4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker tookthe chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Acting Treasurer when the sections of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act providing for the payment of invalid pensions will be brought into operation, and the manner in which applications for such pensions have to be made? When will, the necessary proclamation be issued?
– The matter has been receiving attention recently. It is intended that the proclamation shall be issued sufficiently early to allow the first payment of invalid pensions to be made on 15th December, and asecond before the new year, and regulations are being prepared accordingly. Applications may be made at once to the Commissioner for Invalid and Old-age Pensions, or to his deputies in any of the States. It is the intention of the Department to recognise, as far as possible, the certificates already issued to invalids in some of the States, though probably the payments will be different, because the Commonwealth Act is, generally speaking, more liberal than most of the State Acts. When the proclamation bringing into force the invalid sections of the Act is issued, a proclamation allowing the payment of old-age pensions to women at the ageof sixty, instead, as now, at the age of sixty five, will be issued. A general outline of the intentions of the Government in this respect was given by the Treasurer in his. Budget speech.
– I have received several communications from persons desirous of applying for invalid pensions, and therefore I ask the Acting’ Treasurer if he will make some public announcement as.: to where application forms may be obtained. As only seven or eight weekswill. elapse before the invalid provisions of the law are brought into effect, application forms should be available at once. If they are not, many persons eligible for invalid pensions will be unable to receive them on the first date of payment.
– The matter is receiving attention, and, as soon as possible, one common form will be issued for use all over
Australia wherever old-age pension forms are now available. ‘ We are using all reasonable expedition in this matter.
– Honorable members always do.
– That is quite true. The Government has stated that it will pay invalid pensions on a particular date, and reduce the age limit at which women are eligible for pensions, and these reforms will bc brought about years before they would have been achieved had the public had to rely on my honorable friends opposite.
– Has the Acting Treasurer had under his notice the case of blind persons, who, in New South Wales, I understand, were not eligible for invalid pensions? Will they be eligible under our Act?
– Blind persons who are not now inmates of State institutions, or institutions supported by the State”, and are not in possession of property or income, and are unable to earn a living, will be eligible for invalid pensions.
– Will the Acting Treasurer take an early opportunity to explain to the House why the Government has departed from its emphatic declarations in the country that it would pay pensions to males at the age of sixty years, and to females at the age of fifty-five years ?
– I am not aware that that promise has been definitely made. We are particularly sympathetic in regard to the payment of pensions, and have made a big advance by reducing the age at which women are eligible for old-age pensions from sixty-five to sixty years. I hope that that will not be the last .step which we shall take in the direction of reform.
– I wish to know whether, if those who are now inmates of blind institutions supported by the State, choose to leave them, they will become eligible for invalid pensions? Will the fact that a blind person has been the inmate ofa Government institution debar him from receiving an invalid pension?
– The question opens up a wide field for consideration, and I should not like to reply to it until I have given more attention to the matter.
– I wish to ask the Acting Treasurer whether provision is likely to be made for the payment of invalid pensions to persons who, although in good health, arc unable to follow any employment owing to the loss of a limb?
– Every case in which a person has lost a limb, or has been injured in any other way, will be treated on its merits. -In all probability those who, as the direct result of the loss of a limb, are prevented from earning the maximum sum mentioned in the schedule, will be regarded as entitled to some consideration.
– Will the Acting Treasurer, in framing regulations under the Old-age Pensions Act, consider the claims of applicants for old-age pensions who have been resident in Australia for forty years, hut who, because of an absence, say, in New Zealand, for two years, are debarred from receiving ‘ old-age pensions. I know of a man who, although he came to Australia forty years ago, and, with the exception of a two years’ absence in New Zealand, has remained continuously in the Commonwealth, has been denied a pension.
– An absence of two years from the Commonwealth during a term of forty years’ residence would certainly not disentitle a person to receive an old-age pension.
– The Department says . that it does.
– Has the Acting Treasurer made provision for the payment of invalid pensions to persons suffering from miners’ complaint ?
– Those who, as the result of following an unhealthy occupation, have become permanently invalided by the contraction of such a disease as the dread complaint to which the honorable member has referred, will certainly be brought within the provisions of that part of the Act which relates to payment of invalid pensions.
– Following up the question put by the honorable member for Parramatta as to the liberalizing of the oldage pension system’, will the’ Acting Treasurer state whether it is not a fact that the Fusion Government left the Treasury so depleted of funds, and with such heavy financial responsibilities that the present Government have found it impossible so far to liberalize the old-age pension system beyond reducing the pension age of women.
– The question raised by the honorable member is a rather large one to discuss without notice. I can only say that when we took office we did not find in the Treasury more money than was absolutely necessary to meet our obligations.
– Following the question asked without notice, and read so clearly by the honorable member for Cook, I should like to ask the Acting Treasurer whether he framed that question, and whether that fact led to his being able to make such a very explicit reply?
– I do not know that the honorable member has any right to be impertinent. I had nothing to do with the framing of the question submitted by the honorable member for Cook.
– I wish to ask the Acting Treasurer if he is aware that in reply to an appeal to the Old-Age Pensions Commissioner from a man who has been absent in New Zealand for a few years, letters have been written from his Department stating that the absence in New Zealand bars the applicant from receiving the pension.
– If the honorable member will give notice of the specific case-
– I shall supply the honorable member with the letter.
– Then I shall give the honorable member a reply to the question. 1 have here the section of the Act, at which the honorable member can look for himself.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs prepared to recommend the Public Service Commissioner to appoint female medical practitioners to examine females employed in the Commonwealth Public Service? If so, will he act at once?
– T - The honorable member gave me notice of his intention to ask this question. I have had the matter looked into, and the request has been complied with.
– When will the House be afforded an opportunity to discuss the Budget and Estimates? Can the Acting Treasurer say when he expects the session to close ?
– I think this query should have been addressed to the Acting Prime Minister ; but I may say that the Government has indicated a programme which it hopes that the House will carry out. The discussion of the Budget will be proceeded with as soon as other urgent measures will permit of that being done.
– I wish to ask the honorable member for Flinders a question without notice. It has reference to his statement that coercion is used by political parties. I wish to know if he has observed in what newspaper men would call “ our reptile contemporary,” that is, in the leading columns of the Argus’, a statement which suggests that he is facing both ways?
– It has been ruled that questions may not be asked of private members except in relation to business of which they have charge. I submit that the honorable member is not entitled to question another honorable member in respect to a mere newspaper statement.
– An honorable member is permitted to ask another a question in reference to any business before the House, or other public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper of which such member may have charge.
– This is a new ruling.
– I am stating the practice which has been generally followed and which has been adopted in this House. It is, of course, for the honorable member to whom the question is addressed to say whether he will or will not answer it.
– The article to which I refer seems to be an endeavour on the part of the newspaper in question to dragoon the honorable member for Flinders in respect to a measure before the House. I wish to know if he proposes to resent it?
– I think that it is on the whole desirable in the interests of public business that as few references as possible shall be made to what appears in the newspapers. I shall in this case, as always, endeavour to form my own judgment, and to act upon it to the best of my ability.
– Under this new ruling vistas of immense possibilities are opened up. I ask the honorable member for Gippsland if he will be good enough to state to the House the foundation for the baseless and unfair rumours to which he gave utterance last night concerning the Leadership of the Opposition?
– The honorable member must withdraw the imputation that the statements referred to were baseless and unfair.
– I do not think that you could have heard my question, Mr, Speaker. I asked the honorable member for Gippsland whether he would state the source of his information concerning the baseless and unfair rumours which he launched last night in this Chamber.
– The honorable member must see that he has supplied the answer to his own question, since he asks for the foundation of a statement which he declares to be baseless. The honorable member must not put his question in that way.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker; I have not answered my own question ; I have simply denied that the rumour has any foundation in truth. I ask the honorable member if he will give us the source of the rumour. Surely I am entitled to ask that?
– When I receive information I can make use of it without disclosing the source from which it comes. I do not intend to disclose names. I made the assertion on the statement twice repeated of a very prominent member of the Opposition.
– I was not aware that any allusion would be made this morning to a reference last night in my absence to the leadership of the Opposition; nor is that a matter of any importance to the House or to any one outside the members of our own party. However, in the circumstances, it might allay the anxiety which appears to be felt by some opponents if-
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to make a statement?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Although it is not usual to disclose the proceedings of a personal character which take place in a party meeting, I am justified in reminding my honorable friends on this side, and informing honorable members on the other side, of the fact that when the members of the Opposition were good enough to elect me unanimously to the official position which I now hold in this House, I at once indicated that this was accepted only as an appointment for the time being. I expressed the opinion that the party, in the interests of the principles it represented, should from time to time exercise its best judgment in the choice of its leader, and announced that I only consented to hold the position on that tenure, without any claim for a continuation. That matter was trifling enough in itself, and purely personal-
– The honorable member for Gippsland said either too much or too little.
– Of that I do not pretend to judge, but in case a use which suggests itself to me this morning should be made of the alleged rumour, I thought it necessary to make this statement. A simple allusion to the facts of my own choice of my present position and the generous acceptance of that intimation by the members of this party, will put the canard in its true light. During a political life which has associated me with four or five Governments, I have never yet had a personal dissension within the Government or party with which I was connected.
– And the honorable member has none now.
– True. I was only saying this by way of preliminary, so that I might not appear to be reflecting on the past. I have been more generously treated than I deserve by every party and Government with which I have been associated, and in particular since my association with our present party now on these benches. I have met with nothing but kindness and courtesy from them as Ministerialists or as an Opposition from the first until now.
– And loyalty.
– And loyalty. Having absolutely nothing to complain of, my tenure of office, resting from day to day, and from hour to hour, in the hands of the members around me, I shall be the first to propose a change directly that will be to the advantage of the principles we represent here.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that the Legislative Council of South Australia has passed a Bill repealing the State Act providing for the transfer of the Northern Territory? Further, will the honorable gentleman state whether the new situation thus created will lead to any delay in the passing of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill by this Parliament ?
– I have seen the statement in the press to which the honorable member alludes, and also a further statement by Mr. Denny, the Attorney-General of South Australia, that the action taken by the Legislative Council of that State, does not alter the position taken up by the Ministry. It is the intention of the Government to ask the House to proceed with the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill as soon as the second reading of the Bill relating to the amendment of the Constitution has been agreed to, and to proceed with its consideration in the Committee stage until it has been disposed of.
– Does not the Acting Prime Minister regard as a piece of pure bluff the action of the Legislative Council of South Australia in suspending its Standing Orders and passing through all its stages in one sitting a Bill to provide for the repeal of the Act relating to the transfer of the Northern Territory while the Agreement is under consideration in this House ?
– I am not a professor of the niceties of what the honorable member describes as “ bluff,” but the action of the Legislative Council of South Australia will in no way affect the attitude of this Government in relation to the matter.
– The Minister of Home Affairs promised some time ago to make a statement to the House as to the attitude of the Government respecting the proposed Public Service Superannuation Fund, and I desire to know whether he is yet in possession of the necessary information to enable him to do so.
– A - As soon as the Government Statistician and I can settle upon some satisfactory foundation worth putting before the House, I shall make the promised statement.
– Following up the question put by the honorable member for Lang, I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he is aware that it is now over a fortnight since a promise was made that a Ministerial statement would be put before the House in regard to the proposed Public Service Superannuation Fund ? The motion on the notice-paper relating to the question, in the ordinary course of events, would have been called upon last Thursday, and the announcement of the Ministerial policy would then have been due.
– I a I am not aware that a promise was made that the statement would be made on any specific date. The promise was that as soon as the Government Statistician could put a scheme before me, and the opportunity offered for me to consider it with him, I should carefully examine it, and make a statement to the House.
– In view of the fact that Victoria has paid its Public Service pensioners more than the remaining States of Australia, combined with New Zealand, have paid their retired public servants, will the Minister of Home Affairs obtain from his officers a return for the information of the House showing the amount paid by way of pensions, gratuities, and allowances by the six States of Australia, as well as by New Zealand ?
– I s I shall have the information furnished if it can be obtained.
– The Minister of Home Affairs has been good enough to furnish me with a report, submitted to him by the Government Meteorologist, in regard to the distribution of rainfall records. I desire to know whether the honorable gentleman has taken that report into consideration, and, if so, what action he proposes in regard to it ?
– As As soon as we can obtain a few minutes relaxation from the business of the House, I shall look into it. I have not been able, so far, to examine the report.
