Diary of a Labour Man 1917 - 1945

Full Text On the Backbenches



Westralian Worker, 7 August 1931, page 6.



There was a very full attendance of delegates of Labor organisations affiliated with the Fremantle District Council of the A.L.P. at the fortnightly meeting, held at the Trades Hall on Tuesday night, August 4. Mr John Curtin, M.H.R., was present and delivered an eloquent address on the Federal situation. He was listened to with close attention.

The Federal member for Fremantle ranks high as a speaker and debater. He is the clearest, most fluent, and all-round platform man that has ever represented Western Australia in the Federal House. He is able to deal extempore with very difficult and intricate subjects of finance and economics, making plain to the man in the street in simple, forceful language, controversial subjects on which the average speaker flounders hopelessly. His strenuous campaign against the wage-slashing Premiers' Plan has left him more eloquent than ever. His sincerity of purpose is obvious. When listening to John Curtin time passes on winged feet. This was so on Tuesday night. It was well after 11 o'clock before the A.L.P. had concluded its session.

It would be a debate worth listening to if speakers like the Prime Minister, Theodore, or Brennan, could be persuaded to give Western Australian Laborites their case for the "plan" and engage in verbal combat with the versatile member for Fremantle. Obviously there is a case to be made for the Federal Labor Government. Such a debate would clear up many phases which mystify the average laborite.

The proposal for the installation of bulk handling of wheat received attention at Tuesday night's meeting of the A.L.P. Council. Naturally the principal concern of this Council is employment for its members, but unionists are not unmindful of the well-being of the State generally. There is ample evidence that under the bulk handling scheme workers on the waterfront stand to lose heavily and there is a strong element of doubt as to whether any part of the State will benefit. Correspondents in the press who evidently have a good knowledge of the subject, state that the best the wheat grower can hope to gain by the changed system is two pence per bushel, and even this is problematical. As a matter of fact, when the cost of the change over is taken into consideration, and the disability under which the farmer will labor by having to conform to the altered system there appears to be little to gain in the proposition. On the other hand, the Harbor Authorities will lose considerably, the Railway Department will lose a large amount of haulage, and the workers will be deprived of a great deal of work. Bulk handling of wheat appears to be a good business for the Westralian Farmers Ltd., or whoever is granted the monopoly, and for the Shipping Companies whose vessels will be loaded in a very short space of time. Before the present order of things is so greatly disturbed the whole question should be thoroughly examined.

The following report by the A.L.P. Executive was exhaustively discussed and unanimously adopted. It is as follows:-

"This council views with grave concern the proposal to institute a system of bulk handling of wheat in Western Australia.

"The very high protective tariff whilst benefiting secondary industries in the Eastern States has had a most detrimental effect upon industry in the seaports of Western Australia. If the proposal to handle wheat in bulk becomes an accomplished fact the position in Fremantle and other Westralian ports will indeed be serious.

"The industries that will benefit temporarily by transforming the bag handling to the bulk handling system is nothing compared to the permanent loss that will be inflicted on industry generally throughout the State by the introduction of the later system.

"This council, therefore, recommends that the Mayor of the City be requested to convene a conference of all commercial and industrial interests in the district in order that the proposal can be thoroughly examined and its effect upon industry in Fremantle determined.

"Further, this council is of the opinion that the present economic crisis is largely due to the introduction of labor-saving devices without any compensative measures being provided to absorb the human labor displaced.

"In order to study the problem and endeavour to effect some permanent solution we recommend that the Premier of the States be requested to convene a conference consisting of five representatives each of the political , financial, commercial, and industrial interests in the State, and the president, treasurer and secretary of this council, together with the member of Parliament for the district, wait on the Premier to urge that effect be given to the resolution."



The A.L.P. District Council on Tuesday week decided to request Mr Curtin to address a public meeting in the Fremantle Town Hall., Arrangements were subsequently made with Mr Curtin, who will speak on the Premiers' Plan and other matters, in the Fremantle Town Hall on Wednesday night next.