4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister of External Affairs been directed to the paragraphs in this morning’s newspapers to the effect that there is now a shortage in the meat supplies of the United States of America ? As this affords an indication of the growing opportunities for trade between Australia and the westem coast of America, will the honorable gentleman say whether the Government is disposed to favorably consider the appointment of commercial agents at, say, Vancouver and San Francisco, with the object of fostering closer trade relations?
– My attention was drawn to the matter yesterday by the Minister of Trade and Customs. The Government is fully seized of the importance of appointing commercial agents in America and elsewhere at the earliest moment possible, and my honorable colleague and myself are in consultation as to the best means of providing for that. ‘ As soon as the pressure of parliamentary business has been removed, plans will be matured, and steps will be taken in the direction suggested.
– In this morning’s newspapers is published the wording on the faceof the notes to be issued by theCommonwealth. Will the Acting Treasurer in future direct that such statements as to the notes must convey correct information on the subject? In the Age there is a proper arrangement of the wording used on the notes, the two signatures appearing on the same line, whereas in the Argus one is shown above the other. As the public have not yet seen a note, this discrepancy may cause confusion or mislead, and we have heard something about a contemplated forgery. Will the Acting Treasurer givethe matter consideration?
– The Government cannot control what is published in the press, and the Act specifically provides that thenotes shall not be photographed. A good deal of consideration has been given to this matter by experts, as well as by myself, and, in my judgment, the public will have no difficulty in distinguishing between a genuine note and any forgeries that may be attempted.
– Is it intended to send a detachment of Australian troops to take part in the Coronation ceremonies?
– The matter has not been considered by the Government.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs, in pursuance of a . promise made by previous Governments, done anything in the matter of granting land to the Paddington Municipal Council for the extension of its hall ?
– I have not yet done anything in the matter, but as soon as possible I shall visit Sydney to look into it, and hope to take the honorable member with me.
– I hope that, when the Minister goes to Sydney to deal with the proposal to grant to the Paddington Municipal Council a small piece of land at the rear of the town hall, he will inquire into a much larger question, the injustice done to the borough by the Commonwealth in paying no rates and taxes on the large area occupied by the Victoria Barracks, for which it has to provide surface drainage and pave streets.
– It is always an injustice when people get out of paying taxes, but there is no reason for us to violate the law.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Seeing that nearly three months have elapsed since the following question was addressed to the Prime Minister, upon notice : - “ As during the present year six millions of the State debts mature, and during 191 1 and 1912 a further fourteen millions mature, and during 1913, 1914. and 1915 a still further twenty-six and a-half millions mature, and so on, does he propose to introduce and pass legislation this session enabling the Commonwealth to at once enter upon the great and important task of taking over these debts”; and that the following reply was given “ The matter will receive consideration and the House will be advised “-Will the Acting Treasurer now inform the House -
Whether the matter has received consideration ?
Whether a definite decision has been arrived at? and, if so,
What steps are proposed ; and when will they be taken?
– The question is now receiving the earnest consideration of the Government, but it is not expected that legislation will be introduced to deal with the matter this session.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following reply has been handed to me : -
These questions involve a review of the Public Service Act.
The advisability of introducing amending legislation to deal with this and other matters affecting officers in the Public Service will, in view of the recommendations of the Postal Commission’s report, shortly engage the attention of the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Minister for Defence to give effect to the recommendations of the Military Board appointed to inquire into the School of Gunnery, South Head, and the accommodation of the officers and non-commissioned officers at the same. If so, when?
– The Minister is now looking into the matter, and hopes to be able to deal with it shortly.
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
What steps are being taken to secure the return to Australia of the little white girl referred to in the debate on the Expatriation Regulation Bill, who was taken to India by a native of that country and is there being brought up among the natives as a Mahommedan ?
– No action is being taken in the direction referred to.
Debate resumed from 19th October (vide page 4862), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The House may well be congratulated on the high tone which has been preserved during the discussion of this important measure. The history of the Parliament cannot be reviewed without the conclusion that it has performed services of value to the Commonwealth. Necessarily its work has been subjected to -considerable criticism, and it was right that the new legislative machine should undergo the test of fierce and searching examination. Although ten years is a brief period in the life of a nation, this age moves quickly compared with the slow movement of mediaeval times, and the decade which has passed has afforded an opportunity to determine how far the Parliament has fulfilled the expectations which its creation provoked. The verdict must be that it has done splendid service. It is unnecessary to enumerate the measures on the statutebook which have assisted to fulfil the ideal of the people for national unity, and the causing of the development of national thought, which is so essential to a proper federation. It was not to be expected that the parliamentary machine would work with absolute smoothness, and many of our Acts have not met wilh the public approval, while some have not stood the investigation of the High Court. It must be remembered, however, that this body is composed of representatives from six States, which), during their period of independence, developed each a public opinion of its own, and obtained individuality through the possession of a full measure of responsible government. But now more interest is taken in the doings and legislation of this Parliament than ever before, which is a good thing for the institution and for the Commonwealth. The two chief objects of Federation were the establishment of a uniform Tariff, with Inter-State Free Trade; and the creation of an efficient Defence Force. Our arduous labours have produced a Tariff which, although requiring amendment for the removal of inconsistencies and anomalies, has settled the fiscal policy of Australia, and is generally approved by the bulk of the people. In addition to that we have established freedom of commerce between the variousStates. We have gone a long way towards securing for Australia an efficient DefenceForce, both naval and military, which, of course, will have to be developed. Commercially, we can speak as one people sofar as our relationship with the outside world is concerned, and we have a common defence policy. It is the duty of not only this Parliament, but of every patriotic elector, to endeavour to build upthe Constitution in a way which will command the fullest confidence of the people. I can see no possible means of retainingthis continent for European people, and of offering an effective defence against invasion by an enemy except by strengthening the Federal power, and developing that national sentiment which is essential to enable us to speak with one voice. Through the achievements of scientists and inventors the world to-day is very different from what it was a few years ago. It has been brought into a close relationship, in fact, quite as close a relationship as was formerly the case with the segregated provinces of a single territorial nation. Owing to rapid means of intercommunication by steam and telegraph, we have to face leading nations, not only in Europe, but also in Asia, who have discovered within themselves an inherent strength, and who are reaching out for foreign conquest. It is only by strengthening the Federal union in respect to national life that we can hope to cope with these dangers and difficulties when they arise, lt is admitted on all hands that the Constitution, when it was framed, was a fine, well-balanced piece of legislation for that time; and I think it will be generally agreed that no pressure of circumstances compelled the people ot Australia to agree to a Federal union. Although its leading statesmen and politicians saw the necessity of establishing a Federal union, there was no” pressure brought to bear upon the people which would compel them to unite for their common defence. I am inclined to think that Australia, having regard to its large territory and its small population, federated a little ahead of the opinion of the average elector. It was necessary that such a Constitution should be placed before the people as would invest the Federal Parliament with only those powers on which there could be no real controversy, and which, after all, would not materially weaken the sovereignty of the State Parliaments. As was explained by the Leader of the Opposition in a masterful and comprehensive speech, and also by the Attorney-General in an able address, it was pointed out that the Constitution contained a provision for its amendment as public sentiment grew, and the necessities of commerce and of national life required the strengthening up of the Federal powers in certain essential directions. I believe that, to a very large extent, we have reached that stage when it is necessary that greater virility and larger powers in certain directions should be given to this Parliament. In my view, limited powers such as we have, in some directions, for instance, in the industrial sphere, are more dangerous than would be the absence of those powers. I think that, in endeavouring to hamper the will of this National Parliament, cramped as it is by constitutional limitations, there is a very great danger of our passing legislation which might be actually injurious to the people, whereas if our powers were enlarged, and we had a wider scope to meet the legislative need’: of the people, we could pass law? which would be extremely beneficial to them. I cannot see where danger lies in this Parliament strengthening up its constitutional powers, so long as it can be shown that that step is rendered absolutely necessary by our enactments. We, of course, do not agree with the politics of the party which is now in power. My own opinion is that if the organization had been as complete and as virile on our side as it was on the other side, the last elections would have resulted differently. But, after all, it is a question of trusting the people. In my opinion, a denial of the right of this Parliament, when it finds it necessary to endeavour to increase its constitutional powers, is an admission that it is not fit to be trusted by the people with the exercise of higher powers. That is why I think it is necessary that we should look at this proposal free from party entanglement, and in the interests of the people whom we, although differing in certain legislative views, were returned to serve to the very best of Ou ability. The question of enlarging the powers of this Parliament is certainly not a new one. In its early days, that is, before it had acquired anything like the experience which it now possesses, that step was advocated by some of our leading statesmen and founders of the Constitution. About two years ago, I, as a member of the Harvester Commission, had an opportunity of travelling over Australia. I found that there was a difference of opinion amongst the witnesses as to the real necessity of transferring to this Parliament the industrial powers now claimed and used in different ways by the States. In Adelaide there was a disposition on the part of various unions, according to their accredited representatives, to transfer such powers to this Parliament. In Victoria the same view was put forward by the accredited representatives of the various ironworkers’ unions. But in New South Wales there was a difference of opinion on the subject. A very able witness, who has since been elected to the State Parliament, and whose name is mentioned as a possible Minister - I refer to Mr. Trefle - gave some very valuable evidence, in which he expressed the opinion that the initiative in legislation should be held by the States, and the final power of appeal transferred to the Federal Parliament. That is. I think, a good scheme. The States Parliaments, since they understand local conditions and circumstances, climatic and otherwise, are in a favorable position to judge different characteristics. I believe that, in any case, an Industrial Appeal Court might harmonize the wages between the various States in case of unfair competition owing to different factories laws. That is a very good scheme, and one which was put forward by the Government at the last elections, but whether it is possible to divide the authority in such a way as would preserve the initiative to the States and the final appeal to the Federal Commonwealth is a matter on which I do not feel myself sufficiently well informed to speak, anc? un which I can hardly see that it is possible to make that differentiation. But if it can be done it seems to be an ideal scheme. I can find no precedent, however, for refusing to transfer these additional powers to the National Parliament. I have looked into the Constitution of the Central Parliament in various countries of importance, but I have found no such precedent for refusing a transfer of additional industrial powers to the Federal Parliament, except in the case of the United States. In the United Kingdom, of course, the Imperial Parliament has complete control of labour legislation in the Factories and Workshops Act.
– Has it not control of everything ?
– And they are trying to get rid of a lot of it just now.
– Yes, but only by transferring purely local duties to local legislative or administrative bodies. I think that the honorable member for Herbert will agree with me that in Queensland there is a very strong feeling in favour of a system of Unification, because a large number of persons scattered over that large territory think that by means of a closer system of local government they are more likely to get a greater multiplication of local councils or bodies than they can under present conditions.
– The same feeling is prevalent in other States.
– The conditions differ just as much in Western Australia as they do all over Australia, so that it is very difficult to say that a State boundary gives the State a better claim than the Commonwealth to deal in certain respects with this class of legislation. In France the National Parliament has had control of factories legislation since 1848, and its jurisdiction is supreme. In Belgium the fac tories laws extend to manufactories, mines, quarries, wharfs, the charitable and philanthropic institutions, and women and child labour. In Holland factories legislation rests with a supreme Parliament. In Switzerland this legislative power is divided between the Federal and Cantonal authorities, but the former appears to have the prevailing voice. The control of mines is left to the States, whilst the employment of child and female labour is regulated by the Federal Legislature. Inspectors are appointed by State and Federal Governments, with the right of final appeal to the Federal power. The control of railways and water power has been assumed by the Federal Legislature. In Germany the National Parliament _has complete control of all industrial legislation, and it has enacted laws regulating almost all branches of industry except fisheries and agriculture. In all the Scandinavian, as well as Latin, countries of Europe,- the National Legislature is endowed with supreme power. The United States is the only country in the world which furnishes a parallel to our present position. Its Constitution was framed 125 years ago.
– That is where they got our Constitution from.
– Our Constitutionone of the most modern in the world - has the greatest number of limitations to be found in any Federal Constitution. The Constitution of the United States was framed in a very limited sense for very much the same reason as our own Constitution was framed, and that is, because public opinion was hardly ripe for endowing the Federal authority with supreme power over all essential branches of legislation. I do not desire to cast any reflection on the constitutional powers of the United States, but I wish to point out that we in Australia, with the history of the world to guide us, should avoid as early as possible the dangers and the evils which have grown up in that country, owing, I believe, to the great limitations put on the powers of its Congress. The growth of private enterprise in the shape of trusts, combines, and privately-owned railways in the United States has brought about an unequal distribution of wealth and an unequal diffusion of property much more marked than in any other country in the world. The prosperity of the United States has a number of ugly sides to it. We in Australia should avoid the mistakes of that country, where 125,000 families, or 1 per cent, of the people, own more than half the wealth ; 10 per cent, of the middle classes own 3Z per cent. ; 38 per cent, of the poor own 13 per cent., and the very poor, or 54 per cent., own nothing. That condition of affairs has come about very largely because the Federal authority has been quite incapable of dealing with the large corporations and trusts which, as we know from the Herculean efforts made by President Roosevelt, to a great extent control the United States Senate, a body elected by the State Parliaments. One of my principal objections to the limited control of industrial matters given to this Parliament by the Constitution is that it carries no power or discrimination or differentiation over the wide area of Australia in respect of climate or local conditions generally. The Harvester Commission gave us a very good insight into the industrial conditions of the iron manufacturing trade, one of the most important in the Commonwealth, and every piece of evidence we took in the country districts went to show that under the rigid system of non-discrimination it would be only a matter of time before the whole of the manufacturing industries in country districts would be transferred to large centres, where the work could be specialized. That tendency should be seriously considered by this Parliament, in view of the advantages of decentralization. To my mind it forms a big justification for the extension of our industrial powers. The Commission embodied in their report statements made by some of the leading statesmen in the first Federal Parliament, to show that it was anticipated, even by the framers of the Constitution, that the time would soon come when it would be necessary .to strengthen up our powers in some of the respects now indicated by the present Government. In the first Parliament, Mr. Justice (then Mr.) Higgins moved -
That in the opinion of this House it is expedient for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to acquire (if the State Parliaments see fit to grant it, under section 51, sub-section 37, of the Constitution Act) full power to make laws for Australia as to wages and hours and conditions of labour.
Speaking in support of the motion, he said -
We have the responsibility of dealing with the Tariff for Australia, we have the responsibility of dealing with trade and commerce with .other countries and between the States, and we have the responsibility of dealing with the influx of alien coloured races. We feel that these prob lems, especially the problems of the Tariff, are so inextricably intertwined with legislative attempts to regulate wages, hours, and conditions of labour that we cannot “properly fulfil our functions in one respect without having power to deal with the other. With free trade between the States it will not work well to let one State have one set of laws regulating the wages, hours, and conditions of labour in that State, and toallow another Stale to have another set of laws dealing with those subjects within its boundaries.
The case was put by that gentleman in a way on which I cannot attempt to improve. He touches the very foundational reasons why we should have an accession to our constitutional legislative strength in respect of industrial matters. We have the full control of imports- and exports, and it is our duty to preserve a system of free exchange of trade and commerce between the States, and yet we have no real elastic power to carry out the two great fundamental purposes for which we federated.
– I hope the time will soon come when there will be no demarcation lines at all.
– That is another matter. lt has been urged that to transfer to the Federal Parliament industrial powers relating to factories’ laws, rates of wages, and hours of labour, will be to initiate a system of Unification. I can scarcely go to that extent. On the contrary, I believe that, as Mr. Justice Higgins expressed it, such a power is inextricably interwoven with the control of Inter-State and over-sea commerce. Even if this additional power is given to the Federal Parliament, the States as a whole will have just as important duties to carry out in their own spheres as we shall have in ours. They will have their railways, charities, education, police, mines, forests, and quite a number of other legislative functions just as important to the interests of the people as is the question of industrial control. I can scarcely see why there should be any more objection to the transfer to the Commonwealth Parliament of the power to regulate hours of labour, rates of wages, and factories’ laws, than there was at the time of Federation to the transfer to this Parliament of the right to control imports and exports and preserve a system of Inter-State Free Trade. In the debate on Mr. Higgins’s motion, Sir William McMillan, speaking from the opposite side of the House, said -
Since we met in the Federal Convention which framed this Commonwealth Constitution there lias been a very considerable evolution of thought with regard to certain matters that were then discussed. … 1 hold generally that everything that affects the rights and libertiesespecially the industrial life- of the community ought to be in the hands of the National Parliament….. I hail with delight this motion, and I trust the Government will have sufficient influence to get the States to surrender powers which they have now, so that we may deal with those great and far-reaching subjects.
The motion approximated very closely to the arrangement made by the late Government with the States at the Premiers’ Conference that they should consent to the transfer of. these powers to the Federal Parliament, and the late Government said that if the States refused to make the transfer it would be necessary for the Federal Parliament to ask the people to make it for them. In some respects the Bills that are now before this House do not differ materially from some of the proposals regarding this matter put forward by the previous Government. The honorable member for Angas, in his memorandum, also pointed out that an amendment of the Constitution would be necessary to give the Federal authority more effective control of trusts and combines. In the debate to which I have already referred, Sir Edmund (then Mr.) Barton the leader of the Convention, one of the draftsmen of the Constitution, and one of our highest constitutional authorities, said -
That there ought to be such a power exercised I am now convinced, and for this reason, that the grant of Inter-State Free Trade which follows the adoption of an uniform Tariff, is likely in many respects to be crippled unless the Commonwealth has power to deal uniformly with the -conditions of employment throughout Australia. . . . That this grant of the power should be made to enable us to meet the inequalities of condition, which ought not to occur amongst an equal people, I have, on full investigation of this motion, convinced myself.
These are very strong and weighty words, which cannot be regarded as having at that time any party complexion. I look upon them as the utterance of a statesman. After the Harvester Commission had very fully investigated one phase of this industrial question, the majority presented a report, and a minority report was presented by myself. The majority recommended -
That paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution relating to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State should be replaced by a paragraph giving the Commonwealth Parliament power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to industrial matters.
While in the minority report the following clause appeared -
That provision be made for the appointment of a Federal Court of Industrial Appeal from local or State tribunals to harmonize and adjust wages conditions in similar competing industries extending beyond the limits of a State.
– Would not the InterState Commission meet that case?
– Yes, it would be a very competent tribunal, and if it were constituted and took charge of the appeals I believe we should very largely get over our present troubles. After all, in the more populous centres we have Wages Boards. I believe that system is the most ingenious and efficient means yet devised of dealing with the industrial question in its initial stages. I can conceive of no better way of bringing employers and employes together than for representatives from each side to meet and discuss their difficulties one with the other. Each side can point out its disabilities, get a better knowledge of the other’s point of view, and each will gain greater confidence in the other. That system, however, like most other things that have an Australian operation and break down when they reach a certain stage, is good only so long as the Wages Boards keep within the confines of their own States, under their own legislation. There is bound to be a conflict of legislation amongst the different State Parliaments, each legislating for its own people and having different views as to the particular form that its enactments should take. That is the reason why we want some central authority, to see that the work of regulating industrial affairs, including the wages and hours of the people of Australia, is carried out efficiently, and also to act as a Court of final appeal which shall harmonize or co-ordinate wages as between the various States, in order to prevent one State from competing unfairly with another. The Inter-State Commission would be a very competent appeal Court.
– It could not go beyond the decisions of the High Court.
– The President of the Arbitration Court has now the final power to settle questions with respect to conciliation and arbitration on matters of fact. It is only In matters of law that an appeal lies to the High Court, and the Inter-State Commission would not in anyway interfere with the powers of the High Court in that regard. I see no reason why the Federal Parliament should not be able from the Seat of Government, whether it be in Vass-Canberra or Melbourne, to exercise powers in connexion with industrial matters. We have a central branch of the Post and Telegraph Department controlling the whole of the Post and Telegraph services throughout Australia. This is done by a subdivision of the work, and the establishment of responsible officers in the different States. There is no reason why a similar system should not be adopted to secure a proper control of our industrial affairs. If present methods were to continue to operate, it would only be a matter of time when we should be imposing similar provisions as to wages and conditions in the tropical north as in the temperate south. But if we are to develop this great continent, we can only do so by a just and reasonable discrimination to meet the requirements of the various industries concerned in the trade and commerce of the different parts of Australia. For these reasons I am in favour of an extension of our powers in the control of trade and commerce, and our powers of arbitration and conciliation in industrial affairs. I believe also that we should have larger powers to deal with trusts and combines: but that is a matter which may be discussed in Committee. I join with the Leader of the Opposition in regretting that we have not been given an opportunity to deal with these matters in separate Bills. The Government are proposing to deal with too many matters in the one measure. They propose to submit a complication of issues to the people, and in Switzerland, and in the States of the United States, in which the referendum is established in similar circumstances, the people have sometimes objected to express an opinion upon complicated issues, and have referred them back to the Legislature.
– Will it be more complicated to submit six questions than to submit one?
– During the last Federal elections; two questions were submitted to the electors, but they were clearly differentiated.
-i admit that the electors recorted an intelligent vote upon those twoquestions.
– I shall not discuss that now. but if the Minister makes that admission, he should have faith in the capacity of the electors to intelligently answer four or six questions. I have given my reasons for believing that we require . a strengthening up of Federal powers, and I hope that in Committee the measure may be so dealt with as to secure for it a more general support than it is likely to receive in its present form.
. -I have no doubt that the debate on the second reading of this Bill, and its dis cussion during the remaining stages through which the measure must pass, will be such as to reflect credit on this House and the country. But I point out that no other measure which has been before this Parliament more clearly marks the parting of the ways,It will, ultimately, be discussed and dealt with by the people of Australia, and whatever its merits or demerits may be, it will be considered practically from only one point of view. Judging by the speeches delivered by the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member who has preceded me, honorable members on the other side are not altogether united in the view they take of this proposal. There is a general feeling on both sides that something must be done to bring about industrial peace.
– That was proposed by the last Government.
– I am quite aware of that, but my point is that, apart from the discussion of this question in this Parliament, it will be fully discussed outside, not merely in the press, but in every town and township throughout Australia, and I am satisfied that, while in the discussion of the question here there may appear to be some agreement on general grounds, between both sides in this House, when the matter comes to be discussed in the country we shall be confronted with a solid opposition to the Government proposal, and this question will be fought out, not on its merits, but on the question of whether we should have Unification or not.
– Hear, hear ! So it will.
– I am glad to hear that confirmation of my opinion. However much honorable members opposite may seem to support this proposal in this House, we shall find them opposed to it in the country. I repeat that this measure, more than any other which has previously been considered by this Parliament, represents the parting of the ways. Sooner or later the real question which it raises must be decided, and the sooner the better. I shall not discuss the question of Unification this morning, because it does not concern me at all. Questions of this character evolve with the growth of the country. There are forces at work in Australia which are tending in a certain direction. Those forces existed long before Federation. They are the web and the woof of the life of the people. They will continue to work, despite what we may attempt to do, and must have their natural effect, however much we attempt to thwart them. These forces arise from the natural sentiment and fibre of the Australian people. They are inherent in us all as Britishers. To many, this land of their adoption is more than the country from which they came. Some have been born in this happy land, for Australia is a happy land, after all is said, and’ offers possibilities of happiness to those who are industrious and anxious to do their best for themselves and the country. Whether we are native-born, or have been in Australia so long as to have almost forgotten the country from which” we came, we cannot escape the fact that, after all, we are animated by British institutions, instincts, and traditions of a thousand years. We should not have had Federation in Australia for another generation or two if it had not been forced upon us. Federation was accomplished in Australia because without it it was utterly impossible to bring about Inter-State Free Trade. To induce six different Parliaments to agree to Inter-State Free Trade would be as difficult as it is to induce them to agree upon uniform industrial legislation. There is a section of the Australian people that is well informed. There is a section of those who love books, legal opinions, and law humbug; and a section that is independent of lawyers and constitutional writers. There is a large section in Australia that, setting all these things aside, is moved by prejudices, passions, and lofty aspirations. It is in the opinion of the people representing this section that we shall find the history of this country written, and not in musty lawyers’ books. When the Federal Convention sat in Adelaide. I used to stroll into the gallery to listen to the debates. I could nol help smiling when I did so, because it seemed to me so strange that a body of trained lawyers and able statesmen seemed unable to -realize the fact that they were trying to blend an English and a Yankee Constitution into one. We have in our Constitution a portion of the English Constitution. In this House, we make and unmake Ministers. We have some of the American Constitution, which is not so clearly defined. There is not a single line in our .Constitution that clearly defines where the authority of the Federation begins and the authority of the States ends. Whether the members of the Federal Convention honestly endeavoured to frame a Constitution is, in my opinion, a matter of doubt. I am inclined to think that there were too many lawyers amongst them. Unconsciously, perhaps, they were looking for opinions, and no two lawyers form the same opinion. It has always seemed a marvellous thing to me that when a lawyer leaves the arena, and is promoted to a seat on the Bench, he can always form a definite idea of what the law is. But no lawyer who is not on the Bench either can or will. I should like to know what magic there is in the taking of an oath of allegiance by a Judge to the King to bring about this marvellous change. The men who concocted our Constitution were not like the majority on this side, who have had no legal’ training, and who have spent the greater part of their lives in working at their ordinary avocations. With their rough mother-wit men of that stamp can. see much that is missed by trained intellects. We have blended the English Constitution with that of the United States, which is absolutely the worst in the world to-day. It was created under a nightmare of King George III., a fact which is not disclosed to us by the lawyers who discuss the question; and the corruption under it is a disgrace to the race. As the last speaker told us, the corrupt Senate has ruled that country, not only since Federation, but long before. Ever since the civil war that branch of the legislature has played into the hands of men with princely fortunes, whose object it is to rob the American people.
– In spite of all, however, the American people are very well off !
