That is done in order to maintain an institution to counter the activities of subversive organizations whose members include friends of some honorable members opposite. The leading article in the Daily Telegraph continued -
The people will be irresistibly forced to the conclusion that the Government wants to hide something.
That is merely what the people have been told by honorable members opposite. The article concluded with the following words : -
The public will expect satisfactory answers to these questions: -
For what purpose was the secret Govern ment fund created?
How, in fact, has it been used?
What people have received payments from the fund?
What services have they rendered Australia to justify the payments?
This House has now been informed of the answers to those four questions. This propaganda by honorable members opposite succeeded only in besmirching their unions through public discussions of whispers which they claimed to have heard in the galleries, but which we had not heard. The people were led to believe that, while they slept at night, we dipped our fingers surreptitiously into their pockets and took gold from them in our own political interests. The Northern president of the Miners Federation, Mr.
There is not a word of truth in the allegation that public funds were used by the Government during the last election campaign. The charge that the fund to which reference was made had been used to bribe andcorrupt union officials is equally baseless.
That was published at the end of the article, because the newspaper, in addition to creating a sensation, wanted to make the most of the unfortunate position of the miners. This outcry for an inquiry into the secret fund came from men like Mr. Thornton, who voted against the proposal that the Labour party should join in a national government. Honorable members on this side of the House have made no charges against the miners. In trying to defend his supporters, the Leader of the Opposition could only say that, because the funds were not used by a Labour organization, they were not correctly expended. The only sum about which there can be any complaint is an amount of about £300, not £3,000. All this fuss has been made about a fund which has been administered by this Government and its predecessors for many years in the interests of national security. It could not have been used for any better purpose than to attack subversive communist activity.
.- As _ a member of the Advisory War Council, which investigated these transactions, I can best give assistance to the House by re-stating a few of the facts which are not in dispute. The Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) has made a statement containing the relevant facts, and, so far as that statement was not complete, it has since been completed by other statements which have been made by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). First, I should like to clear up a point which was raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who referred to the Advisory War Council as though it were trying to cloak something; to keep something back from the House. That is not true.
– He did not say that at all.
– I understood him to say that, and I assure the honorable member tha t the ‘Council did its utmost to find out all of the facts of the case. All of the files and all of the documents were put before us.
– And all of the vouchers.
– The vouchers were examined as far as we could do so in the time at our disposal. The summary that has been given to the House in this debate covers the main transactions relevant to this- fund.
– Why was it taken to the Advisory War Council?
– It has now come to the Parliament.
– Only a part of it.
– I think I shall be able to convince the honorable member that all of the relevant facts are before the House. I know of no relevant fact that has not been stated to honorable members. The Advisory War Council treated the whole subject as it would have been treated by a committee of inquiry. I am sure, that the members of the Advisory War Council now present in the chamber, who represent both sides of the House, will bear me out in that state ment. In the end we practically agreed on what were the material facts of the case. They are not now in dispute.
– And there is nothing in it.’
– That may be a very different thing. That is a matter for judgment. But let us not make any mistake as to the basis of our vote. The facts are indisputable.
Some reference has been made to the fund that was established in 1916 and developed in connexion with the Investigation Branch of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The fund which we are considering has nothing whatever to do with that fund. That fund is a police fund employed for the purpose of investigating, detecting and punishing offences against Commonwealth law, including security offences. The fund is administered, I understand, by Colonel Jones, as head of the police force, to whom there is paid over each quarter a cheque of about £500. There is no political responsibility of a direct kind for what he does. Such a fund is common to every police system throughout the world. Every State Government administers such a fund.
The fund which we are investigating - and I think that all honorable members opposite will agree that this is a fair statement - is quite distinct from that fund, for it is a special fund established as recently as February, 1940. I frankly concede that the Government was concerned about communist propaganda throughout Australia, and desired to counteract it in the way it thought best. There was no need for the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), or the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), to make speeches in this House attacking communist doctrine, for no one here is defending it.
– Obviously the honorable gentleman has not listened to speeches that have been delivered by some of his colleagues.
– The sole question is whether it is proper to use a fund of this kind as it has been used. The Government, quite rightly from its point of view, wished to counteract communism and it set about the matter in this way. In effect it left the matter to the
Attorney-General. I admit that after taking this action, the matter would not be likely to come back to Cabinet. The Attorney-General set about establishing an organization which paraded before the public to be a voluntary association of citizens, called the Australian Democratic Front. A meeting was held at the Sydney Town Hall and attended by the Attorney-General. The general public was not admitted to the meeting, for admission was by ticket; but that, after all, is a minor point. The AttorneyGeneral made a speech in the course of which he congratulated this organization on its spontaneous protest against the communist evil. He did this a fortnight after Cabinet had established the special fund. The paid servants of the Australian Democratic Front were actually paid out of public moneys. That might be justified in special circumstances. Parliament has voted moneys for voluntary associations such as migration and scientific associations, exploration expeditions, and the like. But in connexion with each of them Parliament has always approved of the purposes for which the funds were to be used. If this matter had been submitted to Parliament, a vote for the association might also have been approved. The fact is that Parliament has not voted money for this purpose. There is no charge of bribery or corruption in connexion with this matter. The simple question before honorable members i3 whether this is a proper use of public moneys. I make no charge concerning the selection of the office-bearers of the Australian Democratic Front. I do not know who they were. I do not care if the secretary was expelled from the Labour movement twenty years ago. That has nothing whatever to do with the question. I do not know anything about the ability of that gentleman ; all I know is that he was selected by the Attorney-General, or some other person.
Public money amounting to £4,818 has been spent on the Australian Democratic Front. It might be asked: “What is that in a budget of £250,000,000? It may appear a trifle ; that is not the point. The point is that the money has been spent in this way in salaries, travelling expenses, rental of buildings, printing and the like without express parliamentary sanction. It represents itself to the public as a body consisting of certain citizens who have voluntarily joined together against subversive doctrine. That is not a true statement of the position. The plain fact is that the Australian Democratic Front is a government agency and not, as represented, a voluntary association. If such a voluntary association was thought to be worthy of a subvention from Parliament it would have been proper for the Government to ask Parliament to provide the funds. As it is, I believe that even members of the Government knew nothing whatever about this organization.
I hold strong views on this subject, for I consider we are dealing here with a vital matter of parliamentary practice. I care little about any other aspect of the case. I point out to honorable members that if they do not support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), anything can be done with secret funds of this description. For example, the Government might say : “ We wish to increase the strength of the Army, but we decided not to ask Parliament to authorize such an action. We shall, therefore, meet the expenses from a secret fund.” By such means the whole basis of responsible government would disappear.
Originally the British Crown asked for grants from the Parliament without giving details, or even heads, of the expenditure. It wa3 sometimes found that the Crown was not expending the grants for public purposes, so, as the years went by, Parliament became more and more insistent that appropriations should be for specific purposes. Parliament demanded to know how the moneys it voted were to be spent. How could that principle be retained if we endorsed action of the kind taken by the Government in connexion with thi? fund? I do not blame the officials of the Attorney-General’s Department for what has been done, for they have undoubtedly acted under ministerial direction. An amount of £4,818 has been paid in notes or cash by these officials, although Parliament had not authorized the payments in the ordinary way. The officials of the department have, therefore. been placed in a false position. Let us just imagine the feelings of a senior officer of the status of the Grown Solicitor in Sydney, who is compelled to dole out notes to this wretched association. I do not consider that a single member of this House believes that this association has done anything effective in helping to stamp our communism or communist doctrine in Australia. I have read the pamphlets referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. As he pointed out, five or six of them were published before Russia entered the war and they consist, in the main, of a tirade of abuse of Russia. The exaggerated statements published in them suggested that we were really fighting against Russia and not against Germany, the main enemy of our country. After Russia entered the war on the side of the Allies a pamphlet appeared in which a most glowing tribute was paid to Stalin. This pamphlet was as glowing in its appreciation of Stalin as the previous pamphlets were ferocious in their attacks upon Russia. Yet each of these pamphlets indicated, in its imprint, that it was published for and. on behalf of the Australian Democratic Front. I do not think that even honorable members opposite can possibly approve that kind of thing. That is not the way to counteract communism. If we condone such actions we shall be condoning the deception of the Parliament and the people, and we shall be going the right way to subvert our parliamentary institutions, and to overturn the whole basis of responsible government and the control of supplies. That basis is - appropriations of public moneys shall be for specific purposes approved by the Parliament.
Does any honorable- member seriously approve what has been done? Let us test it thus: Will the Cabinet approve a. continuation of payments from this fund for the purposes of the Australian Democratic Front? I cannot believe it for a moment. A decision on this point would help to indicate which way honorable members should vote on this issue.
Many side-issues have been introduced into this debate, and there is some danger that the main question may be forgotten or overlooked. The real question is not the manner in which certain information reached the Leader of the Opposition, but whether honorable members are prepared to approve this expenditure of moneys, contributed by the taxpayer, and disbursed without the knowledge of Parliament. I do not believe for a moment that they do approve of such a course.
I submit that this expenditure by the Government was not justified, first, because Parliament did not contemplate it and did not expressly authorize it. The amount of £4,S1S which is involved could easily have been included in last year’s budget, and could have been covered by last year’s Appropriation Bill. As that course was not taken, I submit that Parliament has not been informed, although, obviously, it was the duty of the Government responsible to Parliament to inform it of all such expenditure. Secondly, these transactions have resulted in a body masquerading before the public as an independent voluntary organization when, in fact, it is merely a government agency, bureau or instrument. This has actually resulted in the distribution by the Australian Democratic Front of false documents. The pamphlets to which reference has been made have been published not by the Australian Democratic Front, but by the Commonwealth Government through the agency of the Australian Democratic Front. Do honorable members consider that that is the proper way to deal with such matters? I do not consider that there can be any justification for such action.
– What about the Miners Federation ?
– The honorable member may rest assured that I shall not overlook that point. This expenditure by the Government was not justified, because under a scheme of this kind the Government has little or no control over the agents it employs or the methods used by its agents. The result of setting up such a body, and supporting it by government moneys, must often he . to increase the very evil which the Government desires to correct. A study of political history shows clearly that bodies of this kind foster agents provocateurs who will easily provide reasons for the continuation of their employment. That has actually happened in connexion with this body, for one of the pamphlets it issued stated that the Communists employed at the Sydney General Post Office were on the point of revolt and were only waiting for the moment to arrive when they could interfere with communications and- plunge Sydney into chaos and disaster. When the libel was brought to the notice of the then PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Thorby, by the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister stated that he had not been able to find anything to justify such allegations. The Australian Democratic Front was responsible for the allegation. Is it suggested that Mr. Thorby knew then that the Government, through the Australian Democratic Front, was libelling its own servant? I do not believe that he knew.
– He did not know.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who has just interjected, became a member of the Ministry after the fund was established, and he assures us that Mr. Thorby did not know. Probably other Ministers also were in the same position. Not only was the Parliament deceived, but also members of the Ministry were deceived. Mr. Thorby was put in the position of condemning a pamphlet issued and published by his own Cabinet through the agency of the Australian Democratic Front. That resulted from the wrong use of the public funds of this country. Next the president of the Australian Democratic Front attacked the Leader of the Opposition. In plain words, the Government, through the agency of this body, has attacked the Leader of the Opposition. Such a state of affairs cannot be justified as a matter of decent parliamentary behaviour in this democracy.
Another aspect of this matter is this : Because of the failure to reveal the true nature of this front, there existed a temptation for the organization to act as though the menace of communism were greater than it actually was. What do we find? Within two months a.fter the front was formed, five or six incidents took “lace in Sydney and Melbourne. The file shows tha* shortly after the formation of the Australian Democratic Front some incident in relation to the Red Flag, or something of the kind, occurred in the Sydney Domain. In Melbourne, on Anzac Day, 1940, a man in soldier’s uniform had the audacity to join the returned soldiers in their march to the Shrine of Remembrance, and he unfurled the Red Flag. As one who has made some study of these bodies and their methods, I say that that does not look like the action of a body of communists, but rather suggests an agent provocateur. I have no direct evidence that that is so, but it is significant that although there was an attempt to seize the man, he was not arrested. As I have said, I have no direct evidence that the disturbance was caused by this body, but I do say that that is. the kind of thing which was likely 26-‘happen in such circumstances.
– If the honorable member has no direct evidence, why make such an insinuation?
– That is the kind of thing which is likely to result from the setting up of persons who have a financial interest in proving the menace of communism.
– It is a rotten insinuation.
– I do not think that the Minister’s comment- is fair, particularly as I said twice that I had no evidence that this body was responsible. I say again that such action does not look like the action of a desperate body of communists; rather does it appear to be the action of an individual agent provocateur.
I now turn to a separate matter. The sum of £300 in notes was paid out of the same fund. That payment has been a source of great anxiety to the members of the Advisory War Council, who had to report the matter to the Parliament, either directly or indirectly. It is alleged by the responsible Minister, that the president of the Miners Federation asked for money in order to attend aggregate meetings of miners’ lodges. He further alleges that the Acting Prime Minister approved the payments and that money was handed over in notes on three separate occasions. The notes so paid over have not been traced to the gentleman - who is alleged to have made the request. I do not think it would be fair to the House to conceal my view that it seems very improbable that the officer whose name had been mentioned - the publicity officer - kept the money himself. That he might have done so seems to be a rather fantastic theory. If, as has been suggested, he put the notes in his own pocket, it is curious that he should subsequently have given the information which led to the inquiry.
– He stole a confidential document.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that a confidential document was not bought.
– On the Government’s own version of the facts, the Commonwealth has been defrauded of £300, because the Federation paid all of the travelling expenses incurred by all of its officials in attending meetings during that month and at other times. The Commonwealth has paid £300 of public money for intended transmission to an official or officials all of whom were paid by the Miners Federation.
– Had the moneys been paid out of some special fund for the purpose known to Parliament, the Commonwealth would still have been defrauded.
– That is entirely beside the point. Whether the payments were proper or improper, the Commonwealth has been defrauded of £300, because that sum was paid in March for the purpose of meeting expenses which have been paid in full by the federation. It was suggested to the Minister that the federation would not pay such expenses, yet a simple inquiry would have revealed that the rules of the organization provide that all of its officials are entitled to payment of travelling expenses incurred in connexion with attendance at all such meetings.
– It is a matter of an error of judgment.
– An error of judgment may be a disaster. I am not suggesting that the charge is one of bribery or corruption. I have not done so. I allege what the Leader of the Opposition alleged in his amendment, namely that funds were wrongly applied by the
Government. Public moneys should not, have been used for the purpose for which they were used.
– That is a matter of judgment.
– TheMinister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said to the House that -this was a war “ intelligence “ vote, but now he sees that it goes deeper. When the Minister made his first statement he did not know the actual facts of the transactions. Indeed, I do not think that many members of the Ministry knew the facts. I even doubt whether the Cabinet as a whole knew anything of this body known as the Australian Democratic Front. According to the statement which hasbeen read it had no reality and no substantial membership. It was a mere “ Front “ for the Government.
The payment of the £300 illustrates the danger of secret payments of this kind without any prior appropriation by Parliament. The utmost care is required that public funds shall be devoted to proper purposes. We do not know who finally received the money, but if we accept as facts the statement made by the Minister, it would appear that the gentleman who asked for the money must have been satisfied, because there was no complaint. The position is that the Commonwealth was certainly defrauded of £300. The payment of this sum illustrates what can happen when a vote is not made openly by Parliament, and not administered openly. It could not have injured the Government if the matter had been dealt with openly, but it was left entirely to the discretion of one Minister. If I may adopt the language of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), I would say that there was an error of judgment.
– An error of judgment is a poor thing on which to base a censure motion in time of war.
– Honorable members generally will not dispute that there was an error of judgment: An error ofjudg- ment may be even worse in time of war. The money should not have been used in the way in which it was used. The public funds are involved. All that the amendment means is that we shall not permit what has happened on this occasion to be repeated. So far, we have not received from the Government any assurance that the precedent which has been set will not be followed. This is not a matter of ordinary party politics, but one which involves the proper administration of public funds. On that broad basis, I ask the House to decide this important issue.
– For a time I had some doubt whether it was necessary that anything should be added from the table in relation to the matters that have been discussed ; but if I remain silent in this debate, any silence may be misunderstood, because the events which the House is discussing took place when I was Prime Minister, although some of them occurred when I was not in Australia. As honorable members will understand, I am not able to speak at. first hand about the payment of £300, because [ was in Great Britain at that time, but I am able to speak at first hand about the fund which led up to the establishment of the counter-communist propaganda organization. I shall say a few words on that subject, but, before I do so in detail. 1 desire to say that I am indebted to the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) for having, as I believe, reduced this discussion to its true proportions. The honorable member, who is a responsible member of the Opposition and of the Advisory War Council, and has had an opportunity to study the facts by reading the vouchers and scrutinizing, so far as one is able, the items involved in this expenditure of £4,S18, said specifically that he did not suggest anything in the nature of bribery or corruption on the part of the Government or of any member nf it in connexion with these transactions. That statement clearly disposes of something that the public might have been prepared to infer from some of the rumours and publications of the last few days. The honorable gentleman agrees that, there is no charge of bribery or corruption. Indeed, there could not be any such charge unless honorable members of this House were prepared to believe, what I would steadfastly refuse to believe, that either the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden), my successor, or the right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr.
Hughes) had been, guilty of dishonest practices in connexion with the expenditure of public moneys.
