2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Adelaide on the ground of ill-health.
Sir GEORGE TURNER laid upon the table the following paper: -
Transfer of amounts approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council, financial year 1903-4 (dated 18th and 19th April), under the Audit Act.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will furnish the House with some information regarding the supply of rifles and small arms ammunition for the defence of the Commonwealth ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
We have now in the Commonwealth 5,931 magazine rifles in excess of the number required for arming the peace establishment. A further supply of 5,000 is in process of shipment, and may be expected to be delivered at an early date. With this delivery the number of magazine rifles would more than provide for the number required for the war establishment on the General Officer Commanding’s organization scheme.
Action has also been taken to provide for a supplyof the new short end Enfield rifle (which is an improved magazine rifle) adopted by the British War Office. The issue of this rifle is expected to commence this year; and an order has been placed with the War Office authorities for a first supply of 5,000.
It is also proposed, subject to Parliament voting the necessary funds, to provide on the Estimates for the coming financial year for a further order of these rifles.
In addition to the above magazine rifles, we have in the Commonwealth over 34,000 MartiniEnfield rifles - a good serviceable weapon, firing the same ammunition as the modern rifle.
There are also over 24,000 Martini-Henry rifles, which certainly could be made use of in the event of an emergency.
Taking into account the 5,000 magazine rifles now in process of delivery, the Commonwealth Government, since taking over the Defences, has added over 18,000 rifles to the stock of magazine rifles in the Commonwealth.
With the view of maintaining and increasing the stock of magazine rifles, a Magazine Rifle Fund has been formed; and as the rifles are sold, either to Rifle Clubs or to members of the Defence Forces, the money is paid into this fund, and a further supply is then ordered to replace them.
Arrangements have been made by which members of the Rifle Clubs can purchase magazine rifles (as far as the present stock will admit) on a deferred pay system.
A certain proportion of magazine rifles and Martini-Enfield rifles are also issued on loan to the Rifle Clubs.
With regard to the supply of ammunition for the rifles, not only has the reserve of ammunition been brought up to the peace establishment, but it has now been brought up to the war establishment, which provides for 500 rounds ‘per rifle, in addition to the amount of the annual expenditure.
The Colonial Ammunition Factory, at Footscray, is now capable of turning out some 18,000,000 rounds per annum, and is at present actually delivering at the rate of 1,000,000 rounds per month.
The stock of cordite required for the manufacture of small-arm ammunition is maintained by the Government, and there is an ample stock to provide for more than ayear’s supply, as well as what is on order and in process of delivery.
I may mention that in the late Boer war, with 250,000 British troops operating, the total expenditure was only some 66,000,000 rounds of ball cartridges, spread over a period of practically three years. Our reserve is more than equal to the average expenditure for one year under these conditions.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable and learned member’s questions -
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– It is not known that the facts are as stated in the first question, but inquiries will be made of the Government of Queensland with regard to the matter.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Six guns were sent for conversion to 15-pounders.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– In reply, I beg to state -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House if any improvements are being carried out in the General Post Office, Brisbane, so as to give the staff more accommodation ; and, if not, will he cause inquiries to be made into the matter?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Improvements are being carried out at the General Post Office, Brisbane, in connexion with the electrical engineer’s and telephone branches, which will, when completed, give more accommodation to the staff.
In’ Committee :
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the survey of a route for a railway to connect Kalgoorlie in the State of Western Australia with Port Augusta in the State of South Australia.
– I do not think that we should enter upon the consideration of this matter, even at a formal stage, in view of the discussion of another Bill which is now engaging our attention. I have no wish to in any way interfere with or retard consideration of the carrying out of the proposed survey.
– Then why do so?
– Because I think that certain things are due to this House.
– Notice was given of the intention to move this motion.
-Why should the consideration of this matter be allowed to intervene in the midst of an important debate, when no other business would be allowed to do so? Why should it be taken at this juncture to suit the convenience of the Ministry or of a Minister ?
– The motion is merely a formal one; it will not bind the House.
– The discussion of an important matter of this kind cannot at any stage ‘be regarded as formal. The motion initiates a very large expenditure, which we should discuss at the earliest stage. I do not say whether I am or am not favorable to the proposed survey. I say that this is not the occasion on which to introduce the matter. It should be kept back until the House is in a position to give it full discussion.
– This is not the stage for discussion.
– The proposal is too important to be regarded as formal at any stage. At every stage we should act with our eyes open as to what it involves. Therefore I am sure that the right honorable gentleman would not wish to force the question on the House without that proper consideration which it ought to receive at its earliest stages. I must say that it is rather extraordinary that the Prime Minister should allow the important business of which he is in charge, and which is occupying the attention of the House, to be interfered with at the present time by such an interposition. I suggest that, instead of creating a debate, such as this motion will probably do if it be gone on with, the Minister for Home Affairs, having placed the matter on the business paper, should allow it to be brought forward at a later stage,’ when it can get that proper attention at its initiation ‘which the importance of the expenditure deserves.
– I am certainly very much surprised at the honorable member for North Sydney wishing to interfere in a formal matter of this sort. This question is not sprung on the House, nor is it our desire that the House should pledge itself to any course by agreeing to this formal resolution. This motion is merely in fulfilment of an undertaking in His Excellency’s speech, and the Government have no idea in submitting it in this formal way to commit the House any more than the House is committed in regard to any other appropriations submitted. As to the state of the public business of the country, I know nothing officially about any crisis in Parliament. I have not heard the head of the Government pledge himself yet to any course, and I look on the intervention of the honorable member for North Sydney as a most unfriendly act on his part - unfriendly not only to me, but, more than that, to the State’ which I represent. There is nothing whatever in the motion to take exception to. The motion merely has the effect of placing this matter on the noticepaper for the information of honorable members, to be dealt with in the ordinary course. There are very few instances, I think, on record, where any real objection has been taken to such a course.
– Complaints have been made of this procedure several times, as pledging us to the merits of a question before we consider it.
– If the honorable and learned member thinks that the consideration of a message from His Excellency pledges the House to a certain course, that result is furthest from my intention. I know sufficient of parliamentary procedure to be aware that such a motion does not pledge the House in the slightest degree. If any one says that this procedure, adopted in order to bring matters under the notice of honorable members, and to have the Bill circulated, pledges the House, it is a consequence to which I have not been accustomed, and one which T do not understand. The same objection could apply to every single appropriation which might be asked for, and which might be afterwards cast aside by the House. As I said before, I consider the action of the acting leader of the Opposition as most unfriendly to me and to the State I represent. He is taking a most unusual course, which, so far as I know, has never been taken in this House, even on the most controversial subjects. The honorable member has taken advantage of his belief that something may happen in the future, to prevent my doing what I desire to do in the interests of the State I represent.
– I must confess that I am not convinced by the arguments’ of the Minister for Home Affairs as to the propriety of the course that is now being pursued. The right honorable gentleman said that he is not officially aware of anything special in the course of business in the House. I think, however, that the right honorable gentleman is, unofficially, verv well aware of the state of public business ; at least everybody else in the House is aware, offically or unoffically, of the present conditions. In my limited experience I have always understood that, whether there be a formal vote of want of confidence, or a matter which is well understood to involve, or which might reasonably involve the fate of the Ministry before Parliament, all other business is postponed.
– All contentious business, at any rate.
– I have known Ministers to even refuse to answer questions under such circumstances. Of course, the position would be more noticeable in the case of a direct vote of want of confidence, if such were pending. But I do say that this is a matter in which the preliminary message of the Governor-General and the consequent resolution of the Committee are not merely formal. The motion, if I heard aright, commences - “ That it is expedient “ that an appropriation be made for certain purposes. Of course, that does not commit the House to finally pass the appropriation, but it does to a certain extent commit the House to a semi-approval of the project which underlies it.
– It may not commit the House to every detail of the project.
– I never considered it did so, at any rate.
– We are in the same position in the case of every other message.
– That may be so. This is a matter in which a great deal of immediate and future expenditure is involved, if the motion be ultimately agreed to. The question is one on which the most diverse opinions exist, both inside the House and beyond its walls, and it is a matter which will inevitably be discussed on this motion, as well as at subsequent stages. I think the fact that there is a disposition on the part of any honorable members to discuss the matter - whatever their views may be on the merits of the question - is sufficient to support the contention that it should not be allowed to interpose in the debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, on which, apparently, so much depends. I can assure the Minister for Home Affairs that I am actuated by no unfriendly feelings, either towards him or towards the State from which he comes. I have my own opinion about this railway but that opinion I have not, so far, ventilated, and do not propose to do so at present. I do not think the Ministry should endeavour to commit the House in thu slightest degree to anything, pending the determination of matters under consideration in connexion with’ the Arbitration Bill. I hope, now that the Minister for Home Affairs has shown his earnestness and zeal in the matter by endeavouring to have this motion agreed to, he will see fit to consent - or the Prime Minister for him - to the matter being adjourned. I do not wish to labour the question, but we should not be started on a debate on this motion while the’ other debate to which I have referred occupies our attention.
– I never intended or expected to have a debate.
– But the right honorable gentleman must realize that debate cannot be stopped on the motion if honorable members desire to indulge in debate. The course proposed by the Minister would not add a precedent which it is desirable should be followed in such a state of public business as the present. It is not as if this were an unimportant matter, or an ordinary message from the Crown. It is a message preliminary to a discussion on a new and great question of policy. I do not mean a new question in the sense that we have not heard of it before, but new in the sense that Parliament has not hitherto done anything in connexion with it. The motion is not a continuation of an existing policy, nor does it relate to anything like the ordinary annual services; it is a special matter, requiring special consideration, and one as to which we should have more opportunity for consideration than we shall have if it be interposed in the middle of a debate of the greatest importance to the Commonwealth and the States.
– I hope the honorable member is not going to discuss the question.
– I propose to discuss the position created by the opposition to the Minister’s proposal. I can quite understand the attitude taken up by the honorable member for North Sydney, who, no doubt, wishes to assist his party to oust the Government at the earliest possible moment.
– I am voting with the Government.
– I know that.
– The honorable member should not impute motives.
– I am not imputing motives. Whilst I. acknowledge that the honorable member for North Sydney may have some reason on his side, I do not understand the attitude of a supporter of the Government in opposing a proposal that forms so prominent a feature of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
– Does the honorable member suppose that supporters of the Government are obliged to adhere to everything that is mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech?
– I had expected that in a formal matter of this kind the supporters of the Government would at least have been content to record any objections they might entertain after the formal stages had been completed. I still hope that the Committee will enable the matter to be carried to the stage proposed by the Minister. After that has been done I shall be quite content to allow the proposal to rest absolutely on its own merits.
– This motion was submitted under the natural expectation that it would be treated in the ordinary way as purely formal. When once it ceases to be formal, it can no longer properly engage our attention at this stage. I regret that honorable members have not remembered that they would be afforded every opportunity for discussion at a later stage ; but inasmuch as they apparently intend to discuss the question now - as they are entitled to do if they must insist upon their full rights - we must consent to postpone further consideration.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - I am rather astonished that the Minister for Home Affairs should have spoken in the way he did.
– I meant it, too.
– I know that the Minister generally means anything he says when he says it ; but for how long he means it is another matter. In opposing the course taken by the Minister I did not in any way consider the desirability or otherwise of the railway. I have not yet made up my mind upon that point. I wish to be placed in possession of ail the information that can be obtained in regard to it. I should object to any business being interposed at this stage, and I think it would have been more to the credit of the Minister, and would have furthered his object to a greater degree, if he had not attempted to rush matters and secure what he may afterwards consider a tacit approval by the House.
– Not at all.
– Whatever opinion may be entertained by the Minister with regard to my motive, or my unfriendliness, I shall, as I have always done, act irrespective of feelings which should not actuate honorable members when the ordinary course of procedure is adopted.
– I suppose that no one has been more thoroughly in accord with the Minister for Home Affairs than I have in connexion with this matter. But I think that my honorable friend who has just sat down has done nothing more than his duty.
– The honorable member will not even see the Bill.
– At present the Bills of the Ministry are not a matter of very much importance, because we do not know that they will be honoured when they are presented. I think that, on reflection, my right honorable friend will see, as the Prime Minister has immediately seen, that nothing except merely formal matters should be taken in the present position of public affairs, and, of course, no matter is formal unless we are unanimous regarding it. Therefore, I think that it was a pity that my right honorable friend should have endeavoured to transact any further business in the present position of affairs. He knows that, so far as I am concerned, I am thoroughly in favour of everything he has done, and I only regret that he has been allowed to adopt the course followed upon this occasion.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 19th April, vide page 1104):
Clause 4 -
In this Act except where otherwise clearly intended - “ Industrial dispute “ means a dispute in relation to industrial matters - [a) Arising between an employer or an organization of employers on the one part, and an organization of employes on the other part; or
Certified by the Registrar as proper in the public interest to be dealt with by the Court, and extending beyond the limits of any one State, but does not include a dispute relating to employment in the public service of the Commonwealth, or of a State, or to employment by any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “State,” line 12, the words “ but does not include “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ and includes.”
– This is a question of the very gravest importance, because it will affect all the industrial operations of the Commonwealth. We are told that the measure has been introduced to prevent’ strikes and locks-out, and to assist as far as possible to assure proper conditions tq those who are engaged in production. I am quite the reverse of a capitalist ; but I regard this class of legislation as altogether opposed to the best interests of the working classes. I realize that large numbers of persons support it in the belief that industrial disputes, if referred to an
Arbitration Court, will be settled favorably to the masses. I hold strongly, however, that no system of this kind for settling the conditions under which trade shall be conducted can be attended with satisfactory results or assist those who, as far as possible, should be helped. We have had an Arbitration Act in operation in New South Wales for about two years, and experience has shown that instead of preventing disputes it has created them.
– What nonsense !
– The honorable and learned member says “ What nonsense !” but I am quite satisfied that the great bulk of the so-called disputes which have been referred to the Court would never have existed had there not been an Arbitration Act. I believe that after an experience of that Act for four or five years the great majority of the working classes would, before the end of that term, desire to have it repealed. It has been reported that in New Zealand the Arbitration Act has conferred immense benefits. But those who read the history of New Zealand during the last four or five years must see that the prosperous condition of the masses in that country is not attributable to that legislation. Of course, the Arbitration Act can be read into New Zealand history, but those who view the circumstances free from prejudice will discover that the prosperity of the working classes has been due to the progress of New Zealand step by step- :
– Under protection.
– Not under protection, as the honorable member interjects, because the principal advance made by New Zealand industries has been in the direction of a development of the export trade. Will any one suggest that the operation of protective duties in that country has resulted in the development of the system of dredging for gold, which has been adopted there? I have no desire to import the fiscal question into this discussion, but if the Committee desires me to do so, I am quite prepared to debate it. I wish, further, to point out that the value of agricultural crops in New Zealand last year exceeded that of the agricultural crops of Victoria, with its infinitely larger population. Hence, New Zealand affords no criterion of the success of the Arbitration Act as applied to the masses. I note that this Bill contains many clauses of a character similar to the provisions of the New South Wales Act. In this connexion, I would invite the attention of honorable members to the fact that awards have been given by the Arbitration Court in that State, which the Judge himself afterwards found worked out in a direction entirely opposite to that which he had intended. For instance, in the case of a dispute in one of the collieries on the south coast, he gave an award which actually resulted in a reduction of the hewing rate, with which the masters did not desire to interfere. Subsequently an arrangement had to be arrived at between the masters and men to prevent any alteration in this rate,, in accordance with the desires of the former. Then, in the case of the dispute at Newcastle, the miners contended that the award given by the Court was not an equitable one. A third instance which I recall occurred in Sydney the other day. It had reference to trie breadcarters, who were actually forbidden to enter into business for themselves within a period of twelve months within a certain distance of the place where they had been employed. Two of their number, because they refused to sign an agreement to serve their masters for that term, were each fined j£$. The award of the Court practically compelled them to remain in the employ of their masters for twelve months, irrespective of whether they desired to do so or :not.
– Where was that? Mr. LONSDALE. - I am referring to the award which was given against the breadcarters in Sydney the other day. Injunctions were served upon two of them with the object of preventing them from entering into business for themselves within five miles of the place where they had been employed. Putting the best possible construction upon the operation of this class of legislation, I hold that it advantages only a few, whilst it injures the many. In New South Wales recently it was found necessary to appoint a commission to investigate the declining birthrate. Under the operation of the Arbitration Court awards a man cannot employ, his own son in a small business. Indeed, it is significant that laws of this character never strike at the large business man, but always hit the small man. For example, the individual who does not conduct a business which is sufficiently large to employ, three men, cannot engage an apprentice. Further, if he employs his son in his establishment, he immediately becomes liable to a penalty. Not very long ago, a man desired to send his son, who had been working with him for some years, to Sydney, in order that he might obtain a larger measure of experience. He found, however, that under the beautiful system of arbitration which is operative there, he could not afford to part with him, because if he did so he would be required to engage an apprentice to take his place, and under the award he could not. So far as the country districts of New South Wales are concerned, the Arbitration Act has undoubtedly made the conditions of life harder for the workers. We all know that during the winter the demand for labour is not so great as it is during the summer. But in many districts it has been customary for the employers to retain their hands throughout the year on the understanding that the latter would work overtime in the brisk season to compensate for the slack period. Consequently they have consistently earned good wages. The Arbitration Act, however, now steps in, and declares that these men must be paid for working overtime. It prohibits them from making up the losses incurred during the slack season by working a few extra hours during the busy season.
– What relevance have these remarks to the proposal to bring public servants under the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill?
– I admit that they have no relevance. The fact is, I was not present when the second reading of the Bill was under discussion, and I was endeavouring, as far as possible, to get in what I had intended to say then.
– The honorable member’s remarks are quite as much to the point as are those of a great many other honorable members.
– I was quite aware that I was out of order, and I have no desire to violate any of the forms of the House. I may say at once that, in my opinion, the party from which the proposal to include the public servants emanates, have entirely given away their position. What is the attitude which they take up? They desire the extension of State employment I in every direction. They wish the State to employ everybody as far as it possibly can.
– Hear, hear.
– They desire to create an inferior body to control the public servants of the Commonwealth and of the States. Does any one mean to suggest that the proposed Arbitration Court will be superior to Parliament? Undoubtedly it will be an inferior tribunal to the Legislature, notwithstanding which we are asked to establish it on the ground that we cannot trust Parliament to provide employment under equitable conditions.
– Is this Parliament an investigating Chamber ?
– We have to investigate proposals of this kind. This Parliament is the tribunal which should control our public servants throughout. I was rather amused at one statement which was made by the honorable member for Melbourne last evening. From my point of view it was a somewhat comical one. He declared that he would not trust his case to the High Court - that he would very much prefer to submit it to the representatives of the people in this Chamber.
– That was on account of the expense that would be involved.
– The honorable member is content to trust every ramification of the public service to a Court which will be called upon to determine the conditions which shall obtain throughout all departments of the State, although he will not submit his own personal affairs to the decision of the High Court. That is a remarkable position.
– The point is a good one.
– What is the general complaint against Parliaments? It is not that they deal harshly with public servants, but rather the reverse.
– From the honorable member’s point of view.
– The honorable member knows that this is so. It is said that the Parliaments of the States are too generous in their treatment of public servants; that they do not keep them up to the mark ; that, having regard to the work to be performed, too many persons are employed in the service, and that the salaries paid are more than commensurate with the duties devolving upon the officers. It is singular that those who say they wish to improve the position of the public servants, should seek to make them subject to a tribunal which will take into consideration the work that they perform, the hours during which they are employed, and other details, with the result that, if the general complaint be true, their position, instead of being improved, will be made a great deal worse.
– We propose that every case should stand upon its merits.
– The object of the honorable member and those who share his view is to make the position of the public servants worse than it is.
– It is not.
– I repeat that it is. I wish it to go forth to the public servants of Australia, that that is the position taken up by those who support this amendment. The object of the honorable member’s party is to gain additional support at the elections. They say that they wish to improve the position of public servants, and yet it is evident that, if the public servants’ case be fairly dealt with by the tribunal proposed to be appointed, their position will not- be as good as it is to-day.
– The honorable member a few minutes ago protested against the imputation of motives. What is he now doing ?
– I admit that I did impute motives, but my action was due to the interjection made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– The honorable membeis endeavouring to fasten his own opinion upon another honorable member.
– That is not so.
– Does the honorable member believe that the public servants of Australia are too well paid?
– Some are too well paid, while others do not receive sufficient. It would be utterly impossible for the Court to deal with the public servants on a uniform basis, and to go into each case as they would require to do in order to deal fairly with them. We know of the large number of Departments in the States, and of the varying conditions under which public servants work in town and country districts. The conditions of public servants in different localities in New South Wales vanvery considerably, and it would be exceedingly difficult for the Court to lay down any general rule in regard to them. Why should we, by means of any Court, interfere between the States and their servants ?
– Or with any one else.
– Quite so; but why should we interfere more particularly between the States and their public servants. The reason given for the proposed interference with private employers is that owing to competition they have to cut things so fine that they are led in some cases to reduce the emoluments of their employes. They have a personal interest in seeking to obtain the best possible result from the labour of their workmen, and, therefore, I can see some reason for the proposal to appoint a tribunal that will remedy this state of affairs. The same cannot be said of the position of public servants.
– What about the Railway Commissioners ?
– They have no personal interest in the fixing of wages. When the dispute occurred in New South Wales in reference to the observance of the eight hours’ system in the Railway Department, the Commissioners said in effect to the men, “ It does not matter to us whether you work eight hours or ten hours a day. If Parliament will vote the money necessary to enable the reform to be effected we shall be quite willing to concede the principle.”
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the Railway Commissioners are indifferent as to the state of their profit and loss account ?
– Certainly not; but the point which I wish to emphasize is that they have no personal interest to serve. It is immaterial to them whether the railways show a profit of 3 per cent, or 4 per cent.
– On the contrary, it is a matter of the greatest concern to them.
– In their case the personal element is removed. They have to consider only the public interest. I admit, of course, that it is necessary for them to conduct their business on commercial lines, but they have no personal object to serve in reducing the wages of the railway employes with a view to increase the profits of the railway system. If they make any profit, they distribute it again by way of reduced rates to the producer. I would have no objection to a Bill of this kind if I thought that it would operate successfully, and that it would have no other ill effects ; but I feel certain that in the end it must bring about troubles and difficulties so far as the working classes themselves are concerned. It is because pf this feeling, that I take up an attitude of hostility to the measure. Honorable members will recognise that I have no personal interest to serve. It was said last night that there were men of humanitarian principles and altruistic ideas in this House, and I claim to be among the foremost of them. If I could do anything to benefit the masses I should be prepared to take action at once ; but I do not intend to make a pretence of helping them by supporting the introduction of a system which I feel must ultimately tend to their injury. All wages are fixed by production. It is impossible to say that as the result of the operation of a measure of this kind production would be increased.
– Does the honorable member say that wages are fixed by production?
– They are fixed by competition.
– I admit that is a factor ; but if production is limited, and the returns from that production have to be divided among a large number of people, wages must necessarily be low. If, on the other hand, production is increased, while there is no corresponding increase in the number of people to be served, wages must be raised.
– The wage-fund is affected ?
– I do not altogether believe in the wage-fund. If the party which desires to benefit the masses would take action in another direction, and adopt a course that would lead to increased production, together with an increased distribution of the profits amongst those engaged in that production - not by means of an Arbitration Bill, but by giving every man better opportunities than he now possesses - they would do something that would be of genuine assistance to the class they represent. It is only in that way that they can benefit the masses.
– A single tax.
– That is quite right. I have made it perfectly clear that I am opposed to legislation of this kind. I would wreck the Bill to-morrow if I could do so. I have seen the ill-effects of similar legislation in New South Wales. I have read of a man who was fined for a benevolent act. An old friend who was in difficulties was employed by him at a wage higher than was- necessary under the rules, but, because he was a non-unionist, the master was fined for employing him.
An Honorable Member. - Quite right, too.
– I do not think it is.
– The honorable member who interjects belongs to the humanitarian party.