– I wish to ask the honorable member for Brisbane whether he has made any arrangements, and if not, whether he proposes to do so, for the consideration of the motion of which tie has given notice relating to the sale of intoxicants within the precincts of the House ? If so, will be state when the debate is to be resumed and completed?
– I am relying on the definite and distinct promise of the Prime Minister, which was renewed later on by the Acting Prime Minister, to the effect that an opportunity would be given before the close of the session to discuss the question..
– Following upon a question which I put to the Minister of Home Affairs on Wednesday last with reference to the minimum wage, I desire to make a further inquiry. The honorable gentleman submitted a statement made by the Public Service Commissioner setting out the policy of the Government, and giving reasons against the payment, to adults in the Public Service, of a minimum wage of 8s. a day. I wish now to ask the Minister whether he indorses that statement, and if not, whether it is his intention to consider the questions that I put to him on Wednesday last?
– Thi This Government deeply sympathizes with all men who are receiving only small wages, and recognises that wages ought to be increased so as to meet the increase in the cost of living. I would impress upon my honorable friend the fact that the Ministry have been in office only for a few months, and that most of our time has been taken up in focussing Bills for the consideration of the Parliament. It is useless to attempt any great departmental reform at the present moment. We can only hope to furnish small remedies and to palliate troubles until there has been a complete departmental reconstruction on business lines from top to bottom. This Labour Ministry has inherited the accumulated evils of centuries of stereotyped red-tape. The whole of the Departments are submerged in an ocean of clotted, decaying, knotted red-tape. Until the system is re-organized, heads of Departments must be hopelessly waterlogged, and Ministers are almost as helpless as animated rubber stamps fog-bound on a shoreless sea.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he noticed that, during the course of his reply to my last question, one ex-Minister, the honorable member for Ballarat, and another exMinister, the honorable member for Parramatta, said “ Hear, hear,” to his statements about the red-tape position of the Departments, and the helplessness of Ministers ?
– I must remind honorable members that when they rise to ask questions in the Chamber it is presumed that they are going to ask questions of some moment to the House. It is not right for them to put questions of a frivolous nature.
– Mine were serious, Mr. Speaker.
– I should like to ask the honorable member for Cook a question arising out of the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs. I hope this will be regarded as serious. Has the honorable member taken notice of the fact that the Minister of Home Affairs has described the present Ministry as hopeless and helpless in the matter of reform ; as being waterlogged, bound hand and foot, and unable to do anything; and whether, in those circumstances, he does not think it is time that he looked elsewhere for Ministers and guides to this country?
– The questions that are now being asked across the chamber are certainly not in keeping with the reputation of the honorable members who are asking them, or with their dignity, or with the dignity of the Chamber. Without mentioning names, I ask honorable members not to continue the practice. I hope the question just put will not be answered.
asked the Acting Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The following are the replies to the honorable member’s questions : -
asked the Minister of
External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 20th October (vide page 4973), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The importance of the Bills now before us is such as to demand an expression of opinion on the part of honorable members with respect to the powers asked for in them. In dealing with matters of this description we necessarily invite a review of the Constitution under which we are being governed. We are practically asked by these proposals to look at the fundamental provisions of our instrument of government, and to see whether its underlying principles are those best adapted to the well-being of the people of Australia. The keynote of the whole of our Constitution is found in the first few words, where it is stated that-
Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth.
The words “ indissoluble Federal Commonwealth “ indicate the underlying principle of this instrument of government. Under a Constitution such as we have, we have now to consider not a question of Commonwealth rights or State rights, but the question of Federalism. The question is now raised whether we are going to maintain a Federal Constitution or start off on a course of Unification. That issue is raised by these Bills.
The maintenance of the State Governments, says the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Texas v. White - is as much within the design and care of the Constitution as the preservation of the Union and the maintenance of the National Government. The Constitution in all its provisions looks to an indestructible union composed of indestructible States.
Our union, then, is distinctly Federal in its nature, and, being Federal, was distinctly and specially adapted to meet the needs of the Australian people. The Australian Constitution did not arise from a mere academic debate. It arose from the conditions of the Australian people at the time. The British people have a genius for government; and the method by which they proceed is always to examine the nature of the problem, and then, out of their practical experience, to devise a form of government best adapted to the needs of the situation. The Federal principle was mooted early in Australian history. In 1847, Earl Grey, in a despatch, suggested a form of Federal union. He contemplated a central authority to consider “ questions which, though local as respects the British possessions of Australia collectively, are not merely local as respects any one of those possessions.” Fiftythree years elapsed before the objects of that memorandum were attained. Earl’ Grey desired to have common regulations for “ the conveyance of letters and the formation of roads, railways, and other internal communications traversing any two or more such Colonies,” together with common duties and common commercial regulations. But the time for Federation was not ripe ; Australia was then moving towards the separation of the continent into distinct self-governing areas. For a period of fifty years the energies and activities of the Australian people were devoted to building up their local States under the full powers of government they possessed ; and, obviously, their attention being thus directed, the broader question of national’ union was not urgently pressing on them-
Yet, as time went on, the necessity for closer union was becoming every day more apparent in the minds of Australian statesmen. There were six different colonies of common origin treating each other as hostile countries. Yet certain questions arose which indicated the need for closer union. The three points on which the States could combine for common action could not have been better stated than they were by Sir Henry Parkes in his resolutions of 1891, as submitted to the Convention -
Australia shall be entrusted to Federal forces, under one command.
These four general propositions were accepted by the Commonwealth in 1900, and the underlying principle was the formation of a Federal union which would meet the practical needs of the time - bring together the Colonies in closer bonds as regards trade and commerce, open up the highways, establish defence, and thereby create a National Government. What was essential for National union was delegated to the National Parliament; but the States were left as sovereign bodies. National needs demanded a sovereign National Parliament. Local needs demanded sovereign State Parliaments. I may say at the outset that I always have been, and always shall be, an enthusiastic supporter of all that tends to Federal union. It was realized that there should be a real and permanent union; and the only question was how that should be attained. The answer was a union arising out of our own needs, and not slavishly following the model of any other country. It was decided, however, that the union should be based on the American model ; and it is idle for honorable members to sneer at that model, and contemptuously call it a “ Yankee Constitution.” That Constitution was devised by Alexander Hamilton, who is recognised by all authorities as, perhaps, the greatest political genius the world has ever seen. But how did he proceed to solve the problem? He first investigated the troubles in his own country, realizing the necessity for a national union under a constitution which, while it would give full and complete play to local conditions, would, at the same time, create a union so strong that, in the conflict of nations, it would be able to hold its own. He succeeded ; and the result is to-day one of the most powerful nations in the world. But Australia did not slavishly follow the American model, though we adopted the underlying principle, creating two sovereignties - that of the Commonwealth and that of the States. Our Constitution delegates to the National Government as much power as is absolutely essential for the preservation of a Federal union. To that end the statesmen of the day thoroughly investigated the needs of Australia, and, as a matter of fact, gave greater power to the central authority than is the case in the United States. Further, they recognised the necessity of a more elastic Constitution, and although our Constitution is rigid so far as concerns the preservation of the principle of Federalism, it is sufficiently flexible to be an instrument adaptable to the changing needs of the people. The Federal principle of the American Constitution is clearly described by Chief Justice Marshall in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden -
The genius and character of the whole Government seems to be that its action is to be applied to all the external actions of the nation, and to those internal concerns which affect the States generally ; but not to those which are completely within a particular State, which do not affect other States, and with which it is not necessary to interfere for the purposes of executing some of the general powers of Government. The completely internal commerce of a State, then, may be considered as reserved for the State itself.
In creating our Constitution we considered the conditions of our own people only ; and although we were wise enough to adopt many of the provisions of the United States Constitution, the powers of the central authority were determined with a’ view to our own needs. For instance, power was given to the Commonwealth to deal with old-age pensions, industrial disputes extending beyond a State, and other matters, which indicate the growth of a Democratic national spirit, and a desire to deal with social problems that was not dreamed of when the Constitution of the United States was framed.
– I desire to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– We distinctly recognised that the Constitution was not necessarily so complete or perfect as to be incapable of amendment. No Constitution ought to be so rigid as to render it impossible of expansion and development in order to meet changing needs and conditions. A Constitution is an instrument of government intended for the people, and the people are not, or should not, be subordinate to the Constitution ; and, therefore, we have greater powers of amendment than are to be found in the United States. Speaking of those very powers, Dicey says -
What may be the working of new institutions no one will venture confidently to predict; but a critic of Constitutions may entertain the hope that Australian statesmanship has accomplished the feat of framing a policy which’ .shall have the merits both of a rigid and a flexible Constitution, which cannot hastily be changed, but yet admits of very easy amendment whenever alteration or reform is demanded by the deliberate voice of the nation.
It will be seen, therefore, that the Constitution is of a flexible nature, giving the national authority power to deal with problems as they .arise, provided, as Dicey points out, that amendment is the result of the deliberate voice of the nation. Before any alteration is made in the Federal Constitution we should, however, closely investigate the evil alleged to exist, and then ask ourselves whether it presents a case for an amendment - whether the problem is national or local. Bryce says -
The problem which all federalized nations have to solve is how to secure an efficient central government and preserve national unity while allowing free scope for the diversities and free piny to the authorities of the members of the Federation.
That is, when there is a Federal Government and certain problems arise, we have to ask whether those problems are national, or whether they are such that the States should deal with them. If they are matters with which the States should deal, the answer is clear, if they have become national, and the Federal authority has no power to deal with them, the answer is- equally clear - an amendment of the Constitution must be sought. It was never the intention of the Constitution that we should take such a drastic step as an amend ment of the Constitution simply because one or two “States have refused to pass some local law. Where in a State Wages Boards do not exist, the question must be asked, Is the absence due to a defect in the State Constitution? If the ground is taken that a Legislative Council will not pass the necessary law, that is not a reason for the amendment of the Federal Constitution, the proper remedy being to amend the State Constitution so that an essentially local matter may be dealt with by the local authorities. Professor Woodrow Wilson speaks very clearly on the subject when, referring to the conditions in the United States, he says -
Their (the several States) failure to correct their own processes may prove that there is something radically wrong with the structure and operation of their Governments, that they have failed to be sensitive and efficient instruments for the creation and realization of popular opinion - the real function of Constitutional Governments.
If a State Government is not capable of dealing with matters essentially local, and does not respond quickly and easily to local public opinion, its Constitution should be altered, so that the ready expression of popular opinion may be obtained. The mere blocking of a social reform by a State Parliament is not justification for the alteration of the Federal Constitution. The chief reason why some honorable members opposite ask for the extension of our Federal powers is, not that that is necessary because uniformity is essential, but because reforms are being blocked by some of the State Legislatures. There must be stronger justification than that. There is also a danger of overloading the National Parliament. If we continue to increase the powers of the Federation, this Parliament will be as overburdened as is that of the United Kingdom, or the Congress of the United States. I am informed that, in 1905, 309 Bills were introduced into the British Parliament, of which only twenty-three were passed. In 1906, 383 were introduced, and fifty-eight passed ; in 1907, 336 were introduced, and fifty-six passed ; and in 1908, 412 were introduced, and sixtynine passed. When power’ is unduly centralized a grievous wrong is done to the people, as necessary reforms -are delayed. With some such system of decentralizationas we have, probably most of the legislation to which I have just referred would have been dealt with. At present, however, it is alleged that it is difficult to get the British Parliament to legislate adequately for the local affairs of Scotland, Ireland, England, or Wales. We do not desire a central authority so overweighted as to become an inefficient instrument of legislation. The problem is how lc adjust the relations between the central and local powers in order to secure the best government. McConachie, in a work on Congressional Committees, speaks thus of the congestion of business in Congress -
With the number of Bills introduced as an index, beginning with about two hundred per Congress, reaching, in 1803, to more than one thousand ; in 1S67-1869 to two thousand and five hundred; in 1873-1875 to five thousand, and now. above the line of twenty thousand, what new rules may not be evolved when the present ones are no longer adequate to the growing public pressure for governmental regulation ?
This is how .that was distributed -
The onward sweep of changing national life and the great central phenomena of the Civil War have played their parts also. Original legislation on the part of the Senate in 1S41- 1843 “s indicated by the presentation of five hundred and four Bills. Many of these, however, were but reintroductions at the second and third sessions. Comparison with the House is best made by figures for the second session, at which senators brought in three hundred and thirty-seven Bills and Representatives five hundred and ninety-four. In 1861-1863 senators introduced seven hundred and fifteen, Representatives nine hundred and fifty-one; in 1881-1883 senators two thousand six hundred and fifty-two, Representatives eight thousand and fifty-two; in 1895-1897, senators three thousand nine hundred and forty-five, Representatives ten thousand six hundred and thirty-nine.
