The debate on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill began in the House of Representatives on April 27, 1950, with the Second Reading Speech given by Prime Minister Robert Menzies.
Menzies had been prime minister for just four months.
The bill would be eventually passed and invalidated by the High Court. A referendum to ban the Communist Party was defeated in 1951.
Hansard transcript of Prime Minister Robert Menzies’ Second Reading Speech on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950.
Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Prime Minister) – by leave – I move; –
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to outlaw and dissolve the Australian Communist party, to pursue it into any new or associated forms, and to deal with the employment of Communists in certain offices and under certain circumstances. The bill is admittedly novel, and it is far-reaching. It is not an industrial law. It is not a law made under the conciliation and arbitration power. We are, therefore, not seeking by this bill to make any amendments to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This proposed law is, in a most special and important sense, a law relating to the safety and defence of Australia. It is designed to deal with, and, in certain cases, to give the Government power to deal with, the King’s enemies in this country. If it touches certain Communists in their industrial office, as it certainly does, that is merely an inevitable consequence of a self-defending attack upon treason and fifth-columnism wherever they may be found. Let me say at the outset that it will be without avail for any honorable member to point out, as can be done quite readily, that for some years I and other persons resisted the idea of a Communist ban on the ground that, in time of peace, doubts ought to be resolved in favour of free speech. True, that was my view after the war, and it was the view of many others. But events have moved. We are not at peace to-day, except in a technical sense. The Soviet Union – and I say this with profound regret – has made perfect the technique of the “cold-war”_ it has accompanied it by the organization of peace demonstrations – peace demonstrations, save the mark – designed, not to promote true peace, but to prevent or impair defence preparations in the democracies. We in this House and in this country, and people all over the British world, have witnessed the most threatening events in eastern Europe, in Germany, in East Asia and in South-East Asia. If we have learned nothing from all these things then, in the famous phrase,there is so health in us.
The real and active Communists in Australia present us with our immediate problem – not the woolly-headed dupes, not the people who are pushed to the front in order to present a respectable appearance, but the real and active Communists. We have a clear choice, and we must make it clearly. We can attack these Communists frontally, or we can adopt inaction and justify it by accepting one or all of the arguments that are used currently to justify inaction. Let me examine one or two of them before I go any further. I have selected merely those that have the greatest currency. The first alignment that is put is, “Well, the Communists are wrong, but we must not impair liberty, because liberty as democracy’s cause”. Why, then, did we fight the Germans? Because they sought to overthrow liberty! Can we recognize and deal with the enemies of liberty only when they actually take up arms? Are we to treat deliberate frustration of national recovery, of economic stability and of proper defence preparations as a mere exercise of normal civil rights? In any event, what is liberty? Liberty is not an abstraction. It must be related in this world And in these days to the recognition of the State and, in a democracy, to the recognition of self-governing institutions. Unless that is true there can be no such thing as treason, no such thing as subversive activity. After all, what liberty should there be for the enemies of liberty under the law? It is a curious and dangerous error of thought to be prepared to deal with individual sedition but to, give immunity to sedition in the mass.
The second argument that is advanced is, “You cannot suppress ideas”. That is quite true. Ideas may be the most powerful things in the world. But if ideas give rise to overt action, and that action is against the safety and defence of the realm, we are not only entitled but also bound to suppress it. Nothing nauseates me more than to discover the skill with which these Communists can put into their vanguard some deluded Minister of the Christian religion. I should like to say to all of them that I have no hostility to minority movements. Christianity itself is the greatest minority movement of history, but they should remember the words of its Founder. Christianity from the beginning was never the enemy of law or order. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
The third argument is, “You must not touch a Communist if he is a union official”. That is an arrogant claim, because it seeks to put the trade unions above the law, and most unionists, as good democrats, will reject it. A brief analysis will demonstrate its want of substance. If communism is just a peaceful political philosophy, then the Communists should go free whether they be unionists or non-unionists. If communism in action is just militant unionism, opposed to arbitration but determined to alter the law by lawful means, no punitive action against communism can be justified. But if communism is an international conspiracy against the democracies, organized as a prelude to war and operating as a fifth column in advance of hostilities and if it is a. subversive movement challenging law, self-government and domestic peace, then the alleged immunity of the official of a union or any other body is utter fantasy. For, once you establish that the Communist is our enemy, the fact that he occupies a key industrial position with power to hold up work, so far from being a ground of immunity, is the best reason in the world for removing him from that position.
At the last general election, 87,958 persons, a small fraction of the total number of electors, voted for Communist candidates. The importance of the Australian Communist is, therefore, not numerical but positional. It is the position he occupies that counts. In order to establish that fact, I propose to refer, at the risk of being tedious, to a list of Communists in high union office. In the first place, eleven prominent trade union officials are members of the central committee of the Australian Communist party. Now let us have their names. Let us look at the jobs that they hold in order to see how this comparatively small handful of men have got into positions from which they can do damage to this great and beloved country of ours. Their names are –
– E. Thornton, general secretary, Federated Ironworkers’ Association.
