4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Acting Treasurer yet investigated the statement made in the letter written by Nurse Ross, to which I referred yesterday?
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs tell us when the new regulations in regard to the export of butter will be issued, and will he see that they are issued before the session closes?
– I am doing the best I can to facilitate matters, and trust that the regulations will be laid on the table before the session closes.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs read the announcement in this morning’s paper that those engaged in the pearl-shelling industry are dummying for Asiatics? Will he take means to prevent that being done?
– I have not read the statement.
– I have received the following telegram from Fremantle -
Will the Minister ascertain whether those statements are true, and inform the House whether all Commonwealth public servants are debarred?
– I shall refer the matter, to the Minister of Defence, and reply to the question on Tuesday.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister of Defence has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In connexion with the provision of uniforms for the Commonwealth Forces -
Is the report published in the Age of the 26th instant correct; if so, will he take further steps to have the work of supplying uniforms done in the country, including the manufacture of the material necessary and the making up?
Is it true that the conditions imposed by the Board are so stringent that the manufacturers are afraid to tender?
Is he aware that the mills are quite capable of doing the work for the Government if the conditions are slightly modified?
Will he lay a copy of the conditions on the table of this House?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. The matter has not yet been definitely settled.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– The answers to questions 3 and 4 are absolutely incorrect.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
What steps have been taken to give effect to the following resolution of this House, dated 9th September, 1909 : - ‘‘This House is of opinion that wireless telegraphic stations should be immediately established, as found desirable, round the coasts of Australia, and that our merchant marine should be equipped with wireless installations as an up-to-date means (1) of gaining intelligence of the appearance in Australian waters of a hostile force and (2) of saving life and property imperilled by accidents upon the sea “ ?
– The answer to the question is : -
Tenders have been accepted for wireless stations having ranges of 1,250 nautical miles, to be erected at Sydney and Fremantle, and tenders are about to be invited for stations to be erected at Port Moresby and Thursday Island.
The question of the further stations to be opened to give more complete effect to the resolutions of the House has received, and is still receiving, close consideration.
With regard to the equipment of the merchant marine service, clause 234 of the Navigation Bill provides - “ The regulations may require the master or owner of every ship registered in Australia, or engaged in the coasting trade, and of every foreign-going ship carrying passengers from Australia, which carries passengers to the number prescribed, to cause the ship to be fitted as prescribed before going to sea with apparatus for transmitting messages by wireless telegraphy.”
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members’ questions are : -
Mr.W. ELLIOT. JOHNSON (for Mr. McWilliams) asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Have the Crown Law officers given an opinion to the effect that the Government has no power to compel the mail steamers to call at Hobart during the months of February to May inclusive, under section 8, sub-section (9), of the Mail Service to Europe contract?
– The matter has not been referred to the Crown Law Officers.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to claimants under the invalid section of the Old-age Pension Act who are blind-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I intend to make a statement through the press when the pensions are available.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- Acting
Prime Minister and Attorney-General) [10.45]. - I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday next.
The purpose of the adjournment need hardly be stated ; that it is known is abundantly clear from the pleased expression of the faces by which I am surrounded. I do not think that an apology is required for the motion. The House has been kept very busily at work of late; indeed, it has been too busily occupied for those who have regard for their health. While we might pretend to work for three hours and a-half on Tuesday afternoon, it would be best to be honest, and adjourn until the evening, so that those who wish to see the Cup may do so, while others can enjoy themselves as they please in other ways. Those who wish to sacrifice themselves on the altar of their country to a greater extent than we have done will be offered every facility to do so in the following week. If it be desired, we can meet on Monday week, and so make up the time thus lost. That being so, there need not be any talk of wasted opportunities. Indeed, there will be no wasted opportunities this session. Since we move by precedents in British-speaking countries, let me state very briefly the action taken by this Parliament in regard to Cup Day adjournments from the inception of Federation. In1901, the House met at 7.30 p.m. ; in 1902 and 1903, the House was not in session. In 1904, it adjourned over Cup Day, and did not meet until Wednesday, at 2.30 p.m. In 1905, a motion was carried on the Friday preceding Cup Day -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at half-past 2 o’clock p.m., or such time thereafter as Mr. Speaker may take the chair.
In 1906 it was not in session. In 1907, a motion similar to that which I have just read was carried, and the House met at 3 p.m. In 1908, under a similar motion the House met at 3 p.m., and in 1909 a motion was carried that the House meet at 4.30 p.m., or at such time thereafter as Mr. Speaker should take the chair. It met at 4.32 p.m. It therefore appears that we are wanting in precedent for a consistent policy.
– It adjourned over Cup Day until the following Wednesday, at 2.30 p.m.
– There are no less than seven Bills on the notice-paper, the second reading of which could be moved by Ministers on Tuesday afternoon.
– I do not deny, for one moment, that we might put in the threeandahalf hours, over which we propose to adjourn on Tuesday afternoon next, and that there would be some sort of discussion. It would be, however, of an aimless character, and could not possibly advance the interests of the country. It would be purely mechanical ; it could not be, in the best sense of the word, deliberative, and would not he in the presence of the vast majority of honorable members. T am not inclined to play a part in a farce by assisting in business of that kind. If there is the slightest expression of regret that we are to adjourn until 7.30 p.m. on Cup Day, then I repeat that I am perfectly willing that the House should meet on the following Monday instead of on Tuesday as usual, and so more than make good the time lost. T feel, however, that this little holiday will do us all good.
– T. am surprised at the extraordinary speech made by the Acting Prime Minister in view of the attitude adopted by some members of the present Ministry when this question was discussed last year. Has the Postmaster-General been consulted ?
– He is ill in bed.
– I wish to know whether he approves of this proposition.
– He could not be here. He is ill.
– As it is a Government proposal, he. as a member of the Government, is responsible for it equally with his colleagues in the Cabinet. I am entitled to know whether he concurs in this motion, having regard to the attitude which he, in common with other honorable members opposite, took up when the following motion was proposed, on 29th
October last, by the present Leader of the Opposition -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at half-past 4 o’clock p.m., or such time thereafter as Mr. Speaker may take the chair.
We were thus to meet two hours later than was usual, not because of the Melbourne Cup, but -because, as was pointed out, a number of honorable members had gone on a visit to Oodnadatta, and could not return in time to be here at the usual meeting hour. It is now proposed, without any good reason on the part of the Government and their supporters, that the House shall adjourn until Tuesday night, in order that honorable members may attend the Melbourne Cup meeting. There is no pretence of any other purpose in view. Last year several honorable members of the Labour party said that there was no excuse for the National Parliament to adjourn for a single hour merely because a race meeting was in progress.
– I am going to the Cup.
– The honorable member may do so, but that is no reason why the business of the country should remain at a standstill. For two months we have been sitting from twelve to sixteen hours per day, because the Government said it was necessary for us to do so in order to clear the business-paper. In spite of the fact that the House has been sweated day after day - many honorable members of the Opposition attending these long sittings at great personal inconvenience and to the detriment of their own private business - we are asked now to lose several hours on Tuesday next merely in order that some honorable members may go to the Cup meeting.
– The honorable member looks bad. He needs a rest.
– I needed it two months ago, but the honorable member then was in no way disposed to let me have it.
Several honorable members interjecting -
– I appeal to honorable members to cease these continuous interjections. It is almost impossible to follow the honorable member.
– We do not want to follow him.
– Do not try to “ Apple Pie ‘’ the honorable member’s speech.
– The honorable member is giving them “ Apple Pie.”
– Order ! Scarcely a moment has passed since I appealed to honorable members to cease interjecting. I ask them to remember the position they occupy, and to discontinue interjecting.
– When the present Leader of the Opposition, on 29th October last, moved the motion which I have just read, the honorable member for Barrier - the present Postmaster-General - very strongly objected to the course proposed, and said -
I do not think it is right that the National Parliament should adjourn, even for an hour, because the Melbourne Cup is being run.
That was not the reason given by the then Prime Minister for the proposed adjournment. He stated that-
A number of honorable members will be away this week-end on a visit to South Australia, and it is necessary to provide against the possible absence of a quorum at the usual hour of meeting on Tuesday next.
The present Postmaster- General did not think that was a sufficient reason, and in the course of a speech in opposition to the motion, quoted the following paragraph from a Methodist journal -
Races are mere instruments of gambling. All the sunshine of an Australian November day, all the sheen upon the green sward, all the glitter of vice-regal presence, and the display of dresses by fair women - often at the expense of men who cannot afford it - and all the superb grace of horses that are fit for nothing else, like some of the patrons of the course, are but tools that serve the gambling instincts and interests of a set of social parasites. There can be no denial of the fact that the Melbourne Cup is only the occasion for gambling, and that, apart from the gambling which it serves, it would not be held.