– I would believe that of the Attorney-General.
– iSo would I.
– Evidently, there is in this House a. majority of 72 to two against that view. For myself, I say definitely that I would not ‘believe any such charge for one moment. The honorable member for Bar-ton has agreed in that view by saying - I think fairly and properly - that, on the facts as presented to the House, there is no charge or suggestion of bribery or corruption. What he says is. “ This motion is designed to raise an important question of parliamentary practice, and that is, should moneys be expended for purposes of this kind without specific parliamentary approval? “. As I understand it, that, in effect, is the question to which the honorable member asks us to direct our attention, lit arguing that case, .he put his view on a very comprehensive ground. He said that Parliament, if it is to control public expenditure, ought to have put to it specific matters for specific approval. That, C venture to say, is a new principle in respect of parliamentary appropriation.
– I did not say every item.
– The fact is, that every year for 25 years a. sum of money has been passed over to the head of the Investigation Branch, through the instrumentality of the Attorney-General of the day, for what has been described as police purposes. These are quite unspecified; but honorable members, not being children, would not need to have them specified. This was a police fund, and it has been passed over every year. It never has appeared in the votes under the heading “ Investigation Branch “ ; it appeared - or, more correctly, it failed to appear - every year under the general description of “ Miscellaneous Expenditure “ in the item “Department of the Treasury”. That is how Parliament has approved the Investigation Branch special fund. Does any honorable member feel any real grievance in respect of that?
– The same two honorable members have a grievance. I do not imagine that any other honorable member will have one. This practice has been continued year after year. Specific parliamentary approval cannot be obtained for the expenditure of funds which, because of their very nature, although useful and serving a great public need, must be secret. The principle to which the honorable member for Barton referred has been honoured in the breach rather than in the observance, for 25 years. “What happened on this occasion? I agree that, strictly examined and properly considered, this is not the same fund ; it is an additional fund, created in 1940.
– The honorable member for Bourke describes it as “exfoliation “. That is even better than I had hoped for.
It may help honorable members and the country if I remind them of how this counter-communist propaganda came into existence ; because it does not spring suddenly from nowhere. It was the result of at least a month of conferences and discussions as to the right means of dealing with communism. I remind honorable members that this was quite early in the war, at the beginning of January, 1940. At that time, the Communist party had not been declared an illegal body. Great discussions took place as to whether it should be declared illegal, and weighty arguments were advanced at the time as to why, in the then circumstances, there should not be a declaration of illegality. The Chiefs of Staff of the three Services, who have great responsibility in these matters, made a report to the “War Cabinet, in which they referred to the effect of communism, and suggested that the whole question of how to deal with it should be looked into. In the course of their report, they said -
It is apparent from the mass of literature being circulated that the Communists are making a “ Peace “ drive throughout Australia, and endeavouring to create a peace psychology, the object of which is to ask the people to demand peace and put an end to the present Government.
Presumably, those two things meant the same. The quotation proceeds -
This has been, and still is, the chief instrument m communism’s unrelenting pursuit of her original objective of world revolution and dominance since 1917, the world conquest being visualized not so much by force of arms as by propaganda.
In other words, they pointed out very clearly and responsibly that propaganda is a great weapon in the hands of CoInmunism Therefore, these responsible leaders asked themselves how we were to deal with it; and in one of their recommendations they said - lt is submitted that the most suitable fiction in this regard is counter propaganda.
At that time, they had in mind counter propaganda by the Department of Information. I pause at this point to remind honorable members that when the Department of Information was established in September of 1939, questions were asked in this House concerning it - my friend, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) will perhaps recall questioning me at that time - because honorable members were a little apprehensive that this new department might, be used for purposes of party or government propaganda, and they were insistent upon its being used as a means for diffusing information in relation to the war, and so on. Therefore, in January of 1940 many of us in the then government felt that, entrusting what was avowedly propaganda to the Department of Information might be criticized, might be open to objection, and that, above all - I give my recollection of my own view of the matter, for what it is worth - propaganda which bears the label of a government department is almost automatically defeated. That is the plain sense of the matter. If you are to have propaganda effectively conducted against the most insidious propagandists the world has produced, and that we have had in this country, then your propaganda must be conducted with some subtlety. You must proceed, not always by direction but sometimes by indirection. These were the circumstances as they presented themselves to the War Cabinet.
– That does not mean that the right honorable gentleman approved the formation of the Australian Democratic Front
– L shall come, to all things in time. On the 5th January, the War Cabinet decided that counter propaganda would be a proper course to take, and it called a conference. That conference made a recommendation, which again was in favour of propaganda. Then, as the Prime Minister has described in his statement, the matter was referred to the Attorney-General’s Department; and having reached that department, my right honorable colleague, the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), with great enterprise, said: “ Oh, now, this is the thing; I can handle this”; and, my word, I do not know of any man in Australia who could handle it better. Take myself, for example; everybody knows that I am a terrible propagandist. But the right honorable the Attorney-General understands these things; and I venture to say that any propaganda conducted by him would be conducted not only with great vigour but also with a real knowledge of all sorts and conditions of people in Australia. The recommendation in favour of counter propaganda, may I say, was made by a conference which did not possess any political quality; oh, no! You cannot tie this dreadful United Australia party tag to this conference, because it consisted of two representatives of the Department of the Army, two of the Department of the Navy, one of the Royal Australian Air Force, two members of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, police representatives from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland. South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, and a representative, who was then the Chief Censor, of the Department of Information. That was a representative conference, the result of which was that the Government had placed before it the final recommendation that the propaganda weapon be used against the propagandists. We come, now, to a very fine point indeed, because my learned and honorable friend opposite, the honorable member for Barton says “Propaganda is all right; I do not quarrel with it. If it had been conducted by the Government as such it would have been all right “.
In other words, if all the leaflets had at the foot of them the words “ This is issued by the Government of Australia with the intention of influencing your mind “, it would have been all right. I do not know how many honorable members sit opposite - I know that there will be fewer after the next election - but if that had been done I warrant that every member on the Opposition side would, if I may be permitted to express it so, have been up on his hind legs saying: “It is a scandalous waste of public money. Look at this Government using Government funds for Government propaganda “.
The honorable member for Watson interjecting,
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) would be well advised to keep out of this. The only serious misuse of public money I know of is the payment to him of his parliamentary allowance. The real question is whether it was wrong to use an organization for the purpose of this perfectly legitimate and proper influencing of the public mind.
– That is not the question.
– The honorable member will find that it is a question proposed by the honorable member for Barton. Unfortunately, I shall be allowed to speak only once, and therefore I must sit fuming, stifled and frustrated when the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is making his speech. In the meantime, I say that it cannot be reasonably contended that counter-propaganda in these circumstances was wrong, and that it was not a legitimate object of public expenditure, particularly in time of war. The only question, therefore, is by what vehicle was it done. I was Prime Minister in February, 1940, and thereafter for some considerable time; therefore I am responsible, and no word that I say is said with any idea of escaping my responsibilities for the way in which this money was expended. It is true, in fact, that, until last week, until these things cropped up, I did not hear the name of the Australian Democratic Front or the name of Mr. Barnes. I knew, and every member of the Cabinet knew, that if the AttorneyGeneral was expending money on propaganda, he must put it through somebody, and that he must have organized propaganda. Why should he worry whether the organization was called A, B or C; or whether Brown, Jones or Robinson was acting as an intermediary? It was a proper administrative act for the Attorney-General to use fitting organized means for disseminating propaganda, and to engage anybody considered by him to be a. competent and proper person to carry out that work. If the right honorable gentleman had come to me a month afterwards and said : “ I am using an organization called the Australian Democratic Front, and I have a man called Barnes,” I certainly would have said : “ Good. I hope the propaganda is going well, and that you are reaching the greatest possible audience “. As Prime Minister I accepted responsibility for the administrative acts of Ministers in my Cabinet. I am bound to say that I have not heard one word in the course of this debate that would suggest the slightest impropriety in the means adopted by the Attorney-General. So, we have two small points : the first, should Parliament have been asked to give specific approval to this fund, though it was never asked to give specific approval to the other fund for the whole 25 years of its existence; and the second, should this propaganda have been conducted through the Department of Information - we would have had a three days’ debate over that - or should it have been conducted by the Attorney-General himself employing a staff and not calling himself anything but William Morris Hughes - and we would have had a six days’ debate over that. Never in my experience of Parliament has such a great noise been produced over such a small matter. I suggest that it is high time we wound up this debate and got on with the business of the country.
– I wish briefly to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The Labour party says that the known facts as presented by the Prime Minister (Mr.
Fadden) to-day justify the amendment and the statement that there has been a
Wrong use of public money. We welcome the appointment of a royal commission as suggested by honorable members opposite, or of any other kind of inquiry that will sift this matter to the bottom. On such facts as have been admitted the amendment should be carried. The Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) was quite wrong when he suggested that the action taken by this illegal organization - and undoubtedly it is an illegal organization - could be justified. Everybody knows that an office of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch is established in all of the capital cities of Australia and is staffed with efficient men and women. Every body knows that in the offices of that branch are tabulated dossiers of every man in Australia with a. suspected background, and that the branch has records ofevery man working in munitions factories, or in any other way connected with our war operations. It is known that our Investigation Branch is as efficient as any intelligence service in the British Empire. The expenditure of moneys to counter international espionage work in Great Britain is never discussed in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords. That, however, is altogether different from what we are discussing to-night. Usually, the work done by the Investigation Branch throughout Australia, is never questioned by the members of this House. We know that the funds under the control of the Investigation Branch are examined by the Auditor-General and that there is no possibility of them being expended in an illegal way. All honorable members know the work done by the Investigation Branch, but they do not know all the details of the secret work carried out. by the investigating officers. The work of these men has to be carried out in secret not only in order to save the reputations of those people whose activities are investigated, not all of whom are proved guilty of breaking the law, but also so that it can be carried out effectively in future. But that has nothing whatever to do with this matter. Nobody takes exception to the expending of money in peace-time or in war-time by the ordinary Investigation
Branch, but this is a different matter altogether. In this instance, the reputation of an important organization is at stake, as also is the reputation of one man who has been named, and that of another man whose name has not been stated. Suspicion is cast on several other persons who are known to have been negotiating with the Government in a. perfectly legitimate way. Until the matter is straightened out, all these persons are suspect. We are familiar with the methods resorted to by AttorneysGeneral for many years past to disseminate political propaganda, and. I do not think it is possible to acquit the Australian Democratic Front of playing a part in this. Mr. Barnes is well known by persons in the Labour movement and outside it. I have sat in conference with him on many occasions. He disagreed with the Labour party over the conscription issue during the last war, and he has been closely associated with the Attorney-General ever since. He has been a personal friend of the Attorney-General for many years. 1 believe that the money was expended wrongly in that it was used for political purposes. There was no justification for the creation of the organization known, as the Australian Democratic Front. Its existence is a reflection on the work of the Investigation Branch, which is staffed by highly trained and well-respected men. T am. familiar with much of the work they do, and I know that they are jealous of amateurs who interfere with their activities. They say that many of the statements made and the pamphlets issued hinder their work rather than help it. It is unfortunate that an incident such as this should have occurred at a time when Labour representatives in various European countries are being persecuted and even tortured, both mentally and physically, on the pretext that they are Communists. I have met dozens of Labour men, Belgians, Frenchmen and Dutchmen, who were never Communists, but who have been imprisoned in concentration camps by the Nazis merely because they are representatives of the workers. Some of them have been shot. The Nazis must produce some reason for attacking them, and so they employ agents “provocateurs to concoct evidence to link them in some way with communist organizations so as to give their persecutors a pretext for throwing them into concentration camps. It is disgraceful that the Government should give grounds for suspicion that anything of that kind can happen here. Such action does not stifle communist activity. It tends to put Communists on a pedestal, and actually does more harm than good. This matter cannot be allowed to rest where it is. Here was a man in the Commonwealth Public Service, who, in the most treacherous and criminal manner, stole documents, had them copied and then distributed the copies to people whom he thought could help him to obtain revenge. He received certain public moneys, and gave receipts for them. He says that he paid those moneys over to other persons, but how can we take his word? Such a man would be capable of keeping the money himself. There is nothing to show that he paid the money to any one. No receipts have been received from one person to whom, it was supposed to be paid, and that person denies that he ever received the money. The AttorneyGeneral said that two persons approached him, but he can. remember the name of only one of them. We know that probably dozens of Labour representatives have approached the Attorney-General as members of deputations, and all of them are under suspicion until the Attorney-General can remember the name of the second man who, he said, interviewed him. The Attorney-General then charged some other organisation with receiving money from the fund, but that also has been denied.
– What organization is that?
– It was referred to in the papers handed to the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member said that the Attorney-General had made the allegation.
– The statement was made by another ex-member of the Commonwealth Public Service who has now disappeared, and that is a strange thing, too. Surely the Investigation Branch should be put on his track. It has been said that he was found in a public park somewhere in New South Wales.
– It can hardly be said that he has disappeared if he has been found.
– It was stated that he was going to disappear so that he would not be harassed any more. Surely we cannot rely on the word of a man who admittedly stole from his employer. Therefore, we are thrown back on the statement of the Attorney-General, part of which has been denied by one of the persons concerned. As for some of the other parts of his story, the AttorneyGeneral admits that his memory is very hazy. In the absence of any proof thai anybody actually received any of this money except the individual who has since been “ sacked “ by the Government, a full inquiry should be made. I intend to vote for the amendment, and to insist, no matter what government may be in office next week, that a full inquiry be held, in order that we may clear those who are suspected unjustly and prove the guilt of those who are really guilty. Only by taking such action can we do our duty. T hope that the amendment will be carried. If it be carried, I suggest that the Government has no dignity, or honour, left if it does not regard such a vote as a want of confidence in it.
– I support the amendment. I suppose that, a; a Queenslander, I should congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) on attainment of his prominent position, but I think that, at this juncture, it would be more fitting to commiserate with him. He has fallen into the ‘Serbonian bog, into the slime and mud of suspicion, of bribery and corruption ; and it seems likely that unless bc handles this matter very carefully he will sink into political oblivion, unwept, unhonoured and unsung.
Sinister charges have been levelled against, first, the president of the Miners Federation; secondly, religious bodies; thirdly,- business men; and. fourthly, representatives of the press. Public moneys have been paid out irregularly without the sanction of this Parliament. That is the essential point. The Australian Democratic Front, the illegiti mate handling of the United Australia party, this Fascist group of which the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) is the godfather, this party consisting of stool pigeons, has -been given money ostensibly in order to combat communism. This organization was formed behind closed doors. Its members assembled by special invitation, and miscalled their organization the Australian Democratic Front. It is an organization of men who are no more than agents provocateurs. Such an incident reminds one forcibly of the French Revolution. Indeed, this is the sort of thing that will bring about a revolution. It is actions such as this that has left France where it is to-day.
The attitude of the Attorney-General in this matter might be likened to that, of a hare. In his defence, he doubled, dodged, tricked, backed, sidestepped and camouflaged. He did every tiling but tackle the question before him. He avoided facts. He put out a smokescreen. He appealed to the passions of the people. If that is logic, I do not know anything about logic. He kepi right away from the real issue; he used all of the tricks he hud learned in his long career. He will be 77 years old tomorrow. I hope that to-night we shall give him a political holiday as a birthday present. In boxing parlance, he hit below the intellectual belt. He put in the boot, lie scratched, bit, used tooth, and claw; but he never faced the matter in hand. He dodged the facts. I suppose that that i.= characteristic of the right honorable gentleman. I am sorry that he is not here to hear rae. It was he who said that sonic of this money had been paid to religious bodies, but when that allegation was wheeled up to him, ho said that those bodies had not been paid any of this money and that there was not a scintilla of evidence to support such a statement. He also said tha t the leaders of the Miners Federation were paid some of this money ; that two officials of that organization had interviewed- him. He gave the name of one, Mr. Charles Nelson, but forgot fin- name of the other man. Evidently, the right honorable gentleman has a most convenient memory. Mr. Nelson is supposed to have received £300. The dates on which the money is alleged to have been paid to him have been given.
I should like to know where are the receipts from Mr. Nelson. That money was given to the informer Winkler. We should be told whether that money ever reached Mr. Nelson. To-night, over the air, Mr. Nelson stated that he did not receive any money at all. Yet the allegation that the money was paid to him has been bandied about this House, and has been made the main issue in this debate. Much has been said concerning what the leaders of some unions have got out of it. The position now is that we have been told either too much or too little, and we cannot let the matter rest as it is. I demand that the name of every person or organization who received any money out of this sum of £4,818 be disclosed, that is, apart from the amount of £300 that was paid to Winkler who gave a receipt for that sum. Beyond that we know nothing. Yet we are told that everything in the garden is lovely. Nothing less than the full facts will satisfy the House. That is the attitude of every honorable member on this side. Whether the recipients of this money be leaders of labour unions, or religious bodies, or private individuals - whether the name of any of them be Baker, be he my brother or my son - we should be told who they are. Nothing less than that information will clear the Government of the suspicion that now rests upon it. These payments cannot but be described as bribery and graft. Why was this money paid through a subsidiary organization like the Australian Democratic Front? If it were used for the purposes for which it was supposed to be used, why was it not paid by officers of the Attorney-General’s Department direct to the alleged recipients? Is it any wonder that so many Australians are now interned behind barbed wire? Who are the informers on whose evidence so many of these people have been interned? And how much did they receive for their evidence? Of course, the ethics of the Attorney-General differ widely from those of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I should like honorable members to contrast the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition in this matter with that of the Attorney-General. Immediately these papers were brought to my Leader’s notice he regarded the matter seriously, and at once showed them to the Prime Minister. He also discussed the matter with the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Had he not done so, he would have become an accessory to the action of the informer. The attitude which the Leader of the Opposition adopted stands out as a highlight, and in striking contrast to that of the Attorney-General. Although the Government announced its willingness to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the matter, I contend that the issue must be resolved at once, and I hope that a vital vote will be taken upon it in the House. All of the facts must be brought to light. We must know the name of each recipient of money from the fund, and the nature of the deadly work that he performed. At present, everybody, including the leaders of unions is under suspicion. Every stone seems to conceal a scorpion. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, because in the beautiful words of Tennyson’s (Enone -
And because right is right, to follow right Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence:
.- Although I had not intended to participate in this debate, the Government’s attempt to camouflage the issue by giving evasive answers to the points submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), calls for a protest from me. Since I became a member of this Parliament some months ago, the conduct of national affairs has often disappointed me. The basis of the present charge against the Government will destroy the confidence of Australians in the democratic way of life particularly if Ministers are not frank with the Parliament. So far as the debate has proceeded, the Government has resorted to evasive tactics when replying to the accusations which the Opposition has levelled against it.