– J. McPhillips, assistant general secretary, Federated Ironworkers’ Assotion.
– E. V. Elliott, general secretary, Seamen’s Union of Australia.
– J. Healy, general secretary, Waterside Workers’ Federation.
– T. Wright, federal president and New South Wales secretary, Sheet Metal Workers’ Union.
– J. R. Hughes, federal vice-president and New South Wales secretary, Federated Clerks’ Union.
– E. J. Rowe, Commonwealth councillor, Amalgamated Engineering Union.
– I. Williams, federal president, Miners’ Federation.
– E. Ross, amenities officer, Miners’ Federation, and associate editor of Common Cause.
– D. Thomson, secretary, Victorian Building Trades Federation, and Federal secretary, Operative Painters’ Union.
– A. MacDonald, Queensland secretary, Federated Ironworkers’ Association.
They are the names of eleven men, all of whom are members of the central committee of the Australian Communist party. I add to that list, not for the purpose of completing it, but by way of illustration, because these names are not by any means all, the names of other Communists who hold important union office in key industries. I hope that honorable members will be patient with me because there are more names than ten or twenty on this list, but every one of the people detailed in the list is in a key industry. The names are –
– W. G. Hale, general secretary, and New South Wales State secretary, and Sydney sub-branch secretary, Blacksmiths’ Society of Australasia.
– A. R. Buckley, federal secretary, Boilermakers’ Society of Australia.
– H. Grant, secretary, Sydney Branch. Boilermakers’ Society of Australia.
– L. Dooley, president, Sydney Branch, Boilermakers’ Society of Australia.
– P. Malone, secretary, Victorian Branch. Australian Builders Labourers Federation.
– S. Hibbens, South Australian president and delegate to Building Trades Federation.
– E. W. Bulmer, federal president, Building Workers Industrial Union (B.W.I.U.).
– F. H. Purse, federal secretary, Building Workers Industrial Union (B.W.I.U.).
– G. M. Dawson, Queensland secretary. Building Workers Industrial Union (B.W.I.U.).
– B. W. Smith, Tasmanian secretary, Building Workers Industrial Union (B.W.I.U.)
– A. Wilson, Commonwealth councillor, Amalgamated Engineering Union, a great union, and it is a shame to find that it has fastened on to it, in pursuance of the Communist plan, men of this description.
– K. McKeon, secretary, Sydney Branch, and delegate to National Conference, Federated Ironworkers, Association of Australia.
– W. Frame, secretary, Port Kembla Branch and delegate to National Conference, Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia.
– E. Arrowsmith, assistant secretary, Port Kembla, Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia.
– C. McCaffrey, South Australian secretary and delegate to National Conference, Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia.
– N. MacLean, assistant secretary, South Australia, Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia, and South Australian secretary, Metal Trades Federation.
– J. P. Brazel, secretary, Whyalla-Port Pirie Branch, Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia.
– B. Flanagan, Victorian secretary, and delegate to National Conference, Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia.
– M. Hickey, Queensland president, Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia.
– F. Bishop, Queensland secretary, Metal Trades Federation.
– W. Parkinson, vice-president, Federal Council, Miners Federation.
– J. Platts, federal councillor, Western District, Miners Federation.
– J. Martin, federal councillor, Southern District, Miners Federation.
– R. Hamilton, federal councillor, Victoria, Miners Federation.
– T. Millar, federal councillor, Queensland, Miners Federation.
– J. King, New South Wales secretary, Western District, Miners Federation.
– J. J. Brown, federal president, Australian Railways Union.
– V. S. Daddow, Queensland secretary, Australian Railways Union.
– F. Ticehurst, president, Newcastle Branch, Transport Workers Union of Australia.
– B. Smith, secretary, Sydney Branch, Seamen’s Union of Australia.
– W. Bird, Victorian secretary, Seamen’s Union of Australia.
– R. Hurd, secretary, Western Australia, Seamen’s Union of Australia.
– H. Hadfield, New South Wales president, Sheet Metal Working, Agricultural Implement and Stovemaking Industrial Union of Australia.
– W. A. Beale, Western Australian secretary, Shipwrights and Ship Constructors Association of Australia.
– C. L. O’Shea, Victorian secretary, Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employers Association and Editor of Tramways Union Journal.
– J. Flanigan, South Australian president, Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees Association.
– E. Roach, Federal assistant general secretary, Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
– T. Nelson, federal councillor, Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
– A. Graham, federal councillor, assistant secretary, Brisbane Branch and delegate to Trades and Labour Council, Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
– S. Moran, New South Wales treasurer, Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
– E. C. Englart, secretary, Brisbane Branch, and delegate to Trade and Labour Council, Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
– P. L. Troy, secretary, Coastal, Docks, Rivers and Harbour Workers Union, Western Australia.