He then said -
If that extract expresses the truth - and I think there is a good deal to be said in favour of the view that it does - there would be practically no races if there were no gambling.
More than once during that speech he emphasized the point that he would never be a party to the National Parliament adjourning for a single hour in connexion with racing festivities. I, therefore, ask whether the Postmaster-General concurs in this proposal that the House shall not meet on Tuesday next until several hours after the usual time of assembling, for no other purpose than to allow some honorable members to attend the Melbourne Cup?
– No: ] he did not concur in the proposal.
.- I was one of those who objected last year to the House meeting later than usual on Cup Day, and if a division be taken on this motion I shall vote as I did then. I recognise, however, as the Leader of the Government has pointed out, that when the House does meet on the afternoon of Cup Day the serious business of the country is but slightly advanced. A representative vote cannot be taken on the questions submitted, and a few honorable members simply indulge in a “ stone- wall “ to allow their friends to go to the Melbourne Cup and get back in time to record their votes. I suggest to the Acting Prime Minister that we should forego the usual sitting on Tuesday next - that we should adjourn until Wednesday and meet on the following Monday. The extra sitting day would make up for the loss of time, and honorable members from other States who, like myself, take no interest whatever in the Cup, would be able to spend the week-end at home, instead of having to wait about in Melbourne.
– I am going to a picnic. Come to the picnic with me.
– I have never heard it called a picnic before.
– I again appeal to honorable members to assist me by refraining from interjecting and conversing in loud tones. It is impossible for the business of the House to be properly conducted while these interruptions continue.
– My suggestion would allow those of us who have no desire to go to the Cup an extra day at our homes at the weekend. We have been in session for a considerable time, and many of us are away from our homes a great deal. Victorian members, and those from Western Australia and Queensland, who live in Melbourne during the whole of the session, might meet the convenience of New South Wales members in that regard. We could make up for the adjournment in the following week without inconvenience to anybody. I understand that the Acting Prime Minister is agreeable to the House voting on the question of an adjournment until Wednesday morning, and meeting on the following Monday. The Leader of the Opposition interjected when the Leader of the Government was speaking that the House could meet as usual on Tuesday, and that certain second-reading speeches could be gone on with to fill in the time. That simply means that the Speaker and the whole of the officers of the House will be kept here with their noses to the grindstone while other people go to the races. The races have no interest for me, but is it a sportsmanlike attitude for those who like races to go to them and tie the officers of the House to work here? If an opportunity is to be given to members who take an interest in racing to go to the Cup, it is only fair that the officers of the House should have an equal opportunity. I understand that the Leader of the Government has no objection to a vote being taken as to whether the House should meet on the following Monday.
– No, we cannot meet on the Monday.
– As objections are raised to a meeting on the following Monday, I shall certainly take the opportunity to vote against the motion, because it seems that ‘ some honorable members like their convenience to be studied regardless of the inconvenience to which other honorable members are put, and that another section or honorable members, while they want to give an opportunity for their sporting friends to go to the races, object to Ihe same opportunity being arranged so far ?s Ihe officers of the House are concerned. As objection is raised even to a vote being taken regarding the exchange of the Tuesday for the following Monday, I shall take the opportunity to vote against the motion.
– I was rather surprised at the spirit displayed by the honorable member for Lang. He had not the slightest argument of his own against the motion, but simply quoted the speech of a political opponent to make capital out of it, instead of dealing with the question fairly and squarely on its own merits. Although I am sitting on the same side as the honorable member, I am not proud of the argument he used.
– It was a fair argument.
– It was not the honorable member’s own argument. Tie had none of his own. I commend the action of the Acting Prime Minister, who has come out in the open and said fairly what he is going to do. Last session we had a sort of milk and water scheme of meeting at 4.30. We all know why an adjournment is wanted. Tuesday is the great national holiday of Victoria, and it is a compliment to the people of Victoria that we should adjourn over that day. No one is forced, or even asked, to go to the Cup. Those who like to go are welcome to go. Men can behave themselves just as respectably and well on the race-course as on the cricket or football ground, and perhaps a little better, to judge by some of the scenes which have taken place in connexion with the latter game. Tuesday is a general holiday in this State, and it is only fair and reasonable that an adjournment should take place until half-past 7.
.- I asked that the House should adjourn over the opening day of the Agricultural Show, but the Government did not see their way at the time to agree to that request. I am very proud to know that the Acting Prime Minister is asking the House to adjourn over Melbourne Cup day. In doing so he is setting a good example. 1 do not see why the reporters, the messen gers, and every one else connected with the business of the House should be kept here on Tuesday, or even brought back at half -past 7. If men are to be given a holiday, they should have a proper one; and sometimes they enjoy themselves much better in the evening. I am sure that when the Acting Prime Minister said halfpast 7 in the evening he meant half-past 2 next day. I should be very pleased if he made that alteration. I see no reason why a great public holiday should be disregarded by the Commonwealth Parliament. If it is to be a public holiday, the whole of the people should be allowed to share in it. I stayed here on the last Agricultural Show day, and heard a beautiful exposition addressed by somebody in the Ministerial corner to somebody on this side. It sickened the whole Parliament, and would sicken the whole of Australia to-day to read it. I hope that sort of thing will not happen again for a long while. I commend what the Acting Prime Minister is doing, and hope he will be successful.
.- I should not have interposed in this debate but for the very unfair attack of the honorable member for Balaclava on the honorable member for Lang. We very rarely hear that sort of attack made by one honorable member upon another member of his own party, with so little justification. The honorable member for Lang followed an ordinary parliamentary precedent in showing the House exactly how members had viewed the same proposition on a previous occasion, when not faced with Ministerial responsibility for their action. The hon- orable member was thoroughly entitled to take that course, and was doing a useful service as a member of the House-
– To his party.
– And to Australia as a whole. He wants to see the question faced apart from all cant and hypocrisy, and fairly and squarely decided. For any man to have attacked the proposal for adjournment over Cup day, only a year ago, in the way adopted by the honorable member or honorable members quoted by the honorable member for Lang, and then to turn round and support the same proposition now-
– He has not turned round. He is not here.
– I hopethe honorable member for Balaclava will not forget that we have a fairly large field in this House, and if he wishes to do as he is done by,I hope he will give me a clear run.
– The honorable member is running stiff.
– I bet the honorable member two to one that he goes to the Cup.
– I always have gone, and am going again.
Several honorable members interjecting -
– I must again ask honorable members to discontinue interjections.
– I hope that honorable members, no matter what side of the House they sit on, will not, merely for the purpose of gaining a little temporary popularity, make unfair attacks upon other members in the way adopted by the honorable member for Balaclava. I hope honorable members will be always given the full privilege of quoting the speeches of other honorable members upon any subject before the House without being accused of unfairness or of seeking popularity, when, very often, their accusers are the ones who are really seeking it.
– The Postmaster-General thinks exactly the same to-day as he did twelve months ago.
– Order ! This is the fifth time that I have had to ask honorable members to remember that they are members of the Federal Parliament. If this debate is not permitted to go on in the ordinary way, the next time an interjection is made I shall take another course. It is just about time that honorable members realized that this is not a place for joking.
I must ask them again to discontinue these constant interjections.
– My position is that it would have been much fairer to the House as a whole to adjourn until the following day. I welcome an adjournment on personal grounds, and if we are to adjourn at all, it should be until the Wednesday. As the honorable member for Cook clearly put it, a number of honorable members go back to their own States at the week end, or to their homes in the country in Victoria. It seems a pity to bring them back for half a sitting.
– Members from Adelaide would have to leave on a Saturday in order to attend a Monday sitting.
– I am absolutely against the proposed Monday sitting. I quite agree with the Acting Prime Minister that we have been sitting such long hours recently that a little holiday, whether for a half or a whole day, will do us no harm. We might justly give up the whole day, so that we can come back fresh to work on the following day. That is the fairest way out of the difficulty, and will put honorable members from all States on the same footing. With regard to the Cup itself, I hope we shall not have any hypocrisy about the thing. Nearly every one goes to the Cup, or would like to see the race run. I trust that those who object to the cup that cheers will show themselves sufficiently broad-minded to refrain from preventing other members going to cheer the Cup.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava is to be commended for reproving what was neither more nor less than an indescribably mean attack on a sick and absent man.
– It was nothing of the kind.
– There is no doubt that had the Postmaster-General been here to defend himself, the attack would not have been made; nor is there any doubt that the Postmaster-General’s attitude now exactly what it was twelve months ago, and that he would have consistently voted against an adjournment. Under these circumstances, it seems to me unfairto a degree-
– What did I say by way of attack ?