– If the honorable member and other Australians were subject to the iniquities of trusts similar to those which exist in the United States, they would. I think, have something very emphatic to say. Thank Heaven, however, the common sense of Australians will not permit such methods to be introduced here, no matter whether this
Bill passes or not. I have always been a great believer in the common sense of my fellow-countrymen j and I feel sure that whichever political party rules, they will never allow things to go wrong to the extent to which they have done in America. The honorable member for Parramatta, if he compares the trusts in Australia with the trusts in America, does not know anything of the contemporary history of that country. However, I am not here to give a disquisition on that phase of the American Constitution. The best Constitution in the world to-day is the British Constitution. I do not say that, so far as labour conditions are concerned, we in Australia are not better off than our British brethren ; but they have the power to alter their conditions within a year by means of the Parliament at Westminster, and the Courts would have to carry out the legislation as passed - a very different state of affairs from that which prevails here. British people have been trained under their present system of government for 600 years, and it has become the very warp and woof of their life. What did we do when we came to Australia ? Did we copy the . Yankee Constitution? No; we adopted our British Parliamentary forms, and all over Australia to-day they are in operation. We could not even tear ourselves away from the House of Lords, but created copies of that Chamber, going so far in some of the States as to provide for nominee members. The honorable member for Angas referred to the Federal constitutions of Germany. Switzerland, and other countries; but I have always held that there was a great deal in the contention of Guizot that it is impossible to combine in all its details one type of European civilization with another type of European civilization. We cannot blend the German type with the British type ; and I am afraid the results would be curious, to say the least of it, if we had a Constitution half British and half French. Such a combination would never suit us, because those who preceded us were Britishers. There is no need to quarrel with Frenchmen, Germans, Switzers, or any other representatives of European civilization ; but I have “always thought it of no use to attempt in any way to draw our examples of constitutional usefulness from countries alien to the English-speaking world.
– What about Canada?
– I am not speaking of Canada, but of countries alien to our race. I know that some honorable members on this side hold the opinion that we may in this connexion copy from all over the world, so long as what we copy is Democratic, but my own opinion is that, unless our institutions are of British growth and in keeping with our instincts, they will die out, although they may appear for a time to impart some strength. We have made a blend of the British and American Constitutions, and we might as well declare by Act of Parliament that two and two are five, or that three angles of a triangle ave not always equal to two right angles, as expect such a combination to be a success. What the opinions of honorable members on that side or this side of the House may lie is not to the point ; the opinion of the Australian people is what counts on a great question of this kind. I feel. certain, however, that the instinct for government which characterized our fathers has its grip on us in spite of ourselves, and that that instinct will kill this combination, this Federation; indeed, it is bound to do so, as sure as the sun shines. It is absolutely essential that the whole of the authority with regard to commerce should be taken away from the States and given to the Commonwealth. In the case of navigation, for instance, what would have been said if there could have been get together, .outside a lunatic asylum, a body of men who laid it down as a constitutional law that Inter-State shipping should be subject to the Federal authority, and intra-State shipping subject to the local authorities? In the Old Country the navigation laws are made at Westminster and administered by the Courts, because the Parliament says they must be administered. If the Courts give a different interpretation from that intended by Parliament, the next session sees an amendment, which the Courts must carry into effect. “Mr. Higgs.- The result is that there are more foreigners than Britishers on British ships !
– I am not dealing with that question now ; but the answer is a very simple one, namely, that when the English people desire an alteration they can make it, whereas we, under our Constitution, would be powerless.
– The British people ha-.e not the votes.
– The honorable member does not appear to know very much about the Old Country; but if it be interesting to him, I may say that only three reforms are required in order to bring the legislation there level with that of Australia in a generation. First, the members of the House of Commons ought to be reduced by one half ; then there should be payment of members; and, thirdly, the election expenses of candidates should be thrown on the districts. With these reforms I undertake to say that, not in twenty years, but in ten years, the Imperial Parliament would outrun the Parliament of the Commonwealth, for the simple reason that the former is free and not, like this Parliament, hampered at every turn.
– Why are those reforms not carried out?
– Because the people are not sufficiently awakened to the necessity for them ; but I think that if the honorable member were to “ stump “ England they would take his advice and carry the reforms within a week. The Navigation Bill now before this Parliament will not finally become law until it has gained the King’s assent. The Old Country is very careful so far as trade and commerce is concerned, and, though she will not bully or dictate to us, she will, by request, conference, and every other means, endeavour to come to an agreement with the Australian- people, so that there shall be one law throughout the globe. In regard to the domestic phases of navigation, the Parliament at Westminster will, with characteristic good sense, give us a free hand. What should we say if in England there were one navigation law for Ireland and another for Scotland? That, however, is just what there would be under our own wonderful Federal patent. The Australians are an intelligent, hardworking, community - merchants, traders, shipowners, and workers alike - and yet they are subject to a Constitution which, I venture to say, could not have been obtained elsewhere outside a lunatic asylum ; and we are compelled to take a vote of the people in order to arrive at common-sense legislation which will reflect credit on the country. The Navigation Bill, which will shortly be before us, is, in my opinion, a humbug, and will make us the laughingstock of the world, because of the YankeeBritish combination we call Federation. If, before we obtain authority from the
Australian people to control industrial conditions, we attempt to legislate for the repression of trusts’, we shall find that the High Court will declare our enactments ultra vires of the Constitution. Therefore it is idle for us to waste our time in endeavouring to frame laws in that connexion. Let us go straight to the electors, and say to them, “ If you wish the Commonwealth Parliament to do anything for you in the way of repressing trusts and combines, you must endow us with the necessary power.” Do not let us expend our energies in debating such questions as were put to me by interjection just now - such momentous questions as whether the American is not superior to the Australian. I know my fellow countrymen well enough to be able to say that they desire this Parliament to legislate alike for the benefit of the merchant, the trader, the mechanic, and the working man throughout the continent. They do not wish to see us pass shadowy legislation. We have had too much of that already. We have been accustomed to witness great-party fights, accompanied by a loud beating of the political drum. As a result of those fights, the people have been promised legislation to remedy certain evils, and I dare say the lawyers, with their tongues in their cheeks, have sat back and smiled, because they have realized that any such legislation would be practically vetoed by the High Court. There is nothing which will bring this Parliament more into public contempt than the suspicion - if it be once engendered - that it is trifling with their important interests, and that it refuses to courageously face the difficulties which confront it. I feel sure that, from the stand-point of the magnitude of the trust evil, Australia will never occupy the position that is occupied by America. I. am glad that that is so. Whether we get the relief that we desire during the present year of grace is not a matter of very great importance in the history of a nation. But certainly we shall . have no effective legislation for the control of trusts and combines until the power of dealing with them is vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. I have heard some persons say that the world will come to an end if the Commonwealth authority oversteps a certain line, and that the point at which Federal powers begin and State powers end cannot be defined. What arrant rubbish it is to declare that if a State authority crosses a given line it will invade Federal rights, whereas if the Commonwealth crosses another line if will invade
State rights. Is it not ridiculous to play with the people in this way ? The position is a simple one. Indeed, I have always held that it is possible to make our laws so simple that a child can understand them. At present, however, so much legal jargon is employed in the framing of them that the lawyers themselves cannot understand them. One has merely to sit in this Parliament and listen to its legal members arguing any question to discover that not two of them are in agreement. I hope that the Australian people will vest this Parliament with full power to legislate in regard to industrial matters. At the same time, I do not desire to deprive the States of any powers which they possess to-day. Time alone will determine the powers which each should exercise. This Parliament cannot go further than the Australian people choose to authorize it to go. They are beginning to feel that the Federal coat is tight, and they will presently tear at it. Let us ask the electors to affirm that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to deal with any question relating to trade and commerce, or with combines. 1 would like to see inserted in our Constitution a provision declaring that where a State law and a Federal law come into conflict the Federal law shall prevail.
– Such a provision is already in the Constitution. It is contained in section 109.
– But what is the value of it? Is it there to look at? There is certainly variety enough in our Federal Constitution. I am not complaining upon that score. But was section 109 inserted in our Constitution for the purpose of throwing dust in the eyes of the Australian people, or was it placed there because the framers of the Constitution recognised that if they made mistakes the people would credit them with having done their best, and would remedy them by amending the Constitution in any direction which they desired? So far, I confess that I have not seen any advantageous result from that provision in our Constitution which declares that where a. Federal law and a State law conflict the Federal law shall prevail.
– Effect has been given to it many times.
– I come now to the position which obtains in respect of industrial legislation, and so far as the great mass of the people are concerned, I ask if it is not a sham and a disgrace?
– Is the honorable member speaking generally?
– I am.
– Then I say it is not a disgrace.
– I hold that it is. Take the case of the Bootmakers’ Union. Some of us know what it has cost that body to engage in litigation, and we also know how the money has been raised. The union is not like a rich syndicate which is about to enter upon some big plundering enterprise, and to which a cheque for ^1,000 means comparatively nothing. This money had to come out of the hard-earned savings of its members. They have apples of Sodom in their mouths to-day. Is that a credit to this Parliament? This is not a party question, and I appeal to honorable members opposite not to regard it as such. When a member of this Parliament travels through any of the States, is it nice for the finger of scorn to be pointed at him, and for people to say, ‘.’ There is a member of the Federal Parliament which spends its time in enacting laws which afford no relief to the workers, and which are always declared to be unconstitutional by the High Court?” During the last election I was fortunate enough to enjoy a walkover. But, nevertheless, I delivered a number of speeches upon the question of the control of industrial legislation,- and several . manufacturers in South Australia personally asked my opinion upon it. I told them emphatically that, so far as I was concerned, I would not allow industrial legislation to be vested in any Parliament other than that of the Commonwealth for a single hour. I make that statement in the interests of the manufacturers as well as of the workers. Take the case of a Wages Board which some persons apparently regard as the panacea of all industrial evils. One of these bodies may meet in Melbourne with a view to regulating industrial conditions in a particular trade, and a similar body may meet in Adelaide for the same purpose. If the conditions fixed by either Board favour either of those manufacturers, what possibility can there be of industrial peace? This is not only a worker’s question; it is a manufacturer’s question. Wages are a fixed charge upon any industry just as are the wear and tear upon machinery. If a manufacturer in one State has to compete with a manu.facturer in another State, he ought not to receive any advantage from the stand-point of the wages which are paid in the industry. If he can beat his rival by adopting better business methods, well and good. In such circumstances, it would be wrong to interfere with him. But he ought not to secure any advantage from the stand-point of the wages sheet. In Australia to-day there are six States fooling with this question of industrial legislation. Money is being poured into the laps of the lawyers, who wrangle incessantly about it, and who appear intent upon demonstrating how not to secure a settlement of it. What relief is it possible to give to the Australian people until this Parliament has the power to control all industrial legislation? When we secure that power, we shall deal with, the question effectively, but not before. I do not think that we need trouble ourselves much about Unification or Federation. Perhaps in three or four, or ten years, we may have again to consult the Australian electors, and ask them to endow us with more legislative powers. What will be left of our Yankee Constitution in the end is a question for its Yankee framers to answer. It is their business rather than mine.
– It is the business of posterity.
– That is so. Doubtless, to use a colloquialism, it will go “up the spout,” where it ought to go. I have no doubt that the intelligence of the Australian people will be strong enough to induce them to see that there are enough law Courts in Australia, and that there is no necessity to create a. Court merely to harass the people. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am not reflecting on our Judiciary. No one has a greater respect than I have for the Judicial Bench, and particularly for that of the High Court. My complaint is not against the High Court Bench. I believe that they honestly interpret the law, and the last thought to cross my mind would be that the interpretation of the law by the High Court is not what it ought to be. My complaint is that we are putting these learned Justices in a false position, and compelling them to waste’ a great deal of valuable time which might be used for the benefit of the people.
– We are giving them bad tools to work with.
– That is so. The honorable and learned0 member for Flinders said last night, as he has repeatedly done, that he believes we are making a great mistake in working on these lines with regard to the Wages Board question and in interfering with what he calls the economic law that governs industrial life. It may be that he is right. Time alone will show. To my mind, however, it ought not to be difficult to set up tribunals capable of adjusting industrial differences and disputes. I am not a great believer in Wages Boards, but I would not altogether interfere, with them. They may do a great amount of useful local work; but the system in operation in New Zealand is the best of which I know. New Zealand has not only a Court to deal with industrial disputes, but three Commissioners having jurisdiction in different parts of the Dominion, and also a Board similar to our Wages Boards, to deal with disputes relating to conditions of labour. If the Board fails to effect a settlement, then a Commissioner looks into the matter, and these Commissioners have power to sit as a Court with an assessor. If they fail-
– They are abused.
– No doubt the right honorable member has been subjected to a good deal of abuse in his life-time, and so have I, but we do not look any the worse for it. Over and above the Commissioners there is a Court. There is no reason why the whole of Australia should be convulsed by a purely local industrial dispute. Under the New Zealand system the contracting parties in a local dispute would be brought before the Board, and if the Board could not adjust the difficulty one of the Commissioners would take action. These Commissioners are, as a rule, stipendiary magistrates, and their training is undoubtedly of service. I hope that the legal members of the Opposition will not take offence at the remarks I have made this morning with regard to the lawyers. My observations were in no sense personal or intended to be offensive. I recognise that those who have had a legal training have special ability for weighing evidence. In dealing with disputes they are of great service on the Bench, but not as wranglers. Under the New Zealand system the. Commissioners, as I have said, have had legal training, and in most cases there is a [ mod chance of their bringing about a satisfactory set- tlement. Where they fail, resort is had to a superior tribunal. Leaving the High Court out of consideration, for what do our Courts exist to-day? The Supreme Courts of the States, with a number of minor Courts, have a great deal of their time occupied in dealing with petty disputes. Those disputes no doubt are of great importance to the contending parties, and, since law and order must be maintained, there must be proper legal methodsof ventilating grievances and redressing them. But surely the industrial peace of . Australia is quite as important as is 50 per cent, of the work with which the time of our various Courts is occupied to-day. No one should complain if it be found necessary to increase the number of our Courts to deal with industrial matters; and in dealing with such work surely they will be just as well occupied as are many of our Courts to-day. Those who view with disfavour the adjudication of a Court on matters relating to wages and conditions of labour must not forget that this step is of only a preliminary character. No doubt for the next ten years there will be a great deal of contention, and many appeals to the Court, but at the end of that period the industrial community will have clearly defined lines on which to work, and an overwhelming majority of disputes will have been cleared away. Surely it cannot be argued that because industrial legislation will throw upon our Courts an increased amount of work it should not be passed. No doubt under this amendment df the law there will be a good many appeals to the Court during the next ten years, but there is no justification for believing that that increase of work will continue thereafter. The unions of employes on the one hand, and of employers on the other, will be familiar with the lines on which disputes have been settled, and any difficulty in regard to their agreements will be adjusted before the Boards or the Commissioners, without any resort to the Court. If we appoint a tribunal to regulate wages and conditions of labour for the Commonwealth, it must be in the interests of the people. It is unthinkable that in this fair country of ours any one should be called upon to work for less than a living wage. If we take a step in this direction, as I think we have a right to do, I fail to see why we should not go a step further, and fix prices.
– We made one attempt to do that, but it was held by the High Court to be ultra vires.
– Yes; but since we have a right to protect the worker from being sweated, surely we have a right to prevent the consumer from being plundered. We are not asking for that power to-day, but it must come.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that the Government were asking for it.
– No. We are going to ask the people to determine whether we shall have power to deal with such matters! I am not deeply impressed with what I call the shadowy legislation dealing with these matters. My contention is that we should make our legislation effective. The honorable member for Flinders said that he thought we were “ barking up the wrong tree,” so to speak, and that we should not ‘get what we expected from our Wages Boards and other tribunals for determining labour conditions and rates of pay. Time will prove whether we are right or wrong. It has always been my opinion that such legislation must diminish the purchasing power of the sovereign. A shorter road to our goal - but it cannot be taken until the people of Australia desire it - is the nationalization of banking. With the nationalizing of banking, we should find the economic law of supply and demand working out such a set of conditions that no manufacturer could compete with the Australian Government in the matter of cheapness. It is inevitable that we cannot go back to the days of our fathers, when the power of capital and the use of machinery made it absolutely necessary for the workers to combine in order to secure the right to live. The days of laissez faire have gone. We may have a long and a hard row to hoe, but we must continue on the lines on which we are working. To my mind, there is much room for a progressive country to work on these lines to-day. I doubt very much whether any material advantage is gained by the quotation of leading authorities on constitutional law, or other great writers. The Leader of the Opposition yesterday made a quotation from Freeman, in which he pointed out that it was an advantage that National Parliaments should have men trained in other assemblies, whose work is not of such transcendent importance.
– Every writer is only an authority in his own time and circumstances.
– No doubt. No writer in our own language is better worth reading than is Freeman. He clearly traces the origin of the greatness of our people. He shows how it began in the creation of small assemblies and local authorities ; that there has been a gradual building up since the Feudal days, and, indeed, anterior to them, for the desire for order and good government is in the very web and woof of the Britisher. It is difficult to understand how men should endeavour to escape from their very nature, as some people seem to do in these later days. 1 shall not detain the House further, for there is no occasion to go into details. Many of these matters have been previously discussed, and I should not have spoken at all, but that I did not wish to give a silent vote.
– I think it is time we came down to a little detail. I want, to see a case made out for this grant of power.
– Then I strongly advise my honorable friend to read the decisions of the High Court during the last six years.’ If those decisions have not proved right up to the hilt the necessity for an alteration of the Constitution in these directions, then I am afraid that no argument of mine is likely to convince the honorable member. I was anxious to speak in order to point out that it is useless to fight this issue on the ground of Unification versus Federation. We have to look to the fact that there is a certain movement in Australia, which is growing in spite of writers, in spite of eminent authorities, in spite of the men who pen articles in newspapers. There is a live movement among the people, and, as the result of it, ultimately and surely, our Federation, or whatever we choose to call it - the name is of no concern - as decade follows decade will come more closely to resemble on its legislative side the Parliament of our fathers at Westminster. We shall evolve a system under which, as the needs of the people require, Parliament will change the law and the Judges will interpret the law which Parliament makes. We shall have a system, simple, quick in its operation an3 effective if the people desire changes in the law to be rapidly achieved, or slow and cumberous when there is no urgent desire on their part in any particular direction. Ours is a Constitution that we ought to be proud of, and which is bound, ultimately, to succeed. But it may have to be changed many times before it thoroughly suits the requirements of our people. It would be well for these subjects to be discussed outside, so that the people may become acquainted with the matters at issue. It is not for me to predict what the result of the referendum will be; but this I will say - that if the referendum be unfavorable to the wishes of the Government and its supporters, nevertheless, before long the Australian people will give to this Parliament the power which it must possess in order to make our Federation effective and this Parliament what it ought to be - a body representative of the people, a true reflex of their mind, and capable of giving legislative expression to their wishes. If we do not obtain this power, we shall simply degenerate into a dignified and lofty assembly, in which grand and abtract questions are discussed in an academic manner, but incapable of meeting the requirements of the merchant, the mechanic, the worker in all directions. Without extended powers we shall be as incapable of fulfilling those functions as an ordinary Victorian shire council.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh may be complimented on the very vigorous and robust manner in which he has submitted the case for the Ministerial proposals from the Labour stand-point. He has not sought to disguise or to minimize in any way the possible consequential and ulterior tendencies of the proposed constitutional ‘ amendments embodied in this Bill. I agree with the honorable member in his concluding remark that this is hardly an occasion for indulging in academic discussion. There is no necessity to do so. This is not a Federal Convention. But on an occasion when proposals are made for radical and fundamental alterations in the instrument of government under which we live, it is but fit and proper - it is but justifiable - -that something should be said in defence of the Federal Constitution. The occasion demands some fuller exposition of the reasons for the proposed alterations than has yet been submitted to us. The very able speeches delivered yesterday, and those made this morning, tend to show the far reaching - indeed, the staggering - character of these constitutional amendments. There is more in them than appears upon the surface. Several of them are mee comprehensive and extensive, more significant and momentous, than is at first apparent. Sneaking as a Federalist, I think I can say that if these amendments are carried, they will mark the beginning of the end of the Commonwealth of Australia as a union of States. They will mark the beginning of the destruction and the degradation of the Australian States as political units and partners in a scheme for the government of the Australian people. It is regrettable to witness so many honorable members who support these amendments either wholly or partially, marching recklessly and joyously to the dismemberment of the Commonwealth. That is what it means, in my opinion. Disguise it as we may, pretend as much as we may that these amendments are merely intended to meet a specific case - to provide for matters as to which the State Legislatures have either neglected their work or have imperfectly pei formed their duty - there can be no doubt that if they are engrafted upon the Constitution they will deal a staggering blow to the State Legislatures and Governments. I should like honorable members to recall the opening words of the Federal Constitution. It is a sorrowful thing to hear the work of our own hands, the work of the hands of the leaders of the Australian people, ratified by the voice and verdict of those people, spoken of in this House and elsewhere so * slightingly and so disparagingly. The opening words of the Constitution are as follows -
Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Here is a constitutional partnership, not thrust upon us by the Imperial Parliament without our will, consent, or sanction ; but a deed of partnership drawn up in the first instance by the representatives of the people elected upon a manhood suffrage basis, and afterwards submitted to those people and ratified by them. We should never forget the preamble and recital standing in the forefront of our Constitution. It recites that it is firstly a Federal Constitution, and an indissoluble union under the Crown.
– The Constitution also provides for its own amendment.
– I presume that, although it provides for such amendments or alterations as may be found to be necessary or advisable to meet the growing requirements of the people, those amendments ought, at any rate, to be consistent with the Federal principle, and that any alterations or developments, whilst they may add new parti culars to the Constitution, should make no change in the essence or in the Federal character of that instrument of government. I was proceeding to show that these proposed changes are calculated, not to facilitate the orderly and careful improvement of the existing instrument of government, but tq introduce organic changes in the fundamental spirit and nature of it. If those changes are made bit by bit, instalment by instalment, as we have them suggested by the honorable member for Hindmarsh - now a little change, and then a little - what will be the result? The result will be that, although we may preserve the Federal character of our constitutional system in form, it will be dead in spirit, in aim, and in activity. If there be any such changes in contemplation, it would be better to deal with them by direct appeal to the people upon the general question as to whether there should be such changes rather than by a gradual introduction of insidious alterations which will sap, undermine, and supersede the powers of the States and destroy the Federal character of our system of Government.
– The honorable member believes in revolution rather than in evolution ?
– I am prepared «o consider any change that may be deemed necessary in our form of government if proposed in a proper manner, after proper warnings, and under conditions which will give the people an opportunity of understanding the real issue. But I should think that after a brief experience of only about ten years the time is hardly ripe for asking the people to reverse the verdict they solemnly arrived at in the early years of the century, when this Constitution was brought into force. I should like to refer briefly to one or two preliminary matters mentioned by an honorable member who spoke from this side of the House yesterday. He said, in the course of his address, that the Australian Federation was one of the weakest or the easiest Federal unions in the world. I venture to join issue with him on that statement. I deny the conclusion which he has drawn and the proposition that he has affirmed. I deny also that this Constitution has been drawn up in rigid adherence to the American model. No doubt resort was had to the American Constitution, which largely influenced the deliberations of the Convention that framed our Constitution. But resort was not had to it any more than was necessary in order. to meet the political conditions of the country for which wis were called upon to provide a system of government. I regretted to hear the honorable member for Hindmarsh refer to the “ Yankee Constitution “ of the American people. Probably the honorable member has not studied the matter sufficiently to know that that Constitution - whether he calls it a Yankee system or by any other name - was, at the time it was framed, deemed the very best to meet the circumstances of the American people under the conditions of their provincial life and their dawning national life.. It was the only form of government which could meet the requirements and aspirations’ of the people. The problem, then, was somewhat similar to that with which the framers of the Australian Constitution had to deal : how to reconcile the necessities of the national life with the preservation of the autonomy of separate communities. The framers of the American Constitution, therefore, resorted to what is known as the dual system of government, under which there is a partition of sovereignty as a totality, some sovereign powers being assigned to the central or Federal Government, and the residue reserved to the State Governments. Congress was invested with certain sovereign powers of wide national and general character, and the residue of the sovereign powers was left to the Parliaments of the States. That distribution was considered to be the best in the circumstances of the time, and when followed in our instrument of government was thought by its framers and the people of Australia to be the best for our requirements.
– The American Constitution was the best that they could get at the time.