It takes some time to read even such a short list as that, but I hope that it will be well observed in this country that these Communists are not to be ignored as if they were a mere handful. They occupy key positions in key organizations in the industries upon which this country would have to depend if tomorrow it were fighting for its life. The choice before us is a grim but a simple one. We can do nothing, and let a traitorous minority destroy us, as they most assuredly intend to do; we can leave the Communist free to do his work so long as he is a union official, but deal with him in any other capacity; or – and this is the answer to the choice – we can fight him wherever we find him, leaving him no immunity and no sanctuary at all. It is an insult to the Australian unionist to treat him as a man incapable of reason, or as a citizen indifferent to the march of communism in the world or to the safety of his own land.
So far I have dealt with three arguments that have been raised. I turn now to the fourth. That argument is that by banning the Communists we shall merely drive them underground. In the light of what we now know of the international and domestic activities of communism, that argument is not to be taken seriously. Some of the deeds of the Communists see the daylight, but their planning is done by stealth and in secrecy. In short, they are underground already. One thing that we can be certain about, and that I am grateful for, is that once the taint of illegality is placed on this organization of conspiracy its capacity to delude well-meaning people into providing it with a “respectable ” front ” will be sensibly diminished.
I turn now to the recitals set out in the bill because, as honorable members will see, this bill is introduced by a series of recitals which, first of all, set out the power that the Commonwealth is using to deal with the Communists; and, secondly, set out what I shall roughly describe as the case against the Australian Communist. If honorable members look at the first three recitals they will find that reference is made in them to the power of the Commonwealth of Australia to make laws with respect to the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the States. The Executive power to maintain the Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth, and the general incidental powers of the Constitution are also mentioned. I refer to those, not because I want to take up time dealing with them, but because I want to emphasize to all honorable members that in dealing with this menace we stand on two great principles. The first is the defence of this country, and the second is our right and duty to maintain the Constitution and the laws against any wrecking attack whatever. I emphasize throughout that this is no ordinary act of Parliament. It is not a bill about conciliation and arbitration; it is a bill for an act about the defence of this country. Having recited our power, the bill goes on to allege five sets of facts which the House is asked to accept as the justification for the Government’s action. There are five counts in this indictment, and I accept at once the responsibility of demonstrating their truth. Indeed, as I proceed, the House will discover that I propose, during the course of this speech, to call as witnesses to sustain these five counts, the most authoritative persons – Lenin, Stalin, Australian Communist leaders, and the Australian Labour party in the person of my friend the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They shall all be giving evidence in respect of this indictment before my remarks end. Each of the recitals, I believe, can be readily demonstrated to be true. In total, they establish a state of affairs both menacing and alarming, and one which no democratic parliament can ignore. It is a state of affairs that cries aloud for strong, united and positive action. I shall take the material recitals in their order. I consider first, the fourth recital in the order in which they appear in the preamble. That says –
And whereas the Australian Communist party, in accordance with the basic theory of communism, as expounded by Marx and Lenin, engages in activities or operations designed to assist or accelerate the coming of a revolutionary situation, in which the Australian Communist party, acting as a revolutionary minority, would be able to seize power and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.
I apologize for the long words included in that recital, but they are not ours. The world ” proletariat ” is one of those dreadful words that the Communists have foisted on to the world. I have here a copy of the constitution of the Australian Communist party, and a fascinating document it is. If one were to read it, with the omission of one passage that I shall refer to, one would almost think that the Communist party was the right wing of the Labour party. If ever there has been a fraudulent document, it is this constitution of the Australian Communist party. It is, on the face of it, fraudulent, because it piously claims that the party is a firm supporter of the United Nations, that it believes in world peace, and that it does not aim at establishing a totalitarian State. It even professes to adopt the democratic method, because it talks about the necessity for winning a majority of the Australian people. Such a fraudulent affair I have rarely looked at. It is a case of “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it”. If we look for the serpent under it, we shall find it at once. The whole thing is so inconsistent with the beliefs of Russian communism that I felt rather thankful to find that the Australian Communist, forgetting for the moment this air of respectability, put himself, to use his own words, “into line with the great teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin”.
Now let us have a look at what those great teachings are, on the line of which the Australian Communist party goes out to its task. A little more realism emerges from the Australian edition of The Foundations of Leninism, by Joseph Stalin, which was published here in 1942, and reprinted in 1943 and again in 1944. It has a foreword by the celebrated Australian Communist, L. L. Sharkey. He is one of the leading Australian Communists, and in that foreword he forgets about the respectable words that he is going to write into the constitution of the party some day, and writes as follows: –
This little book, The Foundation* of Leninism, is as invaluable for us to-day as when it was first penned, especially for the understanding of the developing world-wide people’s movement: its organizations before and after its victory and, in particular, the role and form of organization of the advance guard of the working class.
So here it is, ushered in by the Australian Communist Sharkey. We have in this book a look at Stalin’s interpretation of Lenin, and Lenin’s interpretation of Marx and Engels. This is not ancient history. Here is an interpretation by the modern ruler, the man who at this moment rules Russian communism, of the former distinguished ruler of the same movement, and of the classical founders of it. In that book Stalin cancels the later false pretences of the Australian Communist party with one sweeping gesture. This is what he says –
Concerning the prerequisites for the seizure of power by the proletariat. The opportunists assert that the proletariat cannot and ought not to seize power if it does not itself constitute a majority in the country. No proofs are adduced, for this absurd thesis cannot be justified either theoretically or practically.
