REFLECTION: by Clyde CameronNews Weekly
Clyde Cameron on Archbishop Mannix and Bob Santamaria
, November 30, 2002
Clyde Cameron, one of the most prominent leaders of the labour movement in Australia for many decades, and a former Minister for Labor in the Whitlam Government, recently gave the response to an address by Peter Westmore to a National Civic Council function in South Australia.Tonight we are in the presence of Peter Westmore, who has held the position of National President of the National Civic Council since the death of its founder, Bob Santamaria, in 1998. Peter is also the editor of News Weekly and has continued the high standard set by Bob in publishing details of happenings not published in other newspapers.
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Peter has just given us a superb account of what is happening throughout the world. This is not surprising because he was closely linked to the ideals of the two most influential figures in the whole history of our country. They were Daniel Mannix and Bob Santamaria.Dr Mannix
I will first deal with Archbishop Daniel Mannix, who was responsible for the defeat of the Hughes Government's 1917 referendum to give a Government power to conscript young men for military service outside the Commonwealth. His standing within the Church led to a narrow defeat of the conscriptionists. In Victoria, the result was 332,499 against conscription to the 329,772 voting in favour of it; which with the votes against conscription in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia was enough to defeat the deadly proposal.
Then, in 1950, the Menzies Government was able to pass the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, giving the responsible Minister power to declare any person or organisation that supported any single thing advocated by the Communist Party, to be a Communist.
The Minister did not have to produce proof that his declaration was true. The person or organisation so declared would have to prove that it was not true. The High Court of Australia, by six Justices to one, declared the Bill to be contrary to the Australian Constitution. So, in 1951, Menzies decided to have a referendum to amend the Constitution in order to validate his Bill.
Labor's Leader, Dr Evatt, arranged for Senator Nick McKenna, a devout, practising Catholic, to call on Archbishop Mannix to explain the dangers of the Bill; which in given circumstances, could render the Church liable to be declared a Communist organisation for daring to support Communist policy of, for example, free education. Such a declaration would allow the Government to confiscate all of its property and assets.
McKenna was able to emphasise to the Archbishop the fact that the Bill stipulated that any person or organisation that supported any of the principles advocated by Marx or Lenin could be declared a Communist. He then showed the Archbishop a copy of the Communist Manifesto
by Karl Marx, which among other things, called for "free education".
The Archbishop was quick to see the dangers inherent in a law that would give a Masonic or bigoted anti-Catholic Minister power to "declare" the Catholic Church to be a Communist organisation on the ground that it supported that part of the Communist Manifesto
that called for every child to be given "free education".
McKenna went on to explain that the Bishops' unanimous approval of the Church's 1948 Social Justice Statement titled Socialisation
, written by the youthful Bob Santamaria, had declared:
"The Church recognises that, under present conditions, there are certain forms of enterprise and industry which are of quite extraordinary importance to the community, and which may legitimately come under public control in one form or another, although not necessarily by means of nationalisation. Among these are banking and insurance; the manufacture of steel and heavy-chemicals; rail, sea and air transport; public utility services (electricity, gas and tramways); and armaments." (page 14)
This Social Justice Statement, McKenna explained, could be interpreted by a bigot opposed to Catholicism as proof that the Bishops were secret supporters of Communism. Even worse, McKenna explained, was the fact that if the referendum was carried, then the whole of the Bill would be permanently grafted on to the Australian Constitution and become an integral part of it forever.
The Archbishop assured McKenna that he would do everything possible to see that there was a "No" vote! The referendum was held on 22 September 1951 and Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, all voted for a "Yes" vote; but in Victoria, the "No" vote reached 670,513 to the 636,819 who voted "Yes". The Australian total "No" vote was 2,370,009 against a "Yes" vote of 2,317,927 of the Bill that was declared illegal by the High Court.
Except for the vigorous campaign carried out by Dr Mannix, our Constitution would have allowed a minister to declare an innocent person or organisation to be a Communist, and punished accordingly.
I now turn to the part played by Bartholomew Augustine (Bob) Santamaria who became President of the National Civic Council when it was formed in 1957, a position he held until his death on 25 February 1998.
Bob Santamaria became the most significant figure in Australian politics during the second half of the 20th century. No other person had such an influence on our political scene in the last 50 years of his life; and no other political figure engendered the same devotion from his followers, or fear from his opponents.
In fact, it is also true to say that no other figure commanded the same lasting respect from both friend and foe, as that accorded to Mr Santamaria.
While I didn't always share his views, I always admired Bob Santamaria for his sincerity, dedication and outstanding intellect.
During the years that followed the Labor Split of 1955, I felt he was wrong in sponsoring the Democratic Labor Party; but I always knew his views were honestly held.
I have always preferred that kind of person to one who is dishonestly right for no better reason than he felt it would favour his advancement!
The Obituary I wrote for The Australian
when Bob left us, included the following eulogy:
"I shared Bob Santamaria's sadness over the way politics have deteriorated to a position that it is now a contest between the rich and the poor; the privileged and the underprivileged; the exploiters and the exploited; the tax avoiders and the tax payers; the greedy and the needy; the buyers of labour and the sellers of labour; with the odds always stacked up in favour of the first party!"
I ended my farewell by expressing "my sad regret is that the death of this quite extraordinary man prevented me from ever meeting him in this world".