Those statements indicate what may happen to this Parliament if the Federal legislative power is too greatly enlarged.
– That is legislation gone mad.
– I do not say that. The Bills introduced into the British Parliament were all public Bills. To deal with the complex affairs of modern life in a great country like ours central and local Parliaments are essential, and the question is how to fairly adjust powers between them.
– The central power must not be hobbled.
– Nor must the State power be destroyed. Whenever it can be shown that a problem of government can be better dealt with by a National than by a State Parliament, it is proper for the National Parliament to act, and that the Constitution be amended if necessary. But all these matters must be considered apart from party politics and partisan feeling. A disappointed party which cannot get its way in a State Parliament has no right to try to alter the Constitution to effect its object by means of the Federal Parliament, irrespective of its suitability to be dealt with as a national problem. If the wide-sweeping powers now asked for are vested in this Parliament, the tendency will be to paralyze its usefulness. Legislation is being more and more increased, the modern tendency being to define powers and make rights, duties, and obligations more clear by statutory enactment. The attempt at the solution of economic problems by legislation is becoming more common. This shows the need for preserving the Federal principle. South Africa had its own problems to face, in regard to which one writer says -
Our experience then of the actual work of Government in South Africa points to the conclusion that hard and fast vertical lines dividing national from local functions are a mistake, and that we should be rash to schedule any function as one which a National Government should be forbidden to touch.
The writer points out that it will be necessary in their legislation to prevent the overweighting of the central Government. But we have to solve our own problems in the light of our own Constitution. Unification for South Africa does not prove the wisdom of its application to Australia.
To-day we are asked to amend the Constitution in five distinct particulars : -as-to trade and commerce; corporations ; combinations; and trusts; industrial powers and the nationalization of monopolies; and we must ask in each instance if a case has been made out for the proposed transfer of power from the States to the Commonwealth. As to trade and commerce, have any practical difficulties been shown justifying a transfer of power? One of the objects of Federation was to remove all hindrances to Inter- State trade, and they have been swept away. Has any difficulty been experienced during the last decade in providing for freedom of trade between the States? Speaking from experience, I say that the only difficulties of administration we have had have been in regard to trusts and combines, with which we cannot deal while their operations are confined within the limits of a State. We are not now asked merely to deal with that difficulty, but to sanction the transfer of all power regarding trade and commerce to the Commonwealth. So little friction has there been in regard to
Inter-State trade that the Inter-State Commission has not yet been brought into existence. The last Government introduced a Bill to provide for its establishment, not because of difficulty in respect to Interestate freedom of trade, but because we thought that it might fulfil the function of the British Board of Trade, in helping manufacture and trade and production, and that it might advantageously be endowed with certain industrial powers. When it is asked what are the practical difficulties that demand the transfer from the States to the Commonwealth of the whole of this wide range of power, no sufficient reply is forthcoming, lt is true that trade and commerce can be treated as a whole, and that it has been bisected, but while that division is artificial, as has been said, it is certainly logical. If it were shown to be necessary for the proper control of trade and commerce to extend our present power, I should be agreeable to such an extension, but that has not been done.
We are told that we should make this change so as to bring ourselves into line with the Dominion of Canada. As a matter of fact, the Canadian power in this regard has not been fairly stated. It is correct to say that the Dominion Parliament has power, under section 9.1 of their Constitution, to regulate trade and commerce, but the provincial Legislatures have also vested in them the exclusive power to make laws relating to municipal institutions, shops, saloons, taverns, and auctioneers’ and other licences, in order to raise revenue for provincial, local, or municipal purposes, the incorporation of companies with provincial objects, property and civil rights in the province, and, generally, all matters of a merely local or private nature in the pro- vince. The result of the interpretation -of the Canadian trade and commerce power has been to make it approximate to that under the Commonwealth Constitution. Here are a few decisions by learned Judges, as given at page 555, of Lefroy’s Legislative Power in Canada, in regard to the meaning of “ regulation of trade and commerce ‘ ‘ -
Thus it has been said the “ regulation of trade and commerce” in No. 2 of section 91 means “ The regulation of trade and commerce in the Dominion,” which is “ a very distinct thing from the individual trades or callings of persons subject to the municipal government of cities.” : per Johnson, J. “ Not everything which might be connected incidentally with the operations of trade or the transactions of commerce “ : fer Allen, C. J. “ The general features, and not the minute and trifling subjects which might otherwise be considered as included “ : fer Henry, J. “ General regulations of trade between the provinces or between the Dominion and other States, but not internal regulations and local trade within one province or within any one locality in the province”: fer Tessier, J. “ The regulation of commerce in the wide sense,” but the provinces may “ make certain regulations affecting purely internal commerce “ : fer Mackay, J. “ Commerce in a national point of view “ : fer Jette, J. “ Regulations relating to trade and commerce in their general and quasi-national sense, and not to the contracts or conduct of particular trades “ : fer Burton, J. A. “ Something of general concern to the Dominion at large “ : fer Begbie, C. J. “ Trade’ and commerce in a general way.” “ Trade and commerce in its broad and large sense “ : fer Ritchie, C. J.
There are other judgments, but I shall read only the last, as reported at page 558- lt is manifest that by the words “ traffic et commerce,” especially the English words “trade and commerce,” it was intended to express legislation over the general interests of commerce which relate to the whole Dominion of Canada, the mode of importing and exporting merchandise, the storing of this merchandise in towns so as to protect the Customs, entire prohibition in certain cases for the general protection of the commerce of the Dominion ; but not special laws of provincial legislatures, which do nothing more than regulate the mode of selling and trading in certain matters of a merely local nature in the province.
These cases indicate that the Canadian power is not as wide as that sought by this proposed amendment of the Constitution. If it be agreed to, the Commonwealth will, apparently, be empowered to take over and regulate all private businesses and trades, and also to deal with navigation, and the regulation of State railways. It will have full and complete control of all these agencies, so far as they are instruments of trade and commerce. The Government are asking for a wider sweep than Canada apparently, possesses, and a comparison with the Canadian Constitution is, therefore, not in point.
When we look at our own Constitution we find that not only have we power to deal with trade and commerce “with other countries and among the States,” but that we have powers to make efficient all the agencies of Inter-State trade and commerce, and that no difficulty has arisen in connexion with them. A man in one State can enter into a contract with a man of another State by means of our uniform post and telegraph services, and when such a contract is made, the regulation of the transport between the States is a matter entirely under the control of the Commonwealth, whether it be by railway or by means of navigation. As to the terms of the contract there can be no. difficulty. The whole position in regard to the law of contract as between a citizen of one State and a citizen of another State is clearly understood. Nor can there be any difficulty regarding the terms of payment. The Commonwealth can make laws in regard to currency, coinage, and legal tender, bills of exchange, and promissory notes. We have established an Australian note system, and we have complete power under the Constitution to deal with banking. We have legislated to provide agencies for enforcing judgments obtained by citizens in one State against citizens in another State, and we have power to make laws with regard to the service and execution of civil processes, and with regard to bankruptcy. No difficulty has yet been pointed out in regard to any of these matters, to justify the transfer of this broad power to the Commonwealth.
As to our power to deal with corporations, I should like to see passed as soon as possible a uniform Companies Act. When I held office as’ Attorney-General, instructions were given for the preparation of such a measure; but it was impossible at the time to define the exact constitutional position. The Commonwealth Government could not say definitely what powers it possessed in this regard, but these were clearly laid down subsequently by the decision of the High Court in Huddart, Parker, and Co. v. Moorehead, 8 C.L.R. In giving judgment in that case, Mr. Justice Higgins pointed out what the Commonwealth powers are with respect to corporations. He said that he would not care to attempt a final exhaustive definition, but he pointed out, - amongst other things, that there was no express power on the part of the Commonwealth to incorporate companies ; such power as it possessed was an implied power. May I frankly confess that I should like to see the Commonwealth vested with express power, and also with power to deal with the dissolution of companies ? We do not need such a wide power as is asked for in this Bill, but I should certainly like to see the Commonwealth given clear power to regulate the formation of Australian companies, so that the incorporation of a company would leave it free to carry on its operations all over the States, just as any Australian citizen may do. We should have power to enable State corporations tobe converted into Federal corporations, and we should also have power to define their status and their capacity, and to regulate the terms of their dissolution. There should be one uniform winding up throughout Australia, so that Australian creditors, may all be dealt with on the same basis.
– That means an enlargement of the power of the Commonwealth.
– Our powers go a long way in this direction, but I should be prepared to support an amendment enabling us to deal effectively with legislation of that class. That, however, is not asked for in. this Bill. The Bill asks for somethingmore. The Government are asking for a wide sweeping power far in excess of what is actually demanded.
I come now to the question of the regulation of trusts and combines. This Parliament, in my opinion, should have complete and adequate power to deal withcombines and trusts, whether Inter-State or Intra-State. My experience in administering the Australian Industries Preservation Acts has convinced, me of the necessity for an alteration in that direction. In the first place, there is no difficulty in the way of the amplication of our power arising from existing laws, since the States have passed no laws on the subject. They have taken no action for the regulation of trusts, but the Commonwealth has done so. When I held office as Attorney-General, it fell to my lot to haveto administer for the first time the Australian Industries Preservation Acts. A great many cases were brought under thenotice of the Department, and the vast majority of them were of a purely Intra state character, and the Commonwealththerefore could not deal with them. It is very easy for a trust to evade the operation of the undoubted Federal law. Combines, at times, are an evil, and wherever combines of that nature exist there should be power to deal with them. There are many articles of consumption dealt with by combines which go beyond the confines of aState, and the exercise of the national’ power is, therefore, called for. My own experience in this respect is entirely in accord with that of the honorable member for Angas. When the second” Deakin Government were administering theAustralian Industries Preservation Acts, proceedings were instituted against Messrs. Huddart, Parker, and Company, to ascertain exactly what were the powers of the Commonwealth, as well as to deal with an evil which was believed to be in existence. The case was decided, the Commonwealth powers were defined. That trusts are of themselves an evil may best be shown by a quotation from the judgment of a United States Judge in the Northern Securities case. At page 339 of Ripley’s Trusts, Pools and Corporations, the following quotation is given : -
When competition is left free, individual error or folly will generally find a correction in the conduct of others. But here is a combination of all the companies operating in the Blossburg and Barclay mining regions, and controlling their entire productions. They have combined together to govern the supply and the price of coal in all the markets from the Hudson to the Mississippi rivers, and from Pennsylvania to the Lakes. This combination has a power in ils confederated form which no individual action can confer. The public interest must succumb to it, for it has left no competition free to correct its baleful influence. When the supply of coal is suspended the demand for it becomes importunate, and prices must rise. Or if the supply goes forward, the price fixed by the confederates must accompany it. The domestic hearth, the furnaces of the ironmaster, and the files of the manufacturer all feel the restraint, while many dependent hands are paralyzed and hungry mouths are stinted. The influence of a lack of supply or a rise in the price of an article of such prime necessity cannot be measured. It permeates the entire mass of the community, and leaves few of its members untouched by its withering blight. Such a combination is more than a contract ; it is an offence. . . . In all such combinations, where the purpose is injurious or unlawful, the gist of the offence is the conspiracy. Men can often do by the combination of many what, severally, no one could accomplish, and even what, when done by one, would be innocent. . . . There is a -potency in numbers when combined which the law cannot overlook where injury is the consequence.
I do not wish to elaborate the position, but I would remind honorable members that the second Deakin Administration passed two measures dealing with combines, and took steps in the Court to enforce those laws. The third Deakin Ministry also introduced an amending Bill. So far as the national power is inadequate to cope with the evils, I am quite prepared to support an amendment which will make good the deficiency.
As to our power to deal with industrial conditions, my desire undoubtedly is that fair and reasonable conditions shall prevail throughout Australia. That object could be accomplished by the establishment of some such tribunal as was proposed by our carty at the last general election.
– Does the honorable member really re-assert that?
– I say that it is so. If that were found to be’ inadequate I should be prepared to give even wider powers to the Federation. I cannot see my way to go the whole length which the Government asks us to go in these measures. They are not seeking power to deal only with disputes of an Inter-State nature or to grapple with evils where industries extend beyond one State, but are asking for power to deal, not merely with , every little matter of every possible kind relating to industrial conditions, but to industrial matters generally of the widest possible scope. That power, together with the wider power over trade and commerce, and all the incidental powers, mean taking over a large and undefined extent of jurisdiction from the State authorities, and I cannot see my way to go to that extreme.