That is a very interesting revelation of the Communist mind. In the same important book, the greatest modern Communist emphasizes our words in the recital, “assist or accelerate the coming of a revolutionary situation”. I invite the attention of all good Australians who love their own country and who value their own traditions and freedom to pay heed to them. They are as follows: –
But the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and establishment of the power of the proletariat in one country still does not mean that the complete victory of socialism has been ensured. After consolidating its power and taking the peasantry in tow, the proletariat of the victorious country can and must build up a socialist society. But does this mean that it will thereby achieve the complete and final victory of socialism, i.e., does it mean that with the forces of only one country it can finally consolidate socialism and fully guarantee that country against intervention? . . . No, it does not. For this the victory of the revolution in at least several countries is needed. Therefore, the development and support of revolution in other countries is an essential task of the victorious revolution. Therefore, the revolution in the victorious country must regard itself as a means of hastening the victory of the proletariat in other countries.
Lenin expressed this thought in a nutshell, when he said that the task of the victorious revolution is to do the utmost possible in one country for the development, support and stirring up of the revolution in all countries.
Those are strong words. We are dealing here not with the mild exercises of the debating society, but with a programme deliberately considered and explained to us by the man who, perhaps, at this moment, exercises more power over more people than does any other human being in the world.
The next recital in the bill to which I shall refer, is in the following words:-
And whereas the Australian Communist Party also engages in activities or operations designed to bring about the overthrow or dislocation of the established system of government of Australia and the attainment of economic, industrial or political ends by force, violence, intimidation or fraudulent practices:
No person who is familiar with modern history will require much proof of those allegations, but if needed, it is available in abundance. I go back to Stalin himself. In his book from which I have already quoted, he makes, at a certain stage, some rather contemptuous remarks about orthodox Labour governments like that of the late Ramsay MacDonald in Great Britain, and he states –
The dictatorship of the proletariat does not arise on the basis of the bourgeois order; it arises while this order is being torn down, after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, in the process of the expropriation of the landlords and capitalists, during the process of socialization of the principal instruments and means of production, in the process of violent proletarian revolution. The dictatorship of the proletariat is a revolutionary power based on violence against the bourgeoisie.
I have not been able to put my hand on the precise text during the last few days, but I well remember a statement which was made by Lenin himself when somebody said, in effect, “Yes, but the word ‘revolution’, you know, has an ugly sound. Does it not simply mean ‘reform’ – to get something by pressure, by arrangement, by bargain?” Lenin’s reply was in line with what all the great Communists have said for years. It was as follows: – “Reform! The reformists! We reserve the lowest place in hell for the reformists. ‘Revolution’ means what it says. It means guns, rifles, bayonets”. Let no one be woolly-minded about this matter. When Stalin talks about revolutionary power based on violence, he means exactly what he says. Honorable members are familiar, of course, with the jargon of the Marxist writers. They talk about the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Indeed, they seem to be incapable of saying things in what we would regard as a simple way, although their meaning, I am afraid, is all too clear and their actions are even clearer. A “bourgeois”, wretched creature, began life in France as what we call a “burgess” – that is to say, the citizen of a city or a burgh as distinct from a country dweller. But as Marx and Engels and their successors use the term, it describes what would be called in other countries the middle classes, the capitalists, great or small, the people with money saved, the shopkeepers, the farmers and all those who are not wage-earners and not those who, in the words of Engels – having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live.
The latter are the proletariat. I pause to make that short explanation because, clearly, we in this Parliament, whether we like it or not, belong to the bourgeoisie, and so, thank Heaven, do many hundreds of thousands of other Australians dwelling peacefully in their homes and among their children. I quote another statement by Stalin. I assure the House that I am not trying to overload this matter, but these are pregnant words –
To put it briefly: The dictatorship of the proletariat is the domination of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, untrammelled by law and based on violence and enjoying the sympathy and support of the toiling and exploited masses.
The same man is even franker a little later in his celebrated lectures when he talks about the destruction of the bourgeois State machine, of the bourgeois army, of the bourgeois civil administration and of the bourgeois police. He then makes the following statement:-
In other words, the law of violent proletarian revolution, the law of destruction of the machinery of the bourgeois state as a condition precedent for such revolution, is an inevitable law of the revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries of the world.
We may as well face up to the fact that to-day we are, in the view of the Communists, one of the imperialist countries of the world. There is a reference in the preamble to fraud. Stalin, in his lectures, has given us a sidelight on fraud. He has stated –
The revolutionary will accept a reform in order to use it as a means wherewith to link legal work with illegal work, in order to use it as a screen behind which his illegal activities for the revolutionary preparation of the masses for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie may be intensified.