– It seems unfair to a degree that this attack should be made with the sole purpose of gaining a petty and party advantage over an individual, who is suffering from ill-health. I desire to place on record the fact that I approve of the adjournment; and I am only sorry that the Government should ask us to sit at all on the Tuesday. I suggest that the AttorneyGeneral accept an amendment to adjourn from to-day until Wednesday afternoon. I should then be able, as 1 usually do at the week-end, to visit my district, and overtake a large amount of public business which has got into arrear because of the long, and, in fact, sweating, hours that we have been sitting. The majority of honorable members, and some hundred persons engaged in other capacities in this House, have a right to the general holiday in Victoria ; and they ought not to be dragged back to listen to one or two second-reading speeches that will be delivered during the two or three hours of what is termed public business on Tuesday night. I believe that the great bulk of honorable members would approve of my suggestion rather than make “ two bites of a cherry,” and thus allow members from New South Wales and Adelaide to visit their homes.
– And what about members from the more distant States ? Have they to kick their heels about here?
– The constituents of members from more distant States do not expect them to visit their districts every week, whereas it is the custom to do so in the case of members from New South Wales and South Australia. A very small percentage of members will be left to “kick their heels” about the House, because the majority will take advantage of the holiday to go to the races. Of course, the honorable member for Maranoa may know nothing about horses, and have no love for them. Doubtless he will go down to the river bank and smile complacently at the pretty flowers.
– I do not think we should be justified in adjourning over Tuesday, unless honorable members consent to sit on the following Monday.
– That would not get over the difficulty I have indicated.
– We must do the work.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the course of my speech I said not a single word which, by any stretch of imagination, could be distorted into an attack on the Postmaster-General. I merely quoted a portion of a speech made by that honorable gentleman against a proposal of this nature on a previous occasion to show how inconsistent is his present position with the opinion he then expressed ; and I did so because he is now a member of the Cabinet from which this motion emanates, and merely asked if he was cognisant of it, or a party to it. I said not one word which could be correctly construed into a personal attack
– Order !
– Surely I am in order in denying the accuracy of allegations levelled at me.
– The honorable member is in order in making a personal explanation, but not in taking the course he is now taking.
– Am I not in order in repudiating statements I am alleged to have made? What else could I do in a personal explanation?
.- I should be ashamed of myself if I gave a silent vote or neglected to enter an emphatic protest against this proposed degradation of Parliament. I know, of course, that the question is settled in the minds of honorable members, and that we might as well vote at once ; but I must say that it is not consistent with the dignity of Parliament, or with the truest ideals of nationhood, that we should be asked to adjourn for the Melbourne Cup, or a horse race of any kind. I do not blame the Attorney- General for submitting the motion, because it was inevitable that it had to be submitted by some one; but I dissent entirely from his contention that this adjournment is for the purpose of giving a holiday to honorable members.
– Would some smug, hypocritical pretext have suited the honorable member better?
– The AttorneyGeneral would be acting more consistently with the dignity of his position if he had simply submitted the motion without comment.
– Apparently it is not the sin, but the fact of being found out that is the trouble !
– We all know that the proposed adjournment is for the purpose of a horse race. While I am as anxious as any one for a holiday, and believe there are reasons for one, I suggest that it should be on some other day.
The National Parliament should not so far forget its dignity as to encourage, not a great “ national “ holiday, but a great “ national “ gamble, because to do so is a prostitution of our ideals and the degradation of national character.
– The honorable member need not gamble unless he likes !
– - What is the difference between gambling on horses and gambling on bananas?
– I am not in the least inclined to criticise honorable members who choose to go and see the horse races. I do not pretend to be a conscience for those who believe there is no harm in doing so; I have enough to do to look after my own conduct. But the principles by which I try to guide my life refuse to allow me to encourage in any way what I consider to be one of the greatest dangers to the nation. We have to look forward with considerable dread and fear in regard to the future, owing to the fact that our young people are being encouraged to speculate and gamble in such a way as to destroy that love for honest work which, after all, is the proper foundation on which to build our national prosperity.
– Is it honest work to come at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and pretend to do something with the majority of honorable members away ? To do so is neither work nor play.
– That is not the question. Is this National Parliament going to so far abrogate its proper functions and to neglect its duty as to adjourn for a horse race? The argument that it is a general holiday in Victoria does not appeal to me. Such an argument would induce me to hurry to Yass- Canberra as soon as possible. If it is right to adjourn for the Melbourne Cup, it would be quite proper at Yass-Canberra to adjourn because the local jockey club were holding their annual meeting. We are not a Victorian Legislature, but the Australian Legislature; and the Government would be just as much justified in asking us to adjourn for some special event in Brisbane as on the present occasion, because of the accident of our meeting in Melbourne. It is beneath our honour and dignity to take notice of local, parochial, State affairs. The whole of our efforts here should be directed to the widening of our views and to removing local- and parochial influences, which, perhaps, affect us too much. We have nothing to do with precedents set by past Parliaments ; we are here to set our own precedents. If precedents are to be followed, two-thirds of the legislation we have already passed must be abandoned. We are here to do what we think is right for the Commonwealth. I am not opposing this motion on any other than personal grounds, in view of what I consider the right and proper thing to do; and, while I would cheerfully enter into a “ stone-wall “ against the Government proposal if it would serve any purpose, I am satisfied to enter my protest against this Parliament so far forgetting what is due to itself as to adjourn for a horse race in any State.
– This is an annual discussion, but this is the first occasion on which the proposal to adjourn has come from the Government, lt is my intention to take advantage of the holiday to go home ; and, as I shall not be here on Tuesday, it would not, perhaps, be proper to vote against the adjournment, as I should do under other circumstances. It would, I think, be very much more honest to have a straight adjournment over the Tuesday than follow the practice of former years.
– That was humbug !
– The honorable member is quite right. It has been arranged, for instance, that the House should adjourn until half-past 4 on Cup Day, with the understanding that, should only some half-dozen or eight members attend, no attention should be called to the state of the House. If members wish to go to the Cup let us adjourn, and allow the officers of the House to have the day free. Do not let us continue the hypocritical pretence that has prevailed in the past, when the afternoon proceedings have been a farce. I suggest an adjournment until Wednesday, to give members from States like Tasmania, who rarely are able to get home without wasting a day, the opportunity to visit their homes. But whatever we do, let us be straightforward. Under ordinary circumstances I should oppose an adjournment, because I do not think that a National Parliament should adjourn on account of a horse race, but do not let us be hypocritical in the matter.
– It seems to me that to adjourn until 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday is a milk-and-water course. I prefer an adjournment until Wednesday, if any is to be made. Personally, I do not care whether we adjourn or not, and I shall vote against any adjournment, but if the majority wishes to be away on Tuesday, I do not see what good will be served by assembling in the evening, and bringing back honorable members and the officers of the House for four hours. If we meet in the evening, honorable members will, probably, be excited, and talk about the Cup, instead of attending to serious business. I should like the Attorney-General to either propose an adjournment until Wednesday, or oppose any adjournment at all.
– - I shall vote for the motion. There are thousands of adults in Melbourne who, on Tuesday, will not go to Flemington, but will accompany many thousands of juveniles to our various pleasure resorts and picnic grounds. I shall be absent on Tuesday, not at Flemington, but enjoying a good time with the youngsters. Cup Day has become a general holiday, and I shall be ready at any time to take part in a movement to provide a counter attraction to the race meeting. I do not wish to bring back Mr. Speaker, the officers of the House, and the press reporters, to an afternoon sitting on Tuesday, at which there will be barely a quorum. The arrangements of the past have been a hypocritical humbug. I have been at Flemington only twice - once when the present King was there, and once during the visit of the American Fleet. If the honorable member for Brisbane, or any other honorable member, thinks that he will have time on his hands next Tuesday, let him take the. train to North Essendon, and I will promise him as happy a day’s sport as he ever had in his life.
.- As one of the rational men in the House, I compliment the Acting Prime Minister on the manly way in which he has tackled this question. The honorable member for Brisbane would stop any man from enjoying himself at any time. He is mortally opposed to anything that would relieve the monotony of life.
– I said just the opposite.
– There are some who would not allow others to find enjoyment in anything except a bean feast or a Sunday school picnic. All peoples have their national pastimes, some of which are worse than others. “ The sport of kings,” which is the British national pastime, is the most innocent in vogue amongst civilized nations.
– The honorable member does not expect us to believe that.