Australia is fighting to preserve the democratic way of life. When attempts are repeatedly and successfully made to destroy confidence in the Government, the whole edifice collapses. I am extremely disappointed with the attitude which has been adopted by responsible Ministers. The House was treated to a spectacular demonstration by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), whose capacity for indulgence in such tactics has become political history. This is not the first time that he has attempted, by evasive and irrelevant answers, to camouflage the real issue. But people have had sufficient experience of his methods not to accept at face value the attitude that he has adopted on this occasion. In the years which followed the last war, hundreds of thousands of people were unemployed, and when the present AttorneyGeneral was taxed with responsibility for their plight, he put over the “ little digger “ stunt and got away with it. This time, however, he will not be so successful. When he accepted a testimonial of £25,000 as a token of public appreciation of his services to Australia, thousands of returned soldiers, whom he claimed to represent, and who had won a great victory for democracy in 1918, were begging in the streets for food. That cannot continue, because in the words of Lincoln -
It is true that you can fool all of the people some of the time: you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but yon can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
Honorable members opposite, by intrigue and plotting, have destroyed the only man in their ranks with any prestige, because they were jealous of his ability.
– They have blown out their brains.
– That is true. The Government has failed, and the hour has come for the Labour party successfully to challenge its maladministration. If this matter be not clarified, the confidence of the people in the national Parliament will be destroyed.
A suggestion has been made that the fund was inaugurated to enable the Government to counteract communist activities. How did communist activities originate in this country? The explanation is that hundreds of thousands of men lost confidence in the democratic form of Government because they could not obtain food. When successive United Australia party governments were asked to advance a few million pounds in order to provide employment, the excuse was that finance was not available, and State governments, with their meagre resources, put men to work on a part-time basis. As secretary of an industrial organization, I came into daily contact with this unfortunate class. At one . period men were employed for two weeks in nine. For the other seven weeks, they were idle. How could men provide the necessaries of life for themselves and their families under such conditions? The people were told that insufficient money was available to provide work for every man in the country, but what happened when the war broke out? Whereas, in the depression, the few million pounds required to keep men in employment, could not be found, millions of pounds are now readily obtainable for war purposes. It-was no desire of mine to enter this Parliament, but I came here believing that every question was decided on its merits. I have found that that is not the case. The Leader of the Opposition made an honest request that the whole truth be told about the disbursement, of public moneys through subterranean channels, but the requestwas side-stepped. The Opposition and the people of this country will not be satisfied without the truth. The only honorable member opposite who tackled this matter with courage was the former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) from start to furnish, in his characteristic style, clouded the issue and, to a degree, “ got away with it “, but he will not do so for long, because we shall not rest until the name of the National Parliament has been cleared. It cannot be cleared while the Government institutes organizations without character or standing, to disburse the people’s money through not the Commonwealth Bank, but the private banks, to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. People cannot have faith in the Parliament when the Government carries on the business of the country in that way. On more than one occasion, in the short period in which I have been a member of this Parliament I have been disappointed, but I am more than disappointed to-day to find such a lack of candour and honesty amongst members of the Government. The only way in which this matter can be cleared up is by the Government’s setting out in clear terms the reasons for the establishment of the secret fund, names, dates, and every detail, to the last penny, of the expenditure from the fund.
.- The Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) accused a man of having thieved a confidential document. I do not know whether that man did so or not, but if that charge be true and if the man be a “ fifth columnist “, as he was described by the Minister, why has he merely been dismissed and allowed to remain free to do his fell work? I remind the Minister that the Government has not been loath to intern Australian citizens on mere suspicion. If a man is a skunk, he ought to be dealt with as a skunk, but, apparently this man is to enjoy immunity because he belongs to the class which the Government represents.
– His record does not indicate that he does.
– If his record is known to be such as the Minister’s interjection implies it to be, why let him go free? Thomas and Ratliffe were not allowed their freedom. Having been convicted by a magistrate they were sentenced to imprisonment and, after their release, without any further charges having been preferred against them, and without trial, they were re-arrested and incarcerated amongst criminals and all sorts of internees in an internment camp. So long as I have breath in my body I will protest against such action. If a man is a thief, however, the only one place for him. is behind bars, regardless of whether he Ls or is not a friend of the Government. The Minister said that this man had journalistic experience and had edited a Labour newspaper. I should like to know .what Labour newspaper he edited.
– The Labor Daily.
– He never edited the Lal)or Daily in his life.
– The Daily News, then.
– The Minister also said that strikes had been responsible for impeding the war effort. He instanced the fact that the reserves of coal had been depleted owing to disruption of the mining industry. For that some of the Minister’s friends are more responsible than the miners. The miners struck work for one day in protest against the internment of Thomas and Ratliffe without trial. It may be suggested that these men had the right of appeal and that in fact, they did appeal; but that appeal was heard behind closed doors by three former employees of the Crown, all of them United Australia party hacks and people who have long outlived their usefulness. Their senility admirably fitted them for the purposes of the Government. One of the two men interned served for four years at the last war, and, as the result of that service, wears on the lapel of his coat, the same badge as is now worn by the Minister. Yet he, according to the Government, is so unpatriotic that he desires to cripple this country’s war effort and must be confined within barriers, in an internment camp.
The Minister also said that I ought lo known something about communists because there were plenty in my electorate. T know that there are. It was one of them, Fred Patterson, whose cause wa.< so espoused by members of the United Australia party that at the last State election he polled within 300 or 400 votes of a Labour candidate, Dick Riordan. Patterson was prosecuted by the Government and proved guilty of worse offences than either Thomas or Ratliffe. He was let off with a fine.
– That is the law.
– The law is applied by the Government according to persons concerned. The Government talks about the need to suppress subversive propaganda, but the Attorney-General has in his possession copies of a printed pamphlet which was distributed by the thousand in Queensland before the last State election. It was circulated by the Queensland Branch of the Communist party of Australia. The authors could be found, but, apparently, no effort has been made to bring them to book.
– Does the honorable member say that Patterson ought to be interned?
– Patterson was tried by the court and he paid the penalty. To intern him now would be wrong, because it would be precisely what was done to Thomas and Ratliffe.
– The honorable member said that a fine was not sufficient in Pat terson’s case.
– I did not say anything of the kind. The honorable gentleman should not. try to put words into my mouth. The Attorney-General had a good deal to say about propaganda, but it all was the usual kind of humbug we bear from him. When I asked him a question about the Communist party, all he could say was that he knew something about honorable members on this side of the chamber. I tell him that I have legitimately fought the Communist party for the last 25 years, but he has not legitimately fought it for 25 minutes. In 1916, the right honorable gentleman was responsible for the incarceration in our gaols on false evidence or on no evidence at all of persons who were alleged to he members of the Industrial Workers of the World. A personal friend of mine, an engineer at Rockdale, was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. I said to him not long ago: “Have you still got the same kind of stuff in your bag as youhad in it when you got the fifteen years? “ He replied: “What was in my bag then was put in it by someone else.” Every one knows that an engineer needs oily rags or kerosene and waste to clean his hands; but somebody was undoubtedly paid, probably from a secret fund, to tamper with my friend’s bag. By that means he was incriminated. The Attorney-General is still running true to form. He had men imprisoned on false evidence in . 1.916, and he is adopting similar methods to have men imprisoned now.
An attempt has been made to relate the fund established in February. 1940, with a fund established in 1916. The two funds are entirely separate. It has been said that only £4,818 is involved in this matter. I say that not even that amount should have been involved. The members of the Public Service of the Commonwealth are quite capable of dealing with subversive propaganda. In my view they are much more capable of doing so than are the persons appointed by the AttorneyGeneral for the purpose. The AttorneyGeneral would not select public servants for this work because he knew that he would not be able to get them to do the things he wished to have done. The organization of which I was the leader in Queensland before I entered this Parliament, has been fighting communism for many years. It has spent more thousands of pounds in the course of the- years in this connexion than this Government or its predecessors has ever dreamed of spending. I refer, of course, to the Australian Workers Union, which has been attacked by communists from both the inside and the outside, for many years. In 1937, I was the only member of this Parliament who was opposed by a Communist party candidate, and that opposition was due to my association with the Australian Workers Union. For years the communists have been trying to disrupt both the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Labour party, but they have met with very little success. When I asked the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) a question some time ago about the action of his Government in relation to communist literature, all he could do was to refer me to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) ; but I did not desire information from that honorable gentleman. I have said on previous occasions that I hoped the Government would never declare the Communist party an illegal organization, for, by doing so, it would drive it underground. . That is exactly what has happened. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) mentioned this afternoon a number of names under which the communists are operating. That proves the accuracy of my statement. The Communist party has been defying the Commonwealth Government for years. Two years ago it issued, from Collinsville, a roneoed sheet in which it stated that similar sheets would appear month by month irrespective of anything that the Menzies Government could do. The former Prime Minister had a copy of that sheet, but I have yet to hear whether he ever attempted to suppress such publications.
If the Commonwealth Investigation Branch had. been left alone, it would have been far more successful in counteracting subversive activities by the Communist party or any other organization than has been the so-called Australian Democratic
Front. I have sufficient faith in our own officers to believe that if they are given a reasonably free hand, and left to do their work without obstruction, they will cope effectively with any disruptive elements in the community. I regard the Australian Democratic Front as an affront to the Parliament and people of Australia.
The Minister for Defence Coordination referred to-night to an amount of £300 that had been paid from this new fund. I do not believe that Mr. Charles Nelson received that money. In fact, Mr. Nelson said to-night, over the air, that he had not received it, and that this was the first he had heard of it. I wish to know who was responsible for the statement that Mr. Nelson was paid this money. Have we only the word of the thief known as Winkler that this money was paid to Mr. Nelson? Mr. Nelson is an honest man and I shall not believe that he received the money until I am shown his own receipt for it. I cannot understand why the Government should have resorted to such a device as the payment of public moneys into a private banking account in order to make funds available for certain services which it desired to have rendered, and I desire to know something more about the persons who are connected with the so-called Australian Democratic Front. The only one of them of whom I know anything, so far, is Barnes and be, like the Attorney-General, “ ratted “ on the Australian Labour party and at the same time. After the AttorneyGeneral “ ratted “ on this party he found New South Wales a bit too hot for him, and he went to Victoria and was elected for the Bendigo division. When things became too hot for him in Bendigo he returned to New South Wales and was elected to this Parliament for the North Sydney division.
I suggest that the attack made in this House to-day by members of the Government on Mr. Nelson was most ill-advised. The basis of the attack will not bear scrutiny. I do not believe that Mr. Nelson received a penny of the £300 supposed to have been paid to him.
– The Government did not say that he had received it.
– The Prime Minister was the first one to mention Mr. Nelson’s name in connexion with the payment.
– The honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) had something to say about it.
– I pay more attention to the Leader of the Opposition than to the honorable member for Barton or to any other honorable gentleman, and I accept Mr. Nelson’s word that he has not received any of this money. It is amazing to me that the Government should have kept Winkler in its employ for twelve months, for it must have known that he was a “ crook “.
– He was formerly a member of the Labour party.
– Some honorable gentlemen opposite also were formerly members of the Labour party, but the time came when they kicked away the ladder on which they had climbed. The Attorney-General is one of them. He is acting now in the same objectionable way as he acted in 1916.
The honorable member for Barton said that he hoped that nothing more would be heard about the fact that admission to the meeting convened to form the Australian Democratic Front was by card. Personally, I should like to hear a good deal more on that subject. To whom were these cards issued? How were invitations obtained? The meeting was not public, and it seems to me that the persons who attended it were carefully chosen by the Attorney-General or by Mr. Barnes. The remarkable thing to me is that Tom Walsh and his wife were left out of it. I cannot understand how they missed it. The Attorney-General said that he was responsible for the appointment of Mr. Barnes to a position in London. I can easily believe it, and I have no doubt that when the right honorable gentleman had dirty work to be done in Australia he was glad enough to appoint Barnes to do it, for Barnes was well qualified for the purpose. I suggest that the Government is not dealing frankly with us in these matters. The Government spent that money in ways which this Parliament will never find out. Some Ministers and members may be prepared to accept the word of the Government that all is fair and aboveboard, but I am not of that opinion. Had this money been paid through any section of the Public Service of this country I should not have questioned it at all. If, for instance, Colonel Jones, the chief of the Investigation Branch, had handled the £4,S1S, I should not have questioned his administration, but when some outside body which no one knows is invited to come along and take control of the expenditure of public funds, I, for one, object. I suggest that in Lieutenant-Colonel “Wake we have an officer of whom any government might well be proud. If he had been told to get hold of subversive individuals in the community, and had not been hindered by politicians, he would have done a better job. I am reminded of the instance in which a Minister gave instructions by telephone that a certain man was to be released from an internment camp, without having to prove his innocence as other men were forced to do. “What is good enough for one should be good enough for others also. As far as I am concerned, the Government will not get away with this thing. It cannot wash its hands clean. This afternoon the Attorney-General caused some laughter in the chamber by his clever and unscrupulous use of half-lies. On a number of occasions the right honorable gentleman was corrected by the Leader of the Opposition, yet he persisted with his misstatements. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that no man in this House was better qualified than the AttorneyGeneral to handle this matter. I agree that there is no more unscrupulous man in this House than the Attorney-General. He is capable of doing anything - I speak in a political sense. This afternoon he proved himself to be a better twister than [ thought he was capable of being. The right honorable gentleman was always a twister and his capacity as such has certainly improved with age. The exPrime Minister said that he was the ideal man for the position. Mr. Barnes could help him. They are a good pair, and I am glad to see them together.
.- The House is privileged to discuss this subject because of some delinquency on the part of a public servant who gave certain information to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Of course, that gentleman has been described as a traitor to his trust, but it all depends on how one looks at the situation. If we regard him as a servant of the people rather than a servant of this particular Government, it will be generally agreed that he did a good job in exposing the whole business, and bringing to light another of the “ sticky patches “ in the administration of the present Government. One Minister after another endeavoured to dismiss the charges as being trivial and of no great significance, but it is remarkable how the Government tried to avoid any discussion of this subject at all. The Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) thought that it might easily be brushed aside last week with a statement which was not at all informative. Only to-day, after a goodly number of attempts by the Prime Minister to satisfy the Opposition, was the motion before the House made. Since then the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), by subtle means, tried to prevent the Opposition from taking any stand in this matter; he spread the rumour that certain religious organizations had participated in the distribution from this fund. The Attorney-General, who was given the dubious honour of speaking for the Australian Democratic Front, wasted his time because we have since been told on the authority of the Prime Minister that no religious organization of any description shared in the distribution of money from this secret fund. Wow the Government attempts to place on the Opposition the responsibility of sponsoring communism and Communist methods; it would have the public believe that the Government is out to destroy communism and those who would engage in Communist activities. Although the Government has dictatorial powers sufficient to enable it to deal effectively with any subversive organization or individuals - powers which the Opposition does not enjoy - it has handed over those powers to a dubious organization which pays its agents in a dubious manner. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) said that the House was wasting its time in discussing this matter in a time of war and that, instead, it ought to be discussing the budget. I suggest, however, that the delay in discussing the budget is a blessing in disguise to the Government. Indeed, the Government refused the invitation of the Leader of the Opposition to introduce the budget to-day. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) said that in this matter the Government had not made any charges. I ask honorable members who have heard what has been said about this organization to show how the Government could make charges. If it were to do so, it would be charging itself with improper practices. The Minister for Defence Co-ordination, in defending the organization, said that its activities must be kept secret. This discussion has disclosed that ‘those activities have been kept secret from more than half of the Cabinet. Its existence first became known when it was endeavouring to besmirch the reputation of the postal employees of this country by suggesting that they were “whiteanting” the trade unions with Communist propaganda and getting ready to act against the best interests of this country. When the then Postmaster-General endeavoured to get to the bottom of these charges he was not aware that the organization which made them was financed by a fellow member of the Cabinet. Could secrecy go further than that? I could understand that many activities of the Government might be kept from the public. They have been kept secret from this House. Why we tolerate a set of affairs which makes it necessary for one Minister to defend the honour and integrity of the employees of his department against slanderous statements by an organization created by another member of the Cabinet, is beyond my comprehension. The Prime Minister to-day sought to infer that this particular fund is not of recent origin, but was created in 1916 and has been in existence ever since. All of us remember the events of 1916, when from an egg of doubtful origin and age, thrown at the present Attorney-General ( Mr. Hughes) at Warwick, was hatched i he Commonwealth Investigation Branch, first known as the Commonwealth Police Force. It has been said that the officers of this branch are trained investigators, and that they have been operating on behalf of the Commonwealth since the 1st November, 1919; but the real fact, which cannot be disguised, is that the organization we are discussing this evening is of more recent creation, having been inaugurated in February, 1940. The Commonwealth Investigation Branch is a totally different organization, with a totally different origin and method of operation. It is paid legitimately from public funds, not by subterfuge, as is the organization we are discussing to-night. We have been told that that organization of trained investigators, which has been in the employ of the Commonwealth since November, 1.919, was created for the purpose of dealing with subversive organizations. We have not yet heard the Government condemn it. Did the Government find it necessary to create an entirely new organization because the Commonwealth Investigation Branch had fallen, down on its job? If so, we should be told that these trained investigators are not competent, or that there is not a sufficient number of them to deal with this particular problem. The Prime Minister has said that this organization was created for the purpose of dealing with the New Guard, with Fascists, Communists, and other bodies which adopt subversive tactics. As a matter of absolute fact, the organization created in 1919 was not responsible for the destruction of the New Guard; that was destroyed by the New South Wales Government. I have not yet heard anything which would indicate that either this trained band of investigators which has been in existence since 1919, or the new organization known as the Australian Democratic Front, has been responsible in any way for curbing the activities of Fascists in our midst. Nor am I in a position to say that the homes of Fascists whom we know to be in Australia have been raided by these officers. But we do know that the homes of many persons who are not in any way allied with the Communist party have been raided by organizations set up by the Government. To suggest that this motion is in some way associated with the Investigation Branch set up in 1919 is merely to draw a red herring across the trail. We are told that the Australian Democratic Front was established for the purpose of dealing with anticonstitutional bodies, and that the funds which it uses are administered by the AttorneyGeneral, their use being scrutinized by the Auditor-General. I challenge any member of the Government, or any honorable gentleman who intends to support it in this matter, to show me one passage in the Auditor-General’s report which refers even remotely to the funds paid out in this way.