Does not that ring a bell in the minds of Australians? Have they not seen, time after time, the Australian Communist with all this wicked scheming in his mind, getting in alongside people, and claiming the merit for some reform, and the credit for some wage increase or for some advance, because, as his leader has said, it is necessary to link the legal with the illegal so that the fraud may be all the more successful. Such quotations as I have given may be multiplied. I shall not multiply them, because they are more than sufficient to establish not only that modern communism is prepared to adopt force, violence and fraud, but also that these diabolical doctrines enjoy the goodwill, and, indeed, are written on the banner, of the Australian Communists. Sharkey, to whom I have referred, published in 1942 and 1943 a pamphlet on the trade unions. Let us not forget what happened in those years – the battles of the Coral Sea and the Kokoda Trail. Sharkey called the pamphlet The Trade Unions. In his preface he acknowledges, I am happy to say because it may be useful to us hereafter, the services of a number of “comrades”, particularly Comrades Miles, Dixon, Thornton and Wright. Their names will not be overlooked. In that pamphlet Sharkey attacked quite candidly the problem of the relationship between the Communist and the trade union. Like all Communist writers, as I have said, he uses the most abominably prolix langauge, but the meaning is clear enough. He says –
Marxism-Leninism thus places a fundamental task for us in regard to the trade unions, the defeat of reformism . . . for which almost every honorable member opposite has stood, I venture to say, all his life – and their transformation into revolutionary bodies fighting for the Proletarian Dictatorship.
Here is the united front coming out of the mists, this notion that has been peddled for the last few weeks, chalked on walls in such words as the following: –
Make a united front against the Government.
He then goes on to expose the hand of the Communists – the hand that has been exposed in this campaign with which we are all familiar. If any of the hundreds of thousands of decent, honest, patriotic Australian trade unionists have been tempted to accept a call for a united front under the good old name of “solidarity” they should pay attention to what Sharkey says in this pamphlet, because here are his words –
The main task of the Communist parties of the west at the present time is to develop the campaign for unity in the trade union movement and to bring it to its consummation; to see to it that all Communists, without exception, join trade unions, there to work systematically and patiently to strengthen the solidarity of the working class in its fight against capital, and thus attain the condition that will enable the Communist parties to rely upon the trade unions.
Sharkey, having quoted that statement, says –
These words were spoken by Stalin sixteen years ago, but they might have been said yesterday, for they still hold force for us.
The same Australian Communist leader, as an earnest disciple of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin has nothing but contempt for the “reformers”. The words “reformer” and “reformist” run through all the writings of all the Communists. They are stingingly used by them to describe those who seek what we in Australia call “constitutional action “, and who are opposed to bloody and violent revolution. This is what he says about them –
Reformism no longer has 100 per cent, domination of the Australian union movement. The Communists are now a growing and powerful force, challenging the whole position of reformism and transforming the trade unions into organs of revolutionary struggle for socialism. In the process, the trade union movement will be freed from the paralysing grip of arbitration.
Finally he refers to that apparently innocent body, the shop committee. Again he is uncommonly frank, so frank indeed that it is a pity that some of the fools who are deluded by these people should not know what they really stand for. He sees the shop committee as a weapon for dastardly Communist designs. This is what he says –
The shop committees play a most important role in the preparation and mobilization of the workers for strike action. They play an important role in leading the strike and combating betrayal and reformist misleadership. In a revolutionary situation, the Shop Committees would be one of the chief instruments for drawing the whole of the working class into the fight, into the street, and the general revolutionary struggle.
Let us understand that all those things, so good in their fashion, so capable of being well used, are seized upon by the Communist, if he is in the right position to use them, as a means of engineering his own ends.
Having called those witnesses I turn now to the best proof of all of the gravity of this problem and of the temperate nature of the language of the recitals. That proof comes from the Labour party itself. Honorable members will recall that last year, during the great coal strike, the then Government inserted in the press a series of advertisements that carried the line “Authorized by the Prime Minister of Australia”. I shall quote a few passages from those advertisements, not only because they emanated from the Labour party but because the present Government agrees with them and considers them admirably expressed. Here are the words used in one advertisement –
This strike was planned months ago by the Communist section of the Miners’ leaders. They did not want the claims to be dealt with by Arbitration. Miners! Do not be misled by Communists who want to wreck the Arbitration system.
Here is another advertisement –
This is a strike against Arbitration engineered by the Communist party as part of a conspiracy to prevent Miners from obtaining any gains from the lawfully-constituted tribunal. The imprisonment of J. H. King (secretary of the Western Minors’ Federation) and another union official is the direct result of this conspiracy and nothing else.
Another advertisement read –
Britain and the Dominions face crucial problems in the very near future . . .
How true that was and is. The advertisement continued –
Miners! Stand by your own country. Miners! Stand by Britain. Do not be misled by Communists who want to destroy the democratic way of life.