– I know more about the matter than the honorable member does. Those who have never been anywhere, or seen anything, are ready to take narrow views. I admit that there is room for reform in regard to the proprietary courses,whose owners make big fortunes out of racing, and do hot treat the public fairly, but where the only concern is legitimate sport, for public amusement and recreation, no evil is done. It is hypocrisy for men to play up to those who sent them here by pretending that they are the pure merinoes I have never supported meetings on Cup Day, because I have felt that they make a: farce of the business of the country. Those who attend do so in the hope that there will not be a quorum, or that some one will call attention to the state of the House, and that there will be a count out. I hope that the adjournment will not be for the whole of the Tuesday, because this is a business session, and we wish to have a’ prorogation as soon as we can. I am n01 prepared to sacrifice Tuesday evening, seeing that we must meet early on Wednesday morning.
.- I am not much of a racing man, but I believe in every one being allowed to enjoy himself when he likes, and an adjournment on Cup Day is in the interests of good government. In my opinion, it will be a mistake to bring every one back for an hour or two in the evening, after we have been holiday making all day. If we adjourn until Wednesday, it will afford many honorable members an opportunity to visit their homes. I ask the Acting Prime Minister if he will agree to an adjournment; until Wednesday.
– There is nothing to prevent honorable members from meeting on Tuesday evening, and doing business. There will be no racing going on then, so that they may as well be here. In fact, they would be better here.
– We are not all so fond of work as the Acting Prime Minister is. Would he object to my moving, as an amendment, that the House adjourn until Wednesday ?
– I hope that the honorable member will not move such an amendment.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 33
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- Despite the close attention that honorable members have given to this measure, we cannot claim to have covered much of the enormous area or anything like all of the manifold considerations that require to be taken into account before pronouncing a judicial verdict upon it. It is idle at this hour to attempt more than a brief summary of the general views that most, if not all, honorable members on this side hold in respect to this great proposal. During our short debate several major issues have been relatively ignored while side issues, as is not uncommon, have engaged a large proportion of our attention. At the same time, in a general way, most of the salient points have either been seized or touched upon.
Those who examine the debates hereafter will find that in some particulars, at least, the Bill before us has been examined as well as could be expected in view of the pressure under which we are working.
The public have not realized, and probably will not, the full effect of these propositions which are to form a permanent part of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Those of us who uphold the existing Constitution as, with some faults, a most effective and invaluable development of the Federal principle, applied with very general appropriateness to the conditions of Australia, must realize that the battle to be fought in the country will be apt to turn upon considerations in no degree as important or of as much real substance as those to which we have endeavoured to direct attention. The necessary insufficiency of the criticism we have been able to offer has been due in part to the circumstances of this House, with its block vote on the other side and a distinct minority on ours ; and also to the consequential effects of the rate at which we have been legislating. The Government are evidently anxious to take the tide while running at its strongest, and to utilize the force generated during the late general election to the last pound of pressure to the square inch that can be brought to bear in this Chamber. Unfortunately, in this as in other Parliaments, there is no speed limit. There is no measured legislative mile by which we can test the rate at which we are travelling.
– And not even the danger of the speed to the public is regarded.
– The danger to the public is disregarded, nor have we even an unsympathetic constable, with a more or less reliable stop-watch, to test our gallop. We have neither land-marks nor log to enable us to determine the rate of our progress, as compared with previous sessions, but it is obviously quite exceptional. It has never been equalled in relation to measures of such magnitude as those which we have had before us. In the circumstances, therefore, despite certain disabilities, we are doing our best. Although the AttorneyGeneral has not occupied more than the proportion of time due to him in such a debate - has, indeed, curtailed his remarks on many points unduly - one could wish there had been some authority in this matter, before which he could have been brought for putting the five cylinders of his present political motor up to the reckless rate at which we are now travelling.
Could any speech be more ostentatiously curt than that which he delivered when moving the third reading of this Bill? It consisted of a gracious bow to you, Mr. Speaker, and a pleasant smile to the House. Apparently, there is no argument that the honorable gentleman feels it necessary at this stage to address to us, and, indeed, for him argument is wholly unnecessary. One of the very few new aspects developed in the course of the debate shows that this measure is principally justified, in the opinion of a great number of honorable members opposite, by the misdeeds and neglect of the State Governments. The whole measure might be fitly described as a comprehensive vote of censure against the State Administrations, collectively and severally.
– It is certainly not intended as such.
– Instances of what are considered offences committed by one or other of the States have been repeatedly elaborated, although those given were particular, and applied only to single States. The kaleidoscopic conditions which have generally attached to State Legislatures, as well as to the Commonwealth Parliament, suffice to explain most. Although the AttorneyGeneral has not put any such explicit contention before the House, it came in set terms from the lips of the few honorable members opposite who have addressed the House. The bulk of their speeches consisted of charges of derelictions of duty on the part of one or more States, with the demand that this Bill should be passed, because it affords us a remedy. Amendments of the Commonwealth Constitution were never intended to be passed with an eye to our dictating to Legislatures which, like ourselves, are chosen by the electors, receive directions from them, submit their policies to them, and are held answerable by them. It is no function of this Parliament to shape its measures, and, above all, its Constitution, in order to control the course which representatives of the majorities of voters in the States think fit to pursue. If that were so, we should have a continually changing Constitution, sought to be adapted and re-adapted to the varying circumstances brought about by hosts of different conditions in different States. We each receive direct instructions from the people. No more unsound principle could be pursued than that of justifying amend ments of our Constitution by the various changes of political weather in the various State Governments. When considering possible amendments of the Constitution, we should be governed by a far larger view and by a far more serious recognition of the intended permanence of that instrument and the purposes for which it is created. The ground of this line of argument is utterly unsound.
With respect to the gradual discovery in this Parliament, during the past few years, of the principal limitations of our powers, one retrospective observation deserves to be made. I do not wish to return to the past, except in one particular, in which allusion even to State Governments comes fittingly and naturally in this debate. Undoubtedly some, and, I think, on some occasions, all the State Governments in the early days of Federation adopted a distinctly aggressive attitude, which had to be rigidly and sternly resisted in this Parliament. Having been frequently the subject of adverse criticism for the stand we took against such attempted invasions of Federal rights, I can point to our conduct then as justifying our claim to be equally Federal now when resisting attempted Federal aggressions upon the privileges of the States. Those who take a consecutive view of the various phases through which the relations between the Commonwealth and the States have passed, will realize that for some years we were occupied in resisting unjustifiable inroads upon our domain. Now, owing to the swing of the pendulum, the natural duty of consistent Federalists is to be equally active and plain spoken in order to discourage aggressions by the Federation on the preserves of the States. Having borne the brunt of battle then, we should be entitled to a more considerate hearing now from those who advocate unfair invasions of State authority.
Again, taunts have been made during the debate in respect of my responsibility for having proposed three, and carried two, amendments of the Constitution. We have held from the first that the Constitution was no stereotyped sacrosanct document, beyond improvement. On the contrary, our persistent assertion has been that it was a living Constitution, growing and intended to grow, and that our duty was to assist its legitimate growth from time to time by every means in our power. Consequently those taunts are timely, since they balance the unjustifiable assertion that the present proposals for amending the. Constitution have met with our dogged, stubborn, and unqualified resistance. Both statements are equally erroneous. The first charge is that we treated the amendment of the Constitution as an easy matter to be readily and hastily resorted to ; the second that we have taken up a position of determined resistance to any attempt to allow it to develop. Neither charge can be in the least substantiated. On the contrary, I claim that the history of this Parliament during the last few years shows, as regards the great majority of its members, a distinct line of policy seeking to avoid both extremes, not treating amendments of the Constitution lightly, but recognising that they tequire special justifications, and proceeding, unhasting and unresting, to face every emergency as it arose. We have never feared to readapt the Constitution either te new circumstances, or to the more clearly seen demands of ord circumstances, in order to make it effective. We have kept the straight and equitable path. Without claiming to be free from mistakes, looking backwards I think the majority of the members in this House must recognise that our party have pursued a thoroughly straightforward and consistent Federal policy.
Nor is it true, as some honorable members have been careless enough to allege, that we have exhibited an unreasonable antagonism to the proposals submitted by the Government in this measure. On the contrary, to every one of its four distinct propositions we have submitted alternatives which were as far as possible definite. I do not claim the existence of an absolute uniformity of opinion upon all points among all members on this side, but their disagreement, if any, has certainly not imposed new disabilities on the free consideration by honorable members of the situation before us in the light of our past knowledge and experience. Although we have acted together, there has been no rigid partisanship, and no appeals to party feeling or party unity. The whole Bill, and all its branches, have been studied freely, frankly, and independently by members on this side, and except in one or two important instances with what may be termed practical unanimity.
