2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took’ the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the serious influx of Italians into Western Australia, and the strong representations which have been made by all the members of this Parliament representing that State, will the Prime Minister cause a searching investigation to be made regarding the conditions under; which those. immigrants enter?
– Cannot the honorable member wait, and make the inquiry himself ?
Mr. DEAKIN__ I am prepared to leave the recommendation that an inquiry be made.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to give the House any information as to the position of the Pacific Cable agreement ?
– - Honorable members will recollect that in the last session of last Parliament a proposal for a Conference in relation to the Pacific Cable emanated from the Dominion- of Canada and New Zealand. The Government thought such a Conference unnecessary, but finally agreed to be represented upon it. Since then, in spite of repeated telegrams, we have been unable to learn either the date of the Conference, the number of representatives to be allotted to each of the interested parties, or, definitely, all the business to be dealt with. It is only a few days since, in response to an urgent cablegram, I received the information from London that they were still awaiting a reply from the Dominion of Canada which would convey the wishes of that Government upon the subject, and that the Government of Canada had been asked to make their reply a matter of urgency. 1 am not aware that it has yet been received.
– Nor is any reply likely.
– The Government of Canada asked for the Conference, so that a reply was expected long ago.
– They asked for it before this Government entered into an agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
– In view of the infection which it is alleged may be communicated by the use of telephones, will the PostmasterGeneral, in future issues of the official list of subscribers, cause attention to be drawn to the need for disinfecting transmitters, and give information as to the method by which it can be best accomplished ?
– I am obliged to the honorable member for .directing my attention to the possibilities of infection through the use of telephone transmitters, and I shall leave the recommendation, not only that his desire be carried out, but that the assistance of the medical fraternity be sought to obtain a knowledge of the most satisfactory disinfectants, and the best way of using them to secure success.-
– The only information which I can give to the honorable member is that correspondence has been exchanged, but I cannot charge my memory with the exact state of that correspondence.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he has any objection to lay on the table of the House the recommendations made by General Hutton on the subject of sending an Australian rifle team to Bisley ?
– There is no objection.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That general business and Government business, Order of the Day, No. 1, be postponed until after the consideration of Government business. Order of the Day, No. a.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 20th April, vide page 1181):
Clause 4 -
In this Act, except where otherwise clearly intended - “Industrial dispute” means a dispute in relation to industrial matters -
arising between an employer or an organization of employers on the one part and an organization of employes on the other part, or b) certified by the Registrar as proper in the public interest to be dealt with by the Court, and extended 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 « view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ and Includes.”
– I think that I shall be able to compress what I feel it necessary to say upon the subject under discussion into very few words. With other honorable members. 1 recognise its great importance, and I am as sincerely wishful as any member of the Labour Party to do everything that may be possible by legislation providing for conciliation and arbitration to prevent industrial strife. But that will not prevent me from voting with the Government on the present occasion. I feel that no other course is open to me than to vote as I did when the measure was before the. last Parliament. I told my constituents that what I did then I would repeat when the Bill came before us again. I made that statement in the most explicit terms, so that there might be no misunderstanding ; and if I am to maintain a character for consistency I have no! choice in the matter. I will explain why. When the measure which brought this Commonwealth into existence was before the people of South Australia, I was one of those who opposed its acceptance. Our ground of objection was that it was possible, we thought, to federate on a better basis than that provided for in the Draft Constitution. We were strenuous advocates of State rights, and were anxious that the Common wealth should not be an absorption of the States, but a Federation in the truest and best sense. I confess that our opposition was entirely fruitless. It was as ineffective as beating the air. I believe, however, that the people of South Australia did grasp one fact, and that they clearly and distinctly understood that the Federation would possess no powers other than those specifically given to it in the Bill. I am quite sure of this - that’ had any one demonstrated that in some innocent looking clause there lurked tremendous powers, which might be exercised by the Commonwealth at the expense of the States, the opposition in South Australia would have been strong enough to prevent the acceptance of the Bill. I say that, Mr. Chairman, because I believe that the people of South Australia were enthusiastically and unanimously in favour of the maintenance of State rights. I have listened with close attention to the clear, able, and comprehensive addresses which have been delivered to the Committee by members of the legal profession, touching the constitutional aspect of the case. Those addresses have confirmed me in mv opinion that what it is proposed to do is unconstitutional. In my judgment, the speeches of the right honorable the leader of the Opposition, the honorable and learned member for Angas, and the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, have put the matter beyond all question. It has been said that if the inclusion in the measure of public servants and railway men be ultra vires, the High Court will tell us so, and that we should leave the discovery and the decision to that tribunal. I must confess that- that suggestion does not commend itself to me. But, even conceding that what is proposed be not unconstitutional, I would ask - Is it wise to do what is suggested? Is it expedient? It seems to me that the answer to each of these questions is “Emphatically, no.” I believe it to be in the highest degree unwise and inexpedient. The possibilties of trouble - and those possibilities are neither imaginary nor insignificant - have been fully set out by previous speakers, and to a large extent I indorse what they have said. There could not fail to be friction between the States and the Commonwealth. That seems to me to be inevitable, if any good is to result from this legislation. The States would never consent to their financial arrangements being interfered with by an outside tribunal - a body unknown to them, and in the creation of which they had had no hand. Personally, I should like to have it understood that I have no objection whatever to railway employes and public servants being brought under the operation of Conciliation and Arbitration Acts. But they must be the Acts of the local Parliaments. Of course, when the railways are taken over by the Commonwealth the men employed upon those railways will be subject to Federal legislation. But is it wise to distrust the local Legislatures? To me it appears that it is entirely unwise to do so. My attitude, as must be evident from what I have said, is not in the least degree governed by the recent strike of railwaymen in Victoria. I thought that that strike was a tactical mistake, but I expressed the opinion that the men received great provocation, and were very unfairly treated. At the same time, I entirely agree with the honorable and learned member for Indi, that Victoria must be left to control her own affairs, and I am quite satisfied that the people of Victoria may be depended on to act justly. This Parliament should be very careful indeed not to attempt to interfere with matters that are not definitely brought within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. It may be advisable in the future to extend the operations of the Commonwealth. But in that case the people in their wisdom will alter the Constitution in any way they think desirable. I was a little astonished in listening to the honorable member for Melbourne at the attitude which he took up. He stated that he and some other honorable members had been returned to this Parliament pledged to vote for the inclusion of the railway men and the public servants in this Bill. He seemed to think that it was a matter of no importance whatever whether their inclusion were constitutional or not. I should like to point out that, if every member of this Chamber were returned similarly pledged, that would not be a mandate to this Parliament to disregard the Constitution ; it would simply be a direction from the people to amend it. I cannot say that I am at all pleased at the fact that the Ministry are going out of office. To me it is a cause of regret. In this particular, I must differ from the right honorable the leader of the Opposition. He seems to think that there is nothing creditable in the record of Ministers ; but I am satisfied that when the historian comes to write of this period, he will not speak in terms of disrespect of either the Barton or the Deakin Ministry; and I am sure it will be remembered to the credit of the present Prime
Minister that, differing from the ordinary politician, he preferred to surrender office rather than to sacrifice what he regarded as a matter of principle.
– I rise to address the Committee on the question at issue, because at the second-reading stage I thought it unnecessary to offer any general remarks, believing . that the matter had gone so far that there was no room for doubt as to the wisdom of the adoption of a law having for its purpose the establishment of an Arbitration Court. Consequently I determined to save the time of the House by not offering any remarks on the motion for the second reading. But in view of the discussion which has taken place on the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Wide Bay, I deem it to be my duty, not only to the Committee, but to my constituents and to the people of the Commonwealth, to express my opinions without fear or favour upon the various aspects of the case as it has been debated by various honorable members. When before my constituents I took up the. attitude that I was entirely in favour of the. inclusion of civil servants in the Arbitration Bill. But I expressed the opinion that I did not think that it would be constitutional to do so. I maintain that in expressing that opinion I had due regard to what would be necessary provided this Parliament refused to include them. I am satisfied that my constituents thoroughly understood the basis upon which I advocated the inclusion of States servants within the four corners of this measure. My idea of arbitration is that it is the harbinger of ‘ a higher civilization. The tendency in modern times is to refer not only industrial disputes, but disputes between nations, to a peaceful arbitration rather than to resort to the arbitrament of war, and I consider that in urging that public servants should be brought within the scope of the Bil] I am advocating a principle in harmony with the development of the thought of the age, and the advance of reason. I am satisfied that the opponents of this class of legislation believe in the old adage that “ might is right.” The party to which I belong, however, believe that right should prevail, and that the only way in which we can arrive at a just decision regarding the rights and wrongs of any question is by submitting it to a Court of equity and good conscience. I do not think I need say anything further to indi- cate why I support the principle of arbitration and the proposal to bring public servants within the operation of the Bill. A question that has not been touched upon to any great extent during this debate is whether the public servants would be better treated by the proposed Court than by the tribunals at present constituted for the purpose of dealing with their claims and grievances. I have jio hesitation in saying that we should have a purer administration if the public servants had the right to appeal to an Arbitration Court, such as that now proposed. I know that it is claimed that under the administration of the Public Service Boards established by the Federal and States Governments, political influence has been done away with, but an influence more insidious, viz., of a social character, has penetrated to the very core of the service. I believe that the family and social influences which are now operating so largely in connexion with appointments and promotions in the Public Services of the States and of the Commonwealth would not be so powerfully exerted if the public servants had the right of appeal to a Court of Arbitration which would be able to investigate grievances arising out of improper appointments and promotions. Such a Court would undoubtedly prove of immense advantage to the railway servants of the States. Some three years ago the New South Wales Parliament passed an Arbitration Act which embraced the public servants of the State. I do not contend that this Parliament could exercise the same complete authority as the States Parliaments over the States servants ; but -that does not affect my contention that is is advisable to bring States servants within the scope of this measure. I maintain that it would be good for the public servants, for the States, and for the Commonwealth if the administration of the Departments were as far as possible placed beyond the reach of political or social influences. I have listened very attentively to this debate, and I must confess that I have not received the enlightenment I expected. If I had had to depend for light and leading upon honorable and “learned members who took part in the proceedings of the Convention, and succeeded, as lawyers only can, in making the Constitution more confusing than it otherwise would have been, I should not have been any further forward than before the debate was opened. The Prime Minister made an appeal to us upon constitutional grounds, and afterwards told us that he also considered that it would be inexpedient to bring States servants within the scope of the proposed law. I do not consider that it is within the province of the Prime Minister or any honorable member to interpret the Constitution. It has been stated by some honorable members that when this question of conciliation and arbitration was considered at the Convention, no member of that body - not even the author of the provision - realized how far the application of the sub-section might be extended. That has nothing to do with us. The question is, can it be so extended as to enable us to give the relief needed by the public servants of the States. With ali due respect to’ the Prime Minister’s opinion, I consider that he has not adopted the course best calculated to dispel the legal doubt which exists as to the extent of our powers under the Constitution. Why should he not be content to rely for the interpretation of the Constitution upon the tribunal which has been specially created to perform that function ? He says that he is absolutely certain that his reading of the law is correct, and therefore he should not be afraid that the High Court will adopt a different interpretation. Some members of the Convention have given us the benefit of their recollection with regard to the deliberations of that august body, and the intentions of the framers of the Constitution. But we need not attach much weight to their impressions, because the Constitution itself provides that if any doubt should arise as to the interpretation of the Constitution, the High Court shall decide. It is simply playing at politics for gentlemen of the experience of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs to ask honorable, members to vote upon this question as one of principle. Where is the principle which they allege is at stake? If the Prime Minister accepted the amendment, and allowed its constitutionality to be decided by the High Court, what would he lose by so doing? Personally, I entertain the same opinion as he does regarding the unconstitutionality of the proposal, but nevertheless I conceive it to be my duty as a representative of the people to submit this particular disagreement to the tribunal which has been especially established to interpret our charter of government. I have looked for light and leading amongst the legal members of this House, and after listening patiently to their utterances during the course of this debate, I no longer wonder why the Constitution was framed in such a way as to provide a harvest feast for all time for the legal fraternity.
– If the honorable member has no confidence in the legal fraternity, why create still more Courts?
– Some of the legal members of this House who were delegates to the Federal Convention hold that the proposal under consideration is perfectly constitutional, whilst others just as determinedly maintain that it is not. For example, the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs takes up the position that it is undoubtedly constitutional, because it affects the question of trade and commerce, which is one of the thirty-nine subjects upon which we are empowered to legislate. I fail to see that his argument justifies the conclusion at which he arrives. He claims that because sub-section xxxiv. of section 51 of our Constitution deals with certain matters, including railways, we are justified in removing the railways from the control of the States, and in interfering with their financial management. As a layman who * is not even an academy student, or a University man, but one who has just come as a recruit from the end of a pick handle, which has been my pen through life, I fail to understand how the honorable and learned member hoped to establish his case.
– The question is whether the honorable member has confidence in the Government or not.
– If the honorable and learned member will seal his steam valve for a brief interval, I shall endeavour to compress my remarks into as brief a space as possible. I have no desire to cross swords with him, because he is too good-natured to fight.
– I wish to help the honorable member.
– The honorable and learned member is so kind that he desires to assist every member who addresses the House, but the trouble is that instead of doing so, his interjections serve only to confuse them, as is evidenced by the fact that early in the first session of the last Parliament his own leader was compelled to appeal to him to give him a chance. Then we find that the honorable and learned- member for Bendigo holds a contrary view to that expressed by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, and argues it with equal confidence, whilst the honorable and learned member for Indi is thoroughly satisfied that though the proposed amendment is perfectly constitutional it is inexpedient to adopt it.
– He said that he could not express a definite opinion.
– No. He expressed a definite opinion as to the constitutionality o£ the proposal. He said, in effect, “ Fancy the Commonwealth not having the power to assume control of the States railways in the event of war, when they would be required for defence purposes.” That contingency was suggested in support of his argument that the amendment is constitutional. But I would point out that under sub-section XXXII. of section 51, special provision is made for the Commonwealth assuming control of the railways for purposes of defence, and, consequently, the reasoning of the honorable and learned member is robbed of all force in that connexion. I have attempted, without success, to gain information from the utterances of the various legal members who have addressed this Chamber, and I am, therefore, compelled to rely upon my own commonsense. Upon previous occasions I have had to act in a, similar way. I have opposed legal opinion, when that opinion was practically unanimous. I have fought my case, and won it. That is indicative of how far legal opinion is to be trusted, even when it is unanimous. When the Commonwealth Constitution was, being debated throughout Australia, the Prime Minister was a Billite at any price, whereas I was an anti Billite, in a humble capacity, and for very good reasons. Consequently the honorable gentleman holds a very different position from that which I occupy. He stands in the relation of godfather to our Constitution. He believes that that charter of government is more or less perfect, and, therefore, does not like to turn his back upon it, and submit this proposal for the decision of the High Court, because the judgment of that tribunal might upset his opinion regarding its unconstitutionality. As I did not father the Constitution when it was being discussed throughout Australia, I am free to declare that, whilst I agree that the amendment is unconstitutional. I am perfectly consistent in going a step further, and allowing the High Court to decide the question. Should that tribunal determine that it is unconstitutional, so convinced am I of the wisdom of establishing an Arbitration Court, to which the public servants of the Commonwealth and the States, including the railway employes of the States, may appeal, that I am prepared to advocate an amendment of the Constitution in that direction, and to allow the people to say whether or not they agree with such a proposal. That is a perfectly consistent attitude to adopt. I am surprised that, upon a pretext of this kind, the Government are prepared to sacrifice office.
– The honorable member ought, rather, to be surprised at their firmness.
– I do not know that their action is altogether prompted by firmness. I am not so satisfied as is the honorable and learned member, that the real cause of their present attitude is to be found in the constitutionality or otherwise of this proposal.
– “ They did not know it was loaded.”
– I think that they did, and I shall presently give my reasons for so doing. I believe that they are aiming in an entirely different direction from that which is generally supposed. It appears to me that the Prime Minister is unprepared to act upon his own interpretation of the law. Notwithstanding that his view is supported by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, he fears to join with his colleagues in giving effect to what he maintains to have been the intention of the Convention, in inserting in the Constitution the provision relating to conciliation and arbitration. I have never yet heard of a Government staking its existence on such a question as this. On the contrary, I have known Governments, in order to avoid their political annihilation, to cling to a pretext such as that which has been advanced by the Prime Minister, as a reason for his opposition to the amendment. We find this Government prepared to leave office, and to throw the House into’ a state of confusion, without any sufficient reason. But the matter is one which solely affects the Government, and I do not intend to Quarrel with the Prime Minister as to the attitude which he deems it necessary to take up. He has a perfect right to adopt whatever attitude lie thinks desirable, provided that it is a straightforward one, but he should take care to show the House that there is no reason other than that which has been given by him for the course which he has decided to pursue. The common-sense interpretation must, after all, override any purely technical construction of the sub-section, and therefore I do not propose to discuss mere technicalities. Hour after hour has been spent by the lawyers of the House in discussing the prerogative of the Crown, but to that phase of the question I shall not address myself. I recognise that my duty is to assist in the proper administration of the Constitution, and that the kernel of the whole question is to be found in the point relating to taxation. We have to ask ourselves to what extent does the Constitution permit us to trench upon the powers of the States Governments in regard to taxation? I agree with the argument advanced by the Prime Minister that the amendment undoubtedly involves the inference that its application to the public servants of a State might bring the Commonwealth into antagonism with the States Governments. For the sake of argument, let us assume that a dispute arises among public servants in New South Wales, and that, as was thought to be likely in the case of the Victorian railway strike, it extends to the servants of another State, with the result that the Arbitration Court is called upon to deal with it. In such a case the Court might make an award requiring an increased wage to be paid to the men in one State, and compliance with that decision would mean an increased charge on the State concerned. That would naturally lead to a great deal of commotion among members of the State Cabinet, because it would be considered that there had been an invasion of the rights of the States. The State Government might have its railway estimates before the House at the time of the occurrence of a dispute, and if the Court made an award involving an increased expenditure on the part of the State, it would be felt that an unconstitutional action had been taken. We have, therefore, to consider to what extent Ave may legitimately interfere with the finances ‘ of the States. In my opinion, we have no right to interfere with their finances, and in that respect I agree with the view expressed by the Prime Minister. But whilst I agree with the Prime Minister’s contention with regard to the un- , constitutionality of the amendment. I cannot agree with the conclusion arrived at by him. I fail to understand why the honorable and learned gentleman should refuse to accept the amendment, and to at once give the people the benefit of a measure of this kind, leaving it to the High Court to determine the constitutionality of the proposal now before us. Does he riot recognise that by passing the amendment we shall give the High Court an opportunity to decide the question of constitutionality, and that that course would be in the interests of the Parliament and the people?
– Even if we have the power it is very unwise for us to use it at the present time.
– If we accept the Prime Minister’s view of the position, and simply pass the Bill as introduced, we shall practically make it impossible for the public servants of the States to secure the benefits of legislation of this description. The Bill as it stands expressly excludes public servants from its operation.
– Until it is amended. they cannot avail themselves of it.
– That is the difficulty. By allowing such a provision to pass we run the risk of taking away a possible right.
– We have not the power to take away any right.
– Once we pass the Bill with an express provision to exclude public servants from its operation we shall make it much more difficult than it now is for them to obtain the advantages of such legislation. With all due respect to the Government, I cannot help saying that I have very grave doubts as to whether they are not unwittingly inserting in the Bill a provision which may restrict the power of the public servants to claim a right that may be self-evident in the future. The argument that no case has yet occurred which indicates the necessity for the amendment is not sufficient to induce me to vote .against it. We have to legislate not only for today, but for the future, and it is our duty to make provision for contingencies. I regret that the Prime Minister is prepared to include in the Bill a provision which, apart altogether from what may be their present position, may deprive public servants of their rights in the future. It is recognised by students of constitutional history that a law once passed must be accepted as a precedent. . If we pass this Bill without inserting the proposed amendment it may be regarded as an indication of the view which we take of our) constitutional powers, and undoubtedly would influence the High Court.
– And by the advice of members of the Federal Convention.
– They must strive to give effect to the law, if possible.
– That is so; but when there is a doubt, let there be an appeal to the tribunal which the people have set up.
– A few moments ago I thought that, according to the honorable member, lawyers were of no use.
– I am indicating how untrustworthy lawyers are as guides in matters of constitutional law. I beg the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to remember that I am merely a novice in this House, and I do not desire my line of argument to be broken by what are possibly irrelevant interjections. I was saying that an argument was used by one of the legal gentlemen in reference to the section of the Constitution which governs differential rates. We have heard arguments on the question of trade and commerce and State rights; and now we find it contended that because the Convention gave power to this Parliament to establish a medium whereby the differential rates prevailing in the various States could be regulated, the Convention practically gave us the right to take over the control of the States railways. No such argument, however, is borne out by a study of the Constitution. Differential rates are specifically provided for by an Inter-State Commission, which, although it may directly or indirectly interfere with the revenues of a State railway or States railways, will have the right to do so under the Constitution. I have not heard or read of any argument from legal members who oppose the amendment, except that which, if it can be called an argument, is drawn from the recollection of those august gentlemen who assisted to frame the Constitution. As the Minister for Home Affairs said last night, if it were twenty years or forty years hence, when many of those gentlemen had gone to their last home, and could no longer be called upon to give evidence, we might doubt their opinion as to the interpretation of the ‘law. But we are not here to depend upon the recollection or impressions of men, no matter how honestly they may be inclined, nor how clear their minds. We are here to deal with the Constitution which they in their wisdom handed over to our control for the government of this great Commonwealth; and there is no reasonable excuse on the part of the Go- vernment for adopting their present course with a view to debarring the public servants of the States from coming under this Bill. The Minister for Home Affairs last night made an impassioned speech in that rugged style which is so characteristic of his utterances. The right honorable gentleman adopted a fighting attitude, as he called it, and, seeing that he has not yet had a serious encounter, he may he “ rusting for a fight.” I was rather impressed with the personality of the right honorable gentleman, who, at. least, has the courage of his opinions - a point I like about an opponent. I would rather have a straightout opponent, who tells me what he means, than one who tries to shield himself behind a subterfuge not in accordance with what we can reasonably see underlies his arguments. I am satisfied that the Minister for Home Affairs wanted the House to decide this constitutional question on his recollection of the intention of the Convention. I do not mistrust the right honorable gentleman’s recollection, and I have no doubt that what he says is correct. If he and his colleagues, who are now giving us their recollections of the Convention, were the constitutional body to decide this question, I could readily accept their dictum; but we have a High Court that has been established for the purpose of interpreting the law, and while we have that Court I fail to see to what other Caesar we should appeal. I do not think I need say much more on this aspect df the question. I have already indicated that I came into this House a’s a supporter of the principles contained in the amendment now submitted to the Committee. I came here with a clear understanding ‘that, whilst I ‘supported the principle of the amendment from a humanitarian and progressive standpoint, I should act in the full knowledge that, owing to the Constitution, we might have to appeal to the High Court, and then to a still higher court, namely, the people, by way of a referendum, for an amendment of the Constitution in order to gain the object so much desired. Whilst I differ from some of my colleagues in regard to the constitutional aspect of the question, I am absolutely in agreement with them as regards the wisdom of applying an arbitration law to the railway .employes and other public servants of the States. I was very much interested and amused by the change that took place in this debate yesterday, a change which certainly broke the monotony of the proceedings in a most remarkable way. Our worthy friend, the Minister for Home Affairs, threw a new light on the question. The right honorable gentleman started off by telling us, in his blunt style - “ Now, boys, do not be in too big a hurry, because I have something behind; and I shall let you know what it is before I finish.” The right honorable gentleman said that as if he meant it, and, as I believe he meant what he said, I can quote and criticise him with confidence. The Minister for Home Affairs said that, when that remarkable speech was delivered by the Prime Minister at Ballarat, it was understood throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth that the days of what has been called the triangular form of government were over - that the dictation of a third party in Parliament could not be borne any longer, at any rate by the gentleman who delivered that speech. I presume that the Minister for Home Affairs heartily agreed, as he said he did, in that conclusion.
– That was not the Ballarat speech, but a speech delivered in Melbourne in February of this year.