– It was the best for meeting the necessities of the time. The great need then was a union for purposes of trade and commerce between the States, which was being obstructed by jealousy, and hampered by difficulties, leading to reprisals, and almost to civil war. So, too, in Australia, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh admitted, the desire for Free Trade between the States was the strongest motive for union. As to the statement of the honorable member for Flinders that ours is the easiest of Federal unions, I respectfully differ from him ; nor is it true ;that this instrument of government slavishly follows the American Constitution. In many respects it is more centralizing, and more specific in grants of power. It contains also supplementary or additional grants of power which the American Constitution does not contain. The latter is silent in reference to a number of matters on which the law has since been deduced and developed by judicial authority, but of which there is express recognition in our Constitution, grants of power being made in respect to them, such as the powers to deal with railways, navigation, and Inter- State means of communication. All these powers are expressly defined and removed beyond the sphere of doubt. Section 98 provides that the power to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of a State. Parliament may by any law with respect to trade and commerce forbid as to railways any preference or discrimination by any State, or by any authority constituted under a State, if such preference or discrimination is undue, unreasonable, or unjust to any State. Our Constitution expressly authorizes the creation of an Inter-State Commission,having power to execute the laws of the Commonwealth with respect to trade and commerce between the States. This Parliament is armed with express power and authority regarding navigation and the control of rivers, which is much more effective than the provisions of the American Constitution, and beyond the reach of judicial interpretation and diminishment.In two other respects is our Federal authority wider and stronger than that of the United States. This Parliament has express power to deal with industrial matters, so far as industrial disputes extend beyond the limits of a State. Congress has no power to deal with industrial matters in any shape or form. In that respect this Parliament is stronger, more representative, and more centralized than that of the United States. By another section, in addition to our power over commerce, we have a power over production, in the authority to grant bounties on production or export of goods. Congress has no such power. It is, therefore, hardly fair to say that our instrument of government is weaker or looser than that of the United States. The power to deal with commerce is vested in Congress in a more limited form than that in which it is vested in this Parliament. Congress has merely power to regulate commerce between the States and with foreign countries, but this Parliament has power over commerce, both Inter-State and generally. Our grant of power over Inter-State and foreign commerce, without limitation by the word “ regulate,” is wider than the grant to Congress. It is true that we have power to deal only with trade and commerce with other countries and between the States, and it has been argued that we should have had the same power to deal with commerce as was granted to the Dominion Parliament of Canada, in whose Constitution the words “ to regulate trade and commerce” stand without the “ InterState” and without the “foreign countries “ limitation. The framers of our Constitution, remembering that, they were expected to draw up a Federal, and not a unitary Constitution, recommended the people of Australia not to grant the power over trade and commerce without restriction, limitation, or qualification, but only such power as was necessary to deal with Inter- State trade and trade with other countries. No member of the Convention suggested that the power over trade and commerce should be unlimited. The business of the Convention was to unite the States in a Federal bond, and to secure Inter-State Free Trade. That was done by a provision in the Constitution stronger than any in that of the United State’s, to the effect that after a certain time trade and intercourse between the States must be absolutely free. There is no such strong provision in the Constitution of the United States. This Parliament is charged to do everything possible to guarantee Inter- State fredom of trade, and to prevent any State action which would interfere with or hamper it. Here I would point out that the trade and commerce power cannot be said to be an artificial distinction such as was suggested by the honorable member for Flinders, because the grant contained a full, free, and absolute power over trade arid commerce, without any limitation, except territorial. There was a full grant of power over all commerce of an Inter. State character, the only limitation being a geographical one. Surely a limitation of the Federal power to Inter-State commerce, not a limitation of articles or of classes of trade or commerce, but merely a geographical limitation to meet the Federal character of the instrument of .government, can not be said to be an artificial distinction. The control of all trade and commerce that is not Inter- State belongs to the State Parliaments and Governments, while the control of all trade and commerce that is Inter-State or foreign is vested in the Federal Parliament. In actual practice there ought not to be any very great difficulty in distinguishing, as far as is necessary for all practical purposes, the difference between the internal trade of a State and that trade and commerce which flows across the borders of one State into another. The outward visible signs and manifestations of commercial life show what trade can cross the borders, and what trade is confined within the borders. It was thought, and I contend, sensibly and fairly thought, that trade and commerce which begins and ends in a State ought to be left to the full, free, and unfettered control of its authorities, because, in such a case as that, no Federal question could arise. The State certainly ought to be trusted to deal with the merely domestic, provincial phases and developments of trade and. commerce within its own boun- daries, reserving to the Federal authority exclusive power to deal with commercial developments of a wider sweep, either Inter-State or with other countries. That is a logical partition and distribution of power. In the distribution of powers which is to be found in our Constitution, the same principle was observed as was followed in the case of the Constitution of the United States. In illustration of that proposition, I propose to quote from that celebrated article by Mr. -Woodrow Wilson, on the States and the Federal Government, which was quoted yesterday so effectively by the honorable member for Angas, from the North American Review for May, 1908, at page 688, and which I recommend to the study of honorable members who feel an interest in mastering these important questions. Referring to the principle of distribution, and in support of the contention that it is not an artificial, but a logical distribution, based on reason, common sense, and political necessities, Mr. Wilson says -
If the jealousies of the Colonies and of the little States which sprang out of them had not obliged the makers of the Constitution to leave the greater part of legal regulation in the hands of the States, it would have been wise - it would even have been necessary - to invent” such a division of powers as was actually agreed upon. It is not, at bottom, a question of sovereignty or of any other political abstraction ; it is a question of vitality. Uniform regulation of the economic conditions of a vast territory and a various people like the United States would be mischievous, if not impossible. The statesmanship which really attempts it is premature and unwise.
These are the weighty words of a critic of the Constitution. After reviewing the history of over one hundred years’ experience, he affirms, on political, philosophical, and logical grounds, that the distribution of powers between the States and the central Government was a proper one. I affirm that the principle which was followed in the distribution of powers between the States of Australia and the central Government was also a fair and proper one, and that, in the words of Mr. Wilson, if the jealousies of the Colonies had not stood in the way of a complete Unification, it would have been wise, it would even have been necessary to invent such a distribution of powers as has been actually followed. It was not solely the demands pf the people of the Colonies in favour of the reservation of certain rights which led to this distribution of powers, but the principle which we all ought to recognise, that in the distribution of powers over such a wide territory as this continent, it was only lit and proper that, whilst endeavouring to build up a strong national life, a central or Federal Government, equipped with all those powers of government necessary for the cohesive influences of a great community, we should not in any way sacrifice or impair the vitality of the parts. The whole Commonwealth cannot be any stronger or more national than it has been, or will be, strengthened by the vital energies proceeding from the outlying parts. And if we impair the parts as represented by the provincial life, then to the extent that we do so will the rational life suffer impairment. Returning to my criticism, the trade and commerce power was limited for two reasons; first, because the Convention granted to the Commonwealth Parliament all the power that was necessary for general or national purposes ; and, second, because it was deemed necessary and advisable to reserve to the States power to deal with matters which were purely provincial, and in which the Commonwealth as a whole might not be concerned. That distribution of power is to be found, not only in the classification given in section 51 of the Constitution, but also in the very form and structure of the organization of government. And prominent among the Federal features of the Constitution in that regard is undoubtedly the structure of the Senate. Why did the Convention, why did the people of Australia agree, to the creation of a Senate in its present form, and invest it with its present Federal powers? It was because the Senate was recognised as part of a Federal system. The strongest argument brought forward in favour of the creation of a Senate, based on ths principle of the equal representation of the States therein was, that it was to be the guardian of State rights and interests. It was though^ that in a Parliament, having jurisdiction to deal only with Australian matters,, and not having jurisdiction to deal with purely local matters, a Senate should be constructed on the principle of the equal representation of the States. I know that many of us had a considerable difficulty in fighting the battle in favour of that principle. During the whole of the Federal campaign we were forced to take the ground - and we had no other justification I admit - that ours was a Federal Constitution in which the States were to be represented as State entities; in other words, that the Commonwealth was to be, not merely a union of individual units, but also a union of the preexisting, sovereign entities, known as the States, and that those States, organized as autonomous bodies, were to be represented in a Federal Senate, not merely to exercise the functions of a second Chamber of revision and review as in a unitary Constitution, but to protect State rights and interests whenever they cropped up. Do honorable members think that the people of the larger States’ would ever have agreed to engraft on the Constitution the principle of the equal representation of the small as well as the large States in the Senate if it were believed that the Federal Parliament was to have the right to deal with provincial domestic questions? Certainly not. I, for one, would never have been, found fighting for the Federal Constitution, either in the Convention or on the platform, if 1 had thought that this Parliament, so constituted, was to deal with local, domestic, and provincial questions. 1 do not believe that the Federal Constitution as it stands would ever have been carried if the people of Australia had not been convinced that this Parliament was to deal with general leS- tions, and not with local questions. We are called upon now to grant power to the Federal Parliament to deal with local questions, that is, questions of domestic commerce, domestic industry and trade, and all that kind of thing. Some honorable members have referred to these Bills as marking the parting of the ways, and undoubtedly they will mean the parting of the ways in many respects, if they are carried. I venture to say to the representatives of the smaller States in this House and in the Senate that, as soon as the people of Australia wake up to a knowledge and consciousness that this is no longer a Federal system of government, but is gradually working in the direction of a Unification, in which this Parliament is to absorb provincial powers which ought to belong to the State Parliaments, there will be an irresistible movement started, not only to amend the Constitution by granting increased powers to this Parliament, but, as a consequence, to take away from the States the right of equal representation in the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– In further refutation of the suggestion that our Australian Federal union is one of the weakest forms of Federation, I should like to quote a much greater authority than myself, or anybody else in this Parliament,’ in Professor Dicey, the author of The Law of the Constitution. ‘ The appendix to the new edition, page 529, contains a complete analysis and review of the Australian Federal Constitution. I shall quote only one or two pregnant sentences, and invite honorable members to refer to the book. On the point as to the strength of our Federal authority and powers, and whether we represent a true Federation, Professor Dicey says -
The Commonwealth is, in the strictest sense, a Federal Government. It owes its birth to the desire for national unity which pervades the whole of Australia, combined with the determination on the part of the several Colonies to retain, as States of the Commonwealth, as large a measure of independence as may be found compatible with the recognition of Australian nationality. The creation of a true Federal Government has been achieved mainly by following, without, however, copying in any servile spirit, the fundamental principles of American federalism.
In another passage on page 531 he says -
The founders, then, of the Commonwealth have, guided in the main by the example of the United States, created a true Federal Govern ment; but they have, we shall find, as far as is compatible with the existence of federalism, imported into the Constitution ideas borrowed, or rather inherited, from England.
And on page 533-
The Parliament of the Commonwealth is endowed with very wide legislative authority ; thus it can legislate on many topics which lie beyond the competence of the Congress of the United States, and on some topics which lie beyond the competence of the Parliament of the Canadian Dominion; and it is here worth notice that the extension of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament is facilitated by the fact that on many topics the Federal Legislature and the State Parliaments have concurrent legislative authority, though, of course, where a law of the Commonwealth conflicts with the law of a State, the Federal law, if within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament, prevails.
I commend those passages to the consideration and attention of honorable members to show that, after all, we have a Constitution worthy of our admiration and support, and one which it ill becomes any member of this Legislature to unnecessarily depreciate or minimize. That passage shows that there is no justification for the assertion that we have a mean, miserable, and impotent form of Federal union. It indicates that we have greater powers of a Federal character than even the Congress of the United States and the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada. Let me refer to another statement made by two learned gentlemen in apparent depreciation of our Federal Constitution and in praise of the Canadian. It was stated that the Canadian Parliament had greater power over commerce than had the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, because the words conferring power on the Dominion Parliament were “ to regulate trade and commerce,” without the limiting words “ between the States and with other countries,” appearing in the Australian Constitution. I would, however, point out that that criticism ignores or disregards other portions of the Dominion Constitution which reserve in express terms to the provincial Legislatures control over a vast volume of the internal trade and commerce domain. Honorable members will see this matter referred to on page 544 of the Annotated Constitution, where it is pointed out that the provinces have power in the following matters : -
This shows that, although in the earlier part of the Constitution power is granted to the Dominion Parliament over trade and commerce generally, there are express reservations to the provinces cutting down that general grant of power. On these grounds I submit that it could not possibly be said that if the amendment now proposed is granted, it will merely be conferring upon the Federal Parliament the powers of the Canadian Dominion. If the words “ between the States and with foreign countries “ are struck out, it will grant universal unlimited power over trade and commerce, Inter-State as well as domestic, provincial, and local, to the Federation, without any reservation whatever to the States. It will have the effect of conferring upon this Parliament power to deal with the most minute matter of local commercial and trading concerns.
– What about navigation where we cannot interfere within the bounds of a State?
– By section 98 of the Constitution power over navigation is expressly reserved to the Commonwealth in these words -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of any State.
The honorable member must therefore be under a misapprehension if he thinks the Federal Parliament has no power over those great lines of communication which are necessarily a part of the avenues of trade and commerce between the States. The powers of this Parliament are quite wide enough to deal with all the great developments and ramifications of trade and commerce, so far as they relate to InterState interests, but certainly it was never suggested that we should go further, and give the Federation power to deal with railways, or rivers, water-courses, highways, and bridges within a State.
– And shipping within a State?
– I do not suppose there is much shipping in Australia so localized, confined, and restricted, as to be exclusively carried on within the limits of one State.
– There is plenty in New South Wales and Queensland.
– I submit that the limited amount of shipping and naviga tion that is carried on between the ports of any one State has been fairly and properly reserved to the control and jurisdiction of the States. At that time there were no grievances, complaints, or difficulties with regard to the administration and control of shipping and navigation within a State, nor am I aware that there are any difficulties or grievances at the present time in that direction.
– How does that affect the case of an’ injury to a sailor within the boundary of a State?
– Surely the honorable member does not admit that the State Governments and Parliaments have so lamentably broken down that they cannot provide for the granting of compensation to a seaman for any injuries that he has sustained within a State?
– That is the fundamental assumption of the Unificationist.
– It is a libel on the Legislatures of the States to suggest that they have not provided for all the multitudinous cases for the redress of personal grievances arising within the limits of their jurisdiction.
– They have not, and will not.
– At any rate; if it be true, as alleged by some here in, Australia, and by some in America, that the State Legislatures have omitted to exercise their powers in certain matters, and have neglected to carry out great or important reforms, whose fault is it ? Who is responsible for that neglect or remissness? It is the fault of the electors, the people of the State who have the management of their own affairs, the choice of their own representatives, and the control of their constitutional government. Surely they can control their own local constitutional development without resorting to an outside power such as the Federal Parliament to assist them in wresting liberal concessions within their domains? It is a reflection upon their intelligence as a Democracy to say that they want to appeal tothe Federal Parliament to grant redress of local grievances.
– The Upper Houses will not pass anything like the necessary legislation, and the honorable member knows it.
– But surely with the enjoyment of adult suffrage in most of the States, it is only a matter of time, energy, and perseverance for all the State
Parliaments and Governments to be able to redress local grievances without resort to the Federal Legislature.
– They have not done it in the last fifty years.
– We are living now in rapid times. In recent years we have had great reforms and great concessions. There is no doubt a great upward tide of Democracy throughout the world, but you cannot expect the State Parliaments to be suddenly revolutionized and straightaway grant the redress of all grievances. But the thing is coming. Signs can be seen in the various States. I, therefore, fail to see why it is necessary for the honorable member for Hindmarsh to suggest that an appeal must be made to the Federal Parliament to grant redress to a sailor for injuries sustained in his occupation- within his own State.
– Why should he not come here if he cannot get justice otherwise?
– The honorable member has been long enough in the South Australian Parliament to be able to explain the state of the South Australian law, and give reasons why there is any differentiation in it. I am not prepared at present to admit, without fair consideration
– Is not uniformity of laws desirable?
– I fail to see that it is desirable or necessary in all matters of personal, local, or provincial rights. I shall now refer to the various proposals seriatim, only briefly, because, in view of my general observations, it is not necessary to dwell on the details so fully as I otherwise should. It is proposed that the words, “ with other countries and’ among the States,” shall be struck, out of section 51 of the Constitution. The effect of that will be to nationalize or federalize the whole of the power over commerce ; and I submit that no sufficiently strong case has been made out for such a revolutionary and drastic proposal. It is quite within the possibility of legislative realization to redress all grievances, or alleged grievances, with reference to trusts, combines, and monopolies by another proposal, without unnecessarily enlarging the area of general control over trade and commerce. If it be found in actual practice, or from judicial decisions, that there are certain lines of contact, so to speak, in regard to commerce, partly local and partly
Inter-State - where the line of division is so narrow and refined as to make separation impossible - then I admit it is within the competence and right of this Parliament and the people - and they ought, in fact - to pass necessary amendments to meet difficulties as they arise. It may be that, with reference to one or two branches of trade and commerce law, or one or two aspects of it, there is some necessity for a clearer definition or specification of the Federal power, in order to remove doubts or give a wider range; but I submit that a few isolated cases or instances where re-: forms, amendments, or modifications may be necessary would not, and ought not, to justify this sweeping amendment. It may lead, possibly, to consequences which the promoters and framers of the Bill do noi contemplate, and probably do not desire. I remind them of the provisions of the Constitution relating to Inter- State trade and commerce, and to the provision for an Inter-State Commission. That Commission, when organized, will have authority to interfere with the administration of the State railways, and to prohibit differentiation or discrimination so far as may be consistent with the Constitution. The powers of the Inter-State Commission were laid down in the Constitution, and have to be read in conjunction with the’ limited Federal control over commerce also provided by the Constitution. The powers are now limited to Inter-State trade; but if the limitation is rejected or removed, then the Commission will undoubtedly have a much enlarged power, not limited to Inter-State trade over railways, but extending probably to the control of railways even within a State. In addition, it is possible that the Federal authority may be extended to navigation and shipping on rivers and on waters purely and simply within the territorial limits of a State. Of course, if honorable members are deliberately marching in that direction, it is just as well that we should understand the position. I submit, however, that we ought not to amend the Constitution in a sort of abstract way for abstract reasons and considerations, but that any amendment ought to be founded on immediate necessities and immediate requirements, and designed to redress grievances which actually exist, or which may be immediately prospective. Judging from anything we have heard suggested, either in this Legislature or any of the Courts, there is no necessity for this extraordinary enlargement of the Federal power, and this extraordinary shrinkage of the State or provincial authority. Honorable members would hardly contemplate or intend that the Federal Parliament should have jurisdiction over shops, saloons, auctioneers’ and pedlars’ licences, municipal markets, cattle markets, pig markets, fruit markets, and other trade and traffic of a State; and yet that will be the result if the amendment be carried. The consequence will be that our burden, as a Federal Legislature, apart from the objection of wresting the power from the States, will be unduly increased.
– The honorable member does not think for a moment that we would exercise the power?
– It will then be provided for in the Constitution.
– But we would not take the duty over.
– That is not the point. If we give the Federal Parliament that power, candidates may be asked their opinion on all such questions at every Federal election; and if some small community has not got its way in reference to some little local matter - possibly involving a market - it will make a great and burning question of it. Instead of the Federal, election being decided on great national questions we shall have those issues embarrassed, burdened, and disturbed, probably, by many local issues from which Federal candidates could no longer escape by saying they were not within the Federal authority.
– We have for ten years had power to take over lighthouses, and have not done so !
– But that is a Federal authority and power, and several Bills have been brought in to that end - one by the late Government and one by the present Government, which, no doubt, will be carried. What I am objecting to is the conferring on the Federal Parliament of a power which is not necessary at present for the redress of any grievances or for the benefit of the public in any shape or form.
Mr.W. H. Irvine. - Has power over any of the local matters mentioned ever been claimed under the Constitution of Canada ?
– I pointed out that under the Constitution of Canada all such matters are specially reserved to the States.
– Most of them would come under the . police powers of the State.
– The police power is a sort of abstract power which finds no place in any Constitution that I know of ; it is a deduction from the powers reserved to the States by the Constitution. But the power of dealing with commerce generally is much wider under the Australian Constitution than it is under the Constitution of Canada; and there is no analogy between the position there and the proposal here to grant unlimited control. Here we have no reservation in favour of the State authorities; and the Federal Parliament will be called upon, from time to time, to interfere in those provincial and municipal questions which ought to be reserved to the States, and with which. the Federal Parliament and Federal members ought not to be worried.
– In view of the decisions of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Maryland, and in the cigarette case, does the honorable member say that there is anything short of this power that will give us what we desire?
– The power of taxation is general. I presume, however, that it will not be exercised merely for the purpose of interfering with local self government, but only for the purpose of raising money.
– Is not the trade and commerce power exactly in the same position ?
– The trade and commerce power conferred in the terms of this Bill would be an express authority to interfere with local trade, whereas now we cannot so interfere except under our taxing power.
– We desire to eliminate that limitation.
– I object to the elimination as unnecessary. There has been no complaint by the people in regard to the limitation, which is a fundamental and organic part of the Federal scheme.
– It is not an organic part !
– It is.
– The honorable member says so !
– And the Minister denies it; and there we join issue.
– I appeal to the facts.
– I appeal to the facts also, and say there is no necessity for Federal control over local markets or commerce, and shopkeeping arrangements generally.
– In three of the Federations out of five that control is given.
– I decline to go over the same ground again, because that would only unnecessarily prolong my remarks j and, perhaps, the honorable member is not following me. I think I have said enough with regard to the proposed abolition of the power vested in the State Parliaments to deal with purely local, municipal, and domestic trade; and shall only add that I regard such a step as a dangerous, useless, and fatal experiment with our local self-governing institutions. I come now to the proposal to amend section 51 of the Constitution by omitting the words “ foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.” By this it is intended to confer on the Federal Parliament a general power to deal with corporations, including their creation, regulation, control, and dissolution. There is apparently no limit to the class of corporations which are to be dealt with, except corporations formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition of gain. This will mean, of course, as pointed out yesterday by the honorable member for Flinders, in quoting the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins, an extraordinary provision for the creation of a special kind, or class, of law dealing with corporate bodies as distinguished from private individuals. Under that power there might be a special code of the most penal, harassing, and destructive character, for the purpose, not merely of facilitating the existence of and regulating corporate bodies, but of gradually destroying them, and, if necessary for party purposes, crushing them out of existence. This would come within the definition of the special laws of which we read in the history of England, or the laws of a privilegium character known to the Roman law, by which particular interests were specially dealt with and penalized. For instance, there would be conferred on the Federal Parliament power to deal, not merely with trading corporations and banking and financial institutions, but with all kinds of co-operative bodies whose business might be purely local and provincial, having no Federal outlook, contact, or association. Why is it proposed to secure Federal power to deal with corporations that may be of a purely local or domestic character? Why is it necessary to extend the Federal power in this direction? How is labour or capital or any one to gain by this grant of power to the Federal Parliament to tinker and interfere with every form of corporate enterprise throughout the Commonwealth, with the exception of charitable or artistic corporations? This is a straining of Federal authority justified neither by any circumstances of Australian history, nor by any public requirement. Imagine the Federal Parliament being called upon to pass a special mining Act relating to the administration of the mines of Australia. Honorable members would, perhaps, almost ridicule such a suggestion, yet if this power be granted it will be possible for the Federal Parliament to pass a law relating to the management of mines owned by companies, and of every form of industrial life conducted by corporate bodies. I fail to see that the recent decision of the High Court in the ^Huddart Parker case, giving a limited meaning to the term “ foreign corporations,” in any way justifies this drastic and extraordinary amendment of the Constitution. I wish now to refer to the proposed amendment of paragraph xxxv. of section 51 relating to industrial matters. When I referred to that provision at an earlier stage as embodying a grant of power to the Federal Parliament greater than that possessed by the United States Congress, the honorable member for Gippsland sneered at it, saying that it had been the subject of litigation and of doubt as to its legal interpretation and application. I am surprised at the manner in which that provision is undervalued and sneered at by some members of the Labour party and others. When it was inserted in the Constitution it was regarded as one of the triumphs of the Democratic party in the Federal Convention. In the teeth of the resistance of the State Rights party they succeeded in placing within the four corners of the Constitution a grant of power to the Federal Parliament to pass legislation for the settlement of industrial disputes by the peaceful process of arbitration. There was a time when the Labour party used to be strong advocates of the settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration. That, indeed, was a great popular battle cry, and was the foundation of the Arbitration Act of New South Wales as well as other arbitration measures. We succeeded in inserting that provision in the Federal Constitution, conferring upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to settle industrial disputes by arbitration where those disputes extend beyond the limits of any one State. Those words of limitation were used for Federal reasons. At that time it was obvious that the various State Parliaments with one exception were moving in the direction of establishing State tribunals for the settlement of disputes by arbitration. It was thought, even by such a strong advocate of the provision as the late Mr. C. C. Kingston, that if we secured a Federal power to deal with industrial disputes, not purely domestic or Intra-State, but disputes which had become Inter-State or Australian in character, the requirements of the case would be met. That, indeed, was regarded as one of the most democratic features of the Constitution when it was put before the country, and was highly prized. The provision was certainly limited by the words, “extending beyond the limits of a State” in the same way and for the same reason that the commerce power was limited to commerce among the States. Those words of qualification were in accordance with the Federal principles of the Constitution. It was thought that if we went further, and invaded the State domain, we should excite resentment and opposition on the part of the State Governments and Parliaments, which were then important factors in the Federal movement. It was felt that, in such circumstances, they would have opposed the Constitution as being not of a purely Federal character, since it invaded the State domain in industrial matters ; just as they would have opposed the Constitution had it invaded the State domain in commercial matters. Now we hear this provision referred to in terms of disregard, if not of contempt, by some members of the Labour party. They declare that it has been a failure. I should like them to reflect that, although there may have been some failures in the attempt to work this provision in such a manner as to make it applicable to disputes confined within the limits of a State, there has never been a failure in its application to bond fide Inter-State industrial disputes. Some time ago I asked the Attorney-General in this House how many awards had been made by the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court under paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution, and was told that there had been no less than nine. That seems to be a fairly substantial number of awards in disputes of an Inter-State or Federal character. Naturally, we should not expect to find the same number of awards in industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of a State as in the case of internal industrial disputes. This part of the Constitution was intended only to apply to big Australian disputes. It was properly thought that the State Legislatures might well be left to deal with purely local industrial disturbances. It was thought that they might very well object to the Federal Parliament intruding on the State domain to settle disputes that were purely local, and had no Federal expansion.
– We think so still.
– Very well. The fact that there have been nine awards in disputes extending beyond the limits of a State shows that this provision has not been a failure, as was suggested by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– But what has been the good of those awards?
– Are those nine awards valueless?
– Only one is of any value.
– If they were of no use, why were they fought for with such tenacity in the Federal Arbitration Court?
– The High Court has stepped in and snuffed them out.
– That is not so. The High Court has endeavoured only to give a reasonable interpretation to paragraph xxxv. of section 51, and to limit its operation to bond fide Federal disputes.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– The High Court has refused to recognise an attempt to make up fictitious disputes, so that they might be brought within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court. Attempts have been made to get round this provision by the creation of sham disputes, and by a system of registration and organization, as it is called. The alleged failure has been due to the fact that the High Court will not recognise an internal dispute as being of a Federal character - because it has refused to be a party to a fictitious dispute. Let us examine some of the awards that have been made. Take the award in the case of the Broken Hill dispute. The Federal Court, acting under the existing provisions of the Constitution, was able to settle that strike. It dealt with it in a comprehensive manner, and was able ultimately to settle it because it was a bond fide Inter-State dispute.
– What sort of an award was it? An award fixing a working week of seven days.
– The Court held that the six days a week question was not raised.
– But the “ bosses “ fought for it.
– If that question had been raised in the dispute between the company and the men, and had been brought before the Court, under the Constitution, then the Court would have dealt with it. If it was not brought before the Court properly, how could the Court make an award in the matter? How could it alter the system.
– It would alter the Commandments, or, at all events, one” of them - “ Six days shalt thou labour.”
– Any excuse is good enough nowadays for a shot at the Court.
– I took up the same stand when in Opposition.