– Quite so. Holding the views which I have enunciated, I am prepared to adopt any course that will tend to wreck the Bill. My position is a strong one. Even if the Bill be passed. I do not think we shall be able to interfere under it with the railway servants of the States. That appears to be out of our power, unless you can get these disputes to cross the border of any one State. I am not a lawyer, and therefore I am not going to argue the constitutional question. I opposed the acceptance of the draft Constitution with all the strength I possessed, largely because it gave equal representation in the Senate to the States, but also for other reasons. That equal representation, however, was given for the protection of State rights. I am sure that no one will say that if it had been plainly provided in the draft Constitution that the railway and other public servants of the States should be under the control of the Federal Parliament, any of the Stateswould have accepted the measure.
– We should have had no Federal Parliament in that case.
– That is so; every one knows it. If that is the spirit in which the States entered the Union, we should not now adopt any course which will violate the compact. The Prime Minister made a great deal of the contention that every man who voted for the amendment would be declaring himself a unificationist. He tried to make that a line of division between parties. I shall not allow that argument to deter me from doing what I intend to do. I am not a unificationist, and it may seem strange to honorable members that, whilst I am opposed to the Bill, I shall vote with the Labour Party on this amendment. But if that party get into office, and re-introduce the ‘ measure I shall vote against it again. I am here to wreck the Bill in any way I can.
– And to wreck the Government.
– Yes, and to wreck the Government.
– The honorable member is a most reckless man.
– In this matter I am a wrecker. I hold that Bills of this kind will not benefit the class which they are intended to assist. I may be looked upon as inconsistent, but it is my desire that a measure of this kind shall never see the light of day, and if the amendment is carried, the Bill now before us will be put under the table. But I give the party which may come into’ power fair warning that I shall do all I can to wreck the Bill if they re-introduce it. I am against all these attempts to interfere with ti;ade and commerce by protective measures. What surprises me is that men who believe in protection are opposed to the Bill. The man who wishes for a law to increase the price of his wheat by a shilling per bushel has no right to object to the working man having his wages made higher by Act of Parliament. I cannot understand such an attitude. My own position, however, ;s consistent. I do not like any of these methods o.f interfering with trade and commerce, and, consequently, I am taking an action which I think will destroy the Bill.
– There is one thing which the debate has made very clear, and that is that the Constitution is not an instrument which he who runs may read. It appears doubtful whether any man of ordinary intelligence who studies that document can understand it. It was clearly demonstrated yesterday, which was a field day for the legal talent of the House, that the lawyers, at any rate, can tell us nothing definite as to the meaning of its provisions.
– They hope to have a job in the High Court in interpreting it.
– Yes. I have the highest opinion of the ability of the lawyers who are members of this House, and who, as members of the Convention, took part in the drafting of the Constitution; but it seems to me that they are responsible for a measure which will supply them with food for disputes until the crack of doom. Therefore, we must rely upon our commonsense in determining the meaning of the Constitution. We have heard a great deal of State rights. The honorable member for New England has told us that he is a wrecker, so far as the Bill is concerned, that he is opposed to the measure because he regards it as an invasion of State rights. I think we have heard too much about State rights, and far too little about human wrongs. We cannot, by any Act which we may pass, violate the rights of the State, because if we go beyond the powers given to us by the States the High Court will declare our legislation ultra vires. But when a certain power has been handed over to this Parliament, we shall not be doing our duty to a large section of the people of the Commonwealth if we refrain from exercising it. In my opinion, the Constitution lays down the great principle that there must be no discrimination between the individuals who compose the Commonwealth. That being so, there should be no discrimination in regard . to the individuals who are to come under the operation of the Bill. No honorable member will contend that the proposed Court would do anything but absolute justice. That being so, if we are to deal fairly with all, we must place both public and private employer on the same footing, and bring both under the operation of the Bill. I would have some sympathy with the honorable member for New England if he had stated that he will not be a party to compelling the private employer to submit to the decisions of the Court unless Parliament is prepared to compel the public employer to do likewise, because we are here to legislate, not in the interests of a section of the community, but in those of the whole Commonwealth. The objections taken to the amendment are that it is neither constitutional nor expedient. Why is it not expedient? The only reason I can find for the statement that it is not expedient is in the fact that the Federal Government is not at the present time popular with some of the reactionary Governments of the States, or with an anti-democratic press, and that, therefore, we should not offend them. I take a higher stand. I say that the people of Australia are entirely with us. So far as the people of South Australia are concerned, I believe that at the last election every candidate made it a leading part of his policy to declare that all State servants should be brought under the Bill, if that were constitutional. The reservation in regard to constitutionality must always be made. The Prime Minister has urged that we should stay our hand in this matter until the States have established Arbitration Courts.
– No; until they have had an opportunity to establish Arbitration Courts, and have not taken advantage of it. If they established Arbitration Courts there would be very little need for a provision of this kind.
– They have had for many years past the opportunity to establish Arbitration Courts. In South Australia a Factories Act was passed some years ago to deal, by the creation of Wages Boards, with four trades only. The Act was passed through both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council, but it could not be brought into operation for the reason that the latter Chamber, in its wisdom, suspended the regulations.
– Three-fourths of the inhabitants of Australia are now under Arbitration Acts or Wages Boards.
– That is an argument for bringing the remaining fourth under similar legislation as soon as possible.
If legislation of the kind has been found a good thing for three-fourths of the population
– That has not been proved.
– Then legislation of the kind must be better still for the whole. The South Australian Act has been hung up simply because an objection was raised to the regulations - to my mind a thoroughly unconstitutional objection. The Act provides that the regulations are to be made for the better carrying out of, and in accordance with the provisions of, the Act. It has not been denied that the regulations are in accordance with the Act, and that they would undoubtedly carry out its provisions. But as yet there are only four trades which seek to come under its operation. I mention these facts to show that it is idle for us to expect, in a State with a Parliament constituted as is the South Australian Parliament in regard to its Legislative Council, a conciliation and arbitration law to be passed for many a day to come.
– Sweating is rampant in the four trades referred to.
– That is admitted ; the press has published columns showing the extent of the sweating in these four trades. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, and the honorable and learned member for Bendigo both admitted that there is power in the Constitution, 1 think in section 98, for this Parliament to deal with any obstruction to trade and commerce.
– Inter-State trade and commerce.
– Exactly ; and I think the head of the Government must see that these disputes will always be InterState.
– They must be, or they will not come under the Bill.
– If the Commonwealth Parliament has power to deal with any obstruction to Inter-State trade and commerce, surely it will be admitted that a strike of railway servants is about the most serious obstruction we could possibly have. If we have power to deal with trade obstruction at all, it is only a matter for consideration how far we should go: if this power has been delegated to us. we can go as far as this Parliament, in its wisdom, chooses to decide. In dealing with the New South Wales arbitration law. the honorable and learned member for Bendigo stated that the Parliament of that State had surrendered its powers to an Arbitration Court simply because that Court was of the Parliament’s own creation. The honorable and learned member’s objection to including States servants within the Bill before us is, that the Federal Arbitration Court would not be a Court created by the States. But I take an entirely different view. I contend that there has been nothing brought before the House to prove that the people of Australia did not surrender to this Parliament the right to create a Federal tribunal, by which the States would undoubtedly be bound. That seems to be the one point we have to decide in regard to this particular question. ‘ It was further stated that there is no power to enforce an award ; but surely no honorable member will agree with such a position. If there is no power to enforce an award given by a Court created by the Commonwealth Parliament - that is, an award against a State - then it is in the power of any State to flout the Commonwealth Parliament at any moment. Will any honorable member concede such a position? Why, such a position is impossible ! I should like to put it to the Prime Minister whether, if a railway strike took place in any State in the- Commonwealth, and we found not only that commerce was obstructed, but that the mails were stuck up at different parts, the Commonwealth would have power to interfere ?
– So far as the obstruction was Inter-State, yes.
– And only a minute ago the Prime Minister admitted that all these disputes must be Inter-State.
– No; the Prime Minister said that the only cases amenable to the Bill must be Inter-State.
– We have had an admission that the Commonwealth would have power to deal with such a case as I have’ indicated ; and if the Commonwealth has the power to interfere in the one case, it has the power to include the whole of the States public servants within the four corners of the Bill.
– The difference is that the Commonwealth has power to deal with such a case by taking its own executive action to have its own mails carried throughout the Commonwealth, in the different States. The Commonwealth does not settle the dispute, or attempt to do so, but takes care to have its own services carried on.
– Then I would ask the Prime Minister whether, in the case of a strike becoming a very serious matter, it would be within the power of the Commonwealth to call out the military ?
– What good would that do?
– The good’ would be the good which it was supposed would result when a similar step was taken in other cases. Personally, I “think that such a step would do a lot of evil, but the military have been called out when the forces were under the control of the States Governments. It is not so very long since it was suggested that the military should be called out in South Australia, and we were then told that the guns were ready loaded. It is not so very long since similar action was threatened in Victoria.
– But only on the report of the head of the police that he could not undertake to preserve order with the forces at his command.
– Under similar circumstances, would it be within the power of the Commonwealth to call out the military ?
– Yes, and there is an obligation in the Constitution which requires us to protect the States against domestic violence.
– We are now told that the Commonwealth has power to compel men to submit to the arbitrament of force.
– That is a different matter.
– What else does it mean ?
– It means to preserve peace, order, and good government.
– Honorable members may call it keeping order, or any thing they like; but the fact remains that men are to be compelled to submit to the arbitrament of force.
– Not for any thing except to keep order.
– Precisely ; but the Prime Minister will see that here the Commonwealth would be interfering in a purely State matter.
– When authorized by the Constitution and commanded by the Constitution to do so, but not otherwise.
– If it be laid down in the Constitution that there can be such an interference by force, surely we have power to interfere by reason and law.
– That is the whole question.
– On several occasions Broken Hill, which is in New South Wales, has been subject to water famine, and has been entirely dependent on the South Australian railway service for its supplies. In the event of a dispute arising on the South Australian railways at such a time, when the lives of the people of Broken Hill would be endangered, does any honorable member mean to tell me that the Commonwealth Parliament would not have power to interfere, although the dispute would be in South Australia, and the suffering at Broken Hill? There is no arbitration law in South Australia to deal with such a matter, and it will be seen what a serious risk we are running in this connexion. Unless South Australia had been at times able to supply the Broken Hill population with water, not only would the mines have had to be shut down, but the people would have had to emigrate, those who could not afford to do so being left to die of thirst.’ I contend that in the event of a dispute occurring at such a critical time, the Commonwealth would have the power, arid would not hesitate to exercise that power, to interfere. It has been mentioned that the United States Constitution was meant to affect individuals, and not States. That is precisely the position I take up in regard to our own Constitution-; and in affecting individuals, it is not meant that the Constitution affects a number, but the whole of the individuals of any State. Therefore, if we are going to interfere with employes, we ought, as we have the power, to treat alike private employes and those who are State employes only by accident. I was surprised at the attitude of the honorable and learned member for Indi, who, after contending that it was impossible to definitely say whether States servants should or shouldnot be included, refused to allow a provision including them to be inserted in the Bill, so that the matter might be decided by the High Court. Let us adopt the other view of the matter. Suppose that it is constitutional, and I believe that the honorable and learned member believes that it is-
– The honorable and learned member bases his objection upon the ground of expediency.
– I am aware of that, and that is the flimsiest objection any one could offer. I take the strongest exception to the attitude assumed by some honorable members, because the objection offered on the ground of expediency has been taken in order to please a very small, but still an influential, section of the people, whose views are opposed to the interests of the people generally. After hearing the honorable and learned member for Indi say that it was quite competent for us to insert the proposed words in this measure, I was astonished to learn that he intended to vote against the amendment. If the amendment be carried, as I hope it will, and the High Court decides that we have acted perfectly within our rights, we shall be saved from the blunder of excluding thousands of the States public servants from the benefits of the measure. I am indebted to the honorable and learned member for Indi for the information that the Constitution, as it left the hands of the Convention, contained a provision that the Act should bind the Crown. We were told, further, that the Constitution, as approved by the people of Australia, contained those words, but that the Imperial Parliament struck them out. ‘ It is about time that we began to inquire how much has been omitted by the Imperial Parliament, and what bearing such omissions have upon our powers as a Parliament. After what has been stated in regard to such an important amendment as that now before us, and the restrictions upon our powers of legislation, I think the people of Australia ought to have been made acquainted with the alteration referred to, and that the amended Constitution should have been submitted for their approval. The Prime Minister has pointed out that if the amendment were adopted, we should not merely agree to submit a question of law to the High Court, but give the stamp of our approval to a provision which, if proved to be constitutional, would become immediately operative. I should hope so. I hope that we shall never- as has been suggested in some quarters - submit any question to the High Court in order to find out whether we are acting constitutionally. We ought to take up the position that in what we do we believe we are right, and acting within the Constitution, and we should not invite any other authority to guide us. It is for us to pass legislation as we think fit. If we do wrong, we shall, in due time, be set right.
– We might do wrong in our ignorance.
– That would be no reflection on our intelligence.
– No; but ought we not to seek enlightenment?
– No, because Parliament ought to be the supreme authority in every country.
– What about the proposed Arbitration Court?
– All that the Arbitration Court will have to do will be to remove the public servants throughout Australia from the operation of political influence. There will be no more political influence in regard to wages, working hours, or other conditions, because all these questions will be dealt with by a tribunal appointed by this Parliament.
– Is that the only influence at work?
– No j there are other influences at work which are worse than political influences, but it would” be a good thing for us to get rid of some of the defects of our present system. I have never been a believer in bringing political , influence to bear upon the employes of the States. The honorable member for Gippsland said that the States Governments were generous employers. I do not think so. They are verv generous to some of their servants no doubt; but honorable members will recollect that when the Commonwealth Public Service Bill was being considered, a good deal of sweating in public Departments was brought under their notice. In the Post Office, for instance, some of the employes were so badly treated that this Parliament decided that the wages of several thousands should be increased. If the honorable member for Gippsland were to make himself acquainted with the conditions which existed in South Australia, or even in Victoria, the State with which he is so well acquainted, he could point to a good deal of sweating in the Public Service. At one time the conditions were so bad in South Australia that Parliament had to pass a resolution declaring that no ablebodied labourer should be paid at the rate of less than 6s. per day. Strong ablebodied men were receiving as little as 4s. 6d. per day, and I know that my kindhearted friend will agree with me that that wage is not sufficient to enable a man to bring up a family.
An Honorable Member. - What class of work were they doing?
– They were doing the hardest kinds of labouring work, such as digging trenches and making roads, and they were paid from 4s. 6d. to 5s. 6d. per day.
– Some men in the public service of Queensland do not receive more than that to-day
– Do not these facts show that it is high time that we created a tribunal to which public servants could appeal in order to secure fair treatment? At present the birth-rate is declining, and the stream of immigration into the country is not sufficient to enable us to develop our vast resources. Is this to be wondered at? It would be absolutely criminal for a man receiving only 4s. 6d. per day to marry, because he could not possibly bring up a healthy family upon such an income. He could only bring into the world a number of weaklings, which would become a danger to the race.
– We pay our soldiers only 2s. 6d. per day
– That is a matter that might receive consideration. At any rate it is high time that ari Arbitration Court was created to which public servants could appeal. The honorable member for Gippsland took further exception to the proposed Arbitration Court because it would be constituted of gentlemen receiving a salary Df only £700. I would point out that the honorable member is receiving only ^400 per annum, and that no one would suggest that he would not, on that account, do justice to the very best of his ability, or that his ability is. not of the highest. If honorable members can perform their duties satisfactorily for such remuneration, surely we may hope to secure the services of thoroughly capable men to act as arbitrators at the salary proposed. If, however, ^700 per annum should not be regarded as sufficient to enable us to secure the best talent I should be prepared -to provide for salaries of twice or three times that amount. All cheap work is dear in the end, and the labourer is worthy of his hire, whether he is digging trenches or filling the highest position in the land. The honorable member for Melbourne remarked that no speech made in Parliament ever influenced a vote. That may be true with regard to honorable members themselves, but the speeches delivered in this House have great influence upon the great body of the electors, and assist them in arriving at a sound judgment upon the merits of the subjects discussed. The discussions in Parliament very often result in the return of men of more progressive ideas, and with more disposition to do justice to all classes of the community.
– Order. I would ask honorable members to refrain from indulging in conversation. I can hardly hear the honorable member speak, and the confusion is not only not fair to him, but irritating, if not distressing, to those honorable members who desire to follow the debate. I would therefore appeal to honorable members to desist from carrying on conversations in a loud tone of voice.
– Before concluding I desire to say to the honorable member for New England that, if all the evils which he predicts will result from the establishment of an Arbitration Court, it is indeed remarkable that the workers throughout the whole of the Commonwealth are clamouring for this legislation. I believe that they are just as quick * to realize what proposals are in their interests as is any honorable member of this House.
– The employers are equally strong against compulsory arbitration.
– That is the most conclusive argument which can be advanced that the proposed legislation is good. It ought to be a very simple matter for the honorable member for New England to submit evidence from one single union in New Zealand, which has been brought under the operation of the Arbitration Act, which desires to see the Arbitration Court abolished. I feel certain that even the employers of New Zealand would object to its abolition.
– That is the opinion of Mr. Mills, of the Union Steam Ship Company.
– Yes. When legislation in this direction was under consideration in New Zealand the same cry was raised there that is being raised here today. It was urged that it would ruin their industries and drive capital out of the country. What has been the result? Some time ago I received, from a leading public man in New Zealand, two newspaper extracts containing reports of an interview which representatives of the Chamber of Manufactures had with Mr. Seddon. The deputationists requested that they should be granted two representatives in the Legislative Council, which, as honorable mem-, bers are aware, is a nominee body. The ground upon which they based their claim was that of the influence which the Chamber of Manufactures exercised in the country. Mr. Luke, one of the leading members of that body, introduced the deputation, and quoted figures to show that during five years there had been an enormous expansion of trade in connexion with every industry of New Zealand - an expansion which in the manufacturing industries alone aggregated a value of no less than ^7,000,000. Thereupon Mr. Seddon remarked that the consciences of some of the deputationists ought to be pricked, in view of their predictions that the Arbitration Act would drive capital from the country. I hold that this Bill will injure nobody but the unscrupulous employers, of whom there are too many in Australia to-day. A similar cry has been raised against every industrial measure that has come before the Parliaments of the world. It is always con- tended that such legislation is bound to injure somebody.
– Especially the poor widow.
– Exactly. If I thought that the amendment proposed was unconstitutional, I should oppose it. But I have no misgivings in that direction, although I entertain a doubt in regard to the construction which should be placed upon the word “ industrial.” To my mind, it is questionable whether we have power to include the whole of our public servants under this legislation. Nevertheless we shall not wreck the Bill by insisting upon their inclusion. If the matter comes before the High Court, the worst that can happen is for that tribunal to declare this particular portion of the Act, which includes public servants, other than those engaged in industrial occupations, ultra vires. I support the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay, because I hold that it would be most unfair to exclude, not merely thousands, but tens of thousands of workers from the operation of a beneficent measure.
– I do not desire to give a silent vote upon this question, as I have not previously spoken upon the Bill. I regard the present occasion as a momentous one. Probably it will prove to be the “parting of the ways” in more respects than one. The two previous speakers have dealt more with the Arbitration Bill as a whole, than with the particular amendment which is before the Chamber. In voting against that amendment, I do not oppose legislation in the direction of conciliation and arbitration.
Despite the somewhat dismal account which has been given by the honorable member for New England of the operation of the Act in New South Wales,. I should be very glad to see similar legislation given a fair trial throughout the: Commonwealth. At the same time, I am strongly opposed to including within its; provisions any of the States public servants,, no matter whom they may be. A good deal has been said regarding the experience which has been gained of kindred legislation in one State or another. We have: heard very bad accounts of its operation in New South Wales and very glowing talesof the results which it has achieved in New Zealand. Personally I do not think that New Zealand owes the solidity of its industries either to trades unionism or to theworking of its Conciliation and Arbitration! Act. She owes it rather to her land settlement, and to the fact that she possesses an annual rainfall of 40 inches. I venture to say that if the Arbitration Act had been operative in our northern areas during the. past two or three years, even if it had been administered most liberally, the result achieved would have been very different from that attained in New Zealand. The honorable member for New England was right in declaring that when production is. plentiful, wages become a secondary consideration, because the producers can afford to pay good wages. I may mention for the-, benefit of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that it was the Victorian Government,, of which the honorable member for Gippsland was the head, that established a minimum wage of 6s. 6d. per day in this State- - a fact which in itself proves that hisviews in that direction are very liberal indeed. The McLean Government, I repeat, created more wages boards andbrought more industries under the operation of the Factories Act than did any other Administration. During the past day or two honorable members have been deluged with dissertations upon the legal aspect of the proposed amendment. But there isone aspect which has not yet been touched upon, although it is of vital importance, that is, the point of view, of the taxpayersBefore dealing with that matter, however, I should like to say that had this proposal been mooted in the Federal Convention, subsection xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution would never have seen the light of day. Thehonorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who moved for the insertion of that provision, spoke very soothingly of its operation. His tone was very different from that which he has adopted in this Chamber. He urged its insertion with great eloquence, and, chiefly owing to his representations, the provision was carried by a majority of only three votes. Some of the delegates who had previously opposed it even went so far as to reverse their votes in order that it might be given a trial. I do not intend to discuss the legal aspect of this proposal, because I feel that I am not competent to do so. I am quite content to accept the overwhelming opinion of the legal members of this House. By four or five to one they declare that it is unconstitutional. This opinion is entertained by our soundest lawyers, by men who have made constitutional law a special study. Personally, I believe that the High Court will not entertain the proposed legislation if carried, but will immediately declare this portion of the Bill ultra vires. It seems to me that there is something very unreal about this proposition. We are on the verge of a very grave crisis, although the causes which have led up to it are wholly insufficient. The responsibility for these insufficient reasons rests not with the Government, but with the party which is seeking to introduce the thin end of the disintegrating wedge.
– What party secured the confidence of the people at the last elections ?
– We shall hear something further in regard to the confidence of I he people before we have finally disposed of this matter. If the last elections had taken place three months earlier or later than they did, the position of parties in both Houses might have been very different. In my opinion this proposal is nothing more nor less than a sham. If the amendment is carried, it will be set aside by the High Court, and in any event must be a sham. Even if it is passed and is held by the High Court to be constitutional, it will be ignored by the States themselves.
– That is questionable.
– The Premiers of Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania have practically said as much. They are very strongly opposed to the amendment, and if it be carried, I feel satisfied that they will ignore it. The Labour Party, in pressing this amendment,; are simply holding in front of the public service of the States an ignis fatuus, which is supposed to be an offspring of inflammable gas, of which, by the way, we have had a large supply J 2 p l during this debate. The public service will obtain no real or permanent benefit from the provision proposed to be inserted. As the honorable member for New England has said, it is interesting to observe the great attention which the Labour Party bestows on the public servants of the States. I agree with the conclusion arrived at by the honorable member, that they are actuated by the desire to secure a compact, solid body of support that will assist them in giving full effect to their various proposals. I do not blame them for endeavouring to secure this support; but I feel satisfied that the motive I have mentioned is the one which underlies the interest displayed by them in the public service. I take strong exception to the assertion that public servants throughout Australia desire to be brought within the scope of this Bill. Meetings of public servants have been held in Melbourne, at which the signing of the State Labour Party’s programme has been discussed, and although in one case a proposition to support the programme was carried at a packed meeting by a few voles, in other cases it was absolutely repudiated. At a conference of State school teachers from all parts of the State, which was held last week at Bendigo/ a proposition that the teachers should work with the Labour Party was defeated by twenty votes to nine. These facts prove that the assertion that public servants throughout Australia are anxious to join with the Labour Party, and- to be brought under the provisions of this Bill, is incorrect. I do not fear the coming into power of a Labour Government, because I know that the party embraces in its ranks men who are as patriotic and as desirous of stimulating the best interests of the Commonwealth as are any to be found in any other section of the House. I do not agree with all the dismal prophecies we have heard as to what will be the result of the coming into power of a Labour Government. If the Labour Party take office they will recognise that it is impossible to carry out to the full the programme which they have enunciated from many platforms during the last few months. It will be necessary for them to moderate their views, and to recede very considerably from the position hitherto taken up by them. Unless they did so, they would not reign for any length of time. The amendment is likely to be carried, but the prospect before the new Government is not encouraging. We have heard, for example, the statement of the honorable member for
New England, that while he proposes to vote with the Labour Party on this amendment, he will do his best, when they come into office, to keep them well up to the collar, and to see that they do not pass a Compulsory Arbitration Bill. For these reasons, I shall in many respects have no regret if the threatened change of Government occurs. I shall certainly deplore the loss of one or two honorable members from the active government of the Commonwealth, and more especially the loss of the present Treasurer. I doubt very much whether we shall be able to secure the services of any other honorable member who will conduct the financial operations of the Commonwealth with the zeal, industry, and honesty that have been displayed by the right honorable gentleman. It has been asserted upon many platforms that the present political position is intolerable ; but what will be the position if a change of Government takes place? At present we have a Liberal Government, backed up by a Labour Party. If the change occurs, we shall have a Labour Government with a Free-trade backing; and, just as at present the Ministry is at the mercy of the party which holds the balance of power, so the incoming Government will be at the mercy of the tail of the Free-trade Party, which we understand will vote with them on this amendment. The new Government will have to give effect to their wishes, or retire from office. Thus the present complex state of parties in this House will not be remedied.