– The Minister for Home Affairs said the speech was delivered at Ballarat, and, if he was wrong, I apologize for him in his absence. At any rate, the right honorable gentleman said that it was well known in Parliament, and outside, that the triangular form of government had become irksome to the gentlemen who hold the Treasury benches, and could not much longer be tolerated. Am I to understand that that’ is the real reason why the Government are taking this amendment so seriously? Is it because of the constitutional aspect of the question - is it because the Government fear that the High Court will interpret the law in antagonism to the opinion of the Government ; or is it because it provides a means by which a blow may be struck at what is called the triangular party in this House? After listening to the address of the Minister for Home Affairs, I am inclined to think that that really showed us the milk in the cocoanut. I am disposed to believe that the right honorable gentleman explained the real object of the Government, and that their opposition to this amendment is only an excuse. The Minister for Home Affairs , last night told us that in order to carry this amendment we were prepared to sacrifice the shearers, the seamen, and the men engaged in various other trades, who would be benefited by this measure. I ask the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues who it is that is really sacrificing these men? Is it not those who will not allow us to proceed with this legislation, and permit the point in dispute to be submitted to the tribunal set up by the people for the interpretation of our laws. The right honorable member for Swan yesterday made these pregnant remarks - ‘’ We are tired of saying ‘ Yes, Mr. Watson,’ and in future it will be, ‘ Yes, Mr. Deakin,’ or, ‘Yes, Mr. Reid.”‘ I think what the right honorable gentleman would like is that it should be all the time - “ Yes. Sir John.” That is the natural inference to be drawn from his speech. He longs to be the king that he has been for so long in another place; it is irksome for him to be dethroned in this manner in the Federal Parliament, and, therefore, he would like to do away with the awkward triangular element in this Chamber.
– The right honorable gentleman said that he had been bossed bv the Labour Party all through. “Mr. WEBSTER.- I do not say-that the right honorable gentleman admitted that the Government had been bossed by the Labour Party, but he seems to have felt that the members of that party have been ungrateful and unkind to the genial Prime Minister, who has treated them so well in this Parliament. The right honorable gentleman appealed to us in words which went to my heart when he told us how much consideration the Prime Minister had shown members of the Labour Party in this Parliament. The sting, however, lay underneath all the time, when the’ right honorable gentleman was criticising the Labour Party and condemning the caucus. The caucus has been criticised more than any other institution during the last five or six years of Australian history. Whilst the right honorable member for Swan condemned the caucus, he cannot deny the fact that, as a member of the Government, he has been bound bv the opinion of the majority in the Cabinet, just as we have obeyed loyally the will of the majority in the caucus.
– The Cabinet has been bound by the caucus, on the right honorable gentleman’s own admission.
– I do not intend to put words into the mouth of the right honorable, gentleman. What. I desire to convey is that, in my opinion, he spoke as he thought, and the importance of his statement lies in the fact that it differed so much from what has been said in this Chamber before. The right honorable gentleman endeavoured to cast odium upon the party to which I belong, which it has never deserved. We have not occupied the Treasury benches, and we have not been influenced by the .emoluments of office in proposing legislation for the’ welfare of the people. As a political party we have onlyone mission in Parliament, and that is by every legitimate means to secure the passage of legislation which we calculate will be beneficial to the people of Australia. Is not that a noble mission? Can the Prime Minister or the Minister for Home Affairs find anything to jeer at in the aspirations of the party to which I belong? Undoubtedly they cannot. The Government have done well in aiding and in being advised to some extent by the Labour Party. They have rendered the party assistance by placing upon the statute-book laws Of which we are proud, and of which posterity will be proud when we are no longer here. On that account we feel grateful to the Government - not for ourselves, but for the people whom we represent.
– Posterity may be proud of those measures, but the present generation is not.
– It frequently happens that those who try to see too far fail to see what- is occurring under their very noses. Can any honorable member in this House arrogate to himself the power to decide whether the present generation is or is not satisfied with the laws which have been passed in this Chamber, when they have not been applied for more than a day in the history of a nation ? Some men expect us to believe what they say with regard to the disaffection of the present generation on account of legislation which has been passed before that legislation has been brought into operation, and before the people have been enabled to realize the beneficent purposes . which those who passed it had in mind. It is preposterous for men to put themselves forward as the interpreters of the opinion of the present generation upon questions upon which the people have had no opportunity to arrive at a conclusion.
– The result of the elections is a complete reply to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa.
– I desire to be fair, and I am prepared to admit that the result of the election is not a complete reply. I shall not turn to the right or to the left unless I am justified by reason and common sense in deviating from the direct course. The party which is credited with having forced from the Government the progressive legislation against which there has been such an outcry has been returned to this Parliament with a larger following than it had before. I do not say that that is because the present generation have realized the benefits of that” legislation, because the ink with which it was printed is hardly yet dry on’ the statute-book; but their support is our reward for having done what we promised on the hustings. They wished us to do certain things, in their interests, and for the benefit of those who are to follow them, and we have carried out the programme which we put before them at the inception of Federation. The Minister for Home Affairs stated yesterday that he knew of no case, unless it might be the 1890 strike, in regard to which a law of the character now proposed would come into operation. Surely a statement of that kind cannot be regarded by men who look to the future as an argument against legislation. We are making laws, not for what has been, but for what may be. We have to consider the history of the past only so far as it affords indications of the need for legislative interference. The right honorable member was right in referring to the strike of 1890 as a dispute which would, have come under the operation of the law which we wish to enact, supposing it had then been in force ; but other cases in point have occurred since then. For instance, the Victorian railway strike, because of which no doubt the measure now before us is obtaining considerable support, might easily have extended beyond the limits of Victoria, and probably would have done so had it continued. If there be a similar occurrence in the future, and resort has to be had to the semi-barbaric method of quelling it by the introduction of a Coercion Act, the blame will lie at the door of this Government, because they did not, in times of peace, when there was no panic, endeavour to formulate a peaceable and legal method for settling all such disputes. The right honorable member also said that the members of the Convention, when agreeing to the section of the Constitution under which this action is being taken, never dreamt that it would be sought to apply the provision to States servants, and he appealed for confirmation to the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. No doubt the members of the Convention did not contemplate anything of the kind, because the question did not then become one of live political interest. Nothing had occurred to stir ur feeling in regard to it ; but is that a reason why, now that we see the necessity for extending it in the” manner proposed, we should not exercise to the fullest extent the powers given us by the Constitution? I appeal to the Prime Minister, even at this late stage of the debate, to crown his record by allowing the amendment to pass unchallenged.
– And destroy the Federal principle? That is the whole point.
– The Federal principle cannot be destroyed, because it will be defended by the High Court which the last Parliament brought into existence. I appreciate and admire the Prime Minister’s desire to preserve the Federal principle. At the same time I do not see where his argument comes in.
– If the honorable member did. he would be convinced bv it.
– I would be convinced by it if I saw as the honorable and learned gentleman sees. When speaking on the Address in Reply, I referred to this matter, and the Prime Minister then objected that I had not heard the point argued. I thereupon ceased my remarks, in the expectation of. later hearing something which would bring conviction to my mind that the course which I propose to follow is the wrong one. Like a wise man, I was ready to sit at the feet of legal intellectuality. But what I have heard during the present debate has not caused me to move in the least from my original conclusion. As I have already said, I agree with the Prime Minister that the amendment may be unconstitutional, in interfering with the sovereign rights of the States. I was an anti-Billite, and wished for another form of Federation than that offered to the people by the Draft Constitution. I wanted more elasticity in the Federal Constitution. If I could have had my way, I should have prevented the Constitution feeing accepted by the people, so that ‘it might have been made more capable of being applied to the changing requirements of a young country, which, after all, demands a Constitution of an elastic character more particularly than does an old established community. As an antiBillite, I am in no way acting inconsistently when I say that I want the principle of this measure extended further. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister cannot agree to refer the question to the constitutional authorities. Of course that is for him to explain. . I am myself quite satisfied on the point of constitutionality. With regard to expediency, I am not so antagonistic towards it as was an honorable member who spoke last night. I regard expediency as applicable to many institutions and many political relations.
– When the honorable member has power.
– No, I do not have regard to expediency in that contingency only. I regard expediency as something which in public life has to be kept in view quite apart from the requirements of power. I give the Prime Minister full credit for acting honorably and according to .his lights. I quite think that his policy is dictated by his conclusions in regard to the interpretation of the Constitution. But one thing has struck me as being the most peculiar spectacle I ever observed, either while I was outside public life or during the short period I have had the privilege of viewing it from inside. It is the most puzzling position I have ever read about or observed in politics. There are three parties in this House. The Labour Party come forward with a programme which they have submitted to the people, and they ask this ‘ Parliament to obey the will of the people by carrying that programme into law. That is a clear issue. But what about the Opposition ? They are supposed to be cemented together for the purposes of protecting the rights and privileges of the House, and of the people, whenever they are trespassed upon by the party in power. But what do we find them doing in regard to the historical issue now before us ? What is the attitude of the Opposition? I can quite understand the position of those honorable members on the Government side of the House, who intend to vote for the amendment as a matter of principle and expediency. I can understand the attitude of those honorable members who are governed by their feelings with regard to the lot of the railway men in Victoria, and who are to some extent influenced by the votes of that body in the elections which are to come. I can understand honorable members who are influenced by either one or other of those factors giving us their assistance in carrying the amendment, so that the question involved in it may be brought before the High Court for final decision. But I cannot understand the attitude of my honorable friends the members of the Opposition. I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members who are for ever reiterating their adherence’ to principle, and their determination never to- depart from the straight line of rectitude and duty, but who, with a coolness and effrontery which I have never seen equalled, having told us that they do not believe in this amendment, and do not believe in its principle, and that in fact they are disbelievers in nearly everything connected with the Bill, nevertheless, intend to vote for it. It is not a question of principle with them. It is not a question of law. It is not a question of constitutionality. It is not a question of protecting the Constitution or safeguarding the rights of the States. It is simply a question of whether they can get the scalp of the Government. They say, practically : “We are not here to act as legislators; we are not here to use our reason; we are here as highwaymen and wreckers of the Government.’” There is the honorable member for North Sydney. What does he do when driven into a corner? He is an opponent of the Labour Party. The only way in which he can find relief is to utter the phrase, “ What about your caucus?”
– Honorable members talk about men giving up their conscientious views !
– I . have given up no conscientious views.
– I thought the honorable member was against the amendment on the ground of constitutionality ?
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa cannot put me in a corner. I am not in the witness-box, and he will never have a chance of upsetting me by cross-examination. When the Opposition are driven to the last extremity - when they have no other cover or defence to offer- they yell out at the top of their voices, “What about your caucus?” Do they not know that we have a sound and Straightforward answer to make *to that question ? A caucus is honorable. The Labour Party goes before the people and is elected on its platform. We do not form combines or enter into intrigues. We come here as a solid party.’ Every one of us is absolutely pledged before seeking the suffrages of the people. The people elect us knowing that we are going to act in caucus, as it is called - that we are going to act solidly and with one united front. That is the people’s decision with regard. to ourselves. But the honorable members to whom I refer come here as Oppositionists. Has His Majesty’s Opposition sunk to such a depth of degradation that they do not seek to remove Governments on matters of principle - except it be principle spelt with “pal” at. the end? Has His Majesty’s Opposition, which throughout the centuries has been regarded as one of the most majestic of the institutions of the British Empire, sunk to such a state of degradation that they intend practically to lay all ideas of principle aside? Their only desire is to bring about the downfall of a Government which they do not like.
– They are wreckers.
– Exactly. I would remind those honorable members that we shall have to look to the future, and that those who are now supporting the amendment,, not with a view to make it law, because they do not believe in it, but for their own selfish purposes, may be convicted of an act of shameless political profligacy. I am voting for this amendment, because I believe in it, and I wish that I could say the same of all honorable members.
– Does not the honorable member desire to see it carried?
– Certainly. The honorable member has my sympathy, because 1 feel sorry at all times for those who are in trouble. Whenever a man is in pain, whether physical or mental, the fact is demonstrated by those outward signs which nature provides to enable him to indicate that he is suffering. The day will come when the fate of a Government will not be at stake, and when members of the Opposition may be called upon to give an honest vote with regard to this proposal. My parents taught me never to do anything that I might have reason to regret, but rather to try to do that which might be looked upon afterwards with pleasure. I believe that one or two honorable members of the Opposition are sincere in their support of . the amendment ; but that others are acting in a manner which to me is abhorrent and contemptible. When the members of the party to which I belong have taken their places on the Ministerial benches, this question, which has become a vital issue in politics, will have to be fought out. If those honorable members to whom I have last referred then turn round, and we appeal to Caesar, their master, what sort of a case shall we have against them? I warn those honorable gentlemen that they are not dealing with juvenile politicians, but with men who have memories, upon the tablets of which will be marked indelibly the events of to-day. If they prove to be unfaithful to the cause of the people, we shall have no hesitation in appealing to Caesar. I would rather cut off my right hand and let it wither, than be responsible for records in Hansard which would not be in accordance with my conscientious convictions. I regret that the Government are about to leave office, and that the members of the Opposition are availing themselves of the opportunity for which they have been looking, but which I never thought they would embrace.
– Was the amendment proposed as a sham?
– I know exactly what I am talking about. I gave the members of ‘ the Opposition more credit for consistency than I should have done ; but we all make mistakes, and my inclination is rather to the kindly side. How different was the attitude of the leader of the Opposition when he spoke yesterday to that which I have seen him assume in the State Parliament of New South Wales when fighting for the liberties and the rights of the people. Did he venture to give us a legal opinion? No. Why was this? I am told that he does not give an opinion gratis under any circumstances; but had he favoured us on this occasion I am not toosure that we should have been any wiser. His speech was thoroughly characteristic, and in keeping with the reputation he has earned. I regret that during my short acquaintance with Federal politics, such intrigues as those which have been engaged in should have been brought under my notice. I hope that I shall never have a similar experience.
– After having attended here for two days at what has been designated the funeral service of the Government, it was quite refreshing to hear the speech of the honorable member for Gwydir, characterized as it was by so much sincerity and vigour. No matter how we may differ from the. honorable member, we must respect and admire him for the manner in which he has given expression to his conscientious beliefs. I could not help noticing the tone of regret which marked his utterances. The members of the Government who are about .to receive the happy despatch present a much more cheerful aspect, and are apparently in a far more placid frame of mind than are those who are about to succeed them. It would almost seem that it has just dawned upon honorable members of the Labour Party that there is some responsibility attached to the occupancy pf office. The fact that the Government have not proved firm in their attitude on several occasions has been the subject of Strong complaint by members of the Opposition. Now, however, that they have exhibited a little firmness, and have determined to adhere to a certain line of action, we hear nothing but complaints from the members of the Opposition, and from the Labour Party.
– We are expressing regret, not complaining.
– The There has been complaint as well as regret. I believe that the regret arises chiefly from the fact that the Labour Party are beginning to realize the grave difficulties which confront them now that they have an opportunity to occupy the Ministerial benches and give effect to their policy. The party in power always has the best chance to give effect to its policy, and the Labour Party should be eager to take advantage of the opening now afforded them. Certainly they should not view the position with any feeling of regret.
– We regret the motives which are actuating some people in assisting to place us in office.
-They should be glad that the time has arrived when, according to their judgment, the general well-being of the community will be. insured, and long-suffering humanity will have something to which to look forward. I recognise that no words of mine are necessary to defend the action of the Ministry. I realize as fully as we can realize anything in politics, that “ the numbers are up.” I am aware that in a debate of this character, when the fate of the Ministry is at stake, it is not reasonable to expect that the views’ expressed by any honorable member will influence a single vote. The fact is more strongly impressed upon one’s mind on the present occasion by the reflection that this issue was finally and conclusively decided by the people of Australia at the recent general election. Last night the honorable member for Lang complained that the Government in its wisdom had not seen fit to introduce other measures which, to his mind, were of more importance to the welfare of the general community. He seems to have entirely forgotten that the Government were distinctly and unequivocally pledged to the course of action which they have pursued during the current session. They were committed to it by the declaration of the Government policy which the Prime Minister made to his constituents at Ballarat at the opening of the recent campaign.
– Under pressure from another party.
– That is an assumption which may govern the opinions of the honorable member, but which certainly does not govern mine. The Prime Minister .was committed to the course which he has pursued by reason of the action taken in the last Parliament. As we are all aware, during the second session of that Parliament, the Government submitted this measure to the House. When an amendment was carried in opposition to the wish of the Ministry, the effect of which was to make the Bill applicable to the railway servants of the States, the measure was put under the table. At that time an appeal could not be made to the country, although, had circumstances permitted, that would have been the right course to adopt. As the successor of Sir Edmund Barton, the Prime Minister had no option but to make the question of the inclusion in this Bill of the public servants of the Commonwealth and of the States, together with the railway employes, a leading plank in the Government platform at the last election. Had the Government gone back upon the pledges which they made to the last Parliament and to the country, would not ‘the Opposition have been justified in submitting a no-confidence motion ?
– That statement does not tally with the explanation given by the Minister for Home Affairs yesterday.
– Yes, it does, because he spoke only for himself.
– We have to deal with the actualities of the position. Rightly or wrongly, this Bill is before us to-day. To my mind it is rightly before us, because it was a part of the Government policy at the recent elections. Now that it has been submitted for our consideration, party lines will be clearly defined. There are very few honorable members who do not propose to vote in accordance with the pledges which they gave to their constituents. For those who honestly believe that it is proper to include within the provisions of this Bill the public servants and the railway employes I have every respect. But I clearly defined my attitude upon this matter to my constituents upon the hustings, and I propose to respect the pledge which I then gave. To my mind the reasons why this proposal should not be embodied in the Bill may be ranged under two headings. In the first place it is, in my judgment, unconstitutional. I am aware that different opinions have been expressed upon this aspect of the question by the legal members of the House, but in my opinion, when an honorable member cannot gain definite information for himself, it is wise to look for guidance to the Law officers of the Crown. There is no doubt whatever in the mind of the Prime Minister - whose duty it is to advise the House upon such matters - that the amendment is unconstitutional. I am prepared to accept his dictum. In the second place I hold that it is inexpedient to give effect to this proposal. Even if I were satisfied that it was constitutional, as a matter of expediency, I should hesitate to insist upon embodying it in the Bill. Some members have repeatedly declared that State servants are practically on an equality with the workers in private employ - that there is no difference whatever in the relationship which exists between the State and its servants and that which exists between a private employer and his employes. But I would ask those who entertain that view, what private employe is protected in his position by a special Act of Parliament, or by regulations under that Act ? What private employe has the right of appeal from the dictum of his employer? As we are all aware, the State servant, in the first instance, is protected by the Public Service Act, and by the regulations which have been framed under that Act. In the event of his dismissal upon a charge of misconduct, or anything of that sort, he has a right of appeal lo the Commissioner, frequently a right of appeal beyond the Commissioner to the Minister, and finally to Parliament itself. Do such conditions ripply to private employes? I would further ask whether the State has to compete with any other employer in the same way that the private employer has to compete? Would the States, as the employers of the public servants, receive any pecuniary gain or reward or any advantage from sweating or harassing them in any way ? That is my view of the situation. Last, but not least, I ask whether there has been a demand for this legislation from any section of the Public Service throughout the Commonwealth, save in one isolated instance? “We are all aware that friction does exist between the railway servants of Victoria and the Government of this State. It is unnecessary for me to enter upon a consideration of the merits or demerits of that dispute. There may have been some provocation for the action of the men, but we all know that as the result of the strike many of the railway employes have undergone much suffering, while great loss to the community has been occasioned. Ever since I have been able to appreciate the true significance of a strike my aspiration has been to assist in averting such disastrous struggles. My desire having always been to support any legislation designed to avert the suffering and disaster which such disputes must necessarily entail, I have been an advocate of the principle of compulsory arbitration. But I would seriously ask those who are pressing this amendment whether in doing so they are not really grasping at the shadow and losing the substance. That is the view which I take of their attitude. I would remind those who point to the Victorian railway strike as a justification for this amendment that even the most earnest advocates of this provision admit that ‘such a dispute would not come within ‘ the jurisdiction of the Court. In view of the provision in the Constitution upon which this Bill is based, how would it be possible for the Court to deal with a dispute between a State and its employes when their functions cannot extend beyond the limits of that State? That is a phase of the question which has been so fully discussed that I do not propose to do more than make this brief allusion to it, in order that there may be no doubt as to the attitude which I take up. There is one feature of this debate, however, to which I desire to draw the special attention of the Committee. I refer to the attitude of certain honorable members of the Opposition, to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Gwydir. Throughout the proceedings of the Federal Convention and during the campaign, in which the people of Australia were urged to accept the Commonwealth Bill, we were told again and again that in the higher and rarer atmosphere of Federal politics all the ideals of true statesmanship would be found. But after listening to the views expressed yesterday by the honorable member for New England, the honorable member for Lang, and several others, I feel that we have had a rude awakening. The honorable members to whom I have specially referred admitted that they were prepared to violate cherished principles for no other reason than a desire to wreck the Government. Do such utterances reflect that higher statesmanship which we were told would be revealed in the rarer atmosphere of Federal politics ? Do they not rather involve a prostitution of all the higher principles which should govern our political conduct ? In view of such statements, is it a matter for surprise that sections of the press, as well as the public, should rail at some of the characteristics of public life? Doubtless they will seize upon such admissions as an indication of the base motives by which some public men are swayed. The adoption of such tactics must bring political institutions into discredit and operate prejudicially even on honorable members whose rigid adherence to principle and honesty of conviction cannot be gainsaid. When we find honorable members prepared in this way to prostitute the best institutions and the noblest ideals, what must we expect the people to say? We were told by the honorable member for New England that he was strongly opposed to the first principles of compulsory arbitration, and that consequently he objected to the extension of this Bill to the Public Service of the States. But in the same breath he informed the Committee that, notwithstanding that he was pledged to oppose such legislation, he was prepared to support the amendment simply because of his desire to wreck the Government. He is prepared to sacrifice his principles in order to defeat a Government against which he can bring no charge of deviation from the path of integrity. After listening to such statements, I can well understand the regret expressed to-day by honorable members who are sincerely fighting for their principles, that they . are likely to find themselves allied with men who, when political convictions are at stake, are prepared to ignore the voice of conscience. Whether my public life be long or short, I trust that it will never be possible for any one to point to any action of mine as indicating a readiness on my part to degrade all that we should cherish in public life.
– The honorable member has taken exception to a Government proposal in this House, and yet voted for it.
– No; I do not. object to the attitude adopted by the Government in regard to this amendment. I have already said that I believe in the principle of compulsory arbitration, but that I am opposed to the extension of the Bill to public servants. When before my constituents I told them of my views on this question, and I am now fighting to give effect to the principles which I profess.
– I am not referring to the position taken up by the honorable member in regard to this amendment.
– I have no fault to find with the attitude taken up by the honorable member in reference, to this question, but when I see an honorable member openly declaring that he will support a proposal which he is pledged to oppose, I cannot refrain from giving expression to my regret.
– Did not the honorable member on a former occasion do the very thing of which he complains?
– No one can point to any public or private act of mine which shows that I have ever gone back on my principles, even when large issues have been at stake. At the last election I had -as my opponent the Chairman of the Reform League, and had to fight against much misrepresentation.
– We all have to do that.
– Quite so; but when we find such a degree of political degradation in a Legislature in, which we were taught to look for the highest ideals of statesmanship, it appears to be high time for those who have some regard for the welfare of the people and a love of fair dealing to consider whether, after all, it is worth while fighting to obtain a seat in it.
– I do not propose to take up much time in discussing the amendment before the Committee. I am’ of opinion that the country wishes us to decide the issue, so that we may understand exactly where we stand. The attitude which I shall take on this amendment is, I think, already well known. I shall support the Government - I shall vote against the amendment. I have indicated already that I think the Bill itself is not only premature and immature, but is unnecessary. In connexion with this crisis, I wish to say, distinctly, that I cannot view the retirement of the Prime Minister from office with any personal pleasure. ‘ I have throughout been associated with the Prime Minister in the work of this Federation, and indorse every word which has been said in regard to him personally by honorable members who have spoken so strongly in his favour. Yet it seems to me that, as a means of clearing the party atmosphere in this House, and ending the existing intolerable condition of things, the crisis must bring relief to many honorable members who- believe that so long as the Labour Party continue to do as they are doing now - ride their own opinions to death, and force their own particular platform on the people of this country - there will be no satisfaction, no rest, and no stability in the Government - that there will be no peace until they occupy the Treasury benches, or are in direct opposition. I do not care on which side of the House the Labour Party may sit; if they have the necessary power in the House, they are thoroughly justified in endeavouring, and are indeed entitled, to occupy the Treasury benches. I may say, for myself, as has been said by other honorable members, that the Labour Party, if they do occupy the Treasury benches, will not receive any unreasoning or factious opposition. My feeling is that we must arrive at a state of affairs in which there shall be a distinct line of demarcation between two parties in this House - a state of affairs in which those on the Treasury benches are faced by a constant, vigilant, and critical opposition.