It is interesting to study the manner in which the Australian Democratic Front was instituted. We have been told that responsible persons, such as the heads of the Police Forces of all the States, and of the different Defence Services, held a conference, and suggested that the Government should set up somecounter organization to the Communist propagandists’. The organization set up by the Government had not its origin in that conference, as was suggested to-night by the ex-Prime Minister, but emanated from a picked audience which later met at the Town Hall, the members of which could gain admission only if in possession of a ticket. Who had charge of the distribution of the tickets has not yet been disclosed. Presumably the Government thought that the only persons capable of dealing with Communist activities, or the subversive activities of other persons of a like mind, were those to whom the tickets were issued; and you can bet your life that they were issued through some political organization. Even then, this meeting of ticketholders was not given the privilege of electing its own officers ; these had already been handpicked for the task in view by the Attorney-General, perhaps the one member of the Cabinet who was capable of doing a job of that description, because it was not the first time that he had been associated with political trickery. This organization thus had its origin in a meeting of ticket-holders, which was as open to the public as would be a den of thieves. That is my summing-up of the position. As we know, the agents of the organization were paid through “ fences “, in the same way as thieves are paid their share of the proceeds of loot. Yet we are told that this is an honorable organization! Having been born in a cloud of suspicion, its legitimacy is in question. It lives, breathes, and has its being in the squalid atmosphere of political chicanery. How is it financed? We are told that an account was opened in the name of the Crown Solicitor, who paid cheques into another account in the name of the Deputy Crown Solicitor. The latter in turn drew on his own account, and paid the Australian Democratic Front in cash. Then the Australian Democratic Front, as a go-between, paid the agents. ‘Can any honorable gentleman suggest to me that that is an honorable way in which to transact public business; that it is a proper way in which to dispense public funds ? If there is no suspicion attaching to this organization, why should it make its payments in that manner? Why not pay straight-out with a Government cheque for services rendered to the Commonwealth? It is because this organization cannot withstand investigation, because its methods are not beyond reproach and those associated with it are not such as would be likely to hold public confidence, that this method is adopted of payment through a “fence”, just as thieves are paid their share of the “swag”. If everything is above-board, why all this gerrymandering; why not give a straight-out payment for services rendered ? If the service is honorable and above-board, why not pay them honorably and above-board? We are told that the Attorney-General said that he wanted £3,000 a year to run this organization, but we have discovered that, in the first year’s activities, the disclosed cost to the Government was £4,818.
– - That expenditure covered a period of twenty months.
– If that be so, there is less complaint on that score; but we have had to drag that much out of the Government in much the same way as a dentist has to drag a nasty tooth out of the jaw of an unwilling patient, and there might be some residue still unaccounted for. No accounts have been submitted to us, and although we are told that the Auditor-General audits these accounts, no honorable member opposite can point to one passage in the AuditorGeneral’s report that refers to them. The remarkable thing about this Australian
Democratic Front is that its first broadside attack was directed, not to the organizations that are alleged to be engaged in subversive activities, but to the postal service of Australia. .We have been told to-night that the then PostmasterGeneral, -who was responsible for the postal services of Australia, did not know that his colleague, the Attorney-General, was indirectly responsible for the attack on his officers, in spite of the fact that they sit side by side in the Cabinet. When I reflect on that, I am not surprised that the exPrime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was torpedoed by his colleagues in his ‘Cabinet. There is no doubt about the political affiliations of the Australian Democratic Front. We are told that its members are filled with zeal for democracy, imbued with the desire to protect this country against the ravages of communism; but they set a cash value on their patriotism. The ‘balance-sheet presented to-day by the Prime Minister discloses that more than one-half of tb e money expended from the secret fund went into the pockets of the self-sacrificing patriot members of that organization, whose alleged sole endeavour was to preserve democracy and destroy organizations that were promoting subversive activities in this country. Their love for democracy was not great enough to inspire them to do this noble work without payment. The remarkable thing about this fund is that it is used for a double-edged purpose. We are told that this organization was financed for the purpose of destroying Communists and communism, yet we discover that it used its influence to provoke trouble in the postal service, and at the same time was financing a union secretary to endeavour to preserve peace in another industry. Then we were told b most unlikely story about Mr. Nelson. It is alleged that he, the president of one of the biggest industrial organizations in Australia, went to see the AttorneyGeneral accompanied by a mysterious gentleman whose identity was not disclosed. Does any one seriously believe the word of the Attorney-General when he tells this House that two men - not a dozen men nor a multitude of men, but two men - one the president of the Miners Federation, and th». other a mysterious unknown gentleman, discussed with him the matter of the provision of £300 for expenses in connexion with the suppression of anti- Australian activities? It is asking too much of the credulity of honorable members of this House, and of the people generally, to expect them to swallow the story that two men, one of whom was completely unknown, discussed such an important matter with the AttorneyGeneral, one of the keenest and most astute politicians of this country. If the unnamed mysterious gentleman was not introduced to the Attorney-General, he may have been, for all the right honorable gentleman knew, the leader of the Communist party in Australia. Honorable members opposite may believe the story; but even if they do not believe it, they will profess to do so. However, not one person in 1,000 outside will believe this story. We were told by the right honorable gentleman that Mr. Nelson and his comrade asked for £300, and. hey presto ! without knowing to whom he was talking, the Attorney-General said, “Yes, you can have £300”. But no straight-out payment was suggested. First, the money had to he paid- through the mysterious banking account of the Solicitor-General to the banking account of the Deputy Crown Solicitor in New South Wales, and then, because it was “hot” money, payment had to be made in cash to the Australian Democratic Front, which used the Assistant Commonwealth Publicity Officer to convey it to Mr. Nelson or to somebody else. The only receipt for this money, so far as can be discovered, bears the signature of the Assistant Commonwealth Publicity Officer. Not an atom of evidence has been submitted to prove that Mr. Nelson ever received it. Yet, on this flimsy story, the leader of one of the greatest industrial organizations of the Commonwealth is compromised, and his name is bandied about as having been associated with the receipt of doubtful funds from a doubtful organization set up by the Government. One might ask if it be the practice of the Attorney -General to deal with mysterious visitors in thi3 way. Should it not have occurred to the AttorneyGeneral, when a man brought another man into his office and failed to introduce him, that the best thing to do would be to consult the Secretary of the Miners Federation in order to find out whether the request was genuine? If the circumstances were as the Attorney-General has said, it is evident that the whole business was surrounded by mystery, yet he never took the precaution, when asked for £300, to ring up the secretary in order to find, out, first, whether the job had been done, and, secondly, if it had been done, who bad been paid for it. Then the question arises whether this was in itself a legitimate transaction. It has been stated that union officials from all parts of the Commonwealth, have been called to Melbourne or Canberra by the Government for conferences, and that the Government defrayed their expenses. Did the Government, however, pursue this devious method of payment, or was the money paid openly by Government cheque through the various Labour organizations ?
The tactics of the Government are transparent. It has tried to place on the Opposition the charge of defending Communists and communism, both of which, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, have nothing to do with the case. Tt has been said that Labour has done nothing to combat subversive activities. What power has the Labour party to do so? The Government has the necessary power under the Crimes Act and the National Security Act to deal with individuals or organizations guilty of subversive activities. However, the Government instead of exercising this power, has endeavoured to place the responsibility on a very doubtful organization known as the Australian Democratic Front. This body, apart from the mischief which it tried to create among workers in the Postmaster-General’s Department, has done nothing but issue a number of pamphlets - nine in all, I think - and this service has cost the Commonwealth over £4,S00.
Now the Government invites us to have a royal commission to investigate the matter. Already, during the last twelve months, the Government has appointed three royal commissions, and out of one of the inquiries a criminal, trial was initiated, but what has come of it all? Now it is suggested that still another commission should be appointed. In the past, even when a royal commission has offered useful advice to the Government, their advice has not been followed. As a matter of fact, the usual function of a royal commission is to “whitewash” the Government. This is not a question of whether the Opposition is fighting subversive organizations, but whether public funds have been improperly used. All the facts are at our disposal now, and there is no reason why we should try to place the responsibility on a royal commission. This House is in a position to decide for itself whether the Government has done right or wrong. The question is one for this House to determine, and on the vote that is to be taken will be decided the fitness of the Government to continue in office.
.- When this matter was raised last Thursday night, I said by interjection that I knew nothing about it, and I think that that could have been said by nearly all members on this side of the House. All the information came from members of the Opposition who, apparently, knew much more about the contents of those documents than did any private member on this side. I deplore the turn which this debate has taken. Most of the speeches of members of the Opposition have been directed more towards undermining the Government than to a discussion of the subject before the House. The speech of the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), however, was of a different character. He agreed that the Government was rightly seeking to combat communism in Australia, and he found fault only with the methods which it employed, saying that the work should have been placed in the hands of a Government department, and not delegated to an outside organization. Well, in time of war, if it is necessary to combat com.munism or other fifth column activities, the expenditure of £4,800 over a period of twenty months for this purpose is not excessive, and if it has had the effect of preventing strikes I have no fault to find with the method employed. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr Ward) disclosed the real purpose behind many of the speeches of members of the Opposition when he interjected, “We want to know who accepted the bribes, so that we can deal with them I maintain that that is the very reason why the information should not be disclosed.
– The honorable member seeks to put a premium on treachery.
– I do not,but men who give information that enables the Government to combat the activity of Fifth Columnists should be protected.
– The honorable member objects to some one in the Government Service disclosing confidential information, but he wants members of the Labour movement to do so.
– One honorable member said that he could not find any great fault with a public servant who disclosed information which he believed should be disclosed in the public interest, even if it were contained in a confidential Government document. I hold the opposite view, because if such information be made available to the public, and the people having dealings of this kind with the Government are disclosed, they are thus open to victimization. The one complaint of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is that he cannot obtain the names of these people whom he would like to victimize. Reference has been made to the pamphlets that were published by the Australian Democratic Front. I read a couple of the pamphlets written by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), and they were excellent. I also read the article which defended Russia when Russia entered the war on our side. I shall certainly say that the Russian Communists have at least the intestines to fight for their own country, which is more than the Communists in this country have.
– It is not their job to fight for their own country, but for Russia.
– They will not even do that. I cannot see any need for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into this matter; but should such an inquiry be deemed necessary, let us have it. However, appropriate action should be taken to deal with the unscru- pulous scoundrel who released this secret d ocument which, according to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), was highly confidential.
– The Government is not game to do that.
– I understand that the Government cannot take action against that individual unless a certain course be followed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– However, even at this late hour, I hope that action will be taken to deal with this Fifth Columnist, because he is a Fifth Columnist of the worst type. I sincerely trust that the Opposition and the Government will at least agree that Winkler should be brought to book for his unscrupulous action.
.- The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) put clearly the issue of this debate by asking whether this money has been improperly expended. I think that every honorable member will agree that this is the issue, with the reservation as to what is meant by “improperly”. Does that term mean irregularly expended, or dishonestly expended ? I think that the real issue is whether the money has been dishonestly expended. Accepting the statement made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) to be true, I should say that the money has been dishonestly and dishonorably spent. First, it is important to get these events into their right chronological order. On last Saturday week, a departmental officer approached the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and handed to him two documents. Those documents caused the Leader of the Opposition much consternation and surprise. There is not the slightest doubt about that. They must have been significant documents, and must have contained very important disclosures. The nature of the disclosures can be inferred from the description which the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) gave to one of the documents. He described it as an “ atrocious “ documents and the right honorable gentleman as a man trained in the use of language is not likely to exaggerate. That “ atrocious “ document was handed by the officer to the Leader of the Opposition, and the demeanour and conduct of the latter confirmed the statement of the Minister for Defence Co-ordination that the document was atrocious. What happened after that? The Leader of the Opposition saw the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) on the following Tuesday, and was told by him that the departmental officer had already been dismissed. We are not told when his dismissal was decided upon, or why he was dismissed. Those two facts are concealed from us. Then, apparently, the Leader of the Opposition saw the Minister for Defence Co-ordination and the Attorney-General and from something contained in the documents, the question was raised as to whether money has been expended in - let me put it - forming a public opinion - had been expended in corrupting the Labour movement; because, apparently, there was a suggestion in this “ atrocious “ document that money was being expended for that purpose, and, possibly, that more money, should be expended for that purpose. Then it appears from what the Attorney-General has said - he said it very briefly but very expressively - that it is quite true that money had been paid ; that it was paid to the Miners Federation and to Catholic Action, adding, “ We have receipts here “. I am not concerned at the moment by what he meant when he said that money had been paid to Catholic Action. However, it was common knowledge among members of our party, among a number of other honorable members, and representatives of she press, that the Attorney-General had said that Government money had been expended to affect the conduct of the Miners Federation. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), in his anxiety, raised that aspect of the matter that night. He has been criticized by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) for doing so; but the reason he did so was because of what was said by the Attorney-General, and of what was being said in the lobbies by honorable members of different parties, and by press representatives.
– I suppose that the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Ball ar at also raised the matter for the same purpose?
– They did not mention the Miners Federation. The only honorable member who identified the Miners Federation was the honorable member for Hunter. An endeavour has been made to limit this debate to that aspect of the disclosures. But there is another aspect far more immediately important to this Parliament, and that is the allegation that appears in these documents that the budget proposals, before they have been brought down in Parliament, were disclosed by some one to people to whom they should not have been disclosed. Rumour has it that they were disclosed to the Bank of New South Wales, and - more than rumour has it - to the firm of J. B. Were and Son, and, not directly, but through newspaper representatives in Canberra, to newspaper proprietors. Those disclosures have been made. When the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), referring to that rumour, reminded the House of the case of the Right Honorable J ames Thomas in England, he was right. I did not think at the time that that aspect arose at all; but it does arise. And it seems to me to be the most important aspect of this matter. This House should clear up by whom the budget proposals were disclosed to persons who had no right to know, but had a great deal to gain by knowing, in advance what was contained in those proposals.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.30 a.m. (Thursday).
Thursday, 25 September 1941
– When the sitting was suspended I was referring to the general belief, and, I think, a well-informed belief, that the nature and scope of the budget proposals of the Government were disclosed by some one to persons who had no right to know what they were, and who in some cases had a good deal to gain from that knowledge. That is really the most important matter with which the Government has to deal and in respect of which it has to clear itself. So long as these rumours are current and are unrefuted by Ministers, the Government is suspect. If the allegations which have been made in this document be untrue, the Government should be able to prove it, and, what is more, should prove it.
I come now to the matter in which the House has been engrossed to-day. The Attorney-General stated that money out of a secret fund had been expended on the Miners Federation. Suggestions have been made that the money might have been spent in several ways. One was that the money was paid to officials or leaders of the federation with the object of inducing them to influence its policy. Another was that money was paid to individual members of the federation for the purpose of influencing the election of officers. In other words, money was allegedly paid to various members of the federation with the object of helping them to elect certain persons and to defeat others.
– Who made that statement?