– What is the way out ?
– We shall find a way out from the experience gained in both cases. Whilst the individual members of the Government of the Commonwealth will be changed, there will be no alteration in the present position.The position of which complaint is now made will continue, although the factors may be varied to a certain extent. A remark made last night by the leader of the Opposition appeared to me to be a very sigificant one. The right honorable member stated that, while he would not object to members of his partyvoting in favour of this amendment, he felt satisfied that if any of them intended to quit his leadership they would give him notice of that- intention, and that, as a matter of fact they had not done so. That foreshadows an interesting position, so far as the new Government are concerned. They will be kept in office by a number of freetraders on the Opposition side of the
House, who will continue to owe allegiance to the present leader of the Opposition. That the Government which is to come into power will be very moderate in their views is proved very clearly by the series of interviews with the leader of the Labour Party in this House, Senator “McGregor, and others, which appeared in last Saturday’s issue of the Age. Those gentlemen stated that, whilst they approved of all the planks of the Labour Party’s platform, they did not propose to attempt to give effect to them at once. They said, in effect - “ The millennium has not yet arrived. We are going to bring about the nationalization of one or two industries, such as the liquor and tobacco trades, and with that work we shall be content.” The nationalization of these two industries formed a plank in the platform of the Liberal Party long before the Labour Party was heard of, and I shall be prepared to join in carrying out the proposal, irrespective of considerations as to the Government by whom it may be introduced. It seems to me that the new Government will be far more moderate than many appear to imagine. I shall welcome the change, because it will help to clear the political atmosphere. It will bring about a distinct line of cleavage as between those who are Federalists and those who are not. It is somewhat singular that many honorable members who are pressing this amendment were anti-Federal when the Constitution Bill was before the people, and are anti- Federal now. They are now seeking to justify the dismal prophecies which they then made. I also welcome the change,because it may place us on more solid ground. One of the curses of the political system of the States - and it will be the curse of the Commonwealth system - is the absence of continuity of policy. Changes of policy are too frequently made. A Government introduces a number of valuable measures, but goes out of office, and its successors throw those measures aside and bring forward new proposals, for no other reason than that they were originated by their predecessors. We require a strong Government, with a continuous line of policy. I should be glad to see the hint thrown out by the honorable member for South Sydney last week, in the very able speech he then made, taken advantage of. He wishes to see a union of parties, so that we may have a strong Government acting upon progressive lines in the interests of Australia. References have been made during the debate to the late un- fortunate railway strike in Victoria. Those references were calculated to inflame rather than to soothe’ matters. I do not think that the position of affairs has been fairly stated, and therefore I should like to make a few remarks in regard to it. We must remember, first, the position of Victoria prior to the strike. For seven pr eight years previously, there had been a continuance, of droughts, so that the railway revenue had fallen off lamentably. The Government was faced with a heavy deficit, and the railway revenue was falling off at the rate of from£300,000 to £350,000 a year. Something had to be done to put things straight, and the public servants, including the railway officials, were therefore asked to contribute asmall percentage of their earnings. No doubt it was hard for them to do that, and with better seasons the reduction would not have been made. But let us look at the matter fairly. The Government had to do something, because the State was drifting towards insolvency. Not only were the public servants asked to contribute a small proportion of their earnings, but very heavy taxation was imposed on the people generally.
– The Government put the railway men upon short time, and stopped their privilege tickets.
– I do not hold a brief for that Government, because it did some things which were very unwise and unjust. Promises of increases in pay were made to lower-paid men, which should have been fulfilled without delay, but have not been carried out yet. But the putting of men upon short time was a humane course to take. If the honorable member were one of a gang of six, to whom it was proposed that either one should be dismissed or all suffer a reduction of pay to the extent of 10 or 15 per cent., would he not choose the latter alternative? It must not be forgotten that no member of the Victorian Parliament, and no member of this House, has for a moment defended the strike. All have characterized it as ill-advised and injudicious. Although the honorable members for Bland and West Sydney seem to indicate that a railway strike may occur again in the future. I do not think that there will be another strike in the present generation. The suffering and loss entailed bv the late strike has been burned in too strongly upon the minds of those who took part in it, and it will be a long while before men will be ready to risk their positions again. Moreover, that strike was a strike, not of all the railway servants, but of only the locomotive engine-drivers. I know scores of railway men, and many of them were dead against the strike, though, from a feeling of loyalty, they went out with their mates. They would not, however, risk their positions again, unless under most extraordinary circumstances, such as I cannot imagine likely to occur. I think, too, that honorable members who speak lightly of the strike are unaware of the strong feeling of the people in the country districts of Victoria in regard to it. Moving through those districts as I have to do, I know the feeling of the people there. It was felt at the time that, no matter what might be the loss, it would be better for the railways to remain idle for six months than for the Government to give way. That feeling would be ten times as strong if another strike occurred. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney last night referred to the circular of a railway organization which was sent to all candidates during the recent Federal elections. I received one of those circulars, but, although I have been in political life for eighteen or nineteen years, I have never yet signed a declaration of policy by any organization. The circular was signed by Mr. Robert Hollis, of New South Wales, and read as follows : -
The Federal Council, composed of delegates from every State in the Commonwealth, which recently met in Sydney, instructed me to respectfully inquire from von, in the event of your being elected to the Federal Senate, or House of Representatives, as the case may be, whether you would be prepared by every means in your power to support -
A Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
The full inclusion therein of the railway services by a specific clause bringing them under the operation of the Act.
Restriction of the powers of £he Inter-State Commission, or, in the event of the railways being taken over by the Commonwealth, of the powers of the Railway Commissioners, so as to prevent them in any way increasing hours of duty, reducing wages, or interfering with rights, privileges, or immunities now enjoyed, and the insuring that all such matters shall only be dealt with either by legislation on the part of Federal Parlia ments, or by regulations framed and issued by the Federal Ministry, which, before being in force, shall be subject to approval by the Federal Parliaments.
I am to state that the Council resolved that the several State associations shall use all their powers to induce all their fellow-workers to vote only for the candidates who will support these requests.
If you are in favour, will you be good enough to sign one of these circulars, and return it to the address given below for your State, as well as publicly give your adherence from your platform, or, if possible, in your election address, or by advertisement, also forwarding copy of such.
No reply will be regarded as unfavorable.
I thought that a bit strong. No matter what the circumstances of the country, it is proposed that the railway employes shall occupy a political holy of holies, into which no one shall enter to do them injury, or to ask them to contribute to the expenses of the country.
– -What was to be the consideration for signing that circular?
– I do not know. Perhaps the securing of the railway vote. I did not reply to the circular, and I do not think I lost all of the railway votes in consequence. It was going too far to ask me to give such a pledge. As I said before, there is one individual who has been quite left out of consideration in this discussion, and he is the taxpayer. We should give him some consideration. Every proposal of this kind, no matter whether made by a State or by the Federal Parliament, means further expense. I am not prepared to say that there are not men in the railway services who are underpaid, but I think that with the return of better seasons their grievances will be remedied. Some people are altogether too liberal with other people’s money. I think that as trustees for the public we should be as careful of the public money as we are of our own. It is the taxpayers who have to keep the railways going. Railways are absolutely indispensable to new countries such as this, and it is the produce from the land, from the mines, and from the forests that gives them employment and provides them with revenue. The produce from the interior makes up the freights which are conveyed to our ports, and the requirements of the people in the interior make up the freights that are sent back from the ports. With the exception of those who are engaged in working up raw material into finished goods, all besides those on the land are middlemen, who contribute nothing to the production and wealth of the country. The railways, therefore, depend upon the people on the land, and the people on the land upon the railways. This question is beyond all else a producer’s question, and I, ais the representative of a purely agricul tural district, deem it my duty to bring this aspect of it under notice. The economical working of the railways is of the greatest importance to our producers. They are not rich men. They are the struggling units of the interior, who have had to combat drought and other difficulties for a number of years. All of them have to work hard, and in many cases they make only a bare living. The passing of an amendment like this, will, possibly, increase the railway expenditure of the States, and it is quite possible under an Arbitration and Conciliation Board that the railway employes of a State like Victoria may obtain the same rates of pay as prevail in Western Australia, where conditions of employment and living are such that, perhaps, twice as much should be paid as is paid here. Any increase in expenditure, however, must fall, in both the first and last instance, upon the producers of the country. They will have to bear, not only increased freights, but, it is possible, even extra taxation. The only road out of the difficulty is to increase our production. If the railways were carrying larger freights, and the trains were full, the men would be better paid, arid there would be no quibbling about wages. As the honorable member for New England pointed out, there is no trouble about wages when the production of the country is large. If our friends of the Labour Party would interest themselves in the development of the country, in settling people upon the land, and in assisting them to increase their production, they would do more for the solution of the problem which faces us than can be hoped from the introduction of fads and nostrums such as Arbitration Bills for the coercion of State Governments. So long as there is poverty in the land the condition of the public servants will be unsatisfactory, but as poverty is lessened, all will become more happy and contented.
– It may be somewhat surprising to honorable members that, in a matter of so much importance, and so vital to the Government, no Minister has, up to the present, risen to support the Prime Minister. That is the principal reason why I feel it incumbent upon me to speak. If there had been a scramble on the part of Ministers, eager to rush into the fray, probably I should have been content to remain silent, but. under the circumstances, I feel that I should not be doing my duty to myself, or to the great State which I represent, if I refrained from speaking upon this important subject. My object is to support, as well as I can, the view taken by the Prime Minister. Those who have listened to the debate must have been surprised to find such an important discussion characterized by calmness, and quietude, and freedom from bitterness. No one, judging from the debate itself, would imagine that a great crisis in the history of Australia was close at hand. In my opinion, the atmosphere has been too calm, and the debate too free from excitement to be altogether healthy. When an attempt is being made to dispossess the occupants of the Treasury benches, surely those whose defeat is being aimed at should have something to say. I do not know why my honorable friend, the Prime Minister, should look so cheerful, and take such a philosophic view of the situation, as the decision will probably have the effect - although I am not speaking officially in regard to this matter - of hurling him and his Ministers, and those who have supported him, from the dominant political position in Australia. The only explanation which suggests itself is, that my honorable friend finds that he can no longer bear the strain of the position. The Prime Minister told us some time ago that a form of government, with three parties in the House of almost equal strength, was one which could not be tolerated for long, and he indicated as clearly as possible that he was not prepared to carry on the Government unless he had a working majority. He has found since Parliament has met that parties are almost of equal strength. The supporters of the Government are, perhaps, stronger, than either of the other parties, but a combina- ‘ tion of the forces gathered together under the standards of Labour and the Opposition could at any time bring about the expulsion of the Government from office. That is a position which it would be impossible for any one with any experience in leading Governments to regard with equanimity. To me the position seems impossible. It will be just the same for those who succeed us - if any one does succeed us. It will be no longer “Yes, Mr. Watson,” but “Yes, Mr. Deakin,” or “Yes, Mr. Reid “ - or whoever may lead the other two parties. I have said before, and I say again, that responsible government, as we understand it, cannot be satisfactorily carried on under such conditions. The debate has proceeded in such a manner that an onlooker could hardly tell which was the aggressor and which was the party attacked. This condition arises from the generous disposition of the Prime Minister, who looks upon his adversaries almost as friends. ‘ He is certainly to his opponents the most generous man in public life whom I have known. It is a mean trait in human character which induces men to grudge to their fellows the good fortune which may attend them. When we win, as I suppose we all do at one time or other, and we are full of rejoicing at our good fortune, we do not care to see others display envy towards us. Those who may be successful in the battle which is now proceeding shall not be regarded by me with any feelings other than those of good-will and congratulation. I am very glad that this question is to be decided in a straightforward manner. The Prime Minister stated that as a constitutional lawyer he did not believe that State servants could be brought within the scope of our legislation, but in order to make matters perfectly clear he inserted a provision that the Bill should not extend to servants of the States. I am very glad that the Labour Party are acting with equal straightforwardness. They believe that State servants are within the scope of the Bill, without being specially mentioned, but they have decided that their belief shall be clearly and definitely expressed in words in the Bill. Nothing is to depend upon implication, or upon a decision of the High Court, but definite words are to be employed. Therefore, both sides are upon thoroughly open ground. It is not proposed to leave it to the High Court to decide the question unless the words inserted are ultra vires. Both sides are making their position clear, and I think that this should be a matter for congratulation. There is no need to beat about the bush, nor is there any uncertainty as to what is intended. I should like to deal with this question from three points of view. The first of these has reference to the constitutionality of the amendment. Not being a lawyer, I shall not speak upon this point at any great length. The next question is that of expediency ; and the third whether there is any necessity for extending the operation of the Bill to the States public servants. Upon the constitutional point I absolutely agree with the Prime Minister. I have had the pleasure of listening to him on several occasions, and I am absolutely in accord with the conclusions at which he has arrived. It has been said by several honorable members that there was a doubt in the
Prime Minister’s mind, but I think that my honorable friend, whilst abstaining from the dogmatic pronouncement that “This is the law,” has said, clearly, “ In my opinion this is the law ; I have no doubt about it. “ How could he go further? It would be impossible for him to say what the High Court or the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council would decide2 and he could only give his own opinion as a lawyer. This he has done in definite terms. When speaking at Ballarat he indicated that the policy of the Government would be the same as that pursued on a former occasion, and I am glad to be a member of a Government that is not afraid to face the responsibility attaching to its position in a matter of this kind. Whatever may happen to us, it can never be said by the people of Australia that we said one thing and did another. I listened with the greatest pleasure to the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, whose exposition of the law on this question was most able, clear, impressive, and couched in firm and moderate terms. Any one listening to the honorable and learned member, to his clear phrases, and noting, his impressive manner, must have realized that he was speaking with authority - as one who had considered the matter and felt the responsibility that rested upon him. A good deal has been said during this debate concerning the Federal Convention ; and some honorable members who were not delegates to that gathering have asked. “ Why should we consider the intention of the framers of the Constitution?” Last evening, however, the honorable and learned member for Indi quoted extracts from eminent constitutional authorities, which, instead of showing that the intention of the law-markets was of no importance, conclusively demonstrated that where ambiguity or doubt existed, that intention might fairly be taken into consideration. I could understand the argument advanced by some honorable members being used in connexion with the American Constitution, which was adopted more than 100 years ago, because not one of its framers at present survives. But in this Chamber I see several honorable members who took part in the deliberations of the Federal Convention, and who discussed this clause from one point of view or another. Under such circumstances I hold that we are warranted in paying regard to the intention of the Convention at the time this provision was under consideration. If the intention of the framers of our Constitution is of no importance, I certainly think that it ought to be, especially in these early days, when it is fresh in our minds. No member of that body ever hinted that subsection xxxv. of section 51 was intended to be used in the way to which it is now sought to apply it. Had it been so hinted at it would not have been assented to. Of course it may be said by those who were not members of the Convention that we “ builded better than we knew.” The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne was the author of that provision, and in supporting him I said that “ I doubted whether I was on the right track in supporting him.” But did he imagine at that time that this sub-section would be used for the purpose which is now proposed ?
– I never knew there was a distinction between coach-drivers and train-drivers.
– If the honorable and learned member knew of it, why did he not mention it? Did he think that because I came from the far West he could hoodwink me, and secure my support by withholding something of which he had knowledge?
– No ; certainly not.
– Then I will be more generous to the honorable and learned member, and say that the idea that subsection xxxv. of the Constitution could be used in the direction that is now proposed never entered his mind. He is perfectly well aware that there was no stronger supporter of State rights in the Convention than I was. It was only natural that those who represented the smaller States should be careful to see that they were not placed under the heel of the larger States. Does the honorable and learned member imagine that if he had mentioned this matter I should ever have consented to place the State servants of Western Australia under the domination of ‘ the State servants of Victoria or New South Wales? I should have replied, “ I am an advocate of State rights. I believe that Western Australia is quite competent to control its own public servants, without any interference on the part of other States.”’ If the High Court decides that the Commonwealth possesses this power under the Constitution-
– The right honorable gentleman will not allow that tribunal to decide the matter.
– I am not here to assist in passing measures the legality of which must be at once questioned by the High Court. I prefer to exercise an independent judgment.
– The High Court is bound to interpret it.
– I shall take care never to submit to the High Court a matter which I am convinced is ultra vires.
Honorable Members. - Oh !
– I fear that honorable members misunderstand me. I shall take great care that any legislation which commands my support comes within the powers conferred upon us by the Constitution. I regret that the honorable and learned member for West Sydney is absent from the Chamber, because I wish to refer to some statements which he made last evening. I am a Scotchman, and I believe in the motto of the Order of the Thistle. “ Nemo mc impune lacessit.” If a man hits me I am inclined to hit back if I can. The honorable and learned member took it upon himself very unnecessarily to make disparaging observations concerning the representation of Western Australia at the Federal Convention. He endeavoured to make it appear that that State was represented by ten delegates who were elected by a small number of voters. I desire to tell him that they were elected by the members of the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council sitting together. I would point out that the very mode of election which was adopted in the case of delegates to the Convention in 1891 was that followed by Western Australia in 1:897. But there is a higher example than that. That example is afforded by the United States Senate, which even to-day is elected in the same way.
– A very paltry way.
– It comes with ill grace from the honorable member for Wide Bay to say that of probably the most august legislative body in the world.
– I say that it is a paltry way to elect representatives.
– As the statement emanates from the honorable member, I suppose it must be right, and that the American people must be wrong.
– If the American people could change the mode of election to the Senate they would quickly do so.
– lt appears to me that some Australians are a good deal too big for their boots. I wish, briefly, to refer to the delegates who represented Western Australia at the Federal Convention. If it were not rude to do so, I should like to compare them with honorable members of this House, or of the other Chamber.
– The honorable and learned member for West Sydney has thought fit to make disparaging remarks concerning those delegates. In my judgment, however, they were in no way inferior to himself, either in learning or experience. They comprised Dr. Hackett, one of the most able and learned men in Australia; the late Mr. Leake, a Q.C., who afterwards became Premier of Western Australia, and who was a prominent public man for many years ; Mr. James, the present Premier, who does credit to Australia ; the late Sir James Lee Steere, for many years Speaker of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, of whom no one will speak but with honour ; and others including my humble self. I regret that the honorable and learned member, in his little self-satisfied, bombastic way, endeavoured to cast ridicule upon the Western Australian delegation at the Convention.
– I merely attempted to show what was perfectly true, namely, that neither the right honorable gentleman nor the other representatives were elected by a majority of the people of that State.
– They were elected bv the same process as that by which the United States Senate is elected to this day.
– What of that?
– Let me return to the subject which I was discussing when I was led away by interjections. It is generally admitted that the Victorian railway strike is the parent of the amendment introduced by the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– No, no.
– The honorable member denies my statement ; but that is the opinion which I entertain, and which has been expressed by several other honorable members. In dealing with this question ‘ I have no desire to be personal. On the contrary, I wish to be on good terms with every one in this House as well as out of it ; but I hold the view that the Victorian railway strike is the parent of the amendment, which would probably not have been thought of but for that unfortunate occurrence. Many opinions have been expressed upon that strike, and upon the attitude taken up in reference to it by the State Government, but I think it is foreign to our duty to give utterance to such opinions, and that no good purpose can be served by doing so. While I may hold certain opinions in regard to the strike, it is unnecessary for me on this occasion to give expression to them. I will say, however, that I considered that the strike was a very regrettable occurrence. That was the view which honorable members generally took of it ; but I have such confidence in the self-governing powers of the State, and in the fairness of the people, that I feel assured that they have no desire to inflict any wrong upon any one. When persons have complained to me that a Government of which I happened to be the leader had acted unfairly I have invariably answered, “Governments never act unfairly ; they never intentionally do wrong.” The desire of a Government is to do that which is right, and to assist their fellow colonists by dealing fairly with any question which comes before them. I have faith in the capacity of the people of Victoria to do what is right in the customary constitutional manner. The people of Victoria can manage their own internal affairs, and will mete out justice to all their public servants without the assistance of the Commonwealth Parliament. We must remember that, although we have been returned to this House from all parts of Australia, all knowledge is not possessed by us. Are we likely to be more evenminded and more liberally disposed than are the people of Victoria, so far as the management of public affairs is concerned, merely because we come from Western Australia or Queensland? Governments may unintentionally do wrong, but I have always asserted that the people themselves are the safety valve, and will very quickly compel them to do right.
– Provided that they have representation.
– I think that every one in Victoria has a vote.
– That is not the case, although some persons have two votes.
– It is a serious course to urge that we ought to interfere with the self-governing powers of the people of this State. If we intend to do so we should make the necessary provision in the Constitution, and declare that we are determined to have a voice in the framing of the Constitutions of the States. At present they are self-governing, and, with the exception of the powers which have been conferred upon us by the Constitution, have complete control of their own affairs. I contend that this amendment is not within the competence of the Federal Parliament. It seems to me that the Trades Hall or the railway servants of Victoria, who are urging the extension of this Bill to the public servants of the States far more vehemently than are the servants of any other State, have lost confidence in the people of their own State.
– They have lost their votes.
– They have the right to vote.
– But they have special representation.
– That is a matter with which we have nothing to do. It relates solely to the self-governing powers of the State. Victoria is an autonomous State-
– But the State Parliament has taken away the voting power which the civil servants formerly enjoyed, and has provided that they shall have special representation.
– If the State Parliament has the power it is open to them to take that action. It seems to me that those who are clamouring in Victoria for this amendment of the Bill have lost confidence in their own State Parliament - the Parliament elected by themselves under a free franchise.
– The Parliament of the State is elected by the people, and it is idle for honorable members to say that the State Constitution should be framed according to their notion of what is right. It must be framed in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State itself. The honorable member for Darling said last night. “ We hear a great deal about States rights ; let us hear something about Commonwealth rights,” while the honorable member for Wide Bay spoke about petty Parliaments and petty Ministries.
– I spoke of the littleness of Parliaments.
– The States Parliaments are as independent within their own sphere as is the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and it is improper to use opprobrious terms in regard to them. It seems to me that Victoria, which has been in the lead for fifty years so fan as liberal legislation is concerned-
– Has gone back.
– Apparently those who have so long held power in this State have not the same power now, and have now discovered that the position of affairs is not what it ought to be, and ate anxious to secure the assistance of those who know nothing about the matter. Let Victoria look after herself, and let us keep within our own powers rather than seek to interfere with States matters. We have arrived at a remarkable state of affairs when servants of this State, who have been in its employ for many years, are no longer content to live under the State laws, and wish the people of other parts of the Commonwealth to rescue them from what they term the injustice of the Parliament elected by the people of the State itself. That is the way in which the question presents itself to my mind. I believe that there is no injustice existing in any State of the Commonwealth which the people of that State are not only prepared, but anxious, to rectify. State servants have been represented as an oppressed people; but, from an experience of the Public Service extending over forty years, I can say that for every one vacancy that occurs in the service there are numerous applicants. The Public Service is the cream of employment in Australia.