Those are the words of the honorable gentlemen sitting opposite. Finally, because I have saved the most powerful statement to the last, we have the declaration of the 1948 conference of the Labour party. I am not clear, and am open to correction, about whether the declaration came from the Victorian branch of the party or its federal body, but that does not matter because in any event it is a powerful statement. It was printed in 1949 by the Victorian branch with its constitution and its platform, and I quote from pages 66 and 67 of that Labour party publication. I ask honorable members to listen to these words carefully. They refer to the position of the Australian Labour party. They have perhaps, in that respect, a limited application, but as a denunciation of real communism the declaration would be hard to improve upon. Here are the passages –
Conference declares the Communist party to be an organization receiving both its inspiration and its major directives from the Russian Communist party, and warns members of the Australian Labour party and its affiliated organizations that Communist policy towards both the defence and the economic rehabilitation of Australia is governed by other than Australian considerations. This situation is emphasized by increasing evidence of a plan for the obstruction of economic recovery and the promotion of social disorder.
Such endeavours to destroy the influence of the Australian Labour party and thereby prevent the democratic accomplishment of social reform are an integral part of world Communist policy for the creation of economic chaos, social disorder and weakening of democratic institutions, as a prerequisite for a revolutionary seizure of State power, Government by Communist dictatorship, and ruthless suppression by secret police of these civil liberties which the Australian Labour party is pledged to defend.
Those are not the words of some reactionary tory body. Those are the words of the Australian Labour party. They constitute an indictment of communism right here in Australia, so severe and so profound in its implications that I cannot believe that any party that propounded them could say to the people about whom it expressed them, “But all the same, you may go free to do your work and to occupy whatever place you choose to occupy from which to do it”. The passage continued –
The conspiratorial nature of the Communist organization with its secret factions in other bodies, calls for the greatest loyalty and vigilance by members of the Australian Labour party and its affiliated organizations. The Communist philosophy uses both falsehood and chicanery as instruments of penetration and domination.
Here is the final summing-up-
Within the democratic constitution of the Australian Labour party there exists adequate scope for discussion and dissent. There can be no scope for sabotage and treachery. Nor, in view of the gravity of international outlook, can there be any excuse for members of the Australian Labour party, however well meaning, who permit themselves to be actively associated with Communist influences directed against the Australian Labour party, the Commonwealth Labour Government and the Australian nation.
Those were the words of the Australian Labour party in 1948. Now, that great party presents itself with its own dilemma in dealing with the bill before the House. It has categorically admitted that the Communists are disloyal; that they are wreckers; that they are directed from outside Australia; that they are engineering to create economic chaos and social disorder; that they are bent on destroying democratic institutions; that they are aiming at a revolutionary seizure of state power; that they are enemies of civil liberty; that they are conspirators, and that their weapons are falsehood, chicanery and sabotage. Those are the words of the Labour party. And yet, we are told, although we have not yet been told by His Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament, that whatever else may be done to those enemies of Australia, they are to be untouchable if they bear office in a trade union. They are apparently not to be untouchable if they bear office under the Commonwealth, which represents the whole of the people. The immunity that has been claimed for them in some quarters is to attach to them as office-bearers, not under the whole community, but in a particular organization. Surely, it must be clear to all honorable members that the more skilfully the Communist in a trade union, carrying out the Communist tactics to which I have just referred, plays his cards for office and power, the more likely he is to delude many of his follow trade unionists into voting for him. Indeed, that kind of delusion is his business. Yet, if he is sufficiently skilful in his destructive task, we are told, though as yet not in this House, that the unions, or some of them, will regard this as a good reason why the community should leave him alone with all his power and special facilities for working out his evil designs. The Government cannot believe that that represents the sober judgment of the Australian wage-earner.
The next recital in the bill is –
And whereas the Australian Communist party is an integral part of the world communist revolutionary movement, which, in the King’s dominions and elsewhere, engages in espionage and sabotage and in activities or operations of a treasonable or subversive nature and also engages in activities or operations similar to those, or having an object similar to the object of those, referred to in the last two preceding paragraphs of this preamble.
Communism is not an Australian phenomenon only. It is a world movement. In its principal home – and let us be candid about this matter – it is the prime mover in the world’s present disorders and want of peace, and the prime cause of the fears which now distract hundreds of millions of peace-loving people all over the world. The point of view of the Russian Communists has been admirably stated in a report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the United States House of Representatives issued by the American State Department in 1948 under the title The Strategy and Tactics of World Communism. I shall read one passage only from that report, because it sums up the position. It is as follows: –
An examination of all aspects of Soviet and Communist policy and tactics leads directly to some simple conclusions –
1. The Communists have one goal – world revolution.
2. They assume that the revolution will be violent.
3. They are incapable of accepting the idea that peace can endure from now on, and they expect one more catastrophic war.
4. The Soviet Union is regarded as the main force of the revolution.
5. They fear a coalition against the Soviet Union.
6. They therefore fear reconstruction or federation in the non-Communist world.
7. They utilize the most modern and effective means of cold warfare to strengthen their own forces and to weaken all others.