As regards the nationalization of monopolies, no case whatever has been made out for the exercise of that power by the Commonwealth. I shall not deal more fully with these matters now, my only intention at present being to point out that in these proposals an attempt is made to assume power far beyond the necessities of the case. If the attempt succeeds it will lead to an undue centralization of authority, congest the Legislature, and make administrative action impossible, while many of those social reforms which are sought will not be as well accomplished as they could be if certain of the powers which are now sought to be transferred were left wilh the States. Wherever a case can be made out for national action, I am prepared to transfer the necessary powers to the Commonwealth, but in this instance no justification has been shown for the transfer of most of these powers, and, in the circumstances, I cannot see my way to support the measures in their entirety.
– I regard the measure before us as one of the most important ever brought before any Legislature in the Commonwealth. I am prepared to give every credit to the framers of the Australian Constitution. Our Federation arose after a great deal of agitation at various periods in Australian history. I believe it is quite fifty years since the proposal was first mooted by William Charles Wentworth, and the agitation which eventually resulted in Federation, died out from time to time for periods of about ten years. In 1890 the Federalists were brought together, not for the purpose of building up the Federation which has since arisen, but for the purpose of providing a better method of transferring the military from State to State, mainly in order to crush a rebellion amongst the workers in Queensland. There was at the time a big strike in that State, and Sir Henry Parkes was requested, I believe by Sir Samuel Griffith, to” allow the New South Wales troops to be taken to Queensland to put down what was believed to be an incipient rebellion. Sir Henry Parkes pointed out the impossibility, under the State laws, of ordering the permanent troops in New South Wales to go to Queensland. I believe this is a bit of secret history, which has not yet found its way into any publication, but it was generally known in Sydney at the time. When it was found that it was impossible to transfer New South Wales troops to Queensland, the Federal movement received another impetus, and a Convention was arranged. The outcome of that was a Constitution, which the Democracy of Australia would not accept. If that Constitution had remained intact, I do not believe we should have had Federation to this day. But there were in Australia a number of true Federalists, and amongst them were the men who originated the idea of calling a Convention of delegates, elected by the several States on the onemanonevote basis. The idea was that ten delegates from each State were to form a Convention and draw up a Constitution. In the contest for positions on the Convention there were very few Labour candidates. I think there were ten of them in New South Wales, but I am not sure about the numbers in the other States. At any rate, the only Labour man elected was ex-Senator Trenwith. My own opinion is that it was owing to the rejection of the Labour candidates for the Convention that we have the very liberal electoral sections in the Federal Constitution. If a large number of Labour candidates had been elected to the Convention, I believe the majority in that body, representing as they did the Conservative element, would have become alarmed at the prospect, and insisted on some restrictive franchise, which would have prevented the Labour party from gaining anything like its present strength. But those gentlemen builded better than they knew. They reasoned with themselves, “ If we can win in the Convention election, and only one man can be returned by the Labour party, we have nothing to fear from one man one vote.” Thus the one-man-one-vote principle found its way into the instrument of union, and its presence there largely influenced the people of Australia in accepting the Constitution. Seine honorable members regard the Federal Constitution as something sacred, which should not be interfered with - except when they want to alter it themselves. They had no objection to altering it last year. The Constitution was not a sacred document then.
– And they wanted to alter it in the direction of restriction.
– As the honorable member suggests, they wanted to alter it in a manner which would possibly have bound the majority of the Commonwealth to the will of the minority. I do not regard the Constitution as a sacred document, that must not be interfered with. I think it is there, fortunately for us, to be altered, generally speaking, the moment the majority of the people of the Commonwealth desire, that it shall be altered. I regard as a mistake the provision which demands for an alteration a majority of the States as well as a majority of the electors of the whole Commonwealth, and I hope the time will come when we shall alter it so as to allow the majority of the people to rule, whether the majority is in a majority of the States or not. However, restricted as it is, the section which provides for the alteration of the Constitution gives the majority of the people of the Commonwealth considerable sway. I was interested to hear my honorable friend the member for Hindmarsh yesterday. He made an eloquent speech, but there was a great deal of “ hifalutin “ in it. I do not think any particular nation can claim to be much superior to another. I am an internationalist.
– Is this another proof of the feud?
– There is no truth in the statement appearing in “our reptile contemporary “ to the effect that there has been a feud between the honorable member for Hindmarsh and myslf in the caucus.. We have never had a word in the caucus, and the little breeze that we have had in this chamber is perhaps for the good of both of us. It is calculated to have a chastening effect.
But the honorable member for Hindmarsh is too much of a parochialist. He can see no good in any other nation than the British, and referred in most opprobrious terms to the Americans. It is quite right that we should have due self-respect and pride in our race; but that should not blind us to the virtues of other nations. Throughout the world one will find some good in every nation. In the realms of music, art, literature, and science are to be found representatives of the highest type from all nations. I claim that it is our duty to keep an open mind, and if any nation can suggest a means whereby we can remedy the wrongs of mankind or improve our conditions, we ought to adopt it.
The framers of our Constitution looked to the American model and adapted a great many of its provisions. Its basis is American, the main difference being with regard to the election of Senators, who, in the United States, are elected by the State Legislatures. This is an anachronism, but the Americans of the time, the ex- Britishers, ex- Frenchmen, and others - who helped to draw up the United States Constitution, did what they believed to be the best in their day, and it was a tremendous advance upon the Constitution of the Old Country. The honorable member for Hindmarsh talks about the virtues of the unwritten British Constitution. There is no doubt a great deal in the genius of the British race for self-government, but that genius, which showed itself in demanding the Great Charter from King John, has allowed its powers to slip away until at present we find the Old Country ruled by members of the wealthy classes. The honorable member said that all that was required was to abolish the House of Lords, and to carry out two other reforms.
– He did not mention the House of Lords.
– At any rate, he said that three reforms were necessary. The fact remains, however, that these reforms cannot be carried into effect owing to the existence of the House of Lords. The honorable member further scorned the idea that we could graft on to British political institutions what he called the “ Yankee Constitution “ we now have. The honorable member loses sight of the position iri which the people of England have allowed themselves to be placed by the gradual filching away of their powers. In times gone by the people used to elect their own representatives, but that privilege was gradually taken away, until now, I believe, a person has to reside eighteen months in one house before he can get a vote. We can all realize how that operates, seeing that people, and especially the working classes, move about so much. At the present time, out of a population of 40,000,000 in Great Britain, only about 7,000,000 have the vote, whereas in Australia, out of a population of over 4,000,000 the franchise is enjoyed by 2,000,000. As I said before, I am an internationalist.
– The capitalist is an internationalist.
– I thank my friend for the interjection. The capitalist is also an internationalist, but of a different character. As an illustration of this latter fact, I have only to read the following cable message, which appeared in the Rockhampton Bulletin on the 27 th October, 1909: -
INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING FEDERATION.
London, 26th October.
An International Shipping Federation has been formed, which includes ship-owners in Britain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and Belgium, and controls a tonnage of 17,000,000. The principal objects of the federation are to enable ships to load and discharge cargo during strikes, and to indemnify against losses.
Mr. A. Devitt, of Messrs. F. Green and Company, London, joint managers of the Orient Company, has been elected president, and Herr Feisen, of the North German-Lloyd, vicepresident. France and Norway will join the combination shortly, as also will other nations whenlocal federations have been established.
Why should we encourage racial prejudice to our detriment-, when the capitalists of the world are federating to keep the people in subjection? In Australia, as elsewhere, we are face to face with the fact that industry has undergone a considerable change during the past hundred years. The man who at one time plied his avocation and completed an article of manufacture from start to finish has practically disappeared. Labour-saving inventions have taken away his occupation, and he is to-day, in hundreds of instances, employed in performing one simple operation, such as feeding a machine in the process of manufacture. And the capitalists of the world are rapidly getting full control of all the machinery, and eliminating competition in regard to the disposal of products, more particularly the food-stuffs of the people.
The honorable member for Darling Downs sees no reason for the proposal to nationalize monopolies. The honorable member, I suppose, cannot see that monopolies exist, but he must have a very short memory if he has forgotten the cable news of not very long ago, to the effect that a meat trust has been formed in America, and has succeeded in monopolizing the sale of beef. Like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, this Beef Trust does not sell directly to consumers, but to retail distributors, and the result in America was that as much as is. 5d. per lb. had to be charged for chops. The retail butchers had an idea that redress could be obtained by appealing to President Taft to remove the protective duty of 25 per cent., and thus allow them to obtain supplies from Argentine. But what did the Beef Trust do? They obtained control of certain preserving factories in the Argentine, and where they could not obtain control of existing factories, they instituted factories of their own. The result was that they obtained as much control in the Argentine as in the United States.; and it was found impossible to protect the retailer and the public from their operations. A cable message informs us -
Believing that the shortage of cattle in the stock-raising States was not wholly responsible for dear beef, 11,000 heads of families in Cleveland, United States, pledged themselves to abstain from the use of meat for a period of sixty days.
That cable appeared in the Bundaberg Daily News on the 22nd January of this year, and was followed by another on the 25th -
One million persons in the United States have now pledged themselves to abstain from eating meat in order to force the Beef Trust to reduce the price of beef. Boston has joined the boycott of meat.
What is the use of people abstaining from the use of meat in the hope of fighting a great combine such as this is?
– They failed even then !
– They failed because their abstention did not in any way prejudicially affect the directors of the beef trust, who were very much in the same position as that of the directors of the coal company during the recent strike in New South Wales. If men go out on strike and half starve themselves, directors of great companies are not affected one bit ; they are not called upon to deny themselves a single creature comfort, and the price of shares is unaffected. I venture to say that the strike of the 1,000,000 people in the United States did not reduce the price of the shares of the trust one penny. I may be told that I go far afield for my facts, but the world is so small nowadays that the trust in America has endeavoured to get control of the production of beef in Australia. Only this morning a cable message appears to the . effect that the price offered by a trust - English or American - for a certain station in Queensland is not deemed sufficient.
An Honorable Member. - Perhaps Mr. S. Kidman has something to do with it.
– I dare say that Mr. Kidman would be a prominent member in any combination, because he has already organized a kind of trust in the Bovril Estates Company. In my opinion, if things go on as they are, it will not be very long before there is a big meat combine in Australia. As a matter of fact, even now if an individual or a small company tries to send a cargo of beef from Australia to the United States, they would find that all the refrigerating space in the vessels to New York had been taken up by, I believe, Mr. Arthur Kidman. I remember reading some time ago an article written by Mr. Frank Fox, formerly of the editorial staff of the Bulletin, in which it was stated that, although meat is so dear in Canada and the United States, it was impossible for any person to send a cargo from Australia for the reasons that I have just stated. It might be suggested that another line of steam-ships might be established, but I ask where the capital is to come from? To use a homely expression, “dog does not eat dog,” and the capitalists are not likely to start a rival line. If an individual were to attempt to embark in the trade he would meet with a similar experience to that of the owner of the barque Laura, referred to in the following newspaper extract from the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 25th September, 1909 :-
The enormous powers wielded by the coal vend have just been strikingly illustrated by the case of the barque Laura, which has been refused a cargo of coal at Newcastle. The position is almost incredible. The coal trade of the northern district is very depressed, the mines are working less than half time, yet a little vessel like the Laura, which only requires 550 tons of. coal, is unable to secure a supply. The Laura, since she was purchased about two years ago by Mr. Peter Burrows, of the firm of E. D. Pike and Company, of this city, has been engaged in the timber trade, carrying hardwood from New South Wales to New Zealand, and bringing back cargoes of pine. During the whole of this time she was only twice diverted - once on a trip to the South Seas on a three months’ time charter, and once with a cargo of naphtha and kerosene to Suva. She may, therefore, be regarded as a regular trader between Australia and New Zealand. The Laura was recently chartered by the owners from Messrs. Redpath and Sons, of Christchurch, New Zealand, and she arrived at Newcastle from New Caledonia on Monday week to load coal for Lyttleton, New Zealand. The vessel has now been lying idle at Newcastle for nearly a fortnight without any prospect of being permitted to purchase or load coal. Mr. Peter Burrows, the owner, applied to the charterers’ agent - the Hetton Coal Company Limited, of which Mr. Wilkins is the manager - for a cargo, but was informed that instructions had been received from the coal vend that the Laura was not to be loaded, as she was not included in the list of vessels authorized to be loaded by collieries connected with the vend.