– I am not prepared to say, but I did not invent it. The statement was made to me. The complexion which the Attorney-General gives to it is that he was visited by the president of the Miners Federation and another person unknown to him and that, as the result of the discussion, he agreed to pay to the officials of the organization sums of money in order to defray the expenses incurred by them in travelling from lodge to lodge attempting to influence the miners in favour of the Government’s policy. Apparently, Ministers did not see anything wrong with that. It was not a matter of the Attorney-General alone thinking that it was right; Ministers generally considered that it was proper that public moneys should be paid to officials of the federation in order to induce them to influence the policy of their organization. But worse is to follow. The money, which was made available to the officials in order to provide them with facilities for influencing the policy of their organization, was paid in such a secret manner as to indicate that the person who paid it, and the person who received it, knew that they were committing a dishonest act. If it were an honest payment, it would have been made directly to the payee. If the Government had been honest about making it, the
Government would have insisted upon that procedure.
– Does the honorable member disagree with the view of the Leader of the Opposition?
– I disagree with what the Leader of the Opposition said, but he did not approve the course which the Government f ollowed.
– What about the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) ?
– The Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) is fond of citing the remarks of the honorable member for Barton. I am not aware that he said anything on that point. The Leader of the Opposition said, and I disagree with hi3 view, something quite different. He stated that it would be perfectly proper for a government to make open and above-board payments to trade union officials in order to recoup their expenses when they travelled partly on the business of the union and partly on the business of the Government. I disagree with that opinion, but it is quite a different proposition from that advanced by the Minister for the Army. The honorable gentleman will have an opportunity to make his bad case appear better than it is; I shall not allow him to misrepresent the Leader of the Opposition. The only one safe rule for members of the Labour party to follow is not to accept any money from the Government. I contend that the payment, which the Attorney-General says that he made, was not open and above-board, but was a secret disbursement. It passed through several hands before it reached the intended recipient. If it were intended for a purpose which, the Minister and the recipient thought was honest and legitimate, why was the secrecy observed?
– How can the honorable member contend that the payment was secret when the Deputy Crown Solicitor was cognizant of it and of the identity of the person to whom the money wa3 to be paid ?
– Of course it was a secret payment 1 All that happened was that the money passed through the hands of several confidential agents; but that does not make it any less secret. It passed through the hands of persons each of whom was pledged to secrecy. I, myself, do not accept the mild colouring that the Attorney-General gives to the transaction. In my opinion, the true story was worse than this. But even accepting the whole of his story that the payment was made in order that the recipients might influence the policy of their federation, I still contend that the first obligation of the officials concerned is to give a disinterested, uncorrupted service to their federation.
– Not to the country?
– To the country, also.
– Which is their first duty ?
– The first duty of the officials is to their federation.
– I should think that their first duty is to their country.
– The Minister has jeered at those who have contended that Winkler’s first duty was to his country. There can be no conflict of duties here. In my opinion, the first duty of these officials is to their federation, and they should not he deflected by any outside influence from advising their organization as they think right. I direct the attention of the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price),, who has interjected, to the fact that he and a great number of people believed that it was necessary in the interests of this country to have a national ministry. Would he believe that it was right for the Government to offer a secret inducement to the Leader, the Deputy Leader, or the executive of the ‘Opposition to influence the party to support a national ministry ? He would say that that was wrong.
– But the Leader of the Opposition and the executive of the Opposition are not subversive.
– Neither are the officials of trade unions. A large number of coal-miners have gone to this war. Does any one suggest that the leaders of the Miners Federation are indifferent to the fate of those men, or to the feelings of their relatives? The officials of the federation have their own conception of what is right and what is the country’s interest, because, after all, the miners’ interests and the country’s interests are the same. Uninfluenced by corruption .they ought to present to members of the federation their honest conception of what ought to be done. It is dishonorable for a government to use public money or private money in order to induce people to betray the trust of those who put trust in them, or in order to induce people in responsible positions to influence the conduct of those to whom they are responsible. I advance this proposition: Officials of the federation ought to do their duty to their own members without being influenced by any means the existence of which is unknown to them. It is perfectly right for the Government to get hold of union officials and say, “ These are the arguments you ought to put before your members; this is the state of the country; these are the dangers to which the country is exposed “. That is right, but it is not right for the Government to get hold of the officials and say-
– We did not get hold of them ; they came to us.
– I do not care whether they went to the Government or not. However it happened, the Government got hold of them. The spider gets hold of the fly when the fly walks into the spider’s parlour. According to the Attorney-General, he was prepared to give, and he gave to them, money for the purpose of inducing them to influence the conduct and attitude of members of the organization.
– For the purpose of carrying out the declared policy of the federation.
– No. The answer to that is, why did the men have to receive an inducement for that purpose? Why the secrecy?
– It was not an inducement; they were recouped their travelling expenses.
– I was not born yesterday. I have been .associated with politics for 27 years, and I do not believe that no inducement was offered. I believe that the payment of money by the Government, if it paid it, and its receipt by the men, if they received it, indicates that there was an inducement, not merely a recoupment of expenses. Even if it were only a recoupment of expenses, it was a payment made to the officials behind the backs of and unknown to members of the federation, and was intended to enable those officials to influence their members to do something which free from influence they might not do. It does not matter whether it is thought right or wrong to strike, it is wrong to bribe people to influence others to refuse to strike. That is my feeling about it. A man has his own conception of right and wrong; others may not agree with that conception, but it is his own and he should .honestly act upon it. If a person offers him an inducement to influence his decision, the person who gives the inducement is as dishonest as he who accepts it. The rank and file have their own conception of right and wrong, and they are entitled to the honest and disinterested guidance and advice of the officials. The man who attempts by bribery corruptly to induce those officials to give advice which is not their own disinterested advice is as guilty as are the officials who accept the bribe. That, on his own statement, is what the AttorneyGeneral did and that is what Ministers, on their own statements, think is a perfectly honest and proper action. Tha Minister for the Army has shown his approval by interjection, and the Minister for Transport, and the Minister for Defence Co-ordination, by the speeches they have delivered. I am a plain simple man compared with those honorable gentlemen and I think that what has been done is thoroughly dishonest. The man who did it and the Ministers who approve and defend it are thoroughly dishonest.
– I rise to stress the necessity to give to the men, particularly the president of the Miners Federation, Mr. C. Nelson, whose names have been bandied about this chamber, the lobbies and elsewhere, the right to clear themselves. I am not saying that they are innocent or guilty, but the Government has produced no proof that the Miners Federation or its officials received any money. All that we have been told by Ministers is that they only know that £300 reached
Mr. Winkler. Beyond that they do noi know where it went. The president of the Miners Federation has published a categorical denial of the Government’? statements regarding payments to him or to the Miners Federation. On the facts which have been given to us the Government cannot say that Mr. Nelson received any money from it. I refused last week to take part in any debate on this matter, because I believed that I was not entitled to do so on the vague information that we had. Even now, I would not mention names, but for the fact that those names have already been referred to in the debate. The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) and other Ministers who have spoken, particularly the Attorney-General, have referred to strikes and to seething discontent in the Miners Federation. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) referred to the diminution of coal reserves as the result of stoppages on the coalfields. If that be true the responsibility rests with the Government, because, within the first few months after the outbreak of war, officials of the Miners Federation came to Canberra almost weekly at their own expense to plead with the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in terms, the like of which I have never heard from the federation before, to do the simple things which would ensure peace in the coal-mining industry. All the time the former Prime Minister refused to do anything. I have been present at conferences of representatives of coal-owners, the coal miners arid the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, with the ex-Prime Minister in the chair, and I have been amazed to see the right honorable gentleman act like a pupil in the presence of his schoolmaster. Whenever the representatives of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited told the right honorable gentleman that a certain thing should be done, he forthwith did it. Apparently, he could not bear the cold eye of his masters on him. If the Government had acted fairly towards the industrial organizations of this country, it could have ensured complete industrial peace throughout the period of the war. If subversive influences are growing, the Government alone is responsible for it.
The leaders of the industrial .organizations of Australia have done everything possible to cope with industrial restiveness This is true, not only of the coalminers, but also of the engineers. The leaders of the engineering unions have been doing the Government’s job for it, but the time has come when they are finding it difficult to hold their members in check, for the rank and file feel that r 1 ,ey have received anything but fair treatment.
This matter cannot be left where it is. Whether the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition be agreed to or not, it is essential that further investigations be made. The South Coast Branch of the Miners Federation has requested me by telegram to inform the Government that it insists on the fullest investigation into i be matter.
– The Government has offered to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the subject.
– The Miners Federation would welcome such action.
– What about the Labour party?
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) made a statement this evening at the request of the Leader of the Opposition that the Labour party desired the fullest investigation to .be made.
I wish to make it clear that in my opinion the so-called Australian Democratic Front is merely an adjunct of the United Australia party. It is a United Australia party “pup” organization, improperly maintained by government funds, to serve party political ends.
– Where is the evidence to support such a statement?
– Abundant evidence io available in the press and elsewhere. The Australian Democratic Front was established to serve the ends of the United Australia party and the United Country party. It has never done, nor is ever likely to do, anything to prevent the growth of communism. It is far more likely to foster such activities. Not one speaker from the Government benches has given us a tittle of evidence to show that the expenditure of this money has been justified by results.
The honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) referred to what has been called the “Red Flag Incident”. That was on a par with the incidents which led to the burning of the Union Jack in the Sydney Domain some time ago. I believe that that flag was paid for out of United Australia party funds, and that the burning of it was a political stunt, with which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) possibly had a good deal to do in association with the New Guard.
– That is sheer nonsense.
– It is the truth. I trust that honorable members will agree to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. Personally I consider that a select committee of honorable members would make a much more rapid and satisfactory examination of the facts of this case than is likely to bc made by a royal commission, but as the South Coast Branch of the Miners Federation has asked for a royal commission in order to give a member of the federation whose name has been mentioned, but who denies any association with these incidents, an opportunity to clear his name, I support their request.
– I shall not weary honorable members by reiterating the facts that have been elicited in the course of the debate on the subject which is now before the House for judgment. I wish, however, to refer to two definite trends that I have noticed in the speeches that have been delivered by honorable members opposite. One trend, unfortunately for the prestige of this Parliament, is towards personal insult, and the other is towards placing on this party the responsibility for defending the honour of Parliament, and for assailing communism and Communists.
In relation to the first trend, I refer to a remark by the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) concerning myself to the effect that public funds were being wasted in the payment of my parliamentary allowance. I suggest that if the right honorable gentleman will look round him on his own side of the chamber, he will find that some of his colleagues in the Ministry and also out of it - and I make this statement deliberately - are nothing more than nincompoops. It ill becomes the right honorable gentleman to make such a remark as he made concerning me, for he is the first Prime Minister of Australia who has lost his position because the members of his own party became dissatisfied with his leadership and threw him into the discard. If my parliamentary allowance is being wasted, the allowance of the right honorable gentleman is also being wasted. That, at any rate, was apparently the view of the right honorable gentleman’s colleagues. I have no need to justify the presence of either myself or my colleagues in this chamber, but I say to Government supporters that if it had not been for Opposition members, the general public would be adopting a very different attitude towards the Government than it is adopting at present. By that I mean that if Opposition members had not intervened on behalf of the underdog-
– And also on behalf of their clients.
– If the Minister for the Army will give specific instances of what he means, I shall be glad to deal with them.
– I can give a number of instances.
– I say deliberately that had it not been for the work done by Opposition members the present Government would have been removed from office, possibly not by constitutional means. In passing, I say that I believe that I, too, have done, during the twelve months that I have been a member of this Parliament, as much as the Minister for Defence Co-ordination did during his first twelve months as a member. Among other things which I have done is the finding of permanent employment for 215 of my constituents. I wonder how many Government supporters have ever been without a job and how many of them rely on their parliamentary allowances? From time to time Government supporters make statements in this House, but if the public really knew what was said, they would sweep those members aside.
The second trend of the debate is that the Government has sought to place the Opposition in the position of defenders of
Communists and communism. Without discussing whether communism is good or bad, I say that the people of the British Empire should be exceedingly thankful that the Communists of Russia are not afraid to die for their beliefs. The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) told us that no charges would be preferred against Mr. Winkler, the person who made available certain information which has led to this debate.
– No such statement was made.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that no charges would be preferred against this man unless they were laid by the Leader of the Opposition.
– He said nothing of the sort.
– If a man who is nominally a leader of the Bar in the Commonwealth does not know more about criminal law than to say that a man could not be indicted other than by a charge laid by a private person it is a sad state of affairs, not only for the legal profession, but also for the Commonwealth generally. For the benefit of honorable members I point out that admittance to the original meeting which led to the formation of the Australian Democratic Front was by invitation only, and that that is the common method of holding public meetings convened by the United Australia party. Whenever a senior Minister of the Government speaks at the Sydney Town Hall, that is the means by which admittance is gained. I agree that that is not a major matter, but it does show some connexion between the United Australia party and the Australian Democratic Front. The AttorneyGeneral said that when Mr. Thorby wa3 Postmaster-General the Australian Democratic Front made certain libellous charges, which were afterwards found to be without substance, against employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department. We have not been informed whether Mr. Thorby then knew, or was afterwards told, that those charges were, in fact, made by a governmental agency. If the Government sponsored such charges it is easy to understand that, instead of countering subversive propaganda, they have had the effect of inciting persons to strike and to break the law.
The Minister for Defence Coordination said that the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) had narrowed this discussion co two points. The Opposition does not agree with him; it claims that other matters also are involved.
– How many leaders are there in the honorable member’s party?
– The honorable member for Barton is not the leader of the party.
– The Opposition realizes that the Government, having offered a bribe of £300, favours corrupt practices as a means of government. If a political party will offer public money to persons in order to induce them to serve the party’s political interests, it is only reasonable to say that it would itself accept money to serve the interests of other persons. Unfortunately that is not an uncommon practice. Despite the facts which have been put to the House, the Australian Democratic Front is still operating. Are Government supporters so lacking in their duty to the public, and to those whom they claim to represent, that they propose not only to endorse what has been done but also to allow this organization to remain? In the light of the facts which have been revealed, the Australian Democratic Front should not be allowed to exist for a moment longer, and therefore I submit that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition should be carried. Honorable members of this House will be judged according to the way in which they vote on the amendment. Those Government members who vote against it will have to satisfy their constituents that public money has not been expended by the Government for its own party political purposes. In view of all the facts which have been disclosed, if the. Government bad any political shame it would resign.
– I rise principally to support what has been said by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) in advocacy of a proper inquiry into the charges that have been made against the miners’ organization or some of its officials. If there are Government members who can condone the actions of the Government, and go home with an easy conscience, the standard of public and political decency in this country has declined considerably. The plain fact is, that the Government has lent itself to the setting up of an entirely bogus organization, and the utilization of public money for the payment of persons whose only standard of patriotism is that which can be induced by the silver they can thereby gain. I am able to appreciate that, out of loyalty, Government members may desire to support the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) in whatever action he has taken ; but I find it very difficult to conceive that any man with a sense of public honesty and a decent standard of business morality in public life would lend himself to what one member of the Government has done. I feel that a considerable number of honorable members and Ministers had no knowledge of this bogus show, which was set up in order to carry out a programme conceived and planned by th, Attorney-General. Frankly, that, to me, partakes of the deepest form of political trickery. I have no doubt that the object of what has been said in this House, and of some of the things which the AttorneyGeneral has said to the Leader of thi3 party, was to cause the Opposition to desist from exposing what has happened. I do not want it to be thought that I should be likely to encourage or applaud public servants who betray public confidence or disclose confidential information, because I have not much time for the spy, the pimp, and the political “rat”; but I do say that the inducement of public servants, by ministerial authority, to associate themselves with the opening of personal accounts, and on behalf of their departments to pass moneys through a number of channels so that finally ite destination will not be traceable except in a case of this sort, in which there has been an investigation, is calculated to destroy the morale of the Commonwealth Public Service, which I regard as one of the most important things in any democratic government.
I do not propose to attempt to form a judgment as to whether the statements that have been made in respect of officials of the Miners Federation are true or untrue; but that the Attorney-General has made statements to certain people which have definitely been proved untrue causes me to have very grave suspicion. It is extraordinarily peculiar that the right honorable gentleman should claim on one day that he knew a certain individual, and should learn on another day that he did not know him. Evidently he has a very convenient memory. The charge has been made that certain officials of the miners’ organization have received money from the Government for certain purposes.
– Who made the charge ?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - The name of the president of the Miners Federation, Mr. Nelson, has been freely mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden). It is said that he and some other shadowy person represented to the Attorney-General that certain sums ought to be paid in order that the expenses of attending aggregate meetings might be met ; and it is inferred that, passing from one fund to another, money was finally paid to Mr. Nelson and perhaps to some other gentleman or a number of gentlemen. I am confident that the great mass of the miners and their officials have proved that they are the most honest unionists in this country. There may be disagreement with their political actions, or differences of opinion as to how their affairs should be conducted, but so far as I know the miners have not been charged with insincerity in anything that they have done, and it has not been alleged that there has not been complete honesty in their transactions with the Government or the public. I do not attempt to form any judgment as to whether Mr. Nelson or some other officials are guilty or not ; hut in any event, they are entitled to be given an opportunity to defend themselves. The shadowy gentleman whom the Attorney-General knew one day, but of whom he could not be sure on another day, might be any member of the Miners Federation; consequently, suspicion is cast on every member of the executive, and of any one it might be thought that he was associated with the request for money and the receipt of it. The miners must ha given by the present Government or by one constituted by the Labour party, a full inquiry into the charge that their officials have received government funds. I am not authorized to speak on their behalf, but I shall be very much surprised if industrial peace is maintained in the mining industry unless these charges are thoroughly probed. In justice to the whole of the officials, and as there cannot be industrial harmony in the industry so long as a full inquiry into the circumstances is denied by either the present Government or any other Government, it devolves upon the Prime Minister to see that a full inquiry is granted.