I should have preferred to see the Government amendments of the Constitution limited to specific propositions, adapted to specific ends. I do not say that those ends should be detailed in the Constitution, but that new departures proposed in the existing Constitution should all be framed as far as possible to permit of the achievement of the specific ends for which amendment is LOW needed. The door should not be thrown wide, as appears to have been the case in several of these clauses, without any clear idea of what may pass through it. We must, of necessity, in constitutional amendments, adopt more or less general statements of principle, rather than expressions pointing to particular kinds of legislation. While complying with that necessary condition, the amendments can be so shaped as to exclude to a large degree any entirely unexpected uses of or developments from them. This risk has been by no means provided against in these amendments. That being our view, the opposition which has been offered to the Government proposals has been measured, defined, and express, not based upon vague terms, but concrete. Those who take pains to sift the criticisms which have been offered on this side will find that, so far from shutting the door to improvement and advance, we have sought to open it in each case as wide as necessary. Of course, a further question of the urgency of the need for amendments in particular cases would disclose some differences of opinion. There are propositions for the amendment of the Constitution which can be theoretically justified, but for which no pressing need has yet arisen. Towards these our attitude is necessarily one of reserve. So far as we can tell, improvements would be possible in those directions, but as no necessity for them has yet arisen, they are capable cf postponement, not only without injury, but to the advantage of the people and of the many interests involved.
Unfortunately, the chief amendment we sought to make is not now within our reach. At the very outset we would have severed from these five particular amendments the general issue whether the Constitution can admit such amendments under present circumstances and yet survive. If it had been possible to do this without deciding whether the immediate objects of these alterations are good or bad, we could have settled the prior question simply as affecting the proper theory and practice of Federal government. If such an amendment could have been framed directly - unfortunately, it could not, although it involved, and is in itself, the most vital issue now before us - we should have had an opportunity of asking the people of Australia whether the amendments now proposed in the Constitution, taken all together, were really federal or unfederal - whether they involved such a disturbance of the balance of power as would or would not tend to destroy the federal character of the Constitution. That preliminary question is, even now, the greatest issue to be decided in this Bill ; but, unfortunately, it cannot be submitted at all. These amendments may be fatal to Federation, though some of them desirable in themselves. But the voting will be decided by the four or five propositions for specific legislation, without regard to the constitutional results of dealing with them in this fashion. With the programme of the Labour party in their hands, the supporters of that party know what those powers are to be used for. Consequently, as I have said twice before in the endeavour to make this obvious but disregarded point a little more plain, the vote we shall get will disregard the federal and constitutional consequences of those amendments in order to attain certain definite industrial and business aims.
– Could that not be obviated?
– The general question could not now be submitted separately. Before popular audiences one will not be able to effectively discuss the distribution of Federal powers while concrete propositions are also at stake. Yet in the particular Bill before us, so great is the invasion that it could have been brought home to the great bulk of the people how violent and unexampled were the changes it meant. They could have been asked whether they were prepared to sacrifice the Federal principle in order to secure industrial alterations in this wholesale way.
– The people would draw their own deductions.
– Unfortunately, weshall not have this separate, broad, Federal issue in an effective way before the electors.
Then there is another difficulty which is also the creation of the Government, and also raises a serious obstacle to the free expression of opinion by the electors. That is the launching of these five proposals in a single measure, to which, as a whole, the people are required to say “ Yes “ or “ No.” Having developed this point to some extent on the second reading. I shall not weary honorable members with repeti tion ; but there is no doubt that, with these five separate and independent proposals, we increase the already existing confusion of issues. There is first the issue as to the preservation of the Federal principle in the Constitution, and next the issue as to each of the five particular purposes to which these amendments are intended to be applied. Here we have as complex and variegated a set of issues as can be put before the country deliberately confused in one question. That, I venture to say, is distinctly to the disadvantage of the country - which is denied, not only a constitutional verdict, but any distinct choice between five different propositions.
It has been a defect in our Democracy - a defect for which the referendum was believed to be a cure - that at general elections there are perhaps a score of different issues, of different subjects, before the people. As they are confined in many cases to the necessity of returning one of two candidates opposed to each other, they must accept the whole programme of one and reject the whole programme of the other. The electors are thus deprived of a discrimination that they should have an opportunity to exercise. In a small country like Switzerland that discrimination has been rendered possible by the continual remission of measures, confined to specific subjects, to the verdict of the electors ; but the extent of Australia, and our conditions, render that impossible. Manifestly, then, the referendum, if it is to act as the corrective to the wholesale forcing of party policies upon the electors, must be a referendum on specific subjects. Every man and woman must be invited to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ on each separate issue. But the course adopted by the Ministry deliberately sacrifices the chief virtue of the referendum. It is no corrective; electors are denied that freedom of choice which is their undoubted birthright. There is no necessity whatever in the nature of these proposals why they should be robbed of their free choice. It is perfectly true that these subjects can be said to be allied ; but so could every power for which authority must be sought in this way from the people; it is only a question of more or less. In the present instance the questions are distinct, not in their nature, but in their effects and operation. Each contains very important elements of its own, quite distinctive, and quite effective, if taken by itself. To bunch them together, treating them as though they form part of one whole, while, in fact, they only form a part of the very extensive and varied programme of the Labour party, is to multiply, without any justification or excuse, the disabilities already imposed 011 electors at each general election. Ministers are enforcing their pet projects upon the community in an artificial bunch for party ends and to the denial of the right of discrimination which should belong to every elector of Australia..
The subjects comprised in this Bill lead one very far afield, but my desire is to compress my remarks in the shortest possible time; and I pass on to say a few words on the particular proposals before us. My principal purpose is to indicate clearly in each case the broad alternative that the Opposition desires to be placed before the country. The first amendment relates to Federal trade and commerce; but in fact both the clause relating to corporations and the clause relating to combines also come within this trade and commerce power. In America they would be treated under that head. This proposition of the Government destroys as far as it is possible any line of demarcation between the Federal trade and commerce jurisdiction - and that of the States ; the former is enormously wide - here they are merged, whether vested in the States or vested in the Federal Parliament. No doubt, by judicial decisions, some boundary will probably be established between their respective spheres, though the remnant preserved to the States will be relatively trifling.
But ignoring the powers relating to corporations, trusts, and to combines, the -trade and commerce power of the Commonwealth proposed to be enlarged by the Government did not call for any distinctive amendment of ours at that point. Any amendment framed by us would have meant a specific proposition, such as the Government have submitted already in relation to corporations and trusts and combines. It could have extended the powers of trie Commonwealth under the trade and commerce provision without attempting the impossible task of delimiting the power otherwise than as it is delimited under the Constitution.
The argument for recognising State boundaries appears on the face of the Constitution. It has been attacked from various points of view, but it is of the very essence of Federation that a central Government should comprise within itself in dependent, and only in a sense, subordinate bodies, which retain a certain area to themselves. What other bounds could be put to the trade and commerce power, except those of the several States, each of which possesses a territorial domain of its own within that of the principal Government ? No other division is possible; and if the States are to exist as States, I venture to say some such division is essential. If we sweep it away, we shall have nationalized an area so vast that it must fundamentally alter, not only the relations between the Federal partners, but of the States themselves. The present boundary is the natural and necessary concomitant of a Federal Constitution, ia which the existence and activity of the States is in their way and within their domain as important as that of the National Government. The life principle of Federation demands the perpetual cooperation of the central and national power with responsible and effective local powers.
– Have we not been trying all through to remove these State lines ?
– Yes, wherever that is essential to the better working of the federal system; but, in my opinion, the removal of boundaries here proposed would be fatal. The advantages gained would not compensate by any means for the impoverishment of our local governing bodies, and we should impede, in a very short time, the future development of Australia. Although the precedent of Canada has been quoted, most of us never considered that the Dominion enjoyed a really Federal Constitution. If now, at this stage, we try to adopt the Canadian principle, we shall not be following it exactly, but only so far as to throw the whole trade and commerce realm of the provinces open to the Commonwealth Government so far as it can take it. We shall be departing from that classic definition of federal government which endows the central government with none but limited and enumerated powers. It is all very well to say that we enumerate a “power” over “trade and commerce,” and, in a certain sense of the word, we do; but in act and in fact so wide and vague is that sphere that the words “ trade and commerce “ cover without defining them a large group of powers, many of them still undefined, and nearly all of them capable of development. Within that very wide range such an endowment can scarcely be called limited. Limits will be discovered, at some time; but, in fact, it is not strictly an “enumerated” “ power,” nor is it a power which, in the Federal sphere, is fairly described as “ limited.”
In respect to the second amendment proposed by the Government - that relating to corporations - we took the objection that the transfer of the whole authority over such bodies was not called for by any evidence laid before us, and was also in the teeth of a very strong decision by a Justice of the High Court, quoted in extenso by the honorable member for Flinders. The late AttorneyGeneral proposed, in the memorandum which was issued last year, a very effective, though limited, authority over corporations, which could have been vested in the Commonwealth without impairing the efficiency of State legislation, or bringing about the chaos which Mr. Justice Higgins’ judgment shows will be the sequence of the step we are now asked to take.