– “ The wish is father to the thought.”
– What is the honorable member’s thought ? I desire to refer- to the splendid fighting speech of my honorable and valued friend, the Minister for Home Affairs, last night. One was reminded of a heavy-weight pugilistic encounter, in which the right honorable gentleman pounded his adversary constantly and successfully. He hit, as a good pugilist will under similar circumstances, straight from the shoulder ; and it must be admitted that he “ got home “ very frequently. But the right honorable gentleman gave a sort of impression that he had finally to succumb to his adversary, and that, before his extinction, he desired to make peace with the world and a death-bed confession, admitting the “ squeeze “ that the Government had received from members of the Labour Party.
– The Minister for Home Affairs said that the Labour Party had never “ squeezed “ the Government.
– The Minister was joking.
– The Minister for Home Affairs was hitting too hard and too straight to be joking at the time, and he admitted the “ squeeze.” He admitted that the order of public business had been regulated to suit my honorable friends in the labour comer; and the truth of that admission is unquestionable. The right honorable gentleman concluded by chiding the Labour Party for their ingratitude, his feeling being that the Government had done so much for them that they should, in a contingency such as the present, be much more generous to himself and his colleagues. Personally, I . think it objectionable that any one party in the House - any third party or any Opposition - should have the power to determine the order of business ; but, in my opinion, the Prime Minister and his Government took a very proper course in bringing forward this Bill, and also the Navigation Bill in another place, as the two measures likely to offer grounds for considerable differences of opinion and lead to a more definite and satisfactory division of parties. The Government were quite right in bringing those measures forward as early as possible, in order that their own position might be determined; and - I hope the Prime Minister will understand the sense in which I speak - the Government, in their death, may possibly secure greater honour and more public appreciation than have been given to them during their tenure of office. In saying that I wish to express the hope that many of those who may . in a few short hours retire from the Treasury benches, will come back again, a strong party in coalition for the conduct of the affairs of this country.
– On the Opposition side of the House.
– If so, I hope there will be a proper, well-regulated, and united Opposition. When the advantages to be gained by this Bill, within its admittedly limited area of influence, are considered, it is a constant puzzle to me to undestand the motive of my honorable friends of the Labour Party, in pressing this question so strongly as they have done in the past, and as they are doing at the present moment’. It has been pointed out that by .their present attitude the Labour Party are risking whatever benefits they consider are contained within this important measure - risking all on the result of the forthcoming division. I may be wrong, but I think that the motive is “to be found in the expectation they have of forming through this Bill an organization with autocratic, tyrannical power, which they hope to use for the purpose of compelling men to join trades unions.
– It is for the very opposite purpose.
Mr. -KNOX. - I am4e’ry glad to hear my honorable friend say that, because he is aware that I have a great personal respect for him and for any statement he may make; but I have endeavoured to discover what motive there is behind all this strenuous effort on the part of honorable members to force this Bill through, and to undertake all the risks which attend their action in connexion with the amendment before -us.
– To prevent political influence interfering with private or State enterprise.
– I feel that all that members of the Labour Party are doing is to work in the direction to which I have referred. We hear talk about freedom. But in this Bill an effort is being made to coerce honorable, honest, and hardworking men1, and to bring them under the control of tyrannical legislation. We are asked in this Bill to say that they must join a union, and if they do not join a union, it is proposed to give the Arbitration Court power to step in, and say, “ Whether you desire it or not, we shall constitute you a union.” If we endeavoured to select a question upon which we might hope to secure a true line of demarcation between the two parties in this House, we could not have made a better selection than is provided by the amendment now before us.
– What parties?
– I propose to describe the parties into which I think honorable members of this House will be divided.
– The party against arbitration, and the party in favour of it.
– That is not the issue. I favour arbitration. Apart from the question of expediency, it must be generally admitted that the question of State rights, which is involved, is one of the first, importance, and I venture to think that the line of demarcation which will be drawn in this House bv the division on this amendment will be a line between those who are in ‘favour of unification . and those who are in favour of the maintenance of State rights at all hazards.
– And against the Labour Party.
– Many of my honorable friends in the Labour Party will agree that my personal effort and desire in private life has been to do all that one individual may to better the condition of the great working classes. So long as life is spared to me, any power I possess will be exercised in that direction. I, therefore, decline to believe that the whole merit of looking after the interests of the labouring classes rests with my honorable friends of the Labour Party. I am as anxious as they can be to have placed upon the statutebook practical laws, whose operation will not be ultimately to the disadvantageof the workers. I say that manifestly the tendency of the Labour Party is in thedirection of unification. I ask my honorable friends whether they will deny that, as a party, they are working towards unification ?
– The honorable member saysso. That is enough.
– I want honorable members, of the Labour Party to deny it if they can. I say that the platform of that party is distinctly against the maintenance of State rights, as compared with the policy of unification, in support of which they are working.
– Could the honorable member give some evidence upon which he has founded that opinion?
– I can refer to the action taken by the party in connexion with this Bill.
– This Bill has been introduced by the Government.
– I refer to the amendment which we are now discussing. The Government have taken up no such positions as that. It is the amendment moved on behalf of the Labour Party, which will establish the line of demarcation between those who favour unification and those who desire to preserve the rights of the States. In bringing about unification, or in impairing the rights of the various States, the members of the Labour Party believethat they will secure greater power. They expect to suborn the States, and to use the legislative instrument of the Commonwealth Parliament as an easier and more rapid method by which to attain their ends. I notice that my honorable friends do not deny that. I hold that underlying all this pressure and effort on their part that is the end towards which they are working.
– Not guilty, your worship.
– Quite apart from the intrinsic merits or demerits of the amendment, those who desire to support the Constitution and preserve State rights should” regard the division to be taken to-night asone of the most important that can ever he taken in this House.
– There is still the High Court behind us to decide State rights.
– I am not manufacturing, but merely stating facts which are not contradicted. I say that to-night we are going to lay down a line between two parties in this House. We shall separate those who favour the Constitution and the maintenance of State rights from those who are in favour of a policy of unification, and of using the Federal Parliament as an instrument to bring about that which I think is undesirable, and should be resisted. So far from being a supporter of unification, I believe that, in consequence of the varying physical and climatic conditions, and the enormous extent of this island continent, the time is not far distant when it will be necessary for the Federal Parliament to consider whether it will not be in the interests of the proper representation of the people of the Commonwealth to have a further subdivision of States. In my humble judgment that is one of the questions which must engage the attention of the Federal Parliament in the very near future.
– How many Parliaments would the honorable member like to see?
– I hope that my honorable friend and 1 may be found together in many a future Parliament. As to the legal position in connexion with- the proposed amendment, I venture, as a layman, to rest absolutely satisfied with the arguments put forward by the Prime Minister, and by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. When I am confronted by a question of legal difficulty, it is my custom, and I suppose the custom of every business man here, to take the opinion of those who are qualified to- give information and guidance upon such technical matters.
– The lawyers differ.
– If I had a difficulty with the honorable member for South Sydney I have no doubt he would be able to get a lawyer to support his view, as I should be able to get one to support mine ; but I have chosen to accept the guidance of those who have, supplied a clear enunciation of the position from what I believe to be a commonsense view of the whole situation. Speaking with a full sense of my responsibilities and for the people I represent, I feel that in the approaching division the main issue will be unification or the maintenance of State rights.
– Or Federalism. 2 r
– I shall cast my vote tonight for a continued and loyal adherence to the spirit of the Constitution, and for the maintenance of State rights.
– I did not have an opportunity to discuss the. second reading of the Bill, and on this occasion I shall not weary honorable membersby giving my opinions on its general provisions - although I may say (hat I shouldnot be doing much more than has been doneby other honorable members if I were to take that undesirable course. The principles of. the Bill were affirmed by the House when it agreed to its second reading, and if any honorable member feels that it is his duty to try to amend certain clauses, he is within his rights in submitting a proposal to make the Bill, as he thinks, more perfect than it is. In the interpretation clause it is stated that - “ Industrial dispute “ means a dispute in relation to industrial matters . . . and extending beyond the limits of any one State,
Now comes the proviso which has caused all the trouble - 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.
Inferentially the Government admit that it is constitutional to exclude civil servants from the operation of the Bill. If that is constitutional, then the proposal that certain words should be struck out is equally constitutional. I take it that the proviso of the Government is so much surplusage, and consequently it cannot alter the scope of the Bill or the rights of citizens under the Constitution whether the words are retained or omitted. On the other hand, it seems to me that it will be of very little effect to the Labour Party whether their amendment is carried or not, because it is merely putting the thing the other way about, and saying that States servants shall be included within the operation of the measure. If.’ under the Constitution, Stales servants have certain rights, cannot they appeal to be registered under clause 6z ? If that course be taken the whole case will be at once opened up, and the High Court will have to decide whether States servants have such a right under the Constitution or not. It seems to me that the Bill in itself would give the Labour Party all that they want. By their action they are running the risk of losing a Bill that will confer on the people many benefits which they profess a desire to bestow. Their proper course, I should say, is to withdraw their amendment, and to allow the Bill to pass as .it is, leaving the High Court to settle the matter, and everything to go on swimmingly as hitherto.
– How does the honorable member make that out when the public servants are excluded?
– I have been arguing to show that a mere declaration in this Bill that State servants shall or shall not be included within its operation will not make it legal or take away any right they may have under the Constitution. If under the Constitution they have a right to apply to be registered, this Bill cannot withhold from them any citizen’s right.
– The legal authorities do not agree with that view.
– If the legal members would wait until an application is made by States servants for registration - if they would appear before the High Court and there plead on behalf of the organizations seeking registration, then I think that their forensic utterances would have some effect. It has been a mere waste of time to listen to their utterances, one vieing with the other as to his legal lore. The Government, however, appear to have something further in view, for the Prime Minister stated that it is an un-Federal provision which is sought to be inserted in the Bill, and that the Government will not be a party to the insertion of any provision that would be so regarded by the States. So that the whole issue hinges on the one question - repeated by the honorable and learned gentleman in this Chamber this afternoon - whether we shall have a Federation or a Unification. I am very sorry that he has had to leave the Chamber, for, in following’ his career as an advocate of Federation, and his most recent utterances on this question. I have gathered that he is in favour of taking over from the States one service after another, until we arrive at that period of evolution when we shall have a Unification rather than a Federation. If he is desirous of going to that goal, he achieves much by the course which he is taking. We have to remember that this is not a new Bill. In the last Parliament it was thrashed out pretty fully, and a similar amendment was carried. The Government were acquainted with the views of most honorable members who spoke on that occasion. They were well able, therefore, to gauge the decision of this House on a similar proposal. We find, as the Minister for Home Affairs said yesterday, that the first Bills introduced are two which might run the Government to their ruin. Why have the Government brought forward these Bills at this juncture, if it is not for the purpose of courting the Labour Party, or whipping them into submission ? Perhaps they have writhed under the dictation of that party for so long, that they have now laid a net for them. They have induced the Labour Party to dig the pit into which they themselves will fall. The honorable member for Gwydir said that the Government ‘ are desirous of dropping the measure, and that the easiest method by. which that can be achieved is by securing its defeat. If the Bill be lost, another session must be held before it could be re-introduced. Honorable members might have an opportunity of seeing their constituents before the Bill could be brought forward again, and who is to say that even the members of the Labour Party would come through the fierce struggle unscathed? I am inclined to think that they are sincere to their pledges. If they believe that they represent only the working community, let them accept the Bill; but if they are merely craving for power, let them persist in their amendment, and defeat the Government, if it be only for a day - for that is the period of office which I would give to the Labour Party, if my vote could decide the . matter.
– I think that the honorable member will admit that we are not officeseekers.
Me. WILLIS. - I have been arguing that the members of the Labour Party are nothing but office-seekers. If they are not, if they do not wish to come into power,- why do they not accept the Bill, and then claim the rights which they possess under the Constitution by obtaining a decision from the High Court as to the correct interpretation of that instrument? They cannot make anything constitutional by merely providing for it in an Act of Parliament.
– We cannot get a decision from the High Court unless we put this provision into the Bill.
– Any organization of State servants may apply to be registered under clause 62 of this Bill, and a decision of the High Court would then decide the vexed question.
– If it were possible to leave the question open, there would be no trouble.
– The Minister for Home Affairs said last night that the present Administration took over, as a legacy, the responsibilities of its predecessor. What were those responsibilities? Was it not openly stated in both Houses of this Parliament that the policy of the Labour Party was that of support for concessions? The Government took the position that they should make their move first, and what happened ? It would have been impossible for them to carry their protectionist policy into effect without the assistance of a large section of the Labour Party, as the Minister for Home Affairs admitted. Certain members supported the Government against the no-confidence motion moved by the leader of the Opposition.
– The caucus did nothing of the sort.
– The protectionist members of the Labour Party decided to support the Government against the onslaught of the Opposition. That was the first concession to the Government in their compact with the Labour Party. The Government were allowed to carry out their policy of protection.
– Not at all. Not another vote will the free-trade party get from me, after this misrepresentation.
– Then came a time when the Labour Party wished to get special legislation passed. The Immigration Restriction Bill and the Pacific. Island ‘Labourers Bill were brought in. The members of the Labour Party claim that they are responsible for those measures; but in the main there was no division of opinion upon them. Although they give themselves the credit of having passed those measures, the Government would have got them through the House with the assistance of the members of the direct Opposition. The Government were independent of the Labour Party at that juncture. But after the Bills I have named were passed into law, the members of the party squeezed the Government into carrying out a line of administration which was repugnant to the ideas of freedom possessed by the great body of the’ community. The provisions of the measure to which I refer are not so objectionable in themselves, but they have been improperly strained by the Government as the result of domination by the Labour Party.
– That is a reflection upon the Government.
– Undoubtedly it is; but. I am not here to plead their cause. 2 r 2
They have used the Labour Party to get all they could, and now that they are unable to get more, they have declined to fulfil their part of the compact. They have declined to give the Labour Party the Navigation Bill, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which they want, and they are opposing the amendment now, before the Committee because they know that if it is carried both Bills will be lost. I claim to be here as a representative of the people. We all represent labour; it has no special representation by one section of the House. What excuse have those who claim to specially represent working people for having burdened the people of New South Wales with duties which they have never before had to bear, and which wring from the masses nearly ^1,000,000 more per annum than the Treasurer previously obtained ? What excuse had they for taking the fodder duties out of the .pockets of the settlers of Australia? The members of the Labour Party, although they claim to represent labour, do not represent the true interests of the community. We have been told by the Minister for Home Affairs that the Government was divided in regard to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and the Navigation Bill. We know that one Minister left the Cabinet because of this disagreement. The facts are public property. In the daily newspapers they were having a tilt one against another on the subject. Therefore there was no course open to the Prime Minister but to make the statement that the triangular method of government in Australia must be brought to an end. The Ministry obtained from the Labour Party all that they expected, and, being no longer willing to submit to the dictation of that party, have allowed them to bring forward an amendment, which, if carried, they say will bring about their resignation and, of course, the defeat of the Bill. The Labour Party may then come into power, and if they can live against the coalition of the other parties, well and good ; but it strikes me that the common sense of Australia will prevent a handful of men who misrepresent the people from remaining on the Treasury benches for any length of time. It is not to be expected that the members of the Opposition will come forward to help the Government now that they are being deserted by their old supporters, men elected upon their ticket. I have a contempt for the man who leaves the sinking ship without a good reason for doing so.
– Surely the fact that the ship is sinking is a sufficient reason?
– Honorable members may make plausible speeches in the endeavour to excuse their action, but they cannot convince me that they have not a duty to their party, just as I have a duty to mine - and I am prepared to do it. Had not the debate upon the second reading of the Bill collapsed because many honorable members declined to make public their views in regard to the measure, I should then have dealt very fully with its principles. It is sufficient for me now to say what I have said. My. intention -is to amend the Bill in every way possible in the interests of the people. If those engaged in industrial callings outside the Public Service are brought under the provisions of the Bill, surely the States servants engaged in similar callings should enjoy the advantages of it.
– There are no private railways, or very few.
– The honorable member says in a loud voice that there are no private railways, and adds in an undertone that there are very few. Where is the sense of such an utterance?
– The honorable member has all the sense.
– The honorable member has a big voice. It would crack a world. The Government wish to be released from the political thraldom of labour, and I will assist them to be released- I shall be willing to see a coalition of the two large parties to prevent a continuance of domination by the Labour Party, such as we have so long witnessed.
– I have listened very attentively to the very docile speech of the member for Robertson, and I should not have said anything but for his wilful misrepresentation, and his statement of matters which he knew to be absolutely untrue.
– Order !
– The honorable member knows that just as well as any member of this House.
– He ought to know.
– He does know; because I have sat in divisions with him times out of number. I voted free-trade while the Tariff was under discussion every time with one exception., and that was in reference to bananas. Yet the honorable member deliberately accused the free-trade members of the Labour Party of going back upon their fiscal principles.
– He has to say something.
– The honorable member can say anything he likes so long as he tells the truth ; but he has utterly departed from the truth in what he has said this afternoon.
– Did the honorable member vote with the Opposition on the noconfidence motion?
– I voted with the party of the right honorable member for East Sydney, and I am sorry for it. I was not sorry until I heard the honorable member’s statement. What we have heard from him is the kind of generosity we have reason to expect from the present Opposition. Yesterday evening two of the Opposition members stated that they were not in favour of the Bill, but intend to vote for the amendment simply in order to wreck the Government. That is the kind of high principle that these New South Wales free-traders maintain ! From this day henceforth I wash my hands of the whole lot of them as far as free-trade principles are concerned. We members of the Labour Party can look after ourselves. We do not require any wet nursing from the honorable member for Robertson. We stand on our own bottom. When we fought the elections we told the people what we were going to do. If the people chose to elect us on that programme we are right in maintaining this attitude. According to the honorable member’s remarks, because we are labour men we have no business to be here. Let me tell him that this Parliament is going to be dominated by the Labour Party, and controlled by a Labour Government. The sooner that happens the better, and such conduct as the honorable member’s has tended to bring it about. I suppose that the honorable member for Robertson, and the honorable and learned member for Parkes, are the two most conservative members of this House. Thev said at the time of the first Federal elections that the adoption of the Commonwealth Bill would kill the Labour Party, and that we should have a higher tone in Federal politics than had prevailed in State politics. If the speeches delivered by members of the Opposition last night are an illustration of the higher tone of Federal politics, the sooner we get back to -the tone that prevails in the State Legislatures the better. I never in all my life heard two such speeches as those of the honorable member for New England and the honorable member for Lang. Both of them said they did not believe in the Bill, yet they were not game to take a division on the motion for the second reading. If they had conscientious scruples against compulsory arbitration, why did they not act as men and divide the House? The Labour Party have taken their stand on principle. From our point of view it does not matter whether the railway employes and the States public servants wish to be included under this Bill or not. We as a party consider that they, and every one who works for his living, should be included. Every member of our party has been returned on that principle. I would remind the honorable member for Robertson that every member of the Labour Party who was a member of the last Parliament was returned to this House. Can the same be said of the members of any other party? That fact shows the trend of feeling throughout the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Robertson says that he claims to represent labour as much as we do. How much labour has he ever done in his life? It is all very we’ll for honorable members who have been reared with silver spoons in their mouths, and have never known the pinch of hunger, to oppose the principle of compulsory arbitration. Let them have a wife and children hanging about them while they are engaged in a strike. Let them hear the wife saying, Don’t go on strike !” and the children crying for “tucker,” and then they will be more favorable to compulsory arbitration. Honorable members need not go many miles from Melbourne to see the disastrous effect of strikes. They need only go as far as Jumbunna, and see what has happened at the coal mines. Such a state of affairs between employers and employes could not exist if a measure such as this were in force. The honorable member for Wannon has told us that he is against this Bill, lock, stock, and barrel. It is easy enough for such an honorable member to oppose it. He has had his “ tucker “ every day of his life, and his kidneys are well lined with fat. This is no laughing matter to the people whom I represent in the back blocks of Queensland. Some of them have not even one feed a day ; sometimes they have only two feeds a week. They are the kind of men who want conciliation and arbitration - the men who are the backbone and the blood and sinew of the Commonwealth. The honorable mem ber for Kooyong tells us that such a measure is not required in Victoria. If it is not required here, let the employers conduct their business in a proper way. How many times have the men at Jumbunna asked for conciliation and arbitration? Only yesterday they asked for it; but the reply was, “ We have nothing to arbitrate about.” That is what the employers throw at them. The sooner this Bill is placed upon the statute-book in the interests of such people the better. The honorable member for Robertson says that we are throwing away the substance for the shadow. Let me inform him that at the elections the people whom I represent said to me, “ Do not have the Bill at all unless all the workers are included under it.” Every brain worker and every manual worker should be included in the Bill. I do not profess to be in a position to express an opinion upon the constitutional aspect of this question, but I am quite willing to allow the decision to rest with the High’ Court. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and the honorable and learned member for Indi, declare that we should be within our constitutional rights in adopting the amendment. On the other hand, the Prime Minister declares that it would be unconstitutional. Under these circumstances, how is a layman to decide? I have already explained the attitude of the Labour Party upon the question of expediency. I may tell the honorable member for Robertson that the party to which I belong has come to. stay. The fact that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs do not like a triangular form of government is nothing to us. We are going on all the same, and, as the honorable member for Gwydir has said, we shall do so with clean hands. We shall go straight. We know what we want, and we shall not be satisfied until we achieve it. I hurl back in the teeth of the honorable member for Robertson his statement that members of the Labour Party are office-seekers. Not one member of our party desires office. If we get what we want, we are quite willing to allow the honorable member and those with whom he is associated to take office. If, however, they do not act according to our wishes, we shall do our best to oust them. If the necessity arises for taking office we shall be ready to fill the breach.
– And to stay there.
– We shall stay there as long as the House allows us - the right honorable gentleman would do the same. We are quite willing to shoulder the responsibilities of office, and I do not think we shall make a worse hash of the affairs of the Commonwealth than the Government of New South Wales have made of the affairs of that State. If we conduct ourselves after the manner of the New South Wales Government, we shall, without doubt, wreck the country, but we are willing to try to pro>mote the public well-being, and the people are willing to take the risk attaching to our administration, or otherwise they would not have sent us here.
An Honorable Member. - What about a dissolution?
Mr. PAGE__ I am prepared to go to the country to-morrow, and, so far as the honorable member for Robertson is concerned, I am willing to contest the Maranoa seat as a liberal protectionist against him as a straight-out free-trader. I would soon demonstrate whether a free-trader Or a labour candidate would succeed in that electorate. On both the occasion? upon which I submitted myself for election, I clearly defined my position, and I was returned in each case as a labour freetrader. Yet, the honorable member for Robertson apparently thinks that he was sent here to wet-nurse me,- and to tell me that I am not a free-trader.
– But the honorable member says that his constituents would return him as a protectionist?
– They would return me as anything, in preference to electing the honorable member’. We are all friends until a crisis approaches. There is no friendship then. We play for keeps all the time, and fight for all we are worth. That is party politics, as I understand it. I am friendly with every honorable member in this Chamber, and I hope to continue so; but when a party fight is in progress, I have to stick to those with whom I am associated, against all-comers. I think that I have put the honorable member for Robertson right so far as the attitude of the free-traders of the Labour Party is concerned. He cannot blame them for any votes which they may have given upon the Tariff. I do not feel that any reproach attaches to me.
– -I know of the temptations to which the honorable member was exposed, and that he stood them like a man.
– Free-trade principles are deep-rooted in . me. I brought them with me from the old country, and nothing that the honorable member for Robertson can say will shake them. The honorable member made some reference to the labour caucus having brought pressure to bear upon the free-trade members of the party to vote protection in order to assist the Government I can only say that no attempt was ever made to coerce me or any other member of the party in regard to the fiscal question. We were all perfectly free so far as that was concerned, and we exercised our freedom to the fullest extent. Even though I declared by interjection that the honorable member’s statement was untrue, he persisted in asserting that some labour free-traders voted against the motion proposed by the leader of the Opposition, expressing want of confidence to the Government. I know that I had a good game of bowls during that crisis, and that I came out of it still a freetrader, and voted as such. If the honorable member for Robertson were a member of the Government to-morrow he would, as a free-trader, have my support upon the fiscal question. It is rather late in the day for » shandy-gaff free-trader to accuse me of not being true to my fiscal faith because I do not see eye to eye with him in regard to every matter submitted for our consideration. I hope that he will not bring any further accusations of a similar character against the free-trade members of the Labour Party.