– It seems base ingratitude for representatives of Labour to attempt to depreciate, minimize, and abuse this grant of power, which has succeeded, as I have said, in bringing about the settlement of nine great Inter-State disputes, and would have settled more if they had been properly brought before the Court. Another decision of the High Court under the industrial provision of the Constitution has been the subject of adverse comment. It is said that paragraph xxxv. of section 51 has broken down in its administration, because it does not confer upon the Federal Arbitration Court power to grant what is called a common rule. It is said that that is a fundamental defect in the Act. What is the meaning of the common rule? I remember when it was first proposed by Mr. Kingston, and was startled and surprised at the proposition that a Court should be empowered to grant a decision in an industrial dispute between A and B, which would bind others in the industry who were not parties to it, and who had not put their views before the Court, and whose interests were not represented. I greatly doubted at the time whether such legislation was within the competence of Parliament, and the High Court has now decided in the Bootmakers’ case that the Commonwealth settlement of industrial disputes is limited by two conditions, first, that there must be an actual dispute between defined and ascertained parties ; and, secondly, that it must be determined and settled by process of arbitration. That decision is founded on reason. What need is there for Federal intervention, except where industrial disputes actually exist? When they occur in concrete form, and are realities, not shams, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has authority to settle them, but the High Court says that its decisions bind only the parties before it. Is not that finding based on equity and fairness? The obvious remedy, should disputes occur between other employers and employes, is, not to apply a common rule, but to seek another award, which would be a comparatively easy matter. The decision in one case, would, were the circumstances the same, be taken as a precedent to be followed in others. Although the award in the Bootmakers’ case bound only the immediate parties, there would be no difficulty in obtaining a like award in a similar case, and the certainty that such an award would be made would have a natural effect in settling disputes throughout the industry. Therefore, there is no need for the outcry about failure in the application of the common rule.
– We wish to apply the same rules throughout Australia.
– It is aiming at the impossible and unattainable to ask any human tribunal to fix rates of pay, hours, and conditions of labour, universally applicable throughout Australia.
– We can try.
– It will not succeed. The people will awaken to the fact that a Court sitting at Melbourne or Y assCanberra cannot lay down the rules and conditions for the governing of an industry throughout the Commonwealth. I, as a Liberal, in the foremost rank of Liberalism, have always been in favour of what is known as the new Protection, which wasstarted in Victoria long before the Labour party was heard of, by legislation introduced by the Liberals to provide for what is known as the Wages Board system. That legislation is now sneered at by members of the Labour party, whose friends and constituents have reaped the harvest of higher wages and better conditions.
– The honorable member gave the system support as a lawyer.
– Not only as a lawyer, but also as a Liberal and democratic politician, who has represented the miners of Bendigo for nearly twenty-five years. Let me mention some of the results of the State industrial legislation, to show that there is no need for the nationalization of industrial authority. According to figures obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician, no fewer than 130 industrial disputes in which awards were made had come before the New South Wales Arbitration Court before the 30th January, 1908. These are the latest figures which I could get. My information does not take into consideration the awards made in the State under the Wages Board system, which has supplanted the arbitration system, because, no doubt, the latter was found to be less effective and slower in operation. There are very few branches of industrial enterprise in New South Wales where State intervention in disputes has not been effective. In Western Australia there is an Arbitration Court in which, up to the end of 1908, no fewer than seventy-one awards were made. In Victoria there are over sixty Wages Boards in existence, and their determinations have affected nearly as many trades and callings. In Queensland, up to 30th October, 1909, there were twenty-five Wages Boards, and in South Australia twenty.
– Twenty have been appointed in South Australia this year.
– The sixty Wages Boards in Victoria affect industries employing 67,000 hands, and the result of their decisions has been to increase the wages earned by no less than ^500,000 per annum. In the five States I have named there is a most liberal and generous exercise of the powers of government for the” settlement of disputes in the interests of labour, and also, I hope, of employers. The workers in those States enjoy the benefit of the sound and impartial judgment of the industrial tribunals which have been set up. There are, I believe, more Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts in Australia than in any other part of the civilized world. These tribunals have been provided for by Liberal legislation for the amelioration and improvement of the condition of the workers, and have had considerable effect in preventing industrial strife. I strongly believe in the new Protection, and much can be done to secure it by the operation of State Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts, which are competent tribunals to deal with disputes, controversies, and grievances confined wholly within the limits of any one State. Industrial disputes which extend beyond the limits of a State, of course, under the provision in the Constitution, become Federal, and immediately come within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court. In every true Federal industrial dispute I entertain no doubt as to the power and potency of the Federal authority to interfere and settle in the future as it has done in the nine awards already made. At the same time we cannot fail to recognise that, under a State Wages Board or Arbitration Court system, cases may arise in which there is a conflict between the decisions given in a common calling or occupation. Where there is such a differentiation, say, in the amount of wages or the hours and conditions of labour in a trade or calling having an Inter-State extension, it is quite possible that Interstate considerations may arise. Where they do arise, it would be quite consistent with the Federal idea and Federal principle to grant to the Federal authority power to deal with awards which are inconsistent with one another and which conflict with the principle of Inter-State Free Trade, so as to prevent unfair competition between two trades or occupations engaged in the Inter-State trade. We have already recognised that principle. The Leader of the Opposition and the Government which he led at the last election formulated a scheme by which it was expected that we should be able to create a Federal authority to deal with Inter- State conflicts in the labour awards. It was hoped that we should be able to secure the establishment of a Federal tribunal, either in the shape of the Inter-State Commission or some other authority, without resorting to an amendment of the Constitution. Negotiations were entered into with the various State Governments which unanimously concurred in proposing to- delegate to the Federal Parliament power in this direction by virtue of paragraph XXXVII. of section 51 of the Constitution, which is as follows : -
Matters referred to the Parliament, of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law.
It was proposed that the various State Parliaments should refer to the Federal Parliament authority to pass legislation giving the Inter- State Commission power to deal, under certain conditions, with the conflicting decisions of State Industrial Boards or Courts. That was a very important beginning in a new development, but a new development along the recognised lines of the Constitution. There was nothing in that proposal violating the Federal principle, l t was not proposed by it to break down the State Wages Boards or the State Industrial Arbitration Courts. Those bodies were to be preserved, encouraged, and stimulated, and the Federal authority would have the right to interfere only where there was unfair competition in Inter-State trade arising, say, from the lowness of wages or the inequality of the labour conditions as between two competing States. That was a reasonable proposition. The States were then willing to grant that power, but have not since granted it. I think it is now a fair proposition to say that if the States, having promised to grant the power, have omitted to grant it, the time has arisen when we can fairly consider whether it ought not to be placed within the competence of this Parliament by independent legislation to create such a central Federal industrial authority. If that be done, I submit that it will remove most, if not all, of the complaints that have been made by some of the manufacturers as to the inequality of the awards in certain trades or callings in certain States. It is true that such complaints have been made. If there were created a Federal authority, with power, where there is a conflict between the awards of two Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts, to summon those Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts to appear before it and fight the question out there, and if then a decision could be given harmonizing the conflict, that would be a great gain, not only in the interests of labour, but also in the interests of those who have capital invested in these great industrial concerns. That is the extent to which I for one am quite prepared to go, because I believe it would meet all the requirements of the situation. While an amendment in such a manner, and with such limitations and qualifications, might fairly be sustained, I do not think an amendment of the Constitution ought to be advocated with such tenacity and force merely because there is a hope and expectation that better awards or better results might be obtained from a Federal than from a State authority. There ought to be no such hope or expectation, because the State authorities are quite as competent to be liberal, generous, and considerate in their awards as is any Federal authority. The award of a Federal authority will not always be dependent upon any particular individual. Men pass away and tribunals may become differently constituted. The workers of Australia ought to be in a position to expect and demand as good and fair treatment from the Wages Boards of the various States as from any Federal tribunal. It is a reflection upon the State Boards or Courts to suggest that the workers can get better terms from the Federal authority than from them. Both these authorities are, after all, created and maintained by the power of the people. If there is any defect in their constitution, the remedy is in the hands of the people. They can be improved and strengthened, and it must be said in favour of local organizations that the redress of grievances ought to be, and in fact has been, obtained from them more promptly and swiftly than it could possibly be obtained from any central Federal authority. That is proved beyond challenge by the actual work done by the State Wages Boards. What is to happen under the proposed amendment? It is not designed merely to remove ambiguities that may exist in paragraph xxxv. of section 51 with reference to arbitration in “ industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of a State.” This clause is far more sweeping. It goes to the extent of actually wiping out that paragraph, and conferring upon this Parliament absolutely supreme and unqualified power to deal with all indus.trial matters. Let honorable members consider what that means. Let them remember what the grant of power carries with it. I am not here to consider how that grant of power may be used afterwards. It may be used in a judicious manner if acquired, or in a reckless and destructive manner. We are not now constrained to speculate as to the mode or conditions in which it may be exercised. It will mean, if granted, that the Federal authority will be able to sweep aside and absolutely destroy all the State Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts. They could be wiped out; all their authority would be gone, and there would be one great central Legislature having power to pass universal legislation dealing with all kinds of industrial disputes,- whether they were merely internal disputes, confined to the limits of a State, or disputes extending over the whole continent. I fail to see what the true* cause of labour is to gain, or the cause of capital is to gain, or how anybody’s interest is to be advantaged, by this proposed huge centralization in the Federal authority. It will certainly have the effect of destroying all the local spirit, energy, purpose, and patriotism attached to local self-government, just as a similar federalization of commerce would destroy all local control over commerce. I therefore contend that this power is not designed merely to remove doubts or to strengthen trie power of the Federal Arbitration Court to settle industrial disputes. It goes further than that, further than ever any Justice of the High Court or Judge of the Federal Industrial Court has suggested, because it goes in the direction of the complete nationalization of everything. I con-, tend, with great respect, that it would be far better to limit any amendment to the actual requirements and conditions of the present as disclosed by our experience or by the decisions of the High Court. That experience and those decisions do not show that it is necessary to go to the enormous extent of breaking down and obliterating the Federal principle of the existing provision in the Constitution. I pass on to the next provision in the Bill relating to trusts and monopolies. It is proposed to amend section 51 of the Constitution by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph -
Combinations and monopolies in relation to the production, manufacture, or supply of goods or services.
I do not wish to repeat any of the verbal criticism which has been offered respecting the meaning of ‘ ‘ combinations “ or “ monopolies “ but I should like to point out the far-reaching character of the proposal. I apprehend that its purpose is to give greater power to deal with trusts and combines. The amendment involves .the amendment of the commerce power, relates to, and is a branch of the commerce power, and may be said to qualify the commerce power. And yet, by the first amendment, the whole of the commerce power is to be nationalized. Where is the necessity for this particular proposal, when by an earlier amendment, there is full and absolute control over commerce of all kinds and descriptions without reference to geographical or territorial limits? I understand that it is contended that the power of the Federation over trusts and combines is limited by the Inter-State condition ; but if we abolish that condition, we shall have supreme and unchecked control over everything - combines and monopolies, at any rate, in relation to production and the manufacture of goods. There is, therefore, no necessity for this amendment if the first be carried, with one qualification that is significant. I ask honorable members to observe that the last words in the clause are, “ or services,” so that the amendment relates not only -to the production and manufacture or supply of goods, but also to “ services.” I should like to combat the argument that the Federal power over trusts and combines under the existing law is imperfect or inadequate. Let honorable members examine the Australian Industries Preservation Act, and peruse some of its drastic and penal provisions which give such enormous power to deal with trusts and combines interfering with Australian trade or Australian industries. Probably that is the most severe, comprehensive and drastic piece of legislation in any country in the British Empire. Although many of the prosecutions under the Act are of a quasi criminal character, the defendant has not only to prove himself innocent, but has actually to supply evidence against himself - evidence that is sought in the most inquisitorial, direct and scientific manner possible foi the cleverest lawyer to devise. No law in the world is so drastic, and, apparently, so effective for dealing with Inter-State trade ; indeed, it might be called Draconian in its severity. That legislation is applicable to all kinds of Inter-State trade - all combinations, including the shipping ring, and so forth. I refrain, however, from mentioning names, particularly as cases are now pending ; but honorable members may perhaps remember the companies and persons who are alleged to be monopolizing InterState trade to the prejudice of Australian industries. I use the word “ alleged,” and I use it advisedly. A number of thecompanies that are reputed to be engaged in nefarious conspiracy in restraint of trade are at present, I understand, under surveillance, and the Federal authorities are endeavouring to get evidence so as to secure conviction. One, if not more cases are pending at the present time, and, therefore, it would not be fair to make any comments on matters that are sub judice. But, so far as my knowledge goes, there has never been any breakdown of this anti-trust legislation, because, up to the present, no case has been brought to trial. The difficulty. I understand, is in procuring any evidence to sustain the suspicions entertained ; but it was the honorable member for Angas, I think, who told us that there are not less than four or five companies or organiza- tions known as monopolies in restraint of trade, and that gentleman speaks with some authority. However that may be, those persons or companies have not yet been placed on their trial, and we ought not to pronounce them guilty until they come, as they will shortly, before the proper tribunal. While there may be numbers of little trades, callings and companies within the limits of particular States that are said to partake of this monopolistic or trust character, I do not know that we have any proof of their existence; but if there is any proof or evidence, I ask why the local Legislatures have not intervened. Surely those Legislatures are sufficiently close to the alleged offenders to have a better opportunity of finding them out and suppressing them than any distant Federal body?
– Does the honorable member think that the Victorian Legislative Council would suppress’ the Brick Combine?
– I do not think that the Victorian Legislative Council has ever been invited to do so. I think that the Victorian Parliament is as democratic as any Parliament in Australia.
– The Legislative Council?
– I am speaking of the Parliament. It is not necessary for me to pose as the apologist of this muchabused Legislative Council ; I do not pretend to defend the Legislative Councils of any of the States, but I know that in Victoria the Upper House has, at any rate, acquiesced in the creation of some sixty Wages Boards.
– That is not so.
– Those Wages Boards had to be created with the acquiescence of the Legislative Council.
– At one time-
– We are now dealing with the present; and I say that the Legislative Council has acquiesced in the creation of those Wages Boards.
– There are Wages Boards in the creation of which the Legislative Council did not acquiesce.
– At any rate, I have passed that branch of the subject, and I am now dealing with trusts and monopolies. I am not aware of any State Legislature that has refused to pass laws dealing with notorious cases of local trusts or monopolies in restraint of trade. The members of the State Parliaments ought to be sufficiently vigorous in the performance of their duties; but I do not know that the members of the State Labour party of Victoria ever urged the introduction of anti-trust legislation. I submit that no sufficiently strong case has been made out for the proposed tremendous change in the Constitution, and that the Federal power is quite strong enough, unless, and until, the necessity for a change is established. I “should now like to revert to the words “or services,” and ask what is their meaning. So far as 1 can see, they go further than any previous legislation relating to trusts and combines. Hitherto legislation has related to trusts and combines in reference to the manufacture or supply of goods, but now we are introduced to a new form of monopoly or combination in relation to the supply of “ services.” I should like to have a little more information from the Labour party, or the Government, as to the meaning and application of the word, because it seems to me that there is a latent meaning which may carry an application and extension not contemplated by the framers of the Bill, and not demanded in any legislation relating to trade and commerce. Services, of course, have no relation or correlation to trade and commerce; and I should like to know the kinds of services that are referred to in the clause. This provision may have most unexpected operation, inasmuch as it may extend to professions.
– It covers all transit.-
– It covers more ‘ than transit - it covers services of all kinds, including transit and work and labour. I should think that one development may be to give power to nationalize or control, say, the medical profession, as performing medical “ services,” because it is supposed that there is a certain combination among medical men to supply services within recognised limits. The provision might also probably be used to nationalize or destroy the legal profession, though probably that would not matter much, in the opinion of some honorable members ; and we should then all be converted into a community of lawyers. But the more insidious result would probably be to give power to deal with any organization for the monopoly of labour in any particular form, and it might result in bringing some of the trade unions within the grip of the combination law. Of course, the Labour party cannot always expect to be in a triumphant majority, because the swing of the pendulum must come in time; and I ask whether this proposal does not place a dangerous power in the Constitution in giving Parliament the right to deal with labour combinations, and pass penal laws relating thereto? Labour of all kinds has a perfect right to combine under State law to regulate the supply of services, not only of our ordinary artisans, but also of professional men. Yet, under this clause, the Federal Parliament will be able to interfere with and formulate terms and conditions under which combinations of labour may be authorized or prohibited. However, all this is by the way. I have now covered the general grounds of my objections to some of the proposals made, and I say now, as I said at the beginning, that I have no objection in theory or in principle to any reasonable or legitimate amendment or extension of the Constitution, provided the amendment or extension does not change the Federal character, substance, and essence of the Constitution. No change should be made in the Constitution unless die practical life and experience of the people shows it to be justifiable, and no change should be made too far in anticipation of a change in the national conscience. In the words of Woodrow Wilson, I believe that great and important changes in the Constitution are justified and warranted only by the aspirations and national consciousness of the people. Such changes may be of slight growth, but it is far better that the Constitution within its national sphere and limitations should gradually change rather than that there should be mechanical alterations of a drastic, far-reaching, staggering character such as those involved in the proposals now before us.
– It is unnecessary for any one in Australia to-day to apologize for supporting measures of the character now before the House, for the growing national feeling on every side shows that they are demanded by the people. We have had of late several instances of the direct antagonism of the people of the Commonwealth to anything savouring of State Rights, and of their approbation of a truly national sentiment. The latest illustration was furnished by the State election in New South Wales a few days ago. Probably no more determined effort on behalf of the State Rights party was ever made in the history of this country than was put up in connexion with that election, and I believe we have no record of a more crushing defeat than that which the State Rights party sustainedThe only other case of the kind to which I can point is the decision given by the people when an attempt was made by means of the Financial Agreement to sub-‘ ordinate the national will to State dictation. In all questions of the Commonwealth as against the States, I am out every time on behalf of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the framers of our Constitution seem to have followed the lines of the Constitution of the United States rather than that of the Dominion of Canada. It appears to have been the object of the framers of the Constitution of the United States to outline in it the functions of the Federation, whereas the framers of the Canadian Constitution made a strong point of setting forth in it the functions of the States. Had the framers of our Constitution followed the example of Canada, we should have done much better, and should have known exactly what were the functions of the Commonwealth. The Attorney-General has clearly stated our present position, and in the light of experience, there is no escape from the attitude which he took up. Appeals made on several occasions to the High Court have resulted in decisions showing that we do not possess certain powers which we believed we could justly exercise. The Leader of the Opposition took the honorable gentleman to task for asserting that we believed we possessed certain functions which the High Court had determined we did not enjoy, and I propose, in reply, to quote certain passages from the memoranda issued, one in 1907, and the other in 1908, by the then Deakin Administration.
– The memorandum issued in 1908 by the Deakin Government was prepared after the decision of the High’ Court in the harvester case.
– That is so. The point that I wish to make is that these memoranda show conclusively that the Government of the day must have claimed to possess certain powers under the Constitution which the subsequent judgments of the High Court clearly showed that the Federation did not enjoy. In the memorandum on new Protection, issued by the Deakin Government in 1908, we have these words -
As it was under the Commonwealth power of taxation that the manufacturer obtained the benefit of a Protective Tariff, the same power of taxation was sought to be exercised to giveprotection to his employees by means of aa Excise Tariff.
The High Court determined, however, that the Federal Parliament had no such power, lt was stated in plain terms by the honorable member for Ballarat, who was then Prime Minister, that since we did not possess that power, according to the decision of the High Court, the Constitution should be so amended as to secure it for us. In this memorandum we have the statement -
As the power to protect the manufacturer is national, it follows that unless the Parliament of the Commonwealth also acquires power to secure fair and reasonable conditions of employment to wage-earners, the policy of protection must remain incomplete.
Here is a candid admission that, unless we gain this power, the policy of Protection must remain incomplete.
– Apparently Protection is all right for the manufacturer, but it is not all right for the worker.
– Quite so. An attempt to secure Protection for the workers, under the Constitution as it stands, has failed, and it is strange that the Opposition, some of whom claim to be Protectionists, and who supported the Government that issued the memorandum to which [ have referred, should be opposed to this proposition.
– Some of the leading lights of the Opposition are with us.
– I am glad to know that that is so. In the Excise Harvester Case, Mr. Justice Higgins determined that a man should receive a wage sufficient to enable him to keep his wife and family in decency and comfort. That decision on appeal was upset. Yet those who joined the Fusion, having’ as one of its objects, as shown by this memorandum, the granting of new Protection, now oppose an alteration of the Constitution to make the new Protection possible. It seems to me that they are taking up a very anomalous position. Since the Opposition are never tired of referring to British precedents, and the precedents of the House of Commons, I would remind them that, in Great Britain, the Parliament is supreme, whilst the Reichstag in “ Germany occupies the same position. In Australia to-day, however, those who stand as the champions of the British House of Commons refuse to allow the rule of the National Parliament, which simply means the people of the country, to be paramount. All that we are asking in these measures is that the Parliament of the Commonwealth shall be supreme - that the people of the country, so far as these measures are concerned, shall be the masters of their own destinies. Surely that is not too much to ask in a democratic community. It might also be pointed out’, with perfect fairness, that unless we can secure uniformity of legislation, manufacturers in one State must be placed at a great disadvantage in competing with the manufacturers of another. Since one of the principal amendments of the Constitution for which we ask is designed to secure uniformity of industrial legislation, those who have the best interests of the manufacturers and their employe’s at heart must support our demand. If the workers in an industry in Tasmania are receiving under a Wages Board award £2 ros. or £3 10s. per week, whilst those engaged in a similar industry in New South Wales under no such regulation are receiving only 30s. or 35s. per week, the regulated industry in Tasmania must obviously be at a great disadvantage in competing with the unregulated one in the other State. I know of 110 way by which the uniformity that is necessary, not only in the interests of the. manufacturers, but of the workers themselves, can be secured, save that which is now proposed. The honorable member for Bendigo, who has just resumed his seat, referred at length to the position of the Wages Boards in Victoria. I have seldom, listened to so vigorous a defence of our Legislative Council as that which he saw fit to make j and, as one who has followed the working of our Upper Houses pretty closely, I do not hesitate to say that the Legislative Council of Victoria is not de-, serving of such a championing of its cause. The honorable member referred to a number of industries in which Wages Boards have been granted, but very conveniently forgot to tell us of the many cases in which Wages Boards had been refused by. the Legislative Councils of Victoria andother States. Not long ago the Legislative! Council refused to appoint a Wages Board, in the paper-making trade, although it .was shown that unfortunate women, after work- , ing in the trade for several years,: were receiving only 13s. 9d. per week. I could give other instances in which’ Wages Boards have been refused in Victoria and other States. The appointment of such Boards was altogether prevented in Tasmania by the action of the Legislative Council there. But even if the Victorian Parliament were ready to grant every application for Wages Boards, it is possible that the creation of such tribunals might be prevented in New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland, or the other States, and we desire the general application of the system. I have no complaint against Wages Boards, but the defect of the present position is that, while in one State a Democratic Government may be prepared to appoint them, in others they may be refused.
– Victoria is the least democratic State in the Commonwealth.
– I do not think that there is much to choose between the States in this respect. There have been too many legal gentlemen engaged in the drawing up and interpretation of the Constitution, and too great an inclination has been displayed by them to use it as a sort of legal nose-bag, from which they have drawn largely. I can understand the efforts put forward in some quarters in defence of the Constitution. The High Court, of course, was appointed to interpret the Constitution, but if there is anything in that instrument which places a barrier in the way of the expression of the will of the people by legislation, that barrier should be removed at the earliest possible moment. The defence of State Rights, made by the Leader of the Opposition, was in such marked contrast to the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Flinders that I think that some of the members of the party would express themselves very strongly regarding the latter.
– It was a great speech.
– Yes, and all honour to him for it. But the defence of State Rights made by the Leader of the Opposition was received with such enthusiasm by his party that it is safe to say that some of them are graduating for the membership of shire councils or school boards of advice. I never heard of such championing of State Rights . before. Some of the sentiments expressed were unbecoming and out of place in an assembly like this.
– Will the honorable member cite one or two of them?
– They are to be found in Hansard. The Leader of the Opposition asked what necessity is there for the proposed alteration of the Constitution. A simple reply is that the necessity exists to-day which existed when he was leading a Government, and published two memoranda pointing out the need for Protection, not only for the manufacturer, but also for the workers and consumers of the country. His speech might be summed up as a plea for the Constitution. He argued that because the Constitution was adopted by a majority of three to one it should remain unaltered. But the people had no other choice than to accept or reject, the Constitution. They were tired of State control, and desired Federation. Just as Socrates took the hemlock from the hands of his executioners, because he had no alternative, so the people accepted the draft Constitution because nothing better was offered to them. To say that because they accepted it there should be no alteration of it now is the poorest logic I can imagine. To-day the Constitution is not responsive to the people’s will, and in a democratic country we should make it so at the earliest possible moment. Dealing now with the Monopolies Bill, I would point out that no one would deny that in this young country there is danger that in a very short time trusts and combines may be as rampant as they are in America to-day. Evidence is not wanting that already they are beginning to spread their hideous tentacles, which threaten to sap the vitality of the community, if legislation does not interfere with them before they reach the dimensions which they have reached in other parts of the world. There cannot be two opinions as to the wisdom of legislating to prevent the growth of monopolies. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition said that those on his side were prepared to take a progressive view on the subject. The whole trouble with honorable members opposite seems to be that difficulty may be found in determining what constitutes a monopoly. In this regard we have what I might call a precedent in a case tried by the Supreme Court of the United States, which occupies a similar position to that of the High Court here. It is known as the Munn case, and dealt with Questions affecting the control of grain elevators. The decision was a surprise to the legal body as well as to those connected with the case. Instead of expressing the opinion that the power of the Legislature to regulate was based on the grant of some special privilege, the Court held- I think very wisely - that whenever the nature of a business is such that the patronage of the public’ is compulsory, the Legislature shall have power to protect the public from extortion. There is nothing narrow in that decision, and it might be applied to all combinations entirely controlling industries, such as the Standard Oil Company, the tobacco monopoly, and the sugar monopoly here. Seeing that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company so controls the output and price of sugar that the people are wholly dependent on it for the supply of sugar, its business is of a character quite as public as the administration of the railways or any other State concern. When the people are entirely dependent on a company in respect to the price and output of an article, the industry which it controls is a public concern, and we ask that the Commonwealth shall have power to legislate in connexion with such industries. I hope that we shall never have in Australia a monopoly reaching the dimensions of the Standard Oil Company, but without legislation such as is proposed we may have similar combines. To give some idea of the extensive operations of the Standard Oil Company, let me mention that its cash and other assets are valued at something like £1,000,000,000. In connexion with it Mr. Rockefeller has an interest of about £75,000,000.
