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“ALLEGED HOOLIGANISM: DECENT CITIZENS RESENT BASE INSINUATIONS,” The Sunday Times (Perth), April 2, 1933, p. 13.

LIVELY TIME FOR PRIME MINISTER — OTHER SPEAKERS REFUSED A HEARING — W.A.’S DETERMINATION TO SECEDE

Hundreds of decent-minded citizens very strongly resent the references in the daily Press to what has been termed a display of “hooliganism” at the Theatre Royal last Monday evening. There were in that vast audience men of the highest integrity to the business and commercial world of the State. They made honest and legitimate interjections and, naturally, when the position of the State under Federation was deliberately misstated there was uproar.

The demonstration was a clear indication to Federalists in this and other States that the people would not brook interference in their domestic affairs. The invasion of politicians and others from the East was totally unwarranted, and there was only one way to show resentment at the intrusion. This was done in the most effective manner possible.

To say that the opposition was organised by the Dominion League is a gross untruth. The fact is that 99% of those present were Secessionists, as will always be the case with an audience of such dimensions.

(It is worth pointing out here that the Federal League had roped off the front seats in the dress circle, to which admission was to be obtained by ticket. These they could not fill with their supporters, and in the end the public broke down the barriers and took possession of the vacant chairs.)

The interjections and expressions of resentment did not come from isolated groups or sections of the audience, but from the front row in the stalls to the back seat in the uppermost gallery. They were spontaneous and to the point. The audience was in thorough good humour, and joined lustily in the patriotic airs played by the Military band. The counting out was the result of statements on the part of the Prime Minister regarding W.A., which were not agreed to, while the singing of “Poor Old Joe” was a token of commiseration with Mr. Lyons in the cause he was endeavouring to espouse.

The “West Australian” made some reference to missiles being thrown on to the stage, one of which was “thought” to have struck Mrs. Lyons. These “missiles” consisted of two small objects, possibly, a penny, or a halfpenny. or a bottle capsule, or something similar, which fell harmlessly on the floor. They were not thrown in any sense of hostility, and could not have hurt anyone if they were.

The patriotic feelings of the people to Western Australia were let loose subsequently in Hay Street, when there was a remarkable outburst of cheering for a short address delivered by Mr. E. B. Johnston from the balcony of the theatre.

In the theatre there was an incessant outcry for a speech from Sir George Pearce, who occupied a seat on the stage, and showed that he was not a frozen image by occasionally giving a feeble clap for the Prime Minister. Sir George. however, had either mislaid his voice, or had temporarily lost the use of his nether extremities, for he remained silent and stuck to his chair like a leech. It was a most glaring case of weakness on the part of the Federal Minister for Defence. Fancy a representative of W.A. not being game to address an audience of his own electors!

Senator Brennan was treated as an intruder, who had no right to interfere in our affairs. He was not allowed to speak, and a similar fate befell Mr. J. J. Simons, who was evidently only going to appeal for a hearing for the Victorian K.C.

In this hubbub, the chairman, Sir Charles Nathan, seemed to call on Mr. James Cornell to rise and face the audience, but his only response was a vigorous shake of the head.

That the people resent the advent of Easterners to plead the Federal cause is manifest by comparison with a public meeting held in the Perth Town Hall several weeks ago. On that occasion the speakers were Mr. Harold Boas, Mr. H. Snedden, M.L.C., and Mr J. J. Simons. The audience was composed largely of Secessionists, but the advocates of Federation were given a good hearing, although some of their statements were openly challenged. That makes it clear that the Eastern invasion is not to be tolerated. In any case, is the Federal League in W.A. so barren of speakers that it had to import no less a personage than the Prime Minister to fire their heavy artillery?

Mr. Lyons must have been aware of the feeling of the people towards his intrusion long before the evening meeting in the Theatre Royal. He was received at the railway station in stony silence. A half-hearted attempt by somebody to rouse three cheers faded out before the third hooray. The Prime Minister was escorted to a waiting car by Sir James Mitchell, through several hundred onlookers. The coldness of the crowd was biting. The car moved away, and Sir James returned to his office on foot. It is safe to say that no reception could have been more eloquent of the feelings of the people.

At the civic reception at the Regent Theatre later in the morning, Mr. Lyons was half-heartedly welcomed by a crowded hall. He did not touch on the subject of his visit, and was accordingly given an attentive hearing. But the applause which greeted him when he rose to respond was only one-half as enthusiastic as that which was tendered to the State Premier. These were significant facts, and if the Prime Minister is an observant man he must have seen that his presence was not as welcome at this period in the State’s career as it might have been on some other occasion.

It remained for the Agent-General for South Australia (Mr. L. L. Hill) to provide the “fly in the ointment.” The Lord Mayor in his generosity extended to this itinerant visitor a welcome to Perth, and in his reply he so far presumed on the good offices of the Lord Mayor, as to tell the people how they should vote at the Referendum. He was at once howled down, and he quickly subsided into his chair.

On Tuesday night the Prime Minister was given another boisterious reception at Fremantle despite “Lottery” Gibson’s appeal in the evening sheet for a hearing for the Federalists. Sir Walter Kingsmill, who has ranged himself on the side of Lyons and Pearce, was counted out, and the meeting closed in the same abrupt manner as had the Perth gathering.

Meanwhile the “valiant” Minister for Defence was given a “rough house” at Claremont. He spoke on defence matters only, and assuredly would have been counted out had he attempted to bolster up a case against Secession.

Plainly the Federal delegation, as well as that other delegation from Victorian manufacturers which is here under the guise of the A.N.A., had been misled as to the strength and determination of the Secession movement in W.A. They had no idea of the feelings of the people on this vital issue to the future of the State, and thought that we would fall an easy prey on their Federal dope. Their lack of knowledge led them into an unenviable impasse from which they found it difficult to extricate themselves. They found that we were an enlightened community, and that there was in W.A. one newspaper which commands the respect and confidence of the people, unlike the East, where they find the Press ever ready to dance to the tune of the politicians.

The return with a newer conception of W.A. They found a people intensely loyal to the Empire, struggling for self-expression, and intent on throwing off the yoke of oppression. Let us hope they will not further misrepresent us when they get back, and that they will turn their newly acquired knowledge in a direction which will bestow benefits on Australia as a whole.