– The same remark applies to membership of Parliament.
– Apparently it must be considered to be a very good thing to be a member of Parliament, or there would not be so many seeking election. If it were not a good thing the honorable member for Southern Melbourne would not have given up his church in order to occupy a seat in this House.
– Did the right honorable member give up anything in order to become a member of this Chamber?
– Yes; the Premiership and my seat in the Parliament of Western Australia. I am wholly in accord with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, who contends that if the amendment be passed it will put an end to the autonomy of the States. I do not mean to suggest that that would be the immediate result of the passing of the amendment ; but I contend that it is altogether opposed to the theory of the Constitution. It might stand on the statutebook for many years without doing any harm ; but the fact would nevertheless remain that the foundations of the States Constitutions had been undermined, and that to a certain extent, at all events, the self-government of the States was at an end. Some members of the Labour Party may look upon that as desirable; but i’t is no part of the Federal compact. We undertook to exercise only those powers that were given to us by the people, and I feel satisfied that the States never intended that the section in the Constitution enabling us to deal with conciliation and arbitration should give us power’ to pass such an amendment as this. Even the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne did noi imagine that it would. I now desire to deal briefly with the question of the expediency of doing what is now proposed. In these early days of the Commonwealth it is undesirable, even if we have this power, that we should exercise it to the full. One does not exercise every power that he possesses. I might, for example, have complete control over an estate, and decide to break it up, and by so doing cause injury and loss to the people living upon it; but instead of doing that, I might say. “ I will go gently, for nothing can take away from me the power that I possess.” I disagree with the opinion expressed by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne that we may be held to have waived one of our rights if we do not exercise them to the full. If we have the right it must remain with us.
– As a practical leader of Governments the- right honorable gentleman must know that, if we did not exercise the right in question, it would make it much more difficult than it is now to bring in a Bill of this sort.
– I do not think it would. The view which I take of proposed laws is that a measure should not be introduced to Parliament unless it is required.
– Of course.
– Yes ; but it is a very common thing for laws to be proposed before they are wanted. Such laws often fill up long spaces in Governors’ speeches. I, on many occasions in Western Australia, resisted the introduction of laws which I was not opposed to but which I thought were not then required.. For instance, some people wished for a measure to impose a minimum wage, but mv reply was, that so long as men were being paid 8s., ios., 14s., or £t a day, I saw no neces sity for such a law. Its introduction at that time might have encouraged employers who were paying higher wages to reduce them to the minimum. Unless laws are required, they are worse than useless; they are mischievous. Does the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne contend that, if to-day, in regard to conciliation and arbitration, we exercise as many of our constitutional powers as we think ought to be exercised at this juncture, we shall be prevented from exercising the remainder of them at some future time? My common-sense tells me that such a contention is wrong. Even a declaration in the Bill that we were exercising the whole of our powers, when we were exercising less than the whole, would not prevent a subsequent exercise of the remainder. Nothing but the voice of the people, as provided by the Constitution, can take away power already given. Therefore. I do not agree with the honorable and learned member, that we can be injured by any inference drawn from the exercise by us of a part of our powers. I am of opinion that, if the amendment became law, it would be mischievous, and would cause friction between the Commonwealth and the Governments of the States. The States would resent being bound by it, and trouble, and even worse, might result. I am not one of those who wish to take away powers from the States. I would not take from them any power, unless its exercise by the Commonwealth was necessary to secure the absolute good of the people of Australia. I would neither annoy them by pin pricks, by the taking away of one small power after another, nor by taking over at once every power that the Constitution has given to us; I would take only such powers as were required to be exercised in the interests of the Commonwealth. I wish to do nothing which would infer that the Governments of the States are in any way subservient or inferior to that of the Commonwealth, or that they have sustained any loss of power other than that expressly surrendered by them. I would rather let them be the aggressors. It was the policy of the late Prime Minister, as it is that of the honorable and learned gentleman now at the head of the Government, never to be the aggressor in the case of any friction between the States and the Commonwealth, if it could be avoided. Both those honorable and learned gentlemen believe that as time goes on the Federal spirit will grow, and the dissatisfaction of these early clays will gradually melt away. That is statesmanship which I am sure will bear good fruit. But- if we at once assume all our powers, whether we want them or not, and if we attempt to take from them the control of their servants, I fear what the result may be. I know how I should have felt if, when I was Premier of Western Australia, such a thing had been attempted. I should have resisted it to the utmost - by every constitutional means at my command: I should have considered what is now proposed by the Labour Party a great wrong, and a breach of faith to the States ; and that is how I believe the people of the States will now view it. Until last year the idea never entered the mind of any one that the exercise of a power in this direction would ever be proposed, much less that the proposal would cause the retirement of the Government. But even if we have the power - which I deny - I would regard its exercise as inexpedient at the present time. I come now to the last portion of my address, which I shall devote to a consideration of the necessity for the amendment. If my friends of the Labour Party succeed to the Treasury benches, I hope I shall not be an ungenerous opponent, and that the good fellowship which has existed between us and them will continue. I hope that it may be said of us all in the future that we never let our public controversies interfere with our private friendships. I make these remarks because I have some hard things to say. In the first place, I think that the members of the Labour Party have not treated the Government and the Prime Minister well.
– We have tried to do so.
– I do not know what could be done to the Prime Minister to make him act ungenerously or unkindly.
– He is a gentleman in word and deed.
– He seems to me to be willing to help those who are attacking him. That is not my way. I attack those who attack me. The words of the members of the Labour Party do not coincide with their acts. They are fair spoken and full of good sentiments, and seem to overflow with goodfellowship. But their caucus is their master. I said to a friend of mine, whom I see in this chamber now - “You are a good man, and I am a friend of yours. I should like very much to help to secure your re-election, because I believe that you are fit to represent your electoral division in the Commonwealth; but the trouble is that as a member of the Labour Party you are bound by the caucus. You may urge your own views to the utmost. But when the mandate of the majority has gone forth, you must bow your head as the Emperor Henry IV. bowed his before Pope Gregory VII. at Canossa.”
– Is not the right honorable gentleman bound by the decisions of the Cabinet?
– I can leave the Cabinet directly I find myself at variance with its members, and yet retain my seat in this House ; but a member of the Labour Partv who votes against the caucus on a matter included in the platform of the party must resign his seat.
– The right honorable member is positively wrong.’
– A member of the Labour Party who voted against the caucus would have to resign his seat, or he could not again hold up his head among his fellows, he having pledged himself as a member of the party to be bound by the caucus.
– The members of the Labour Party are as free as is the right honorable member.
– No; they have pledged themselves. They have to sign a certain pledge before they even go before their constituents for election.
– That is not so.
– When they present themselves for election they undertake to conform to the platform of the party or resign. When the first Parliament met it was apparent to all that the Government could . carry on only with the assistance of the Labour Party, or of the members of the Opposition. We know what happened. The Opposition moved a vote of want of confidence in the Government. But the members of the Labour Party gave us a general support.
– No; the party was divided upon that occasion.
– On several occasions the Government could not have carried on without the assistance of the Labour Party, while, on other occasions we could not have carried on without the assistance of the members of the Opposition.
– When the direct exclusion of undesirable aliens was proposed, the Government was saved bv the Opposition.
– Yes; and again, in connexion with the Naval Agreement. On that occasion the caucus was brought into requisition, although it was not a specified item of the platform of the Labour Party, and every member of the Labour Party voted against the Government. Without the controlling power of the caucus, some twenty-five members of Parliament would never have been got to vote together, which proves my contention as to its power and domination. It would be a good thing for the Government if our supporters were bound by a caucus decision. I would put the screw on a few of them in the impending division. I acknowledge that the members of the Labour Party have assisted the Government on several occasions, and we have assisted them so far as we could, consistentl y with our duty to the people, and in harmony with our convictions.
– The same thing might be said of the members of the Labour Party.
– The members of the Labour Party wanted certain measures very badly, and we did our ‘best, consistently with our duty to the country, to give them those measures.
– The Government believed in them.
– Yes, though I do not think that a generous remark. I remember a poor newspaper writer, who fought a newspaper battle for a certain important person, and gained a victory, or, at any rate, was of great assistance in bringing it about. When the poor fellow went to the person whom he had assisted, and said, “ I wrote all those leading articles, and fought hard for you, and you are now out of the wood. I am very hard up; can you help me?” the person for whom he had done all this work turned round upon him and said, “ I trust that in all you did, you did what you thought was right.” That incident reminds me of the attitude of my honorable friend, who says, “ I hope that you did it only because you thought it was right to assist us.” Ido not think that is a generous remark. There is an inclination on the part of every good man to help those who help him. ‘There is no doubt that the Labour Party and the Government have worked together to a large extent, and there is no doubt that the Government have been very much blamed in consequence. We have had to put up with reproaches from one end of Australia to the other, and in Western Australia a good deal of blame has been placed upon my shoulders on the same account.
– In Bunbury ?
– Yes, at Bunbury, a far better place than that from which the honorable and learned member came. It has been said that we have assisted the Labour Party too much, that in fact, we have, been dragged along at their heels. I deny that. We have been improperly blamed, but that does not alter the fact to which I am about to refer. Every honorable member belonging to the Labour Partywill acknowledge that it has been said that the Government have helped them in passing the measures which they desired, that in fact it has been said that we have been almost tools in their hands.
– We did not desire that.
– So far as my experience guides me, the policy of the Labour Party has been - and I say it with very great regret - to take everything they could get, and to give very little back in return.
– Did they ever try to squeeze the Minister ?
– I believe that they would squeeze anybody if they could, and I do not blame them. I would do the same myself in an open and proper manner. The Labour Party would do the same.
– Did the Labour Party ever attempt to squeeze the Government ?
– I have not occupied the position of Prime Minister, and I am not going to answer for my leader; but I think that the Labour Party have urged for the utmost consideration on many occasions.
– Not in my time.
– I do not say it offensively; but I contend that the Labour Party have tried to get everything they could in the direction of carrying out their policy.
– Did they ever try to bring any pressure to bear upon the Government at any time?
– Well, we put certain measures in the forefront of our programme. Are the Arbitration Bill and the Navigation Bill of such great urgency that the people are languishing and longing for them? If not, why were they placed in such a prominent position ? Because we believed that they were beneficent measures and would assist those who were helping us. Notwithstanding all this, the Labour Party, for which we have done a good deal on several occasions, are determined to defeat us, saying at the same time - “We are terribly sorry over this; we wish that this was not happening; cannot we find any way out of it?”
– That is ungenerous.
– I do not think so. What did the Labour Party do at the last elections? They did not treat us as well as we treated them. They opposed some of our most trusted supporters. They brought out a candidate against my honorable colleague the Postmaster-General, and they also brought opposition to bear in the case of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who has always supported their policy.
– Government supporters opposed labour candidates.
– A Government supporter opposed me.
– Not at our suggestion, I think. I know that so far as Western Australia was concerned, although I was assisting two candidates for the Senate, I never said one word against the Labour Party, beyond that I considered that they were not entitled to the whole of the representation in that branch of the Legislature. I never said that as a party they were not entitled to consideration. The honorable member for Fremantle and the honorable member for Perth know very well that, if I had considered it necessary, I might have done a great deal more by way of opposition to the labour candidates. I felt however, that I was in a difficult position. I felt that the Labour Party in this House had often given the Government a good support, although I was not content to allow them to obtain all the seats in the Senate without opposition.
– They did not run any one against the right honorable gentleman.
– I am not speaking about myself. The Labour Party opposed supporters of the Government, such as the member for Melbourne Ports, who never voted against them ; and they showed an utter lack of sympathy with the Government in opposing the PostmasterGeneral. The Labour Party, however considered that they had done so much for the Government that their candidates should not be opposed by us. At the beginning of the session we introduced two Bills, viz., the Arbitration Bill and the Navigation Bill. I do not mean to say that I agreed with all their provisions ; but still I got the best I could in the interests of the State “I represent, and to meet my own views. The measures were introduced at the opening of the session, in fulfilment of a pledge to the country ; and I think there was an understanding with the Labour Party that they should be introduced immediately. The Labour Party were very urgent about these measures, and several times pressed for their introduction. They . were informed by the Prime Minister that the preparation of the Bills was going on as quickly as possible; and in this respect every endeavour was made by the Government to meet the wishes of the Labour Party. As a plea of urgency it was even suggested that there might be a strike amongst the seamen or the shearers if the Arbitration Bill were not immediately passed ; in fact, the Government were urged to lay these two measures on the table as the most momentous in the politics of the Commonwealth, and they were introduced as soon as possible. But what have we been hurrying for, I should like to know? We have been very foolish- we should have taken another month in which to finally settle the Bills now before us. What is the result of our expedition? We have been hurrying to our doom, urged along by the Labour Party, who are now ready to be our executioners. If ever a Government ought to say. “ Save us from our friends,” surely it is this Government.
– Gratitude is not their strong point.
– I do not want gratitude, but only fair play.
– The right honorable gentleman wants votes.
– I do not put the position in that rough way - I want the support of good men. I now desire to submit some questions, the first of which is - have the public servants of the States of Australia urged this measure in their own interest?
– Have the States servants urged this measure all over Australia?
– I want some evidence on that point. I cannot take notice of what people write to one private individual, but I do take notice of the press, and of public meetings in Australia; and I have not found, except on very few occasions indeed, the States public servants demanding, in any way, to be brought under the operation of a Bill of this kind.
– The States public servants voted for candidates who advocated this measure.
– We have the power to pass such legislation.
– I am not ar guing the point with the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, whom I have already told that 1 should oppose a proposal to include States public servants, even if we had the power under the Constitution to include them. I would say, next, that it has not been pointed out to us by any one of the speakers that if a law of the kind were in operation it would be useful or be used. True, there was a maritime strike of 1890 to which such a law might have applied; but as to the last ten years no attempt has been made to show that a law of the kind, if in existence, would have been used or have been useful.
– It would have been used in the case of the shearers last year.
– It would have been resorted to by the Victorian railway men last year.
– Would it have been possible to apply a law of the kind in the case of the Victorian railway strike, to which such repeated reference has been made? What was that dispute? The dispute arose over an alleged improper order given in reference to what associations the railway men should belong - the question being whether they should or should not affiliate with the Trades Hall.
– Or with the Melbourne Club.
– During the last ten minutes I have repeatedly called for order, and requested honorable members not to interject. If honorable members continue to interject, I shall ask the leader of the House to assist me in keeping order.
– It has not been shown that: had a law of this kind been in existence the railway servants of Victoria could have taken advantage of it, so that the alleged improper order might have been dealt with by the Court. We know, however, that the Bill applies only to disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State, so that, according to the Constitution, a law of the kind would have been of no use whatever in the case of the Victorian railway strike. The leader of the Opposition has said that even in his imagination he cannot find any case, except that of the shearers and that of the seamen, to which the Bill could be applied. What is the use of carrying a law, and creating annoyance and friction in the States, if the law is not going to be effective? Is theamendment of such importance that all the provisions of the Bill which are alleged to be so beneficent - such, for instance, as those which provide for the shearers, and, with their corollary, the Navigation Bill, for the seamen - should be destroyed - destroyed for an amendment which no one has yet been able to show could have been applied in any case which has yet arisen ? It is impossible for any of us to look into the future. The Labour Party have the ball at their feet now, with the chance Of passing these two Bills, as introduced by the Prime Minister. If the present chance be thrown away no one can tell when these ‘Bills will be passed; yet there is a willingness to throw all away in order to carry out the Quixotic idea contained in the amendment. There is. a willingness to sacrifice not only the seamen and shearers, but also the Prime Minister, who is said to be so esteemed by the Labour Party. If the Bill is so urgently needed, if it is so beneficent in its objects, as I believe it is, what does common-sense say to me, to honorable members opposite, and to the Labour Party? Common-sense says that if the Labour Party are really in earnest, if they do not prefer political trouble to a beneficent law, their course is to get the measure passed in a shape in which it can be passed, and, later on, if they want anything more, to get that too if they can. Surely that is common-sense, but - apparently out of “ pure cussedness “ - they are willing to sacrifice the whole lot, like the dog which grasped at the shadow, and lost the substance. That is not business. It is not common-sense. This action does not seem to me to be that of men who are really in earnest, and want this Bill passed. They do not seem to care twopence about the seamen and the shearers. They seem to desire something which we will not give them, and which, when it has been obtained, will be of no use to them. They cannot deny the premises which I have placed before them. All that they really want to provide in the Bill is that it shall apply to those disputes which overflow from one State to another, such as a seamen’s strike or a shearers’ strike. I cannot think of any other disputes, but if there had been any, they would no doubt have occurred to the minds of the members of the Labour Party. They can get all that they want from the Bill which the Prime Minister has introduced, but still they want something more. They want that which we say is unconstitutional, that which we say should not be given in any case at the present time, even if it were constitutional, and that which will be of no use to them when it is obtained. They cannot mention a single case in. which the proposed power could be used. If they can, why has it not been mentioned to the House? To what cases could it be applied ? They cannot cite one case. The case of the railway strike in Victoria has only to be mentioned to be dismissed from our consideration. It would not apply to a case of that kind. I am therefore justified in saying that the Prime Minister has not been well treated. The Labour Party have said to my honorable, my generous friend - and no more generous man will they ever have to deal with - “ Unless we get everything that we want, out you go.” Like Shylock in the play, they want the exact pound of flesh. I appeal to honorable members as generous men, as men who are rubbing shoulders with men of the world every day, to say whether that is the way in which to treat those who, to say the least of it, have, not been unmindful of the interests of the Labour Party or of any other section of the House.
– Does not the Minister wish that he had never done it?
– No; I reserve that sort of remorse for the honorable member. It goes without saying that we who have been in public life for so many years are not anxious to promote, or assist in promoting, any division in this House, or any crisis. We wish to continue the work upon which we are engaged, but only with honour. When we are asked to take a course which we think is unconstitutional, and which, if not unconstitutional, is inexpedient-and unnecessary - a course which we think would strike at the very root of the self-governing powers of the States - we cannot consent to be influenced by any personal considerations. I . rejoice that I have as my leader one who has never wavered with regard to his pledges on. this matter. I rejoice that we stand here to-day true to the principles which we enunciated, and to the pledges which we gave; and when the time comes, as it will come perhaps in a few hours, for others to take our places on these benches - feeling, as I do, that the course of conduct which I have followed is not only that laid down by the Constitution, not only that which is in the interest of Australia and of the States, but is in accordance with my own conscience and with what I think is right, I shall, in taking my seat on the Opposition benches, have the satisfaction of feeling that I have tried to do my duty.
– Whatever hazy opinion you, sir, may have formed in the early part of this debate as to the fate of the Government, neither you nor any one else could do otherwise than compliment the Minister for Home Affairs; because he has thrown aside the guise, and has been fighting every inch of the road for the Ministry. He has taken the gloves off, and his position is a very easy one to define. He requires no new faces at the window ; he prefers the old faces at the window. He grumbles at the line of attack, at the weapons which are used. The Prime Minister picked the weapons, and to-night his honorable colleague, in that manly way of his, has tried by every possible means to attract the support of honorable members to the Government. He travelled along, the road of an injured Ministry; he travelled along the road of a Ministry which, he said, has done very much good. He got into conflict with the Labour Party, and, under cover of the situation, he asked us to look to the care of his privileges, and to support the Prime Minister, neglecting to tell the people the principal issue at the present time. The struggle over this Arbitration Bill is not a war of to-day. It is a war dating from the last general election. The Minister for Home Affairs has indicated those whom he regards as the executioners of the Ministry. The real executioners of the Ministry are the electors. The Prime Minister in his Ballarat speech, and in all his speeches throughout Australia, presented this issue to the electors. The Parliament chosen by those electors has not given him a majority. Therefore the people of Australia are the executioners of the Government. But certainly the Minister for Home Affairs has fearlessly fought for the maintenance of the present Government in power. He has taken the gloves off.
He asks us to believe that this is merely a Victorian storm. He says that many of those who will vote against the Government will do so because the issue is purely Victorian. Of course, he alludes to the recent railway strike. We are aware that Sir Edmund Barton, of whose Ministry the present Government is simply a remnant, said, in reply to Mr. Irvine, then Premier of Victoria, that he was unfavorable to including the civil servants. That position was accepted. Now the Prime Minister takes up the cudgels in behalf of a similar policy. From whom do the Ministry look for support in this crisis? They look for support from members like the honor- ‘ able member for Echuca, who said to-night that the Victorian authorities would not arm any outside power against the Railway Commissioners of the State, and would resist taking from the Commissioners control over their employes. The Minister for Home Affairs poses as the custodian of States rights and of the autonomous powers of the States. But what did he say at the Federal Convention, when he was advocating the power of the Federal Parliament to make laws with regard to conciliation and arbitration? He there put it that he supported the sub-section, because the Federal Parliament would be better able to deal with the subject, and would deal with it far more satisfactorily than the local Parliaments would be likely to do. But to-night the right honorable gentleman appears to take the exactly opposite, view. The connexion of the Government with this question has been historical from the beginning. In the first instance, they lost one of their most powerful Ministers - the Right Honorable C. C. Kingston - who resigned on what some of his friends considered a matter of detail. But, to-night, the Minister for Home Affairs, in powerful language, and with dramatic effect, leads us to believe that he does not believe in the measure at all. One Minister leaves the Cabinet on what was called a question of detail, whilst the other clings to the Government in violence to his own feelings. He fights this battle from the point of view of clinging to office and keeping his party in power. I say that, because, as the Ministerlikes plain speaking on his own part, he mustexpect it in return. If the constitutionality of the amendment were the only matter in dispute there would be very little to trouble the Committee. I like to hear the legal members arguing questions of this sort, but
I would remind them that, whatever their opinions may be, it is the High Court that in the last resort must decide the questions at issue. We have specially appointed a High Court to decide matters of this kind. I should like to offer a few comments upon the attitude of the Prime Minister in regard to this question. He said, on 4th September, 1903, in this House -
My own view was that industrial legislation should bc left wholly in the hands of the States until the Federal Parliament assumed this power, as it has a right to asume certain other powers, under the Constitution, and that after it had assumed responsibility the industrial legislation for the whole Commonwealth should be in the hands of the Federal Legislature.
In that passage the Prime Minister tells us that he thought that the whole matter of conciliation and arbitration should be placed in the hands of the Federal Legislature. He does not refer merely to disputes existing beyond a State, but to disputes generally. So that there may be no mistake about this matter, I will quote another passage. I find that a little further on, in I he same debate, the honorable member for North Sydney interjected -
The honorable and learned gentleman has admitted that he does not know with what authority this Parliament has been endowed.
The Prime Minister replied as follows: -
No- I admit that the provision of the Constitution is ambiguous, and will be subject to review by the High Court; but there is no doubt that it gives authority, whatever interpretation is placed upon it, for all, and more than all, that is provided for in the Bill.
What, in plain language, does that mean? The only interpretation is this: The Prime Minister tells us that the Constitution provides for “ all and more than all “ that is provided for in the Conciliation and Arbitration Rill. The phrase “ more than all “ simply means “ in regard to matters affecting State civil servants.” If disputes between master and man are already included under the Bill, there is only one other kind of dispute that can be meant, and that is a dispute between the employes of a State and their employer. That is to say, twelve months ago the Prime Minister thought that the Parliament of the Commonwealth had absolute control in regard to industrial affairs relating to disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. We are not interfering in local struggles. We .are only attempting to interfere in disputes extending beyond a State. But the Prime Minister tells us now that he thought that the intention was to apply the provisions of the Commonwealth Act to such disputes as the maritime disputes or the shearers’ dispute. If he will look to his own reported remark, he will find that, in answer to the honorable and learned member for Angas, who moved an amendment, the intention of which was to limit ihe measure to maritime and shearers’ strikes, the Prime Minister made a most powerful speech against the limitation, and said that the Bill was to comprehend all disputes of an industrial character. The Prime Minister said yesterday -
The strong ground on which the argument I propose to maintain is based is that nowhere in the Constitution can honorable members discover an indication that it was the intention of its framers, or the intention of those who adopted it on the exposition of its framers, to include State servants of any class.