– He is worth £200,000,000.
– This is merely his cash - his pocket money. Mr. Rogers has £50,000,000, Mr. Archibald £40,000,000, and Mr. Flagler £40,000,000. These men not only control the output and price of oil, but also the railway lines of America. There can be no denying that to-day the whole of our commercial life is evolving in the direction of State control. We have instances of that year by year even in the State of Victoria. The Victorian Government has its own coal mine at Powlett Creek, and, as the Attorney-General pointed out, some of our municipalities control the sale of fish.
– But the deadhouse will not let the Government sell coal to the people.
– We want to get past the dead-house by the introduction of these Bills, so that we shall not be subject to its influence. I could not help thinking, when the Attorney-General was speaking about the control of the sale of fish, what a simple little example the fish trade was to every housewife of the hideous extent to which a ring, trust, or combine can operate. The fish trade in Victoria to-day is controlled by a few middlemen. The unfortunate man who has to go out in wet and cold winter nights to catch the fish has to accept a few pence per basket for them, but the individuals who stand between him and the consumer do not care about that, nor do they care that little children are starving in the streets, and going to school without their breakfasts. Those things matter nought to them so long as they can draw from the fish trade huge profits to which no industry on their part entitles them. They control the sale of the fish, and if the price is not satisfactory they throw it into the sea in cartloads, as they are doing to-day, rather than stop the mouths of hungry children with it. That is a power which can be taken by any ring, trust, or combine in Australia under present conditions, and it is the extension of that power which we hope to stop by
Hie introduction of measures of this kind. Our opponents say that by the nation’alization of monopolies we are going to kill competition. A more fallacious argument was never put forward. It is monopolies and not State control that kill competition. Whenever any organization takes to itself the right of saying that the price of this or that commodity shall be such-and-such, it sounds the death knell of competition. We have evidence of the benefits and advantages of State control all around us in Victoria. A striking instance is to be found in the Newport workshops. When tenders were called for the construction of locomotives, the cost under private enterprise was £75 per ton, but the Newport workshops are turning them out for £44 a ton. showing conclusively that, where an industry is controlled by the State,- the work is done not only more efficiently, but much more economically than it can be under private enterprise.
– How are the State freezing works doing? Do they make any profit?
– It. is not so much the profits that we are looking after under State control as efficiency and the promotion of the public welfare.
– I was referring to the loss to the public on those works.
– I could go on at much greater length citing cases where State control compares favorably with businesses run by private enterprise, but that is not the purport of what I want to say to-day. There are several monopolies that I hope to see brought under Commonwealth control when these amendments become operative. The shipping combine was one of those mentioned by the Attorney-General. One might as well speak of life in a vacuum as of commercial or industrial progress without full access to the means of transit. Yet, to-day, what is the position in regard to our coastal shipping? All the farmers and producers in this country, especially the large producers, are just as much dependent on our coastal shipping as on the railways for the transport of their goods. No one denies that the State railways are a very good form of State control, and there seems to be just as good an argument that we should also control our own coastal shipping. To allow a shipping combine to give rebates, and grant preferential treatment to one as against another is distinctly opposed to the principles that should permeate the life of any democratic country. Under these measures, .we hope to realize the very important plank in our platform respecting new Protection. I hope that better protection for the manufacturers will not be lost sight of ; in fact, I know that it will not be. As I said on the hustings, I am not only a new, but an old Protectionist as well. I real ize that we can never have effective new Protection until we make our old Protection effective. If it were left to me, I should set about making our old Protective policy effective first. I should not be particular whether we spoke about the new Protection first, or otherwise, because it is impossible to pay high wages to the workmen, or regulate prices for the consumer, until the manufacturers of the country receive a Protection sufficiently high to guarantee them against the encroachments of commodities turned out by cheap foreign labour.
– The two must go together.
– They must ; and there can be no new Protection without an effective system of old Protection as well. Under these measures, we are asking for Protection to the worker, and I hope that in a very little while we shall have a much more effective system of Protection for our manufacturers than we have at present. We put it to the people that we desired better wages for the workers in our factories, and a regulation of the prices charged to the consumer, and we are now only asking the people to give us power to bring those things about. I want to point out emphatically to the business people of this community that if any section more than another will benefit by the realization of this plank of our platform, it is they. It must be apparent to all that the payment of good wages to the workmen will increase their spending power, and therefore no section of the people will benefit more than those engaged in business. Under these measures, we are simply asking the people of Australia to help us to stem the growth of those trusts,, vends, and combines, which, in America, have reduced the national life to a cesspool of corruption. I hope the day will never come when the same thing can be said of our young country. We want a Constitution that will be elastic to the wishes and desires of the people.
– A cesspool of corruption ! I do not think that is halt strong enough.
– I say that die operation of the trusts and combines in America deserves that criticism
– The honorable member said the whole of the national life of America was a cesspool of corruption.
– I did not mean it in that sense. I referred strictly to the operation of the vends and combines, nor is any language too strong to condemn their conduct. I hope that never in Australia shall we have anything on those lines. It is to obviate them that these measures have been brought forward. To that end, we are only proposing to ask. the people to do what we told them we should ask them to do in April next - to give us power under the Constitution to give effect to the platform that we put before them prior to 13th April last.
.- The speeches to which we have listened on this important subject have all been very interesting, and have contained a large amount of matter which ought to be instructive to the House, but I am afraid that, under the influence of party, the deliberations upon which we have entered will not have the effect of changing many votes. The duty, however, of honorable members on this occasion is to appeal from Parliament to their electors ; and we speak, I believe, most of us on this side, not so much in the hope of changing votes as of calling the attention of the constituencies to the importance of the issue. The honorable member for Indi has contributed a speech in some respects interesting - but least interesting in those portions that he, .perhaps. thought the least effective. I suggest to him, as a young politician, to, in the future, follow the advice of a very experienced editor, who, when a yoting man came to him with some very nice writing, told him that if he would strike out all the fine passages, there might be a chance of his contribution being accepted. If the honorable member were less anxious to be sarcastic at the expense of those who differ from him, he would, I think, have made a much better speech. He tried to make merry at the enthusiasm shown by honorable members on this side over a very excellent address delivered by the honorable member for Ballarat. I think, however, that all who listened to that speech, and who have been associated with that honorable member during his career as a Federal politician, will agree that on this occasion he reached a height which was rarely attained by him on any previous occasion. We ought to be proud to have the opportunity of listening to such oratorical efforts as those of the honorable member, and also of the Attorney-General. It is a good thing that enthusiasm has not altogether died down in this House; although at present, amongst our latest additions, it seems to be spent chiefly on the new toy with which they are playing, namely, the Federal Constitution.
– We had as much to do with the creation of the Constitution as had the honorable member !
– Those younger politicians, having been projected by the Labour catapult into the Federal arena-
– The honorable member was young himself once !
– Undoubtedly. I hope I am not ruffling honorable members unnecessarily ; because I really intend what I say for their good. Those honorable members who have been projected by the Labour catapult into the Federal arena are showing an enthusiasm in regard to the Federal Constitution that reminds me of a child playing with a new toy ; and, childlike, they will continue to play with it in all probability until they have damaged it beyond repair. This danger has been coming on the Labour party for some years past; and it has given me very grave concern indeed. I regard the particular issues we are now discussing as the parting of the ways between Labour and Liberalism. Labour, it appears -to me, is tending, with ever accelerated speed, in the direction of Unification ; and the Liberal movement in Aus tralia is undoubtedly charged with the duty of preserving the Federal Constitution. 1 do not say that the Constitution should not be amended, because, no doubt, in course of time, necessity will demand certain modifications ; but I hold very strongly that amendment ought to be the very last resource. The Constitution, I remind honorable members, was not created in a day, but was the result of a long and arduous campaign. The honorable member for Maribymong interjected, a few moments ago, that he had as much to do with the formation of the Federal Constitution as myself ; and I desire to remind him that ive Federalists in Western Australia had ii battle to tight which absolutely threw into the shade all efforts made in the eastern States. For over three years, 1 and others stood in the forefront of what seemed an almost hopeless battle for the rights, of the people against a State Government which, at that time, represented only the older section of the community, and was altogether out of touch with modern ideas. The work of giving a Federal Constitution to Australia was successfully accomplished; and by whom? Was it not by the ablest Democrats and best representatives of the people that could be found throughout the length and breadth of this land ? They had a mandate, without let or hindrance in the way of qualification; and I, for one, refuse to believe that they did not, to the very best of their ability, carry out the work of drafting a Constitution very much in advance of any previously brought into existence. The Constitution, so far as could be seen at the time, was intended to meet all circumstances likely to arise in the relationship of the various States. It was also intended to deal with the intricate commercial conditions of the country so far as they merged from one State into another ; and it was carefully provided that a special body should he created at the earliest possible opportunity to give perfect freedom in commercial intercourse, and remove the objectionable phases of commercialism and industrialism which are to be found here, in common with other parts of the world. The Inter-State Commission, if brought into existence, will have powers which, in my opinion, will embrace almost every case indicated by the honorable member for Indi and others. Why has that body not been created? I am surprised that no previous Federal Parliament has recognised its duty in this respect. Before such wholesale proposals as those with which we are now confronted are carried into effect, an honest effort should be made to realize the intention of the Federation in relation to an Inter-State Commission.
– The late Government introduced a Bill last session 1
– And would not pass it; although they had a majority at their backs !
– I am only expressing regret that such a Bill has not been passed. I have been asked about the United States Inter-State Commission; and I point out that that body was brought into existence under conditions different from those that now prevail ; and, consequently, it has not the necessary power to deal effectively with subsequent developments. But reformers in America, who desire to deal with objectionable trusts and combines, do not go so far as is now proposed by the Government. When President Roosevelt sent his special message to Congress - that remarkable message which caused so much interest and attention throughout the civilized world - demanding that a more effective measure of control should be exercised by the American Federation over trade and commerce, the object he aimed at was stated as follows : -
The law should correct that portion of the Sherman Act which” prohibits all combinations whether reasonable 01 unreasonable, but this should be done only as part of the general scheme to provide effective and thorough-going supervision by the national Government of all operations of the big Inter-State business concerns.
President Roosevelt asked for power to deal only with those industrial and commercial conditions that are of an InterState character.
The Labour party of Australia did not always show enthusiasm for the development of the Federal Constitution, but rather the contrary in most of the States. In Western Australia Labour stood solidly with those who were seeking to achieve Federation ; but I fancy that we were an exception in that respect from the rest of the Commonwealth. I am much afraid that the present interest of members of the Labour party, in the development of Federal functions, is largely because of their unexpected success at the Federal election.
– Hear, hear; but it was not unexpected.
– I am glad of the interjection, because it confirms me in my opinion that these powers are sought merely for party purposes. It is nothing short of lamentable that a great change of the kind should be advocated from a party stand-point alone.
There are two forces in mechanics - the centrifugal and the -centripetal - and these are duplicated in political affairs by what we call, in a general sense, centralization and decentralization. On the one hand, there are influences at work drawing into a common centre the power of government, and, on the other, influences throwing outwards, rather than inwards, those powers which the people believe can best be exercised in decentralized form. In the history of civilized communities, we have alternatively this force of centralization operating, and again the force of decentralization. We see now the force of centralization at work ; but I feel sure that the condition is only temporary, and that if the object aimed at by the Labour party is achieved it will bring about sooner than would otherwise be the case an inclination to go in the opposite direction. It is interesting, in this connexion, to look back into the past, because we know that history is simply philosophy teaching by experience. 1 do not think that even the most ardent advocate of centralization would be prepared to say that the action of the early settlers in the Port Phillip district of Australia in securing its severance from New South Wales was a reactionary or mistaken step. lt was undoubtedly a necessary and beneficent development for the people of Victoria. The same may be said of other cases of breaking away from the parent colony. No one, looking at the map of Australia, will hesitate to admit that the States as they exist are not wholly artificial. They arose largely under conditions that might almost be described as natural. They were the creation of the force of circumstances, and although their boundaries in many respects are artificial, still the collection of population in given centres around our Australian coast was undoubtedly a perfectly natural process that made for the development and progress of Australia as a whole. The beneficial operation of that process has not yet to come to an end. I, therefore, cannot agree with those who contend that the States are merely accidental, and that their annihilation should be accomplished at the earliest possible moment.
After the States had existed and carried on the work of development in their respective spheres for many years, the influence of centralization began to operate. And why ? Simply because, as the States grew in their commercial relations, they found that a great deal of unnecessary inconvenience was created by the Tariffs which they had built up against each other. In addition to that, the question of defence, as has already been pointed out with considerable force, was pressed upon the people of Australia by the development of the power and the warlike tendencies of those Eastern nations that almost surround us, and even now seem to be waiting an opportunity to land in countless numbers upon our shores. It was realized that in this respect alone some degree of centralization was necessary. I think it will be found that defence was undoubtedly the essential necessity that brought about all other Federations. I am not sure that if we had reached the stage, which I hope civilization will yet attain, of having an effective international tribunal that would make war a thing of the past, the Australian Federation would not even yet have been in the air. I know that in Western Australia we had very considerable difficulty in persuading our people - even those who had entered the State but a comparatively short time before - that the breaking down of our Tariff wall against the other States would in all respects be for the betterment of all concerned, or that the advantages we should gain from Federation would not be more than counterbalanced by its disadvantages.
– And have not the advantages more than counterbalanced the disadvantages ?
– So far as Australia as a whole is concerned, Federation has been an undoubted gain, but it is difficult to see any particular advantage at the present time in the case of Western Australia. If we are to be brought into a condition of unification, in which the interests of that great and growing State will be centralized and administered by a Government in the far-away Federal Capital, I feel sure that Federation, instead of proving a blessing, will be an undoubted curse to the people on that side of the continent.
– The Opposition has never yet made a prediction that has not been falsified.
– I do not know to which Opposition the honorable member is referring, but, in any case, his interjection is such a sweeping generalization that, on the spur of the moment, I cannot indorse it. We have heard the lawyers very learnedly, and abstrusely, dealing with this subject. I do not wish to follow them along those winding legalpaths which only the trained lawyer can follow. I wish to put as briefly as I can a few observations as to what was intended in connexion with the Federation movement, and I think that I can do so in a few words. It appears to me that the problem that presented itself to those who were authorized to draw up our Federal compact was simply this : What functions could best be exercised for Australia by a Central authority, and what functions could best remain in the hands of the State Governments? That was the position as I apprehended it, and I believe that 1 am correctly stating it. The work which the Federal Convention was set to do was undoubtedly to try to divide between the two forms of government - the old and the proposed - the various functions that were thought to be best suited to each. On the whole, the work was done faithfully and well, and I hold that we must give the efforts of that Convention an honest trial before we shall be justified in finding fault with them.
Although we have heard a great deal about the difference between our Federation and others, when we look at the practical result of the various understandings in the nature of Federations arrived at in other countries we must recognise that they are all substantially upon the same basis. In the case of all other Federations, as in our own, the same question seems to have been operating, in their construction: “What functions can best be exercised by this new Central authority we are about to call into existence, and what are those that had better remain with the States?” Accordingly, although we find certain distinctions, on the whole the subdivision of powers in almost every case has been pretty well upon Australian lines. We are told that, in Canada, the Federation is the supreme power ; but those who look at the list of functions exercised by the Dominion and those exercised by the States will find a division almost or substantially equal to that prevailing in Australia. The same is to be said of Switzerland, allowing for the difference in circumstances. The honorable member for Indi spoke of the supreme’ power of the German Confederation ; but I think he was in error, since the German Confederation is undoubtedly a very loose and imperfect one. Whilst some of the northern States of the German Confederation have practically surrendered all their governing powers to the Central authority, there are others, such as Bavaria, that still control, not only their railways and the Postal Department, but even the army. Therefore,to speak of the German Confereation as being in some respects superior to our own in the matter of its centralization is to speak hastily, and without knowledge of all the facts.
– I hope the interjections from the Government side of the House are not worrying the honorable member.
– I met with a few at the outset of my remarks, but evidently what I have to say is not palatable to honorable members opposite, and, therefore, I am honored by the absence of those interjectors.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The differences in connexion with these various Federations are due largely to local conditions. For instance, in some Federations the Central authority has the control of rivers. In Australia, however, a newspaper which has been one of the strongest champions of an extension of the Federal power has taken up the position that the rivers of its State should not be handed over to the Federal control. Its reasons may be sufficient, but as to that I have no knowledge ; I use the fact as an illustration to support my contention that in all Federations there is substantially the same division of functions between the Central and the State Governments; where they differ, the differences are due to local peculiarities and necessities rather than differences of principle. Looking abroad into the world, I am not able to find that unification is proceeding in any Federation other than this; on the contrary, I find a tendency to crystallize the Federations in many respects, to go no further than has been already gone, and to guard jealously the rights and privileges of the State Parliaments and Governments. In Australia, what is thought to justify all attempts to enhance the power of the Federation is the alleged antagonism of the State Parliaments, and particularly of their Upper Houses, to the Federation. If we are to believe the Ministerialists, the State Parliaments are antiquated, effete bodies incapable of doing effectively even the slightest portion of the work intrusted to them. I have no language too severe for the condemnation of the undemocratic attitude of the Upper Houses towards the reforms asked for and advocated on behalf of the masses. But having regard to the immense size of Australia, it must be agreed that, although we have State Parliaments in addition to a Federal Parliament, they are none too many for our requirements. Our population may be a small one for so many Parliaments, but we hope that it will increase rapidly in the future. The difficulty of governing a country effectively is caused not so much by the number of its people as by its geographical conditions. An immense territory such as ours, with settlements separated as widely as ours are, makes State Parliaments necessary for proper development. If we keep adding to the functions of the Federal Parliament as honorable members opposite desire, how will it find time to do its work? Even now we have to spend more time here than we ought to have to spend, and, if honorable members opposite had their way, it would be impossible, even if we should sit all the year round, to pass a tithe of the legislation that would be needed. I am at a loss to understand how a unified Parliament could deal effectively with the multifarious questions coming before the State Parliaments, whose legislation concerns a tremendous variety of interests. The differences of climate, production, and industrial conditions render it hopeless to get one Parliament to legislate effectively for the whole of Australia.
– Are there not too many members of Parliament in Australia?
– There’ are, and I shall presently deal with that matter. Would it be possible for the Federal Parliament to pass industrial legislation which would affect equally and “fairly industrial conditions in places so far removed and in such different situations as Cooktown and Hobart, or Ballarat and Kalgoorlie? Could a Wages Board award be made to apply to the wages of the miners of Ballarat and Kalgoorlie alike? The former are now paid from £2 to £2 5s. a week, and the latter from11s. to 12s.’ a shift. No doubt a mean between these extremes would be adopted, and while the wages at Ballarat might be increased, those at Kalgoorlie would be lowered. I agree that in some of the States, notoriously in Victoria, it is impossible now to get effective democratic legislation. I have viewed with surprise and disgust the attitude of the Victorian Legislative Council, since I have been a member of this Parliament, towards legislation necessary to the welfare and progress of the State. It is nothing short of a grave misfortune that the citizens of Victoria have not done something with their Upper House, and it is astonishing that they have not prosecuted an agitation for its reform with more enthusiasm and determination. If they set themselves to the task they could accomplish it. There may be constitutional difficulties in the way, but if an appeal to the authorities in the Mother Land were ineffective, Victoria would be justified in following the Cromwellian tradition, giving its Councillors, by force if necessary, a lengthened holiday, locking the door of their chamber, and throwing the key into the deepest pool of Port Phillip. But the existence of the Legislative Council of Victoria does not justify the step now proposed, even though that body, consisting as it does of men whose sole qualification appears to be the possession of wealth, is as anomalous as a Senate composed wholly of bond fide members of trade unions would be. Indeed, to my mind, the class distinctions which it represents are more objectionable .than those we see in connexion with the Labour movement. It is a serious defect in our Constitution that it contains no provision for the simplification of the State Parliaments. It was expected that, following on Federation, they would have been simplified, and thus made more efficient. The fact that there was not a definite and compulsory provision for this necessary reform is to be deplored. The Constitution should have provided, first, for the abolition of the office of State Governor; and, secondly, for the reform of the Legislative Councils.
As we are told ad nauseam that this is emphatically the National Parliament, and that it is our duty as Nationalists and Australian patriots to increase in every way the powers of the Federal authority, I would now direct attention to one of the most interesting countries in the world, Switzerland. There we find a Federal Constitution existing side by side with other conditions which, according to the Labour members, ought to be swept away in any democratic community. There is no question whatever as to the democratic character of the Swiss people. They are undoubtedly amongst the most democratic, as they are amongst the most intelligent and patriotic, people, in the world. In many respects they have set the world examples and provided it with lessons in connexion with legislation. The country of Switzerland consists of some 16,000 square miles only. To make a comparison that brings its size home with more force, I would remind honorable members that Victoria, one of the smallest of our States, is more than five times as large. Switzerland, in 1848, formed its Federation. Up to that time it had consisted of a number of cantons, or States, separated by natural conditions that probably accounted for their existence. Large and impassable ranges of mountains and other geographical features had tended to develop in the various valleys of that little country a certain amount of isolation, and, therefore, a desire, so far as the people were concerned, to live largely for themselves. As years went on, however, the necessity for closer union became apparent to this intelligent and democratic people. They came together, but they did not form a Unification. They created a Federation not dissimilar to ours in many respects. One would think that in such a little country, situated in the heart of Europe, and surrounded by possible enemies, if there has been any virtue in unification, the principle would have been adopted with enthusiasm. But we find in Switzerland at present, side by side with its Federal organization, no fewer than twenty-five separate cantonal or half-cantonal Governments, each of these little sections of the Swiss people having almost as much power as the States of Australia have at present. They have even gone further than we have, because those half-cantons are found in particular States where one portion of the people is rural and the other urban ; and it. has been considered that there is such a divergence of interest between town and country that, in those cases, the canton has been divided into two portions, the rural portion having one State Government, if I may so term it, for itself, while the city 01 town has another. ,>Those conditions have existed now since 1848, with very slight modifications. Although during that time the mountains have been pierced with tunnels, railways have been built, excellent roads have been made, and with the advent of telegraphs and telephones communication has been rendered simple and easy among the various portions of that little country, its people still retain their State Governments, because they believe it is vitally necessary to their welfare that home rule and centralization should exist side by side.
In the movement which gave America ils Federation it was the Democrats who opposed the policy of centralization which Alexander Hamilton, the aristocratic autocrat of America during his day, desired to establish. He and those who worked with him made no secret of their desire, as they put it themselves in a famous phrase, to place Democracy in a straight-jacket, when they were drawing up the United States Constitution. They did so, to a very large extent, and many writers on American conditions since then have attributed the decay that has taken place in United States politics generally to the impoverishment of the States, which resulted from the federation of that great country.
We have been reminded in this debate of the glorious Constitution of Great Britain. lt has undoubtedly been associated with a glorious history, but that history has been created, not so much by virtue of the British Constitution as, very frequently, in spite of it. At the present time, that Constitution is admitted by all jurists to be an unwieldy, inadequate, and creaking piece of machinery, and it has become imperative that in the near future some devolution shall be accomplished, in order that the Central Parliament, that ancient body, shall be able to discharge with some degree of efficiency a portion of the work that it is at present struggling helplessly to perform. In Great Britain, at the present time, the cry for home rule is echoing, not from Ireland alone, but from Scotland and provincial England as well. In Scotland, I know the people for many years have been divided between a sense of loyalty to the old compact and a growing feeling of irritation at the uncertainty, slowness, and expense of legislation when attempted for that country in the Imperial Parliament. I have no hesitation, in saying that, if Scotland had had a measure of home rule, her position to-day would have been much more forward, and her people in a happier and more prosperous condition, than has been the case under the system of centralization that has operated so frequently to her dis- advantage. The same centralization policy we have seen bitterly opposed all these years in Ireland. I cannot understand the attitude of many members of this House, and many members of the Labour party outside the House, who, while ardent enthusiasts for home rule in their native country, are bitter enemies of the same policy as we see it in Australia. The two principles of home rule and centralization must co-exist side by side. There are neces- sary and useful spheres of action for both the State and Federal Parliaments. I believe it is our duty to continue to carry out this policy of division of labour, which I hold as one of my essential political beliefs to be absolutely necessary both to the welfare of Australia as a whole and to the best interests of its Democracy.