– I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, to add to the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) the following words: - and this House disapproves of the wrong use of the fund established in February, 1940, for special purposes.
The debate has proved conclusively that there is justification for the amendment. When this matter was first brought before the House last Thursday, we were told that every country in the world had a special fund of this description, but we were not told until to-day that another special fund had been established in Australia in February, 1940, for a certain purpose. Last Thursday, theAttorney-General (Mr. Hughes) stated that officials of the Miners Federation and certainreligious organizations participated in payments from the special fund. When the matter was probed by the Advisory War Council, it was ascertained that those statements were incorrect, and to-day the Prime Minister has admitted that no religious organization was connected with the payments from the fund. The Attorney-General also stated on one occasion that two members of a certain organization have participated in payments from the special fund. On another occasion he said that he thought that the arrangement for payment was discussed with three representatives of the federation who were introduced by a member of this Parliament. Now, he tells us that he knew the name of only one individual who approached him. In fairness to the Miners Federation and the industrial organizations of this country, this matter should not he left where it is; it should be probed to the bottom by a royal commission or some other competent tribunal. To-day, the Attorney-General wandered all around the globe in an attempt to camouflage statements which he had made on a previous occasion. During tin- course of his speech, the right honorable gentleman said that this special fund was established in 1916 for a special purpose. I believe I am right in saying that it originated following an incident which took place at Warwick in Queensland when the present Attorney-General was Prime Minister, as the result of which the right honorable gentleman then decided to set up the Commonwealth Police Force. No member of this Parliament would cast reflections on Colonel Jones, the officer in charge of the Investigation Branch, but no selfrespecting member of this House could but fail to protest against the way in which the proceeds of this special fund have been distributed.- We are astounded to learn that, in making disbursements from the fund, the Government pays a cheque to the Solicitor-General, who in turn pays it into a private account. A cheque is then drawn on the private account and paid to the Deputy Solicitor- General in New South Wales or in Victoria, who in turn hands it to a certain individual to be cashed and who pays the money to some individual whom we do not know. Although no receipt is obtained for the money, we are told .by honorable members opposite that there is nothing wrong with such a transaction.
– The money is paid over in £1 notes so that the numbers cannot be traced.
– I understand that the money is paid in notes, the highest denomination of which is £5. It is a reflection on the Government that it cannot make these payments in the usual way by an official crossed cheque to the order of the person responsible for doing this work. But for the gentleman who came along and placed certain information at the disposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) this matter would never have seen the light of day. The Leader of the Opposition deserves the gratitude of every member of this party for the way in which he handled this important matter. No one can doubt his integrity and honesty of purpose; yet some honorable members opposite, in attempting to-day to distort bis statements, have proved conclusively that they do not value his honesty and integrity. It has been said that a total amount of £300 was paid out of the special fund to a man named Winkler, a member of the Prime Minister’s staff. On three separate occasions an amount of £100 was paid out in notes to Winkler, who gave a receipt for the money. It has been said that these payments will have to be justified by the Auditor-General’s staff. The AuditorGeneral’s duty is merely to see that sufficient money is appropriated for certain purposes.
– Oh, no. That does not embrace the whole of the AuditorGeneral’s duties.
– Perhaps we shall find that the Auditor-General has some severe criticism to offer in regard to the way in which this money has been disbursed from the special fund; but we should not have to await the presentation of his annual report to see his reactions to the comments made in regard to the fund -it should be closed immediately. The right honorable gentleman admits that the organization known as the Australian Democratic Front was first established at a meeting, admittance to which was by invitation, held in the basement of the Town Hall in Sydney and presided over by the Lord Mayor of that city, and attended by the Attorney-General. At the meeting a former member of the Labour party, who was a colleague of the right honorable gentleman when he was a member of that party, was appointed to act as- secretary of the new organization. The Australian Democratic Front, which has been in existence now for nearly two years, is financed from public funds provided by the Government against the wishes of the majority of the members of this House. The purpose for which this organization was established was to bolster up the Attorney-General, to sponsor political propaganda on behalf of the Government, and to create dissension instead of assisting in the war effort. In its first five publications the Australian Democratic Front attacked Russia; in the next two it praised Russia. The sooner the Government ceases making funds available for this organization the better it will be for everybody. The facts disclosed in the course of this debate have amply justified the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, and I trust that it will be carried.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to the effect that this House disapproves of the wrong use of a fund established in February, 1940, for a special purpose. This is a matter which strikes at the very roots of democracy, which, at present, is on trial in this country and throughout the world. If the Government by its action has shaken the faith of the people in the democratic form of government it has done a grave disservice to the cause of democracy. The organization known as the Australian Democratic Front, which was set up last year by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes), and which purported to enjoy public support, is itself a subversive body, as has been demonstrated by the pamphlet which it issued regarding postal employees. In that pamphlet it was stated that Communists were employed in the post office, and were likely to foment revolution. A statement of that kind is calculated to create public unrest and to destroy national morale. The Government subsidized the organization out of a secret fund which was banked in the names of officers who should be above that sort of thing. The Auditor-General would not check the expenditure of the money. He would check the payment of the money by the Government to the organization, but would not concern himself with bow the money was used by that organization, because he would regard it as having already passed out of possession of the Government. Thus, there is nothing to prevent the Government from setting up any number of similar organizations to disperse money in ways unknown to the Parliament, and for purposes which Parliament might not approve.
The fund was started in February, 1940. In March of that year there was a by-election in the Corio electorate, and the Attorney-General, speaking at Geelong ill support of the Government candidate, charged the Labour party with being closely associated with the Communist party. At the same time the Government was subsidizing this organization, the purpose of which was to oppose communism in Australia. It is clear, therefore, that he was using Government funds to serve the political interests of the parties which support the Government. There was no need for the Government to subsidize outside bodies to combat subversive activities. The Government had its own official organization of trained officers to do this work, and it had power under the National Security Act to deal with persons suspected of subversive action. I suggest that the Government did not want to deal with such persons, or to suppress subversive organizations. It wanted them to continue their activities in order to provide the Government with a political catchcry. The Government has asked for a united national effort in the prosecution of the war, and the Labour movement has co-operated in every possible way, but the Government has not gone the right way about obtaining unity. By setting up a secret organization such as the Australian Democratic Front, it has done its best to sow distrust in the minds’ of the people, and to create discord in trade unions. Any honest unionist might now be charged with receiving money from the. Government. Charges could be levelled against members of the Labour party that they were receiving money from a secret fund for the purpose of carrying out the work of anti-Labour governments. Instead of promoting unity in the community, such a policy tends to weaken the nation’s effort by creating distrust among the bulk of the people. I believe that in this instance the Government was more interested in- implementing a policy of that kind than in combating subversive elements. I am in receipt of a telegram from the Barrier District Miners at Broken Hill, in which they urge me to press for the fullest investigation into the charges made by the Opposition against the Government in this matter. That request is similar to others which have been received by honorable members who represent mining districts. Many facts have yet to he disclosed and, therefore, I urge that the fullest investigation be made. Another important feature of this matter is the expenditure of public money without the authorization of Parliament. It ha3 been stated that the sum of £300 was paid to a representative of the Miners Federation. Officials of that federation have denied that they received’ such money. They have stated that they drew upon their own funds in order to meet the expenses of their visits to their various lodges. The president of the Miners Federation, Mr. Charles Nelson, stated over the air to-night that he did not receive the sum of £300 which the Government alleged was paid to him out of the secret fund. I shall not pass judgment as to whether any of that money was actually received by Mr. Nelson. It is important to bear in mind that that money passed through the hands of several persons. Consequently, we have no guarantee as to who actually received it. As the Government has shown such carelessness in the handling of this money, how can the people be expected to trust it with the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds involved in the financing of our war effort? The people must now have grave misgivings as to its ability to handle general governmental expenditure. The Attorney-General stated that, as he could not secure any man in the Labour movement to accept money from the Government for the purpose of carrying out this particular work, he was obliged to employ Mr. Barnes to organize the Australian Democratic Front. Coming from the AttorneyGeneral, that statement is a compliment to the Labour movement. Apparently, conditions in the Labour party have changed considerably since the time when the right honorable gentleman was a member of it. I recall that after he deserted this party, he accepted a considerable sum of money in the form of a testimonial. I again emphasize that the fullest inquiry should be made into this matter, in order to disclose the whole of the facts to the Parliament and to the country. Only in that way will some measure of confidence in the Government be restored. Otherwise, there is every possibility that the spirit of democracy in Australia will be weakened considerably, and perhaps entirely destroyed, in the not far distant future. That prospect should be sufficient answer to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony), who had much to say about the danger of destroying the confidence of the people in the Government. It is clear that by setting up such a body as the Australian Democratic Front the Government has done a great disservice to democracy. It has weakened the faith of the people in democratic government. As such action tends to lead the people to believe that even Hinder democracy the Government can “ put one over “ them, nothing is more certain to destroy the feeling in the community that democracy is worth fighting for.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). This issue is most vital to the well-being and future of this Parliament. When I listened to the Prime Minister .(Mr. Fadden) this afternoon, I did not envy him in the job he had to do. He gave me the impression that he was making an appeal to this Parliament to protect the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes), because the latter, unknown to his colleagues in the Ministry and his party, had established this secret fund. and had made payments from it to the. Australian Democratic Front and to certain individuals. Being a Rugby League enthusiast, the thought occurred to me that the Attorney-General would make a wonderful five-eighth on the football field. He could twist, turn, side-step and wriggle. It was impossible to nail him to any particular phase of the subject. Most of the time he indulged in an attack on the activities of Communists in Australia, for which the United Australia party has been directly and indirectly responsible, because its policy has brought poverty and starvation to the workers of this country. After listening to the Attorney-General, I conclude that one can dally too long upon the political stage.
– The parliamentary record of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) will not be so long and distinguished as that of the Attorney-General.
– At least I shall bc here long after the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has departed. Government supporters spoke more about the purpose of the fund than anything else. Whilst the reason for its establishment may be of some concern, the matter which interests Parliament so greatly is the fact that it was created. Money was paid to an organization and to individuals from a secret fund. If the disbursements were fair and above-board, why was secrecy necessary?
– For what purpose was the money being used?
– The Government wished to keep the matter secret because it knew full well that payments from it savoured of bribery. If the miners’ organization required financial assistance, why was not the money paid directly into its account? Why were payments made through an individual who was, until recently, an officer of the Prime Minister’s Department ? Because of statements made by responsible Ministers, officials of the Miners Federation are now under a cloud of suspicion. In fact, all union officials who have been attacking communism and fighting its growth within the ranks of their organizations, might have the charge thrown at them that they have been receiving secret payments.
Ministers have not yet informed the House of the contents of all of the documents, copies of which were handed to the Leader of the Opposition. Evidently, the Government possesses receipts for payments which have been made. Honorable members opposite have contended that the accounts are audited. Whilst that might be correct, I should like to know who signed the receipts. All that the Auditor-General requires when disbursements are made, is a receipt for the payment. In his remarks to the press, the Attorney-General included references to religious organizations. Why was mention made of those organizations when no payments whatsoever, we are assured, have been made to them? Did the right honorable gentleman refer to religious organizations just as he attacked communism this afternoon, for the purpose of drawing a red herring across the trail and frightening off cer tain individuals ? Possibly, he desired to bring leaders of the church under a cloud similar to that which hangs over the heads of leaders of the Miners Federation.
If everything were fair and aboveboard, why was this payment made through the account of the Australian Democratic Front? This organization was created ostensibly for the purpose of combating communism and other sub,versive activities in this country, but I suspect that another deeper reason exists for its establishment. Just as Thyssen and other industrialists and bankers of Germany poured millions of pounds into the coffers of the Nazi party for the purpose of making it all-powerful, so the money of the taxpayers has been paid into the coffers of a certain organization in this country. Before the outbreak of war honorable members opposite were loud in their praise of the system in operation in Germany and .of the good work that was being performed there. Apparently they were adopting in Australia the same political p’olicy as exists in Germany. They used the methods of the Nazis in establishing a party organization, and the money of the .Australian taxpayers was used to finance it. The Australian
Democratic Front was to be a haven of refuge for the discredited United Australia party, which destruction is fast overtaking. Briefly, the Australian Democratic Front was to be a new political party. It was being fostered with taxpayers’ money. Sums were paid into its account during the last financial year when Australians were bearing the greatest burden of taxation in their history. Had it not been for the action of the Leader of the Opposition in bringing to the notice of the Government, the Parliament and the people the contents of certain documents that were presented to him, the Australian Democratic Front would have continued, and taxpayers money would have been used for the purpose of keeping the organization functioning. Incidentally, its secretary was a Labour “ rat “ ; that term has been applied to him to-day. The money which was paid into the coffers of this political haven of refuge of the Government created jobs for those who had deserted the Labour party. If this expenditure of public revenue were proper, where will it cease? Numerous secret funds could be created. Irrespective of whether Id., £300 or £3,000 is involved, it is bribery if the money be paid under the same conditions as this money was expended. If the view is taken that these payments were correct, all that the Governmentneeds to do is ask Parliament . to vote money without being told how it will be expended. The payments to the Australian Democratic Prout cannot be justified. The Australian Democratic Front is an organization which has arisen on the anti-communist cry, and it has, by the use of that cry, gone out of its way to discredit certain sections of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is a disgrace that a Government of any political complexion should use tlie taxpayers’ money to create a political organization and I am sure that the disclosures to-day will end not only the payments to the Australian Democratic Front, but also the Australian Democratic Front itself. The Opposition will take every care to ensure that a similar organization will never be set up at public expense. The whole principle of secret payments is wrong. All payments by the Government should be made by it from funds voted for a specified purpose by the Parliament. The present departure from that principle has endangered the very foundations of democracy in this country. It is, therefore, with the greatest, pleasure that I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition who is deserving of public commendation for what he has done. I am sure that in the very near future the electors will give to him that commendation.
– Serious as is the allegation concerning the secret fund, the most serious aspect of this whole matter is that which relates to the budget disclosures. There have been stories in the press and statements by responsible Ministers of this Parliament, with resultant public speculation as to what they all mean. It appears that a person in the Commonwealth employ gave to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) certain documents which inter alia indicated that the contents of the budget had been communicated to financial houses in Melbourne and to certain newspapers. The documents which were given to the Leader of the Opposition evidently also mentioned the name3 of well-known individuals to whom the budget is said to have been shown. If we pass the motion that the paper be printed, apparently the allegations about the disclosures of budget secrets will go by the board without further investigation and comment. I remind the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) that in 1936 in England an inquiry known as the Budget Disclosure Inquiry was held and that the report of that inquiry is contained in the House of Commons Papers for 1935-36. The three judges of His Majesty’s High Court of Justice found- in the following terms: -
We find that there was an unauthorized disclosure by Mr. J. H. Thomas to Sir Alfred Butt of information relating to the budget for the present year and that use was made by Sir Alfred Butt of that information for the purpose of his private gain.
As the result of the finding Mr. Thomas resigned from the House of Commons and left the political life of England. Apparently, budget secrets have been disclosed in this country to unauthorized persons, including the heads of financial houses, which undoubtedly must gain from what may be called a preview of the budget.
– Who alleges that?
– I have read those allegations in the press. The statements which led to the inquiry in England originally appeared in the press. An inquiry is warranted-
– There was evidence in England to support the allegations. Where is the evidence in this case?
– Sufficient has been said by the Leader of the Opposition to justify the Government in going further than it proposes to go with its royal commission by having a full inquiry into all statements contained in both documents handed to the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister for the Army attempted to lead me off the trail by asking who made the allegations. It does not matter in the public mind who originated the stories. The fact is that the newspapers of Australia are full of these statements. Even last night the
Melbourne press repeated the allegations that disclosures have been made to unauthorized persons. The position cannot be left as it is. If it be, either the press or the Parliament is in the gutter.
– And perhaps both.
– Yes. At any rate, there must be some inquiry in order to clear the name of the Parliament. The press can look after itself.
I am statisfied that if there were a secret vote in this Parliament as to what should be done with the Australian Democratic Front there would be only the vote of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) to keep it going.
– What about the vote of the Minister for the Army.