As to the amendment respecting trusts and combines, the Opposition has given the Government its support, though desiring that restraint of trade should be a material condition rendering them amenable to our law. We have given the Government a broad and general assurance that any power which it can show to be required to enable this Parliament to cope in the most effective manner with trusts, combines, and monopolies, would be heartily supported. Ministers have not chosen to accept our overtures. We have thus offered two trade and commerce alternatives, to which they did not give the fair consideration which their practicability demanded.
– The High Court will have to decide as to the effectiveness.
– I am satisfied, especially since hearing the arguments of my learned friends, that these two would have been absolutely effective. By the adoption of either we should have done all that is necessary now in its sphere, and prepared for a good deal that may be foreseen, though remote.
As to the very important industrial amendment, the honorable member for Parramatta put forward a proposition expressing in general terms the alternative of the Opposition. He wished to insert the words -
In the opinion of this House the industrial provisions of the Constitution should not be altered except to regulate conditions of employment in all industries that are federal in operation, or which cannot be effectually regulated by any one Slate, further enabling the Inter-State
Commission to prevent and remove unfair competition between the same industries carried on in different States.
The proposal is not drafted in the technical language necessary for embodiment in the Bill, but it makes clear the intention of the Opposition to enable the Commonwealth to regulate conditions of employment in all Inter-State industries which cannot be effectually regulated by the States, and to prevent unfair competition between the same industries carried on in different States.
– The honorable member provided for the same power as the Government asked for, but in a different way.
– The power the Government asked for goes far beyond what was proposed by the honorable member for Parramatta. It is unconditioned. The proposal of the honorable member beside me would meet the actual needs of to-day and provide against the disabilities in sight, whereas the Government proposal is not bounded by any visible horizon, and is therefore capable, in the opinion of most of us, of being very seriously misapplied. We claim that amendments of the Constitution should be carefully adjusted to the particular evils of which we know.
Until now our endeavour has been to treat industrial differences and dissonances extending beyond State limits by judicial or semi-judicial processes, and to establish an independent Court to deal with industrial causes as legal causes are dealt with, but without the technical restrictions of Courts of law. Our Arbitration Court, as such, has done all that could be expected. Part of its duty was to discover the legal limitations necessarily implied as a corollary of the Constitution interpreted as a Federal whole. That, unfortunately, has resulted in a serious curtailment of the powers which we thought the Court could exercise, and makes amendment necessary. The Court must be equipped for the work which it is intended to do, and was thought capable of doing. We have always looked forward to the extension of its jurisdiction to all the Federal industries of the country conducted by private enterprise. Form first to last we resisted all attempts of the Commonwealth to interfere in the management of the railways through the employes of the States, just as we resist any attempt by the States to intervene between the Commonwealth and its employe’s ; both invasions are inconsistent with the Federal principle, and in-
Dive tt the destruction of the balance of power between them. On that subject I have no wish to repeat myself. At no time have 1, either directly or indirectly, sanctioned an invasion of this kind. One Government of which 1 was the head resigned rather than consent to such an invasion.
But this proposal of the Attorney-General is, not simply to- follow the old road of judicial determination, securing industrial peace by the arbitration of an independent and qualified Court, sitting aloof from political and party influences, studying the interests of employers and employed. He asks us to follow a new road. Under his proposal, not only may our present judicial authority continue over industrial differences, but also that of this Parliament, apart from any Court, except so far as the ordinary interpretation of its statutes is concerned. We are to be empowered to dictate by Act all the conditions of employment of all or any of the employes in all the railways of the States. It is proposed to take specifically this far-reaching and invidious power to legislate respecting State railways. This point has been missed by critics outside, but it will be the chief thing to impress on the electors when they are asked to arrive at a decision. If the authority that is asked for is granted, this Parliament will be able to pass laws declaring how many hours should be worked each day by any or each of the various classes of railway employes, the wages which they shall receive, the holidays which they shall enjoy, the terms of apprenticeship in the service, and in a hundred and one other matters.
– Does the honorable member think that it would do that without the absolute necessity arising?
– No Federal Parliament should claim a power over its States which even those who ask for it declare ought not to be exercised. Parliamentary powers are given for use, and can only be granted on such a supposition.
This Government wishes to give this Parliament a power which now belongs only to the State Parliaments. Such a transfer would be fatal to the sovereignty of the States, as well as to the proper conduct of the railways, since it would put their control into the hands of a body in no way responsible for the proper, management of a business in which ^150,000,000 has been invested. This Parliament would incur no financial or practical responsibility for the working results of a law that it passed with respect to State railways. Consider the effect upon the discipline of those engaged in the service whose appeals would be to this Chamber. Our assumption of power to to decide such questions all over Australia would cause such a shifting of the centre of gravity in our Constitution as would in itself, quite apart from the other proposals in this Bill, destroy the Federal character of our government, and obliterate the true line of demarcation between the spheres of the central and the local Governments.
– Has not every sovereign power in the world got it ?
– Every Unitary Government has, of course, the control of its employes, and so has every Federal Government of its Federal employes. But we must not forget that the States have borrowed money to build their railways and are responsible for it. They tax their electors to maintain those railways, and to them they are first responsible. They adjust their railways to their own local policies of land development and other considerations. This greatest of governmental enterprises is related to and intertwined with all the practical functions of the State. The railways are their largest investment and best means of their development. If we take from them the power of their control we beggar them at once. There can be but one outcome. The only justification for this proposal would be an intention on the part of this Parliament to take over the whole of the railways of Australia as its property, and with them the whole responsibility for the debts incurred. Even then the Comm’onwealth would be vastly inferior as an agent for local development to the agencies now existing in the States ; but it would, at all events, have assumed the responsibility properly associated with this legislation. This power ought not to exist divorced from that responsibility. The great transcontinental lines which it is proposed to build can be undertaken federally without any such ruthless inroads.
– How does the honorable member distinguish between the maintenance of national peace generally and industrial peace generally?
– I have already furnished a sufficient answer for this stage. That can be secured by Federal means. There is a gulf between private enterprise, in any form, and public enterprise under the control of Parliaments, Federal 01 State, elected by the men and women, responsible for the whole cost and charges of that enterprise, and dealing with it freely subject to their responsibilities. Such enterprises dealt with, not by an outside body, but by the State electors, who are all shareholders in their railways, are sure to adjust themselves to the equities of employment. The State railways are conducted in the interests of the electors who build them, pay for them, man them, and bear the responsibility for them. The gulf between State railways, owned by the electors, including the employes, and those which are owned by another body altogether, consisting of private shareholders, or, as in America, perhaps, of a few capitalists, is unbridgable. Over private railways the law requires to be mandatory in the public interests, but not for State employes, nor from one Federal centre.
Add to your vague extension of the trade and commerce and industrial powers this power of specific industrial legislation with its other incidentals overriding our State electors in State affairs, and you arrive at results that I shall not attempt to calculate. They will prove very much more serious to the electors when the full scope of Federal authority in these matters is finally measured. It is far wider than even the members of the legal profession appear to have realized.
I note in passing the one little humorous gleam that can be detected in the Government measure now before us. If it be passed and accepted by the people every restriction imposed upon the Federal powers conferred by section 51 of the Constitution will be removed with one exception. The State sovereignty will be proudly asserted against the overmastering Commonwealth in one sphere. Their Legislatures will retain the right to govern the privileges of their citizens when fishing within territorial waters. Within three miles from the shore, the fishermen of a State, as fishermen, will be beyond our authority. I do not say that they will be beyond our trade and commerce, or navigation powers. Fishermen in the act of baiting their lines, throwing them in, and drawing them up again may be for the moment sovereign State citizens. That ought to be a consolation and comfort when the whole of their remaining independence has been swept away. Between the time that they hook a fish and draw it up - while the fish is on the hook or getting off - they may be in most circumstances free citizens of a free State.
I have thus hastily endeavoured to deal broadly with a measure which effects more important changes in the government of Australia, and contains more potentialities than any other that this Parliament has had before it. No other Bill, however long, complex, or high-sounding its title, has contained as much as this single sheet of print. The remedy is out of all proportion to our complaint: Its effects may be likened to that of a surgical operation on the vital organs in a case in which the ailment might be met by simple treatment, without resort io any dangerous expedient. Whether the patient - the public - will realize this risk in time it is unnecessary to prophesy, but certainly the measure is more heavily freighted with the fortunes of the people of Australia than any other which has come before this or any other Parliament in Australia. The consequences, if it be sanctioned, will be fatal to Federation. If it be not sanctioned, this Parliament can soberly return to its task of devising more practicable and immediate measures to meet our existing needs - we have ourselves pointed to a certain number which require to be met - but they can be coped with cn well-beaten ground without hazardous and reckless excursions into the immeasurable hinterland of dangers and destructions that must be associated with this short measure.