If it were found possible to raise sufficient capital to furnish a vessel, in all probability the shipping combine would prevent a supply of coal, or in other ways make the venture absolutely profitless. Further, if a cargo of meat were taken from here to New York or elsewhere in America, the beef trust would do just as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company do here - the cargo landed, they would lower the price of meat temporarily, and the enterprise would fail. That furnishes the best of reasons why we should appeal to the people for power either to nationalize a monopoly entirely, or .to start business in opposition to it.
As business men, we must realize that should we nationalize monopolies, we should have to adopt business methods, and that in competing with an established monopoly we should find ourselves confronted with the opposition of a section of the public. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company was a grievous monopoly, which used to charge 9s. 4d. per word for transmission of messages from Great Britain. An agitation was set on foot by merchants who succeeded in getting Great Britain, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Canada, and New Zealand to spend £2,000,000 in laying the Pacific Cable; but some of those who were foremost in the agitation for a Government line still continue to do business with the company.
– I suppose they got reductions by reason of the competition.
– Yes; the rate was reduced to 4s. 9d., and then to 3s. a word ; but there are .merchants who are not grateful for what was done by the Government, and still continue to do business with the company. As a consequence, our share of loss on the Pacific Cable is today about ,£50,000 per annum. The annual loss is diminishing, and it would disappear altogether were business men as a whole to support the Government enterprise. I have heard of a case in which the chairman of a co-operative dairy company is selling his cream to an opposition concern because he can get a slightly higher price for it. We are faced continually by the selfishness and greed of human nature, and are all of us more or less selfish, but it is our duty to protect the community against this selfishness. If the Commonwealth gets the new powers which are asked for we shall probably be unable, because of the cost, to buy out a monopoly like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which, I saw it stated the other day, would expect £6,000,000 for its property, while the millers would ask £10,000,000 more. We must be careful that we do not load our national business enterprise with an enormous interest burden such as the borrowing of £16,000,000 would entail. Therefore, it will pay best to start in opposition to the company. If we are going into the business of supplying the public with goods we must conduct our enterprises on such lines that prices will not be made any higher. Should we desire to compete with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, we should be met with ingratitude such as I have instanced in connexion with the Pacific Cable. After we establish a national sugar refinery, and reduce the wholesale price of sugar, we shall find some ungrateful business men who will desert the national refinery, and patronize the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which previously extorted money from them.
Those who suggest that if the Labour party had the power it would nationalize industries right and left are either misleading themselves or the public. We shall have to proceed slowly, and on safe lines, and to bring any monopoly to its knees, must so conduct our business as to supply the public with goods at reasonable rates. In my opinion, State .enterprises should be self-supporting. No doubt, some day, Communism may come about. In some cases, even now, it is found more convenient, instead of charging each householder for the quantity of water he uses, to levy a general rate on the community, and this system may be extended to the supply of other things. Indeed, at Rome, because of the high price charged by the bakers, it is suggested that the municipality should supply bread.
In Sydney, one man fixes the price of butter, and elsewhere there is a bread trust. Any man who undertakes to drive a baker’s cart must sign an agreement not to start in business in the district within two years after leaving his employment, while the bakers have agreed among themselves to charge so much per loaf, the millers refusing to supply those who charge less than the stipulated price. These are every-day facts in Australia. If the Parliament were to use at once the supreme powers for which we are asking, it would soon find that many industries are not yet ripe for nationalizing- Honorable members have asked what is a monopoly. I would define a monopoly as a business whose directors have succeeded in eliminating competition, and when that happens, the Federal Parliament, or the State, or the municipality, should interfere. But if we undertook enterprises without due consideration and the application of strict business methods, we shall lose ground, and private enterprise will be given a longer lease of life.
There is one important fact upon which I desire to lay great stress. lt is well known that certain capacities are often inherited, and, when cultivated, their possessors acquire pre-eminence in some walk of fife. Thus we have born musicians, born artists, born poets, born inventors, and born farmers. Mr. Farrar, who produced the Federation wheat, was a born farmer, whose work was of great service to his race. The born inventor, too, can be of great use to the community. The born financier, however, does nothing except for himself. The millionaire, Mr. Patten, who recently retired after a successful corner of the cotton market, having made £4,000,000, said that he owed his fortune to strict attention to the rule of arithmetic that two and two make four, but he rendered no such services to humanity as those of the late Mr. Farrar. The ambition of a man like Pierpont Morgan is not to distribute wealth, but to control it. He, I understand, possesses about £200,000,000. If any honorable member were to earn £I,000: a year, and save every penny of it, it would take him a thousand years, if he lived so long, to amass ,£1,000,000. Yet Pierpont Morgan within a brief lifetime has amassed £200,000,000. There is something wrong with our political economy when it makes such a thing possible. I wish, in conclusion, to quote a short passage from Ruskin, who has in eloquent, keen, and analytical language described the people who become rich and those who remain poor -
In a community regulated only by the laws of demand and supply, but protected from open violence, the persons who become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive, and ignorant; the persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the idle, the reckless, the humble, the thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the well-informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief, and the entirely merciful, just, and godly perso*.
Under our system it is possible for the covetous, unimaginative, and ignorant person to become rich, and for the entirely merciful, just, and godly person to remain poor. As intelligent legislators it is our duty to try to remedy that state of affairs, and the great national Labour party offer the people of Australia the Bills now before us as a remedy. I sincerely hope that they will be carried.
– Whilst I am opposed to the proposals of the Government, I must at once admit that I prefer the course they have adopted in this instance to that of attempting, by indirect means, to accomplish that which the Constitution does not empower us to do directly. Those who are opposed, as I am, to the provisions of this Bill must, at least, concede the fact that the Government are adopting a straightforward course in selecting this method of giving effect to the desires of their party. The people are to be asked whether these amendments are, or are not, desirable, and I shall have something to say later on as to the effectiveness of the mode adopted for obtaining the will of the people. The Constitution may be amended by the Parliament, but any amendment made by us must be submitted to a referendum of the people, and must secure their approval and the approval of a majority of the States before it can become law. The extent of our power of alteration under section 128 is a question with which I shall deal later on, and it is certainly one of very great importance. T hold that it was never intended that .’in alteration of the Constitution should be such as would be calculated to undermine or destroy the instrument itself. Any one unacquainted with the facts, when listening to the speeches made by the AttorneyGeneral, the honorable member for Flinders, and members opposite must have imagined that those who took part in the Conventions of 1891, 1897, and 1898 were groping in the dark, and knew nothing of the circumstances of the Federations then in existence. As a matter of fact, we had before us the information that is available to honorable members at the present time. It would be idle, of course, to deny that we have not profited since by our experience of the working of the Commonwealth Constitution; but the fact remains that many members of the Federal Convention were fully cognisant of and familiar with the terms of the Constitutions of the United States and the Dominion of Canada, as well as those of the Germanic Confederation. In connexion with every clause in the Constitution Bill those authorities were constantly consulted. Some honorable members, however, insist upon referring to these several Constitutions as if the members of the Federal Convention were not familiar with them when they drafted that under which we are now working. Although we could not say what would be the interpretation placed upon the language that we employed in granting power to the Federation to deal with trade and commerce, and industrial matters, we knew how far we wished to go. The Government proposal would carry us altogether too far, and would mean an invasion of the arena which was deliberately reserved to the States. The Federation, we understood, was to be a Union in which the States would control internal matters, whilst the Commonwealth would control all matters of national concern extending beyond the limits of a State, and, therefore, incapable of being dealt with by a local Government. It seems, however, quite clear that the Labour party are working in the direction of destroying the States, and gradually bringing about, step by step, a unified form of government.
– N - No fear !
– If we take away one by one the powers of the States, it will not be long before little will be left to them. If the people vote at the referendum for these amendments of the Constitution, we may depend upon it that the increased powers of the Commonwealth will soon be called into requisition. This desire for centralization nowadays is an extraordinary development, more especially in view of the fact that it is expressed for the most part by those who were opposed to Federation. The Labour party, as a party, were undoubtedly opposed to the Federal Union. They feared that Federation would destroy their power and influence, but finding that they were mistaken and that it has increased it, they now believe that Unification, with a central Government controlling the whole of the affairs of Australia, would tend to their greater advantage and benefit. The experience, not only of other countries, but of Australia itself, has not shown that centralization is desirable. New South Wales was the parent Colony, but it was not very long before the settlers in the Port Phillip District, which now forms part of Victoria, made a demand for self-government, and that demand was followed by another from that part of Australia now known as Queensland, which was also granted. For many years there has been a strong agitation for a division of Queensland into three States, so that there is undoubtedly a movement towards decentralization in certain quarters. Many of the people feel that a central Government could not well control the thousand and one details of administration affecting the life of this widely scattered community. If we take all these powers from the States, leaving them only the power to legislate in regard to the lands, the mines, and the education of the people, we shall, I believe, take a step in the wrong direction. Honorable members opposite say, “ We have no such idea in our minds,” but if the Commonwealth Parliament is vested with these increased powers, we may be sure that it will soon be called upon to exercise them. At every election many local questions now dealt with” by the States will be made the subject of controversy, and we shall be called upon to deal with all sorts of purely State matters, such as the licensing of hotels, hawkers and others, and the whole business of buying and selling and trade and commerce in all its details. If these Bills, be carried, we shall have power to deal with all those matters, and a power once secured is generally exercised. We shall be asked to redress trifling grievances all over Australia, and I certainly think that these proposals go too far. Local self-government and the national control of matters with which the local government cannot deal was the foundation of the Federal system, and that which we all desired.
– That is all we want.
– But the Government are asking for more.
– Does the right honorable member think that local Governments can cope with huge trusts?
– The operations of huge trusts usually extend beyond the limits of a State, and in such circumstances we can control them. In framing our Constitution we had the experience of other countries to guide us, but the suggestion made by some honorable members is that the Conventions of 1891, 1897, and 1898 did not look into all these matters.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I have referred to the unsuitability of a unified form of government for Australia, and pointed out that at one time New South Wales had control of most, if not the whole, of this continent, but that separate States were formed because the people were dissatisfied with the way in which the affairs were managed by the central authority. I think that is the general opinion, and suppose that honorable members opposite would not argue that it was advisable for a Federal Parliament meeting in the southeastern portion of the continent to attempt to manage the whole of the affairs, local as well as national, of Australia. It was never intended that it should. Ministers here at present may not intend to use such an authority if it is given to this Parliament, but once it is given the exercise of it will be forced upon us, as time goes on, by dissatisfied constituents and dissatisfied people in the States. Therefore, if we do not want the Commonwealth to exercise the powers now exercised by the States in local matters, the best way to prevent if is not to give it those powers. The honorable member for Hindmarsh yesterday made very disparaging observations regarding our Constitution and Federal Constitutions generally, but I think he should have thought well before he made use of such drastic observations. I. do not believe there is any reason to be dissatisfied with the working of this Constitution. The only dissatisfaction I have felt is due to the actions of honorable members opposite, and those who send them to this Parliament. From the very beginning, they have been dissatisfied with the Federal powers under the Constitution, and have been trying by one means or another to invade the arena reserved to the States. That is the reason why the High Court has had to decide so often against the ac tion of this Parliament in passing legislation close to, or overstepping the border line of State and Federal powers. I blame * honorable members opposite for the whole of that.
– Why not the people?
– I blame honorable members opposite, although their electors may be behind them. If it had not been for the existence of a desire on the part of members opposite to exercise powers not given to us, there would have been no fault to find with the working of the Constitution. In reply to the disparaging observations of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, with regard to the American Constitution, let me quote what Mr. Bryce said about it in 1888 -
Yet after all deductions, it ranks above any other written Constitution for the intrinsic excellence of its scheme, its adaptation to the circumstances of the people, the simplicity, brevity, and precision of its language, its judicious mixture of definiteness in principle and elasticity in details.
Honorable members will be able to judge which authority is the more to be trusted - Mr. Bryce or the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I would ask honorable members why Federation was established. Why was it desired by the people of Australia ? Why did the States give up some of their powers, without any pressure, and of their own free will? They gave the Commonwealth nearly all the powers it possesses, some, I believe, coming from the Imperial Parliament. Those powers were given up voluntarily by the people of Australia so that this Parliament should be brought into existence. I read the other day the answer to those queries in a leading journal, published in this city. I altogether concur in the reason given by that publication in the following terms -
The Commonwealth Parliament was not constructed for the’ work of controlling State land settlement, State production or manufacturing industries, or State internal trade -
– I understand the honorable member is quoting from an article in a newspaper commenting on a matter now before the House.