The honorable gentleman asked what was the intention of the framers of our Constitution j but, from his own utterances, we are aware that his opinions have grown since 1891. He also declared that those who supported the proposed amendment were advocates of unification, whilst those who opposed it were pure merino Federalists. I can quite understand any honorable member who is antagonistic to the principle of compulsory conciliation and arbitration being opposed to the inclusion within the four corners of this measure of the public servants of the Commonwealth and of the States. But I cannot understand any one who is prepared to allow the relations between masters and employes to be regulated by a tribunal constituted for that purpose, adopting that attitude. Personally I believe in making the Bill applicable to all workers, or to none. If the legislation proposed is bad for our public servants, it is undoubtedly bad for private employes. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo declared that the great argument against the proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay was that the Commonwealth had no power to enforce any award given by the Arbitration Court against a Stats. But I would remind him that the same remark is equally applicable to the High-Court. We have no power to enforce a judgment of that tribunal’ as against any State. Nevertheless, we know that any judgment which was given by the High Court would be respected. Similarly, no State would repudiate the awards made by a Federal Arbitration Court, th’e establishment of which is contemplated under this Bill. Again, the Prime Minister appealed to us to support the amendment on the ground that at the time of the referendum the people of Australia did not vote in favour qf this power being handed over to the Federal authorities. But I would ask, “ Did the electors as a whole consider the effect of what are commonly known as the thirty-nine articles ‘ ? “ Most unquestionably they did not. They accepted the Constitution upon trust, and out cif respect for the public men who recommended it. It is somewhat significant that to-day those men do not defend the instrument of government with the same vigour as they did then. Prior to the referendum being taken, our Constitution was represented to be absolutely perfect. To-day, it is admitted that in many portions its interpretation is doubtful, and that it was necessary to create a High Court to construe its provisions. What man, I would ask, in voting either for or against that Constitution, was influenced in his action by such a provision as the following ?-
The service and execution throughout the Commonwealth of the civil and criminal process and the judgments of the Courts of the States.
I use that sub-section as an argument against those who urge that the electors of Australia voted for the Constitution as it now stands. When before the electors I clearly placed before them my views in regard to the extension of this Bill to the public servants of the States. It is idle to say that the Government are to be turned out of office by a vote on a question which was not put before the people at the recent general elections. We are fresh from the elections, and we know that the Prime Minister in his Ballarat speech indicated in the plainest terms the position which he proposed to take up in regard to this proposition. The honorable and learned gentleman must therefore recognise that the question was considered by the people and that those who support the amendment will vote in accordance with the views expressed by them when last before the electors. I informed my constituents that so far ns this question was concerned I did not share the opinion of my right honorable leader, and I clearly ascertained their will in reference to it. Those who are opposed to the principle of compulsory arbitration must naturally be opposed to the extension of this Bill to the public servants of the States ; but I am utterly at a loss to understand why any distinction should be made between railway employes and other States officials. If it is right to extend the operation of the Bill to the railway employes of the States it: is right that the public servants generally should be brought under it, and if it is wrong to extend the measure to the public servants generally it is wrong to extend it to the railway employes of the States. It may be said that the railwayemployes by means of their organizations have expressed a desire to be brought within the operation of the Bill, while the remaining members of the Public Service have not done so. That, however, does not prove the justice of the contention put forward by some honorable members that the Bill should not be extended to all branches of the Public Service. It shows merely a desire to recognise organization. If the Bill were extended to only the railway employes of the States, officials in the great public services associated with trade would be excluded. By far the largest section of the public servants of Australia is employed in the Postal and Telegraph Department, and if the amendment were negatived, they would not be brought under the Bill. It is singular that we should object to give a Federal Arbitration Court power over our own servants. Opponents of the amendment assert that it would, if carried, strike a blow at the root of the Federal principle, but I have yet to learn that such would be its effect. If the great body of the people are prepared for the introduction of a system of compulsory arbitration, so far as persons in private employment are concerned, they must also be in favour of the extension of the principle to public servants. Masters and men outside the service must recognise that what is good for themselves must be good for the Public Service. Why should members of the Public Service be treated differently in this respect from persons in private employment? The servants of the States are citizens of the Commonwealth, and have a right to be considered. There are some interesting distinctions drawn between a citizen of the Commonwealth and a citizen of the States. If I take a walk down one of our public thoroughfares I perhaps meet the Treasurer, who says that as a citizen of the State he owns a brick in the General Post Office, but is afraid that Sir George Turner, as a citizen of the Commonwealth, may endeavour to take that brick away from him. Too much importance is attached to the distinction between States and Commonwealth rights. If the people of Australia have confidence in the Federal Parliament, and consider that it can legislate for the country far more effectually and economically than can the States Parliaments, it will not be long before we shall hear a demand for increased powers, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. There is, after all, nothing so terrible in the much-dreaded march towards unification. If the Federal Parliament proves that it is better able to manage the affairs ofT the States than are the individual States Parliaments, there is not likely to be any desire on the part of the people to cling to a fetish. On the contrary, they will boldly undertake the work of reform. It is said that, if the attitude taken up by the Government is not supported by the majority of honorable members, a vital blow will be struck at the Constitutions of the States. But what we have to consider is the will of the people themselves. I can well understand the desire of the Minister for Home Affairs that there should be only two parties in this House; but I do not altogether appreciate the attitude taken up by him. It appears to me that the question of whether or not the Bill shall extend to public servants, is not the only one at issue. The real point is whether there should be more than two parties in this House. If the public servants of Australia find themselves in a satisfactory position, they will not have recourse to a provision of this kind ; but if they have reason to complain they will be glad to avail themselves of it. I rather welcome the present position, because it will help to clear the political atmosphere. There are members on both sides of the House with conservative leanings, while there are others outside the Labour Party who have radical tendencies. I should like to see the Radicals and Liberals come together, so that we may have only two parties in this House. Such a combination would be desirable in the interests of the public life of Australia. Why should I vote for any principle in which I do not believe merely to save a Government which might hereafter bring about a combination that would not meet with the approval of my constituents? The people require to see some stability associated with the public life of Australia. They are not greatly concerned about the constitutionality of this proposal, for they know they possess the machinery to protect their rights, and that behind that machinery is the commonsense of Australia. Those who desire to see an alteration brought about, so far as the number of parties in this House is concerned, should endeavour to secure it in a proper way. Do not let the majority be absorbed by a powerful minority. If the Labour Party feel that they are within their rights in making a change In the political machinery of the past, they are quite justified in seeking to give effect to their views. I feel satisfied that, so far as this amendment is ‘concerned, there is far more at issue than the question whether the Bill should extend to public servants. The action of the Government must be deemed to be deliberate, because it has been continued for some months. They have been aware of the way in which the political compass has been setting, because they have themselves been directing it in that way for their own purposes. The Prime Minister is apparently’ resigning his position in a dignified manner. The honorable and learned gentleman held the high position of AttorneyGeneral in the Barton Ministry, which the right honorable member for Adelaide left upon this very issue. That right honorable gentleman has been consistent in the line of conduct he has followed, and all the more honour to him for it. The question under discussion has been voted upon at a general election, and cannot be said to be one which has been sprung upon the Government. The representatives of the people in this House know the decision of the electors upon the question. Personally, I believe in the inclusion of the Public Service within the scope of this Bill, and I shall, therefore, support the amendment. I point out that any Ministry which takes the place of the present Administration will have to deal with this question sooner or latter, and must engage in a contest upon it. If those who support the inclusion of the Public Service are defeated, that section of the community will be left out of the operation of the Bill ; and it is that consideration which will regulate my vote in the coming division. I have listened attentively to all the speeches which have been made, and I have heard no argument to induce me to refuse to support the amendment. It is the contention of those supporting the Government that the States should be allowed to deal with matters of local concern ; but once we take the step of providing Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration for the benefits of employers and employes, I can see no good reason for depriving the public servants of the benefit of such legislation. In the year 1891 the present Prime Minister was prepared to confer the advantages of such legislation upon the maritime worker, and in 1904 lie is prepared to extend the operation of such a measure to all but civil servants. In thirteen years the honorable and learned gentleman has marched thus far, and it is not a very great step further to include civil servants. I see no infringement of the powers of the States Governments in what is proposed, because I believe the Federal Parliament is invested with the power to carry this legislation. I can understand Victorian representatives opposing the amendment, because it affects what has been a Victorian sore, and they are taking the view which some Victorian electors have taken of the railway strike which occurred in this State. It is not my business to dwell upon that, but I refer to it as a matter which strongly influences Victorian representatives. I believe that the promise made by Sir Edmund Barton has been accepted by the present Prime Minister. Sir Edmund Barton promised Mr. Irvine that his Government would not include the public servants in this legislation, and I believe that, if that promise had not been made, the present Ministry would have freely granted the request for their inclusion. They have had the choice of weapons, and if they have chosen a weapon which will bring about their defeat, that is their business, and not mine. I shall have no regret in casting my vote, though it may assist to defeat the present Ministry, but I hope that it will bring about the formation of a Government who will be prepared to include public servants in the operation of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, because I believe such a course would be beneficial and to the interests of the country.
– I do not intend to address myself to the constitutional aspect of this question, because we have had a fairly good exposition of it from the trained legal minds of the Committee, and it would be presumptuous for a layman like myself to offer an opinion upon it. I have, however, carefully listened to the arguments -pro and con., and I must confess that if I were inclined to move from the position which I took up when the Bill was before last Parliament, it would be in the direction of supporting the amendment now before the Committee. When the matter was last discussed I opposed the proposal to include all State and Commonwealth public servants in the Bill, whilst I supported the inclusion of the States railway servants, and I intend to adhere to that position now. It is not that I think we have no justification for including all State and Commonwealth public servants, but that I feel that at the present juncture some little allowance should be made on the score of expediency. The Prime Minister, in dealing with the railway services of the States, stated that he could not imagine a set of circumstances which would occasion the extension of a strike of railway employes beyond the limits of one State. My opinion is that the late Victorian railway strike, which has been cited on many occasions during the present debate, was within an ace of extending beyond the borders of the State. Very little would have been required to bring both the South Australian and the New South Wales enginedrivers and firemen into the dispute. The engine-drivers, firemen, and cleaners have unions in their particular States, and they are also members of a federated union, and had the Government of Victoria brought influence to bear upon the Government of South Australia, and had the South Australian railway men been asked to continue the running of the trains from Adelaide to Melbourne beyond the South Australian border, I am convinced that they would have refused duty, and the strike would have extended to South Australia. It has been argued that, although it may be constitutional to apply the provisions of this measure to States servants, it would at the present time be inexpedient to interfere in their administration of their own affairs. But, as I understand it, the amendment does not provide for interference by the Commonwealth in the administration of States Departments. It is only when a dispute has extended beyond the borders of a State that it will operate at all, and once that happens it ceases to be a State matter, and becomes a national affair, in regard to which a Commonwealth tribunal is justified in interfering. We have, as the honorable member for Echuca has intimated, to consider the taxpayers when dealing with a measure of this kind, but those of us who are acquainted with the effects of the Victorian strike know how the producing and distributing interests of this State suffered because of the interruption of the carriage of commodities over the railways of the State which occurred during that period of confusion and disorganization. If such a state of things extended beyond one State into another, or throughout the Commonwealth, it would bring about loss compared with which the slight extra taxation that might be necessary to enable the Railway Commissioners, or others administering the Railway Departments of the States, to pay increased wages in compliance with an award, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would be a mere bagatelle. The true function of our Railway Departments is often lost sight of by those who contend that they should be managed purely as commercial concerns. Australia is in the unfortunate position of having no large navigable rivers flowing from the interior to the coast, and, in the absence of these natural highways, we have to provide artificial substitutes in the shape of railways. Railways are the national highways of this country, and are necessary for the development of its interior. Anything that would interfere with the continuous exchange of productions and commodities between the interior and the coast would seriously impede the development of our country. Those who oppose the Bill, lock, stock and barrel, say that whilst there may be some reason for applying such a measure to disputes between private employers and employes, there is no reason for applying it to disputes between the Governments of the States or of the Commonwealth and their employes, since -the latter never come into competition with the general public. I deny the truth of that statement. In almost every State there are railway workshops, in which locomotives, carriages, waggons, and rollingstock generally are constructed ; while similar work is also undertaken for the States by private manufacturers. In the States workshops are to be found fitters, blacksmiths, carriage builders, boilersmiths, upholsterers and tradesmen of almost every kind, while men belonging to the same trades are also found in the private workshops. It would be unjust to compel private manufacturers of rolling-stock to submit to the direction of the Arbitration Court as to wages and hours of work, whilst permitting the Railway Commissioners to work their men as long as they chose, and to pay any rate of wages they liked. Such a condition of affairs would render it impossible for private employers to compete with the Government works. This is an argument which I think should appeal to those who are opposed to socialistic legislation of any kind. We have heard a good deal regarding the advantages of private enterprise, and the fact that fair competition is the soul of business, and yet it appears to me that if we were to exclude railway employes from the scope of the Bill, we should bring about unfair competition between the State institutions and those of a similar character conducted by private enterprise. We can carry the contrast a little further. In nearly all the States railway construction is being carried on by means of day labour under direct State supervision. In some cases, however, railway lines are being built by private contractors. Is it contended that the private contractor should be subject to the direction of the Arbitration Court as to the wages which he should pay his navvies, whilst the State is to be free to pay any rate of wages it likes? If so, the State will be placed at a great advantage, and the results of their operations will afford the strongest arguments in favour of the daylabour system as compared with the construction of railways by private contract. The honorable member for Gippsland, to whose utterances great weight is deservedly attached, referred to the fact that the public servants of the States were very favorably situated as compared with persons in private employment, owing to their security of tenure ; and the large number of applicants for employment, particularly in the Railway Department, was mentioned as testifying to the attractions of State employment. I would point out, however, that there .are hundreds of applicants for every job that may be offering. Therefore, the fact that hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of persons are trying to secure positions in the States services only tends to show the great stress of the times upon the working population. Honorable members can bear me out when I say that one of the most trying ordeals through which we now have to pass is that to which Ave are subjected in dealing with the applications made to us by persons who are seeking work, and whom we are not in a position to help in that regard. Hundreds come where only one is required. But this condition of thing’s is not confined to public Departments, it is the same with respect to private employment. Honorable members who have work to offer could tell us that their difficulty is not to find hands, but to choose those they require from the many unfortunates who are seeking work. As I have previously remarked, the extension of a dispute beyond the borders of any one State would bring it under the consideration of any Court or tribunal which might be set up by the National Legislature. It has been argued that such disputes could only occur in connexion with the seamen’s or shearers’ unions, but I do not share that view. For years past annual conferences of railway officers and Railway Commissioners have been held, and one such meeting was concluded in Sydney only yesterday. The attention of the railway officials at these gatherings is not directed only to such subjects as the best way in which railway lines can be constructed, the most suitable gauge to adopt, or the best form of cattle truck, but the hours of labour and the conditions of work generally enter into consideration. The Conference recently held is to be followed by a meeting of Railway Commissioners, and there is no doubt that the general tendency at present is to, as far as possible, assimilate the conditions of work and wages in all the States. What will be the result? It has been stated that private employers are more likely than are public officers to impose harsh conditions upon workmen, because private employers are seeking their own profit, while public officers are not. Our experience, however, is that the Railway Commissioners are interested in endeavouring to work their Departments as cheaply as possible. Although they may not be so directly concerned as are private employers in economical working, we know that the transfer of the control of the railways to Commissioners, so far from having improved the position of the railway employes, has had the reverse effect. I do not argue that railway servants should be brought within the scope of the Bill, because the railways have been placed under the control of Commissioners. I recognise that this delegation of control does not in any way alter the position of the service as one of the Departments of the State. I believe, however, that the tendency will be to reduce wages down to the lowest plane, rather than increase them to the highest standards now in force. I regret to say that the position of railway employes in Queensland is not so favorable, as regards wages, as that of men similarly employed in Victoria. I. do not know that in respect to other conditions the Queensland employes are under any special disadvantage. In Victoria the wages paid to railway servants in the locomotive branch are higher than in any other State, but the influences now at work are in the direction, not of raising the wages of the Queensland engine-drivers from the present rate of i2s. per day to the Victorian rate of 15s. per day, but rather of reducing the 15s. rate down to 12s. On the other hand, the federation formed by the railway employes would use its best endeavours to’ resist a reduction, and would level up instead of levelling down. Here we have the seeds of dispute at any time. I do not say that there are likely to be extreme developments; I hope there will not. I am not, and never have been, an advocate of strikes ; but strikes we shall have so long as they remain the only weapons whereby men may redress their grievances. There are no men more earnest in their endeavour to do away with strikes or locks-out than are those who are advocating the inclusion of railway men within the provisions of the Bill. I suppose no one knows more acutely the suffering and hardships which are endured in times of strikes or locks-out than some of us who are advocating the amendment. Only those who have been through the mill, as some of us have been, know the amount of misery, suffering, and hardship which a strike entails, not on the work men alone - theirs is the least of the suffering - but on the wives and children, who feel the effects in a much keener degree. And the suffering is not confined to the strikers and their families, but extends to that most useful portion of the community, the producers, who depend on the railways as the only available highways by which to transport their produce to market. A railway strike affects producers to a much greater degree than does a strike in any other industry. If we are justified in saying to private citizens that they shall not disturb the peace of the community or interfere with industry or the means of exchange by any dispute amongst themselves, but shall be compelled to continue work, and refer any difference to a properly appointed tribunal, we are justified in taking a similar attitude towards a State when a dispute, originating in that State, may extend beyond its borders, and affect perhaps a considerable section of the people of the Commonwealth. I do not regard such a contingency in relation to a State as by any means remote. The seeds of a possible strike are already sown, as shown in the fact that there are conferences of Railway Commissioners, and also a federation of engine-drivers, firemen, and cleaners. I go further, and say, as one who knows, that there is a movement on foot to federate associations composed of other classes of railway workers. Traffic employes, as well as the men engaged on the permanent way, are already discussing the question of federation, and if their ideas be carried into effect there will be a united organization, or united organizations, of railway employes, who will be able to take a common stand. These employes are one to-.day in sympathy, and will be one in actual fact to-morrow, prepared to assist each other in claiming what they deem to be their proper rights. I do not say that all that these men demand will be proper and right. That is why we should have a tribunal to decide. The men may ask for too much, and it should remain with the Arbitration Court to say whether their demands are or are not reasonable.
– These men cannot go to the Arbitration Court unless the dispute extends beyond the limits of one State.
– I say that where a dispute extends it ceases to be a State affair, and therefore we should not be interfering with the internal administration of a State, but in a dispute which, originating in one State, threatens to disturb the peace and the conditions of industry in the Commonwealth.
– How is a dispute of the kind to overflow into another State?
– Before the right honorable gentleman entered the chamber I tried to make that plain to the Committee.
– If the honorable member has made it plain he has done more than anybody else.
– I am satisfied in my own mind - just as the right honorable gentleman before dinner was satisfied in his mind as to his own attitude - that the position I take up is the’ right one. We may not all be equal in analytical power and judgment, but we all have the right to our opinion, and my opinion has not been formed hastily. I spent about eleven years on the foot-plate of a locomotive on the Queensland railways, so that I know of what I am speaking. I was one of those who helped to form the first railway organization in Queensland, and who advocated the federation of the engine-drivers and firemen in this country.
– Tell us how a railway dispute is going to extend beyond one State.
– Perhaps the Committee will excuse my repeating some of my remarks? If there were a railway strike in Victoria, and- the South Australian engine-drivers refused to drive the trains from the border to Melbourne, that would, in my opinion, create a dispute extending beyond the borders of one State.
– That is not so.
– That is a matter of opinion. Where is the difference between an extension of a dispute of the nature to which I have just referred, and a strike originating, say, amongst the employes of the Adelaide S.S. Co. at Port Adelaide, and extending, to wherever ships of that company are in port?
– That is the case of a private company, and not of a Government.
– Both are engaged in the carrying trade.
– But a steam-ship company has nothing to do with the Government.
– I dealt also with that matter during the right honorable gentleman’s absence from the Chamber. I have tried to show that if men employed by the State in fitting, blacksmithing, carriagebuilding, and so on, are not to come under the Bill, they will enter into unfair competition with those employed by private individuals. It is my misfortune that the right honorable gentleman was not present during the earlier part of my remarks, because I think he would admit that I anticipated a good deal of what he is now calling in question. I should like the Prime Minister, or some one else, to enlighten me as to a phase of this question which has given me a considerable amount of thought. Amongst railway employes we have members of various associations. We have fitters and turners belonging to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers; members of the Boilermakers’ Society, and of the Amalgamated Carpenters’ Association. If the members of, say, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers did, as they have done before, fix a minimum wage of 10s. 6d. per day in their trade in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, while the Employers’ Association attempted to reduce the wage to ios. or 9s. 6d. per day, and the employers’ demand was resisted, not only in one State, but in all, would that not be a dispute extending beyond the borders of any one State ? Some of the members of this society are employed in the Government workshops; would an award of the Court that the wages be ios. 6d. per day apply to those Government servants? Un- less it did so apply, no union men would be employed in any State workshop.
– The pay would probably be as good, or better, in a Government workshop.
– My experience is just the reverse. If the Prime Minister looks at the classification sheets of some of the Government Railway Departments, he will find that fitters there are receiving 7 s. and 7s. 6d. per day, as against 10s. and 10s. 6d. per day paid in outside workshops.
– But have they not permanent occupation, fixed holidays, privilege tickets, and so on ?
– What is the value of them ?
– In the State workshops of Queensland the highest rate of wages paid to a skilled mechanic as a fitter is 9s. 6d. a day, unless he is a leading hand, and that position, of course, carries with it responsibilities., The difference between that sum and the union rate of 10s. 6d. a day as provided, I believe, by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers for their members, will amount to a considerable sum in the year, and more than cover the value of the extra privileges to railway employes. The term of the holidays varies according to the length of service. On the other hand, there are disabilities to be considered. If we are going to consider the privileges and the emoluments of railway servants we must also remember their disabilities. We know that in the regulations of all the States there is a provision for the retirement of men, no matter how long they may have served, at the age of sixty or sixtyfive years. I have always regarded this as a cruel provision. I would ask the Prime Minister or any other honorable member if the private employer of a man who had served him well for thirty-five or forty years, as some of these men have served the Government, would send to him in his old age a curt note informing him that he was no longer fit to work, and that his services were no longer required?
– Would they have been kept on in private employ ?