8. The Communist parties outside the Soviet Union are junior partners or auxiliaries.
9. The tactics are based upon a definite theory, and the central propositions of that theory do not change.
That is a report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives of the United States of America. I need not dwell on events that are fresh in the minds of honorable members in relation to others of His Majesty’s Dominions. The Canadian royal commission disclosed a grievous state of affairs which indicated that espionage in that dominion had assumed great and deadly dimensions. The recent trial of Dr. Fuchs in Great Britain disclosed circumstances of a precisely similar kind. Certainly, the Australian Labour party had no illusion on this point on the 14th May, 1947, when its Federal Executive passed a resolution in these terms: –
The Federal Executive of the Australian Labour party congratulates the Prime Minister- that is my friend, the Leader of the Opposition – – and Dr. Evatt on the firm stand taken by the Government against the proposed black ban on the rocket range project. It is apparent that the propaganda recently issued by the Communist party in connexion with this undertaking is for the sole purpose of defeating the Australian defence policy in the interests of a foreign power.
The Australian Labour party did not stop with that resolution of its Federal Executive, because the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and who was then Attorney-General wrote a pamphlet in which he undertook to prove, and did prove, exactly the same thing.
The next recital of the bill is –
And whereas certain industries are vital to the security and defence of Australia (including the coal-mining industry, the iron and steel industry, the engineering industry, the building industry, the transport industry and the power industry).
That recital calls for no argument. The security and defence of Australia are dependent not only upon the valour of our troops in time of war and upon the industry with which they are supported in the factory and on the farm, but also upon the continuity of those great industries that are vital to a national effort should war come. It is a childish idea that the fifth column springs miraculously into existence when a war is on. It is carefully prepared and organised in advance. By strike and sabotage, it conducts its own cold-war and the success of that war depends upon the strength, or weakness, of the community in which it operates. We would not have tolerated a fifth column in Australia from 1939 to 1945. We certainly do not propose to tolerate one in 1950, at a time when militant communism, checked for the time being in Western Europe, is moving east and south-east to carry out its plans to put down democracy and to usher in the revolution. Coal-mining, iron and steel, engineering, transport, building and power are key industries. There may well be others which under this legislation the Governor-General may from time to time proclaim. In the considered judgment of His Majesty’s Government in Australia it would be an act of criminal folly to leave revolutionary Communists in key positions in those industries so that with all their smallness of numbers they may achieve destructive results which five army corps could hardly hope to achieve.
The next recital is –
And whereas activities or operations of, or encouraged by, the Australian Communist party, and activities or operations of, or encouraged by, members or officers of that party, and other persons who are Communists, are designed to cause, by means of strikes or stoppages of work, and have, by those means, caused dislocation, disruption or retardation of production or work in those vital industries.
That has only to be stated to prove itself to any Australian who, since the end of the war, has witnessed a series of strikes, mostly political, many of them against governments or government authorities, and obviously designed to dislocate production, to accelerate inflation – make no mistake, it is part of the considered Communist technique to accelerate inflation – and so to break down the existing social, business and industrial order.
It will be recalled – indeed, I hope that it has not been forgotten – that until Russia was brought into the recent war by Hitler’s invasion, the Australian Communist party was opposed to the war, that it did its best to sabotage the war effort and that it denounced the war as “an imperialist, capitalist struggle for supremacy”. I hope that we shall not forget that right through the vital stages of the Battle for Britain, and at a time when our own troops were performing immortal exploits of courage and endurance in the Middle East, the Australian Communists were our mortal enemies, and that it was only when Russia came in, after being invaded, that they decided that patriotism was to be their new line. When the war was over, they reverted to type. The Communists in Australia may get a few dupes of both sexes to sit on their platform, to attend their bogus peace conferences and demonstrations and to put out stupid and pernicious propaganda to the effect that the Soviet Union is the only friend of peace and that its territorial aggressions in the last six years which, perhaps, are unequalled in history, ought to be regarded as friendly gestures. But the truth is that once more the Australian Communists are, in the words of the Australian Labour party Declaration, creating “economic chaos, social disorder and weakening of democratic institutions as a prerequisite to the revolutionary seizure of State power”.
I turn now to the operative provisions of the bill. I shall sum them up sufficiently to convey them to the House by saying that the bill does six main things. First, it declares the Australian Communist party unlawful, dissolves it, and appoints a receiver of its property. If there is any surplus over liabilities, that surplus will be paid into the Commonwealth. Secondly, the bill deals with affiliated associations or bodies controlled by the Communists, though from these bodies are excluded trade unions. We are not going to suggest that a trade union should be dissolved because its management committee happens to have a majority of Communists on it. A trade union of itself is a legitimate organization and, therefore is excluded from these provisions. Leaving the trade unions apart, these provisions deal with bodies controlled by the Communists and bodies advocating communism in a way that I shall describe. Honorable members may be interested to know that one of the bodies associated with communism, the Eureka Youth League, has gone to the ingenuity – it seems to have a lawyer in its ranks – to show that the league is not affiliated with the Communist party, but that the Communist party has affiliated itself with the league. It has gone round the corner to get over a difficulty, but that will not help it because clause 5 of the bill deals with bodies affiliated with the Communists and bodies controlled, in effect, by Communists as well as bodies advocating communism. That clause does two things, and about this we must be clear. Where the Governor-General finds a body of that kind and he is satisfied that its continued existence would be prejudicial to the defence or to the execution or maintenance of the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth – that is that the body answers the description; and, secondly, that the Governor-General is satisfied that its existence is prejudicial to the existence of the country – he may declare that body unlawful and appoint a receiver of its property. Any body so declared– other than the Communist party, of course, because under this measure that party is being disposed of with no right of appeal and no humbug – may appeal to the High Court; and the onus is placed upon that body to satisfy the court that it is not a body to which this legislation applies. Let us face up to that, because it will be suggested by some people of liberal mind – and I appreciate their attitude – that to reverse the onus of proof is wrong. I have only to remind the House that in time of war we have not hesitated to do that very thing. In time of actual shooting war we have not hesitated to use Executive discretions against which there was no appeal at all. We are not now dealing with ordinary private litigation or with the ordinary domestic laws of the country. In this bill we are dealing with a conspiracy against the life of this country, and if we are going to deal with that in a realistic sense it would be foolish to expose to the Communists all our material and sources of information and knowledge of those who are conducting these investigations. Nothing would suit the Communists better. This is one of those few occasions on which it is right to say to a man who is declared, or to a body which is declared, “If you want to demonstrate that you are not within this net, prove it, because, after all, you should be the one who knows the facts”.