– This debate has brought about a number of extraordinary developments, but the most surprising has been that which has induced the honorable member for Maranoa to express his willingness to contest his constituency as a protectionist. I am pleased to see that one speech has sufficed to work such a sudden change for the better. As I intend to cast my vote against the Government in respect to the amendment now before us, I desire, as a Ministerial supporter, to offer some reasons for my action. I do not propose to discuss the constitutional question. The Prime Minister says that the proposal embodied in the amendment is absolutely unconstitutional .
– I am certain of it.
– But other legal members of the House are just as strongly convinced that the proposal is constitutional, whilst the honorable and learned member for Indi declared that the matter was one for argument, and that the High
Court might decide it either way. I think the proper course to adopt is to allow that tribunal to determine it. Probably honorable members have heard of the Caliph Omar, who, when asked to refrain from destroying the valuable collection of books in the great library at Alexandria, replied - “ If they agree with the Koran, they are not wanted ; if they do not, they ought to be destroyed.” That practically represents the position in regard to this Bill. If the amendment be constitutional, no harm can result from its insertion in the measure. If, on the contrary, it is unconstitutional, let the High Court determine the matter. Personally, I desire that every worker, in whose occupation or profession a strike is probable, irrespective of whether he toils with his hands or his brains, shall be afforded an opportunity of coming under this Bill. It is not for us to pre-judge the decision of the High Court upon the legality qf the amendment proposed, and as the amendment will allow the highest tribunal in the land to decide the question, I consider it should pass. The next point to which I shall allude, has reference to the question of States rights. I am here as a representative of the Commonwealth, and not of a State. As such, I desire to retain all the powers which we possess, and to secure as many more as we can. It is the dutv of the States Parliaments to safeguard State rights. If a question arises as to what constitutes an invasion of State rights, the proper tribunal to decide it is the High Court, which has been expressly called into being for that purpose. At this stage, I desire to direct attention to’ the genesis of this matter. I would point out that it was not the Prime Minister who first raised it, but the ex-Premier of Victoria, Mr. Irvine.
– The honorable and learned member is quite wrong. The matter was discussed in Cabinet a long time prior to Mr. Irvine’s declaration. Mr. Irvine did not know of it until it leaked out some weeks after.
– At any rate, the first public announcement was made by Mr. Irvine. He was a man who lived politically largely through the railway strike. The strike of the railway engine-drivers consolidated his position so much that he was able to appeal to the electors of Victoria as the great “ iron “ man who was able to restore responsible government in this State.
– He was returned with his majority long before that strike occurred.
– Nevertheless, his Government was called into existence chiefly as the result of the attitude which he assumed towards the public servants of this State, and towards its railway employes, upon all occasions. Any one who studies the position must recognise that a large amount of the support which he received was due to the antagonism which he expressed towards State employes, and to the opprobrium which his colleagues heaped upon the Victorian railway servants. It is just as well for honorable members to recollect that the author of this cry as to State rights is not the person whom we should follow, if we are to do justice to our public servants. Personally, I do not intend to vote for the amendment because it will prove acceptable either to the public servants of the States or to the railway employes. My duty is not to them, or to the State’s, but to the people of the Commonwealth. I stand for the people in this matter. Every argument which the Prime Minister has advanced in favour of bringing other employes under the operation of this Bill is equally applicable to the public servants of the Commonwealth and of the States, and to the State railway employes. In this connexion I would ask honorable members to recall their experiences at the time the Public Service Bill was under consideration. I venture to say that nearly every honorable member was the recipient of hundreds of letters from public servants in reference to the various provisions of that measure. When we came to deal with the clauses of that Bill the public servants were always represented. We knew their opinions and their desires. The Commonwealth was represented only by the Minister who was in immediate charge of the measure, and consequently some amendments were inserted which surprised even honorable members themselves. We dealt with them largely in ignorance. Personally I think that a public servant is generally a well paid and well protected individual. In a few cases he is over-paid, and more than generously treated. I hold, however, that Parliament as a legislative body is quite incapable of dealing properly with our public servants. I should like to see our Public Service Acts entirely swept away, and a properly constituted tribunal established, which would place Commonwealth and State employes in exactly the same position that other employes occupy.
– Does the honorable and learned member think they would accept that?
– They would have to accept it, if Parliament so decided, and we have the power to force it upon them. I know that some honorable members who intend to support the amendment have been accused of acting under pressure brought to bear by the public servants. Whether that be so or not, I cannot say, but cer- tainly such a remark is not applicable to me. During the recent election campaign I stated over and over again, that any such questions upon which constituents desired to ascertain my opinion must be put to me when I was upon the public platform. I am disposed to think that the adoption of this proposal will disadvantageous!)’ affect the public servants of the States. But, as I have already said, we ought to regard it, not from the standpoint of the States or of the public servants themselves, but entirely from that of the people. I have recently been reading up a little American history relating chiefly to the States Rights Party, which was formed in the United States prior to the war of secession. As a result, I find that during this debate not a single argument has been used regarding the constitutional side of the question which was not advanced by the publicists in America in favour of continuing to the States the right to own slaves. I think we may take it for granted that those who now fight against State rights would have done so had they lived in those days. Before the opening of the first Federal Parliament I entertained the opinion that the issue on which parties in this House would be divided would be not the fiscal question, but that of State rights versus unification, and I am very much surprised to find the Prime Minister one of the first to introduce the question of State rights in this House, and to hear him acting as the champion of the rights of the States, rather than of those of the Commonwealth. He has treated the question at issue as one of importance, and undoubtedly it is. I should not have thought of deserting the honorable and learned gentleman’s lead had not the issue been a vital one. I recognise, however, that we have now reached the parting of the ways - that we have reached the point at which those who are ready to give up certain constitutional rights that we possess must break away from those who are determined that the full powers of the Commonwealth shall be exercised. In my opinion, the arguments which we have heard on the question of State rights scarcely apply to the point in dispute. Unfortunately, we cannot go further in the direction of unification than is permitted by the Constitution; but it is my desire that we should exercise to the full extent permitted by the High Court the powers granted to us. Those who are not prepared to support this amendment, because of a belief that it is a step in the direction of unification, are, really seeking to protect rights which it is not their duty to safeguard. They have been returned to this Parliament to uphold the status of the Commonwealth, and not to give away our powers in order to magnify the States, and, to my mind, those who fail to recognise their duty in this respect will inflict an injury on the Commonwealth from which it will not recover for some years. So far the only States Premiers who have made any very definite pronouncement in regard to their opposition to this proposal are the present Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bent, and his predecessor in office, Mr. Irvine.
– Several others have done so.
– I am told that the Premier of Queensland-
– He has not protested.
– I understand that he has gone a step further; that he has said that he would be glad to find that the High Court is able to deal with this difficulty, and with the ever-recurring questions relating to the rights of public servants. If it is true that he has made that assertion honorable members will accept his attitude as an indication that the views of Mr.’ Irvine and Mr. Bent, who have largely buttressed the position of their respective Governments by heaping opprobrium upon State servants, do not truly reflect the opinions of the leading politicians of the States in regard to this question.
– Mr. Irvine and Mr. Bent have been the best friends the Labour Party ever had.
– If this amendment is carried it will be the best friend that Mr. Bent has ever had.
– Then we are told that we should rely on the High Courts of the Parliaments of the States to deal fairly with their servants. I do not know whether many honorable members have read the Strike Suppression Bill which was introduced by the Irvine Government.
– That is an historical document.
– That is so. If it were distributed among honorable members, it would furnish them with a remarkable illustration of the way in which a State Parliament - the dispassionate impartial Court of which we have heard - can deal with its public servants. In that Bill it was provided that any three men who dared to converse with a railway employé on strike should be liable to imprisonment, and that any one who held the funds of a railway association should also be liable to be imprisoned. It was an outrage upon public opinion and public freedom, and the fact that the Legislative Assembly of Victoria passed the second reading of the Bill proves conclusively that some outside judicial body should be appointed to deal in an impartial and independent manner with questions relating to public servants. It was a most obnoxious measure, and to have placed it on the statute-book would have been to violate all modern principles of freedom of thought and action.
– The present leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Legislative Assembly asserts that the majority of those who supported the measure felt at the time that they were doing wrong.
– Quite so. There is one aspect of this question which I think the Prime Minister might even now consider. Whether I like it or not - and I do not like it - I have to admit that this is an age of State socialism. The Government have circulated a Bill providing for bounties for the encouragement of the iron industry, and under that Bill it will be open to the States at any time to take over the industry- If the Labour Party come into office, or in
Other ways secure increased power, State socialism will spread, and gradually a larger proportion of industries now conducted by private enterprise will be worked as national undertakings. It will thus_ be seen that, unless this amendment be carried, State industries may compete unfairly with private industries. It was because of this fear that the Employers’ Federation of Canterbury. New Zealand, strongly advocated that all public organizations - according to the language employed in the clause now under discussion–and all railway associations should be brought under ‘the State
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. They felt that if they were called upon under the Act to bear certain disabilities, industries conducted by the State should be placed in the same position. In other words, they considered that State enterprise and private industry should be placed on an equal footing, so far as legislation of this kind was concerned. I have battled against the stream of State interference with what we have previously regarded as private individual effort, but 1 have to admit that it continues to flow, and if it be the tendency of the day to widen its course, it is surely our duty to see that private industry shall meet State enterprise on fair terms. I have been informed that the reason why the Newport Government Workshops were able to successfully compete against the Phoenix Foundry for the tenders for the construction of a number of railway engines was that the foundry paid higher wages. It is unfair that State industries now in existence, and such as this socialistic movement will create, should be able to compete against private industries, by reason of the fact that private employers are called upon to pay higher wages. That is a point which influences my attitude in regard to the amendment. I do not intend to detain the Committee at any great length, but to rhy mind the position is an extraordinary one. I do not like to vote against the Government.
– The honorable member, on this occasion, at all events, is not battling against the stream.
– I must say that I propose to vote in accordance with the pledges which I gave to my constituents. Instead of the Prime Minister having any complaint against me, I think that he ought to recognise that some of his supporters feel that it is their duty to vote against him on this occasion. Their position was confirmed at the election, and it was a position from which it was simply impossible for them to retire, having pledged their words as honest men.
– When did I complain?
– The rule applies that he who excuses himself accuses himself. I am exceedingly sorry to vote against the Government. In this, only the second Parliament of the Commonwealth, honorable members should, in my opinion, have a free hand, apart altogether from party influences, to vote as they think proper for the. future welfare of the Commonwealth and States employes. The Ministry might fairly have “ allowed, without threatening to resign, the collective wisdom of the House to override the decision of the Cabinet minority. Indeed, we might follow a course often adopted in the French Chamber. When a vote has gone against the Government, and it has been decided that the consolidated wisdom of Parliament is better than that of the minority as represented by the Government, a vote of confidence is passed on the Government.
– Ah ! that is a good idea.
– Having heard the hearty acceptance of that suggestion by the leader of the Opposition, I can almost regard it as a promise on his part to immediately make a proposal in that direction, and I shall not detain the Committee further.
– I am sorry to say that an ulcerated throat will make my speaking unpleasant to honorable members and exceedingly painful to myself. ‘ I should like, however, to deal with one or two points in connexion with this motion, which I regard as one of the gravest importance - much more important and .far-reaching than the fate of this or any other Government. Some honorable members seem to think that too much about States rights has been introduced into this discussion ; but I am afraid that if we pass this amendment we shall hear a great deal more on that subject. I differ entirely from those who, although in doubt as to its constitutionality, think that we should pass this amendment, and allow the High Court to decide. The High Court may be quite a proper tribunal on many subjects, but I ask honorable members to remember that we are now dealing with a distinct compact entered into between two parties. The States have surrendered to the Federation certain rights and privileges.
– On certain conditions.
– I am not a constitutional lawyer, and I do not pose as a constitutional authority ; but if there is one point on which all writers on the American Constitution are agreed, it is that, Federal power being a delegated power, all rights not delegated are conserved to the States. Some honorable members take the position, “We do not say whether or not we have this power, and we shall go to the High Court for a decision.” But my friend, who makes that proposal as a member of Parliament, would be the last to propose it as an individual. By our being asked, as we are now asked, to take deliberate advantage of the
States, this Parliament is placed in the position of a man who, having made a bargain, finds, when it is reduced to black and white, that there is a chance of getting something more than he bought, and who says, “ I will take that something, if the laws allows it.” The man who would do such a thing is not honest, but is .1 cheat. I am glad that the honorable and ‘learned member for Northern Melbourne did not pretend to say that when he submitted the motion on this question in the Federal Convention he had the slightest idea that States servants would be included. If the honorable and learned member had that idea, he would have been placing himself in the position of submitting a motion, while hiding “ up his sleeve “ the most important factor in that motion. He would have to say that when the delegates, after the Convention, toured the States and asked the people to enter into this compact on lines deliberately laid down, they were keeping “ something up their sleeves,” and entrapping the States into an agreement. We should now be saying to the States, “Whether you gave us this power knowingly or. not, we yill go to law ; if the law will give the power we will take it.” That is not a proper position for Parliament to assume. As it was my duty to do at the time, I followed very closely the debates in the different Conventions, and I ask any honorable member who holds that there is any doubt on the question, to point out one line in the whole of the official reports to lead the Convention or the States to believe that the practical control of the States Public Services was being handed over to the Commonwealth. It may be said th.nt the amendment does not mean taking over the control of the States Public Services; but, as our greatest writer says -
You take my house, when you do take the prop That doth sustain my house ; you take my life When you do take the means whereby i live.
The moment we deprive the States of one power, however small, which they have not deliberately surrendered, we take from them a State right ; it is only a question of degree. But apart from that, which I regard as a most important point, what would be our position if the High Court should decide that we have power to practically revise the Estimates of the States Parliaments? A State Parliament having passed the Estimates, and the Treasurer having made provision for the year, the Federal High Court would be able to come in and say, “You have not given sufficient wages to your railway men.” It will be seen that under such circumstances the control of the State’s Estimates would be removed entirely from the State Parliament. I ask any honorable member who supports the amendment whether the States intended, when the people were asked to vote on the Convention Bill, that any Court established by the Federation should have any control whatever over the Estimates of a State Parliament?
Mr. Fisher._ Yes.
– I ask the honorable member for Wide Bay to point out to me the speeches of any of the delegates who were advocating the Convention Bill, who also advocated that the States public servants should be, or might be, brought under the control of the Federal High Court by the terms of the Constitution. It has come as a surprise to honorable members to know, not that we possess the power, but that there is a chance of our getting the power from the High Court. If this were my individual case, I should be quite prepared to go to the High Court, because - though I do not know whether I am at liberty to say so - I think we have a good idea of what the opinion of two members of the Court is on this matter. They gave their opinion on the point twelve months ago.
– As politicians.
– The man who, as Prime Minister, would give a deliberately wrong interpretation to Parliament is not a man who ought to sit on any Bench. But I have a higher opinion of the gentlemen constituting the High Court at the present moment than to believe that they deliberately prostituted their opinion as lawyers in order to gain a political advantage.
– It is not necessary to say that. The High Court will hear argument before giving a decision.
– Surely this is not a subject to discuss now?
– I do not want to discuss it, but merely to say that if this were my private case I should be quite prepared to go to the High Court. I think, however, there is a higher aspect of the question. I protest against this Parliament making itself absolutely subservient to any Court. The High Courtwill have to deal with Acts of Parliament setting forth in black and white the wishes of Parliament, but our functions are much higher. We are here to do justice between man and man,
State and State, and Federation and State. There is not a member of this House who, as a private individual, would attempt to take what I call such a mean advantage out of a bargain as we are here asked to take out of the bargain made between the Federation and the States. I desire to utter my word of protest, and my word of warning, too, against the too frequent attempts made by honorable members in this House to belittle the States Parliaments. I can warn honorable members that in this respect they are sowing seed from which they will reap a serious harvest presently. The honorable and learned member for Corio, in dealing with the question, says - “I am here as a Federalist to take all I can get,” and I say that an honorable member who attends in this Chamber, and is animated only by a desire to secure all he can get out of the States, is a danger to the Federation.
– We are entitled to all we can get under the Constitution.
– We are entitled to all we can get fairly, and to no more. I repeat that a bargain has been made with the States, and that those honorable members who say now that they are prepared to take all they can get, whether it was intended by the bargain or not, they would not as individuals follow that course in trade or in connexion with a private bargain made with their neighbours. I intend to oppose both amendments proposed by the Labour Party. I cannot understand the position of some honorable members, who say that they believe it is right to extend the aegis of the Federal Parliament over the railway men, and who are yet prepared to leave all other States servants without that protection. The honorable member for Wide Bay is no doubt perfectly honest and consistent, as are the other honorable members of the same party whom I have heard speaking upon this question. They say - “This thing is good, and we should, therefore, send it right round.” But I cannot understand the logic of the man who says - “This is a good provision for a railway porter, but it would be bad for a policeman ; it is good for the railway clerk, but bad for the Treasury clerk ; good for the station-master, but bad for the schoolmaster.” I cannot understand that reasoning. If I were to support one of these amendments I should feel myself compelled to support both. Believing, as I do. that we are being asked to deprive the States of a power which they undoubtedly possess and which they never intended to confer upon us, and believing that should we pass the proposed amendment, and should the High Court by any chance declare it to be within our competence, we should be creating differences between the States and the (Federation such as would, in my humble opinion, endanger the very existence of the Union. I am compelled to oppose the amendment.
– I feel it to be my duty to give just a few reasons that impel me to record exactly the same vote upon this occasion as that which I gave when this matter was previously before us.
– Is the honorable member really going to vote against the Government ?
– I am going to vote upon principle. If the Government take certain action, which is opposed to what I consider right, the responsibility is upon them and not upon me. I think I may claim that I have been a consistent and earnest supporter of the Government, I may also say that it was not without a very great amount of thought and earnest and anxious consideration I have determined that I must, on this occasion, vote as I did before- I have .listened with the closest attention to the arguments advanced as to the constitutional aspect of the question. I should like to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to one verv striking fact in connexion therewith. It is that every one of the official opponents of this Bill, as represented in the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Manufactures, take up exactly the same position in regard to the whole of this measure that is taken up by some honorable members in regard to this particular clause. In other words, they hold that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, as submitted by the Government, is vitrei vires, unconstitutional, and is an interference with State rights.
– And a man is known by the company he keeps.
– I do not make that inference, because I believe the Prime Minister and many supporting him are as anxious for arbitration as I am.
– The policeman keeps company with the person whom he has in charge, but they do not necessarily agree.
– There are some people who are opposed to the inclusion of the railway men because, in their opinion, that would be an interference with State rights; and, for the same reason they oppose this Bill, because they regard it as an interference with State rights, even though it did not extend to other than private employes. I shall read to the Committee a paragraph which appeared in a manifesto which has been submitted to this House, in the form of a petition -
That, in the opinion of this Conference, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is uncalled for by the present industrial condition of Australia; that it will prove unworkable, and is ultra vires under our Constitution ; that it is an infringement upon State rights, and a breach of faith with the founders of Australian Federation.
Those are exactly the arguments which are being advanced against the inclusion of railway employes - and it is for the railway employes I am most concerned. I am convinced that the question of State rights, and the question of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as a whole, is going to be tested, if not by a State Government, by a private emplovers’ association; and seeing that these are exactly the arguments used against this measure, and against the inclusion of railway employes and State servants, we had better deal with the whole question first, and then let the matter be tested, and settled once and for all.
– The honorable member should stick to his party.
– I shall stick to my party so long as I consider the party right. But. whenever I consider the party wrong, I shall vote in accordance with my conscience, and with what I believe to be right. Having said so much in reference to the constitutional question, I think it right to state, from my point of view, what is the value of this measure. I really believe that its value and effect are considerably over-rated by those who think they are going to benefit by it. I am convinced that the railway men of Victoria will not get any relief from their present position by the operation of this Bill. I think it is only right that I should tell them so plainly. It should be clearly and distinctly understood by them, and by the public generally, that this measure is going to apply even to railway men only when their dispute extends beyond the boundaries of one State. It is because it will apply only when a dispute extends beyond the boundaries of one State that I respectfully urge that there can be no interference in State rights in connexion with this matter. I know that there are good grounds, for the railway men especially, urging that they should be brought under this amendment, although I believe it will not benefit them to the extent they suppose. I hold in my hand a very remarkable document which has just been issued by the Victorian Railway Commissioners. It is of so serious a character as to make many persons talk about another strike. In the ordinary course of events we should be celebrating to-day in Victoria the winning of the eight hours principle. It is notorious that the Government of the State, through its Railway Commissioners, is undermining that principle. An article appeared in the Agc a few weeks ago, in which it was pointed out that in regard to the enginedrivers the eight hours principle was being gradually undermined, and that many of them are being compelled to be on duty for twelve or fourteen hours a clay. It was urged that the circumstances demand this sacrifice on their part.
– Is this pertinent to a Federal measure?
– It is pertinent to the question which we are discussing. What have honorable members to say about this statement ?
Commencing on Monday next, 18th inst, your cabin is to be a ten hours box, and your shifts will be as follow : - Week about, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. ; 3 p.m. to finish (12 a.m. or 1 a.m.).
That means that in a number of the signalboxes, which had been worked on the eight hours principle up to the time of the issue of this document, the men are for the future to work on a ten hours shift. I hold that this is not only the abrogation of a great principle, but is also a great danger to the people of Victoria, and insures irritating conditions to the railway employes.
– Can the honorable member show that the proposed Court would touch them ?
– I am trying to show the reasons which have prompted railway men to ask this House to give them some measure of relief in the form of an Arbitration Act. It is the existence of dreadful conditions of employment which impels the men to look in this direction for relief.
– If the honorable member will read this morning’s Age he will see that the men get very good conditions now in Victoria.
– I have already quoted from an article in the Age. The men believe that the passing of this measure will lead (0 the betterment of their conditions. But I think it my duty to say that the only relief which they can get will be through the medium of a State Arbitration ion Act, or bv intrusting all industrial legislation to this Parliament.
An Honorable Member. - The only im mediate relief.
– Surely this is no reason why I should be asked to deny the men the relief which they mav get under this measure. I wish to confirm the statement I made by a quotation from an interesting newspaper called The Fi lol, which was issued in the interest of the late member for Melbourne during the recent contest. The important and alarming statement which I am about to quote was written in the interest of a candidate who was opposed to State socialism, and it is headed “An Example of State Socialism.”
There are 1,000 locomotive drivers and firemen employed. These men are compelled to work at least an hour and a half on every- shift for nothing. In other words, the Commissioners get 1,500 hours’ work every day for nothing from these employes. Wight through the service the workers are sweated. . . . There are some 3,000 men receiving from 6s. a day downwards, and giving more than eight hours’’ work (often dangerous) for it.
I am strongly of opinion that the men are suffering from serious grievances. I am’ convinced that the Commissioners are taking steps which are gradually but certainly undermining the eight hours principle in this State. I took up the position in, December last that I would do my best to secure this relief for the railway men, being left free to use my discretion when the Bill came up for consideration, and I am concinced that an overwhelming majority of the voters, at any rate in Melbourne and suburbs, are for including them within its operation, and leaving the High Court to decide the legality or otherwise of the provision. I, therefore, feel it my duty to record my vote in that direction, regretting very deeply that the Government have taken up the position which thev have.