– I am satisfied that not even the Minister for the Army would be willing, after this debate, to assist the Attorney-General to operate the fund which he created. We are told that the Australian Democratic Front developed out of a conference early last year, between the chiefs of police of the Australian States and the heads of the Service Departments. We are told that after much deliberation and cogitation on the matter of the menace of communism, the highly placed and responsible officers at that conference made a report to the Commonwealth Government. The Government then said to the AttorneyGeneral : “ We look to you to deal with this matter.” The Attorney-General had a brain-wave. He remembered a friend of his who was out of a job, a man who had assisted him when they both left the Labour party and to whom he considered that he owed something. The right honorable gentleman said to himself: “I shall establish the Australian Democratic Front”, and then he persuaded the Government to vote money for the organization before it had come into existence. Then he arranged the meeting at which this body was formed. He has pretended since that time until these disclosures were made that the Australian Democratic Front has no association whatever with the Government.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) referred to-night to what is known as “ the Warwick incident “. It was the late honorable member for
Bourke (Mr. Anstey) who once said : “ Out of an acorn grew the mighty oak tree, and out of a rotten egg was hatched the Commonwealth Police Force “. Readers of Australian political history will remember that it was alleged at the time when the egg was thrown at the right honorable member for North Sydney that a train examiner was about to batter him with an iron bar, and that he was saved from an untimely end only by the intervention of other people. The fact is that no one took much notice of the right honorable gentleman until he was hit with the egg. He at once capitalized the situation for his own benefit, as he is not slow to do with any situation. I suggest to the Minister for the Army that the political record of the Attorney-General does not inspire confidence in his veracity, his scrupulousness, ot his ingenuousness. The right honorable gentleman has, in fact, had a shady political career. No one has done more than he has done in the past 25 years to poison the political life of this country. That is not an exaggerated statement. Although the right honorable gentleman could find money to establish a spurious organization like the Australian Democratic Front, he could not find money to afford the members of the Commonwealth Police Force the benefit of child endowment or to pay to them certain increases of salary. He took a long time last year to consider t.hfc representations made by the Commonwealth Police Force, although he eventually agreed to the payment of child endowment and to certain increased rates of pay. When the Commonwealth Police Force requested that more money be provided for motor cars in order to assist it to track down Communists, who were using secret printing presses, the right honorable gentleman could not find money for the purpose. In other words, the legitimate needs of the police force could not be satisfied, although the illegitimate needs of the Australian Democratic Front could be met.
It has been said that this illicit organization is fighting communism. Information disclosed by the Prime Minister to-day shows that most of the money expended on this organization has gone in salaries, office rents, and so on. Only a small proportion of it has been devoted to propaganda, and the propaganda has consisted principally of the reprinting and circulating of speeches delivered by the Attorney-General. In fact, five out of the nine pamphlets published by the Australian Democratic Front have consisted of his speeches. The right honorable gentleman says that he desired to fight communism and that the Labour party desires to defend communism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every honorable member knows that for years past the Labour party has endeavoured to fight communism and to prevent the infiltration of communist ideas into its ranks. Only on Saturday last the Federal Executive of the Labour party, at a meeting in Sydney, reiterated its opposition to communism. The Attorney-General, with his usual posturing, pretends that he is the only person in the country who wishes to fight the Communists, but the right honorable gentleman’s political record does not inspire confidence in the sincerity of his protestations. Even at a time when he is pretending that he wants to fight communism, meetings are being advertised at which he is billed to speak with leading Communists for organizations whose principal object is to assist Russia, and to urge a common front against the Nazi tyranny. The right honorable gentleman is, therefore, totally inconsistent. The best service that the Prime Minister could do for this Parliament and country would be to take steps to remove the Attorney-General from the Ministry. By forming the organization known as the Australian Democratic Front, the right honorable gentleman has landed the Government in a great deal of trouble. In the future everything that he seeks to do should be closely scrutinized.
– Does the honorable member object to action being taken against. Communists?
– I am suggesting that the Attorney-General is simply posing. His whole attitude reeks of insincerity. He is merely pretending to fight the Communists. It has been said that the Communists of this country ceased to call this conflict an imperialist war at 4 a.m. on the 22nd June last. Curiously enough the Australian Democratic Front changed its attitude at exactly the same time and later issued a pamphlet praising Russia to the skies. In these circumstances is there any necessity to continue this organization? I can see no reason why the Minister for the Army should not at once announce, on behalf of the Government, that support of this organization would be discontinued from to-morrow morning. The Australian Democratic Front, in my opinion, is all front and no body. It is most dangerous, under any circumstances, to set up such an organization, and it is not hard to visualize the possibilities of a continuation of this expedient. Grave danger will face the country if such spurious organizations be allowed to function. I have not the slightest doubt that the Australian Democratic Front has been used for party political purposes. It is possible that its machinery may have been employed against the Labour party during the last general election.
We are asked, to believe that the Attorney-General i3 an honest, sincere and courageous gentleman, who is most anxious to serve his country. He said he could not get three members of the Labour party to help him to fight communism. The fact is that the right honorable gentleman could not get one member of the Labour party to stand with him on anything. That is because the Labour party does not trust him; it knows his past and the crimes of which he has been guilty. Unfortunately, it has not been able to put him where he should be put for the crimes he has committed against democracy in this country. When Senator David Watson alleged in the Senate in 1917 that the present, Attorney-General, who was then Prime Minister, had offered him a bribe to cross the floor, the right honorable gentleman did then precisely what he did to-day ; he set himself up as a court of inquiry and found that there was not enough evidence to justify the Government in taking action against him. David Low in a cartoon in the Bulletin depicted’ all the people in the court, from the judge on the bench to the exhibit on the table, with the head of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes). He was aquitted without a stain on his character. The body of the exhibit incidentally was the body of a rodent, but that was not the last of the right honorable gentleman’s crimes against democracy. Thwarted in his attempt to bribe Senator Watson, he next turned to Senator Ready. Let me tell, very briefly, the story of the mysterious disappearance of Senator Ready from the Senate, as well as the mysterious arrival of Senator John Earle to take his place. The former Prime Minister has never yet given a satisfactory account of those happenings. What were the facts? Senator Ready disappeared from the Senate at six o’clock one afternoon. Immediately certain formalities were enacted. First the matter was reported by the President of the Senate to the Governor-General of the day, who, in turn, reported it to the Premier of Tasmania, who reported it to his Cabinet. The Cabinet met to select another senator. A selection was made, and the Governor of Tasmania was informed of the name of the person who had been selected. The Governor-General was then informed of the selection, and he passed on the information to the President of the Senate. At 10 o’clock the next morning John Earle had arrived from Tasmania to take the place of Ready. All those things happened between 6 o’clock one evening and 10 o’clock the next morning. The present Attorney-General of the Commonwealth was at the bottom of the plot. That plotwas one of the worst things that has ever happened in the political history of the Commonwealth, and .the present AttorneyGeneral was at the bottom of it. In the light of those facts, it is useless to ask members of the Labour party to become associated with the AttorneyGeneral in fighting communism or anything else. The best thing that could be done in the public interests would be for the Attorney-General to disappear from the stage. There are other things about the right honorable gentleman that I could say. It is to the credit of two members of the Liberal party, Senators Bakhap and Keating, that when they found what had been done by the then Prime Minister they refused to be associated with the unsavoury business. They would not pass the legislation for the introduction of which all these tricks of legerdemain had been arranged, namely, legislation to petition the British Parliament to extend the life of the Commonwealth Parliament. Unwillingly the then Prime Minister was forced to appeal to the electors in May, 1917. The right honorable gentleman thought that the anti-conscription vote of 1916 was a Labour vote, and was afraid of an election. He, therefore, took steps with the object of prolonging the life of the Parliament by the devious means which I have mentioned. He failed and was forced to the country; but, unfortunately for Australia, the anti-conscriptionist vote did not prove that the people wanted a Labour government. A lot of people voted against conscription in order to save their skins, but at the general elections of 1917 they voted for the anti-Labour forces in order to save their economic interests. The AttorneyGeneral is the last man who should talk on the subject of national unity, because his very presence in this Parliament destroys any prospect of national unity. He is loyal to no leader ; his loyalty is to himself alone. He has served every leader in turn, and he has deserted every one of them. He destroyed the Bruce Government in order to satisfy a desire for revenge, and he would destroy the present or any other government if it suited his interests to do so. Yet the Labour party is asked to believe that he is honestly fighting communism, and that he is prepared to be loyal to an ideal. The Labour party knows him because it has had experience of him. A quarter of a century has passed since he deserted the Labour party and Barnes followed him out. The Labour party doe3 not trust him to-day any more than it did in 1916. It believes that there is something behind this story of the secret fund that has not yet been told. Although the Auditor.General has approved this expenditure, all of the facts have not been disclosed. The public may never know the true story of the present situation any more than they have been told all of the facts relating to the political history of 1916 and 1917 to which I have ‘just referred.
– Wc are asked to vote on an amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), which expresses disapproval of the wrongful use of money from a special fund. I do not think that any honorable member who has given unbiased consideration to the matter will deny that there has been created a fund, money from which has been improperly used. That has been proved beyond all doubt. All efforts by Government supporters to create any other impression in the minds of the public must fail. First, we had presented to us a statement by the Prime Minister, Mr. Fadden, and later the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), who is the person chiefly concerned, endeavoured to ridicule what the Leader of the Opposition had so forcefully stated. In my opinion, action should be taken against the persons who are responsible for this misuse of public money; otherwise the prestige of the Parliament will be lowered at a time when it is most desirable that parliamentary institutions should be highly esteemed by the people. The Attorney-General always employs the weapon of ridicule when he is in a difficult position. To-day he seemed to display almost a complete return of his former powers, but he failed entirely to convince the House. There was no justification for his insinuation that the Labour party 13 associated with communism. Every one who is acquainted with the platform of the Labour party, and the resolutions carried at various conferences, knows that no member of that party can be a member of the Communist party. That is not to say that a member of the Labour party cannot express approved of some of the ideals which are held by Communists while disapproving of their practices and methods. Those who attempt to associate the Labour party with communism speak with their tongues in their cheeks. It is perhaps significant that, apart from Ministers, only two supporters of the Government have spoken during this debate. One of them was the Country party whip, and the other, a member of the United Australia party, was critical of the Govern.ment. The feeling of disgust is general. The right honorable member for North Sydney is a member of the Government to-day only because of the fear that if he were left out of it he would develop a “ cave “ which would defeat it or prevent the Government from functioning successfully for a lengthy period; and he is prepared to employ the methods which he has used for a number of years in order to damage the Labour party. The Australian Democratic Front should be wiped out as an objectionable organization. If the Government refuses to take notice of the criticism offered to-night, not only will it be lowered in the estimation of the public, but, in addition, the prestige of this assembly will be so damaged that the peace of mind of the general body of the people may be dangerously disturbed. A royal commission, or something of the kind, has been offered. How far does the Government propose that the inquiry should proceed? It would be able to limit the terms of reference to any degree it thought fit. I want the matter to be fully investigated, so that no person who has been guilty of practices which may be considered corrupt shall be shielded in the slightest degree. Unless every one concerned, be given an opportunity to testify, and the terms of the reference be not limited, I, as the representative of 67,000 electors, shall not be satisfied. Every right-thinking member should adopt the same attitude.
We have had to-night a wonderful dialectical exhibition by legal luminaries. One honorable member for whose opinion I have a great deal of respect, considers that the Government acted dishonestly. Another honorable member, also a legal man, has been most condemnatory of its action; and a third, for whom I have equal respect, and who, I think, has held one of the highest positions which could be held in this country, has proved up to the hilt, in a logical and an analytical address, that the Government has acted contrary to the established practice of British parliaments, and that it can be regarded as having been guilty of no less than an error of judgment. I am not quite certain whether he said a grave error of judgment; but if the view be accepted that it was an error of judgment the error must be regarded as a very grave one, for which the Government must accept full responsibility. No less a legal personage than the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) seized upon that, affirmed that only two small points had been made, and suggested that not even an error of judgment had. been committed, and that the charges levelled at the Government had no substance. As a matter of fact, he justified the action of his colleague, the Attorney-General. I am very greatly surprised that he should take that view, and defend the Government’s use of public moneys for party political purposes. I do not know whether he had any knowledge of the fund, and am not charging him on that account. There may be other Ministers who knew nothing about it. But the right honorable gentleman was not so sincere as I expected him to be, when he attempted to justify tha action of the Government. We laymen are often accused of making mountains out of molehills. By a process of legal reasoning, a mountain of suspicion in the public mind, which had a very sound base, has been reduced to a molehill. Another legal luminary has not yetfavoured us with an address, although he has already made what amounts to a speech by way of interjection. Whenever a legal point was being made, he interjected in order to distract attention. He has yet to give us the benefit of his learning and his talents, in an endeavour to prove that the Government has followed the correct course. No doubt, when he speaks he will endeavour to show that even the molehill has vanished. Having figured continuously in union activities for many years, I resent the suggestion that union officials can be bribed. I should be very sorry to think that any of my union colleagues could be used in that way for Government purposes. I have no doubt that efforts would be made in that direction if the Attorney-General were permitted by the Government to set up and continues in existence such organizations as the Australian Democratic Front
I could say a good deal more, but 1 do not wish to discuss details which have already been covered. Honorable members will leave in the minds of the people of Australia a very bad impression of the system of parliamentary government which we are fighting to uphold, unless they vote for the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. I trust that there are members sitting opposite who will be courageous enough to exercise their vote according to the way in which
I am confident their minds are working, and thus furnish evidence of their dissatisfaction with the Government’s methods. If they do that, we shall have clean government in Australia in the future.
.The conduct of the Government, as disclosed in the debate, constitutes the greatest blow ever dealt to the prestige of parliamentary government in this country. The people of Australia have reason for alarm, because within recent times there have been many attempts to disparage parliamentary government, as part of a set plan designed to lead ultimately to some Fascist form of Government. The time may not yet be ripe for it, but the way is being paved. Shortly after this House was first called together, a faked photograph of the chamber was published in a newspaper in an attempt to discredit Parliament in the eyes of the people of this country. Was the Intelligence Fund used on that occasion? The Government did not move in the matter. By publishing references to the “ Canberra Circus “ and the like, the press has sought to hold this Parliament up to ridicule. The fund, which is the subject of this debate, is supposed to have been in operation during the last 20 months, yet within that period a certain organization held a. public meeting in the Sydney Town Hall, at which a gentleman named Captain Aarons suggested that they should emulate Mussolini’s march on Rome, by then and there commencing a march on Canberra. Did the Government employ its intelligence service, or the Australian Democratic Front to combat such influences? No action was taken against the authors of utterances of that character. It is significant that the Australian Democratic Front should also have commenced its operations in the Sydney Town Hall. In fact, the circumstances surrounding the setting up of that organization are similar in many respects to those associated with the rise of Hitler to power. There was the raising of the old “ Red “ bogy, under the guise of patriotism. Hitler said in his book that the bigger the lie, the more likely would people be to believe it. That dictum was acted upon in this case. The postal workers were attacked, an attempt was made to undermine institutions in this country, and the fears of the people were aroused, obviously with the object of ultimately securing the establishment of a Fascist form of government. It only needs somebody to gain access to the corridors of this House and to drop a lighted cigarette on one of the curtains in this building to bring about a repetition of what happened in Germany following the Reichstag fire. The trade-union movement is being undermined by the tactics of these people. In the prospectus issued a few months before his deposition from the office of Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, the Minister for Defence Coordination (Mr. Menzies) indicated that his Government would bring down an industrial arbitration bill in order to give to the Government power to confiscate the funds of unions whose members engaged in strikes and industrial disputes ; but for some reason or other, the right honorable gentleman dropped the proposal. The trade unions are now being undermined in a more subtle way. It is of the very essence of trade unionism that the members of the unions should have confidence in their leaders. Nothing is more likely to undermine the confidence of the workers than to cast doubts upon the integrity and honesty of their leaders. If it were sincerely desirous of maintaining law and order in this country the Government, instead of creating a lack of confidence in their leaders among the members of one of the greatest industrial organizations in Australia, should do the very opposite. However, as it lacks popularity among the people and is tottering on the brink of uncertainty as to its fate, the Government’s purpose may be served by bringing about dislocation iD industry. Only recently we had the example of the treatment meted out to eight miners of the Mount Kiera mine who, after having carried two injured comrades to the mouth of the mine, a distance of some 3-J miles, found that their ordinary working hours- were completed, and knocked off for the day. The proprietors of the mine, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, docked each of them an hour’s pay for the lost time involved in carrying their injured workmates to safety. It takes but a small spark to create a great industrial upheaval in this country. Maybe, that is what the Government wants to bolster an appeal to the people on the issue of law and order. Why has the introduction of the budget been delayed? Why did not the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) accept the invitation of the Leader of the Opposition to bring down the budget before this debate was commenced? Innocent people have been injured by the disclosures made during the course of this debate. The name of Mr. Nelson, of the Miners Federation, has been bandied about as the result of the statements made by government spokesmen that payments had been made to him from this special fund. No one would hang a dog on the evidence which honorable members opposite have accepted as sufficient to condemn him. In his personal explanation, the Minister for Defence Co-ordination rightly took umbrage at imputations against his integrity when somebody improperly used his telephone in the absence of himself and his staff. If it were proper for the right honorable gentleman to take umbrage over such a matter, surely Mr. Nelson has a much greater right to protest against the way in which he has been unjustly condemned in the eyes of some people without having been given a hearing. In the same way religious organizations cannot but feel the slight put upon them by the entirely erroneous statements that they, too, had participated in disbursements from the secret fund. The Government stands behind the actions of the Attorney-General in regard to the use of the secret fund. I appreciate the loyalty of some honorable members opposite, but I commend to them the biblical injunction, “ If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and east it from thee. … If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee”. However, as the Government stands four-square behind the AttorneyGeneral in this matter, it must accept the consequences. Recently the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) disclosed that when the former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) visited Sydney he was anxious that the consultative council of the United Australia party should be called together with a view to an appeal to the electors on a law and order issue. It is significant that, at about that time, the men employed in the ferro-alloy plant of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Newcastle went on strike for a day in order to discuss certain grievances which they contended should be dealt with by the Arbitration Court. When they went back on the following day they were locked out and it was said that they would be kept out for a considerable time because the company alleged that great damage had been done to the plant as the result of their one day’s absence from work. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) characterized the strike as worse than enemy action. On that occasion the leaders of our party knew what was afoot and the fight was taken into the camp of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The Deputy Leaderof the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that if the Labour party took over the reins of government it would take over the control of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other large concerns. Immediately after that, the chairman of directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited announced that the workers in the steel industry in Australia were producing steel at onehalf the cost of production in any other country in the world and that no serious industrial disputes had taken place in the steel industry since the commencement of the war. That is the highest tribute that could be paid to the workers of this country. The provocative statement of the then Prime Minister was made solely with a view to the creation ti an industrial upheaval as a necessary prelude to an election. In that respect the right honorable gentleman was merely following in the footsteps of the leaders of other governments of a similar complexion which have proceded it in going to any lengths in order to create an industrial disturbance as a preliminary to an appeal to die people. I have a vivid recollection of the occasion when Walsh and Johnson were gaoled on Garden Island just prior to the holding of an election. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said that if his party were returned to office on the Saturday he would see that Walsh and Johnson were on the high seas on the following Monday. He managed to stampede the electors into supporting his party, but after the election, there was no talk about the deportation of those men. They had served the purpose of the Government, and the Government had no further interest in them. Tom Walsh, is now frequently to be heard advocating the cause of the Government. We know where he stands to-day; perhaps it is an indication of where he stood on that occasion. To-day, however, the people are not so likely to be misled. The issue in this debate has been belittled by some honorable members opposite, particularly the Minister for Defence Co-ordination. He tried to confine the discussion within too narrow limits. This thing is like a teak in the dyke; it may have a small beginning, but it indicates a grave weakness in the structure. In this instance, a grave weakness in the Government’s method of administration has been disclosed. The issue is not confined to the £4,S00 odd, which is the immediate subject of this discussion ; actually, it involves the hundreds of millions of pounds which the Government is expending on the war, and the question arises of whether the Govern ment can be trusted to expend that money properly. Only to-day I was informed, in answer to a question, that the Government had expended on the Newnes shale oil enterprise £559,000 without the authority of Parliament, and without even having an agreement drawn up. Now we are told that an agreement is in course of preparation. This is indeed an example of locking the stable door after the horse has been stolen. I want to know how the millions of pounds handled by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Limited has been expended. Even in connexion with the defence annexes which have been set up at various factories, no agreement has been made between the Government and the owners of those factories governing the expenditure of the money advanced. Money has also been wasted on the costplus system of production, and we know that, by deliberate acts of sabotage, large sums of money have been wasted at Newnes. Did the Government get its intelligence officers to investigate that affair? Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil was allowed to leak away, and valuable plant and machinery -was deliberately dynamited, but nothing has been done about it. When the Parliamentary Committee on War Expenditure was set up, the Government stipulated that it could inquire only into current expenditure. It should, as a matter of fact, have been authorized to inquire into all expenditure since the beginning of the war. Had this been done, it is obvious that many things would have been disclosed that would not have been to the credit of the Government. The Government’s fitness to handle the revenue of the countryis bound up with this issue. Very soon a budget providing for the expenditure of more than £300,000,000 will he introduced. If the Government is shown to be unfit to manage a fund of £4,800, it certainly cannot be trusted with the handling of hundreds of millions of pounds.