– Hundreds of them are, and I dare say that the honorable and learned gentleman could quote some cases. Private employers are often kinder than is the State in this regard. It has been well said that when a man is dealing with a body corporate he is dealing with an institution which has no body to be kicked, or soul to be damned. That seems to me to be the spirit which is operating. With regard to the tenure of employment, what have we noticed in Victoria within the last week or so? Where has the security of position come in ? The railway men have been asked to affix their signatures to a document under which they agree to retire from the service without a day’s notice. The Commissioners have the power to dismiss any railway servant, on giving a reasonable notice- a fortnight, I think; but they are now asking the railway men, who apparently are completely under the thumb of the powers that be, to sign a document in which they consent to dis- ‘ missal without even a’ moment’s notice. They are no more secure in their appointments to-day than are any men working casually for a private employer. If this kind of thing is allowed to go on here, it may be taken for granted that it will shortly extend to some of the other States, and when it does we shall find the men taking united action against it. It may be said that State employés can always depend on their representatives in Parliament to redress their grievances. But in Queensland, and I believe in other States, the experience of the men has been to the opposite effect. I know, as other Queensland members can testify, that for eight or nine years in that State a public servant, particularly a railway employe, did not dare to be seen speaking to a politician in a street, if that politician happened to hold views in opposition to the Government. There is going to be a fight on the part of railway employes and other public servants for an extension of their liberty as citizens in the States to something like that which is enjoyed by them under the Commonwealth. The attitude of the Commonwealth towards these people has been liberal : the franchise has been given even to policemen. In the States they are deprived not only of the full exercise of the right to vote, but of many other citizens’ privileges. _ In Queensland, not very long ago, we had a Minister for Railways who tried to copy the Minister for Railways during the time of the strike in Victoria. He came down to Melbourne, sat at the feet of that Minister, and learned from him. On his return he put into operation some of the things which had been practised here, and which had driven the railway men to revolt. Fortunately the Government, of which he was a member, did not remain in office very long, and the railway men have been freed, in a large measure, from the reign of terror which had obtained amongst them for eight or nine years. I am arguing on this line at some length, because I do not think that the contingency of a railway strike originating in one State and extending to more than one State is so remote as the Prime Minister seems to think. I am going to vote for the omission of the words as proposed by the honorable member for Wide Bay, on the understanding that some other words will be inserted which will make the Bill apply to railway employes. I am not desirous of including in its operation at the present time the employes of other departments of the States, because I do not think that they enter into competition with private enterprise to anything like the same extent that the servants of the Railway Departments do. We have only one Customs Department, only one Post and Telegraph Department, and only one Defence Department. There are no Departments in which the employes follow callings which, like that of the employes of the Railway Departments, come into competition with private enterprise.
– There are the Printing Departments.
– That is an exception, but a dispute in that Department would not materially affect the interests of the public. I am not arguing in favour of the inclusion of railway servants in their interests entirely. I am arguing for their inclusion in the interests of the general public quite as much as, if not more, than in their interests.
– I thought the honorable member said that he was going to be an out-and-out supporter of the Deakin Government.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– The honorable member is reported to have said so at Ipswich.
– I suppose that the right honorable gentleman has been long enough in politics to learn that sometimes the reports of his speeches are not accurate.
– It was an incorrect report then?
– My statement on the public platform, and in my manifesto to the electors, is quite consistent with the position I am taking up here to-night. I said that I would be a general supporter of the Deakin Government, but I specifically excepted this particular clause in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and some pro visions which might be inserted in the Navigation Bill. On those two measures alone did I say that I would have any difference with the Deakin Government. It is a matter of considerable pain to me to think that the vote I am about to give may assist to displace them, but I have my conscience and my constituents to satisfy. I cannot break the pledges which I gave on the hustings. If the arguments which have been adduced here had influenced me to such an extent that I felt that I should be justified in voting in another way I should have referred the matter to my constituents. I should not have been prepared to give a vote until I had first consulted them on the subject, because I think that if a candidate secures the votes of his constituents in favour of a certain policy he owes it to them when he changes his mind to give them an opportunity of changing their mind too. While I am pledged to a general support of the Deakin Government, I am also pledged to support a measure of this kind which will include the railway employes. That I intend to do. When it is said that there has been no demand for the inclusion of these men, I reply that in my case, at any rate, there has been. The circular which has been read by the honorable member for Echuca is some evidence that a demand for inclusion has been made by a very large and important section of the railway servants. That document emanated not from Mr. Robert Hollis, although it is signed by him, nor merely from Victoria or New South Wales, but from the federated associations of engine-drivers, firemen, and cleaners of Australia. I know many of these men. I know the members of the council of the body to which I ha.ve alluded. When a copy of the document was sent to me, my reply was that if a reference were made to my action when this Bill, was before the last Parliament, it would be found that I had acted in accordance with the resolutions embodied in the circular. The votes which I then gave were in accordance with what the association requires, and I shall give a similar vote on the present Bill. The Minister for Home affairs has congratulated the Committee on the good feeling that has prevailed throughout the debate, notwithstanding that very important changes depend upon the vote to be taken. Let us maintain that good feeling. I do not think that there is a single honorable member who will vote for the amendment, but will regret the effect of his vote so far as the Government is concerned. I do not want to see a change of Government ; but I cannot sacrifice my convictions and my conscience in order to keep the present Government in power. My regret at casting this vote will be due to the effect it will have upon those of whose administration of the Departments I have approved, and with whose general policy I am most heartily in accord.
– All for a thing which will be of no use when it is obtained !
– We have heard that before; but there is a value in a provision of this kind which may never be made quite apparent. “ Prevention is better than cure,” and if we insert in a Bill a provision which will prevent strikes, Ave shall have accomplished a great purpose. If a strike does occur it can be setled by an appeal to the Arbitration Court without the interruption of our trade and commerce. I am sure that if such a dispute should arise, and if this provision prevents the interruption of our traffic for only one week, we may feel that we have spent our time well. I had intended to refer to some other matters about which nothing has been said. The words proposed to be omitted include other public bodies “ constituted under the Commonwealth.” Something might have been said with regard to the effect of leaving in the Bill the words proposed to be omitted upon disputes amongst the employes of City Councils, Boards of Works, and other such bodies ; but the chance of such disputes, if they ever occur, extending beyond the boundaries of one State is so distant as to be hardly worth consideration. I say finally that much as I shall regret the effect of my vote, still, in supporting the inclusion of the railway men, I shall only be voting in accordance with my pledges and my conscience.
– Unlike the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I am under no pledges to my constituents in this matter.
– Because the honorable and learned member had no opposition.
– Whatever the cause may be, the result is as I have stated. Consequently I have been enabled to approach the consideration of the proposal untrammelled by any other consideration than that of what is the proper thing to do under the circumstances. For I know, as other honorable members do, that sometimes pledges are given to our constituents before we have fully considered the matters to which they relate, and we afterwards feel bound, as men of honour, to carry out our pledges, even if we have reason to believe that we have given them rather hastily.
– There are often “unredeemed pledges” in politics.
– The honorable member may speak on that point with fuller knowledge than I possess. I hope, in the course of the remarks which I shall venture to address to the Committee, to confine myself closely to the substantial point at issue in connexion with this amendment. It is very difficult, I must admit, in dealing with the clause and the amendment, to avoid striving away into a general discussion as to conciliation and arbitration. But I shall try to avoid wandering into that fog. I simply premise my remarks by saying that I, for one, have always believed in the principle which is contained in this measure, of settling disputes by peaceful rather than by warlike means, and that consequently anything that I may say in opposition to the amendment as proposed relates to that amendment and its specific object, and not to the general purposes of the Bill. I think one can scarcely overrate the importance of the occasion and of the question we are considering. It involves not only the fate of the Government, which in itself is an important matter, and is more important in the case of a Government that deals with the whole of Australia in certain respects, than in the case of a Government of one of the States. I suppose that that consideration and that result cannot fail to enter into our thoughts. I believe that it was made pretty clear all along, from what the Prime Minister said from time to time, that defeat on this matter meant either the resignation of the Government or the loss of the Government’s self-respect, and I certainly never had any doubt which course would be pursued by a Government led by my honorable and learned friend the Prime Minister. If any further assurance on the matter were necessary I think that the Minister for Home Affairs has made it quite clear to-night.
– Unofficially !
– He not only made clear what will happen if the amendment is carried, but he also apparently made- it plain that, in his “unofficial “ opinion, he knows what is going to happen. He, in effect, bade an “ affectionate, fond farewell “ to the seat which he has so long adorned. Not only does the amendment affect the fate of the Government. The matters with which it deals are far more important than is the fate of this or any other Government which may sit on the Treasury benches. The amendment also affects the relations between the administration of the Commonwealth, and that of the various States. In the early days of this Federation I believe that we should proceed with extreme caution. The mistake is sometimes made of contrasting the exercise of our powers as a Commonwealth with the exercise of similar powers in America, honorable members being apparently unmindful of the fact that the United States Federation has been in existence for three times as many years as the Australian Federation has been in existence months. It has taken the United States more than a century to develop its powers to their present extent. In its earlier history it moved with extreme caution, except in matters that were absolutely essential and urgent to the well-being of the community. It was particularly careful to avoid doing anything which might even appear to be an infringement of the separate sovereignties of the States. In that respect America affords us an example which we should remember, even if we do not copy it upon every possible occasion. I think, therefore, that some importance ought to be attached to the fact that the adoption of the proposed amendment may result in . the creation of fresh cause for friction between the Commonwealth and the States. If we agree to this proposal, I believe that we shall give the States justifiable cause for complaint. Others think that we shall not. In any case, the ground for friction will be there, and my own idea is that, in justice to Australia and to the constituents who sent us here, we should, if possible, avoid its creation. There is another aspect of this matter, which to my mind is a most important one. Honorable members should recollect that we are establishing a prece-dent which may exercise the greatest possible effect on the future of Australia. This is the first occasion upon which the Commonwealth Parliament has been asked to interfere with the instruments of State sovereignty, as contrasted with the powers that, have been transferred to the Commonwealth from State sovereignty. Our action in the’ present instance may give rise to continual difference of opinion as to whether the exercise of certain federal powers in certain directions, fol- lowed by their administrative results, comes, within the purview of the Constitution.
– What about the taxing of State imports?
– I shall come to that question presently, but I am a long way off it just now, and if the honorable member attempts to bring me to it prematurely he will only prevent me from condensing my remarks in the way that I desire. I say that the adoption of the amendment will affect the instruments of State sovereignty as contrasted with the objects of State sovereignty. We are affecting the means by which the administration of the States is carried on, as contrasted with the persons and things which are the subjects of that administration. That is a departure of the gravest character, and one which should not be entered upon without the strongest reasons for so doing. It seems to me, therefore, that much as honorable members may think it is desirable to pursue the course that is proposed, it is not a necessary course, and consequently should not be followed. I have very little sympathy with the view that has been expressed to the effect that if the proposal under consideration should prove to be unconstitutional the High Court can tell us so. To my mind there is a parliamentary method of interpreting the Constitution, which it is our bounden duty to endeavour to effectuate, as well as the constitutional method which is imposed upon the High Court. Indeed, we have a responsibility in this matter which, in many respects, transcends that of the High Court. I do not regard the High Court as a kindly wall behind which I may shelter myself from responsibility upon any matter of great public importance. I do not suggest that other honorable members take that view. Nevertheless, the argument that if the proposed amendment be unconstitutional the High Court will declare it ultra vires, is equivalent to taking refuge behind a tribunal which was never intended to provide such a shelter. The very framing of the Constitution itself shows that the High Court, in some respects, is not the only interpreter of the Constitution. Personally, I should be sorry to see any Judiciary the sole interpreter of that instrument of government. The Parliament and the people are its true interpreters, so far as it possesses any elasticity. It would be a matter for exceeding regret if the High Court were the only interpreter of the Constitution, and if we had to rely upon the dry light shed upon it by legal luminaries, instead of allowing it to ripen under the development of democratic instinct. In its primary duty the High Court is the protector of -the States rather than of the Federation. It provides a guarantee to the States that we shall not overstep the limits of the Constitution. My own opinion is that if we ever overstep those limits it should be the result of accident, and not of design.
– Does the honorable and .learned member suggest that we are overstepping the bounds of the Constitution ?
– I hold that the moment any honorable member is led to inquire - “ Is this proposal constitutional ?” we are overstepping it. It is not a case in which legal members suddenly discover a constitutional difficulty, the existence of which no one had previously suspected. The very moment we look at this amendment the question arises - “ Is it constitutional ?” I venture to say that until twelve months ago not a single member of this House thought that it was constitutional. The mental attitude of its supporters is one of pleased surprise. They are glad to think that it is constitutional, but are surprised, nevertheless. We should be very careful, in a matter of this kind, not to allow our joy to hurry us into doing something which until recently we did not suppose we were able to do. This issue, I claim, far transcends that of the fate of a Ministry, and I do not attach any blame to the supporters of the Government who feel compelled to vote for the amendment upon high national and constitutional grounds. I shall only appeal to them - apart from the legal aspect of the question - upon the grounds which I have just stated. I intend to vote against the amendment, not for the purpose of saving the Government, but because I am firmly convinced that the proposal is absolutely unconstitutional. I know that a variety of opinions is entertained upon the subject. I freely admit that some honorable members, for whose legal attainments I have the greatest respect, and who possess a wider experience and knowledge than I do, differ from me as to the legality of the ‘ course which it is proposed to pursue. But this is a matter on which a man must form his own opinion, if he has at hand the material to enable him to do so, and on which he must vote according to that opinion, rather than the opinions of others, much though he may respect them. We have to consider sub-section xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution in all its aspects. We have first to consider its relation to the whole scheme of the Constitution j and, secondly, to consider the question whether the amendment falls or could fall within the specific words of the subsection. Even although one came to the conclusion that the specific words of the sub-section could reasonably, so far as the rules of grammar are concerned, cover the amendment to bring States servants within the operation of the Bill, nevertheless if they were also capable of excluding them and the general scheme or the context of the Constitution showed’ that the intention was that they should not be included, the answer to the question might be that they could not be included. We cannot consider the sub-section apart from its context. We cannot ask ourselves whether, as a mere matter of grammar, it empowers us to include States servants within the scope of the Bill. The context of the sub-section is not the mere words-
The Parliament shall . . . have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Conciliation and Arbitration, and so forth, because I have omitted four most significant words of the introductory part of the section, which says that the Parliament shall “subject to this Constitution,” have power to make these laws. The context of subsection xxxv. is, therefore, the whole of the Constitution - a very large context for it to possess. When we glance at the Constitution, the first point that strikes us is one that has already been pointed out, but to which I may be permitted to refer, for the purposes of my argument. We have followed the American plan. We have specified the powers which are given to the Commonwealth, and we have left the whole residuum of powers with the States. So far as the distribution of power is concerned, the presumption in every case is in favour of the States. Before we can say - “This power belongs to the Federation,” we have to show that the power claimed is provided for, either by express enactment, or necessary implication in the Constitution. The presumption must be in favour of the States in regard to any dispute which comes before the Federal Parliament or the High Court of Australia. Wherever we may seek to have this question determined, the onus of proof will rest on those who claim the power for the Federation. They have to prove that provision is made for the power. All that the States have to do is to say - “We possess every power save those which are given to the Federation. Show us where the power which you now claim is given to you.” That, I venture to submit, is the position with regard to the Constitution.
– Are we to decide this point for ourselves?
– We must, so far as our ability will permit.
– My opinion is, that we have not merely a right, but a duty cast upon us to endeavour to decide these questions. The honorable and learned member does not agree with me.
– We are absolutely incapable of deciding them.
– In matters of this kind, the honorable member must speak for himself.
– I do so; but I also speak for the honorable and learned member.
– Not one of us is incapable of endeavouring to determine them. We are sent here to endeavour to ascertain the limits of our powers, and to make an effort to refrain from transgressing them. That is our duty just as much as it is the duty of the High Court to prevent any transgression of power.
– We do not want a kind of legislative lucky bag to dip into, not knowing what we shall draw out of it.
– How can we decide this question for ourselves when the ablest lawyers in this House cannot do so ?
– It is true that the ablest lawyers in the House differ on the question.
– That being so, are the laymen of the House to determine this big constitutional question ?
– A man may possess a fair knowledge of constitutional matters although he has not had any legal training. After all. when we go to the High Court, we do not obtain a guarantee of correctness of decision.
– But we secure finality.
– The High Court itself can only give us what specially trained legal minds - what men specially expert in deciding these questions - consider to be the right interpretation.
– After the question has been fully argued.
– Quite so. We all know that successive Supreme Courts of the United States have given different decisions upon practically the same question.
– To what cases does the honorable and learned member refer?
– There is, for example, the famous Dred Scott case.
– The legal tender case?
– Yes. We do not obtain a guarantee from the High Court that it will correctly interpret the Constitution. We have to secure finality, and therefore we accept the interpretation of the Court as being most probably correct. But before we go to the Court the duty is cast upon us to endeavour to determine these questions for ourselves. The High Court does not exist to discharge that duty for us ; it rather exists to check our performance of the duty.
– It gives us finality, but not infallibility.
– It gives us finality, but not infallibility, and it does not relieve us from responsibility.
– It gives us very little satisfaction.
– The honorable member should have no fault to find with the High Court.
– I have no fault to find with it save in the matter of costs.
– If we wrongly decide against our powers the High Court can never check us.
– The argument to which the honorable and learned member refers has something of the lucky-bag business associated with it. It suggests that we might make a mistake against ourselves. That is not a principle which would enable any satisfactory result to be achieved if observed in connexion with one’s own business undertakings. It is a kind of political dram-drinking which may lead to the most serious results. It is our business to try to determine the limits of the Constitution. As time goes on various decisions on constitutional questions will be given by the High Court, and we shall be able to ascertain whether in reference to any particular matter we have fallen short of the full exercise of our powers. We can always pass new laws ; we can always reconsider our previous decisions, and it is better for us now, at all events, to err on the inner side of our powers than on the further side of them.
– How are we to get decisions if we do not transgress our powers?
– That expresses an anxiety for litigation on the part of the honorable member which the whole legal profession will applaud.
– The way of transgressors is hard and expensive.
– It is ; but it is said that we are to transgress or to think that we are probably transgressing our powers in order to enable another tribunal to determine them. That is a principle which is not consonant with the spirit of the Constitution. It is not consonant with the duty of the Federal Parliament, nor will it lead to the satisfactory development of the relations between the States and the Commonwealth, or the satisfactory development of the Commonwealth itself.’
– The honorable and learned member bases arguments on different decisions, but how can these cases arise until the points have been decided ?
– The cases will not arise until the causes arise. The fewer cases that the High Court is called upon to decide the better will it be for Australia. A law suit, like any other form of quarrel, does not always leave the kindliest of feelings in the breasts of the disputants. When I was interrupted I was pointing out that the scheme of the Constitution leaves it to the Federation in every instance to prove its case. It leaves sovereignty with the States. Further than that. I venture to say that, unless it be in this particular sub-section, I have not discovered, as the result of a hasty glance anew at the Constitution, any case in which the Federation is authorized to interfere with the instruments of government, as compared with the powers of government, of the States. May I explain that by an illustration. It seems ro me that if you compare the State to a coach authorized to drive down a number of different roads, the coming into existence of the Commonwealth has had this effect : it has closed a number of those roads altogether to the State. No coach but the Federal coach can now drive down some roads. It has left a number of roads to the Slate coach only. The Federal coach cannot drive along those roads. It has also placed some roads in this position : that either the Federal or the State coach can drive along them; but if the Federal coach drives along such a road the State coach has to stand aside. That illustrates the position where under the Constitution a Federal Act overrides a State Act; but unless this be a case, I do not know of any other instance in which, under the Constitution, the Federation is entitled to interfere with the State coach itself. It is entitled to interfere with the roads upon which the State coach may be driven, but it is not entitled to touch the State coach, unless it is so entitled under the sub-section which is the basis of this legislation. However, what is proposed here by the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wide Bay, is not only that the Federal coach may drive along the same road as the State coach, but that the driver of the Federal coach may interfere with the State coach itself, and with the driver of the State coach.
– We have no confidence in the coach-drivers.
– The State coach-drivers?
– No, the Federal coachdrivers.
– We are not the drivers of the Federal coach in this instance.
-The honorable and learned member for Illawarra may, on this occasion, vote for the amendment in order to dispossess the Government, irrespective of the merits of the case ; but I may be permitted to say that he has as little right to do that as I should have to vote against the amendment merely for the sake of keeping the Government in.
– My vote during the last Parliament proves that that is not my position.
– I do not say that that is the honorable member’s position, but when he says that he has no confidence in the Federal coach-drivers, he provokes that particular retort, and he will admit that his mind for the moment was directed to that particular aspect of the success of the amendment. I think that in connexion with this, matter one may do what one is always permitted to do in considering a statute in courts of law - one may look at the mischief aimed at by the statute. What is the mischief aimed at bv the insertion of this sub-section of the Constitution ? It was known that from time to time there were private disputes - that is to say, disputes between private employers and their employes - which extended beyond the territorial limits of any State, so that the State sovereignty to deal with such matters was limited for territorial reasons. It was seen that when a dispute of the kind existed in two States, one State might deal with it, and the other State might not ; or one State might deal with it in one way, and the other State in another way, and thus produce unsatisfactory results. And, because the arm of the State was not long enough to reach beyond its own borders to deal with such a matter, it was said - “ Here there is being called into existence a power with an arm long enough to extend over the whole continent of Australia. Wherever the limitation of the State arm stops the exercise of the State power, there the Federal arm may be used, and may extend over the required area.” That was the mischief aimed at by this portion of the statute. That. I say, was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution, as shown by the wording of the Constitution. I admit that, so far as the legal interpretation of the statute is concerned, the intention and the mind of the framers of it have nothing whatever to do with the question. It has, however, something to do with this question, as I shall be able to point out later. State servants are in a very different position. Their very name shows that . they are always within reach of the State arm. Each State has its public servants always within reach of its arm to deal with. I might say here that I am not expressing, or intending to express, an opinion as to the merits of any dispute between any State and its employes. I do not for a moment deny that State employes, from time to time, have just grounds for complaint, nor do I deny that those grounds for complaint are not always clone away with as rapidly as may be. I have never publicly expressed any opinion upon the recent unhappy railway strike in Victoria, because I have always felt personally that, as a Federal member, I could not do any good, and I might do harm, by interfering. That was my personal opinion, and I acted upon it. I am not, therefore, to be taken as now expressing any opinion of the merits or demerits of either side in any dispute that has taken place, or that may take place, between State employes and States Governments. State employes are in a different position from private employes. The States Governments, as regards private employers and employes, may say, “ We have no time to be continually settling your individual disputes by passing Acts of Parliament for the purpose. It would require special attention and knowledge, which Ave do not possess.” But on the other hand, there is a way in which the State can insure effect being given to the good conscience of the community, because after all the good conscience of an Arbitration Court is only the good conscience of the community crystallized, and an Arbitration Court does differ from an ordinary Civil Court in this respect - that it is, so to speak, the mouth-piece of the conscience of the community in these industrial matters, instead of a mere instrument for the application of principles of law to an ascertained set of facts, as in the case of a Civil Court. There is a marked distinction. The State, through its Parliament, says - “The Parliament cannot deal with all these differences of opinion between employers and employes. We cannot always be expressing what the equity and good conscience of the general community is in these matters. We therefore depute our powers in this respect to an Arbitration Court.” That is what is clone by the establishment of a State Arbitration Court, and what will be done, within the limits of the Constitution, by the establishment of a Federal Arbitration Court as regards private employers and employes. But with regard to the employes of the State, they are at all times directly in the purview of the community, as represented by the Parliament.
– It is not so in New South Wales.
– It is so everywhere. I do not say that it is so perfectly in ever case ; but the consideration of the Estimates in a State Parliament e’ery year alone suf fices to draw attention to the position of State employes, and I say that the servants of the State, whatever their wrongs are, or may be, are able, through the State Parliament, to bring the good conscience of the community more directly to note their position than the employes in any private industry can possibly do.
– The railway servants of New South Wales are under an Arbitration Act.
– I see nothing to prevent a State, if it chooses, saying-1’ We think that even as regards our own servants an Arbitration Court wi 11 be a better exponent of the equity and good conscience of the community than eA-en the State Parliament will be.” But that is a voluntary delegation of powers which they can exercise to a deputy of their own choice, as has been pointed out several times. It seems to me that, although it may be true to say that because this legislation is good for private employes it is therefore good for State employes, it is nevertheless not a completely logical statement, because it omits recognition of the fact that the good conscience of the community can be exercised differently as regards State employes from the way in which it can be exercised as regards private employes. There is only one other matter I desire to mention, and that is in connexion with the wording of the subsection under consideration. I promise honorable members that I shall be brief, as I have already spoken at greater length than I had intended to do. It has been pointed out that in this paragraph there is neither an express inclusion nor an express exclusion of States servants, and different honorable members have drawn different conclusions from that fact. Some honorable members appear to have drawn the conclusion that no conclusion is to be drawn from it. Paragraph xiv. speaks of “Insurance, other than State insurance,” and it is therefore argued that, as State servants are not mentioned in paragraph xxxv., they must be included. Other honorable members have quoted paragraph ii., which relates to taxation, and provides that there shall be no discrimination between States, and section 114, in which the taxation of State property, whatever that may mean, by the Commonwealth is expressly prohibited, to show that where it is intended to exclude the State, there is a specific exclusion. So two opposite inferences have been drawn. The honorable and learned member for Indi drew attention to the fact that two opposite inferences could be drawn from paragraphs 1. and 11. of section 51. I propose to endeavour to draw a third inference, which has not yet been drawn. It seems to me that if the powers conferred by section 51 are looked into they can be divided into three classes. In regard to the first class, the State is clearly bound, and I take as an obvious illustration paragraph xxxii., which provides that the Parliament shall have power to make laws for - the control of railways with respect to transport for the naval and military purposes of the Commonwealth.