.- The Leader of the Opposition has been busily engaged in placing some scarecrows on the end of poles with a view of frightening the people when they are called upon to vote upon this question. I desire to refer briefly to a few points made by the honorable member in what I may describe as his scarecrow speech. In answer, apparently to the criticism levelled against him in the newspapers that he simply offered a destructive criticism of our measures, and suggested nothing to take their place, the honorable member came along this morning with a lengthy and cunningly drawn suggested alternative which he desired to have placed upon the records. When viewed dispassionately, it must be seen that it would be simply a menace, and could be used as an engine of interminable disputes to be referred to the High Court. It would eventually land us in the same idiotic position in which we find ourselves to-day, because of the fact that, although there is an arbitration power in the Constitution, whenever we endeavour effectively to exercise it, believing that we can do that which the people thought we could when they accepted the Constitution, it is found that our power is reduced to a nullity. The honorable member complained that although previously we had sought for an arbitration power in regard to industrial disputes, we were seeking in this Bill for power over labour and employment. He complains that we are not proposing to place in our Constitution the machinery by which we intend to deal with these questions. I would remind him that even a friendly society does not place in its constitution the whole of the means by which it seeks to carry out its fundamental objects. Friendly societies broadly state their objects in their constitutions, and by means of bye-laws and other machinery seek to give effect to them. And so in our national Constitution we cannot place the whole of the machinery by which we propose to give effect to the policy of the Labour party, or by which it is proposed to meet the various evils in connexion with the body politic. The Leader of the Opposition knows that perfectly well, but because we propose to take power over labour and employment he says at once, “ Look what dreadful things you will be able to do by the exercise of that power.” Because we do not seek to limit the Commonwealth to a Conciliation and Arbitration tribunal for the adjustment of industrial disputes, the honorable member suggests that we shall be able to do numerous things of a terrible character. The same argument might be used against every power for which the Constitution provides. Since we have exclusive power over marriage we could pass an Act forbidding a man to marry before reaching the age of forty years ; but we do not propose anything of the kind. The honorable member suggests that because we have power to do certain things we are going to do them. That is an idiotic suggestion. He might just as well say that our unlimited powers to pass laws with respect to marriage must lead to the same results. Our power of taxation is unlimited. We could practically tax every man off his holding; but to say that because we have the power to do so, we should exercise it, is to go to the most ridiculous length. The honorable member’s argument shows the extremes to which the Opposition are prepared to go in their efforts to scare the people in regard to the effects of this measure. We have unlimited power over immigration, and could pass a law declaring that not an immigrant should place his foot on our shores ; but are we going to do anything of the kind? It would be just as reasonable to say that we intended to pass such a law as it is to say that if we obtain this power we shall do all the dreadful things which the Leader of the Opposition has suggested.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30p.m.
– I am sorry that I cannot bring to bear upon the consideration of this important question the ripe experience that I believe is absolutely necessary to form an adequate judgment upon the great issues involved. It seems to me that, to any alteration which it is desired to make in the Constitution, we should apply the test of whether it makes for the true government of Australia from a Federal stand-point. We must bear in mind that the compact into which the States entered was Federal. That is to say, certain powers were delegated by the States to the National Parliament, others were left absolutely to the States, and thecontrol with regard to certain others was bisected. There appears to be in the minds of a number of honorable members, and also in the country, an idea that there can be no true national growth, or development along national lines, unless further powers are given to the National Parliament. I believe that we shall have the truest form of national growth and development by a development of the Federal ideal. Let us then apply that test to the proposals of the present Government. In the alterations of the Constitution which they have put before us for our consideration, they have not attempted to develop the Federal ideal so much as to take over complete powers. It is not a question of whether this Parliament will exercise those complete powers or not. The point is that it is now taking over the whole of the powers in regard to trade and commerce and industrial matters. I believe that the only result of this will be to shift the great’ difficulty which has existed up to the present from one point to another. It has been contended throughout the debate on this measure that the great difficulty arising from the bisection of those two powers is that it is impossible to ascertain the precise point where the Federal jurisdiction ends and that of the State begins. But the Government are simply creating the same difficulty in probably a worse form. Honorable members opposite have said over and over again that they do not desire to take over the control of industrial matters, or complete powers in regard to trade and commerce, and that they have not the faintest intention of exercising them if they do take them. They seem altogether to forget that the State Governments will still continue to exercise those powers in relation to trade and commerce and industrial matters, and all that will have been achieved by this Parliament taking over the whole of the powers in question is” that in the future, instead of the Courts having to determine whether the Federal Parliament has overstepped its constitutional limitations, they will have to decide from time to time whether the legislative powers which the States are continuing to exercise have intruded, in any respect, into the domain over which the Federal Parliament is by this legislation taking jurisdiction.
– Does not the honorable member know that all Federal powers are paramount to State powers?
– That is precisely my difficulty. The Federal power is paramount, and while the supporters of the Government claim that they do not wish to take over the whole of the industrial power, they forget that the States will go on exercising a certain amount of power in regard to certain industrial relationships, and, therefore, the time must come when State legislation will clash with Federal. It will then be for the High Court to determine whether the State laws have intruded upon or interfered with the legislation passed by the Federal Parliament. I, therefore, do not see that by passing this measure the Government are in any way getting away from the legal difficulties and technicalities which surround the whole of these great questions. I do not regard the Constitution as in any way sacred. In regard to industry and trade and commerce, I believe it is absolutely necessary for this Parliament to pass legislation to enable the country to give us additional powers. That, however, is not to say that it is necessary for us to take over the whole control in regard to both trade and commerce and industry. I think we must have additional power to enable us to deal effectively with trusts, combines, and monopolies in restraint of trade, because none of us wishes to see in Australia the state of affairs that exists in America. I have, however, waited very patiently throughout the debate to hear why, in order to do this, it was necessary to abandon altogether the Federal ideal, and take over the whole power in regard to trade and commerce. Throughout this long argument I have not heard a single reason advanced to justify that course. I have heard it stated, over and over again, that we must take over the whole trade and commerce power in order to be able to deal with trusts, combines, and monopolies, but no one has attempted to prove the necessity, and it is because it has not been proved that I feel bound to vote against the passage of this measure. I believe it is also necessary that we should have additional power over industrial matters to enable us to legislate in such a way as to bring into line, in relation to industries in different States, awards which are productive of unfair competition between State and State. But why, to achieve that object, is it necessary for us to take over the whole industrial power? Why should the control of such industries as baking, butchering, and bricklaying, pass into the hands of this Parliament? I can quite understand the anxiety of honorable members opposite to avoid the difficulties that have arisen in the past, necessitating different industrial bodies spending their money in constant appeals to the Courts, and ^involving the employers in a like expense, only to find that, in regard to the matters in dispute, this Parliament has no power to legislate. But I cannot understand why honorable members do not approach this question from a truly Federal stand-point, and honestly endeavour to carry out the compact we entered into ten years ago. Why is it not possible to look at this matter from a common-sense point of view, and face the responsibility that ever devolves on this Parliament, placing issues before the the people in such a manner that they will know exactly for what they are voting? A great ‘deal has been said during the course of the debate that is altogether wide of the mark. The actions of Legislative Councils, and so forth, have absolutely nothing to do with the subject - all these it is within the power of the people to alter from time to time as they see necessary. The States all enjoy the same suffrage ; and even Tasmania has it within her power to alter her industrial conditions. I see no reason why, because Tasmania has not answered to her responsibilities, New South Wales, where the people have done every- thing possible to bring about fair industrial conditions, should be called upon to practically sacrifice her rights.
– The honorable member has not studied the Tasmanian Constitution !