– I would join with others who have preceded me in the anxious hope that it were possible to discuss a question of the gravity of the one immediately before us from a non-party stand-point. I feel that every invitation has been extended from this side that the matter should be so regarded, but every overture made in that direction has been stolidly resisted, and no encouragement whatever has been given for dealing with the issue in that fashion. I feel, therefore, that to a large extent it is futile for us to attempt to put forward any arguments in connexion with the important Bill before us, recognising that to do so will practically have the result of altering no votes. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition emphasized by any means too strongly the view that these Bills, particularly the one altering our legislative powers, will, if carried, have the effect of destroying many of the essential principles of the Federal system. Let us recall the circumstances under which Federation came into existence. It was a purely voluntary act on the part of the States themselves. They were self-governing bodies, each sovereign within its own sphere, but animated, no doubt, by the feeling which pervaded the community, and the experience of what had taken place in other portions of the British Dominions, they determined that it was desirable to establish a central body to deal with various matters of common interest to the whole of Australia. Representatives were therefore appointed, and met in various Conferences, and it was agreed that the States should each surrender certain powers. In determining the powers to be thus surrendered, the greatest care and circumspection were exercised. The most experienced of our politicians, the most distinguished in their several States, men of great training and political authority, met together. Knowing the conditions of their several States, they realized that certain powers alone could be advantageously surrendered, and these were made the subject of jurisdiction by the central authority. After many conferences and lengthy debates, there resulted a compact or Constitution which, I venture to say, created a contract between the Commonwealth and the States; and, recognising the care shown by all concerned in bringing into life this Federal body, I agree that extreme caution should be exercised in any alteration or amendment. In section 51 of the Constitution, various subjects of legislation are set forth, following the process of drafting adopted in the American Constitution. The idea in both cases was that the subjects should be barely mentioned, to be subsequently developed or extended, first by the Parliament, and afterwards by the Law Court of the national body. Thus we find it simply provided that the Parliament shall have power to legislate with respect to “ trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States.” But each subject of legislation so mentioned represents a vast sphere of activity upon which volumes could be written ; and, indeed, volumes have already been written in America. It is now practically proposed to put the Constitution into the meltingpot - from that conclusion there is no escape. Has any demand been made by the people that this should be done? His anything taken place in the working of the Constitution to justify such drastic alterations? One of the chief arguments in favour of the Bill before us is that relating to industrial conditions; but that is really founded on the assumption that there has been, to some extent, a failure of the industrial measures passed by the States. That is altogether a wrong assumption ; because, prior to Federation, several of the States, including Victoria, made large advances in the establishment of industrial tribunals. I was a member of the Victorian Government in 1896, which introduced, for the first time in the history of Australia, the principle of new Protection. It was realized that the manufacturers alone should not have the benefit of the fiscal system then obtaining in the
State ; but that there should be granted to employes some guarantee of fair and reasonable wages and conditions ; and no industrial system, I venture to say, has proved so successful. From one State to another that system has spread until throughout the Commonwealth, excepting only Tasmania, the Wages Boards have been established ; and the principle has been extended even to the Mother Country itself. Is it not obvious that such a system must be successful? In the first place, it realizes the immediate condition of the several industries, and creates Boards, consisting of experts who are in touch with the interests involved, and capable of deciding what is just in the way of wages and conditions. In ViCtoria, there are now upwards of seventy Wages Boards, to the immediate benefit of over 70,000 employes, in the shape of increased wages and better conditions. Daily and weekly the system is spreading and developing, and proving more and more successful ; and, under the circumstances, it is not an unfair assumption that the workers, who know best what conditions suit them, and who have expressed themselves as greatly satisfied, do not clamour for what is practically an experiment which may or may not prove successful, or, at any rate, cannot prove more satisfactory than the system now in operation, while it may prove infinitely less so. When we remember that the States, with their industrial legislation, are in a position to deal with the complexities within their own limits, and are the best judges of what is adapted to their own immediate requirements, and that the persons adjudicating on the Wages Boards are experts, it must be admitted that, under all the circumstances, such a serious departure as that now contemplated is not by any means justified. In my opinion this legislation will result in fomenting trouble and friction with the States - will result in the Commonwealth pulling against the States. The immediate object of Federation was rather that the States and the Commonwealth should pull together, representative as they are of one people, with an anxious desire to study the best interests and the highest welfare of Australia as a whole. It was determined that there should be two agencies, one for the conduct of national affairs, and the State Parliaments as local agencies for the administration of local affairs, work for which no other authority could be better fitted. The honorable member who spoke last expressed surprise that no effort had been made to utilize the Inter-State Commission which is part of the machinery provided in the Constitution for dealing with industrial matters ; but he must have overlooked the fact that the late Government introduced an Inter-State Commission Bill, which I had the honour of presenting in another place. The Bill was drawn on the principle that the Commonwealth should take advantage of the network of industrial tribunals already provided in the several States. It was recognised by reason of expressions from the Bench, both in tht New South Wales Arbitration Court and in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, that it was possible for unfair conditions to exist owing to the varying decisions of the separate State tribunals; and in order to meet the situation, the Bill I introduced contemplated a Federal tribunal. It was not proposed to acquire this power against the determined resistance of the States, but to deal with the vast question, of such moment to us all, by means of a common arrangement. It was provided that the several States should, in terms of the Constitution, give to the National Parliament the authority to deal with the differences brought about by unfair competition as between States, with a view to adjustment and settlement; and by this means, coordination and harmonious relationship through the Commonwealth was to be established. But it was suggested and admitted at once that, if the States failed to carry out the bargain to remit such questions to the central body, an amendment of the Constitution must be secured to attain the desired end. So far from there having been any failure to utilize that portion of the machinery of the Constitution known as the Inter-State Commission, the late Government proposed to bring it into operation by means of the Bill which I introduced. All was to be done in consultation with the States ; and I venture to say that that course would have been more successful than any legislation attempted at the expense and in spite of the States.
– By the will of the States - bv the people !
– That remains to be seen. In the meantime, I say that if it were possible for the people to be asked whether they were prepared to accept the alternative scheme to which I have just referred, I should not be doubtful as to the result. Having realized the advantages of the industrial legislation already passed by the States, the people will not, I think, be ready to cast that legislation aside for proposals which may or may not be successful. I join in what I regard as a most reasonable request - that the several questions set forth in the Bill should be separately submitted to the people. It has been suggested that they are all related one to the other ; but that, in my opinion, is not correct. For instance, clause 2 provides that section 51 of the Constitution shall be amended by the omission of the words, “ with other countries and among the States”; and that I contend is essentially a separate question from the others. If carried in the form presented in this Bill, it would not render necessary the submission of the amendment for which clause 5 provides, ‘namely -
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph : - (xl.) Combinations and monopolies in rela tion to the production, manufacture, or supply of goods or services.
I would also urge that the amendment contemplated by clause 3 is by no means necessarily connected with those for which clause 2 and clause 5 provide. That provided for in clause 4 is certainly not connected with the others. It is only fair that first of all the Parliament, and, secondly, the people, should have an opportunity to deal with and vote on these all-important questions separately. I am sure that there are on this side of the House honorable members who are prepared to grant a degree of modification - although not of the drastic character proposed in this Bill - to meet the immediate difficulties that have arisen under the Constitution. It is the anxiety of all parties that every facility should be granted for the expansion of the Constitution and the exercise of the jurisdiction for which section 51 and other parts of the instrument provide. Difficulties that may arise from time to time need only to be brought before this Parliament in order to be rectified. Let me deal first of all with the proposal to extend the commerce power by striking out the words appearing in paragraph 1. of section 51, “ With other countries and among the States.” The provision as it stands practically follows that in the American Constitution, save that, I think, the subject is made stronger by section 98, which declares that -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of any State.
I admit that some difficulties have arisen in this regard. It became my duty to introduce on two occasions the Navigation Bill in another place, and I had, therefore, to study very closely our power to legislate in that direction. I was certainly greatly surprised to discover the extraordinarily wide character of our commerce power, and the extent of our jurisdiction under it, as declared by the Courts of the United States. It appears to be limited by the words, “ with other countries and among the States “ ; but according to the American authorities the legislative power is not confined to ships engaged in Inter- State trade and foreign commerce. I think it will be clear that we have power to make laws in regard to navigation and shipping, so far as InterState trade and commerce are affected, and that our jurisdiction extends over ships and seamen, the control of the navigable waters of the Commonwealth, and of all ships which use those waters. In other words, all the waters that may be used for navigable purposes are practically within the power, control, and jurisdiction of the Federal body. All waters which are accessible from a State other than that in which they lie are immediately within the power of the National Parliament. I have here a short note of the case of Gilman v. Philadelphia, reported in 3 Wallace, page 734, in which it was laid down that-
The power to regulate commerce comprehends the control for that purpose, and to the extent necessary, of all the navigable waters of the United States which are accessible from a Stale other than that in which they lie. For this purpose they are the public property of the nation and subject to all the requisite legislation by Congress.
As in the United States the laws relating to navigation, shipping, and seamen are based on the plenary powers of Congress, so in the case of the Commonwealth, I venture to say, we may claim full power to legislate on the whole subject, so far as navigation on the high seas or the navigable waters of the Commonwealth is concerned. In further illustration of the extent of the powers that we possess under the Constitution as it stands, I would point out that in the case of The Oyster Police Steamers of Maryland, 31 Federal Report, page 763, it was laid down that -
The existing regulation of Congress with regard to steam vessels proceeds upon the assumption that it possesses full power to regulate all vessels navigating public waters of the United States whether they are engaged in commerce or not. . . And it is also apparent that Congress proceeds upon the theory that proper regulation requires that all vessels in those waters shall be subject to one uniform system.
Other cases have established the principle that navigation laws may be applied even to vessels engaged in the domestic commerce of the States. In the case of Lord v. Steam-ship Company, 102 U.S. Reports, page 541, is was specifically held’” that-
While navigating the high seas between ports of the same State, a vessel of the United States is, together with the business in which she is engaged, subject to the regulating power of Congress.
That is under the commerce power of the United States, with which our commerce power corresponds. We may, therefore, fairly claim, under our powers as already existing, to regulate all ships which use Inter-State highways, whether engaged in Inter-State trade or not, as we consider that that is a matter affecting Inter-State commerce. We have power to regulate and make laws as to lights, signals, rules of the road, collisions, safety, competence and efficiency of officers and seamen, safety appliances, salvage, overloading, seaworthiness, inspection of hull, machinery and boilers. In fact, speaking generally and subject, of course, to the assent of the Crown, we have practically the power to deal with almost everything that is contained in the Merchant Shipping Act. It has been held, moreover, in America, that the Federal law as to even the limited liability of ship-owners is applicable to ships engaged in the domestic trade of a State. In the case of Patterson v. Endora, the Federal law prohibiting advances to seamen, without limitations, was held to be constitutional. The vessel in that case was engaged in foreign commerce, and the Court left open the question as to the applicability of the section in the case of a sailor serving wholly within a State. But in view of the decisions of the Court on analogous questions, there can be little doubt that the section would, if the case arose, be held to apply. I have cited these cases in order that honorable members may realize the vast and extensive powers that we already possess under the Constitution. I do not wish to state the position unfairly. I might be met at once with the statement that I found it necessary to insert in the Navigation Bill, as introduced by me, a provision to protect it against a declaration of unconstitutionality as to certain of its parts. In that Bill we inserted the provision -
This Act shall not apply to any ships exclusively used in inland waters of a State, which are not navigable by ships engaged in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States.
That reservation has but a limited application, and practically would apply only to inability on the part of the Federal body to deal with and control shipping on lakes that were immediately within a State, and which were not to be reached by ships coming from other States, lt will be observed that our powers under the existing terms of the Constitution practically extend to all navigable waters. I would therefore urge that, having regard to the vast powers we already possess in this regard, we should proceed with great care and caution with any proposal to extend them to regions of domestic legislation relating to the States. We should satisfy ourselves that these are amendments which experience and the working of the Constitution itself have justified. To my mind, they should certainly be of a more limited character. I come now to the proposal to amend the Constitution so as to extend our power to deal with corporations. I am with those who agree that certain limited alterations are essential, particularly in regard to the creation and dissolution of corporations. The honorable member for Flinders and others have already pointed out that this Bill, in proposing the introduction of such words as “ regulation and control of corporations,” goes far beyond what was really intended by the Government itself. The Constitution Alteration (Monopolies) Bill proposes to extend our power to make laws with respect to monopolies. I can scarcely be accused of sympathy with monopolies, since it was my duty to take some part in the introduction of the parent measure, and to introduce two other Bills amending what are known as our antitrust laws. The two subsequent measures had for their object the controlling of monopolies detrimental to the public. The evolution of the system of monopolies is of recent date. In the first place, we had the ordinary trading corporations, and then came the schemes for aggregating corporations. These were followed by the creation of what may be called holding companies, which, possessing themselves of the majority of the shares in several other companies, were enabled to manage and control them. In that way competition was stifled. This process of commercial greed resulted in abuses of the most serious character in the United States, and led to the passing of the anti-trust laws of that country. Those anti-trust laws are of a very drastic character; but in some respects they do not seem to be sufficiently stringent. Our anti-trust legislation is for the most part, if not wholly, founded upon that of America.
– But those antitrust laws have been found quite ineffectual by reason of the constitutional limitations.
– They have been found ineffectual in some cases, but very effective in others, and there have been several successful prosecutions. There is a bureau of corporations which, though somewhat limited as to its sphere of action, has done work of a useful character, having successfully prosecuted in the Ice Company’s case, in one or two cases in which the Standard Oil Company was concerned, and in the Sugar Company case.
– And the Northern Securities Company’s case.
– It did not succeed in the Sugar Company case, but that was not because of the constitutional limitation, but because the operations came under the head of manufacture and not of commerce.
– It is some little time since I went into the matter; but to the best of my recollection it was in the Pipe case that they failed on the ground stated. The point I wish to emphasize is that the National Parliament should have the fullest control of monopolies. If power is not given to the Parliament to control trusts detrimental to the public, and they are not efficiently controlled, there will, at least, be some justification for taking them over, as urged by honorable members opposite. But the time for that is yet a long way off. I do not hold that all trusts are injurious to the public interest and necessarily bad, but those whose operation is tyrannous and detrimental to the public welfare should be dealt with by the Parliament, which should have jurisdiction, not merely in respect to combinations whose business extends from State to State or beyond the limits of Australia, but also in relation to their internal operations within the States. I feel that the fifth provision of the Bill is unnecessary, and that a limited modification of the trade and commerce provisions of the Constitution would secure all that it is desirable to do immediately.
– Would that include everything, without the mention of combinations and monopolies?
– What about industrial matters?
– I have already dealt with that; they would not be included. I have contrasted the provisions of the Bill with the proposals of the last Government, of which I was a member, for the completion of the industrial system. A modification of the trade and commerce provisions of the Constitution is all that is essential to give this Parliament full control of trusts and monopolies injurious to the public. I ask honorable members opposite, therefore, not to insist, as their numbers permit them to do, on the drastic provisions of the Bill, but to apply themselves to obtaining a modification, whereby we can achieve all that it is desirable to achieve immediately.
.- I look upon this question as one of the most important that has ever come before an Australian Parliament. When we meet, we pray that our deliberations may be directed towards “ the true welfare of the people of Australia,” and with those words ringing in my ears I cannot think, notwithstanding that views are sometimes expressed which jar upon me, that any honorable member, wherever he may sit, wishes in his heart of hearts to do anything but what is best for our people. What is now proposed is the introduction of the thin edge of the wedge of the referendum. The honorable member for Ballarat asked the Labour party not to lean too strongly on the memory of 13th April, but every member on this side was returned by a majority, which cannot be said of all the members of his party. While I regret the course which he has pursued, I welcome assistance from the honorable member for (Perth to make the Constitution more democratic than it is. He asked, “ How will this Parliament find time to pass all the legislation that will be necessary if we have Unification ? “ and said that if we did eighteen months’ work in a year that would not be sufficient. Yet from his lip’s came adulation of that little country, the schoolhouse of Europe, and, indeed, of the world, known as Switzerland.
– Not adulation, but honest praise.
– If we had a referendum and initiative, such as the Swiss Constitution provides for, we might not have to fear for the Legislative Assemblies of the States; but those fossilized chambers known as the Legislative Councils would be swept out of existence. The honorable member pointed the finger of scorn at the Legislative Council of Victoria,and I thank him for doing so. To-day that body will not permit the people of Victoria to buy their own coal.
– It is the best friend that the Labour party has in this State !
– That does not diminish its iniquity. As we could not secure the defeat of the honorable member for Kooyong, I welcome his return to this Chamber for the sake of old times, but must couch a lance against him in respect to the Wages Boards. He knows how bitter a fight had to be waged with the Legislative Council of Victoria to get the Wages Board system established here, and as a reader of history, and a student of constitutional law, must bc aware that there is no legislative body in the civilized world, or, at any rate, under the British flag, so strong as it is. The House of Lords is weak in comparison. One class, only is represented within its Chamber. The honorable member knows how it has destroyed the Factory Act. When, by a stroke of genius, Mr. McLean provided that a resolution, by either House, should bring a factory under the Factory Act, the Legislative Council prevented that from being done, and permitted a man to escape from the Act by removing his factory from Melbourne to Sunshine, although the policy of this State has enabled him to add countless thousands to his fortune. It is a farce and a fallacy to say that the States should control factory legislation, seeing that if one State does so, and another omits to do so, the employers in the latter would take advantage of their position. Although in Victoria some 70,000 workers come under Wages Boards, still more do not come under them, and sweating is carried on by some of the biggest businesses in Melbourne, notably by the warehousemen. A gentleman who filled the chair which I hope you, Mr. Speaker, will long live to occupy, paid £30 for robes which were made in a sweaters’ den in Melbourne. I had experience in the making of the Factory Act of this State, and know what an obstruction the Legislative Council was.
– The honorable member for Perth, when alluding to the difficulty that would be experienced by the Parliament in getting its work done in the time at its disposal, must have forgotten one salient point in the Constitution of Switzerland which would have removed that difficulty from his mind at once if applied to our circumstances. I refer to the power of the referendum and initiative, which every writer on political economy regards as the highest ideal reached by the intelligence of man in the conduct of public affairs. It removes debatable questions from the arena of Parliament, and allows it far more time for the conduct of its ordinary business. lt is the inherent right of every voter in Switzerland to demand of the Parliament that a law shall be put to the vote of the people. Considering that three different languages, French, German, and Italian, are spoken in the Swiss Parliament, honorable members will realize the delay that would occur if tactics, such as are sometimes adopted by Oppositions here, were followed there to delay the work of Parliament. If a German speaks on one side of the House and an Italian or a Frenchman on the other, each has the right to demand a translation of the other’s speech; and, therefore, “ stone- walling,” as we know it, could be carried in the Swiss Parliament to a fine art. The great S witzers, however, in their common sense, work in a business-like way. They meet at 8 o’clock in the morning in summertime, adjourn at i, meet again at 2, and adjourn at 6. In winter, the only difference is that they meet one hour later, and any member absent without justifiable excuse is fined. I feel sure that the honorable member for Perth will extend a great meed of admiration to Switzerland and its Constitution; and, therefore, when the Government of Australia, in the second or third session of this Parliament, introduce a Bill for the initiative and referendum, thus carrying into effect the plank that stands in our platform to-day as plainly as the Commandments in the Church, I believe I shall be able to claim the honorable member’s vote in support of it. 1 shall vote for the referendum at all times, and in all circumstances; but I shall never permit it, by my vote, to be used to control the religious opinions or ideas of any individual. The opposition to this Bill is not coming from this side of the House. I believe that those who honour us by sitting in the Ministerial corner, will vote also to uphold the principle that the voice of the people shall be dominant over any Parliament. One of the greatest jurists the world has ever seen, who shed the light of his abilities on the United States of America, said that for a man to betray a country or a great cause, it was not necessary to seek far, as he was ready-made i: a lawyer. The majority of those opposing this Bill are lawyers. Strange to say. they are called the “Devil’s Brigade,” and they total the devil’s number in this House. Most of them sit on the Opposition side. If one of our athletic younger members were to throw a cricket ball across the chamber, the odds are four to one that he would hit a lawyer if he aimed at the front Opposition bench. In The Cooperative Commonwealth, by Gronlund, the following quotation is made from Romilly, one of the greatest authorities on English law -
Our judicial system : a technical one invented for the creation of costs.
Frazer’s Magazine states that “ distinguished pleaders defeat justice while establishing points of law.” Another venerable authority, speaking of lawyers, says -
Woe unto you lawyers also, for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne ; and ye yourselves touch not the burden with one of your fingers.
When I hear people speak of the High Court dominating this Parliament, I resent it strongly. My own experience causes, me to have a certain amount of loathing and contempt for it. I have full respect for two members of it-
– The honorable member must not reflect on the Justices of the High Court.
– I withdraw the remark, because I do not wish to speak in harsh terms of any one, but three afternoons in the High Court in search of justice cost me £200. That makes me say that it is not justice but money that wins in this country.
– Order; the honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– I regret to say that it cost me £200, and if 1 had gone on it would have cost me £1,500. Before I deal with the coterie who are trying to rivet the Constitution with steel bands, so. that it shall be unalterable for all time, let me quote what Charles Dickens says of a wellknown British institution -
There never was such an infernal cauldron as that Chancery on the face of the earth ! Nothing but a mine below it on a busy day in term time, with all its records, rules, and precedents collected in it, and every functionary belonging to it also, high and low, upward and downward, from its son, the AccountantGeneral, to its father the Devil, and the whole blown to atoms with ten thousand hundredweight of gunpowder, would reform it in the least !
With regard to some of the clever voices that we have heard in this debate - especially that of the honorable member for Flinders - I must say thatif the biggest trust or combine in the world came here to crush us, and asked for his legal services, he would not care for justice so long as he was given the task of defending their point of view. The history of law throughout the English and Australian world shows that the pleader always endeavours to win his case by points of law and not upon points of justice. By introducing this measure we shall sweep away those absurd quibbles and points of law that prevent those who are less able through lack of money to fight in the Courts from obtaining the justice which the people who created this Parliament desired that they should have. To show how absurd are the technicalities of the law, let me quote the following passage regarding the results that have followed from the mistake made by a Judge -
Do you know why Christianity is a part of the common law of our country ? Because an English Judge, Lord Mansfield, mistranslating two words of a dictum of somebody in the fifteenth century, called ancien scripture (Norman French, meaning, ancient writing) “ holy scripture !”
The result of that mistake has endured to the present day. When the great Napoleon was drawing up the Code Napoleon, which will preserve his name in future generations when his victories are all forgotten, he had great difficulty - almost superhuman though his abilities were - in preventing the lawyers making it an inferior document. In the Courts of Conciliation we know that it is the longest purse that wins. Men who make large fortunes through the protection of our laws, when they are directed to extend fair treatment to others, run straight away to the lawyers and fight the demand from Court to Court. For the administration of real and simple justice to the community we must turn to another little country known as Denmark. Let me quote the following passage: -
Her so-called “ Courts of Conciliation “ have been in existence in that country since 1828, and during that period - have given immense satisfaction, so much so, indeed, that similar Courts have, to a certain extent, been adopted by other countries in Europe. The distinguishing feature of those Courts is that no lawyers are allowed there. All suits whatsoever, without regard to the amounts involved, must, in the first place, . be brought before these Courts. The Judge takes down the oral complaint of the plaintiff and the oral defence of the defendant, and renders judgment accordingly. If, however, either of the parties is dissatisfied with the judgment, the Judge refers the case to the regular Courts, in which Courts, however, no other evidence is allowed to be introduced but that which was laid before the Judge sitting in the Court of Conciliation. A vast amount of litigation is settled yearly by these Courts, because it is the duty of the Judge to explain the laws governing the particular case to the parties, and also, undoubtedly, because lawyers are excluded.
To show how justice is administered in that little country,I wish to quote a letter from the present Attorney-General of Denmark, which, I think, is absolutely unique in the record of the legal treatment of clients, and worthy of being preserved in our Hansard. We have in this community a respected citizen named H. Christensen, who has been the introducer of Danish seeds and other things connected with horticulture and agriculture. This gentleman wrote to me as follows : -
Doncaster-road, Canterbury, 3rd October, 1910.
Dear Dr. Maloney,
Please find enclosed original and translation of the case I mentioned to you. Mr. Buelow, who is now Attorney-General of Denmark, as well as Mr. Ree, who had drawn up the contract in dispute, advised me, against my own inclination, to take legal proceedings ; - that is the reason, I suppose, why they paid the costs.
This was a peaceful man, who did not like law, and he was selling all he possessed in order to come to Australia. His lawyer, who occupied one of the highest positions, advised him to go to law to establish his claim, and he did so, with the result that he was beaten in the County Court, and had to go to the Supreme Court. The following letter will show how the litigation ended -
Copenhagen, 16th December, 1909.
Fritz Buelow, Supreme Court Barrister.
Dear Mr. Christensen,
I regret to have to inform you, that the Supreme Court has confirmed the judgment of the County Court in your action against Mr. Thompsen, and sentenced you to pay costs.
The costs to the County and Supreme Courts in connexion with your action against Mr. Thompsen, Supreme Court Barrister Ree and myself have agreed to pay between us, so that, at any rate, you will have no expense in connexion with this case.
With kind regards,
Yours sincerely, (Sgd.) Fritz Buelow.
In all my fifty years of reading I have never come across conduct equal to that on the part, of a lawyer. The honorable member for Bendigo supported in the main what fell from the lips of his’ eloquent leader, but he laid great stress on the fact that the electors were to be asked four questions. Let us see, however, what the honorable member advocated at the Conference which ultimately led to the Federal Convention. He there moved a motion to the effect that the Legislature of each Colony should pass an Act providing for the election of representatives to attend a statutory Convention or Congress to adopt a Bill for a Federal Constitution for Australia, and, on the adoption of such Bill, to submit it by some process of referendum to the verdict of each Colony. The honorable member did not then complain that the 128 separate sections of the Federal Constitution would be too many to submit to the people, although he now contends that the same people cannot be trusted to understand four simple questions. Lawyer as he is, and good Democrat as he was, he must realize that 128 sections of a huge Constitution are much more difficult to grasp than the questions it is now proposed shall be placed before the people. But, in any case, how dare he or any other honorable member say that the people are not fit to declare what shall be the law ? Before the last election we heard a great deal about “ trusting the people,” but it must be remembered that every man on this side of the House represents a majority, though the Leader of the Opposition knows that the same cannot be said with truth of some honorable members who sit behind him. That we on this side are not afraid to trust the people is proved by the fact that one plank in our platform, supported by every Labour member and every Labour elector, is the initiative and the referendum. When the Leader of the Opposition - whose speeches are like the rippling waters of a stream, and often leave no more on- the memory - was speaking yesterday, he, in answer to an interjection, said, according to the re- port in the Age of to-day-
– The honorable member must not quote from an article in a newspaper comments upon business before Parliament.