If that paragraph is read in conjunction with paragraph vi., which gives the Parliament power to make laws for the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth, the conclusion is forced upon one that the States railways are subject to the Commonwealth authority- for the purposes named. The States are not mentioned, because it was not necessary to mention them, since one cannot help seeing that they are referred to. ParagraphI. affords an example of the second class of powers. It enables the Parliament to make laws with respect to - trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States.
That provision might affect the States in their sovereignty, or it might not ; and, therefore, section 98 provides that - the power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends . . . to railways the property of any State.
So, too, with regard to paragraphII., which empowers the Parliament to make laws with respect to taxation, it might, or might not, affect the sovereignty of the States, and consequently it is provided in section 114 that the Commonwealth shall not - impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to a Stale.
Under paragraphIII. the Parliament may make laws with respect to bounties. That provision might, or might not, affect the States as sovereign entities, and, therefore, sections 90 and 91 explain exactly how the States sovereignty is to be regarded in that connexion Under paragraphxiii., the Parliament may make laws with respect to- banking, other than State banking ; also State banking extending beyond the limits of the State concerned.
If “ banking “ alone had been mentioned, the provision might, or might not, have included State banking, and, therefore, the other words of the provision are added. Those are illustrations of the second class of powers, in regard to which, if there were no definition as to how far the States were affected there might be a difference of opinion as to whether the States were, or were not, affected. Then there is a third class of powers, in regard to which no one would dream that: the States are affected, and, therefore, the States are not mentioned in connexion with them. Paragraph xxxv. provides for a power which does not belong to the first class in connexion with which the States are absolutely included ; nor, if my definition is correct, to the second class, because it is not shown how far the States are affected; and, therefore, the presumption is that it belongs to the third class, and that the Imperial Parliament, which, from the legal point of view, is the maker of the Act, did not suppose that the States would be regarded as affected. I do not say that arguments like these, based upon a verbal interpretation, have the same force or value as arguments based upon the larger question as to what is the whole intention of the Act ; but, at all events, they give a feasible explanation of the apparent inconsistencies in connexion with the paragraphs of section 51, and force me to the conclusion that the amendment is unconstitutional. I may be wrong in that view ; but, if so, I cannot help it. I am bound to take what my own duly considered judgment forces me to think is the right course. If the amendment be carried, and the High Court afterwards holds it to be constitutional, I cannot quarrel either with the determination of the majority or with the interpretation of the High Court, though I may still think that it would have been better for us to refrain from exercising this power. I believe, however, that the amendment is unconstitutional, and therefore I shall record my vote against it, without considering whether it is or is not in the interests of the States servants, and quite apart from the question of expediency. In connexion with the question of expediency, we must consider the intention of the framers of the Constitution. That becomes a material consideration. However, I have spoken at greater length than I intended, and I shall not say any more upon that point. For the reasons I have given, and for other reasons with which I have not wearied honorable members, I am forced to the conclusion that the amendment is contrary to the Constitution, which limits our powers, and therefore I shall vote against it.
– Having listened to the carefully reasoned speech of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and to those of other legal members of the Committee, I am reminded of advice which was given to me many years ago, and ran something like this: “ If you can avoid it, never ask for legal advice; but if you are compelled to get it, never follow it, so long as you can avoid doing so.” The confusion and clashing of legal opinion has been a feature of this debate recognised by every lay member of the Committee. If the legal members of the Committee had been unanimous in the opinion that the amendment is unconstitutional, I think that that would have had weight with all of us. But there has been an almost equal division of legal opinion. Able lawyers have spoken on each side, and the only result has been to make confusion worse confounded, and to compel the lay mind to fall back upon itself for a deter mination as to whether the amendment would do violation to the Constitution. I should be very foolish if I were to attempt to follow the legal arguments which have been so ably placed before us. I can hardly agree with those honorable and learned members who have sought to attach such great weight ‘to American precedents and conditions. For three years I was a colleague in the South Australian Parliament of the honorable member for Darwin, and during that happy period I learnt a good deal with regard to American ways and institutions. May I whisper that what I heard did not persuade me that we should do well to follow even so great a nation as America in our legislation. Further than that, the political tendencies in that country are widely different from our own, and as soon as honorable members begin to quote American authorities I am on my guard. The United States Constitution has been quoted again and again, not as an instrument by which the people can express their will and secure the adoption of the laws they require, but as a means of preventing them from doing so. Contributors to the magazines are constantly pointing out that the United States Constitution, instead of being an aid to ^democracy, and affording means by which the people of that great nation can carry out their wishes, is a check upon them, and prevents them from doing what ‘they would have accomplished long ago if they had been unfettered. The political tendency in Australia to-day is altogether different from that in America. In the United States private enterprise has almost run mad, and we see the result of its unchecked development in rings, combines, and trusts. Here, I think, fortunately, we are proceeding in the opposite direction, because our inclinations are towards State control of monopolies. I hope that this tendency will continue, and for that reason I am all the more anxious that we should exercise to the full every power which the Constitution confers upon us, even to the extent of providing for the reference to the Arbitration Court of disputes in industries which are under the control of the various States. I think it would be a calamity if it were established here and now that the Federal Arbitration Court could not exercise jurisdiction over the many thousands of States public servants. If that position were established, I should do my utmost to assist in securing an alteration of the Constitution. We are told that, even if we had the power, it would not be expedient to bring States servants within the scope of this measure. I have been taught, however, that it is always expedient to do what is right, and no honorable member has attempted to show that we should do- any wrong in bringing public servants within the scope of the Bill. The arguments against the expediency of adopting the amendment seem to me to rest upon a very slight foundation.
– Justice is the highest expediency.
–!, agree with the honorable member on that point, although I do not think that he agrees with me in regard to the principle of the amendment. During the agitation in favour of the Commonwealth Bill it was frequently represented to the people that the Commonwealth would confer upon them a dual citizenship, that they would no longer be merely citizens of one State or another, but citizens of the whole of Australia, with rights and privileges which the Federation alone could confer upon them. That argument strongly appealed to me, but immediately a law is proposed which is intended to give practical effect to the promises then made, and to confer upon the citizens of Australia tangible benefits beyond the grant of any other authority, we are’ told that it would violate the Constitution. I am as anxious as any one to preserve to the States every constitutional right which the instrument of Federation conserves to “them. I differ from some of my honorable colleagues in the Labour Party who believe that unification would give us an improved form of government for Australia. I have always held that for many years to come Australia would be better governed, and her resources would be better developed, by leaving it to the States Governments to exercise a large measure of power. At the same time, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that the present tendency is towards unification. The very genius of the Constitution makes for unification. We have examples of this almost every day, and, in this connexion, I might mention the recent Conference of States Treasurers. What would honorable members have said if the Federal Treasurer had, of his own initiative, and without reference to any other proposal, calmly suggested that the States should not indulge in anyfurther borrowing without first submitting their proposals to the Federal Government. Such an idea would have been scouted. Yet, when the States Treasurers proposed to avail 2 q themselves of the benefits that would be derived from the federalization of the States debts, the Treasurer’s suggestion that an agreement on the part of the States to surrender their individual borrowing powers, and make them subject to Federal revision, would be a condition precedent to the adoption of such a scheme, was received with equanimity, and even some degree of favour. I am rather inclined to believe that, in order to derive the benefits which would accrue from the federalization of their debts, the States will agree to the condition laid down by the Treasurer. This shows how the Federation tends to overshadow the States almost in spite of themselves. The democracy of Australia has learned that the Federal Parliament is the Parliament of the people in a way that the States Parliaments are not. I am not at all surprised to hear an honorable member laugh at that remark. Those gentlemen who advocated very loudly the establishment of Federation were not at all slow to make the statement that a Federal Parliament would give to the people of Australia legislation of a character altogether different from that which they were getting from the States Parliaments. It was said by the conservatives of the State in which I then lived that there would not be much prospect of labour legislation from the Federal Parliament - that they were going to have .a superior class of member within these walls. But to their utter astonishment the people of Australia have taken possession of their own Parliament, and we find that the thoughtful men and women of Australia have already begun to realize that they can get their wishes carried into law here much more quickly than they can in the States Parliaments. Here we have political equality ; there we have restrictions owing to property qualifications, and so forth, which prevent the people passing their wishes into law. All this makes for the aggrandizement of this Parliament. The people are going to make use of that which gives them what they want, rather than tie themselves to their States Parliaments, which too often place obstacles in the way of the expression of their will. The right honorable member for Swan, who gave us such a breezy speech this afternoon, reminded us of the difference between the Constitution we have to-day and the Constitution which was proposed in 1891. One of the differences to which he referred was that under the proposal of 1891 the States
Parliaments would have elected the members of the Federal Parliament; and I could not help thinking that the delay of a few years brought a wonderful change in the opinions of those gentlemen who were charged with the duty of framing a Federal Constitution. There was not much danger of the people of Australia accepting the Constitution of 1891. They realized how dangerous it would be ; but they at once accepted a proposal which gave them the power they had the right to exercise. The point I wish to make is that the few years which elapsed between 1891 and 1897 brought about this wonderful change in the politicians of Australia. As we are rapidly changing in our political ideas, I do not want to have an interpretation of the Constitution which would tie us down and prevent us from expressing our will. I recognise that there are certain limitations which must be observed, but I am not going to yield to any legal opinion. I would rather run the risk of a rebuff from our High Court - of being told we have exceeded our powers - than 1 would hesitate timidly to do something about which I had a doubt. Let us exercise to the full all the powers which the Constitution gives us.
– Not at once, surely ?
– Not at once ; but as occasion arises.
– The occasion does not arise now.
– The interjection of the right honorable gentleman brings me to the consideration of one or two points which were raised by him this afternoon in his very excellent fighting speech. As I come from the same Stale as does the right honorable gentleman, I claim to represent some of the public opinion there, and I desire to make brief reference to some of his remarks. Let me say, first of all, that I re-echo every kindly word he spoke with reference to those who oppose the Government; I reciprocate every kindly sentiment he expressed in his very able speech. But while doing that, I canhardly agree with him when he seeks to speak as representing the State of Western Australia in his opposition to this amendment.
– I was then speaking of the public servants of Western Australia.
– The right honorable gentleman had the advantage of being re-elected to this Parliament without a fight for his seat. Such a position is an advantage, though it is also a disadvantage. The disadvantage of having no contest is that a candidate, not being brought into close contact with his constituents, may perhaps get out of touch of them, and assume that their opinions of to-day are the same as they were three years ago, when he was first returned. I may be pardoned for saying that if the right honorable gentleman had had to fight an election, he would perhaps have been brought very much more closely into touch with public opinion in his own electorate. As to the opinion expressed on this question by Western Australia at the general election, may I remind the Minister for Home Affairs that in those districts where there were contests that opinion was very emphatic indeed.
– I do not think so; the question was ignored by the press, and generally.
– The right honorable member appears to think that this question was ignored in Western Australia. In the debate on the Address in Reply, the Minister for Home Affairs stated that he had put it plainly to the electors of Western Australia that the inclusion of the public servants would be unconstitutional and an invasion of States rights. ,
– There was no one to fight for the inclusion of public servants.
– I submit that if the right honorable member held that opinion as a vital principle, he certainly ought to have discussed it before the electors. It was a question discussed on every political platform, and inquiries regarding it were made at nearly every public meeting; and I do not know that there was any serious attempt made by the honorable gentleman to combat the arguments of those who advocated the inclusion of the States employes within the operation of an Arbitration Bill.
– It was said that the Bill would never apply to Western Australia, owing to the isolation of that State.
– I am aware that the opinion was expressed that, so long as there was not an Inter-State railway, the Bill could not apply to Western Australia; but we are living in the hope that we shall have this railway at a very early date. I should like here, very briefly, to quote some figures in relation to the general election in
I Western Australia. For the candidates who supported the inclusion of the States employes under an Arbitration Bill, 13,507 votes were cast in the three contested electorates, while only 6,678 votes were given to the unsuccessful candidates. This shows a majority of nearly two to one in favour of the candidates who advocated the inclusion of the States servants.
– The honorable member knows very well that the inclusion of States servants, under the Bill, was not made a prominent question.
– It was a fairly prominent question. I do not pretend to say that it was the only issue on which the electors voted, but I have a perfect right to say that it was one of the leading planks in our platform, and, being discussed at every meeting, was as much in the mind of the public as was any other question. As I have said, in the ‘districts where there were contested elections, a majority of two to one was shown in favour of the inclusion of the States servants.
– The labour question was the more important.
– This is the labour question. In the Swan electorate there was no contest for the House of Representatives, but there was a contest for the Senate.
– I do not think that the candidates for the Senate put this forward as a prominent question.
– I think they did.
– The Prime Minister made the question an important plank in bis platform at Ballarat.
– I attended some joint meetings with ‘candidates for the Senate in Western Australia, and they made this question quite as prominent as I did.
– It may have been made a prominent question in Fremantle, but not to any extent elsewhere.
– For the three elected Labour senators for the Swan district 7,348 voles were cast.
– The honorable member knows very well that these senators were elected on the labour ticket.
– For the three candidates nominated by the Minister for Home Affairs - Mr. Saunders, Mr. Cavanagh, and Mr. Moore-
– I only assisted two. Mr. Saunders was not my candidate, because he was a free-trader.
– There was a third on what was known as the “ Forrest ticket.”
– No; on the freetrade ticket.
– It was understood that thethree I have named were on the one ticket, and were being supported by the Minister for Home Affairs.
– The other man was opposed to us.
– That makes the case all the worse for the Minister. I am giving him the benefit of a candidate who was not his own. For these three gentlemen who were opposed to the labour policy, 5,768 votes were cast as against 7,348 votes cast for the candidates who advocated this proposal. I merely quote these figures to show that in spite of the statement of the Minister to the contrary, Western Australia, by overwhelming majorities, favoured those candidates who had advocated at nearly every meeting the inclusion of State employes within the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– It was never brought under their notice at all.
– The right honorable gentleman also accused those who are supporting the amendment of trying to take power from the States. I have dealt with that aspect of the question, but allow me to repeat that we are not seeking to deprive the States of any power which they possess. I am surprised to find that the only proposal to take power from the States is that which is reported to have been made by the gentleman who is contesting the Riverina election as a Government supporter. Mr. Chanter is reported in the press this morning to have said that he would favour the appointment of a High Commissioner at once, and compel the States Governments to withdraw their Agents-General from London. I do not think that any labour man, or any member of the Opposition, has gone so far as to propose to interfere with the powers of the States to that extent. There is one other remark of the Minister for Home Affairs to which I must take exception, and that is that the Labour Party have not treated the Prime Minister fairly in this matter. The right honorable gentleman failed to justify his statement. I do not wish to rest under the accusation of having done anything unfair. With the rest of my colleagues, I hold the Prime Minister in the highest esteeem, and I think not only the members of the Labour Party here, but the followers of the Labour
Party outside, recognise that he has been a friend to labour, and has assisted to pass very many measures for their benefit since he has held that high office. But because we now differ, and differ sincerely - having as much right to our opinions as any Minister has to his opinions - why should we be accused of treating the Government unfairly? The Minister for Home Affairs said that we who have been his friends are going to become his executioners. I should be sorry indeed to have anything to do with the political execution of any friend to labour. I am rather inclined to think that, instead of there being an execution, the Government are committing suicide. All we are doing, if we are doing anything, is assisting at their burial. For some weeks the Minister for Home Affairs and his colleagues have seen what the result of a certain course of action would be. They calmly come to the edge of the precipice, and, seeing their danger, they determine to jump over, and turn round to say, “ Our friends, have done this.” We would have saved them from their fate if they had given us half an opportunity. It is because they have taken the bit in their teeth, and gone not so much against what we proposed as against the wish of the people of Australia expressed at the recent elections, that we feel compelled to rote against them on this occasion. I am convinced that no matter what the result of the division may be, the principles of democracy which I suppose are professed by a large majority of the members of this Committee will permeate all our legislation. There may be a change of men on the Treasury bench, but I am sure that there will be no change of principles in the legislation which may be proposed. Believing that no matter what may be done, it is best not to surrender a principle, but, as the Prime Minister has said, to go straight on, and believing that the ultimate result will be nothing but good for the democracy of Australia, I shall heartily support this amendment.
– Until I heard the astounding “unofficial revelations” of th- Minister for Home Affairs, I must confess that I was very much perplexed in my mind to find out what reason could have induced the Government to push a Bill of this character into the forefront of their programme. There are many measures of more general public importance, mentioned in the Governor-General’s speech, which might, and in my opinion should, have been given precedence. This Bill does not seem to have attracted any considerable public attention except in certain circles, and even in those circles only so far as some of the States are concerned. But after the explanation of the Minister for Home Affairs the reason is perfectly clear to me. He has made no secret of the fact that the idea in pushing this Bill into the forefront of their programme was to make themselves solid with a certain section of the House. But they now discover, when it is too late for them to retreat, that they have been playing with a two-edged weapon, and that it is likely to result, unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the country, in their total displacement from the Treasury bench. Thus in a very early stage of their second infancy they appear to be likely to leave a very brilliant future behind them. That, of course, is an act of their own doing*, and it has been not inaptly described by the last speaker as an act of political suicide on their part. I can well understand that this may have been intentional, for it must be galling to any Government to know that they are in an actual minority in the Chamber, and are carrying on the legislation of the country by the’ sufferance of another party. I do not say any particular party j whatever party may be rendering such assistance, it is a most unsatisfactory position, not only for the members of the Ministry, but also for the country. Therefore, I say that the sooner this condition of things is concluded the better it will be for the country, even though it may have the effect of putting a Labour Government immediately in power. It is better that there should be a clear line of cleavage between parties so that we may know exactly where we are, and so that we shall by a process of evolution have a Government occupying the Treasury bench, that will ultimately command the support of a majority of honorable members. Personally, I have no fault to find with the occupants of the Treasury bench as individuals. In fact, for our esteemed friend, the Prime Minister, so far as my brief acquaintance with him goes, I can say that he has earned my very sincere regard and my highest respect, amounting almost to personal affection. Mv only fault with the honorable and learned gentleman is that, holding the fiscal opinions that he does, he is, in my opinion, on the wrong side of the Chamber. As to the introduction of the Bill at this time, the
Prime Minister has said - I do not quote his exact words - that we should wait until Arbitration Courts have been established in all the States, embracing civil servants or railway servants within their operation, before including them in the provisions of the Federal Act. If we are to do that, why should we not wait until similar Arbitration Courts are established in all the States so far as private employes are concerned ? If the argument is sound in the one case, it certainly must be equally sound in the other. The leader of the Opposition has . told us that it was never contemplated by the Convention to include civil servants or railway servants in such a measure as this. It must be as well known to the Prime Minister as to the leader of the Opposition that it was never contemplated that such employes should be brought within the scope of such a Bill. When the Government found that there was a desire on the part of a section of this House to insist on the inclusion of that class of employes, it is a matter of surprise to me that they still persisted in pushing the matter, to a conclusion at this early stage in the existence of a new Parliament. Another argument against this unseemly haste in bringing forward the measure is that even in the States where Arbitration Courts have already been established the legislation is purely of an experimental character. So far, at any rate, as New South Wales is concerned, it has not been productive of the most satisfactory results. At best it has only been imposed for a limited period. Until there was some authentic “demand for a measure of this kind, we might have pressed forward with other matters of more general public concern - such, for instance, as the matter of preferential trade, the selection of the Capital site, assistance to farmers, and other measures which, from the protectionist stand-point, certainly, one would have thought would have been regarded as of extreme urgency, and the introduction of which would have been much more satisfactory, not only for the Government, but for those who are compelled to vote against them on this amendment, and thus endeavour to oust them from their position.
– They are ousting themselves.
– But with the assistance of the Opposition. If the Government are determined to commit political suicide, that is their affair. But it would have been a better thing for themselves had they been defeated on a measure of vital policy, so far as the general interests of the country are concerned, and on which public interest itself was centred. I do not desire to go into the merits of the question involved in the Bill, because it seems to me to be futile at this stage to enter into -pros and cons. But I should like to make reference to the subject of the enforcement of awards against States Governments. In reply to a question which I put to the leader of the Labour Party, he stated that if the States Parliaments refused to impose further taxation at the dictation of the Arbitration Court - which will not be constituted under their authority - that Court could order the cessation of railway traffic until the award was complied with. I do not say that those are his exact words - I have not got Hansard; but that was the purport of what he said, as I understood it. What does that contention involve? It involves the recognition of the right of an irresponsible tribunal to exercise powers denied to States Legislative Councils - the right to increase the taxation of the country and to dictate to Parliament in matters of financial policy. If I thought that such a thing could be seriously urged as a reason for supporting the proposed amendment, I should have no hesitation in opposing it, tooth and nail. But I think that the honorable member for Bland is wrong. I am in grave doubt about the expediency of this Federal Arbitration measure at all. One of the grounds on which it is brought forward is that of expediency. Expediency is a term for which I have a deep-rooted dislike. The term “expedient” has been used in almost every Act of Parliament which has had for its object the restriction of the rights of individuals. Nearly every statute which has contemplated the attainment of that end, has commenced with the words - “ Whereas it is expedient.” Consequently the word “ expedient “ has been used to justify a multitude of public wrongs. That Courts of Conciliation are desirable for the purpose of dealing with industrial disputes, may, I think, at once be conceded, but, to me, the term “ compulsory arbitration “ has an objectionable sound. I do not like anything which savours of a negation of the freedom of the individual. It is true that we can fix a minimum wage by Act of Parliament, but we cannot force any employer to engage an employe at that wage. It is at that point that the principle of compulsory arbitration breaks down.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment before the Chamber.
– I shall endeavour to do so, although, in passing, I might observe that other honorable members, who are possessed of more parliamentary experience than I, have been allowed considerably more latitude. If we are to establish a Federal Arbitration Court, let us treat all workers alike, and not draw invidious distinctions between different classes of employes. My own opinion is that there is no need whatever for this Bill at the present time. That view is confirmed by the remarks of the Chairman of the New South Wales Public Service Board at the annual meeting of the Public Service Association, which was held in Sydney on the 7th inst. The Minister for Home Affairs has emphasized the fact that the public servants of the States have made no request to be brought under the provisions of this Bill. At the meeting to which I allude, Mr. E. S. Vautin, the president of the Public Service Association said - 1
They did not sympathize with the attempt to ; bring public servants in the different States under a Federal Arbitration Act. The Federal Go- Ivernment was apparently being pressed into 1 placing all public servants within its scope. To his mind, it seemed very strange that any representative from this State should take any step in this direction without first ascertaining the 1 views of the principal people concerned. In this ! State the public servants, who were now all under the Act and the Board, did not want to be inter- ‘fered with by any outside tribunal. They had [ never asked for it,’and they did not want it. They ! were free men, with the full rights of citizen- j ship ; therefore, why should an attempt be made to place upon their legs the shackles of industrial ] strife ? They would make a strong protest against ; any such interference before their freedom* was taken away.
– He spoke for the higher officers of the service, and not for the rank and file.