– I said it was a journal. Cannot I read from a’ journal?
– The honorable member is not in order in reading from any document, except a parliamentary document, dealing with’ the. matter before the Chamber.
– Then on what ground am I allowed to quote from Mr. Bryce ?
– In that case the honorable member quoted from a book on the American Constitution, not on the matter at present before the Chamber; but in this instance I understood the honorable member to say that he was about to quote from a journal;, published yesterday, an article on the subject of these measures. I listened to the honorable member for a moment, and found that the matter he was reading was in the form of comment upon something done in this Chamber.
– The question I asked the House was : “ Why was Federation desired, and why did the States give up some of their powers?” I was about to answer that by quoting the opinion of some one who gave the necessary information. I can answer the question without the article, but it seems to me that what I was about to read is only an answer to the question that I put. However, if you, sir, are against me, I shall say no more about it. The reason why the States federated was that there were many matters in which a united Australia was interested, and regarding which a united Australia could do what the States could not do for themselves. It was in order that a Parliament should be brought into existence that would attend to all matters of general or national concern for the whole ot Australia, that the States agreed to federate. They never agreed to do so in order that their internal affairs should be interfered with, or that their land settlement, and other matters, which they thought they could manage altogether for themselves - such as their businesses of buying and selling, licences, and general internal economy and management - should be controlled by the Federal Parliament. It seems to me, however, that, having federated for national purposes in regard to defence, Customs and Excise, and external affairs generally, it is now desired to use the instrument the States then brought into existence in order to intrude on the local arena, and control those matters which the States had no idea of parting with or of giving control of to any one else. I have often said in this House, and must say it again, that the efforts of the party opposite - whether they call themselves the Labour party or the Caucus- Socialistic party, have been always in the direction of in vading the arena of legislation reserved to the States. They have got so far now that, perhaps without intending it, they are travelling on a course which, if followed a little further, will destroy altogether the autonomy of the States. A good deal has been said during this debate with regard to the State Upper Houses. When any argument as to the power of the States to do everything necessary is driven home, we are at once confronted wilh the statement that the Upper Houses will not allow reforms to be made. I had a good deal of experience with a nominee Upper’ House, in which the numbers were limited, and afterwards for many years with an elected Upper House, and I never found them unreasonable, nor do I think they have been, taking their acts altogether.
– They agreed with the honorable member.
– They did not always ; but it is not reasonable to expect them always to agree with what is put before them. If they do not pass all the legislation that is proposed to them by the Lower Houses, it is at once assumed that they are an obstruction. They are there, however, for a certain purpose; they are elected for the most part by the people, and they exercise their rights. I do not believe that the acts of the Upper Houses of the States, taking them altogether, have been injurious to the people of this continent. When we say that the States have self-government, and can alter their own Constitutions, it is not a fair argument to say that the Upper Houses block the way. The people may try to get their legislation passed, and may abolish the Upper Houses if they like, or may try to do so. When they do not try to do it with any persistence, it is not fair for honorable members to say that the Upper Houses are an obstruction. If they are an obstruction, why do the States not try to do away with them, or alter their Constitution ? The people should try to do so, and when they have persisted in. the effort-
– I think Mr. Kingston tried in South Australia.
– Supposing that he did try, the fact that he failed once was no reason why he should give up the effort. The fact of the matter is that the party opposite are always trying to obtain by legislation what is not advisable in the interests of the country.
– We are carrying out the wishes of the people !
– Honorable members opposite represent only one-third of the electors of Australia, so that I do not see that the honorable member is correct in that assertion. The Bill proposes to ask the electors to say ‘ ‘ Yes ‘ ‘ or “No” to four proposed amendments of the Constitution, which provide for giving the Commonwealth full control over trade and commerce, both external and internal - over all foreign and State corporations - over monopolies and combinations in relation to the production, manufacture or supply of goods or service, and the control of all industrial matters, including employment and the wages and conditions of employment, and also including the prevention and settlement of disputes. Those four intricate and difficult questions are to be asked in one referendum; and I submit that that is not a fair method. In my opinion, the questions ought to be placed before the electors separately, in view of the possibility that the people may be in favour of one or more of the proposals and against the others ; yet, as now proposed, they must swallow the whole or refuse the whole. As I have indicated, the questions are not closely related ; and, according to the notice I have given, I shall test the question in Committee as to whether they shall be voted on by the people as a whole or separately. If the powers mentioned are to be taken over by the Commonwealth, what will remain to the States? The administration of the lands, I suppose, will yet be with the States Governments, although even that power may be removed if the lands are taxed in the way proposed by members opposite. The mines of the country, also, may be placed almost in the same category, and also education ; but there, again, we are faced with the possibility of the powers even in regard to these being taken over by the Commonwealth, if not by direct means by indirect and roundabout methods. Altogether it appears to me that by proposals such as these the States will lose a great portion of the self-government that they now enjoy. The result of our taking over the control of industrial matters will, I think, be that we shall, in part if not wholly, establish similar conditions and wages all over the Commonwealth ; and I do not know that such a state of affairs is advocated by any one. In those parts of the Commonwealth where the climate and other circumstances render work more arduous, surely those employed are entitled to more consideration than are those who earn their living in the more temperate and agreeable places; no one will say that a worker at Port Darwin should not receive higher wages than a worker in the salubrious climate of Hobart. Of course, unless something be done to equalize wages and conditions, it will be impossible for a State, where the wages are high, to compete industrially with States where the wages are low. In the case of my own State, for instance, .several industries have gravitated to Victoria because of that very difference. I have this session asked this Government whether they can suggest a means by which industries may be kept within States instead of being removed for the reason mentioned.
– The wharf clues in Western Australia represent more than the difference in wages !
– I am not prepared to admit that, but will the honorable member deny that wages are higher in Perth than in Melbourne, and that, in consequence, the boot industry and the tobacco industry have been destroyed in Perth and have been removed to the east? I do not think that similar wages and conditions all over the Commonwealth are practicable, but something will have to be done to meet the difficulty I have indicated. The late Government made a proposal by which, if Wages Boards, or the State authorities, acted in any way prejudicial to the interests of another State there was an appeal to a Federal tribunal, with power to settle the matter; but that proposal did not become law. At present the Commonwealth has control over all trade and commerce and industrial matters except within a Stale ; and the question now is whether the internal affairs of the States are also to be handed over to the Commonwealth. It certainly was never contemplated by those who framed the Constitution that it should be used as an instrument for invading the arena of the States. For my own part, I should be very chary, indeed, unless with the consent of the States, in doing anything which could be construed into a breach of faith with the people of the States, seeing that they have treated us so generously, and have so trusted us, in endowing this Parliament with such large powers under the Federal Constitution. It has been said that the powers of the Commonwealth are inadequate in regard to the matters mentioned in the Bill ; but let me quote from Bryce again, in. his book, Studies in History and Jurisprudence. At page 493, dealing with the Australian Commonwealth, he says -
Now the range of powers ‘ granted to the National or Commonwealth Parliament is very wide, wider than that of Congress or of the Swiss National Assembly, or even of the Dominion Parliament in Canada.
At page 531 he says -
Technically regarded, the Constitution is an excellent piece of work - the arrangement is logical, its language is, for the most part, clear and precise.
Then, at page 533-
There is no such effort as in America to secure that questions of State law shall be determined solely by State courts, for such cases may be appealed from State courts to the Federal High Court. Thus the nation looms large over the whole instrument, overshadowing the States.
Vet we are told that the Commonwealth powers are inadequate. In the course of the debate, the amendments already made in the Constitution have been continually referred to ; indeed, too much has been made of this phase of the question. What has been said is not apropos, because none of the alterations made up to the present are of much importance or encroach on the powers of the States. There was no principle involved, for instance, in changing the date of the Senate elections from December to April ; and, as to the taking over of the State debts, there was already power to take over £200,000,000, and the amendment merely enabled us to take over an additional £50,000,000. There was really no change in principle involved in that amendment, the principle having already been adopted in the Constitution in the power to take over the £200,000,000. In any case a majority of the States were in favour of the alteration, and, had it not been for misrepresentations, I believe the whole of the people would have acquiesced. Those amendments afford no justification for the attitude of the Attorney-General, and others, who appear to hold that, as we have already made some amendments, we might as well make more. As to the referendum, my own opinion is that no large number of people will be induced to vote in the absence of any agitation or excitement. As a matter of fact, out of two and a quarter millions of electors on the roll, nearly 1,000,000 of the electors did not trouble to vote at the last general election; and yet it is proposed to spend £40,000 on a referendum at a time when there is not the political excitement of a general election, and when it is therefore likely that even a greater number will not take the trouble to go to the polls. The proposal only shows the lengths to which the Labour party will go.
– If the people do not vote, it will be because they are satisfied with the proposals made.
– In my opinion, it is playing with legislation to treat the electors in this way.
– It is a pity we cannot have the referendum in Melbourne on Tuesday week !
– The honorable member and his party represent only onethird of the electors of the Commonwealth, and they do not care whether one-third, or a lesser proportion, vote so long as their proposal is carried - to that end they are prepared to destroy the Constitution and the sovereignty of the States. If honorable members opposite are of opinion that the present Constitution is out of joint, why do they not take the straightforward course of agitating for a new one? They prefer to destroy it by degrees, taking away from the States first one power and then another. In this way the sovereignty of the States will be gradually destroyed. Section 1.28 says that the Constitution shall not be “ altered “ except in a specific manner. What is the meaning of the word “altered”? Does it include repeal ? Can we repeal the Constitution under the powers of section 128 or the Imperial Act and substitute another Constitution for it? There are those who say that the section empowers us to do what we like with the Constitution, but if we cannot repeal it, the question must be asked, how far can we go in that direction? Ls the Imperial Act which covers the Constitution of no avail? It sets forth that the States “agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown.” The Union was agreed to by the people and the Legislatures of the States, and can the States be coerced, by four States out of six, and the powers reserved to the States be taken from them by force? The result of the proposed legislation can only be to destroy the Federation. It would be better to keep the Federal compact inviolate. I deny that the Constitution is out of joint, and see no reason for the drastic proposals which have been put before us; but, were it thought to be out of joint, the best way to provide for its amendment would be for the Parliaments and people of the States to agree as to what alterations should be made, instead of allowing, by the vote of a chance majority, consisting of only a small percentage of the electors, a new and un-Federal Constitution to be foisted on the people, contrary to their wishes and subversive of the Federation into which they solemnly entered.
.- This ls one of the most important debates which has taken place in this Parliament. I understand the opposition of those who are afraid of any alteration of the Constitution, on the ground that it may have results which are not intended; but honorable members opposite should not contend that the Constitution is unalterable, because those of them who took part in the framing of it were prepared then to admit that, as time went on, alterations might be found to be necessary. Great credit is due to Sir Edmund Barton and those who helped him to frame the Constitution. They were not afraid of subsequent alterations, their concern being the creation of a nation. The Leader of the Opposition, speaking in this debate, pointed to the map which hangs on the wall to draw attention to the lines which divide State from State; but the object of the Federal Convention was to create one Government which should rule this island continent from ocean to ocean, and its members achieved it. I hope that there will never be anything powerful enough to break up this great union. The Attorney-General, in introducing the Bill, rose to the occasion, and made a speech worthy of the measure. I have not yet heard his statements answered. The position is this: After nearly ten years of experience we are finding an alteration of the Constitution necessary to enable the people to give effect to their wishes. Some of these they expressed at the last election. The Commonwealth needs power to legislate in regard to industrial matters and for the nationalization of monopolies. The people, in giving a majority to the Labour party, required it to introduce a measure providing for a referendum on this question. I do not think that our opponents can be in earnest. If a referendum is taken, the questions submitted to the people should be simply and plainly stated.
– Should not each be put separately ?