Thirdly, the bill provides that officers and members of unlawful associations – that is to say, any of those associations with which I have been dealing – are under penalty of imprisonment to cease their activities as such. They are not to seek any direct or indirect support for any unlawful association, or carry on any activity in which that association was engaged. Fourthly, the bill provides that where the Governor-General is satisfied that after the 10th May, 1948, and before the dissolution of an association a person was a member or officer of it, and any activities of that person are likely to be prejudicial to defence or to the execution and maintenance of the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth, His Excellency may make and publish a declaration accordingly. Let me cite a specific example and for that purpose use the name “John Smith” as describing nobody in particular. John Smith was a member of the Australian Communist party after the 10th May, 1948, and before the Communist party had been dissolved by this legislation. In addition, if the Governor-General is satisfied that John Smith is a person whose activities – not his past views, but his activities – are likely to be prejudicial to defence or to the execution and the maintenance of the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth, His Excellency will proclaim that fact by declaration, and his proclamation will go out to the world. John Smith, having been so declared in the Gazette, may appeal to the High Court. In making his appeal he will have the onus of satisfying the court that he was not, at any material time, a member or officer of the association in question. What happens to him when he is declared? That is covered by the fifth principal provision in the bill. A declared person who answers to those two descriptions – first, that he is a Communist; and, secondly, that his activities are prejudicial to the defence of this country – shall be disqualified from employment by the Commonwealth or by a Commonwealth authority. As far as the Commonwealth services are concerned he will be “gone”. We have not undertaken to deal with State employment for obvious reasons. State governments and State Parliaments can attend to State employment as such. That, after all, is why the views of the State governments on this matter are of very great importance.
I now turn momentarily to the position of organizations. If the Governor-General – and, as honorable members know, that means the Governor-General in Council – is satisfied that a substantial number of the members of an industrial organization are engaged in what I shall call key industries – one of those industries to which I have referred such as coal-mining, iron and steel, building, engineering and so on – or in some other industry which in the opinion of the Governor-General is vital to the security and defence of Australia, His Excellency may declare that organization accordingly. I shall cite an example. The Governor-General may declare that he is satisfied that a substantial number of the members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association are engaged in what he regards as a key industry. He thereupon declares that association. Nothing happens to the association. It is merely declared to be an organization a substantial number of the members of which are engaged in a key industry. No disability is imposed on it. The important result of the declaration is that a declared person, John Smith, to whom I have referred, who has been declared in the Gazette to be a person whose activities are likely to be prejudicial to defence or the execution and maintenance of the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth, is thereupon disqualified from holding office in that organization or any branch of it. To sum up, such a declared person cannot hold office in a declared organization associated with a key industry. In effect, a Communist whose activities are likely to prejudice the defence or the orderly government of Australia is to be debarred from holding office under the Crown or in an organization which is concerned with activities that are vital to the security of the country. In other words, the enemies of the peace of the country are not to be allowed to occupy positions in which they can give the greatest effect to their evil designs.
I should add that the date – the 10th May,1948 – has been selected because it was the last day of the National Congress of the Australian Communist party by which the constitution of that party was adopted. Not one of us in this House has any love for retrospective legislation. But quite clearly, as a matter of plain horse sense, if this bill dealt only with those who could be shown to be Communist party members on the date on which this bill becomes an act obviously there would then be no party members or officers to be affected by it and the legislation would be a complete futility. We are not prepared to facilitate a farce of that kind. Our Communist enemies are known; they have been active at least since the selected date, the 10th May, 1948, and they come within the purview of the bill accordingly.
The whole matter can be summed up in this way: If the recitals in the preamble of the bill are in substance true, its operative provisions are most obviously just and reasonable. If the recitals are in substance, false, then, not only is the bill unjust, but also the Dean of Canterbury is right, the North Atlantic Pact is mere hysteria and both British and American policy are wickedly wrong. We are now bound to make our choice.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.