– Listening to the speeches of some of my colleagues, it appears to me that they are under the impression that members of the Advisory War Council were given informtaion on this subject which has not been revealed in the House. That is not so. All the information placed before us as members of the Advisory War Council has during this debate been made available to members of Parliament. The expenditure of moneys on general intelligence work was not discussed. The information placed before us had to do only with this amount of £4,800, and we examined such documents as bore upon the payments.
– What about the document that was described as “ atrocious “?
– I cannot give any information regarding that. It is claimed by the Government that the Australian DemocraticFront was set up for the purpose of combating the influence of the Communist party in Australia, and the Government has endeavoured to suggest that the Opposition has shown itself to be not in agreement with this purpose. Let us examine the bona fides of the Government’s claim in regard to the setting up of this organization. It was stated by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Anthony) that the Com munist party carries on under various aliases designed to conceal its identity. Therefore, it is claimed that the Government, in its efforts to counteract Communist influence, must act through bodies, the names of which do not reveal to the public their real significance, or the purpose for which they were established. It is claimed that they must not indicate direct association with the Government. If that be so, I find it - difficult to understand how the Government hoped to mislead the public regarding the nature of the Australian Democratic Front, seeing that it was inaugurated at a meeting in the Sydney Town Hall, which was attended by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) himself. The mere fact that he was present, and took a leading part in the formation of the organization, was evidence that it had his imprimatur and that of the Government. Moreover, of the nine pamphlets issued by the organization, no fewer than five contained speeches by the AttorneyGeneral. Therefore, the argument that this body was set up under the name of the Australian Democratic Front in order to disguise the fact that it was associated with the Government is destroyed by those two facts; first, that the Attorney-General himself launched it; and, secondly, that it had been openly responsible for the distribution of his speeches. It made no attempt to disguise them in any way. Its pamphlets displayed the name of the Attorney-General as the author, and, at the same time, bore the name of the body itself as the publisher of them. Therefore I, as, I believe, did most honorable members on this side, felt inclined to test the bona fides of the Australian Democratic Front.
The second point which arises also from the argument advanced by the Minister of Transport (Mr. Anthony) deals with the wisdom of using this means to offset what he called anti-constitutional bodies. This point has been argued at some length, but it is worth repeating that it is most dangerous for a constitutional government to set up anti-constitutional bodies in order to offset the alleged influence of an organization like the Communist party. Such a policy represents a. very dangerous departure from the principles upon which our constitutional institutions, this Parliament, and our democracy itself rest. On those two grounds, I believe that any support by the Government of such a body is fraught with danger. Such a policy would not be endorsed by the people as a whole. Consequently, this is an issue which must now be made the subject of a vote in this Parliament on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The Labour party right throughout its history has had a very difficult task in meeting the methods employed by bodies of this kind. The title of the Australian Democratic Front brings to mind an organization known as the Sane Democracy League. That body worked on a similar basis for many years. I do not know whether it operated in other States, but in New South Wales it took a prominent part in all kinds of political activities, although it alleged that it was non-political. It always lined itself up against the Labour party, and was particularly venomous at election time. It was responsible for many full-page advertisements in the press during election campaigns. I remember one such advertisement which depicted a portion of this Parliament for the purpose of falsely creating the impression in the public mind that disunity existed among members of the Labour party in this Parliament, and that our party, on that account, was not competent to govern. That is why the Labour party regards these bodies with suspicion. We know the part they have played in many ways in misrepresenting Labour, and endeavouring to deprive Labour of its rightful claim to control parliaments in this country. The Sane Democracy League was, I believe, largely financed by the banking institutions. In carrying on its work it adopted the usual devices to prevent its real identity from being disclosed. Just when Labour was about to face the electors, it often found itself confronted with problems which originated from the activities of this body, and, consequently, Labour always had grave doubts as to its bona fides. Now we have reached the stage when a similar body of this kind is being financed from public revenue. At no time in our history was it ever contemplated that such a stage would be reached. It now comes as a great shock to the Australian public to find that what private political interests formerly financed, the Government is now paying for. Consequently, irrespective of the result of the vote of the House on this issue to-night, this debate will prove of great service to the public of Australia. I hope that never again will such a body in any way similar to the Australian Democratic Front be financed from public revenues, Commonwealth or State. In view of the vital importance of our democratic parliamentary institutions, we hope that these bodies will never be heard of again, in. war or peace. Let us always be able to say, beyond any shadow of doubt, that our public funds are used for legitimate purposes which can be made known to all and sundry, and can be thrown open to the examination of all who care to scrutinize them. It will be interesting to know whether this debate will be the means of locking forever the doors of the Treasury as a means of financing such an institution as the Australian Democratic Front. Let us never again hear of such improper use of public funds, or allow such an organization to be subsidized by any government in Australia.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Curtin’s amendment).
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Raw Cotton Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1941.
Cable and Wire Bounty Bill 1941.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 228.
Dairy Produce Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 211.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Prohibited places (2).
Taking possession of land, &c. (33).
Use of land (2).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos.
219, 220, 221. 222, 223. 225, 226. 227, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of reservations of certain lands in Play ford.
Seatof Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory for year 1940-41.
House adjourned at 3.15 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
Will he inform the House whether T. J. Richards tendered for 20,400 flame floats, aircraft navigation (Schedule No. 30,490) at £3 12s. each and later received the contract on a cost-plus basis, while the firm of F. G. Kerr and Company Limited, of Camperdown, Sydney, tendered to supply them at a cost of £211s. 6d. each net?
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answers : -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the high cost of producer-gas plants for use on motor cars and in view of the great increase of the sale price of charcoal, will he cause the Prices Commissioner to examine the costs in both cases, with a view to preventing profiteering?
– Costs and prices of producer-gas plants for motor vehicles and of charcoal have been under the supervision of the Prices Commissioner for many months. The position regarding producer-gas plants is changing from day to day because of development of production methods and increased output.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
l asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Government is not satisfied that any practical advantage is to be obtained by adopting the Statute at the present time.
k asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What was the total amount disbursed during the financial year 1939-40 for (a) military pay, and (b) dependants’ allowances.
– The amount disbursed by the Department of the Army in military pay and allowances for the financial year 1939-40 was £8,861,733, consisting of-
The latter amount includes the amount of £21,360 - Child endowment paid to the Permanent Military Forces.
Interest Rates on Mortgages.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What action is the Government prepared to take to prevent increases of interest in cases such as the following: - A Wimmera farmer who borrowed money on a farm mortgage at 4 per cent., and whose mortgage expired recently, was offered a renewal by the mortgagee at4½ per cent. on condition that progressive instalments of principal were made?
– By the National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations, the Government has taken action to prevent increases of interest rates on mortgages of over £5,000 which become due for renewal. This action, however, does not affect mortgages bearing interest at less than 43/4 per cent.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he consider the advisability of establishing a system of marriage loans in Australia?
– The time is not opportune for consideration of this matter.
Wool and Wheat Sales to Japan and the United States of America.
y asked the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 3. The whole of the Australian wool clip having become, by purchase in Australia, the property of the United Kingdom Government, it is not in the public interest that information of the nature sought should he divulged.
The “A.I.F. News”.
n asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Information, upon notice -
Several months ago, the editor of the A.I.F. News asked the Department of Information to cable weekly to his office overseas a 2,000-word summary of Australian items. The department replied that it would do so, if the service were paid for. Two months ago, the editor again requested the department to supply, tree. of charge, 1,000 words a week for publication, but to date has received no reply. The Government of the Union of South Africa publishes a weekly paper for free distribution to its troops in the Middle East. Will the Commonwealth Government follow the example and direct the Department of Information to cable 2,000 words a week free of cost to the A.I.F. News?
– The Minister for Information has supplied the following answer: -
The service required by A.I.F. News is now being supplied by the Department of Information. There was never any request by the Department of Information that A.I.F. News should pay the cost of the service. The only discussion was whether the cost should be borne by the Department of Information or the Department of the Army.
Department of Defence Co-ordination.
s. - On the 18th September, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked, without notice, that a statement be supplied showing the strength of the Department of Defence Co-ordination at the date of the outbreak of war, at the 3rd September, 1940, and at the 3rd September, 1941, respectively.
I now furnish the particulars desired -
Thesefigures include all personnel, other than Trades and Stores staff, borne for continuous duty.
d. - On the 27th August, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform me whether the Government makes a profit from the goods sold by the Commonwealth Railways Provisions and Stores Branch to employees of the Commonwealth Railways Department. If so, what profits were made annually during the last five years?
The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information with regard to the profits of the Commonwealth Railways Provision Stores and Bakeries : -
r. - On the 18th September the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked, without notice, whether it was the intention of the Government
to allow petrol ration tickets to accumulate for use during the festive season from October to January next.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply: -
For several reasons it is not desirable that the currency of ration tickets be extended beyond two months and therefore the accumulation of ration tickets will not be permitted. It should be observed, however, that if petrol is bought on account of the October-November period at the end of November, then with the tickets on account of December the consumer will have a three months’ supply of petrol for use during the Christmas season.
Shale Oil: Conversion into Petrol.
– On the 17th September the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) asked, without notice, whether the attention of the Minister for Supply had been directed to a new process which had been evolved to convert shale oil into petrol and which was the result of scientific investigation by Mr. Clifford Harney, formerly of the New South “Wales Department of Education? If not, would he call for a report and ascertain whether the new method of retorting and cracking was suitable for the development of the oil shale fields at Latrobe and Deloraine in Tasmania.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
As far as my officers are aware, this process has not yet reached the commercial stage of development. The shale deposits at Latrobe andDeloraine are of such inferior quality as to preclude their development for the production of oil. The oil yield is only 27 gallons to the ton of shale with a high sulphur content, as compared with Glen Davis shale which yields 100 gallons of oil to the ton almost entirely free from sulphur.
Compulsory Military Training.
r. - On the 17th September the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked, without notice, whether I would furnish the House with details of the methods employed in determining what universal trainees should remain in camp for full-time training. I promised the honorable member that I would make a statement on the subject.
I now inform the House that the method followed for calling up for fulltime duty is that all officers and noncommissioned officers in each unit and a proportion of other ranks required for maintenance of equipment and other technical duties are required to perform full-time duty in camps. In all these cases the orders for continuous full-time duty are subject to applications by individual members for exemption on account of hardship, and a constant review is given to all such cases. Normally, exemption is granted where satisfactory proof is forthcoming that the trainee is the main or sole support of a family, but in cases where the father is unemployed or the mother a widow it would be necessary to regard all relevant circumstances, such, for instance, as the financial position of the family as a whole, including the amount of support being contributed by other children, if any. In the case of general call up when hardship from financial and/or other reasons is claimed by a man called up for military service, the supporting evidence supplied by the applicant is thoroughly examined and the degree of hardship assessed. If hardship be proved, exemption is granted. If hardship would occur only for a limited period, leave to adjust private affairs is given. Special instructions which are common to all military districts have been issued defining the procedure to be followed by area officers in investigating cases. In each instance the facts must be supported by a statutory declaration. The report of the investigation by, and recommendation of the area officer, is reviewed in turn by the area brigade major, to whom authority has been delegated to grant exemption. When an application for exemption is not approved by the area brigade major or in those cases in which special circumstances are involved the whole matter, including report of investigation and recommendation, is referred to the Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General of the command or military district concerned for decision. He alone has power of refusal, but in case of doubt, applications are in practice referred to the brigadier or colonel in charge of administration. It is found in practice that applications which have no reasonable basis for exemption on account of hardship are made by a large number of men whose only desire appears to be to evade their military obligations. Similarly, many applications are put forward on the ground that there will be hardship to employers, but exemptions cannot, under the Defence Act or the National Security Regulations, be granted for this reason. ‘Financial assistance in the form of dependants’ allowances under conditions similar to those relating to members of the Australian Imperial Force is paid to the dependants of those personnel called up for continuous fulltime duty with the Citizen Military Forces.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
Has the Government made any decision in regard to the site for the power-alcohol distillery in Victoria? If so, will he make an announcement of the location of the site?
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answer : -
The site for the erection of the poweralcohol distillery in Victoria has not yet been selected. As soon as a decision is made the location will he announced.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following answers : -
d asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Is it a fact that many ex-soldiers and others who have volunteeredfor home service travel up to 3 and 4 miles two nights a week and on Sunday to attend drill and are not given fares? If so, will he consider providing fares for them?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Hides and Leather.
l asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
In view of the urgent necessity of conserving supplies of hides for local manufacturers and for boots for the fighting services, does the Government propose to discontinue the export of hides to overseas countries?
– All hides required by Australian tanners are sold to them at appraised prices. The only hides exported are those which Australian tanners regard as useless for the production of leather suitable for military use or for Australian civilian purposes.
Margarine Consumption in the Defence Forces.
d asked the Acting Minister forCommerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to grant cost of living increases to superannuated officers of the Commonwealth Public Service?
– The superannuation scheme has an actuarial basis, and the benefits provided bear a direct relationship to the contributions paid. Any variation of the amount of pensions now being paid might necessitate a review of the rates of contributions by the present employees. For these reasons it is considered unsound to apply the cost of living principle to superannuation payments.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the urgent necessity for Australia to develop its own resources in the matter of oil supplies and the desirability for full cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to the war effort, why has the Government not acceded to the request of the New South Wales Government for a Commonwealth subsidy of £80,000 to investigate local shale oil deposits?
– The Minister for Mines of New South Wales did make a request for a Commonwealth grant of £80,000 for the establishment of a fuel research station in connexion with the production of oil from shale and coal, but it was not considered that the need for research justified the provision of this or any sum. Already sufficient is known about retorting and refining of shale arising largely out of operations at Glen Davis to continue with the development of the shale oil industry. In connexion with coal, intense research has been conducted over a period of many years both in Great Britain and on the Continent. Australia, through the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch, and its other associations, has obtained very full and complete information concerning the results of this research, and it is not considered likely that local research facilities would yield any important addition to this knowledge in time to further the war effort.
New Guinea: Uncontrolled Areas; Gold Prospecting; Mount Hag en Patrol; Expenditure onrabul. ; District Officer Townsend’s Patrol.
n asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Externa] Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d. - On the 18th September the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked the following question, upon notice : -
What is the total amount of money spent at Rabaul on building public works generally and on reconditioning the town since the volcanic eruption of 1937?
I now advise the- honorable member as follows : -
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410924_reps_16_168/>.