– I wish to say a few words with regard to some of the addresses which have been delivered since the Bill was taken into Committee. In the debate on the second reading, particularly in that very able speech by the Prime Minister, the position which is being considered now was discussed at some length. At that time the honorable and learned gentleman put forward the plea against the inclusion of State servants within the scope of the Bill, on a twofold ground - first, that, in his opinion, it was unconstitutional; and, secondly, that it was not desirable, if constitutional. At this stage I do not wish to’ discuss these positions at any length. The House may form its own opinion as to whether the inclusion of State servants is constitutional or not. The point has been debated by some of the best lawyers in the Commonwealth, and their opinions are as far apart as the poles.. The High Court is the custodian and the interpreter of the Constitution. It will be the function of that body to determine whether this proposal is constitutional or otherwise. With reference to the expediency of including State servants within the scope of the Bill, that is a matter of opinion upon which wide differences are permitted. I have already expressed my views on that point, and I do not propose to repeat them. I now come to the third position taken up by the Prime Minister, in the course of this discussion, and reiterated by several honorable members, that is, that those who support the proposal now before the Committee are using it to attack the Constitution with a view to bringing about a unitary, rather than a Federal, form of government. I yield to no man in my loyalty to the Constitution, and in my desire to see its provisions carried into effect. I do not wish to see them subverted, and if I were convinced that the contention of the Prime Minister, that the amendment is an insidious attack on the basic principles of that instrument, is correct, I should be compelled to reconsider my position with regard to it. It appears to me, however, that there is nothing in his contention, and that he has only manufactured a bogy. Any attack upon the Constitution must fail because of the safeguards provided in the instrument itself. In the first place, the Bill, if amended and passed by this Chamber, would have to undergo the scrutiny of the members of the Senate, whose particular duty it would be to look at its provisions from the stand-point of State interests. We in this House more particularly represent the people of the Commonwealth as a whole, and though it would not redound to our credit or common-sense to unwarrantably attack State rights, it is not bur particular obligation to regard them. That is the function of the Senate, and if they considered the provision which we wish to insert an invasion of the rights of the States, they would veto the measure, and no power .which we possess would enable us to compel them to pass it. But there is a further safeguard. The High Court of Australia has been created, riot only to interpret the Constitution, but to act as its custodian. To a large extent it has been modelled upon the American Supreme Court, and I do not consider the departure from British precedent altogether wise, because in my opinion Parliament should be the custodian of the Constitution. The creation of the High Court, however, was provided for by the Federal contract; and if after the Bill, as we propose to amend it, became law, an application was made to the Court for a decision as to its constitutionality or otherwise, the Court, if it considered that there was an unwarrantable invasion of State rights, would declare the measure invalid. If that were done, nothing short of an alteration of the Constitution would replace it upon the statutebook, and such an alteration is so hedged round with difficulties, that it would require a long political struggle to bring it about. No matter how large the majority of electors in favour of an alteration, any considerable opposition by a minority would render it practically impossible. Therefore, it seems to me that the statement of the Prime Minister was only the drawing of a red-herring across the path of those who feel disposed to support the amendment, but who have not quite made up their minds whether they will desert the Government for the sake of a principle. I wish to make this phase of the question as clear as I can, because if the exact position of affairs is not placed before the Committee, and, through the Committee, before the country, great injustice may be done to those who support the amendment. It is . far from my wish to destroy the Federal contract in order to bring about unification instead of a Federal form, of government. Possibly in years to come unification will be the result of Federation, but, if so, it will come about by the gradual development of public opinion. I think I have shown that the Constitution itself contains sufficient safeguards to maintain the basis upon which it was established so far as concerns the transferred services. But the Constitution also lays down specifically to what extent the functions of the States Governments shall be transferred, and what powers shall be reserved to the States. The Constitution provides that the States may transfer to the Federal Government the control of the railways, and it also provides for the consolidation of the national debt. But it reserves to the States the fullest power of determining whether those functions of government shall be transferred or not. In view of the clear and specific manner in which the Constitution has been drafted in those respects, I contend that there are no grounds for the charges which have been made against the supporters of this amendment. If I believed that unification was preferable to Federation in respect to the functions of government which are reserved to the States, I should be prepared to fight for that principle in the constituencies, and to get the sanction of the people of Australia to it. As to the inclusion of the civil servants within the operation of this Bill, I have already indicated that I consider it to be a wise provision. If it is found to be necessary to apply this Bill to private enterprise, as far as the Constitution enables the Federal Parliament to legislate in that direction, I fail to see the wisdom of drawing the line to exclude those persons who happen to be in the employment of the States. I can quite see that there are conditions in State employment that invite some tribunal of this character to deal with grievances that are constantly arising. The provisions of -the Bill will not meet the whole of those grievances. There are matters that the States Parliaments only can deal with by means of special tribunals for the purpose of holding the balance evenly between the different sections. But, as far as concerns the railways, and in many other directions, State employes are proper subjects for the Arbitration Court. We must not overlook the fact that there is a strong tendency on the part of the States to engage in a number of industrial enterprises that have hitherto been left entirely to private enterprise. Practically, all the railways of the Commonwealth are under State control and management. They are worked by servants of the States. There are not wanting indications that State operation will extend- to similar avenues of employment. Proposals are constantly being submitted in favour of the State taking a hand in the matter of mining development, in respect to working coal mines, and in the construction and repairing work of the railways. These incursions of the States into productive avenues will mean the employment of a larger number of persons who will be under State control. If that tendency is to continue and extend, undoubtedly there will be disputes which will call for the intervention of a Conciliation and Arbitration Act. If the States Legislatures can deal with those disputes so much the better. But if an acute condition of affairs arises it means that a dispute in one State may spread into other States. In that case the
Constitution has armed the Federal Parliament with the necessary power to intervene. It can certainly intervene, so far as private employment is concerned, and I contend that it should also intervene with respect to State employment. I think that the States will welcome legislation of this character to assist them in the settlement of such disputes. That is the reason why I feel compelled to make provision in the Bill for carrying out the instructions of the Constitution. We should make the measure as wide and as operative as possible for meeting any difficulties that may occur. Some criticism has been hurled at- the States Courts of Arbitration. I do not hold that these Courts are perfect. The attempts which have been made in New South Wales to render the Act more effective, have met with opposition, not from the. Labour Party, but from those who are averse to all legislation of that character. It has been the experience of New South Wales, and even the Judge of the Arbitration Court there has referred to the matter, that opposed to all legislation of this kind are those who will fight it by fair means, if they can effectively do so, but who are not above foul means if they think them more effective. They are not above- making false statements as to the operation of arbitration measures in the States and elsewhere to bias public opinion against their underlying principle. The amending Bill, passed by the Legislative Assembly during the last session of the New South Wales Parliament, was thrown out by the Legislative Council, whose special function appears to be to protect the privileges enjoyed by the propertied classes of the community. The honorable member for New England criticised the operation of the Arbitration Act in New South Wales, and stated that, in one instance, a philanthropic gentleman who had employed a nonunionist, because he desired to assist him, was brought to book by the Arbitration Court, and fined £5. The honorable member took part with myself and others, some years ago, in fighting a great democratic battle in connexion with a proposal for landvalue taxation; and, no doubt, he will remember how certain philanthropic gentlemen espoused the cause of the “poor widow.” The honorable member was chased all through his electorate, owing to the representations that were made as to theinjustice which would fall upon this mythical “ poor widow.” I will undertake to saythat the case quoted by the honorable mem-
I ber is of very much the same character.
– The case to which the honorable member refers was fictitious, but I have recounted nothing but facts.
– I would recommend the honorable member to substantiate his facts. If he referred to Mr. Justice Cohen, I think he would obtain information which would put quite another complexion upon the matter.
M!r. Lonsdale.- Not at all ; Mr. Justice Cohen admitted that an injustice was being <3one.
– The honorable member ought to know that the principle of an Act should not be condemned on the strength of cases of injustice arising from improper administration. Even if the instance quoted by the honorable member were capable of absolute verification, it would not in any way affect the principle which underlies the Act.
– I know all about the case, and mentioned the facts only-
– I am sorry that the honorable member should be angry.
– I am not at all angry; I am only emphasizing my original statement.
– I am much surprised at the attitude assumed by the honorable gentleman on the question now before us. I have taken part with him in many good democratic battles, and I hope to do so again. The Minister for Home Affairs strongly criticised the attitude of the Labour Party towards the amendment, and more particularly its treatment of himself and the Government. He seemed to think’ that he had conferred some great favour on the Party during the three years that he had had a share in controlling the destinies of the Commonwealth- He apparently believes that his administration could not be improved upon, and that we are basely ungrateful because we dare to think for ourselves in regard to this measure- He threw out a hint, which was repeated by the honorable member for Robertson, that the attitude assumed by the Labour Party towards the Government was the outcome of some meeting which had been referred to as a caucus. The honorable member for Robertson also stated that the Government had been kept in power by the force of the caucus. I may inform him that the fate of the Government has never received any consideration at the hands of the Labour Party. Unlike other parties in this House, we have a political programme, know what we want, and make no departure from the principles which we have agreed to support. In the first place, we go to the electors and invite them to formulate their claims. We then pledge ourselves to carry out the programme upon which they decide, as speedily as we can, and we are as strictly bound to adhere to that programme as free-traders and protectionists are to support their fiscal principles. A member of the Labour Party could not be recreant to his principles without being false alike to his party and to his constituents. Unfortunately, some politicians have been in the habit of making promises without seriously considering how they could be carried out, with the result that they have been obliged to substitute expediency for principle. Honorable members have been ranged on either side of the fiscal question, but so far as general legislation is concerned, particularly that of a social character, they have had no policy, and have been moved to action solely by the pressure of their environments. The Labour Party has proclaimed its political platform throughout the whole of the States, and place and power have never occupied a line in that programme. Its members have always been prepared to support those who were willing to legislate in accordance with its views. It has not attempted to “ squeeze “ any side in politics, but the governing powers, both in the States and the Commonwealth Legislatures, were perfectly well aware that if they wished to secure its support they must give effect to its programme. That is the only influence which has been operative in the Parliaments of Australia. There is absolutely no foundation for the charge which was made by the Minister for Home Affairs that the Labour Party has “ squeezed “ the Ministry. It has merely given expression to political thought outside of this House. It may be mistaken in its view of what would be the effect of its programme if put into operation, but, nevertheless, its members are pledged to that platform. Whilst they make principle their main consideration, if it falls to their lot to assume a more responsible position in this Parliament, I have no doubt that they will rise to the occasion. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that hitherto the charms of office have not weighed with the Labour Party, and I hope they never will. I trust, therefore, that we shall hear no more of the allegation that some of its members have been coerced into voting against their own consciences. I ask the honorable member for
Robertson to recollect that some members of the Labour Party, who, like himself, are staunch free-traders, can give as good an account of their attitude on the fiscal issue as he can. We fought the Government on that matter, and supported the Freetrade Party. The Tariff would have been very different from what it is to-day had it not been for the action of the Labour members. It would have been very much more on the lines on which it was originally framed. Whilst the honorable member for Robertson may claim that the Free-trade Party was instrumental in reducing the ^burdensome items of the Tariff, I hold that no reductions could have been secured without the assistance of the Labour Party, freetraders and protectionists alike.
– We had not the assistance of the protectionists.
– Yes. The protectionist members of the Labour Party voted in favour of reductions in the case of a large number of heavy protective duties, and in that way assisted to bring about material changes in the character of the Tariff. I trust that honorable members will be fair to each other. We have had some very warm fights in this Chamber, but the Labour Party has always fought fairly, and to charge its members with being the enemies of the Constitution, and with sacrificing their free-trade principles, is, to use a pugilistic phrase, “hitting below the belt.”
– We We have heard a good deal during the course of this debate about the interference of the Labour Party. The members of that party deeply regret the necessity of assisting to dispense with the services of the Deakin Government. I must confess that, as an American-
– An American?
– Whe Where is Canada? Is it in America or in Australia I freely confess that I do -not believe in Ministers enjoying a long tenure of office. It produces a system that is not calculated to advance the youth of the country. I think that if we had a change of Ministry every year it would be better. We should then be able to train our young men to assume Ministerial office whenever it became necessary for them to do so.. A good deal has been said during this debate in reference to Crowns, sovereigns, and sovereign powers. Last night one honorable member declared that there were two Crowns in Australia - the State Crown and the Commonwealth Crown. Therefore we are about to reduce the power of the
Sovereign, because two Crowns make halfaSovereign. I would ask honorable members if it is not ridiculous to talk of “ Sovereign “ powers in a country in which one cannot kill a dog without first telegraphing to Downing-street for permission to do so? These arguments only tend to show that the opponents of this Bill have been driven into a corner. Every idea that has been preached against the inclusion in the provisions of this measure of the public servants of the Commonwealth and of the States has been urged by John C. Calhoun, Bob Tombs, and Jeff Davis, the nuilifiers and secessionists. I heard the same arguments advanced at Washington many years ago. What has compelled me to lose faith in my legal brethren is that thirty years ago, when they attempted to introduce the InterState Commission Bill in the United States, great legal luminaries stood up and declared by the sacred heavens that if it were carried the country would go to the dogs and the Constitution would be broken up. In 1888 the Bill became the law of the land, and today the Inter-State Commission controls the roads of the United States, and its establishment has been declared constitutional. These facts induce me not to place too much reliance in the declarations of the legal members of this House. No doubt they have devoted a deal of attention to the measure; but, after all, they are only human. In the H Herald of this afternoon I see the report of a great strike in Hungary. The cable message relating to it is headed “ Railway Strikes on State Railways,” “ State Railway Strikers Gather at the Capital’,” “ Serious Trouble.” It sets forth that some of the strikers are running trains for the purpose of bringing their fellow-strikers into Budapest, the Government apparently having no control over them. We have heard many of the legal members of this House discussing the question of the invasion of States rights, and I would ask the Committee - What are the States? They are political conveniences created by human beings for the purpose of guaranteeing to every individual in their midst inalienable and indestructible rights. When Captain Cook came to this country, was this part of Australia known as Victoria, and did the sheet of water now known as Hobson’s Bay bear its present name? Neither this Government nor the Opposition put Victoria where she is ; it is the people who constitute the State, and the very people who constitute it are going to protect their public servants. The
Commonwealth was established so that every human being in Australia might enjoy to the full his rights and liberties. It was created to give privileges to none, but rights to all. The situation of labour in many of the States resembles the rent situation in Ireland prior to 1881. Before that date frequent disturbances took place between landlords and tenants in Ireland. Evictions were common, and were accompanied by human bloodshed and crimes of various kinds. The tenants formed combinations, and boycotted the landlords and their agents. Rents were fixed by contract, but the tenants claimed that they were altogether too high and unfair. The. Imperial Parliament, which is a far greater Parliament than this, endeavoured for many years to bring about industrial peace in Ireland by passing various land laws, and by increasing the constabulary force. But notwithstanding its efforts, the disturbances in Ireland became more and more pronounced. In 1870 the Imperial Parliament passed an Act, section 25 of which gave power to parties to submit their disputes in relation to rent to arbitration, provided that both parties were satisfied to do so. But both parties never were satisfied. The rents were fixed by landlords and their agents, and tenants being poor, and far more plentiful than tenancies, had to outbid each other in order to secure a place in which to live and labour. The Act to which I have referred proved of no avail, for voluntary Arbitration Acts can never bring about any good results. Of all the laws passed prior to the year 1881, not one of them provided for a tribunal to protect the tenants from avaricious, grasping landlords. Even the Judge to whom application was made for an order of eviction had no power to consider whether the rent levied by the landlord was an equitable one.
– Does the honorable member think that this matter is relevant to the question before the Chair?
– I - It has a bearing on the question of arbitration.
– The amendment provides for the extension of the Bill to States servants.
– I a I am aware of that, Mr. Chairman, and in due course I shall connect my remarks with the question immediately before the Chair. At the time to which I refer, a Judge who was asked to make an order for the eviction of a tenant had no power to determine whether the rent charged was too high, or to say whether, in his opinion, the tenant was able and willing to pay a reasonable rent.
– When was this ?
– Pri Prior to 1881. It was in that year that Mr. Gladstone and the Liberal Party in England, assisted by the Home Rulers, or the Labour Party, in the House of Commons, carried a measure which for the first time gave Ireland industrial justice. There can be no industrial peace without industrial justice, and in this connexion I would point out that honorable members of the Opposition have, apparently, neglected to study the first principles of Christianity. The Act passed in 1881 provided for the establishment of a Land Court in Ireland, and also for the appointment of a Land Commission, with power to declare what should be a fair maximum rent for fifteen years in respect of a given agricultural holding; Ever since then peace, prosperity, and happiness have been on the increase in Ireland. I would remind the Committee that the very Conservative Party which opposed that measure quite recently carried one of the greatest land reforms of which we have ever heard. But here we find representatives of Australia, which has a population of only four millions - a population not as large as that of the State of Illinois - talking about ruination. We have in Australia not half the population to be found in the State of New York-
– That is our difficulty - want of population.
– We We are crying out for more population, because some persons apparently desire that the number of men looking for the one job shall be increased. By-and-by we shall have them slaves. I come now to the question of States rights. I hold that the States rights question was conceived in slavery in the southern States of America, and was born to enslave human beings. I have before me a resolution carried by the great predecessors of the States rights party in this House, which related to the doctrine of non-interference. “ The Doctrine of Non-Interference” was the name applied to the doctrine of John ‘ C. Calhoun, that Congress had “ no right to interfere with slavery in the States and territories.” When General Jackson was asked by the Presbyterian minister whether he had forgiven every one, he said that he had, but that he had not forgiven himself for his failure to hang John C. Calhoun. The Prime Minister has adopted this doctrine of non-interference for the Commonwealth of Australia. Listen to this resolution which was passed in 1848 -
That the doctrine of non-interference with the rights of property of any portion of the people of this Confederacy–
The Prime Minister, with every honorable member who opposes the Labour Party on this occasion, is supporting a Confederation of Australia, and not a Commonwealth or Federation. Do these honorable members contend that the Commonwealth is simply a number of sovereign separate States united in a compact under one single Government for mutual defence? Not at all. The mistake that our friends make is that they have not got out of their State swaddling clothes yet. They have been too long at home ; and it would profit us to pay their fares to the United States, where they could learn what a Federation means.
– Is the incoming Ministry going to do that?
– I - If I have anything to do with the incoming Ministry, i should not mind placing a certain amount on the Estimates for that purpose. What do these honorable members mean by States rights?
An Honorable Member. - What about the resolution of 1848?
– I - It is of no use to read the whole, because it is simply a slavery resolution claiming that the Commonwealth had no power to liberate the negroes. The Nestor of the American bar, Charlie O’Connor, declared that although the North fought the South for four years, the Commonwealth had no power to knock the shackles off the ankles of 4.000,000 negroes. The Prime Minister desires to shackle the ankles of the public servants. I know, as the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said, that the Victorian railway men, when the strike took place, were prepared to submit their case privately to any Judge of their own State.
– Any Supreme Court Judge.
– And And if that Judge decided they were wrong, the men were prepared to withdraw from affiliation with the Trades Hall. But the Victorian Government would not accept the suggestion ; the tyranny of despotism of these tin-pot Governments often over-rides nationality.
– I thought it was the sovereign people who elected the Government.
– Whe Where are the sovereigns? The people have the power, but what they want is less power and more sovereigns. On the question of States rights, I may quote the American case of a Cherokee Indian, who was arrested and sentenced to be hanged at the instance of a State. This case found its way to the United States Court, and Chief Justice Marshall gave a judgment to the effect that the State had no power to hang the Indian ; but the State hanged the rooster just the same. There is another case of two missionaries who made their way into territory claimed by the State of Georgia, and were arrested. When this case was brought to the Court, Chief Justice Marshall, whom all my legal brethren are quoting, gave his decision in favour of the missionaries ; but “ Hickory “ Jackson, who fought the battle of New Orleans, is reported to have said - “ Well, Judge Marshall has given his judgment ; let him enforce it.” Later on, as the United States grew older, they got respect for their own Courts, and began to obey the decisions just as Australia will gain respect in the case of its own High Court.
– We shall become civilized.
– Exa Exactly. The human family are savages ; there is no civilization. If two men are fighting on the street, there is hardly an aristocratic lady or gentleman who will not get as close as possible to see the fight out. I have given the Committee American decisions against the doctrine of States rights ; and there is no doubt that States powers are limited. The doctrine of States rights is that, at the formation of the Commonwealth, the States delegated certain of their functions to create the Commonwealth, but that they reserved the right to revoke this delegation, or any portion of it, at any time they liked, while remaining an integral portion of the Commonwealth - that they reserved to themselves, by this power to revoke, the right to resume all the autonomous powers they possessed before they entered the Commonwealth, and yet remain in the Commonwealth. That is neither more nor less than a nullification of Federation; but honorable members have not courage to say so, as John C. Calhoun did when he resigned from the VicePresidency of the United States, in order to declare his opinion in the United States 1 Senate. We, Commonwealthists, on the other hand, hold that every State is supreme within the limits of its own sphere, by the declared will of the people, as expressed in the Constitution; and that will properly manifested, as provided in the Constitution, can change the sphere. That is the doctrine of Federalists, and it is my doctrine. Is it the doctrine of those who are opposing the amendment?
– The Then, why do not honorable members preach that doctrine? In the Constitution the powers of the Commonwealth are distinctly and specifically stated, and the powers and rights of the States are limited only by the expressly declared power of the Commonwealth. Those honorable members, who are using the States rights argument, say - “We have no right to interfere in Victoria, because the railways are State property.” But in Victoria the other day there was started a tobacco monopoly, under which a lot of factories have been closed, and the services of a number of people dispensed with. I venture to say that the honorable and learned members for Indi, Northern Melbourne, Corinella, and Bendigo, if they were put in a room upstairs to-morrow, could so frame a Bill as to make that monopoly a State matter, removed from the operation of any Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. It might be that lawyers in Australia could not perform that feat, but I am ‘sure American lawyers could so arrange matters that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would be absolutely useless in such a case. Honorable members have not really gone into this question yet. It seems to me that we ought to allow this High Court, for which we battled so hard, and in connexion with which we pay salaries of .£3,000 and £3,500 a year-
– And other expenses.
– N - Never mind the cost ; the High Court is cheap. I hold that, if we can get justice by means of a High Court, when without it there is a danger of even one man being wronged, it is worth billions of pounds. Take another point. The American colonists went to war with England - and this is the very country from which State rights come. They went to war on principle, but did they fight each Colony for its own independence ? Certainly not,but each for the independence of all. as was shown by their joint action throughout that great struggle. Those acquired rights were never individually exercised, but remained under the rational authority created by the common fight for freedom. I propose to deal with this States rights theological brigade, as I call them. On its very face, the principle is self contradictory The Commonwealth has power to amend her Constitution, and I ask the Prime Minister whether we must consult the States Parliaments on .an amendment of the Constitution?
– There must be a majority of the voters in a majority of the States. The States are recognised to that extent.
– A m A majority of the people, but not of the States Parliaments.
– A majority of the people who make the Parliaments.
– The There is a difference between Sta,tes Parliaments. Take the “ dead-House “ in Victoria.
– Order !
– It It is all very fine, but this is a great discussion, and it is just these gentlemen who have opposed this proposal tooth and nail. Therefore, I say, take the “ dead ad -House “ of any of the States, members of which are completely dead, or dead and not buried, but left, through the art of the embalmer, as curios for future generations. What I want to show is that all the signs -and insignia of sovereignty are with the Commonwealth and not with the States - the power to coin money, and the power to amend the Constitution. All we have to do is to let the people amend the Constitution. I say that if States rights were intended to be preserved the men who made the Constitution would have put that in the very fore-front of the Constitution, and the Parliaments of the States would have had to give their consent before the Constitution could be amended. In the United States there must be two-thirds of the Parliament voting and three-fourths of the States Parliaments voting in support of the proposal before the Constitution of that country can be amended. We simply leave the matter to the people, and if we were to submit this question to the people of the Commonwealth of Australia, I should be prepared to go back to America if we could not carry it, and some persons would be glad to get rid of me.
– The honorable member ought not to imperil the motion.