– I am not in favour of the proposal of the right honorable member for Swan. Our chief object is to gain .the power to legislate in respect of industrial matters and for the nationalization of monopolies. The people of Australia are indebted to the Leader of the Opposition for the work which he has done for them at various times, but when he stated that the nature of these alterations would ruin the Federation, I was forced to interject that his remarks seemed to me like a funeral service. His reply was that these measures would bring about the funeral of the Federal power. When he spoke like that, he was not the same Deakin that we knew some years ago. My knowledge of the honorable member for Ballarat goes , back to the holding of a Conference at Corowa many years ago, and I thought that he would have stood by the Federal position, instead of being a champion of State rights. It must not be forgotten that it was those who now constitute the Opposition who proposed the first alterations of the Constitution, namely, those respecting the Financial Agreement and the State debts, while they intended to refer to the people two other questions very similar to those which we wish to refer to them. When this referendum is being discussed, I hope that those who speak on it will confine their remarks to the subject-matter of the proposal, and not dwell on the danger of giving the Labour party power to carry out the legislation which they desire to pass. I hope that honorable members generally will rise to the occasion, and not try to belittle this party. Nothing is gained by personal abuse. I have seen that from an experience of elections extending over the whole course of my life. It will be the members of the Labour party who will have most to do in forming a public opinion regarding the questions at issue in this instance, because the public press will do the work for the other side, and whip us all the time. I hope that the whipping will not deter us from the proper performance of our duty. The object of the attempt to split up the questions to be submitted to the people seems to be to give some honorable members an opportunity to claim that they are in favour of new Protection, and allow others to say that they are opposed to it.-
If our honorable friends opposite are really serious in their professed desire to bring about these changes, they will allow the Bill to remain as it stands. The chief measures of a Government have never yet been defeated at the second-reading stage, and so-called attempts to test the feeling of the House on an amendment to a motion for the second reading of a Bill are usually made to induce the people to believe that those responsible for them are the only men carefully watching the political life of the country. I cannot understand why an attack should be made upon us for proposing an alteration of the Constitution. A Constitution that would not permit of amendment would be most undemocratic. There are amongst the Opposition some who assisted in framing that under which we work, and they used to tell us that ft was undoubtedly Democratic, because it could be altered at any time at the will of the people. As I understand that an arrangement has been made to take a division within the next few minutes, I shall not detain the House any longer, although I regard such a measure as this as one of first importance, deserving full discussion. However, since such an arrangement has been made, I am prepared to bow to the will of the House. I sincerely trust that both measures will be put through as quickly as possible, for I am sure that the country is thirsting for the amendments of the Constitution which are now proposed.
– I have twenty minutes within which to discuss the far-reaching questions which these Bills involve, and I shall try to compress my remarks within that space of time, so that a division may be taken at the hour arranged. My speech, I hope, will be a study in condensation. No one can overstate the importance of these proposals. I entirely agree with the Acting Prime Minister when, in the course of his able speech in moving the second reading of this Bill, he said that the proposals involved were by far the most important questions with which the Parliament has yet had to deal. It seems to me that if they are carried there will be scarcely a State function that is not invaded, or a State power that is not potentially destroyed. This industrial power will ramify into every nook and cranny of our industrial and social life, and there will not be an aspect of our social concerns that will not be profoundly affected. The control of the lands under these provisions will be liable to be taken from the States. Let that be understood. You may not begin to nationalize your mines - you may not begin to appreciably regulate the conditions of mining - without also appreciably regulating the conditions of land tenure which are precedent to mining operations. I cite that as a simple illustration, and the same may be said with regard to your railways, your shipping, and your sugar industry. The Labour party propose to deal with the sugar industry, and, possibly, to nationalize it. If they do, they must deal with the lands devoted to the production of sugar-cane. Thus we may find the States stripped of every power left to them under the Constitution as it stands. It will be impossible to confine the scope and range of the powers that are proposed to be taken. I ask myself, as I have been doing throughout this debate, what necessity is there tor amendments so drastic, so far- reaching, and so fraught with consequences to the future integrity of the States. I am told in an airy fashion by the honorable member for Hindmarsh to look for an answer to the decisions of the High Court. When I examine them, I find that all that the High Court has had, perforce, time and again, to tell us, is that we are dabbling with matters which the framers of the Constitution never intended us to touch, and that certain acts on our part have been ultra vires. What is the High Court for if not to confine us to our proper ambit, and to limit us to the proper exercise of our true Constitutional powers? Surely that Court is to act as much by prohibition as by the conferment of privilege? There seems to be an underlying presumption, however, in the minds of honorable members, that, no matter what we do, if the High Court refuses to agree with us, we must take further power so that we may do just what we please. That is not Federation. We might as well have no High Court if we are not going to observe the limitations that it imposes. We had better at once revert to a complete unitary system such as the honorable member for Hindmarsh desires. In that he is quite logical, and always has been. He has been for Unification first, last, and always, and therefore his argument can be readily understood. But we reach other considerations when we come to view the necessity for these drastic proposals in the light, say, of the speech delivered the other evening by the honorable member for Flinders.
– That is what the honorable member did not like.
– I wish that the honorable member would not interrupt me. I am always ready for a rough-and-tumble, but there is no time for such a thing today. I should like here to answer the honorable member for Flinders, who declared that he believed the people had deliberately chosen that the experiment of regulating wages by a Federal tribunal should have a fair and full trial. Therefore, he said, we should give power to that body which could best do the work.
– Most effectually, I said.
– “Best” was the word used by the honorable member, but “effectually” will do just as well. Might I suggest that that really begs the whole question, and turns us back to the consideration of what power can and ought to control those matters, and what power can do so most effectively. That really does not bring us any nearer a solution of this matter, and so we push back to a consideration of what is wise and prudent rather than what the people intended when this instrumentality was brought into existence. With regard to these interesting questions of jurisdiction, when we see the High Court dealing with this question and that, and, on the other hand, observe the industries of the. country rolling on undisturbed, growing in volume and importance, and making the people infinitely more prosperous than they were, it does seem to me that we really can -afford a great deal of this legal experimenting without seriously affecting or modifying the prosperous condition of the country. I always feel that the Commonwealth is like that Roman knight of old, who, clad in armour, turned and said, as the shafts hurtled about him, “ Did a leaf fall ?” It seems to me that what is transpiring in the High- Court from day to day, more particularly with regard to industrial matters, affects and modifies the great courses of public prosperity just about as much as the falling of a leaf would do. In one sense, the Federation itself is an artificial creation. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders that these artificial distinctions do not count for much, and that some of them seem to be absurd. But, on the other hand, he will recollect that in one sense the Federation itself is an artificial creation, in that it represents an arbitrary division of powers, and none the less arbitrary because it happens at the same time to be logical and sequential. We come back to the broad consideration of what is wise, and prudent, and best to be done, so that we may get greater efficiency out of our Government, and bring it in the most beneficent way close to the industrial life of the community. The starting on one side of the boundary or the other of an engine does not matter very much, so far as the totality of the business portion of the country is concerned. I come back to the question, What is the real necessity for these farreaching proposals? What is the trouble that makes them necessary? Will their rejection cause trouble; or, if the trouble be present, will the powers now proposed to be taken to the Commonwealth completely cure it ? In other words, will the sum of the general advantage be increased by the Federal acquirement of these further industrial powers as proposed by the Government? Where are the abuses that these proposals are intended to cure? When I look for them, what do I find? Wages steadily rising all over Australia, no strikes, perfect peace so far as we know, within the industrial arena ; the condition of the workers, in particular, easing with the passing of every day, and all because of the multiplication of those local ameliorative agencies that have done such infinite good within the spheres of State activity. And so honorable members go on. They assume the necessity when they make these propositions now before the House. The honorable member for Flinders told us, also, what I think is an undoubted fact, that our Federation is so shaped that we have actually weaker powers than has almost any other Federation. So far as the Quantum of our powers goes, I think that that is so. I agree that they are few in number, and perhaps less than those of any other Federation. But I hope that my honorable friends will not forget that in nearly every Federation of which we know the instrumentalities have all been shaped so as effectually to achieve the objects which they have had in view. Nearly every other Federation has been shaped under pressure from without. Ours, on the other hand, has been shaped on entirely prudential considerations, with n perfect absence of pressure. There- ‘’ fore, there has been no need for us to create such a great central authority as has been found absolutely necessary in other cases. Every one knows, for instance, why a strong centralized Government is needed in South Africa. There they have native problems that are tremendous in their import, and which must and can only be dealt with by a strong central power. Then they have a dual language, and all the educational problems arising out of that dual language and that dual racial relation. On the top of it all there is a very small white population - only a handful to hold that vast continent and control the destinies of all that native life. One sees at once why their Constitution has been established in an entirely different way from our own. In Canada we have the problem of two races living side by side under the one Constitution, the very thing which the honorable member for Hindmarsh said could not be done. It is being done to-day in Canada, where the French and British populations work side by side under a common instrument without, so far as we are aware, the slightest trouble.
– They have all the powers we are asking for.
– I know it; but they have a very different Parliament.
– Their instrument is not the same as ours.
– I am quite aware that it is not, and that is one of the illustrations I propose to use. My great objection to the Government’s proposals is that they profoundly disturb the balance of the Constitution. That balance will have to be redressed if they are carried. So the Leader of the Opposition was quite right when he said that this was only a beginning. Carry these proposals and you must go a great deal further. You cannot stop here. To do so would make your Constitution lopsided, and absolutely undemocratic. To put it in a nutshell, if the Federal Government are to have potential control, through the trade and commerce clause, and through the proposals for the nationalization and regulation of monopolies, over all these State agencies and State powers, what about your Senate? What about your parliamentary control ? One of the main objections of the Acting Prime Minister to this Constitution is that it is undemocratic. The Labour party opposed it violently at the beginning of things, because of its undemocratic character. An equal State Senate, they said, isan anachronism in a democratic community, and so it is if you consider it from the point of view of con- trolling the whole or the main portion of the powers of the country. Yet they almost went beside themselves, in the early part of last year, with rage, fury, and violence, in their opposition to a proposal to put the financial proposition of the States and the late Government into the Constitution.
– To shackle the Commonwealth ?
– Yes, that is what they said. They said it was laying the “ dead hand “ of the Constitution on all the future, but that proposal related only to the apportionment of the finances - a question of whether the payment to the States should be 25s., or some other sum, per capita. Is that half as important as putting the mines, railways, shipping, lands, and industries of Australia into the control of this “ dead hand ‘ ‘ ? Honorable members opposite strained at a gnat, and are going to swallow this camel. They are about to put all these instrumentalities into the control of an undemocratic Senate. That kind of thing cannot last.
– We have no Senate in the ordinary sense.
– So far as Stale interests are concerned we might as well have none.
– The States know best.
– I have no doubt they do, and I have yet to learn that the States have pronounced for all time on this very important question. I hope my honorable friends will not hug to themselves the delusion that the 13th April last settled matters in the Commonwealth for hundreds of years to come. They may rest assured that, as sure as they are sitting there, the people will reverse the judgment of that day and bring about a very different order of things.
– The wish is father to the thought.
– If the honorable member will believe me, I have no wish in the matter ; but I am concerned as an Australian Democrat as to how far the party opposite are going to place all the instrumentalities of this country under the control of a Senate, based on the equal representation of the States - a thing they are never tired of denouncing from the house-tops as undemocratic, and out of keeping with the spirit of the times. Let me ask the Government what corollary propositions they have to make to those now before the Chamber. It has been incontestably shown that they are introducing proposals which will take from the States, if desired, nearly all those things .which make up their Statehood, taking them from Constitutions which are relatively democratic, and placing them under a Constitution which the party opposite themselves declare to be absolutely undemocratic. So, I. say, that they must redress the balance of the Constitution before very long. I admit that, as the Acting Prime Minister very properly pointed out, the Federal, character of a Constitution does not depend upon the number of powers which are taken over, but it does depend upon the nice balance and adjustment of those powers. As set forth by the honorable member for Angas, in his memorandum, it depends upon whether those powers are selfsufficient and effective in their use. I apply that test to these proposals. In my judgment the Labour party cannot get what they want in the way they are proposing. It has been asseverated by the Acting Prime Minister, and by the Leader of the Government, who is now on his way to South Africa, that they are not going to take these industrial powers from the States, but that all they are asking for is concurrent power. It seems to me that concurrent powers exercised effectively must lead simply to concurrent confusion. Take as an illustration what happened during the Newcastle strike. Just when that dispute was on the point of settlement the engine-drivers of Victoria stepped in and appealed to the Arbitration Court to be joined in it. The result was to put that settlement back for some time.
– That matter did not affect the settlement in any way.
– No, No, but it might have done. It was only owing to the good sense of the Judge here that it did not. That kind of thing, if multiplied will have a deterrent effect on the settlement of these disputes, and, in fact, prevent settlement. You cannot have two bites at a cherry in this way, and the concurrent powers, referred to by the Government, will ultimately resolve themselves into the supreme controlling power of the Federation over all those matters which are now left exclusively to the States.