– At any rate, I may say that when the honorable member for Herbert asked, by way of interjection, whom we could trust, there came from the eloquent lips of the honorable member for Ballarat, “ The people.” What objection, then, can the honorable member for Ballarat have to the referendum? Why should he object to the electors now being asked four questions when he had no objection to their being asked 128 separate questions in the case of the Constitution? Switzerland shows us that the rights of the States can be preserved by that most democratic of institutions to which I am referring. The twenty-two cantons and half-cantons have no fewer than twenty-five different Parliaments, and there the initiative and the referendum do not result in the destruction of the power of the canton. As a matter of fact, we have only to change the word “ State “ into “ Canton “ to produce similar conditions in Australia. In Switzerland, the laws are made through the referendum, because the people are dominant over the Parliament, the Cabinet, and the President. It is an axiom that the creators should be greater than the created, and we are the created of the people under the Constitution. The representatives of the Federal Convention were elected in all the States except in that benighted community, Western Australia, where they were nominated. That State had the audacity to send ten nominated members to that Convention, and their presence only made the Constitution more unworthy of Australia than it should be. But those ten to-day are in the limbo of oblivion, except one.
– And he is very nearly there !
– At any rate, he is now in the place where he is never happy. If the representatives at the Convention from Western Australia had been elected, the Constitution would have been a much better one than it is. In any case, the creators of this Parliament should have the right to alter or amend the Constitution. Article 118 of the Swiss Constitution provides that the Constitution “may at any time be amended wholly or partially.” Every one will agree that any institution which has been tried by experience in any part of the civilized world, and found good, ought to be transplanted for our use and benefit; and I shall never be content, so long as I am permitted to represent the people, until there is a similar provision in our Constitution, together with the initiative and the referendum, so that the electors, in spite of all the lawyers and barristers, may have their own way. A letter from an old friend, the Consul for Swit- zerland, informs me that from 17th June, 1874, to 7th December, 1903, 249 laws have been submitted to the referendum, twentyfour rejected, and the balance accepted. The records of the referenda show that they were the most important that could be put before a people. Not one of those laws, however, could be placed upon the statute-book until the people, exercising their great power, had given them the imprimatur of their approval. Are we not the equal of the people of Switzerland? Have we not equal claims? Have we not a greater franchise? Here every woman of twenty-one years of age and over enjoys, with every man, the right to determine who shall make the laws that she is called upon to obey. By all means, let us have the referenda now proposed. I welcome this Bill, and, if I am any judge of the feelings of my fellow Australians, it will be accepted by such a majority that honorable members of the Opposition, who have opposed it in part - no one has opposed the Bill as a whole - will regret that they went even as far as that. A due meed of praise should be given to Robespierre for suggesting the referendum. When he wished to save the monarchy of France, his advice was that the king should say, “ My people, here are the laws I have made for you. Will you accept them?” Had that suggestion been adopted, the position in France might have been different from what it is. That, so far as I have been able to ascertain, was the first suggestion made for the introduction of the principle of the referendum. Who dares to say that the people are incompetent to express an opinion on what should be the laws of the country ? My reply to any one who made such a statement would be, “ Rubbish !” I feel disposed to quote the words of that old boatman of Lake Lucerne, who said that if a country were governed by a king or an emperor, that king or emperor would govern and control it for the benefit of himself and his family and his immediate surroundings. If a country were governed by an oligarchy, then they would rule it for themselves, their families, and their friends. But, said he, if it is ruled by a pure Democracy, such as we have, with our initiative and the referendum, what must be the result? If a bad law is passed, the first to feel the pinch will be the majority who must suffer under it, and they will amend it as quickly as a Democracy with the power of the initiative and the referendum could do. I would trust the people before I would trust ten High Courts. It seems to me that lawyers are a privileged class, who sometimes give us the benefit of their brains; but- how often do we find them voting against their stated opinions? My experience in the State Parliament was that the honorable member for Flinders used to speak like an angel, while sometimes he acted like a cat. He would vote against anything so long as it suited him and his clique to do so.
– The honorable member should have waited until the honorable member for Flinders was present before making such assertions.
– I should be glad if the honorable member would bring him in. No Premier of whom I know ever had greater power than he had ; yet he was the only man to rob his fellow-men of their grates.
– -The honorable member must not impute improper motives to an honorable member.
– I cannot withdraw the statement, because it is true. ‘
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw the words. What was the speech that the honorable member made on this question last night? It was, in effect, “Define, define, and yet again define, the meaning of the words ‘ combines ‘ and ‘ trusts.’ “ What is the meaning ? Ask the people outside, who have to pay more for their sugar than they ought to do, and they will tell you what is a trust. Ask the housewife whose price for kerosene is standardized, and made in America. Ask the man who smokes his pipe, his cigarette, or cigar, the price of which is determined in the United States. Yet we are asked to have an exact definition before we go any further. I was very pleased with portion of the speech made by the honorable member for Flinders, but experience makes us wise. The burnt child dreads the fire, and my fingers have been burnt. We heard the honorable member speak in similar terms on a former occasion. Honorable members will recollect a speech which he made in the late Parliament. It was a splendid deliverance, but the vote which he and certain other honorable members cast was not quite in accord with their arguments. The honorable member for Angas has my full admiration. I almost regret that he was trained as a barrister, for I think that if he had not he would have been a better man.
– He ought to have been a doctor.
– Both are close corporations.
– There are hospitals where the doctors treat the people free of charge, but there are no institutions where law and justice are dispensed without fees. The honorable member for Angas said that apparently some people wished to amend the Constitution before they understood it, but surely he, with his logical mind, must agree that it is easier for the people to understand four questions than it is for. them to understand 128. In connexion with a referendum, the platform is always open to both sides, and I know of no fight that was more educational than that which took place when the Constitution was submitted to a referendum of the people. That is one instance of the educational power of the system, and I wish to see it repeated again and again. If a law is bad, let us amend it until we make it perfect ; but we shall never do that if we listen to the advice of the legal members of this House. . An honorable member has spoken of the peril of the East. I trust that I shall not weary honorable members by my references to Switzerland, but I wish to quote an opinion expressed by one of the best military men of his day, who left England to undertake a position of great responsibility. I refer to Sir Francis Ottewell Adams, late Her Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at Berne. In conjunction with Mr. C. D. Cunningham, he wrote The Swiss Confederation. Little Switzerland, comprising people speaking four different languages, is buried in the breast of the Alps, and dominated by the latent, intelligence and brilliant genius of Germany and France. It has wrested territory from three of the strongest nations of its time - from Italy on the one side, from Burgundy, and even a small piece of territory from Germany. It is simply the justice of its laws and the justice of the dealings of the people with each other that keeps it together. This high English authority shows that the annual cost per annum for defence is as follows : - Great Britain, £64 10s. 4d. per man ; Spain, £56 2s. 4d. ; AustriaHungry. £52 I2s- J France, £46 13s. 6d. ; Germany, £46 ; Denmark, ^45
It is a subject for reflection to us, a great and powerful nation, that a little country, not possessing a tenth part of our wealth, can put into and maintain effectively in the field between 150,000 and 200,000 men, a feat which we, in spite of our enormous budget, are incapable of achieving.
This trusted officer of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria would not have made such a statement had he not known that it was true and could be proved. It would not hold to-day, however, because a great change has since come over Great Britain. Referring to the question of trusts, let me quote the following passage from page 263 of Gronlund’s book - The Co-operative Commonwealth -
The fact is, the State of Pennsylvania has had a narrow escape from an internal civil war. Had certain men given the word, there would have been an outbreak that contemplated the seizure of the railroads and running them, the capture and control of the United Pipe Lines property, and, in all probability, the burning of all the property of the Standard Oil Company in the region. The men who would have done this, and may do it yet, are not labourers or tramps.
What .was the experience of Australia in regard to the Tobacco Combine? A Select Committee, over which Senator Pearce presided, was appointed to inquire into the tobacco industry, and a mass of interesting evidence was taken. The Tobacco Combine of the United States of America stepped across the Atlantic to fight the Tobacco Combine of England, which tried to meet it, but with what result? We are told that the British and American Tobacco Company of Great Britain controls itself. That is not so; it is owned and controlled by the American Combine, and there is only one way in which the millions of that mighty combine can be fought. Here is a quotation from The Uprising of the Many -
When the American Tobacco Company had beaten the American retail tobacco dealer into a proper pulp of humility and subservience it crossed to England, reorganized itself under a convenient alias, absorbed all the leading British manufacturers, and spread its genial influence through the British Isles, ruining tradesmen and crushing competition. Thence it extended its domain to outlying British possessions, and at last descended with its familiar tactics upon Australia.
Two great Australian firms, one in Sydney, the other in Melbourne, united to resist the invader, and for purposes of stronger defence they formed a stock company. There was much valiantly planned action that never came to the battlefield, for the contest was over before it was fairly begun. One day the Australians awoke to find that the Tobacco Trust had quietly secured a majority of the new company’s stock. After that the Australian tobacco market was at the Trust’s mercy.
To show the profits that are made in Australia in the tobacco industry, let me give some figures garnered by Mr. G. A. Carter, cigar manufacturer, of Melbourne. They are these -
The American tobacco combine controls every tobacconist’s shop in the United States of America, and in Great Britain, and determines what every smoker shall pay for his cigarettes, cigar, or pipe . tobacco. How can it be beaten? Only by legislative measures. We have not the dominant power of that monarch who is half-god and half-man - the Mikado. Japan has beaten this combine, and, notwithstanding its millions, sent it hurtling back to America. The Japanese statesmen saw that there was a profit in the tobacco industry, and offered to purchase at a fair price the business of the combine. The offer was laughed to scorn. Japan then imposed duties on tobacco, commencing with duties of 50 per cent. She also commenced to manufacture tobacco, and made another offer to the combine, which was again laughed at. In 1905, she made her duties 100 per cent., and then 150 per cent. An article of the Japanese Constitution provides that all things required for a Government monopoly must be admitted duty free. Yet the American combine still continued to fight. In 1906, the duties were raised to 250 per cent. That meant that cigars worth j£io a thousand cost the combine £35, plus landing charges and freight, to get into Japan; and, notwithstanding its wealth, it could not stand that. It went on its knees to beg the Japanese Government to buy its buildings and machinery, but the reply was, “ We do not want them; you would not accept our fair offer.” Japan occupies only a small part of the earth’s surface, and the combine thought that it still had the rest of the world to exploit. But now from the northeast of Asia right round to Bombay, it is being undersold by the Japanese. Similarly, when Australia gets the initiative and referendum, it will be able by its legislation to beat any combine. The time has gone by for small duties. Twenty years ago, I was in favour of raising duties up to the point of prohibition, believing that the community should make everything that can be made in Australia. There is not a woman on God’s earth who is so beautiful that Australians cannot make dresses and blouses for her, nor a man so finely formed that we cannot make suits of clothes for him. Yet wearing apparel is dumped into Australia. Let us not concern ourselves about who started Protection, or when it was begun, but let us have proper duties, ranging, if necessary, up to 100 per cent., and more. Let us do what Parliament did - though unsuccessfully - in the harvester case; but let us make it impossible for men like McKay to play tricks in the High Court, with the help of lawyers, to the detriment of the community. In Switzerland, 50,000 electors can insist on a law being passed, or on an alteration of tlie Constitution. They can insist that a measure shall be put before the community, and if the community votes “Yes,” Cabinet Ministers and Parliament must obey. I ask for that power for my fellow Australians. I love my Australia as much as a man can love his native land, and so far as my voice and vote and actions go, will strive for these rights for this great country. It is suggested that Australians will not be able to understand the four questions that will be submitted to them, and yet honorable members opposite took the platform in advocacy of the draft Constitution, and asked the people to express their opinion regarding its provisions.
– Does the honorable member think that all who voted for the acceptance of the Constitution understood everything contained in it?
– I do not suppose that the honorable member does that ; I am sure that I do not. The Constitution was drawn up by lawyers, and therefore it is not to be wondered at that we do not understand it. If it were in the plain language of the Swiss Constitution, or the Code Napoleon, we should be able to give a fair account of it. Some persons think that no one can be a judge - that divinity with the brains of a lawyer, adorned with the tail of a horse - unless he has had legal training. But, so far as my reading goes, no great law-giver has been a lawyer, and no lawyer has ever made a code of laws, though lawyers quibble even about commas, and, like the honorable member for Flinders, are repeatedly saying “ Define ! “ “ Define ! “ The Swiss Constitution is contained in a few clauses. Article 106 says -
There shall be a Federal Court for the administration of justice in federal concerns.
Then follows article 107 -
The members and alternates of the Federal Court shall be chosen by the Federal Assembly, which shall take care that all three national languages are represented therein.
The reference is to Judges and assistant Judges ; the languages being French, German, and Italian. Article 108 says -
Any Swiss citizen eligible to the National Council may be chosen to the Federal Court.
According to article 74 -
Every Swiss who has completed twenty years of age, and who, in addition, is not excluded from the rights of a voter by the legislation of the canton in which he is domiciled, has the right to vote in elections and popular votes.
While article 75 says -
Every lay Swiss citizen who has the right to vote is eligible for membership in the National Council.
Every one entitled to vote has the right to be elected to the National Council if he can persuade his fellows to choose him, and he may become a member of the Court of Justice. To be a member of the Court of Justice it is not” necessary to be trained in legal lore. Thus the laws are simple, and the initiative and referendum give the people the right to readily alter them. My answer to those who say that the Constitution is a sacred thing which should not be changed is that no King, no Emperor, no Parliament, no Minister, and no body of men has the right to force laws upon coming generations. Every generation must be permitted to alter and amend the laws which it has to obey. The dead hand of the past should not hold property in its grip, nor compel obedience to the laws of generations that have gone. In Switzerland, over 200 laws have received the sanction of the people. That record cannot be pointed to in America, in England, or Australia. We are introducing the thin edge of the referendum wedge, which we shall drive home until it has riven the Conservatism which confronts us. Here, as elsewhere, it is on the Conservative side that the lawyers mostly congregate. Having the referendum, Australia will furnish a lesson to the European nations, who are today watching us so keenly. The laws which we put on our statute-book will help them, although they have not our powers. It is astonishing that both Lord Salisbury, who was the epitome of Conservatism in England, and W. E. Gladstone, who was the epitome of’ Liberalism, advocated the referendum, which is supported by every writer on political economy. By the exercise of the initiative and the referendum the people can remove abuses more quickly than by the present method of passing legislation through the two Houses of the Parliament. I venture to prophesy that if ever Australia is endowed with those powers, one of the first acts of the people will be to sweep into political oblivion the second Houses, known as the Legislative Councils, which have so long obstructed beneficent reforms.
.- Some eleven years ago, with great enthusiasm, and amidst a good deal of excitement, a Federal Constitution was adopted by the people of Australia. It came into existence by the will of the various States which adopted it, and consented to its being referred to the people. I do not think that that line of action would have been pursued had it been surmised that, within about ten years from the time the Constitution was brought into operation, there would be an agitation, and an important measure brought before this Parliament, aiming practically’ at its overthrow. The fundamental idea in the mind of the people when it was adopted was to give to a Commonwealth Government and Parliament power to do for the island continent of Australia, as a whole, that which the States as States were incompetent to accomplish. There were practically only two thoughts operating on the public mind. One was that by the adoption of a Federal Constitution there would be established complete Free Trade as between State and State, and the other that we should be able to carry into effect measures which would prove of great advantage for the defence of the continent. To say, as was urged by the honorable member for Melbourne, that the people as a whole understood all the provisions of the Federal Constitution, is to state an absurdity. The people as a whole did not go into the details of the measure, but accepted it upon broad principles. Ever since the Federal Constitution has been in operation, and the Federal Parliament in actual working, continual efforts have been made to overstep the constitutional powers that we possess, and I think it can be safely asserted that all those efforts have been avowedly in the interests of the Labour party, and avowedly for the purpose of bettering the condition of the working classes, who believe that under the Federal Constitution they will be able to get more advantages from this Parliament than they can hope to secure from the State Parliaments. That may be so, but whatever is done in the way of amending this Constitution means to a certain extent the undoing of the State Constitutions. This involves the important question, “ To what extent are we justified in legislating for the amendment of our Constitution in a way that will weaken and force upon the States amendments of their Constitutions detrimental to their individual working?” It is unwise to amend the Constitution until all the powers which we possess have been exhausted. It is quite true that the High Court has ruled a good deal of the legislation which has passed through these Chamber to be ultra vires of the Constitution. That applies to the Arbitration Act and other measures, but it is more than possible that had we resorted in the first instance to the institution of the InterState Commission, and had practically the same legislation been brought into operation in all the States as a result of the recommendations, and through the instrumentality of that body, instead of adverse decisions being given by the High Court, probably the fact that those measures were in accordance with the determinations of the Inter- State Commission would have gone a long way towards establishing their validity. Had the proposals of the late Government been carried into effect, especially the proposal to invest the Inter-State Commission with all the powers with which we could invest it under the Constitution, I believe that body when in active operation could have done quite enough to satisfy- the most ardent spirits on the other side of the chamber.
– How could we invest another body with powers which had been denied to ourselves.? That was the suggestion of the late Government, and it was a fallacy.
– It was the suggestion of the late Government, and if it had been carried into effect, the Inter-State Commission, in pursuance of its constitutional powers, would have arrived at certain de terminations which would have largely guided this Parliament in its subsequent legislation.
– They could not do any more than we could.
– I differ from the honorable member. Had this course been adopted, we could have accomplished all that honorable members on the other side are entitled to ask for.
– That is the rub.
– I believe they are determined to get more than they are entitled to ask for. They undoubtedly have the power now to secure a great’ deal more than it was ever intended by the people, or by the founders of the Constitution, that they should enjoy. If these four propositions are carried, we shall have asserted the superiority of the Federation over the States to a marked degree. Already we have determined upon a line of action regarding taxation which gives us a dominance in that direction, and when we have assumed practical control of the various industries of the States and of trade and commerce generally, there will be very little of a solid nature left for the Slates to legislate upon. Are we competent, sitting, as we shortly shall be, at the Federal Capital in Yass-Canberra, to legislate in regard to all the diverse industrial conditions and situations arising in this vast territory? I was in Adelaide last week, and saw something which I had never seen before. There, is in power in South Australia a Labour Government. I saw in the Adelaide streets men who are called “ scabs “ by the Labour unions, otherwise, free labourers, working under the protection of the police. This is how Mr. Dale, the secretary of the United Labourers Union, in a letter, referred to those thirteen men -
I perceive that subscriptions are alleged to be pouring in to confer gratuities on the “ scabs.” I don’t doubt that £66 has been given by one, two, or, at the most, three exploiters of labour, but £66 amongst 13 “scabs!” Why, in less than six months each of these unlucky 13 will wish themselves, as the American phrase puts it, “ 20 degrees south of hell’s equator,” before the U.L.U. has finished with them. One thing the Rundle-street dispute has done. It has peeled the eyes of “ the bottom dog.” The Verran Government have shown that, to all intents and purposes, they are prepared to do on behalf of property and privilege the same things as the Labour party condemned Premier Wade for doing during the Newcastle strike.
I bring this matter forward as an illustration of the troubles and difficulties that will always be occurring and recurring in our developmental work under Government or municipal authority all over Australia. When we assume, as we shall if these Bills are carried, complete control of all industrial matters, we shall have to maintain the rights of men to earn their own bread in every part of Australia. In the case I cited the strike has, happily, been terminated, probably because those responsible were sufficiently near to the Seat of Government to be amenable to reason and to the influence of the proper authorities. When, however, Australia is governed entirely from one common centre, the condition of things will be entirely different. It will be far more difficult to enforce the righteous demands of people who stand up for freedom and individual rights. The honorable member for Flinders says that we should settle this question entirely regardless of existing political conditions, independently of who may sit on the Ministerial benches or who may sit on this side.
– The honorable member did not say that when he was on the Government side.
– I am not prepared to say it now. I dissent from it, for it is a matter of the utmost importance to consider what are the existing conditions. Every practical person considers, not only the virtue of an abstract proposition, but also the particular conditions which are operating at the time. This legislation would never have been introduced had it not been that there is a Labour Government in power. We on this side are prepared to go a certain length in the amending of the Constitution; we admit that there are certain judicious methods that could be adopted, but we take up the position that it is not just to the States who gave us the right to sit here to practically undermine the Constitutions under which they are governed.
– They are the same people, are they not?
– Undoubtedly ; but this legislation will so weaken the State Legislatures, and lower their status, that they will be ineffective to discharge the important functions which are very properly intrusted to them. We all acknowledge that the great Coolgardie water scheme does much credit to the honorable member for Swan ; but had Australia been governed from a common centre, how long would it have taken the Western Austalian re presentatives to convince this Parliament that that work was practicable, and could be successfully carried out? When there is a unified Government, which is to be brought into existence by the adoption of the proposals before us, I venture to say that it will take quite as long to convince members representing other parts of Australia as to the advantages to be gained from certain large developmental enterprises in Victoria. Under such a system of government there will be the clashing of interests of one part against the interests of another, and, in my opinion, the proper development of this great continent will not be secured by such means. I am in agreement with the honorable member for Capricornia, who has given notice of motion for the division of Queensland into more than one State. I do not know whether the honorable member speaks only for himself, or for Queensland as a whole.
– He does not speak for Queensland !
– At any rate, that motion is only a prelude to other similar movements ; and I venture to express the opinion that, when our population has increased tenfold, we shall have, not six States, but probably as many as there are in America. As a matter of fact, there must be home rule so far as local affairs are concerned.
– We have that in the shire councils.
– The shire councils serve a useful purpose in Victoria whatever they may do in Queensland, and, while they ought not to be sneered at, the limits in which they operate are too ridiculously small for the exercise of the powers referred to. There are proposals which, under some circumstances, may be perfectly harmless, but, under other circumstances, extremely dangerous; and just now, when there is a wave of public opinion temporarily favouring those on the Government side, it is extremely dangerous to enlarge the powers of the Federal Government. Where is the urgency for this legislation? Our business people are not asking for it; and I do not know that honorable members behind the Government have a mandate to carry it into effect.
– Business people are asking for some means to break up combines.
– I do not think that, apart from the Labour Unions, there is any demand for this legislation, which is essentially a step in the dark. We cannot foresee the far-reaching effect of the apparently small questions to be submitted to “the people; but, in my opinion, they will result in upsetting the existing Constitutions, and whittling away to nothing the powers of the States. I may be out of order, but I cannot help suggesting that these proposals are made for purely political purposes, in order to satisfy the demands of a section of the community. The vast majority of the people in the ranks of labour are, I think, fairly well satisfied with the operations of the Wages Boards ; and when such Boards have been instituted in all the States, as undoubtedly they soon will be, those immediately concerned will have very little to complain of.
– Wages Boards did not settle the Newcastle trouble.
– Of course, we know there are strikes all the world over, and, in spite of our industrial legislation, strikes occur here. There is a demand for increased wages, and, so long as the prices of commodities continue to rise, there seems to be some legitimate reason for the demand ; but, as a matter of fact, the prices of commodities are rising because the price of labour is rising; labour is die chief expense in production, and the cost of living must rise, thus reacting on the masses. So far as I can see, there is a desire to spend all we have* as a justification for taxing property out of its value. There is a disposition to tax the man who has been careful, thrifty, and industrious ; and all for the benefit of others.
– Order !
– Perhaps I am transgressing. The section of the Constitution under which an Inter-State Commission may bc instituted reads as follows : -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
By the exercise of this constitutional power we may secure for the various States uniformity of action and of conditions, and the necessary elasticity to enable them to carry on their functions in a very much better way than that proposed by the Bill. Even if the Bill becomes law, we shall still be faced with the difficulty that under the Federal Constitution we have to legislate for every State alike; although legis- lation which may be perfectly justified in the case of Victoria may be wrong in the case of Western Australia, and vice versa. There is nothing that could equalize conditions better than a properly-constituted Inter- State Commission, vested with the necessary authority and power to make inquiries and analyze the conditions of labour in the various States, and, having done that, to advise Parliament in the framing of laws in the best interests of the development of each of the States, and thus promoting the happiness and prosperity of the people of the Commonwealth as a whole.
.- Any one listening to the speeches of the honorable member for Ballarat and the honorable member for Bendigo would conclude that Parliament, in proposing to amend the Constitution, .was about to commit some kind of sacrilege. They speak of the Constitution as if it were some sacred document; but what is the Constitution? Simply an agreement prepared by representatives of the people, and afterwards adopted by “the people, in order that a central authority may be enabled to govern the whole of Australia. It was never contended by the most enthusiastic Federalist that the Constitution was a perfect document; in fact, the representatives of the people at the Convention said so themselves, and we know that there was much opposition to many of the provisions. Every one who took the platform in favour of the Constitution recommended it to the people as a whole, but they all - including the honorable member for Ballarat, the honorable member for Bendigo, a number of others, and myself - emphasized the fact that there was power in the Constitution to amend it from time to time.
– That was one of the considerations that led the people to accept it.
– Undoubtedly. At the close of the Melbourne sittings of the Convention, the Leader of the Convention, Mr. - now Sir Edmund - Barton, said that there was ample power for the people to amend the Constitution whenever they thought fit to do so ; whilst the honorable member for Ballarat used these words -
In this Constitution, although much is written, much remains unwritten, and has to be supplied out of our experience of our own people and our working methods in political affairs. Can we have any doubt as to how and’ whence the forces of union will be supplied.
Later on, he said -
After all, and much as it accomplishes, this Constitution is but the framework and ground plan of the nation that is to be. It is, perhaps, by a wise discretion, that we have insufficiently and inadequately dealt with the difficulties wilh which we are at present perplexed. It is enough that we have provided the means of enabling those to deal with them who will be far better qualified for that task than we are.
Practically the same statement was made by Sir Edmund Barton. In view of the statements that have been made during this debate by certain honorable members of the Opposition, honorable members will probably be surprised to learn that during the sittings of the Convention they were not satisfied with the provision made in the Constitution for its amendment. The last amendment moved at the Melbourne sittings of the Convention” was one by Mr. - now Mr. Justice - Isaacs, providing that, instead of a Bill to amend the Constitution having to be passed in both Houses by an absolute majority, and then to be adopted by the people, it should be sent to the people, even if it had been rejected by one House, and that, if the people approved of it, then it should be passed into law. Amongst those who voted for that amendment were the honorable member for Ballarat, the honorable member for Bendigo. Sir George Reid, the late Sir Frederick Holder, and ten others.