- Mr. Vautin spoke for an association which represents 13,000 employes in New South Wales. The Public Service Journal, which is the official organ of the Public Service Association of that State closes an antagonistic article on this subject thus -
What the general opinion in the service is concerning the question that has just been discussed we are unable to say. It may be remarked, however, that not a single request has been made to the Council of the Public Service Association to use their influence in support of the amendment in the Federal Arbitration Bill that the Labour Party intends submitting. On the other hand, the Council have been requested to oppose the amendment. Our own opinion is that the inclusion of public servants in the Bill would be to them more harmful than beneficial, and that legitimate grievances in the service in New South Wales can be redressed without help from any Arbitration Court.
I agree with that expression of opinion. I am perfectly certain that the public servants of the States have no more sympathetic Courts of Appeal than the Parliaments by which they are employed. Reference has already been made to the comfortable positions which they enjoy, and to the general feeling of satisfaction which they entertain towards their employers. The honorable member for Gippsland touched on the generosity of Australian Governments generally towards their employes, and emphasized the fact that the liberal treatment accorded to the public servants of the States had not only prevented them from manifesting any desire to enter private employment, but had induced a desire on the part of many others to obtain employment under such generous masters. On the merits of the proposed amendments, I have, so far, an open mind. I mention . these matters to show that there is no justification whatever for the feverish haste that has been displayed in pressing forward a measure of this character at the beginning of a session, which might have been devoted to useful legislation. The Government, however, are entirely responsible for that, and for any consequences which may follow their act. To my mind the crux of the present position is, not whether the employes of the States or the railway servants shall be included within the operation of this Bill, but whether a Ministry which is responsible for the mischievous legislation from which we have suffered during the past two or three years shall be -permitted to continue to occupy the Treasury bench. I believe that that is the only consideration which will influence a great many honorable members on this side of the House in voting on this amendment. It is our duty to turn the present Government out of office at the earliest possible opportunity. I am pledged to that course. I only regret that I cannot make use of a weapon which would be more congenial to my taste. However, in political warfare, we are not always able to exercise a choice as to the weapons which we shall employ. Recognising the injury which the Government are doing to the prestige of Australia, I cannot reconcile it with my conscience to vote in such a way as will continue them in office for one moment longer than is absolutely necessary. My only hope is that, as the result of the division, changes will be brought about in the near future that will lead to a Government taking office that will be more in accordance with our ideas of the basic principles of democracy. We wish to see government of the people for the people by the people, and I hope that we shall have a Government commanding a majority that will enable it, without any coercion on the part of a third party - no matter what that party may be - to carry on the affairs of the country in an effective manner. It is because I desire to bring about such a change that I for one am not prepared to do anything to assist the present Government to remain in possession of the Treasury bench.
– I cannot agree with the position taken up by the honorable member for Lang, that those who are opposed to the Governmentshould make use of this opportunity, whether they favour the amendment or not, to oust the Ministry. There are few honorable members who desire more than I do to see the Ministry displaced ; but I think that the price we are asked on this occasion to pay for their displacement is altogether too high. It would be, in my opinion, a deathblow to the Federal principles embodied in the Constitution, and I for one am not prepared to give it. I regret that any honorable member should be willing to do so merely to secure a change of Administration. The amendment has been discussed very exhaustively by. the various legal members of the House/ and I trust that I may be permitted to deal briefly with the legal aspect of the question. It is probably one of the most difficult with which the Parliament has yet had to deal, or will be called to face for many years. I listened with the greatest attention to the speech made bv the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who appears to occupy the position of Attorney-General to the party responsible for this amendment, and I have also carefully read the Hansard report of his address. I agree with the general statement made by him that American decisions are largely inapplicable in the consideration of a case of this kind. Notwithstanding that the Prime Minister has expressed a different opinion, I believe that the honorable and learned member is right, and I am glad to find that the honorable and learned member for Indi - than whom there is no better authority - also holds the view that the American decisions are not as binding on us as the Prime Minister would have us believe. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne is correct when he asserts that the Australian Courts that have so far been called upon to determine Federal questions have held that American decisions are not binding. In the case of the Income Tax Commissioner of Victoria v. Wollaston, the Full Court of this> State distinctly declined to follow American decisions, and in the well-known case of the Bank of Toronto v. Lambe, the Privy Council also refused to be bound by them. It appears to me that the Prime Minister made a serious slip yesterday when he stated that the lastnamed case turned solely on the construction of a local statute. As a matter of fact it rested largely on the construction of the Canadian Constitution Act of 1867. It is true that the local statute was discussed, but two questions were considered. The first was whether the local statute imposed a direct tax, while the second was whether, assuming that it did, the tax came into conflict with the wellknown case of McCulloch v. Maryland, and was therefore void. After an elaborate argument for the appellants, the Court dismissed the appeal without calling on the respondents. It has also to be observed that in a more recent case Halsbury, Lord Chancellor ; Cotton, LJ., and Fry, L.J., distinctly held that American decisions were not to be binding on the Courts of the Empire, and should not be as freely quoted as they are. In these circumstances, it appears to me that the opinion expressed by the honorable and learned member for Indi, and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, that the American decisions are not binding -on us, is a good one. The Constitution of the Commonwealth is an Imperial . Act, and must be construed as such ; so that the ordinary rules of construction which have been applied by the British Courts for the past 200 or 300 years in construing British Acts must be followed by us in dealing with our Constitution. In this connexion, I would draw attention to an article by Professor Harrison Moore, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Melbourne University, which appeared in the Journal of the Society of Comparative Legislation for August, 1903, in which he states -
Both in the terms of the Commonwealth Constitution) and the existence of the Imperial relations, there is abundant reason why we should pause before accepting American cases as final in matters of Australian constitutional law.
That is the position taken up by the honorable and learned member for Indi - a position for which I think there is ample authority, notwithstanding that the Prime Minister is imbued with the importance of the American cases. But the English decisions, on which the honorable and learned member foi Northern Melbourne wishes us to rely, do not, in my opinion, advance his position. If we are guided by those decisions, Ave must see that the contention of the honorable and learned member that the amendment is a constitutional one falls to the ground. He has a better chance to establish his case under the American decisions than under those of the English Courts. I hold, as the honorable and learned member for. Indi, as well as other honorable members, submitted last night, that the Crown is not bound, unless it is specifically mentioned, and that as subsection xxxv. of section 51 does not mention the Crown, the Crown is not bound by it. I attach the greatest importance to the point to which reference was made last night by the honorable and learned member for Indi, that the words “This Act shall bind the Crown,” which appeared in the covering clause, were struck out by the Imperial law authorities - and struck out with a view to retain as much of the prerogative of the Crown as possible. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne last week put forward a contention which I think has very little foundation. At page 1035 of Hansard, he is reported to have said -
So far as I can find, however, in all cases in which it is intended, to exclude the States, or to exclude States industries from the operation of the Constitution, express provision is made to that effect.
That is a distinct contradiction of evenEnglish decision, and of every principle of English law relative to construing clauses of which I have ever heard. In support of his contention the honorable and learned member drew attention to sub-section xiii. of section 51, which relates to State banking, and sub-section xiv., which relates to State life assurance, and claimed that because reference was made in those provisions to “State banking,” and to “State life assurance.” it was clear that it was desired to exclude the States. In other words, he contended that the States had to be specially excluded. He then went on to say that section 114, which prohibits the Commonwealth taxing the States, would be utterly useless unless his contention were sound. He asserted that that section was inserted in the Constitution because it was necessary to prevent the States being taxed by the Commonwealth, and that without that section - and this is the legitimate and only inference that can be drawn from his contention - the Commonwealth would have had the power to tax the States. The question that we have to consider is, therefore, whether this contention is correct - whether the States! are bound, unless they are expressly excluded. I gather from an interjection made last night by the honorable and learned member, that he has some doubt as to whether the States Governments represent the Crown in the Commonwealth. I do not think that proposition is seriously arguable. The cases which we have had so far in Australia show beyond all question that the State is the Crown. That was held up to the establishment of Federation, and there is nothing in the Federal Constitution contrary to it. The decisions we have since had from the Courts do not detract from that in any way whatever. If we take the New South Wales Customs case, in which the question involved was whether the Federal Parliament had power, by means of Customs taxation, to tax the imports of a State, it was decided by the Full Court of New South Wales - and it was a unanimous decision - that the States were not bound unless expressly mentioned. That decision was come to absolutely independent of section 114, on which the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne relies. One member of the Court held that possibly section 114 told against the State of New South Wales in that case, but the Court unanimously expressed the opinion that, as the Crown was not specially bound in the sub-section regarding taxation, the State could not be bound, and they came to the conclusion that State imports are not liable to Customs taxation. That decision only bears out the decision in the well-known case of The Mayor of Weymouth v. Nugent, which very strongly supports the view taken by honorable and learned members who have argued from the stand-point from which I am arguing now. The corporation of Weymouth were entitled to levy tolls and dues on goods brought into that port. Certain goods of the Crown were specially exempt from those tolls and dues. The Crown brought in other goods, and the corporation attempted to levy tolls and dues on them. A case was then brought to decide whether the Crown was liable to pay tolls and dues on those goods, and it was held that, notwithstanding the special exemption in favour of the Crown, and the well-known rule of construction, Expressio unius est exclusio alterius, the general rule as to the exemption of the Crown prevailed, and all goods of the Crown were exempt from those tolls and dues. Hence it seems to me that the position is undoubtedly that the Crown, which, in the interpretation of our Constitution, is as much the State as it is the Commonwealth, is not bound unless specifically mentioned. That is one of the oldest propositions of law. It is frequently referred to, and has been laid down again and .again by the Courts. In Hardcastle’s Constitutional Law the rule is laid down on page 387, in the fullest possible way. that the Crown is not bound by statute except named ; or unless there is practically an irresistible inference of intention to bind the Crown. Looking at sub-section xxxv. of section 51, I ask whether there is disclosed in it an irresistible inference of intention to bind the Crown ? I think not. In the first place, industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of one State seem to me, from the ordinary grammatical construction of the term, to refer naturally to disputes between private individuals, because it is difficult to see how a dispute between a State employe and the Government of the State can extend beyond the boundaries of that State. It is further to be noted that a particular section of the Constitution, section 107, expressly reserves to the States the powers not handed over to the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I take it that those powers must be handed over to the Commonwealth expressly, or bv irresistible inference. That brings me again to the question, Is there an irresistible inference of an intention, the Crown not being named, that the servants of the Government should be liable to the provisions of sub-section xxxv ? I do not think there is. The remarks of Lord Hobhouse in re The Bank of Toronto v. Lambe, are applicable. He said -
Their Lordships adhere to the view which has always been taken by this Committee, that the Federation Act exhausts the whole range of legislative power, and whatever is not thereby given to the Provincial Legislatures rests with the Parliament.
As honorable members are aware, the reverse applies here. In view of section 107 of our Constitution, I think there can be no doubt that their Lordships would hold that whatever is not thereby given directly, or by irresistible inference of intention, to the Commonwealth Parliament rests with the States Parliaments. This view is, I think, strengthened by the fact that there is no machinery provided by the Constitution for the enforcement of an award against a State. Honorable members must admit the force of the contention that there is no absolute method provided for; enforcing a judgment against a State Government, which it seems to me is at any time a very difficult thing to do. I do not think that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne would care to rely on his contention that the Commonwealth Government could deduct the award from the portion of Customs revenue returnable to the State against which the award was made. I think the honorable and learned member would admit that the constitutional provision for the return of three-fourths of the revenue from Customs duties is mandatory, and that it is not possible to avoid that provision.
– What, in the opinion of the honorable and learned member, is meant by “ three-fourths “ in that case ? Does it mean three-fourths to each State?
– That has already been decided, as the honorable member is no doubt aware.
– That is what the people thought.
– The people did think that, but the Constitution does not say so. I sympathize with the honorable member on that point.
– I sympathize with the lawyers who did not point that out.
– Probably there were not enough lawyers in the Convention. That must have been the reason.
– Not enough? How many would the honorable and learned member want - the whole fifty?
– Forty-nine would, I think, have been sufficient. If we examine the various clauses of the Constitution for the purpose of discovering whether the States are al’ways bound unless expressly excluded we must come to the conclusion that the exceptions as regards State banking and State insurance are merely for greater caution - a caution which is often taken in Acts, not only of Australian Parliaments, but also of the Imperial Parliament. Weymouth v. Nugent is an Imperial case, where the exemptions specially set out were held to be exemptions only for greater caution, and there is the decision of the New South Wales Full Court in the Customs case to which I have referred. If we look at section 98, dealing with the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament with respect to trade and commerce, and extending to navigation and shipping, we see that it expressly includes State railways. If the contention of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne were correct, that section would be absolutely useless, because the power would have been contained in the Constitution without its insertion. In section 102 the Federal Parliament is given power to legislate with respect to preferential rates. In this important regard of interfering with railway income and expenditure, the States are expressly mentioned. If in the only instances in which the finances of a State are interfered with, express power is given for the purpose, there is practically an irresistible inference of intention that there being no such express power given in sub-section xxxv., that power does not exist. I desire also to express, with the greatest hesitancy, .the opinion that it is arguable that the words, “Industrial disputes” may not cover disputes between a State Government and its servants. I think it is arguable to say that the State does not engage in any industry, notwithstanding the fact that the States have engaged in the carrying trade in Australia. I think it is arguable to say that that is not an industry, but that it is rather an ordinary function of government, carried on in Australia from the earliest times. It can, I think, be contended with some force, though I express the opinion with great hesitation, that the railways of Australia do not constitute an industry within the meaning of the words “ Industrial disputes “ in sub-section xxxv. of section 51. The Privy Council in the case of Farnell v. Bowman held that the local Governments in the Colonies, as pioneers of improvements, are frequently obliged to embark in undertakings, such as the construction and management of railways, which in other countries are left to private enterprise. That gives some force to the contention that it is open to doubt whether the States railways are an industry within the meaning of the words “industrial dispute.” It has been said that those of us who are opposed to the Bill should not deal with a matter of this kind at all ; but I do not think that that view has been seriously put forward. The matter is a very important one. We are asked to plunge the Commonwealth, now in the fourth year of its existence, into a quarrel with the Governments of the States, and those who have conscientious convictions against the wisdom of this course should not hesitate to express their opinion upon it. I think that the consequences of the measure, if it be passed, will be very, serious. I hold, with the honorable member for Gippsland and the Prime Minister, that we have come to the parting of the ways, where the federalist must separate from the nationalist, and those who wish to restrict the Constitution to its true Federal intention must be arrayed against those who wish to make it an instrument for unification. Some of us differ from the Government upon other points, but we can still lend them effective assistance in defending the Constitution from these insidious attacks. If it will not be thought presumptuous on my part, I should like to express my admiration of the courteous way in which the Prime Minister and the members of his Government have conducted the business of the House since I have been a member of it. For some reasons I shall not be sorry when they leave the Treasury Benches. At times I have felt that nothing in their Ministerial life will become them like the leaving of it. But I do not wish to go quite so far as that to-night. I cannot reconcile it with my conscience or with my judgment to vote for a provision which I believe to be absolutely unconstitutional and likely to create bad feeling between the States and the Commonwealth, and which will do more to injure Federation than any other proposal which has yet been put forward.
– To-night I part company with the leader of the Opposition’. As a loyal member of a party, I like to follow my leader ; but as in this case I differ from him on a question of principle, I cannot do so on the present occasion. I am very pleased that the members of the Opposition are able to deal with this matter with open minds, and to vote as they consider right in regard to the amendment.’ I consider that there was no need for the introduction of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill at the present juncture. Compulsory arbitration is purely in its experimental stage in the States. Great things were hoped from the New South
Wales Arbitration Act, but they have not yet been realized.
– Everything cannot happen in an hour.
– No; and I think the Government might have waited to see the result of the experiments of the States before bringing in a Commonwealth Arbitration Bill.
– What about the result of the New Zealand legislation?
– I understand that fully half the labour in New Zealand is not under the provisions of the Act.
– They get the benefit of it, although they are not registered in unions.
– Now that the Bill has passed its second reading, I think it the duty of every honorable member to try to make it as perfect as possible. I listened with great interest to the speeches delivered last evening by honorable and learned members who should be in a position to offer valuable opinions on the Constitution. The honorable and learned member for Indi supported the view that the Constitution allows the application of the provisions of the Bill to railway servants, but held that it is not expedient to so apply them.
– He thought that the constitutional power was doubtful.
– The honorable and learned member for Bendigo, on the other hand, had no doubt as to it being contrary to the Constitution. Thus two of those to whom we especially look for guidance on a matter of this kind, and whose general opinions we respect, differ absolutely. Therefore, we are bound to find a rule for ourselves, by applying the test of common sense.
– Follow the Government.
– I shall follow the Government when I think that they are right. They have brought in this Bill with a view to settling disputes between private employers and employes. If it be right, and a good thing, for the Commonwealth to interfere in such disputes, why should it not interfere in disputes between the States and their employes? If there is one section of men to whom its provisions should apply, it is the railway servants of the States. They are engaged in a great industrial work, and control the highways of trade and commerce. Surely they should be brought under the Bill.
– We have not the power to bring them under the Bill.
– We do not wish to interfere with the, control and management of the railways by the States, so long as they have a grip of their own affairs. But when a dispute extends beyond the limits of a State, the Federal tribunal is the proper one to deal with it. For that reason I shall support the amendment. I cordially agree with the provision in the Bill for conciliation, which is likely to be far more largely availed of than arbitration in disputes in which the States are concerned. Conciliation has proved effective in England, and there is no reason to doubt that it will be equally successful here. There is a higher court than that which it is intended to create under this Bill, namely, the tribunal of public opinion. What brought to an end the railway strike in Victoria? It was public opinion. As the Minister for Home Affairs has stated, such a strike would not come within the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court, even if railway servants are included within the scope of the Bill. It is only when the State is unable to deal with a strike that the Federal authorities will have jurisdiction. I am glad that the sorrow which appears to overwhelm some honorable members is apparently not shared by Ministers, who are meeting the situation with smiling faces. I welcome the prospect of a return to true constitutional government. The disclosures which have been made by the Minister for Home Affairs show that the position of the Government has been rendered almost intolerable, owing to their subjection to the dictation of the Labour caucus. Now the party which have kept the Government in power for the past three years will have to shoulder the responsibility which properly attaches to them.
– But the honorable member intends to support them.
– I intend to support them tonight, and I will go even further. If they introduce a measure which will have the effect of reducing the cost of the necessaries of life they will find any number of supporters, but I do not propose to enter into any bargaining for concessions. I hope that the decision arrived at with regard to the amendment will have the effect of more accurately defining the true relations of parties in this House one to the other, and that we shall be able to carry on responsible government in the Federation under much more satisfactory conditions ti Ian hitherto.
– What party does the honorable member intend to follow?
– Like the leader of the Opposition, I want to know what terms are to be offered. If the Labour Party are prepared to bring in democratic measures, not in the nature of class legislation, but for the benefit of the whole community, I shall give them my hearty support. I intend to vote for the amendment, because I believe that States railway servants should be brought within the scope of the measure.
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).I should like to recall the attention of honorable members to the purposes for which this Bill was introduced. It is a measure for the prevention and settlement of disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. It appears to me that the opposition directed to the Bill arises from the fact that it makes provision for the prevention of trades disputes. The opponents of conciliation and arbitration are not ashamed to state that they prefer to fight matters out in the good old-fashioned way by means of strikes and locks-out, and, therefore, they are utterly opposed to anything that would have the effect of prevention, or which would deprive employers of the right to tyrannize over their employes, or the men of their right to dictate terms to their employers. No one, except a good old crusted Tory who believes in a laissez faire policy - more lazy than fair - would deny that a measure for the prevention of strikes or locks-out would confer immense public benefits. If this be granted, we cannot consistently refuse to extend the operation of the Bill to the utmost limits. The Government, however, deliberately propose to deprive an important section of the community, numbering perhaps 100,000, of the benefits of the measure. I find that in Victoria the public servants number 21,799. These comprise railway servants, school teachers, and employes in the Public Libraries, the Asylums, the Mint, the Law, Titles, Education, and other Departments. Can any man in fairness refuse to this large number of respectable citizens the boon which is to be conferred upon other sections of the community? We cannot in justice put a ban upon the Public Service. The man who would consent to be deprived of the right of appeal to the highest Court in the country would be a slave, and I would rather beg bread than occupy a position in the Public Service under such a condition. Why should an invidious distinction be made to the disadvantage of a number of men who need the advantages that would be conferred by this measure, perhaps to a greater degree than any other section of the community ? Large standing armies are not maintained necessarily in order to engage in war, but rather to prevent it ; and similarly we create this Court, not necessarily for the settlement of disputes, but for their prevention. If a Court similar to that now contemplated had been in existence, and had been in a, position to exercise jurisdiction over the railway servants of the States, the strike which recently occurred in Victoria would not have happened. We shall do well to remember that this measure is one for prevention. We cannot calculate the good that similar legislation has done in New Zealand, because we do not know how many strikes there might have been but for the beneficent provision of a Conciliation and Arbitration Court. For us, with our eyes open, to leave out of account something like 130,000 men and women throughout the six States, who would then have no appeal, would be to do an injustice, and to put a ban upon them as having sacrificed their rights by becoming servants of the States. If that be the attitude of the Government it is well that the fact should be known. It is with exceeding regret that I personally have come to the conclusion that, even if the life of the Government depended on my vote, I must support the inclusion of the States servants. I am sorry, also, that the stress of political weather has made such strange bedfellows for the Government as we now see associated with them. I am glad, however, that the parting of the ways has come, and that it is on a first rate measure that the House is to be divided into Conservatives and Liberals, or into the progressive and stagnant parties. It is a case of similiasimilibus congreguntur. We never know who are the friends and who are the foes of democracy until measures are introduced, and this brings me to the first plank of the Labour Party’s platform - measures, not men. I am exceedingly reluctant to say that I blame the Prime Minister for putting honorable members in the position in which they find themselves to-night. Had the Prime Minister taken mv advice in connexion villi the debate on the Address in Reply this would never have been made a question to determine the .life or death of the
Government, because it is a detail, and not a principle. We have affirmed the principle of conciliation and arbitration, and we have no right to deny any class of the community the right of appeal.
– We have no power to give public servants that right.
Mr. RONALD__ When doctors differ. who shall dare to agree?
– When doctors differ, patients die.
– That is generally the case, and when lawyers fall out honest men get their own. I am no authority on the constitutional phase of the question, but if law and common-sense are synonymous, and State servants are excluded from the Bill, so much the worse for those who had a hand in drawing up the Federal Constitution - and the Prime Minister had a big hand in that work. We have no right, either in justice or in equity, to exclude public servants from this, the highest tribunal in all industrial matters. We must remember that the purport of the Bill is prevention and settlement.
– Prevention is better than cure.
– Exactly, and if public servants be brought under the beneficent influence of the Bill we shall never have a railway strike again. Had there been such a tribunal within the territory of Australia there never would have been a railway strike in Victoria - there never would have been such brutal tyranny in the treatment of. a respectful body of men, if those men had had the right of appeal to a tribunal where justice and righteousness prevailed. If the Government believe that the Constitution will not permit of the inclusion of public servants, let the High Court decide as to the validity of the provision in the Bill as it is proposed to amend it. It is a large undertaking to amend the Constitution ; but the Prime Minister has prepared the way for the High Court, if ever this question reaches there, rejecting the amendment to include public servants. This has been done by showing the doubts which are held, and which are expressed, I think, in order to prejudice the case before it reaches the Court. I should be exceedingly sorry if any fatality were to happen to the Bill, .but, having pledged myself, I must in common honesty and decency, and for the sake of truth and political righteousness, demand that all industrial organizations shall come within the beneficent provisionsof this Bill.
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to report progress at this stage ?
– As there are still nine other speakers on the Chairman’s list, it is hopeless to expect to close the debate this evening. If, however, the debate be adjourned until to-morrow, it must be on the understanding that the ordinary business of Thursday shall be put aside, and Government business take precedence. By that means, and if speakers are as brief as they have been to-night, the vote, ought to be taken early to-morrow evening.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 April 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040420_reps_2_18/>.