At the same time, I admit that things have been somewhat altered by the recent decision of the High Court, and it is just as well to come squarely up to the situation as we find it to-day. Even since last year things have happened which greatly modify the industrial situation, and I admit that since the common rule has gone there has gone with it the effectiveness of that paragraph in the Constitution which provides for “ the settlement and prevention of industrial disputes.” You cannot prevent industrial disputes unless you have power to make general awards. In the absence of that power, I admit that the operation of the arbitration clause would tend rather to the multiplication than the settlement of disputes. So it comes to this, that we have to look at the situation anew, and meet it in the light of recent happenings. I, therefore, am prepared to go a step further than we otherwise would have gone if that rule had not been taken out of the Constitution. For all practical purposes that provision is a dead letter, so far as the preventive side of it is concerned, and, therefore, something must be done to restore it. In doing that we may still preserve the line of demarcation between what is Federal and what is State. Why interfere with the State Courts, which are doing their work well? Why take power to interfere in the settlement of disputes in the light of local circumstances and surroundings? We ought to be content when we take sufficient power to control all matters which have become Federal in their character by the Inter-State ramifications of the industries affected. So, to sum up this view of the matter, I am proposing an amendment which will represent the views of this side of the House on the question of industrial control now proposed by the Government. I move -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted: - “in the opinion of this House the industrial provisions of the Constitution should not be altered except to regulate the conditions of employment in all industries that are Federal in operation or which cannot be effectually regulated by any one State; further enabling the Inter-State Commission to prevent and remove unfair competition between the same industries carried on in different States.”
As I view it, the amendment simply strikes a purely Federal line, as the course which should be followed by the Federal Parliament and Government. It leaves State instrumentalities intact, and as complete in their powers as they are to-day, wherever they are organized, to deal with all matters of purely domestic concern in the light of local circumstances. After all, the fundamental idea of the Federation is to take over the control of, shall I say, purely national industrial matters, in which every member of the community is equally interested, wherever he may reside throughout the length and breadth of Australia. But by the same reasoning all our purely local and domestic concerns should be rigidly excluded from the Federal sphere and left to the control of the State agencies. The amendment, therefore, strikes a clear line of demarcation between Federal and State industrial functions - a line which would lead us, not into confusion as the proposals of the Government undoubtedly will, but out into the broad, open Federal path. It will make our course as clear, and open, and plain as we leave the course clear, open, and plain for the various States. In this way the State power will implement the Federal power; the Federal power will implement and complement the State powers. We shall thus get an effective exercise of industrial power, which I hope, as we all do, will lead to industrial peace in the future of this great continent.
– As an arrangement has been made to take a division this afternoon, several other honorable members and myself on this side will reserve our remarks until the Committee stage.
.- Like the honorable member for Franklin, I shall, in view of the arrangement come to, defer any remarks I have to make until we are in Committee ; but I must, at this stage, protest against the whole business of the Commonwealth being taken over by this Parliament.
– I am not quite certain that I understand the full meaning and purport of the amendment, or exactly what its effect may be. I understand, however, that it will not have the effect of, in Committee, limiting the action of those who, though they may vote for it, may favour effective control by the Federal Parliament, not only with regard to the settlement of disputes, but in regard to the regulation of all industrial conditions in all classes of industrial matters, which are not of the merest local kind and exclusively subjects for the States. I take it that it will be open to us to consider those matters in Committee.
– That is not the true interpretation.
– If it is not a correct interpretation, I should prefer not to take part in the vote, rather than vote under a false impression. I understand that the meaning is that amendments of the Constitution shall not proceed further than is necessary to enable the Federal Government to have complete control over-
– Purely Federal matters.
– That is an extremely vague definition. The point is, what is the precise meaning of the amendment? If it means, as I interpret it, to give this Parliament complete and effective control of that class of industrial matters over which, previously, it was given an arbitration control, then probably we shall be enabled to go as far as I desire to go in Committee. Whether it means that or not, I am not quite certain; but that is the way I read it, and, certainly, that is the kind of limitation I shall be prepared to support.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
After the third reading no further question shall be put, and the Bill shall be deemed to have passed the House.
The late Speaker held on former occasions, when a statutory majority was necessary, that it was sufficient to have a statutory majority on the third reading. I am not here to interpret what is the meaning of the Constitution, but I take it that, on an occasion like this, when there is no division, I should certainly certify that the necessary statutory majority had been obtained. I take it that, as there was no division called for, the necessary numbers were here. However, whether the House deem that sufficient or whether or not it is sufficient is not for me to say. There was no division called for, and I declared the motion carried.
.- I move -
That, as the inclusion in a single measure of more than one substantive amendment of the Constitution is unjust and undemocratic, as it deprives the electors of an opportunity of the expression of a free and independent judgment upon the several issues raised gravely affecting the future of Australia, it he an instruction to the Committee to divide the Bill into four Bills, so as to allow each proposed alteration to be dealt with as a separate measure.
My object is to give effect to the desire of myself and the members of the Opposition, and others, that the questions to be referred to the people by referendum shall be dealt with in four separate questions, so that each may be voted upon separately. I think it is unfair that these four question should be put together, and that the electors should have no option save to accept or reject the whole of them.
– If the right honorable member is going to talk out the motion until the time for the departure of our trains, he might as well say so.
– If the Honorable member for Gippsland wishes to leave he may do so. I do not desire that he shall be inconvenienced by remaining here.
– The right honorable member has had enough of me during the last twenty-four hours.
– Go and hunt up some more ugly rumours.
– Will the honorable member keep quiet?
– I must call upon honorable members to cease interjecting, for amidst the disorder it is impossible for the right honorable member for Swan to proceed.
– I wish only to reiterate that my sole object is to provide that these four questions should be put separately, so that the people, instead of being called upon to accept or reject the whole of them, may vote for those of which they approve, and vote against those of which they disapprove.
.- I purposely refrained from addressing myself to the motion for the second reading of this Bill, which has just been agreed to, and since it is the desire of honorable members that we should proceed at once to a division on this motion, I shall refrain from speaking now, believing that in Committed I shall be permitted to state the objection I have as to these four questions-
– That will depend upon the Chair.
– I shall trust the Chair to give me the same latitude that I am now extending to honorable members who wish to catch their trains by refraining from making the speech that I had intended to make. In the interests of the Australian Democracy, an answer is certainly necessary to certain statements made this afternoon by the honorable member for East Sydney.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I wish, Mr. Speaker, to draw your attention to a breach of parliamentary practice. The Minister of Home Affairs called loudly with the “Ayes “ when the question, * That the motion be agreed to,” was put a few minutes ago, yet he voted with the “ Noes.” I cannot say whether or not pressure was exercised on him, but in view of the practice which usually obtains in Parliament, and the long statements that have been made this morning regarding the consistency of Ministers, I should like to ask whether it was competent for the honorable member, after calling with the “ Ayes,” to vote with the “Noes”?
– Do I understand that the Minister of Home Affairs gave his vote with the “ Ayes “?
– I - I was reading when the question was put, Mr. Speaker, and believing that it related to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I suddenly spoke out. I found, however, that the question related to the right honorable member for Swan’s motion. It was an inadvertence on my part.
Bill committed pro forma.
Mr. HUGHES laid on the table the following paper : - (I.) Australian Industries Preservation Act, and (II.) the Industrial Power : Memorandum relating to, together with suggestions for the amendment of The Constitution in relation to Trusts and Industrial Matters - by the Attorney-General (the Honorable P. McM. Glynn).
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Private members’ business having been swept away as by a tornado, I have to avail myself of this opportunity to bring before the House a very important matter relating to the forthcoming Imperial Conference. At these meetings the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom meets the Prime Ministers of the self-governing nations within the Empire, and very important business is transacted. There should be some method of arming the delegates who go to the Conference-
– The honorable member is practically discussing his own notice of motion which is put down for 3rd November.
– I shall not have an opportunity of moving it, and I understand further that it would not become a motion until moved.
– The honorable member has already given notice of it, and must not anticipate the discussion on it. I have had no intimation from him that he desires to withdraw it, and, in the circumstances, I cannot allow him to discuss it now.
– I submit, on a point of order, that some time ago you ruled that a notice of motion could not be considered a motion or become the property of the House until it was moved. You apprehended the difficulty that might arise, because some one might give notice of a motion and keep it standing on the noticepaper all the session, thus preventing honorable members from discussing the subject referred to. If I had moved the motion I could understand your objection to my discussing it, but it is still merely a notice of motion.
– The honorable member is quite right in saying that the notice of motion does not become a motion, and the property of the House, until he moves it, but if he gives notice of a motion and I permit a discussion of it now, another discussion of the same matter could take place when it was called on. The Standing Orders distinctly provide that no question once dealt with shall be dealt with again in the same session. The honorable member must not anticipate the discussion of a motion set down on the notice-paper unless he withdraws it.
– If that rule were rigidly adhered to, any honorable member could prevent the discussion of a subject by putting on the business-paper a notice of motion relating to it for the last day of the session.
– I would point out that I had on the notice-paper a notice of motion dealing with the question of the hours worked by officials of the House, and by members, and referring to the eight hours principle. Notwithstanding that, you, sir, allowed the honorable member for Coolgardie to anticipate my motion by initiating a debate on the same subject. I called attention at the time to the fact that I had a notice of motion on the paper dealing with it.
.- I wish to make a personal explanation. More than a fortnight ago I made an arrangement with the honorable member for Grampians to pair with him on any division in the House during my absence. I had accepted an invitation from New South Wales to assist the Labour candidates at the recent general elections there ; but was detained here a week longer than I expected. During my absence in connexion with the elections the arrangement with the honorable member for Grampians was evidently overlooked. This was due to some inadvertence, and while wishing to acquit the honorable member of all blame, it is only right that I should explain how my name came to be omitted from the divisions which took place on the Land Tax Assessment Bill.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister of External Affairs the fact that it is very evident that somebody in Europe is circulating incorrect advertisements regarding the land that can be acquired by settlers in Australia. The following news from Brisbane has been published : -
In view of the statements made by the Scottish Agricultural Commissioners that they have not been able to see any land-
– On a point of order, I submit that I was prevented from reading an extract from a newspaper today relating to another matter. Is the honorable member in order in reading one now ?
– The extract which the right honorable member for Swan desired to read commented on something at present before Parliament. The matter which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports proposes to quote relates to a question which is not at present before the House.
– I shall put the paper down, as I do not wish to gain an advantage over the right honorable member. I shall hand the paragraph to the Minister, whose attention I have continually drawn to the fact that misleading advertisements are published regarding the vast advantages that people can get here and the enormous amount of land that they can acquire for settlement close to railways. I wish to get from the Minister a decided promise that his Department will see that those who report concerning lands for settlement in Australia do so correctly and fairly, so that our good name may not be besmirched.
– We cannot do that.
– One would imagine that I was trying to blacken the name of Australia, but my intention is exactly the opposite. I wish all who come here to be able to get what is promised them. If it is impossible for the Department of External Affairs to stop the appearance of these untruthful statements in the advertisements of States or private companies, it is only another evidence that we require an extension of our powers.
– - It is quite impossible, in the first place, for us to prevent people in Europe from publishing what they please about Australia. There is an organization in Great Britain formed, apparently, with the express purpose of doing all they can to damage Australia in the eyes of the public. This organization is issuing circulars and cartoons, representing Australia, as a land of desolation in which all are foredoomed to failure.
– Who is doing that -other countries?
– It is not being done by Australians,, we may depend; but it is an organized opposition .to British emigration.
– Are other countries attacked as well as Australia?
– So far as I know no other country is attacked in the same way. There is no doubt that Australia is being misrepresented in a most unfair manner.
– I have not seen any newspaper statements of the kind.
– The papers were forwarded to us’ by the representative of the Commonwealth in Great Britain. Even supposing some of the statements referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports appear to be a little exaggerated, they would only act as an antidote to the scandalous libels circulated on the Continent. The officers of the Department take all reasonable precautions to secure that every statement published in any sense under their authority is absolutely accurate. Necessarily the information as to land available and so forth has to be obtained from the States - it would be impossible for any one man to know all the facts - and that information has, of course, to be accepted. It would be impossible to follow up every misstatement that may be made, but definite instructions have been issued to prevent the issue of any exaggerations. However, if the exaggerations are in favour of Australia, 1 do not think we need kick up such a dust.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101021_reps_4_58/>.