– Where did that take place?
– In this very chamber.
– It is a wonder that the building did not fall on the honorable member for Bendigo when he was speaking today.
– At that time, the provision now existing in the Constitution to enable it to be amended was not considered sufficiently democratic by some of the present members of the Opposition, who now tell us that we should keep our hands off this instrument of government, and say that it was never intended that it should be amended, except to meet some serious national emergency. The Constitution has already been altered on two occasions. At the third Federal parliamentary elections, the people were asked to agree to the first amendment proposed. And by whom? By a majority of the honorable members now sitting in opposition. The proposed amendment was a trivial one altering the date of the general election from the month of December to a period earlier in the year. That trifling arrangement was designed to convenience country residents in the southern part of Australia, and no consideration was given to the convenience of those living in the north. We were not told then that it was outrageous to suggest an amendment of the Constitution. At the last general election, again, the people were asked to amend it in two important particulars. Fortunately for the national life of Australia, only one of the amendments sought by the members of the present Opposition was made.
– The amendments then proposed meant giving to, not taking something from, the States.
– It was a proposal to do something of which the honorable member for Echuca has complained. In the one case, the people were asked to agree to the Commonwealth having power to take over the debts of the States incurred, not only at the inception of, but since, Federation, and some of the States were not willing to fall in with that proposal. Another surprising feature of the position taken up by the honorable member for Ballarat is that not long ago he proposed an amendment of the Constitution to carry out one of the very propositions made in the Bill now before us. Indeed, he was the first to make such a proposition. We all know what happened. Quotations have been made during this debate from the memoranda that the honorable member for Ballarat, when in office, issued in regard to the question of the new Protection. Honorable members will recollect that when the Tariff was under consideration he declared that, side by side with it, provision would be made for the new Protection. A great many votes were cast in favour of higher duties, some of them by Free Trade members of the Labour party, on the distinct understanding that a Bill to provide for the new Protection was to accompany the Tariff. In the records of the last Parliament will be found numerous questions put to the honorable member for Ballarat, as Prime Minister, by honorable members in different parts of the House, inquiring what he intended to do in regard to that matter. I find that Sir George Reid asked whether, in considering the Tariff and the duties fixed from day to day, the House was to regard the system of new Protection as part of the understanding upon which the duties were determined. To that, the honorable member for Ballarat replied -
The Ministry put forward the matters referred to by the honorable member as a united proposal - the duties on the one side and the new Protection upon the other.
As a Protectionist who helped to carry the last Tariff - as one of the party led by the honorable member for Ballarat at that time, and bound by the promise that he made - I feel absolutely ashamed that no attempt has been made to carry it out. The Labour party carried out their part of the bargain, but the then Administration did not carry out its part of the compact. The first memorandum relating to the new Protection was issued on 13th December, 1907, and it contained this statement -
These proposals, to some extent, cover the ground .that is already occupied by legislation in some of the States. Every exercise of power by the Commonwealth, in matters in which Commonwealth and States have concurrent authority, must be subject to this condition. The co-operation of the States Governments is most desirable in every aspect, but the Commonwealth cannot ignore its obligation, so far as the Constitution allows, to secure equitable and uniform industrial conditions in all the industries which come within the range of its fiscal legislation.
– Who issued that memorandum ?
– The Deakin Government of that day. An attempt had been made by the Parliament to introduce the new Protection by means of an Act providing for the imposition of certain Excise duties, and a case in which the validity of that Act was challenged was pending when this memorandum was issued. Subsequently, when the High Court declared the new Protection provisions of that measure to be ultra vires -of the Constitution, another memorandum was issued by the last Liberal Government, headed by the honorable member for Ballarat.
– And supported by the Labour party.
– That party kept the right honorable member in office for the longest period during which he has held office in this Parliament. In this memorandum, issued on 28th October, 1908, the honorable member for Ballarat pointed out that the result of the decision of the Court was that it would be necessary for the Constitution to be amended -
The electors will be invited to empower the Commonwealth to determine the employment and remuneration of labour in protected industries in view of the protection granted to the manufacturer under the Commonwealth Tariff.
In some industries the existing protection may enable the payment of fair and reasonable rates nf wages. In other industries not sufficiently protected to enable the full standard of remuneration to be paid the payment of at least a minimum wage can be required, pending the enactment of effective protection. Unprotected industries will not be affected. ….. Parliament will also be enabled to provide the necessary machinery for adjudication and administration, and in classes of cases in which Parliament thinks that the decision of the Commission ought to be subject to review, may establish an appellate tribunal, such as the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
In order to carry out these objects, it is proposed to insert new paragraphs in section 51 of the Constitution, so as to enable the Parliament to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to - “ (xxxv. a) The employment and remuneration of labour in any industry which, in the opinion of the Inter-State Commission, is protected by duties of Custom!,.” “ (xxxv.*) The grant to the Inter-State Commission and its members of such powers of regulation, adjudication, and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for giving effect to any laws made in pursuance of the last preceding paragraph, subject to such review, if any, as the Parliament prescribes.”
I invite the honorable member for Echuca to notice that this was a proposal to vest the Inter-State Commission with power.
– Why not?
– The honorable member spoke to-night as if the creation of an Inter-State Commission would enable all the existing difficulties to be removed ; but, as an honorable member on this side of the House interjected, this Parliament cannot clothe the Inter-State Commission with more power than it possesses itself. That being so, we must have an amendment of the Constitution before we can deal with these important questions. The harmless proposal made in the memorandum of 1907, and which I have already quoted, caused the honorable member for Echuca to ask the honorable member for Ballarat, who was then Prime Minister-
How far are we from Socialism, and how much of private ownership will be left to manufacturers and producers if the scheme of new Protection as outlined in the memorandum which has been laid upon the table of the House is carried out ?
The placing of that definite proposal before the House seemed to take away his breath. At the close of 1908, after the Liberal Government had been defeated, and the Labour party had come into office, the honorable member for Darling Downs published a pamphlet entitled Nationbuilding in Australia, dealing with the work of the second Deakin Administration from 1905 to 1908. In this he wrote -
As the power to protect the manufacturer is national, it follows that unless the Parliament of the Commonwealth acquires power to secure fair and reasonable conditions of employment t-j wage-earners, the national policy of protection must remain incomplete. The Government accordingly proposed tq invite the electors to amend the Constitution to endow the Parliament of the Commonwealth with a grant of power to do economic justice in protected industries, with due regard to the unity of the Commonwealth and the diversity of local circumstances.
He was out of office when this was published. Up to that time, and when we were sitting in the corner, promising the Labour party support-
– After the Government in which the honorable member for Darling Downs was a Minister had been turned out by it.
– With the help of the right honorable member. That was the first unholy combination in this House. The pamphlet from which I have quoted was circulated as a statement of the work done by the Deakin Administration and its intentions for the future. In May, 1909, when the honorable member for Wide Bay was in office, the honorable member for Ballarat went through Australia, delivering addresses on his policy, and referring to new Protection, amongst other things. Speaking at Toowoomba, he said -
We added to that protectionist Tariff the new Protection, which secured to the employees fair wages. In this particular the Prime Minister proposes to go a great deal further than that. I am not prepared, until we see it definitely set out, to say how far he is prepared to go, but Mr. Fisher appears to aim at assuring something like the regulation of the whole of the industrial operations of the Commonwealth. For that we believe there is not a present demand. We feel that if we deal with the protected industries and justify its application to them it will be time enough to consider the extension. The Opposition, on the other hand, in the matter of the new Protection appear to offer us nothing but to promise inquiry and persuasion to be exercised by the Commonwealth upon the States. Judging by the results of persuasion in the past in that direction the prospects were not extremely hopeful.
The negotiations between the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Ballarat failed at first, because the latter would not yield on this subject. I do not know what happened after the honorable members for Swan and Kooyong had dragged him in, but the result was that he agreed to the policy which he had condemned, namely, to wait until the States had been persuaded. The last Government proposed that the States should be asked to pass laws enabling certain matters to be referred to the Inter-State Commission to be created by this Parliament. The honorable member for Ballarat said that if the States did not do this within a reasonable time, he would ask for an amendment of the Constitution. The only State which did anything was Tasmania, whose Government introduced a Bill to provide for Wages Boards, which was promptly thrown out by the Legislative Council. Did the Fusion Government do its part by creating an Inter-State Commission? It introduced an Inter-State Commission Bill, but, though it had a majority in both Houses, and did not mind applying the “ gag,” it did not pass it.
– The Bill was defeated in the Senate. We had not the numbers to pass it.
– The Government could have passed anything ; but the Bill was dropped, on the plea that there was not time to deal with it. Having got the Financial Agreement through, it could have got anything through. Had the fact that some of the provisions of the Inter-State Commission Bill were strongly condemned at an employers’ meeting in Melbourne anything to do with the dropping of it?
– No. I used all my influence to get it through.
– What was the policy of the Fusion Government regarding the new Protection when it went before the country ? Let me quote from the policy speech delivered by the present Leader of the Opposition at Ballarat -
I must now pass on to the great issue relating to new Protection, and which relates very intimately to the ascertainment of all the facts surrounding our industries. New Protection, as you know, means securing fair conditions to all those employed in industries which receive the care of the State, and I use the word “ care “ in a wider sense than “ Protection “ in the ordinary sense, because we propose that what is called the new Protection shall not be limited to protected industries. They have, perhaps, the first claim, but we propose to establish protection in all industries in Australia, whether subject to fiscal protection or not. The securing of fair hours, fair wages, and fair conditions of employment is now seen to be, as it has long been felt to be, a matter of grave national concern…..
My hope is to see every industry in Australia with its Wages Board, and I want to see an arrangement to prevent industrial competition as between possibly differing verdicts of differing Wages Boards in each of the States, taking care that no State suffers because of its establishment of Wages Boards by the conditions of employment in other States, or because of inferior conditions elsewhere…..
The States have offered of their own volition to connect their Wages Boards so as to accept the jurisdiction of a Supreme Court tribunal.
None of them took steps to do that.
– They had not the opportunity to give effect to their policy.
– They had the whole of last year. To continue my quotation -
We have every hope that the change will be effected this Parliament. If it is not, we shall then ask the people to give us that authority direct.
That meant that the States would be at liberty to play with the subject for three years, and that, in the ordinary course of things, there would not be a referendum until the next general election. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Echuca talk as he did, in view of what was said by the honorable member for Flinders. The honorable member for Indi was not fair in declaring that lawyers were interested in making our constitutional powers uncertain, and that their opinions are tainted with self-interest; because the strongest speech in support of the Bill was made last night by the honorable member for Flinders, than whom no man has made more money out of constitutional cases. His speech derived its value and power from the fact that he spoke with experience of the wretched position in which the Constitution places our industries. He told me some months ago that he was tired of witnessing the expenditure of thousands of pounds, not merely by employers, but from funds contributed to with the Hardearned wages of employes. Two or three points have been won, but how many big cases have ended in nothing? What has resulted from the expenditure on the Timber case, or the Boot case, but friction and unrest, the parties being now where they were when they started? In the Boot case, the common rule, which it is to the interest of employers, as well as employes, to maintain, has been abolished. We cannot allow the law to remain as it is, and must either go back and wipe it off the statutebook, or go forward. The right honorable member for Swan asked, when he was a broad Nationalist, “Is it to be imagined that we shall say to the people - ‘ Take back the power that you gave us.’ “ We must ask the people to give us more power. The need for those powers was recognised in the first year after the establishment of Federation, as was shown by the quotation by the honorable member for Wimmera of the motion moved by Mr. Justice Higgins, and the speeches in support of it. It was the first motion placed on the business-paper in the name of a private member, and was discussed when the Constitution was only six months old.
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to acquire (if the State Parliaments see fit to grant it, under section 51, sub-section 37, of the Constitution Act) full power to make laws for Australia as to wages and hours and conditions of labour.
The motion was supported on both sides of the House. It was accepted by Mr. Barton, while Sir William McMillan, Dr. Salmon, Mr. Sawers, and all other members who spoke, were strongly in favour of it. lt was carried unanimously, so that at the very earliest stage it was considered necessary and desirable that we should have these powers. This proposal is. therefore, nothing new. Some of those who supported the motion were pronounced Conservatives, and they, too, saw that our powers were not sufficient. We are told, “ You are going to kill the Federal system of government, and bring in Unification.” I agree with the honorable member for Flinders that there is no magic in the words “ Federation “ or “ Unification.” All we are concerned with is the question whether we are to have a complete and proper Constitution to govern the people. It is immaterial what it is called. We speak of South Africa as having a Federal Government, and we speak of the Canadian Federation, yet what’ a difference there is between their Constitutions and ours ! If we had had sense we should have followed the Canadian Constitution. South Africa had the opportunity of following Australia and America, or Canada, and profited, as some of their speakers said on the platforms, by the experience of Australia. They avoided her blunders, and went in for a more pronounced National Parliament than even Canada has. Yet we. hear nothing of disaster going to happen to that great Federation, nor do we hear that any great disaster has happened to the Canadian Dominion by reason of its Constitution. Nor will it happen here. As has been said in this debate already, it is a singular thing that the people who opposed Federation were, with a few exceptions, the Labour party, while the people who supported it were the Conservatives.
We know perfectly well what the reason was. The Conservative party thought that, in the Federation of Australia, they would be top dogs. The Labour party were of the same mind, and were afraid of it. Now that the Constitution has proved the most democratic in the world, as we Liberals who supported it were sure it would, we find the Labour party the strongest supporters of it, and the Conservatives have become the State Righters. I do hot think anything of the position of men Tike the honorable member for Ballarat and the honorable member for Darling Downs. The position and the speeches of the honorable member for Ballarat give me only a feeling of the deepest regret that a man who has led the national cause in Australia, with all his aspirations, and after all his efforts, should now, in the latter days of his political career, be facing, every time he speaks, the spectre of the past. I think it is lamentable.
– You all deserted him !
– Do not let the right honorable member talk to me about deserting him. Who deserted him when he was on a sick bed? Who, when his Tariff was about to be introduced, and when his Budget had been prepared and determined upon, deserted him and would not stay a minute, but crossed over and sat in opposition to him?
– The honorable member knows the reason.
– I have heard the reason which has been insinuated, but I know the real reason. The right honorable member missed fire. The honorable member for Ballarat recovered, his Government did not go down, and instead of being the next Prime Minister the right honorable member for Swan had to sit in the cold shades of Opposition. That is what happened, and yet the right honorable member dares to talk to me about deserting the honorable member for Ballarat. 1 never deserted him. He deserted his party, yielding to the persuasive powers of men who did not consider him when he was on a sick bed - In the persons of the right honorable member for Swan and his quondam colleague, the honorable member for Kooyong.
– Who turned him out?
– The right honorable member helped to turn him out. The Labour- party could not have turned him out without that unholy exhibition that we saw one afternoon, when the right honorable’ member, and those with him, sat side Ky side on those benches with the Labour party to vote against him. Do not let the right honorable member talk to me about, disloyalty to my leader. I hold the same principles to-day as I held when 1 sat with him on these benches, and it is a matter of deep regret to me to think that he sits there in Opposition with men with whom he has nothing in common, who have no sympathy with him at all, but are prepared, if rumour in this building is right, to turn him out of the leadership before another session passes. The right honorable member for Swan knows it, and will not deny it. That is the man that they accuse me of deserting.
– Why revive these painful memories?
– They are painful to me, because one who was a great man has been led to his fall by men who were looking after their own advancement and not his. Now that he has failed them, now that he has ceased to be a name to conjure with, they are going to throw him aside by the time the next session comes.
– We do not believe in that sort of thing.
– The right honorable member knows it. I am not tied to the exact words of these measures, and reserve to myself the right to vote for any improvement of the words that may be submitted. I am prepared, however, to support the proposals of the Government to give us these additional powers. I am with the honorable member for Flinders, who said that he is prepared to give the Federal Parliament the whole of the trade and commerce powers unfettered. Another singular thing comes to my mind with regard to corporations. This was admitted to be a matter that required amendment, even by the Fusion Government, and the lack of power on the part of this Parliament was discovered owing to one of the measures prepared by the Attorney-General in the previous Deakin . Government, the honorable member for Darling Downs. That honorable member also had drafted a Companies Bill, which was ready to be brought before the House, and was based on a belief that we had full powers over corporations. The measure, however, never saw the light after the decision in the Huddart-Parker case, but had to be hung up until we could obtain an amendment of the Constitution. There is no doubt, also, that the industrial powers asked for are necessary. I come next to the power to deal with combinations and monopolies. There can be no doubt that, whatever words are used, we must be given full power in that direction also. No person has spoken more strongly in favour of our having those powers than the honorable member for Flinders, although he criticised the words used. I think a great deal of that honorable member’s speech must have fallen like a block of ice on the members of the Opposition who were listening to it. He was followed this morning by the honorable member for Wimmera, who also supported the proposed amendment of the Constitution, as the result of practical inquiry in connexion with the Harvester Commission through the various States. When brought into contact with the employes in different places he saw how impossible it was to work under the present system. On one side, therefore, we have those two honorable members speaking from practical experience, and on the other we have the honorable member for Bendigo simply lauding what might be called his own infant. If we are going to be a progressive nation, the National Government must be endowed with all the powers that are necessary for national growth. I commend to the members of the Opposition who are of the other way of thinking, the words of the honorable member for Flinders, that, “ after all, we can trust the people.” If we abuse the powers which the people give us, the people will very soon turn us out. We are told that we are taking powers from the States, but, after all, the States and the Commonwealth are one people. We cannot get these amendments without the consent of the majority of people, and the consent of the people in a majority of the States, and if they are willing to give them to us, who has any right to say that we are taking them from the States? The people have the right to take powers away from one of their agents, and hand them over to the other. There is undoubtedly a strong feeling growing throughout Australia in favour of increasing the powers of the National Parliament. I could mention the names of honorable members who have expressed in conversation with me opinions regarding the greater powers that must be given to this Parliament that would really paralyze honorable members. The feeling is growing that we have gone so far that we must go further. In this, as in every other matter, we have to rely upon the people. When the honorable member for Ballarat was before the public advocating the adoption of the Federal Constitution, he said that the whole essence of the Constitution was in the words, “ Trust the people.” He says the same to-day, and I say with him that you can trust the people. If the people do not want us to have these powers, they3 will not give them to us. If they want us to have them, they will trust, not us as individuals, but this Parliament as an institution, with them. They know that it is a democratic Parliament. They know that they have absolute control of both Houses, free from” all special qualifications, and that if we do not do as they want us to do they can very soon send us about our business. There is nothing to be feared from the passing of these amendments, and I am satisfied, not only that both Houses will pass them, but that the people as a whole will, by a large majority, see that this Parliament has all the necessary powers to give effect to their wishes.
.- The two Bills that we have before us widen the scope of the Constitution in five very important matters. The powers asked for deal with trade and commerce, corporations, industrial matters, combinations, and, in another Bill, the nationalization of industries if the Commonwealth Parliament considers it -an advantage. Any alteration of the Constitution should receive the most careful consideration, and should be given effect to only in order to remedy evils that exist, and are felt by the whole of Australia. I regard the Constitution as a deed of partnership entered into by the various States when we federated, and only to be altered to meet any difficulties that may present themselves, lt should be held as sacred as the marriage tie. I commend to the careful consideration of the Government the suggestion of the honorable member for Ballarat. No doubt the Government have power to put these Bills through. I am sure, however, that both Ministers and their party are anxious to do in the right way what they deem to be right, and the suggestion to divide the questions to be submitted to the people is worth the serious consideration of a Democratic party such as they profess to be. We may, I think, trust the people to give an intelligent vote on each of the questions. When the last referendum was taken, the people exercised the privilege most intelligently, and though I do not profess to be satisfied with the decision, I bow to it as one which was given in an unmistakable way. Under cover of power in industrial matters, and to assist employes, the Government propose to acquire complete control of the trade and commerce of Australia; but I am not quite sure that it is wise to go so far in that direction as the Bills indicate. “Trade and commerce” covers a wide field, and involves many difficulties, and I am afraid we are launching this Parliament into a whirlpool of trouble little anticipated by the authors of this measure. The Attorney-General, in his able speech, did not show us the object of the proposed extension of power ; it appears to have been covered up, but the effect is quite plain to any observant mind.
– I desire to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The Bill means that the older and more closely-settled States will dominate the States which are struggling to develop their resources. It means centralization, or, as already pointed out, the unitary form of government.
– The centralization of what ?
– The centralization of government and power, and also the centralization of population.
– Is the Postal Department centralized?
– I think that administration is very much centralized even in the Postal Department.
– Is the High Court centralized ?
– I do not know what bearing the High Court has on the matter Under the heading of “ trade and commerce “ this Government is seeking power to regulate hotels, shops, markets, and so forth. This means centralization ; and the thickly-populated States will have a majority of representatives in this Parliament. Although we boast of our national feeling and national sentiments. I regret to say that 1 have noticed a distinct parochialism animating most honorable members ; and that will extend as con trol is centralized. In regard to corporations, the Government are seeking power to make laws to supersede the Companies Act in its application to companies, limited and unlimited, in the various States. The Federal Act will override the present State laws. ‘
– There is power to do that now.
– If so, why seek for an extension of power? My contention is that we already have sufficient power under the Constitution to remedy present evils, and I am not one to meet troubles half way. I can see in this measure a danger to the co-operative movement amongst producers. There are indications already that the producers’ interests are not so well conserved as they might be by the Labour party. It has been suggested, for instance, that there should be export duties on wheat, wool, hides, leather, and so forth, and a hope has been expressed by some of the Labour party that an export duty will be placed on butter.
– That has been denied repeatedly.
– I am sometimes inclined to disbelieve my eyes, but I have a very fair hearing ; and when members of the Labour party advocate an export duty on any article I believe them to be in earnest.
– Name the members of the Labour party referred to.
– It has al ready , been suggested by several members. of the Labour party.
– Only two or three days ago the Minister said that it had been decided not to impose export duties.
– I have to ask honorable members not to interject. If they continue to do so I must take another course.
– But the honorable member for Moreton is not speaking the truth.
– I think that the honorable member ought to withdraw that remark.
– I did not hear the remark of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, but if he has said anything that is not parliamentary, he must withdraw it.
-i shall withdraw the word, but I say that the honorable member is stating what is distinctly incorrect.
– The honorable member must withdraw his words without any qualification.
– I suppose I must withdraw them, and I do so in compliance with the forms of the House.
– I am not quite sure that that is a withdrawal without qualification. However, perhaps the Minister of Trade and Customs will not deny that a deputation waited on him to urge export duties on hides, butter, and wheat.
– Some representatives of the Employers Federation waited on me to ask for an export duty on hides.
– I am told that I may take the assurance of honorable members on the Ministerial side that nothing in that direction has been attempted; and I hope that the producers will receive the same consideration that other workers receive when they combine or unite for their own protection. On many occasions, when producers have tried to get the benefit of their labours there has been a howl that they are imposing on the consumers. At present the States have power to deal with industrial matters, and none are more qualified than the local governing bodies. We have to deal with things as we find them, and in most of the States there are Wages Boards, Arbitration Courts, and other institutions for the settlement of disputes. I know there is a feeling at present against the State Courts and in favour of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court ; but conditions change, and, perhaps, in the near future that feeling may be reversed, and the State Courts may be regarded as more effectual in the settlement of industrial disputes. That will be done more speedily by men on the spot familiar with local conditions. As to combinations, 1 may say that I have always been opposed to the operation of injurious combines. The utmost freedom should be given to every Britisher, and there is nothing more galling to me than to be compelled by a combine to do my business through any particular channel. I know that injurious combines do exist in Australia, and need only refer the House to my own experience in this connexion. In 1902, when the drought in Queensland was being severely felt, we were able to buy oaten hay in Victoria at . £4 per ton, whereas the price in Queensland was . £14 per ton. As the manager of a co-operative company in that
State, I tried to obtain fodder for our starving stock, but found that it was utterly impossible to get hay carried from Victoria to Queensland. It was left on the wharfs here, but other people, who probably had some interest in the shipping combination, were able- to have their produce taken up north. That is a kind of monopoly that I would do my utmost to crush. Every large corporation, however, is not necessarily injurious, and it is wise to discriminate between injurious and beneficent combines. I fail to see that we have not power under the Constitution as it is to cope with injurious combinations. Perhaps we cannot deal with them as some honorable members would like to do, but if we can destroy their pernicious influence, and give relief to those who suffer from their operations, we ought to be satisfied.
The fifth extension of power ‘asked for is indicated in the second Bill, which we are permitted to discuss at this ‘stage. Under this Bill the Commonwealth is empowered to nationalize industries. I do not hesitate to saythat I have very little faith in State-owned undertakings. I believe that we should make laws ‘ to govern trade and commerce, and like matters, and to control them to a certain extent, but when we begin as a Commonwealth to experiment in the management and conduct of large enterprises, we shall tread on very dangerous ground, and soon find ourselves in serious difficulty. I do not know whether honorable members opposite are prepared to be guided by experience in these matters, but we have examples of the incompetence of States to run businesses in a successful manner for the people, and I shall, for the reasons I have stated, have no hesitation in opposing both these measures.
Debate (on motion by Sir John Forrest) adjourned.
Suggested State Hotel in Papua.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to ask for some information from the Minister of External Affairs.. The statement has been published that it is intended to establish a State hotel in Papua. I think that if any new departure is to be made from the recognised policy in regard to this Possession, the Minister should take the House into his confidence, and tell us exactly what it is proposed to do. I do not ask the Minister to bind himself on the one side or the other, but am simply inquiring for information.
. -All thathas been done in-connexion with the proposal to establish an hotel in Papua is,- that the Administrator has sent down a recommendation, which has the indorsement of the Legislative Council, in favour of the establishment of a State hotel at Port Moresby. It is reported that the present hotel is not well managed, and that it is desirable to have better accommodation provided. Reports are- being obtained from the police and other authorities as to the manner in which such State hotels as we have had in Australia have been conducted, and are at present progressing. It is not proposed by the Government to establish a State hotel at Papua at present. The subject is still under consideration. No action will be taken until opportunities have been afforded to honorable members, and to the various interested bodies, to express their opinion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101020_reps_4_58/>.