– All All I ask is that the matter should be submitted to a referendum of the people. It is all very fine for honorable members to say that the country has declared against it. The Prime Minister, when at Ballarat, in the exuberance of his generosity, declared strongly for this, and we accepted it, but the honorable and learned gentleman’s numbers went down from thirty-four to twenty-five, and in the Senate they dropped down two, whilst our numbers went up from twenty-seven to thirtyfour, and there are more Christians to follow. This was at a time, be it remembered, when the great journals of this country said that we would be wiped out. In Tasmania the people at several little farming places would hardly listen to me. They said, “ You will be wiped out. There will be no Labour Party after the next election.” They believed these false prophets, but the result of the election was the victory of the Creator and Democracy on one side, and the defeat of fossildom and antediluvianism on the other. Do honorable members mean to tell me that a man must leave his own country before he can secure protection ? Some honorable members propose to declare here that no citizen of Australia shall get protection in the Commonwealth. If a man wants protection he must leave the States of the Commonwealth, and must go to Spain. Japan, or China. We are to protect a citizen of the Commonwealth in foreign countries, but we are not to protect him at home. I ask the Prime Minister whether that is to be the doctrine? The position is in a nutshell, and it is this : We allow’ the Commonwealth authorities to cross the States lines to punish violators of the Commonwealth law. Only the other day we crossed the States lines to deal with a few leaders of churches in this country who had been attending strictly to the Customs House. A few leading gentlemen in this country, who despise the Labour Party, were dipping their hands into people’s pockets through the Customs House, and we crossed the States lines to punish them. But honorable members say that, although we are prepared to cross the States lines to punish violators of the Commonwealth law, we have no power to cross States lines on a mission of love, mercy, and justice. The moment ,the Commonwealth proposes to perform an act of justice and righteousness the lines of the States rise up like the wall of China, and the shield of the Commonwealth power crumbles to the dust the moment it touches one of those lines. That is the doctrine which is preached. I have heard the legal members of the House, and, listening to the honorable and learned member for Wannon repeating a number of dry legal phrases, I was reminded of the American who many years ago went to England to have a look at the college where he was educated. When he came back his friends said to him, “ How did you find the old Professors ?” and he replied, “ I found one milking the barren heifer, and the other holding the sieve.” That is the kind of thing we have in this House. Our legal friends are afraid to step forward. They are afraid of their own shadows. They are always hunting for authorities. I find them in the library day after day, chasing for what some man said two thousand years ago. We have no desire to know what was said two thousand years ago. What we want is living men. I wish honorable members to look at the question from another standpoint. Suppose that the citizens of the States were sent to the front to fight in an unpopular war, and that on the return of these old soldiers, battered and bleeding, to their States they wrote to the Prime Minister and said - “ We want you to protect us,” and that in reply to his statement - “ No, look to your State,” they were to say - “ The State is the very institution which is persecuting us.” I submit that a Government which will not protect its defenders is only a deception. I contend that the Government ought to be sufficiently strong and powerful to reach out its arm to the remotest corners of the Commonwealth, and give justice to all. As we approach danger it seems to gradually disappear. The awful fear of what was going to overtake us frightened us. Some” honorable members have said that the Labour Party will not accept the responsibility of office. They may take it from me, sir, that we should be only too delighted to assume the responsibility of office if we had the numbers behind us. We would guarantee that within a period of three years from our accession to office prosperity and happiness would reign in this country, as it reigns in New Zealand to-day. Let me state the position of the Labour Party. We did not come into the House to say that honorable members are bad, but to say that- their arguments are bad. The best of good feeling prevails in the Chamber. I have the most profound respect for the wisdom of the House collectively; I have a great regard for the judgment of each of its members. We can all work together. Every law is the result of stipulation and compromise. The Labour Party has been faithful and loyal to the Government for three years and three months.
– The honorable member means that the Government have been faithful and loyal to the Labour Party. ‘
– E - Excuse me, we have had only that miserable £400. The time is fast approaching in this country - and I thank the Creator for it - when the Government will not be dictated to by the mercenary representatives of Mammon. We have made up our minds not to submit to such dictation. Humble and democratic as we are, we intend to ascertain the right. We are going to realize that right is might, and that the performance of human duties and human obligations, however unpopular, is the highest triumph of Christian civilization
Mr- CONROY (Werriwa).- On this occasion I really feel almost at a loss to know how to proceed, because on almost every other occasion when I have addressed the Chamber I have not known Ministersto have a mind of their own. For the first time in a period of nearly three years and a half we find them resolved to defend, as they assert, a certain principle. It comes almost as a novelty to one who, like myself, has sat in only one Parliament, and had experience of only one set of Ministers, to find them taking this stand. If we had had such demonstrations in the past there would not be on our statutebook to-day some of the measures which are defaming Australia and lowering us in the esteem of civilized nations. A reason for this legislation has now been given to us. From the Minister for Home Affairs we have had an admission that the men who have been dictating the measures have not been in the position of responsibility which they ought to occupy. The parliamentary rule is that every measure ought to be defended by its authors. But we have had an admission from the right honorable gentleman that for nearly three years and a half the Government have been running at the tail of the Labour Party, have been doing all that they were told to do, and have been as subservient as men could possibly be. Yet this is the return which they meet with.
– He did not say that, or anything like it.
– If he did not say that, it was so clearly understood that he stood here for a few minutes bristling with indignation.
– It is a gross misrepresentation of what he said.
– The honorable member will have a chance of expressing his view of the occurrence, and I have no doubt but that he will approve of everything that the Ministry has done. I cannot understand why he is parting from the Ministry on this occasion, unless it be for the very strong reason, given by the honorable member for Capricornia, that neither he nor the Ministry knew that this amendment was loaded, and that when they made this bold resolve on their part, they did not anticipate that any result disastrous to themselves would follow. A great deal of time has been taken up in discussing the amendment, on the ground of constitutionality, and on the ground of expediency. It has resolved itself into a motion of want of confidence in the Government.
– Nothing of the kind.
– T - They have made it so themselves.
– It was made for them, and they could not help themselves. The occasions on which a Ministry can be turned out are really very few. In the last Parliament, it was almost impossible to turn out the Ministry, because it had only to be shown that there was a majority against any principle which they advocated, when, lo, and behold, their belief in the principle immediately disappeared, and it was found that they had taken to heart the well-known lines -
A merciful Providence fashioned us holler,
On purpose that we might our principles swaller.
We had a hundred instances of their belief in that doctrine. In my opinion the amendment ought to be treated as a motion of want of confidence in the Government, as it is. At the present time they are not able to frame a measure which will command the approval of the House. Surely the Labour Party will not say that this Bill meets with their approval ? If it does, whydo they intend to vote for the amendment? The reason why other members intend to vote in the same direction is because the Government are not able to frame a measure which will meet with their approval. Other honorable members are very glad indeed to seize an opportunity of ousting the Government, because it does not possess their confidence. There is no doubt that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports - whatever he may say to the contrary - really feels that the Government has -not his confidence.
-°-That is is not correct.
– There is no doubt that the honorable member feels that the Government are not able to frame a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which will satisfy him.
– Let the honorable member speak for himself.
– The honorable member has declared the direction in which he intends to vote. Of course he intends to vote against a Government in whom he cannot have any confidence, otherwise he would not have stated his reasons for voting for the amendment. I presume that half-a-dozen honorable members who have formerly followed the Government are animated by the same reasons. They are all treating the amendment in exactly the same spirit. Some objection was taken to the statement of the honorable member for New England that he intended to vote for the amendment, not with the idea of supporting the Bill, but with the intention of destroying it. From his point of view he was on fairly sound ground when he made that observation. The immediate result will be - whatever a few short weeks may bring forth - to delay the further consideration of the measure. But I cannot understand the position of Ministers and others who last session told the people that this Bill would bring peace and prosperity upon the land, and that righteousness would flow from it. If they really believed that, why have they excluded from its operation a very large section of the community ? The Prime Minister should remember the words of Isaiah -
The way of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness shall be quietness and assurance all our days.
– The honorable and learned member is inaccurate in his quotation.
– He has assurance, but not quietness.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has, on two previous occasions, challenged my quotations ; but I have had the pleasure of showing him that there were marginal Headings with which he was not acquainted. If the Prime Minister had thought that there was a possibility of quietness and assurance for his Government, he would probably have taken a different attitude. The Ministry, howover, find the situation intolerable, and consider that there should be a re-shuffling of the cards. No doubt it is time that this legislation by three parties, with Ministerial control divorced from responsibility, came to an end. We have had too much of it. The members of the third party number only twenty-three out of a House of seventy-five, though possibly a few other honorable members may be in sympathy with them in regard to certain lines of their policy. They certainly deserve credit for having a platform and sticking to it. Personally, I believe that the carrying into effect of their views would, to a great extent, injure the class which they profess to represent more thoroughly than’ do members like myself.
– Ought not the electors to be the best judges on that point?
– Not always. The electors have not always time to study political questions, and so many of them, like sensible persons, try to get the advice of the wisest man available. No doubt the honorable member thinks he has wisdom, but if he were involved in a law suit, he would engage a member of the legal profession, and take his opinion rather than rely upon .himself; or, if he were ill. he would consult a doctor, and take his advice rather than follow his own inclinations. Thus many electors leave these questions to those whom they choose for their wisdom and capacity.
– That is evidently what the electors of Werriwa did.
– At all events, the opinion of the electors of Werriwa, as expressed by the very large majority of votes cast on my behalf, was extremely satisfactory to me.
– The honorable and learned member is sound on one policy, at all events.
– I will stand by my policy throughout. I do not think members of Parliament should meddle and interfere in everything. A parliament is not the epitome of human wisdom, and the more we leave men to manage their own affairs. the better. We cannot by any legislative act add to the wealth of the country, although we are continually passing laws to dispose of it.
– Why are we here, if not to pass laws?
– Not to pass laws for plundering those who are engaged in creating wealth. It is pur business rather to sweep away the barriers which prevent men from having equal opportunities. Not even the honorable member would say that all men are equal. I could test that by asking him if he knows any one more stupid, shall I say, than himself. If he answered “ No,” his opinion would be worth nothing^ while if he answered “ Yes,” that would dispose of his boast of equality. The honorable member for Gwydir appeared greatly grieved because certain members of the Opposition intend to vote for the amendment. He spoke of the degradation of those members doing - what? Voting with the Labour Party.
– But actuated by very different motives.
– Then I presume that when a thief takes something to benefit himself - but I shall not pursue the analogy further. The honorable member for Gwydir said that he believes that the Prime Minister is right in saying that the amendment is unconstitutional and inexpedient. What then is the honorable member’s motive for voting for it? Has there been any influence at work with him? Has a caucus been held? Is his vote controlled by the decision of the majority, so that he cannot give effect to his opinions? If so, he should not question the motives of other honorable members.
– We of the Opposition Party are all free to take our own courses.
– S - So is the honorable member for Gwydir on this very question.
– Let me remind the honorable member for Gwydir that a very large number of the members of the Opposition differ from the other members of the party upon this subject. Many of us treat the measure as one brought forward by a Government in which we have no confidence, and which we do not intend to support. It is not competent for Parliament to determine whether the amendment is or is not constitutional, and the arguments which we have heard upon that subject are beside the question. It seems to me to be perfectly plain that those honorable members who have been in opposition to the Government for so long must vote in such a way as to bring about a re-shuffling of the cards. We must vote with the honorable and learned member for Corio, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports ; because just as the Government has lost their confidence, so also has it lost ours. We are uniting on one common ground in expressing our want of confidence in the Ministry.
– If this is a no-confidence motion, why is the leader of the Opposition voting with the Government?
– If the honorable member refers to the right honorable member for East Sydney, I reply that he is quite competent to take care of himself, and to explain any votes which he may give. I am only showing that as far as some of us are concerned we look at the matter in the way I have explained. There are other members of the Opposition who do not regard the matter in the same light, although they regard the amendment as tending in the direction of a want of confidence motion. But before the situation reached its present acute stage they had pledged themselves to vote with the Government, and they consider that they must remain where they are. I trust that the result of the vote will be that whatever party may come into power they will have a firm determination to announce their policy and to stand by it.
– How does the honorable and learned member know that the Government are going to be ousted?
– Well, if the present Ministry remain in office I shall not expect to see another exhibition of courage from them. It has taken them three and a half years to get up this spurt of courage, and goodness knows how long it would take them to get up another. They have had such a fright that they certainly do not desire to see any repetition of the present state of things. If the third party is to come into office, let them exercise their opportunity as well as they can. They will receive a great deal of consideration from many honorable members, and if they stick to their platform in office as firmly and decidedly as they have stuck to it out of office, so much the better for constitutional government in the Parliament and for Australia.
– I spoke on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, and gave my views on the proposal involved in the amendment under consideration. I should not have risen now except that this is my only opportunity of dealing with some animadversions of the Prime Minister on my speech. I may say, in the first place, that within my experience this is the most good-humoured political crisis I have ever known. I think we recognise that that is owing very much to the urbanity ‘ and courtesy of the’ Prime Minister. But there is another reason which, if possible, goes even more deeply as a cause, and that is, that it is recognised that, whatever faults those who support the amendment may have, they are not engaged in a vulgar grab for office, as has been the case in so many of the crises one has known in the States Parliaments. It is to the credit of the Parliament of Australia that the first crisis of this kind has been marked by such excellent temper. There is not a vulgar grab for office, and there is not an attack upon the Government. Expressions have been used by the last speaker which I regret. The honorable and learned member will do himself more justice if he recognises that this is not a vote of want of confidence. What has happened is” that the Government wish certain words which have been inserted in the Bill to be carried. The principle of the Bill has been affirmed on its second reading. A certain compact body in the Committee says - “ We do not desire to have these words in the Bill.” They adopt that attitude and are acting in accordance with their well-thought-out views, whether they be right or wrong. The Government then says - “We will resign, and throw up the reins of office, unless those words are retained.” When we consider that one of the principal reasons which the Government has for opposing the amendment is that if it be carried it will be nugatory, what on earth ground have they for resigning? Surely there never was a crisis and a displacement of a Government for such a little reason as this. If the provision will be nugatory if carried, why not have it tested ? It will also be noticed that the Prime Minister has not - and very advisedly has not - said that he disapproves on principle of giving the Arbitration Court power to deal with public servants. He has put it merely that he doubts whether there is power; and secondly that it is inexpedient at the present stage. I do blame the Government for taking this attitude. Constitutionally a Government ought not to resign even if it does not carry its Acts exactly in the form in which it wants them, provided it can, in its opinion, decently carry on the King’s Government. Our constitutional position in Parliament will become ridiculous if, under such circumstances as these, where there is a popular Prime Minister, a Government which enjoys the general confidence of the House resigns for the mere reason that it wants to get a certain clause put into a Bill after the second reading of that Bill has been agreed to, and to reject an amendment which, if carried, will be nugatory. I think the Prime Minister will recognise that I have given an honest and independent support to the Government. I do not want the Government to be turned out. No matter what Government takes office they will be hemmed in by the banks of fate and necessity. Under our system of responsible government they will have to go in a certain course and with certain currents. This present Government would do the work as well as any that could be chosen from this Parliament. With regard to myself, however, the position is that the Prime Minister has flung at me a word which I do not like. Notwithstanding all his courtesy, he has called me - using a big word - a “ unificationist.”
– It is not a good word, I admit.
– It is a barbarous word, and the use of it is a barbarous unkindness to me. There are two ways of arguing. One is’ to attack the argument; the other is to attack the arguer. I cannot find in the speech of the Prime Minister, which I have read with care, any attack upon my arguments, but merely an attack upon the poor arguer, showing that he is not a fit man to present such an argument to the Committee.
– Oh, no.
– I think the Prime Minister has attempted to prejudice the arguments of those who are against him on this issue by making out that they are not loyal to the Federal system. I deny that. It is quite true that, throughout the Convention and afterwards, I insisted that the people of Australia were capable of a far greater degree of unity than was given to them under the Constitution.
– That is all that I intended to convey.
– The word “ unificationist” would imply that I wanted to get all the legislative power of the Commonwealth in the hands of the Federal Parliament. I have never taken up that position. I say, let us obey the Constitution ; let the Federation keep to its powers, and let the States retain their powers. If it should turn out that it is not within our province to do as we desire, we can loyally submit.
– Let the High Court decide.
– Yes. The matter could be disposed of very easily. The Prime Minister refers to that section of the Constitution which provides that the powers of the States, so far as they are not expressly transferred to the Federation, shall be reserved to the States. The point, however, is that no Stale had power to deal with quarrels extending beyond its own borders. Another statement of the Prime Minister was that I had expressed contempt for the decisions of the American Judges.
– Thai is, as applied to our Constitution.
– I do not think that the matter was so put by the Prime Minister. It is very easy to make a correction now. The impression conveyed by the Prime Minister was that, from my humble position, I had expressed contempt for the great series of decisions of the American Judges.
– I did not intend to convey that.
– The effect of the Minister’s remarks was as I have stated. I think that the decisions of the American Judges, which are useful and valuable, have often been the decisions of statesmen rather than of lawyers. I do not wish to undervalue lawyers under present circumstances, but I do not see where the contempt lies if I say that the decisions of American Judges have sometimes ignored the distinction between the position of lawyers and that of statesmen. What a tremendous expansion these decisions have given to the trade and commerce sections of the United States Constitution, under which the Federation has power simply to regulate trade and commerce. What have the Federal authorities done? They have taken under their control all navigation, even that upon the Hudson River, which passes through the State of New York alone. They have also taken over the control of immigration and transportation of all kinds; they have created an Inter-State Commission, and so on. The Constitution contains no provision to enable them to deal with these matters. I should like to know what members of the Convention of 1779 thought that such powers could be exercised under the Constitution. A number of honorable members appear to forget that if they want to take jam, they must sometimes also take the pill that is in the jam. That is what the Minister for Home Affairs, the only representative of Western Australia, seems to forget. Sometimes, when you are willing to swallow a certain clause, you forget that there may be certain concealed powers which will come to light in the course of time. Let me cite, for instance, the tremendous expansion given to the sections of the American Constitution in connexion with banking. From the mere power to levy taxation and borrow money the
Supreme Court of the United States have inferred the power to create a national bank - a bank of issue. Take the greenback case, in which the most extraordinary series of judicial decisions were given. First, the Supreme Court decided that no power to issue paper money was conferred upon the Federal Government by the Constitution. . Afterwards, the Bench was carefully packed, and the question was again submitted to the Court, which decided that paper money could be issued under the exercise of the war power in 1865. In 1884, when the war was over, and there was no excuse for issuing greenbacks, and no excuse for saying that the right of issue was in any way dependent on the war power, the Court decided that the issue of greenbacks was justified, by virtue of the power to borrow money conferred by the Constitution. I think that I am justified in saying that I have not expressed contempt for the American decisions, in alleging that the great Court of the United States - one of the greatest in the world - has diverged from the strict duty of legal interpretation and application, and has taken upon itself the wider duty of legislation. I stated that the Court had declared what the Constitution ought to contain, rather than what it did contain.
– The safety of the Constitution was secured by that means.
– The honorable member is quite right. The Constitution was strained to breaking point in the “ sixties,” and it would have reached that stage at an earlier period if the decisions of the Court had not amplified the Constitution. Now, to revert to my duty. The proposal of the Government is to leave the States railway servants in possession of the power to strike, whilst taking it away from other employes. If honorable members will look at clause 6, they will see that it is provided that -
No person or organization shall, on account of any industrial dispute, do anything in the nature of a lock-out or strike, or continue any lock-out or strike. Penalty : ^1,000.
By the definition of “industrial dispute,” railway servants are excepted from the operation of the Bill, and, therefore, they will not be deprived of the power to strike.
– Under a similar law in New South Wales, workmen still have the power to strike.
– I am speaking of the Government proposal.
– If workmen do not form themselves into industrial organizations, they still have the power to strike in New South Wales.
– I submit that the proposal, of the Government is to make it penal for any employes, except those in the Public Service and the Railway Service, to strike. Therefore, the employes on the railways will still have the power to strike. Looking’ abroad, and considering the extent to which industries have been placed under State control, and the tendency - whether it be right or wrong - to extend such control, I must say that if the meat number of employes in the Public Services of the States are to be exempted from the operation of the Bill, the Arbitration Court will be maimed, crippled and deformed, and be rendered to a large extent useless. I have been to Broken Hill, and I am sure that the honorable member for Barrier will bear me out when I say that there is a fence along the border between South Australia and .New South Wales. I have seen there a private railway running from Broken Hill to the New South Wales border, and a public railway running from the border through South Australian territory to Adelaide. Now there was recently a great drought in the Barrier district, and water for domestic purposes had to be conveyed in tanks from the sea coast over the public railway to the New South Wales border, and thence by means of the Silverton tramway - a private line - to Broken Hill. Suppose that during a time of drought a strike occurred among the railway employes on both the public and private lines. Under the Bill, as proposed by the Government, the Arbitration Court would be powerless to interfere in the dispute between the South Australian Government and its railway servants, because their jurisdiction would be limited to the dispute between the Silverton Tramway Co. and its employes. I submit, therefore, that when applied to a case of that sort, the power proposed to be conferred to compel peace, by the application of the law of reason, becomes mutilated. Where could there be peace, and whence could the people of Broken Hill obtain their supplies of water if the Arbitration Court had not a full power of control in such a case?
– Are not some things much worse than strikes, as, for example, the condition of a body of men who cannot strike - who are mere niggers and slaves?
– I contend that the Constitution does not draw a line of demarcation between Messrs. Cobb and Co. and Mr. Tait - bet ween the proprietors of coaches and the Chief Railway Commissioner. The true line of demarcation must be drawn between those troubles which arise in the course of a definite industry, and those which do not. Let us imagine - as is quite possible - that one State of the Commonwealth embarked upon the tobacco industry, and that the other five States did not. Let us further suppose that trouble arose with the employes engaged in that industry in the different States. How could we deal with five States, hampering the private employers in them, without at the same time controlling the State Government which carried on the industry? At the time of the Federal Convention there were plenty of State industries in existence. I understand that in Queensland the Government has given power to municipal bodies to engage in all sorts of enterprises, and it is very probable that these will be multiplied rather than diminished. How are we to preserve the “ peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth,” unless we are able to apply the powers of conciliation and arbitration to these industries as well as to others? I do not think that the Constitution was designed to favour State enterprises at tlie expense of private industries. That is what the Government really desire. They wish to bind the private employer, . and to allow the State employer to go free. I think the result will be very curious if those honorable members who favour the establishment of State industries work against the interests of the State employer, whilst those who, like the Prime Minister, oppose this amendment, really assist those industries. In conferring this great power upon the Commonwealth Parliament I hold that the Convention meant it to be an effective power. But it cannot be effective unless we are able to control all who are engaged in industry, irrespective of whether they are in Government employ or not. The Prime Minister asserts that we are exchanging the substance for the shadow. I maintain that, to a large extent, we shall be giving up the substance for the shadow if we exclude from the operation of this Bill the biggest body of employes in Australia. A number of cant phrases have .been used during the course of this debate. The honorable member for Darwin spoke well as to the absurd way in which it has been attempted to apply the’ principle of State rights. If because the Crown is not expressly named in the sub-section of the Constitution relating to conciliation and arbitration in the case of industrial disputes, we have no power to deal with the public servants of the States, what will happen as regards any quarantine legislation which we may enact ? Under the Constitution we have power to make laws concerning the matter of quarantine. But no mention is made in sub-section ix. of State officers or State ships. Let us suppose that an outbreak of small-pox occurred amongst either the passengers or crew of the Lady Loch, or some other vessel belonging to a State Government. What would be the position if the Prime Minister’s contention were right? When the ship entered Port Phillip Heads she would be boarded, and the medical officer would order her into quarantine. The officers on board could then say - “Oh, no; we are the servants of the State; why should we be placed in quarantine?” Yet, according to the Prime Minister’s exposition of the law, in no sub-section of section 51 of the Constitution is the State or its officers included, unless they are expressly named.
– I said that the State or State officers must be named, but not State citizens.
– Does the Prime Minister mean to say that there is no power under our Constitution to deal with a case such as I have mentioned? Of course. I have carried the matter to a reductio ad absurdum. If a specific reference to a State or the State power is necessary in each of the sub-sections of section 51, it follows that there must also be a specific reference in regard to the question of quarantine.
– But the Government officers upon a ship would not contract smallpox as State officials, but as individuals.
– Then, again, we have power to make laws in regard to currency and legal tender. But are we to assume because no mention is made of the King, or the King’s change, that if a person gives me a bad sixpence I cannot proceed against him? If that view is correct, where are we to draw the line? It is the merest pedantry to attempt to hamper us in regard to this proposal. If we believe in it. let us try it. No harm can result from that. If we do not believe in it, let us say so. Throughout the whole of .the Constitution there is a strong indication of a desire to include almost every matter with which a Parliament can deal,, and, where anything is not included, to make a specific exception in its favour. For example, covering section 5 says -
The laws of the Commonwealth shall be in force on all British ships, the Queen’s ships of war excepted.
If, in the absence of the concluding words of that provision, it was intended that ships of war should be exempted from its operation where was the need for this specific exception? Personally I think that the most interesting contribution to the present debate was the speech of the Minister for Home Affairs. It came with a breezyfreshness from the West upon our sultry discussion. Whilst listening to the right honorable gentleman I was irresistibly reminded of the old saying, “ When he gets the kettle in hand he soon makes the water boil.” The right honorable gentleman harped very much upon the intention of the framers of the Constitution. But, as has since been pointed out, the opinions which he entertained at the Federal Convention are of no importance now. What he assisted to place in our Constitution, however, is important. He helped with his team to swell the majority which we had in support of the clause, and we now intend to exercise our powers under it, so far ais it may be advantageous to the people of the Commonwealth to do so. In this Bill we are taking the power to deal with widespread struggles in the case of shearers, ‘seamen, and others which threaten society at its very base. We are also declaring that to strike shall be an actual offence. It seems to me, however, that in the opinion of the Government, if a difficulty arose in regard to the railway servants of the States, rendering it impossible for the public to travel by rail from place to place, or State to State, and for even the mails to be carried, we should be helpless - that no remedy would be open to us. If the Constitution were clearly against this amendment, I should willingly ‘submit to the position taken up by the Government ; but if it is not clear, and our power is challenged, we must assert that power, and leave the question of constitutionality to be determined in a peaceful way. We ought not at the first show of fight against our powers to surrender what we believe to be a right that has been placed in our hands. The system of Conciliation and Arbitration has come to stay and to be developed. It has, perhaps, extended further in Australasia than it has in other countries, but the fact remains that it is spreading in other lands. In 1900 a Bill was parsed in Canada to provide for concilation and arbitration ‘in ordinary disputes, and I find that on 10th July, 1903, a measure was passed in Canada to “ aid in the settlement of Railway Labour Disputes.”
– By compulsory or voluntary arbitration ?
– The arbitration is to be compulsory upon the signature of the Minister. Resort is to be had in the first instance to conciliation, but section 5 provides that -
In case the Conciliation Committee is unable to effect an amicable settlement by conciliation or mediation, the Minister may refer the difference to arbitration under the provisions of this Act.
The resort to arbitration rests on the will of the Minister,* and not on the will of the contending parties. There are words in the recital of the Act which appear to me to be pregnant and applicable to Australia. The recital sets forth that -
Whereas from time to time differences may arise between railway companies and their employes which the parties thereto failing to adjust, may result in lock-outs and strikes; and whereas railway lock-outs and strikes may interfere with the proper and efficient transportation of mails, passengers, and freight, interrupt the trade and commerce of the country, cause railways to fall into disrepair, to the danger of the lives of passengers and employes, and in various other ways occasion serious injury both public and private : and whereas it is desirable to aid in the settlement of such differences. Therefore His Majesty- enacts, and so forth. These are the very’ difficulties that we have to fear in Australia. Every civilized country is dealing with this problem; but the principal reason for the contention that the provision in the Constitution does not apply to States servants relates, forsooth, to some old maxim that the Crown is not to be bound except by express words. It is a grave mistake to assume that that maxim applies to the powers given by our Constitution. The old maxim was that if a statute interfered with property or rights, the Crown was not to be bound except by express words. But this is not a case in which it is proposed to interfere with the property, or to curtail the rights, of the Crown. It is rather a case in which it is sought to extend the rights of the Crown - to give the King power, with the assent of two new Houses of Parliament, to make laws having a range that prior to Federation was impos sible. The whole theory of the Federal scheme is that the King was unable, with the consent of the individual States, to effectively make laws for Australia as a whole. Under the Constitution of the Commonwealth that disability has been removed, and thus the question with which we are confronted is not one relating to the binding of the King. It is rather a question of whether he should be enabled to bind others. The amendment, if carried, will be of advantage to the King, who is charged with the custody and peace of this country, in carrying out his great responsibilities and great aims. It will be an advantage to him to possess this means of preventing those” sad industrial strikes which appertain to his own servants as well as to others.
– We are seeking only to preserve the King’s peace.
– Exactly. I find that the principle in regard to the Crown not being bound except bv express words has been applied in the United States, save that in place of the word “ Crown “ the word “ Government “ is used. In Black’s Interpretation of Laws, English authorities are quoted, and it is set forth that -
It is probably more accurate to say that the Crown is not excluded from the operation of a statute where neither its prerogative rights nor property are in question.
The position is different if the statute is for the benefit of the Crown. Black points out that -
It must also be observed that, although the State is not to be bound without express words or necessary implication, the same reasons do not apply when the question is as to the right of the State to take the benefit of a new law not expressly made for its advantage. Here the presumption is rather the other way ; and the Courts incline to give the Government the benefit of new rights and remedies wherever applicable. When general rights are declared, or remedies given by statute, the Government is generally to be included, though not named.
I think that all this pedantry - and I cannot refrain from so describing it - about the Crown not being bound except by express words may be safely ignored by the Committee. I would not venture to speak positively on these questions in view of the fact that there are others at least equally as competent as I am to express an opinion, who hold a different view. At the same time, I would say that I have listened very carefully to the debate, and that any doubts which I had when I first addressed myself to this question have been much lessened by what I have heard. It is remarkable that the opposition to this proposal is based on so many different grounds. We had the honorable member for Bendigo stating, I believe, that he approved of the application of this principle to State servants, but that he was bound under the Constitution not to agree to its extension to them. The honorable and learned member for Indi informed us that he had not made up his mind on the question of law, but that if we had the power he would disapprove of applying it. Then the honorable and learned member for Corinella informed the Committee that he had not considered the question of the advisableness of extending the Bill to the public servants, but he conceived that, as a matter of law, we had not the power to do that. The Prime Minister has not denied that he approves of the extension of the principle, if it be lawful to do so; but he says that it is not expedient in the present circumstances to apply it to the States’ servants. We have, therefore,’ opposition to this amendment on various grounds. I hope that those who vote for the amendment will be united not only in regard to the question of law, of which after all we are only second-rate judges, but as to the expediency of applying this principle to the great Public Services of Australia iti
– I do not think I should have occupied the time of the Chamber at this late stage of the debate had it not-
– It is a last dying speech.
– It is not a “ last dying speech,” as the honorable member will find before I have done. I should not have addressed the Committee had it not been that my name has been used very freely, not only in the press, but also on many occasions in this chamber, especially by my. I shall not say erratic, but funny friend, the leader of the Opposition. Under the circumstances, I think I am justified, even at this late hour, in saying a word or two on the question which has brought about this crisis.
– The leader of the Opposition can stand all that the Minister for Trade and Customs can say.
– The leader of the Opposition has not, so far, been able to stand what I say, because he generally runs away. I was glad to hear the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who intends to vote for the amendment, state that the amendment before us is not to be considered as a motion of censure on the Government. I am sure that, with one or two exceptions, there is scarcely an honorable member who does so regard the amendment. It in no way expresses any want of confidence in the past administration, works, and acts of the Government. I venture to think that the work done under the leadership of Sir Edmund Barton, and continued under the leadership of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, is unparalleled in quantity and in quality. It must not be forgotten that great work is necessary in the inauguration of a Commonwealth. The task of a Government is very different when dealing - with the ordinary measures and routine work initiated and carried on. in the various States ever since the granting of their Constitutions. Under an. entirely new Constitution a Ministry has a gigantic task, which requires more consideration and greater energy than many honorable members, and many people outside, who are apt to take exception to the administration of the Federal Government, have the slightest idea of. I think I am safe in saying that, at. the present moment, one of the members of the first Ministry lies in a very serious state in consequence of overwork during the first two sessions; indeed, the breakdown of several other Ministers was almost caused. The measures which are now on the statute-book of the Commonwealth reflect the greatest credit on the Government. It may be that every clause of these measures is not in accord with the opinions of honorable members opposite, or of other honorable members in the chamber. We know perfectly well that the Tariff Act does not meet with the approval of the Opposition, but the Government were sent to do a certain work for the people of Australia, and in spite of attacks and deliberate “stonewalling” on the part of honorable members opposite-
– This is a vicious attack.
– I rise to a point of order. I should not take my present objection but for -the line of argument that the Minister for Trade and Customs is adopting. I submit that the honorable gentleman is not in order in debating the whole past history of the Government, but must be kept strictly to the amendment before the Committee.
– I am waiting to see how the Minister for Trade and Customs proposes to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– There is not much difficulty in showing the connexion ; indeed, it is already shown. The honorable member who addresed the House before the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, made an attack on the Government in relation to their past work, and stated that the amendment before the Committee amounted to a motion of want of confidence. I am endeavouring to show that that statement is not altogether in accordance with fact. If, however, the question before the Chair is to be considered as a motion of censure, we know - and this only shows how erroneous was the view of the honorable member - that under such a motion almost any event in the history of a Government for years past may be discussed. In my opinion, this crisis has arisen at a time when, putting myself out of the question altogether, but considering the present position of measures before Parlia-1 ment, it was not expected nor desired, either by a majority of the members of this Chamber, or a majority of the people of Australia.
– This is a vicious attack !
– I am satisfied that almost every member of the party which has chosen to submit this amendment is in favour of the programme of the present Government; and how that party can take its present course at this juncture it is difficult to conceive.
– It arises from bad management.
– On the part of the Opposition. It has to be admitted that the situation is very acute at present, and honorable members may cast their minds back for a few moments in order to ascertain what has been the cause of the party, known as the Labour Party, taking such a concrete stand on an amendment of the kind. I know some honorable members may differ from me, but I believe the origin of all this trouble was the taking away of part of the franchise from the public servants of Victoria. When that step was taken I said that for any act of the kind, whether by a Federal Government or by a State Government, a time of retribution was sure to come. I should like honorable members who approve of the action then taken by the Victorian Government to place themselves in the position of the public servants who lost a portion of their franchise, and who are deprived of rights and powers enjoyed bv other men with whom they mav at times be working side by side. I feel satisfied that that step on the part of the Victorian Government brought about the unfortunate railway strike - a strike which must be regretted and denounced by every member of the community, no matter what his feeling may be in regard to the origin of the trouble.’ I will not say that strikes are necessary, but strikes do take place occasionally in the case of private companies, private individuals, and private firms. There is no justification, however, for any set of men to at any time strike against a Government in whose services they are.
– What else were the men to do?
– What these fellows are doing now.
– I do not address the members of the Labour Party as “ these fellows.”
– I did not mean the words offensively.
– The railwaymen of Victoria should, I think, have restrained themselves until an opportunity was afforded to redress their grievances at the ballot-box. A strike against the Government could not be tolerated in any community.
– The Parliament took away their votes.
– They took away a portion of their franchise, as I have said. I think it will be admitted that I have dealt with that matter fairly, and I have only stated what has been in my mind on the subject. I desire to say that in my opinion the action of the State Parliament of Victoria is, in the first instance, to be credited with having brought about the present’ condition of things in this Parliament.
– Then it is a Victorian storm.
– Yes ; but unfortunately the Victorian storm has extended beyond Victoria, lt has extended to the honorable member’s electorate, to other parts of New South Wales, and elsewhere. I also think that, considering the action of the past and present Prime Ministers, and of the Federal Government, in regard to the Labour Party, during the existence of this Parliament, the members of that party are not returning much for the consideration which has been shown them by the Government.- In saying that, I feel that I am entitled to speak with perhaps more authority than are some other persons.
– Hear, hear. No man has worked harder for them.
– Whenever I have worked for any section, or for any persons, I have always done the best I could for them. I have not said, “I am going to do this and that,” and yet have never done it, hanging on by the eye-brows to promises for four or five years. I have endeavoured to describe the position of affairs. Many have said that it is intolerable that there should be three parties in this House, and it is certain that there must be some give and take between the two parties, who are working together, if, the position is not to become altogether intolerable. I would remind honorable members that this measure has not been hung up for two or three months. It has been submitted honestly by the Prime Minister at the earliest possible date. No one can accuse the honorable and learned gentleman at the head of the Government of wishing to retain office, because he knew that if he was determined that this matter should be brought to an issue, it was possible that he would be defeated upon it. With the exception, perhaps, of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, every honorable member acknowledges that this Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is a good measure. And when this amendment is attempted to be driven like a wedge into the Bill, which is considered to be so good in every other respect, it seems to me that certain persons have almost taken leave of their senses, because the result will probably be that they will destroy the whole fabric they have wished to build up. Knowing that it was likely that insistence upon an amendment, such as this, would have the effect of destroying the whole Bill, would it not have been wiser on the part of those who are anxious to see a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill passed to have refrained from submitting it? I can claim that I am most anxious to have a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill passed. This is not the first Bill of the kind I have had to deal with, In the State of New South Wales this legislation was initiated by myself. As the head of the State Government I first agreed to my Attorney - General taking action in this direction, and such a measure is now the law in New South Wales. But to place the railway servants and the public servants generally under a State Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as has been clone in New South Wales, is very different from placing them under an Act administered by the Federal Government, because they are dealt with, considered, and paid by the State. I should have no objection if this were a parallel case. We have, for instance, to deal with the military and naval forces of the Commonwealth, and with officers of the Federal Public Service in every part of the continent, and we have power to deal with them in a Federal Bill, because we control them, and vote the money required to pay them.
– Would the honorable gentleman put the Military under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– No; I am not saying that I would. I am merely pointing out that the Federal Parliament votes the money for the Military Forces, and that the tendency in the future must be to equalize the pay of public servants throughout the whole of Australia, whether in the railway, or military, or general public services. What happened the other day in Tasmania when the Minister for Defence and the General Officer Commanding the Military Forces of the Commonwealth were there? Because there had not been an assimilation of the pay to members of the Military Force in all the States of the Commonwealth many of the men who were in the force in Tasmania are now out of it. When I had the privilege of acting for the Minister for Home Affairs I found that there was a great outcry in South Australia because the public servants were not being paid at the same rate as in other parts of the Commonwealth. The Public Service Commissioner of the Commonwealth is at present endeavouring to grade the service on one principle, and, I say, the time must come when persons employed in the railway services will’ have to be graded in very much the same way. But as things are at present I think it is the States that should deal with the matter, and not the Federal Government. If it were constitutional, I should have no objection, personally, to the railway servants coming under the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act. But, despite the arguments used by our leading lawyers, who have been about equally divided in this matter, I, as a layman, still feel that it is unconstitutional to bring railway servants or States public servants under trie control of the Federal Government in the way proposed. I feel that I am justified in voting against the amendment for two reasons : one because it is unconstitutional - and I have not the least doubt on that point - and the other because I believe that the effect of carrying the amendment will be to destroy a measure in which I, at any rate, take a very great interest.
– We may use the Federal Military Forces to shoot down strikers, but we may not use Federal policemen to keep the peace.
– The honorable and learned member is putting a very extreme case, indeed. I felt that, when arguing just now, he was submitting the most extreme cases on which he could lay his hands. I think there is a special provision in the Constitution dealing with the matter to which he has referred, because the Federal Government is empowered to preserve order throughout the Commonwealth.
– Is it not inconsistent that we may secure the peace by shooting, and that we may not secure the peace by reasoning?
– In one case there would be no interference with the States rights, as the States would not come into the question, whilst in the other case States rights would be seriously interfered with. Every one who took any note of what was being done will know that I fought against the Commonwealth Bill when it was before the people in New South Wales. One reason for my opposition to it was that I thought that the equal representation given to the States in the Senate would not be conducive to the best interests of New South Wales. I was not against States rights, but the proposal as submitted was too drastic, and should” have been tempered. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, I cannot be considered such an extremist upon the question of States rights as some others may be. Still, now that the Constitution is the law of the land, the Federal Parliament has no right whatever to step one foot ‘ beyond the border laid down in the Constitution to interfere with the rights of the States, and the States have no right to complain if the Federal Government do any act which is within the scope of the Federal power, and does not infringe State rights. I am one of those - and in this respect I differ a little from some of my colleagues - who believe that it is not wise to allow the States to feel to too great an extent that they can dictate to the Federal Government. My view is that the Federal Government, in reason and wisdom, should
deal with all their measures so long as they keep within their rights, without being dictated to by any State or States.
– The High Court will make us do that.
– I regret very much that there is not in the Constitution a provision under which this question could be referred to the High Court, in the same way as measures have been referred to the Courts in other parts of the world. It is useless and unwise to discuss a matter as we have been doing if the provision, sought to be included in the Bill, would be unconstitutional and of no effect.
– Then the fate of a Ministry might depend on a decision of the High Court.
– No doubt that has happened, and in more places than one.
– That is very wrong ; it ought not to be so.
– We learned from a cablegram in the press the other day that in Canada a completed Bill was considered by some legal authority - I suppose the Attorney-General - to be unconstitutional. What was done? The Bill was not taken into the Parliament to be discussed, but under their law it was referred to the Supreme Court to say whether it infringed State rights or not. The High Court is specially qualified to express an opinion on that point. It exists for the purpose of deciding whether Stale rights are being infringed or not.
– The High Court could only decide on a concrete case.
– In the case to which I referred a whole measure was submitted to the Supreme Court before it was submitted to the Parliament.
– It could not be done here.
– I regret that in the Constitution there is no provision under which that could be done. In all the circumstances, I think it is scarcely fair to the Prime Minister that the Labour Party should have placed the Government in the position of having either to back down - which, after the statements he made, -could not be done - or to go out of office.
– There was a fair fight at the general elections. We appealed to the people, and they gave us a majority.
– I do not say that there was not an appeal to the people, but I submit that, in a great many places it was not a very strenuous appeal on this point.
– It was so far as we were concerned.
– I know that in my electorate and that of my honorable friend, the question came up, but in a large number of the electorates throughout Australia it did not come up, and was not referred to.
– It came up in my electorate, and it was opposed by my opponent.
– I have no doubt that it did. I venture to think that if consulted their constituents would say to the honorable members for Bland and Yarra - “ Bring up this question in some separate form if you wish it to be dealt with, so that you shall not crush out of existence a measure which is so greatly desired by the people all over Australia.”
– We will all have to answer for our conduct.
– I think that every honorable member has the right to take his own position, and I am only complaining of the want of a little cohesion or a little give and take between the Labour Party and the Government. When I heard my honorable colleague the Minister for Home Affairs lecturing the Labour Party on the caucus, I could not help thinking that many and many a time he has been in a caucus. I suppose that every party which has existed has been in a caucus. I know that I have.
– They can leave when they like.
– I dare’ say that they can, but they have to answer for their conduct. The only part of the constitution of the Labour Party of which I have felt that I could complain is that which causes its members, as I understand, to sign a bond.
– Who told the honorable gentleman that ?
– I do not remember, but I know that I have been informed that every member .of the Labour Party has to sign a bond.
– The honorable gentleman can tell the man who told him that that he is a liar.
– If I did he might hit me. I do not see that there is the slightest harm in caucusing. I do not think that any one could raise the smallest objection to it. The movement for this legislation dates from the time when the men in this State were partly deprived of their franchise. I should not have referred to this matter had I not noticed that the Premier of Victoria in a speech made last night stated that I had approached him - and that is the only way in which his remark can be read - with a view to getting him to introduce a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill for Victoria. I feel that it was very unfair on his part to place the matter in that light before the public, because that is not the way in which the communication took place. I hold that if the Government of the State did what I conceive to be right they would introduce and carry through a Bill for that purpose. New South Wales, Western Australia, and South Australia have each a Conciliation and Arbitration Act, although it is not effective in the last-named State; and I understand that there is a prospect of Queensland getting a Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Under these circumstances, I think that Victoria should not stand out on an important question of this kind. If Victoria had such an Act on its statute-book there would be no necessity for dealing with this question here. The Premier of that State says that he is not going to allow its public servants to be interfered with by the Federal Government. I think that he is quite right in taking up that position, and I believe that lie will have the law with him. If he would only take the opportunity of dealing with the State servants in a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill there would be no necessity for the Federal Government to interfere in the smallest degree, even if they have the right.
– Will he give the State servants votes, too? o
– That is the one act to which I take exception. I wish to give a short outline of the way in which this matter arose with the Premier of Victoria. The communication was made in confidence, but that confidence has been broken, and, therefore, I have a right to place my side of the story before the House. A statement was made to the effect that the harbors and rivers, with the beacons and buoys, were to be taken over by the Federal Government, and Mr. Bent communicated with the Prime Minister with a view to get particulars, and to learn what the statement meant. The Prime Minister referred the matter to me, with the result that Mr. Bent communicated with me. I could not meet him on that day, and he was coming to my office on the next day. I telephoned to him, and he said that he would come over if I particularly wished it, but he asked me to go to his office, if it was not inconvenient, and I went over. The question which I went to discuss, and which we did discuss, was the question of what we intended to take over in regard to the harbors and rivers. After that question had been disposed of, and the matter of a sand pump dredge had been discussed, he asked me how the Government was getting on, and what was going to be the outcome of all the trouble. “Well,” I said, ‘‘if you would only do what you should do - introduce a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill - I do not think that there would be- any trouble.” He picked up a paper, which was lying on the table, and he said - “ Read that : That is my programme,” and in that programme were the words “Conciliation and Arbitration, on the lines of New South Wales.” That is how this matter came about.
– Has he ‘ announced that plank from the platform?
– The honorable gentleman ought to have got it pushed through in time for this amendment.
– I asked Mr. Bent whether I could speak to the Prime Minister, and he said - “Yes, and I shall send my Attorney-General to him.” But I do not think that his Attorney-General ever called. I did not go to the Premier of Victoria to ask him to introduce a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, as the report of his speech in the Argus makes out.
He did not want to say anything about the Federal Government, because it was in the throes of a crisis. Some time ago, however, Sir William Lyne had asked him whether his Government would pass a Bill for Arbitration and Conciliation. He had referred Sir William to the Attorney-General, but apparently he had not seen him.
I have described exactly what took place, word for word, and act for act.
– That is only a little yarn.
– I am sorry that it was put in that way, or that any thing was said about it. It was put as though I had gone and tried to get it done. I did not do anything of the kind. It came about exactly as I have stated. I telegraphed to the Premier of Victoria yesterday to know whether he was going to carry out this promise, or whether I could refer to it when speaking to-night, and I got the reply that his Government was not going to carry it out. That is the history of the matter. I wish to place myself right with- honorable members, I hope that the Premier of Victoria will not be annoyed because I have referred to the subject’; but he had no right to refer to it. It was a sacred thing so far as I was concerned, and I did not mention it to a soul, with the exception of the Prime Minister, until he referred to it in his speech yesterday. Therefore, I do not think he can blame me for having put myself right before the people of Australia. The amendment will, I presume, be carried*. The Minister for Home Affairs said last night that he had no official knowledge on the subject, though we must, I suppose, expect to receive such knowledge shortly. But how is the motion to be carried? When the Bill was introduced, the eloquent and able speech of the Prime Minister was replied to by the leader of the Opposition, who said that he intended to support the Government in connexion with the measure. Afterwards, in conversation with me as to the prospect of the measure being carried, the Prime Minister said - “ Surely there will be no trouble in connexion with it, because the Opposition are going to support it.” I replied - “ Do you expect the leader of the Opposition to bring his party to support you? You do not know him so well as I do.”
– That is ungrateful. I have saved the Government twice.
– I said-“ You mark my words, he will flutter along the surface– “
– Eighteen-stone flutter !
-“ But But when the time comes, you will find that the rank and file of the Opposition will club together for the purpose of defeating the Government.”
– That was quite unusual, I suppose, when the honorable member was in Opposition?
– The leader of the Opposition tried to play the game of the spider with the fly. He thought that he would get the Prime Minister into his web, and probably has succeeded, so far as the amendment is concerned. I think, however, that he will never catch the honorable gentleman again, because he will be known too well after what has taken place on this occasion. What happened a short time afterwards, when the leader of the Opposition went to Sydney? He was interviewed by a- reporter of the Daily
Telegraph, and, amongst other things, he said - because he knew I know him -
Sir William Lyne never thinks of that sort of thing. Fancy Sir William Lyne appealing to me to rally all my forces to keep good govern-. ment going in his precious person.
After taking the Prime Minister to task for having believed that the words he used here were the words of a truthful politician, of one who could be relied upon, as a promise given by the leader of the Opposition to the leader of the Government-
– Is the honorable member really sorry about this?
– I am not a bit sorry about it. Probably before many months are over the right honorable member will be more sorry than I am. I am only attempting to show the course which has been followed by him. Speaking of the members of his own party, he said -
If he judges in a different way from me, he will get no black looks from me.
That was a reference to the attitude of his followers on the front and second Opposition benches. Was not that an intimation to them that he was willing that they should drive the stiletto into the Government while he looked on ? Was he not virtually saying to them - “ I will technically do what I promised to do, but all the time I intend to prostitute the high position which a leader of an Opposition holds in every Parliament in the world” ? In my humble estimation, there was never anything so degrading as the promise of the leader of the Opposition to help the Government in connexion with this measure, while driving bts followers over to the Labour Party in order that they might destroy the Government.
– He did not speak for his party. “ Sir WILLIAM LYNE.- No doubt there are some members of the Opposition who will not consent to be driven.
– What about the followers of the Government ?
– Are there no defections from the Ministerial ranks?
– I shall refer to them presently. We were not supposed to understand the right honorable member’s attitude until three or four speeches had been delivered from the Opposition benches - speeches such as those of the honorable members for New England and Lang. What disreputable statements they put forward ! They stated that they were against the principle of the amendment, but that they intended to deliberately vote against their consciences, in order to defeat the Government, and to destroy this Bill.
– Hear, hear.
– That is the sort of opposition which the Government has had to face all the time. It is not fair warfare ; it is not straight-out, honest, honorable fighting. I,t is fighting from behind a hedge, from the shelter of a ditch, or from any other low place that honorable members can get into.
– What does the honorable member know about honorable fighting ? We know him of old. He should not harp upon that strain.
– The honorable member does me the honour to say that he knows me of old. I, too, know him of old.
– And the honorable gentleman knows my private opinion of him.
– I do not care what the honorable member’s private opinion of me may be. I have never had the pleasure of hearing it.
– Yes, and in the honorable gentleman’s private office. This man to talk of honour ! I know him !
– When the honorable member has recovered from his flurry and excitement. I shall proceed. I hope that the ardent Opposition whip will restrain him. It is not wise for him to fly into such passions. I wish to draw the attention of the country to the dishonorable political tactics which have been adopted by the leader of the Opposition and h?s closest followers. But, although I have expressed indignation and surprise. I am surprised at being surprised, because I do not think any one can be surprised at anything done by the followers of the leader of the Opposition, after the tuition he has given them, and the example he’ has set them. That is the position of affairs. We are to have, not an honest, honorable vote, but a vote cast for a double purpose, such as the honorable member for New England has described. I will give my friends of the Labour Party credit for voting honestly. I believe that they firmly desire that the Bill shall become law; but I think that they are. taking the wrong course. While they are acting honestly, those who ,sit on the left of the Chair are dishonestly assisting them. The motives of .the Opposition stare us in the face. They are going to help the
Labour Party to defeat the Government and then try to destroy the Bill. If their action on this occasion is not a clear warning to those who are supporting the amendment, I do not give them credit for realizing the position.
– It is simply horrible !
– The honorable member, no doubt, thinks lightly of it. He is so ready to do anything of this kind which is not in accordance with the ordinary ideas of rectitude that I am not surprised at any jeering remark he may make. I do not intend to speak at great length, as I have no wish to detain the Committee. I could not, however, refrain from referring to these few matters. Honorable members opposite have alluded to some of the members who usually support the Government taking a different course on the present occasion.
– They are, I suppose, “ disreputable members.”
– They are honest and straight. Honorable members opposite must not tell me that those who have sat so loyally behind the Government for three years would, unless they were quite convinced that it was their clear duty to do so, jeopardize the fate of a Ministry with which they have no quarrel. There would not be an attack made by them upon a Government which both the Labour Party and the usual Ministerial supporters desire to remain in office, unless those honorable members thought that a principle was at stake. They have assisted the Government in carrying through the Acts required by the Constitution, and I cannot be convinced that they are not acting honestly - every one of them - in voting the way they intend to vote. I believe that they would prefer to see those measures which are necessary to complete the machinery of the Constitution, carried out by the present Government, which, I venture to believe, the people consider to have done well during a very arduous and trying time.
– I rise simply to say a very few words about the attack which’ the Minister for Trade and Customs has made upon me in reference to the matter before the Committee. The statements which he has made are quite at variance with the published records of this House. Of course we know that when the honorable gentleman is in those affecting situations in which his position is seriously threatened, he becomes more or less frantic.
I do not wish to reply to any attacks he has made, because he is so thoroughly wellknown that it is unnecessary to do so. Unfortunately in Federal politics we have no roads and .bridges to give to honorable members, and, therefore, the Minister for Trade and Customs is not in the position of influence which he occupied in New South Wales.
– I do not think that the honorable member has much influence here either.
– I do not think I have, but I take my gruel in an agreeable fashion as a rule ; and if the honorable gentleman would only do the same, he would resume that appearance of amiability which makes him look almost interesting. We are all anxious to bring this discussion to a conclusion, and I do not propose to do more than read the statement which I made to the House at the beginning of the present session in reference to this important matter. When I announced to the House that I intended to vote with the Prime Minister, I made the observations which I shall read, because I foresaw something of this sort, and I was careful to define my position exactly. . I referred to the Prime Minister as speaking of this very amendment as one which the Government could not accept as it was an invasion of the constitutional rights of the States, and I said - i think that he is right, and i suppose that i have a right to express my opinion at any time i choose.
Then there was an interjection to which I replied -
Yes. i have no hesitation in agreeing with the views which the Prime Minister entertains, and so far from my desiring to seize any advantage from him in his position of embarrassment upon this matter, he will have my support. Of course, since one lives in danger of all sorts of recriminations
I had some prophetic instinct as to the exhibition to which we have been treated -
I wish it to be distinctly understood, in justice to some of my friends who voted in favour of the amendment to which i have referred, that i can in no way influence those who have given pledges to their constituents as to the way they shall vote. i hope that honorable members will understand that in that respect i speak only for myself. i leave honorable members on this side of the House to their own views, and especially to their own declarations to their constituents.
I do not think that any leader of a party, in announcing his intention to support a Government, could more clearly indicate than I did that the Government were to understand that I was simply giving to them an assurance of my own individual support, and that I would not exercise any influence upon the gentlemen whom I have the honour to lead.
– At this late hour I should not have taken any part in the debate but for the fact that, following on the amendment moved bv the honorable member for Wide Bay, there is to be another amendment, which last year was moved by myself, and with which my name was prominently associated. As I understand that it is the desire of the Committee to have the whole of the discussion upon this amendment, the second one can be moved immediately after the division, if the amendment now before the Chamber is negatived. But, from what I can gather, it is quite possible that the present amendment will be carried. Therefore it is just as well that I should say a word or two in case I may not have an opportunity at a later period. The debate has been only to a very small extent confined to the amendment. The discussion has developed into a general attack upon the Government. I regret that very much, because as a result it may happen that, out of the chaos which is likely to arise, there will not be a clear issue placed before the country in connexion with the defeat of the Government. For that reason it would have been much better if an attempt had been made to keep the debate well within the scope of the amendment. However, that has been departed from to a large extent, and has had the effect of prolonging the debate. I think the worst offenders have been the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Trade and Customs. They wished to know why the Labour Party were so desirous that the amendment should be adopted. The reason is that we feel that a general railway strike throughout the States would be disastrous. We can well remember the dire effects of the maritime strike of 1800; but a general railway strike would be attended with even more lamentable results. The railway servants of Australia number, roughly speaking, 70,000, and I ask, what right have we to place the ban of exclusion upon this large number of men? The Minister for Trade and Customs has accused the Labour Party of wrecking a Bill that would confer benefit upon a very large and important section of the community, and he has instanced the cases of the maritime workers and the bush workers. I have for many years been intimately associated with the bush workers of
Australia, and I know of no nobler-hearted men than are to be found within their ranks. Thev are not bound down by conventions, as are the workers in the large centres of population, and they have acquired a strong spirit of independence during their wanderings from one end of Australia to the other in search of employment. They know well that the Bill now before us would confer great benefits upon them ; but they would despise me as their representative if I showed a willingness to throw over 70,000 of their fellow-workmen in order to secure an advantage for them. Similar remarks would apply to the maritime workers. The Labour Party have been accused of unfairness towards the Government ; but I contend that there has never been any alliance between our party and the Government, nor has there been any attempt on our part to dictate in any shape or form to the Government. I challenge any honorable member to cite one instance to the contrary. It is true that we have had certain wellknown aims with regard to legislation. These have been put forward in our programme, by which we have always been prepared to stand or fall. As a matter of fact, the Government fought us most bitterly in regard to two matters which we regarded as vital, in connexion with the adoption of the colour line in the Immigration Restriction Act, and the contribution by the Commonwealth towards the cost of maintaining the Australian Auxiliary Squadron. In those instances the Government were saved by the Opposition. The leader of the Opposition stated at the time that it was only when his party were behind the Government that they were able to withstand us. We have just come from the country - from what may be almost regarded as a referendum, so far as the Bill is concerned. Almost every honorable member who was returned expressed himself in favour of conciliation and arbitration. In a few cases honorable members were not prepared to include public servants within, the scope of the measure, but the great majority were in favour of bringing the States railway servants under the control’ of the Arbitration Court. It is useless for the Minister for Trade and Customs to tell us that the electors have not had an opportunity to consider the proposal now before us. Quite the contrary is the case. In each of three States the Labour Party were able to secure the return of three senators by an overwhelming majority, and so far as these States were concerned, public opinion was clearly expressed in favour of bringing railway servants within the scope of the Bill. At the recent election for Melbourne one of the bitterest opponents of the proposal to bring States servants within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court was defeated by a labour candidate by over 800 votes. This result was achieved, despite the fact that the Melbourne electorate may be regarded as the fountain head of the opposition which has been expressed towards arbitration in any shape or form. Even SirMalcolm McEacharn conceded that conciliation and arbitration was a good thing, with the one reservation that railway servants should not be brought within the scope of the Bill. I might also point to the fact that the Labour Party is the only one in this House which has come back from the country with a large accession of strength. We have increased our numbers by seven.
– We came back as strong as ever - certainly not weaker.
– It does not matter where our increased numbers came from. The fact remains that the party which had declared itself in favour of bringing railway servants within the scope of the Bill has retained all its original members in this House, and has had an accession of strength in addition. In view of these circumstances, I am justified in stating that the verdict of the country has been clearly expressed’ in support of our policy. We have been told by the Minister for Trade and Customs that one of the principal objections to our party is . the bond to which members have to subscribe, and by which they are bound to accept the decision of the caucus. This is probably the last time I shall speak on this particular point; and I say unreservedly that any member in this House; or any one outside, who continually makes that statement, makes it either through gross ignorance or wilful misrepresentation.
– We shall hear it again and again.
– I suppose we shall ; and it is just as well that somebody should state the exact position.
– The honorable member might do so.
– So far as we are concerned, we are under no bond whatever. We are in a very different position from that of the Government and Government supporters. When we decide on a policy we decide on it as a party, whereas in the case of the Government supporters, it is the Cabinet who decide, and the supporters become humble followers.
– How often does the Labour Party meet?
– We meet as often as is necessary. If it is necessary to meet every day for the conduct of business we are patriotic enough to sacrifice our personal interest and convenience. I hope that every party in this Parliament, and every honor - able member, will have sufficient interest in the politics of the country to do the same.
– Are the members of the Labour Party bound by the decision of the meeting ?
– “ Yes “ and “no” is the answer to that question.
– I can tell the honorable member for Wentworth that on every plank in our platform the Labour Party are unanimous.
– They have to be.
– I said a little while ago - and I do not want to repeat the statement too often - that if the Minister for Trade and Customs repeats that allegation he does so either through gross - ignorance or wilful misrepresentation.
– Can a member of the Labour Party go against a plank of the labour platform?
– We do not go against a plank of the Labour platform.
– Can members of the Labour Party do so?
– Can an honorable member go against his election pledges?
– I ask a question - can a member of the Labour Party go against a plank of the Labour platform?
– I am asked whether a member of the Labour Party can go against a plank of the Labour platform. I say that any man- who comes into this House pledged to a platform, and then violates that pledge, is a discredit to the country, to himself, and to the House, and has no right here. I hope the time will never come when a member of the Labour Party will be so dishonorable to himself, hi’s country, and his colleagues as to violate the pledges he has given on the platform.
– That is all I asked.
– I can quite understand the feelings of the Minister for Trade and Customs. If I were in his position, and likely to be turned out of office to-night, I should, no doubt, feel as he evidently feels now ; and I do not say that with any disrespect to the right honorable gentleman. Last night the right honorable gentleman went to some trouble in an endeavour to show that the Labour Party has- been ungenerous and unfair, and I say that he had no right to assume such an attitude.
– 1 said that the Labour Party were ungenerous.
– Neither Sir Edmund Barton nor the present Prime Minister would give utterance to such a statement.
– That is nothing - I said so.
– No one has spoken in higher terms of the Labour Party than did the leader of the Opposition, when he was brought into contact with that patry.
– It was only just to the Labour Party.
- Sir Edmund Barton, and the honorable gentleman who now leads the Government, have spoken in similar terms; and it was ungenerous and unfair of the Minister for Home Affairs to make such a statement.
– I believed it, and I said it.
– I presume that when the Government introduced measures into this House, it was after due consideration and in the belief that they were in the best interests of the country. If the Government did not possess that belief - if I could bring my mind to think so - I could have very little respect for the members of the .Government.
– The honorable member used that argument last night in an interjection.
– It was not I, but the honorable member for Wide Bay who made that’ interjection.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon.
– I do not want to keep the Committee long, but I must express my deep regret at the absence of the right honorable member for Adelaide, on account of illness, more especially at a crisis like this. We know that the right honorable gentleman has taken a keen interest in the measure ; indeed, his whole life-long political career has practically been bound up in such legislation. Now, at the very time when difficulty has arisen, he is, to our deep regret, absent.
– The right honorable member ought to have a “ live “ pair.
– It would be only graceful and honorable to take that course.
– It has already been arranged to pair the right honorable member with one of my colleagues, who is present.
– In view of the fact that the Government may be defeated, I must take this opportunity to express my personal admiration for the courteous way in which, on all occasions, the leader of the Government has treated this House, and endeavoured to make the position of honorable members as comfortable as possible. I do not altogether agree with many points in the policy of the Government; for instance, I do not agree with their fiscal policy, as I have had to show on many occasions. In reference to the present Bill, while the Labour Party desire to have industrial disputes settled by reason instead of force, we are not prepared to make a sacrifice which means the exclusion of at least 70,000 workers from the provisions of the measure.
– I regret exceedingly that the Government have taken their present action in regard- to the Bill before the Committee. I quite agree with the measure, but it is the duty and right of the Committee to amend it as, in their wisdom, they think fit, and the Government should not, on such an occasion, adopt a “ stand and deliver “ attitude. I shall not detain the Committee at any great length. It is a pity that the position of the Government should depend on a question of interpretation, which gives rise to so much difficulty and doubt in the minds of, not only the lay members, but of the legal members of the House. It would have been better had the fate of the Ministry depended on a whole measure instead of merely on part of a measure. In view of the different legal opinions expressed, it is, in my opinion, a great mistake for lay members to consider the matter in its legal aspect. I find myself in the position of having to consider the measure for myself, apart altogether from legal opinions which have been expressed, and, having done so carefully, I intend to support the Government in the exclusion of public servants. When I was a candidate for election to this House, I stated, in answer to a question, that I was in favour of the principle of arbitration, and of its extension to the Public Service of the States. But subsequently, having given careful consideration to the provisions of the Constitution, I arrived at the conclusion that this principle could not be extended to public servants other than railway employes. I hold that the Bill can be extended to railway employes, because- they are employed in an industrial department, but not to public servants generally. It is, therefore, my intention to vote against the amendment now before the Committee, but I shall support an amendment, subsequently to be moved, to extend the Bill to the railway employes of the States. I favour the general extension of the principle of conciliation and arbitration to all’ persons, but I am not one of those who are prepared to vote for a provision which I believe to be unconstitutional. I was among those who opposed the Commonwealth Bill. I disapproved of several of its provisions, and did my best to induce the people of Tasmania to reject it. At the time of the Federal referendum, I was rather disposed to favour the principle of unification, but I resent the assertion made by the Prime Minister, that those who vote for the extension of this Bill to the railway employes of the States will cast a vote for unification. In my opinion, we have the power to extend the Bill to the railway servants of the States, and should give effect to it. If we desire to bring about unification, or to secure any other amendment of the Constitution, there is a constitutional means by which we may seek to give effect to our wishes, and we should not attempt, by a mere side wind, to secure any departure from the Constitution under which we live. It has been adopted by the people, and until it is amended I, for one, shall endeavour to the best of my ability, to carry out every provision which it contains. I should regret very much to see the present Ministry defeated. It has been said by some honorable members that if this amendment be carried it will be tantamount to a vote of want .of confidence in the Government, but in my opinion that assertion is incorrect. I believe in the ability of the Government to properly direct the affairs of the Commonwealth, and I should be sorry by any vote of mine to assist to put them out of office. I have, nevertheless, a public duty to perform, and I intend to discharge it. Many honorable members have emphasized the privileges of the State as compared with those of private individuals. I could understand their attitude if it were considered that we should infringe the rights of a British subject by declaring what wages should be paid to public servants in Australia. But whilst I believe in Government control over any class of employment, and consider that it would be a good thing for Australia if we had more industrial regulations, I fail to see why a State as an employer of labour should occupy a position different from that of a private individual or company. We are told that a Government always deals justly with its servants; that public servants can always appeal to the High Court of Parliament for justice. We know, however, that if an official is placed in charge of a Railway Department, a Defence Department, or some other branch of a State service, he from time to time advises the responsible Minister, and that in most cases his advice or recommendation is accepted. In this way the head of a department has full control of the persons under his charge. It is said that it is to the advantage of a private employer to oppress his servants, and the same remark will apply to a Commissioner of Railways ‘or to the head of any other department. I know of cases in which the salaries of railway commissioners have been increased because they have succeeded in reducing the cost ofthe railway system controlled by them. They have brought about that result by cutting down the wages of the workmen, by increasing the general charges, and, in short, by making the public pay ; but they have, nevertheless, obtained the credit of reducing the cost of the system, and as the result of their efforts have secured increases of salary.It will thus be seen that if, as has been asserted, .it is to the advantage of a private employer to reduce the pay of his workmen, and so to compel them to suffer hard- , ships, it- is equally to the advantage of a Railway Commissioner to do so. I did not speak on the second-reading debate, and I may, therefore, be permitted to state that I am in favour of the principle of arbitration, and that while I approve of nearly all the provisions in this Bill, there are some which I do not favour. I voted for the motion that the Bill be read a second time,” and refrained from speaking at that stage because I saw that there was practically no opposition to the motion, and that the measure could be dealt with in Committee. It seems to me that the Government should have taken up the position that if the Labour Party, or any other section of the Committee desired that the Bill should be amended it was unnecessary to make the question a party one. The Government might very well give way, so far as the proposal to extend the Bill to railway employes is concerned, even although they insist that it shall not extend to all classes of public servants. It is true that the Prime Minister raises a constitutional objection to the amendment now before us, as well as to the proposal to extend the Bill to railway servants, but if we, as a House, believe that we possess the power to extend the Bill to railway employes - and I feel convinced that we do - we should give effect to that power, leaving it to the States if they feel aggrieved to appeal to the High Court The States Parliaments, as a whole, are as reasonable as is the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and I think that they would abide by the decision of the Court. It has been said that by extending the operation of the Bill to railway servants we shall inflict a hardship on the States - that rates will be increased, and a heavy burden imposed upon the States Governments. But if the States deal honestly with their railway employes - if they pay them a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work - there will be no occasion for any increase of pay. On the other hand, if they are not doing so, we have surely a right to declare that it is time for the Public Service of Australia to receive full justice. I trust that some way out of the difficulty, so far as the political situation is concerned, will be found, for I should be sorry to see the Government go out of office. If we make a change the position will not be improved. As a matter pf fact we shall be in a worse position than at present, because I believe that many honorable members who will vote against the Government on this amendment are not sin- / cere in their support of the party which, has pressed it forward.’ I am not a member of the Labour Party, and I am a supporter. of the Government only so far as I feel that I am justified in giving them my assistance. That is the position which I told my constituents I should take up. I feel, however, that the Labour Party will be in danger if there is an amalgamation of other parties in the House with a view to defeat them. In the future they may find that they will not be able to obtain concessions, such as they have hitherto secured, as the result of having in power a Government imbued with democratic ideas. I am exceedingly sorry that the personal element has been imported into a discussion of this character. I like to credit others with being equally sincere with myself, and therefore I regret that motives have been imputed to some honorable members. We should recollect that we are here in the capacity of representatives of Australia, and that in speaking disrespectfully of one another we are reflecting upon the people of the Commonwealth, whose servants we are. I shall support the Ministry upon the first division, but upon the second I shall vote foi the inclusion of .the State railway servants within the four corners of this Bill.
– I do not intend to detain the Committee more than a few minutes. I concur entirely in the sympathetic references which have been made to the absence of the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, who was certainly the father of legislation for the settlement of industrial disputes by means of arbitration in Australia. He was the first to attempt to give full effect to a measure of this character, and consequently we all very much regret the cause of his unavoidable absence. I have no desire to traverse all the arguments which have been advanced during the course of this debate. It has been urged, however, that the framers of our Constitution never contemplated the application of sub-section xxxv. of section 51 to the public servants of the States. But the fact remains that we must abide by the Constitution. In this connexion I would point out that upon other matters, those who were responsible for the drafting of that instrument of government did not clearly express their intentions. For example, the States were led to believe that they were entitled to the return of three-fourths of the customs and excise revenue collected within their borders. After the establishment of the Federation, however, it was discovered that the Federal Treasurer was only bound to return to them their proportion of three-fourths of the Customs revenue collected by the Commonwealth, which is quite a different matter. As a result, two of the States did not receive the full amount to which they thought they were entitled. I merely mention this matter as one bearing upon the legal interpretation which is to be placed upon the Constitution. My own idea is that a Bill of this kind shouldcontain no restrictions whatever. The limitation which is contained in clause 4 is one to which I particularly object. I hold that we ought not to insert any restriction which will have the effect of preventing the public servants of the Commonwealth and the States from coming under its operation. Perhaps I may be permitted to dwell for a moment upon my own attitude in regard to this matter. It has been stated that grievances exist between the public servants of Victoria and the Parliament of this State, and that this condition of affairs has influenced the action of the Labour Party upon the present occasion. That is not so. Certainly it has riot influenced me. I entertained the views which I am now expressing long before the strike of railway enginedrivers occurred in Victoria. Nevertheless, I freely admit that that strike had the effect of bringing many honorable members into line with us upon this proposal, and no one can blame them for their action, They are all welcome. Every party which honestly believes in. its principles is glad of new recruits, provided that they share its views. But on behalf of the Labour Party I desire to say that we do not desire recruits who will vote with us to-day and desert us to-morrow.
Mr.- Crouch. - Surely the honorable member does not regard those who will vote with him as recruits ?
– The honorable and learned member, being a military man, has taken my remark in a more literal sense than I had intended it should be taken. In the Queensland Parliament I know that a large number of old parliamentarians complain of the power of the Civil Service. For years they have been urging that the public servants of that State should be granted separate representation, in order that the Legislature might be prevented from granting them more than their rights. Have honorable members in other States Parliaments had no experience of a similar character? In the Queensland Parliament the contention was that its servants should have separate representation to prevent them dominating the State Legislature. I desire to protect the States Parliaments against the civil servants, by transferring the powers which are at present vested in them to a judicial body which will have ample opportunity to investigate every grievance which may come before it. Believing, as I do, in State socialism, and holding that the general welfare of the people should be our first consideration, I am bound to embrace every opportunity to advance those views. If it be true, as some legal members of the House contend, that a railway dispute cannot extend beyond the limits of one State, it seems to me idle to introduce a measure of this character. If it does not apply to a railway dispute, how can it possibly apply to any other dispute ? If that contention be correct, apparently, the only case to which it can apply is that of an. industrial dispute with a squatter who owns a piece of land on both sides of the boundary line between two States. I appeal to honorable members to take a broader view of the matter. If strikes are disastrous both to the strikers and to the community generally, a wise democratic Parliament will seek to apply the powers which it possesses in the interests of the whole people.- I submit, respectfully, to the Committee, that the logical and straightforward course to adopt is to make no exemption whatever in this Bill. It is illogical to include the railway servants within its provisions, and to exclude from its operation the employes in printing offices, the wharf labourers, the dock labourers, and others. Let us include the whole of them. Let us wipe away all restrictions, and allow the High Court to determine whether or not our action is constitutional. Should it prove to be illegal, those who think with me will then be able to seek to remedy the evil, by endeavouring to secure an amendment of the Constitution by means of a referendum.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - pub The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative. Progress reported.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the Committee have leave to -sit again on Wednesday next.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa); - I presume that in view of circumstances which have occurred ,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to - That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table
British New Guinea Report, year ended 30th June, 1903.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In making this motion, in order that the Government may. take the action called for by the decision of the Committee, 1 desire, in ceasing to discharge the duties of Prime Minister, among the most onerous and arduous of which, and among the most honorable, is the leadership of this House, to thank honorable members from my heart for the ‘ assistance I have received from every quarter of this House in endeavouring to maintain standards worthy of the Parliament of Australia.
Honorable Members__ Hear, hear.
Question resolved iri the affirmative:
House adjourned at n. 8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 April 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040421_reps_2_18/>.