– It is not a question of studying the Tasmanian Constitution j the Tasmanian people have it in their power, if they set themselves to work, to make any alteration they think necessary in their Constitution to carry their will. There is no reason whatever why, because )Tasmania may not have done her duty in this respect, the rights of the other States should be swept away. In my opinion, no one can be a true Federalist who does not believe in State rights. The whole Federal ideal and principle rests on the recognition of the rights of both Commonwealth and State j and it is essential for the development of the Federal ideal that those rights should be preserved- I have stated as concisely as I can the objections I have to the measure before us. I only hope that when the questions are submitted to the people the true issues will be stated in such a way as to show clearly what is really at stake, namely, the entire sweeping away of the rights of the States in regard to the two great fundamental principles of government- I trust that the people of Australia will adhere to the true Federal ideal, and reject these proposals, because It is only possible for Australia to advance unchecked along the pathway of national development and national growth in accordance with that principle
– If any apology were necessary for speaking on the third reading, it would be found in the fact that this Bill is one for the amendment of the Constitution. But there is a second reason in the fact that I had no opportunity of speaking on the second reading. I was to have spoken this day week, but, to suit the convenience of honorable members on both sides, who desired to get to their homes, I waived my right. There is even a third reason presented in the very nature of the measure, in regard to which it was impossible to express a final opinion until it had emerged from Committee, so much depending on how far the proposals might be modified before being submitted to the people for their opinion. I am, therefore, going to exercise my right to speak on the third reading ; and I have to admit that my position in regard to the measure is some what peculiar, and demands explanation. I yield to no one in my veneration for the Constitution. The citizens we sent to the Federal Convention did most admirable work, and the Constitution has stood the test of ten years’ experience, and the criticism of some of the ablest writers in the world. We have all to admit that, excepting certain known defects and slight blemishes, the work of the Convention was well done ; and it behoves us to be very cautious and discreet before deciding on any amendment. An amendment might be desirable, and yet it might be still more desirable that the fullest consideration should be given to the question before it was rushed before the public. Our Constitution is such that we ought not only to yield to it a very large measure of respect, but also to inculcate a veneration for it in the minds of the young ; indeed, I should go so far as to say that copies ought to be hung on the walls of our schools and in our marts so that the children and those actively engaged in the work of the Commonwealth should see it day by day and learn to reverence it as representing the freedom they enjoy. On the other hand, one of the most important features of the Constitution, for which we can give credit to its framers, is its flexibility and the power of amendment should occasion arise. The one absolute defect in the United States Constitution - which was lauded so much more highly than ours when it was launched on the world - is that it is practically incapable of amendment. Were it not for what has been very aptly termed the “ judicial audacity “ of certain great Chief Justices of the American Supreme Court that Constitution would have proved so inflexible as to have caused its utter abolition j in fact, it did bring about a rebellion which, had it been successful, would have meant a revolution and a new form of Constitution. That rebellion cost an immense amount of money, and was defeated at great loss of life on the part of the Union. We are happy in the fact that our Constitution enables us to amend it if occasion arises ; but I say again that we should regard with the utmost caution any proposal to that end. Even if we think it necessary to take steps to place proposed amendments before the public, we should so defer and delay them as to secure the fullest criticism and consideration. Although we may retrace our steps at any time, the question is so serious that adequate opportunity should be afforded for testing all the powers we have under the Constitution. We should not endeavour ruthlessly to amend it in a form the ultimate effects of ‘ which we can not foresee. But there is nothing sacrosanct about the Constitution; it is there to be altered. I am inclined to agree with the honorable member who preceded me that, within certain limits, a case has been made out for the serious consideration on the part of the Legislature and the public of the amendment of the Constitution. That was impressed on my mind, and that of many others, long before this session of Parliament. Recent events, including the decisions of the High Court, have accentuated the feeling that an amendment is growing day by day more necessary, and that, within certain limits, Parliament is fully justified in taking the question into consideration with a view to legislation for the prevention of industrial disputes. How should an amendment of the Constitution be approached? lt cannot be too strongly impressed on us that it ought to be approached with an entire absence of party spirit. It has been stated by honorable members on both sides of the House that the measure was being approached with a total disregard of party allegiance; but I have watched the debate closely for the last fortnight, and I regret to say that this question, as every other question, has been dealt with almost entirely from a party point of view. It was impossible that it mild be otherwise. The developments that have taken place in the organization of parties and their relations and differing ways of managing affairs, have still more restricted this serious question to the influence of party feeling and party limitations than ever before. One section of the Legislature, upstairs, has been considering this question day by day, fettered by their relations to a party organization, and another section, less numerically, has been considering it downstairs, more or less fettered by the fact that they were opposed by a party which was plainly a stone wall - not to be moved, not to be appealed to, in any respect in regard to these proposals. Is that the proper way in which this House should grapple with the question of an amendment of the Constitution, the object of which is to meet admitted defects, seen by some of us from the first? Have we approached this, matter in the right spirit, or can we do so? For my .part, I admit that we cannot, and I deeply regret that the Consti- tution did not provide some other means of amendment. It would have been far better to summon another Convention to consider serious amendments of this kind. That would take it out of the hands of members of Parliament, on whom are imposed party loyalty, and the consideration of party advantage. The Convention appointed to frame the Constitution was composed of men who met without preconceived ideas. Their determinations were arrived at without party heat, and their three sessions were separated by considerable intervals of time, during which the full blaze of public and press criticism was poured on their work, of which criticism they were able to take advantage. Here we are doing now still more important work. The Constitution has been tested, and has been found in working to possess certain defects. During the last election, in the heat of the party conflict, certain proposals were made by the Labour party, and others by the present Opposition, and members have come to this House determined to amend the Constitution, not in the light of reason, and the sober consideration of the facts, but influenced by the desire to achieve a party triumph, so that if the proposed amendments be made, attempts to remove them from the Constitution again must follow. The measure provides for four important amendments of the Constitution. But if we seek for a clear expression of the public will, we must put before the citizens simple questions, each standing by itself, and capable of being answered by a “ Yes “ or a “ No.” The Government, to insure the success of its four proposals, has grouped them together, so that the public will be compelled to answer “ Yes “ or “No” in regard to all of them. Should the electors have no better grasp of the effect of the proposed amendments than honorable members have displayed, they will be puzzled as to how to vote. If the four questions were put before them separately, there would probably be an almost unanimous affirmative vote for one amendment, and a very large majority for another. One, and, possibly, two, of the amendments would almost certainly be agreed to. As it is, we may how have the whole four carried, or may lose them all. I have, from the first, been aware of certain defects in the Constitution, of which one of the most marked is the provision of section 51 empowering the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the preservation and settlement of in- dustrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. Long before the lawyers had pointed out the many difficulties in this provision, I said that I could not understand the logical or grammatical meaning of the word “ extending,” nor the true limitation of the preceding words. These difficulties have since been admitted by the High Court itself. The Leader of the Opposition, in one of the most splendid speeches he ever delivered, a speech so fine that the honorable member for Parkes said that it should have been set to music, ushered in proposals for industrial peace which I felt should achieve one of the greatest ends of our national government. But after eight years’ trial, the measure has broken down. That, in itself, calls for an amendment of the Constitution. State legislation and tribunals are not sufficient to preserve industrial peace. You must have a national tribunal sitting above them to compose the differences between State and State. Unless our Court is powerful enough to do that, we must leave the field, or make it more powerful. I am in thorough accord with the proposal for the amendment of the Constitution to enable us to increase the powers of the Court, but honorable gentlemen opposite remind me of Charles Lamb’s Chinaman, who, having discovered the merit of roast pig, commenced to burn down house after house to enjoy it. Having obtained sufficient power to deal with industrial disputes, why should we go further and take all power? Does not this defeat our own ends? The settlement of industrial turmoil should be left at first to the State authorities ; the Commonwealth should step in only when it is necessary to compose differences between State and State, or where the operations of industry extend beyond any one State. I have always been ready to go as far as reason would dictate, and yesterday voted for the third clause of the Bill, not because I thought that it did not go too far, but because it went further than the majority of my party would go. I do not need to be reminded that in 1904 I supported a provision for bringing within the conciliation and arbitration law the railway employes of the States, it still being my conviction that if the national power is to be used to preserve industrial peace, it must apply to State employes, and particularly to State railway employes. If there is anything in Australia liable to bring about far-reaching industrial warfare, it is a dispute in connexion with railway management. It was argued by some that the Victorian railway strike was a matter for the State Government alone, it being responsible for the management of the lines and the repayment of the moneys borrowed to build them. I held, however, that all means of transport by land or by water are the concern of the whole of Australia, and that there could not be a general strike in one State without great loss to the whole continent. We are all interested in keeping the wheels going round, a stoppage in Victoria affecting passenger traffic and goods transport all over Australia. It is all very well for honorable members to say that the proposal under consideration strikes at the heart of State rights. We do not wish to interfere with State rights, so long as these do not obscure national rights. When a conflict affecting the whole Commonwealth arises, it is the duty of the National Parliament to put an end to it. Indeed, before such a conflict can arise we should pass laws to prevent it. It must not be forgotten that we have the right to impose import duties on the rails which are used for the construction of the State lines, and do impose such duties, and there is no great difference between doing that and increasing rates of wages to bring the remuneration of all employes to a uniform standard. The day has gone by for opposition to laws for the preservation of industrial peace and the settlement of differences between masters and men, but such legislation cannot be successful unless it is universal. If a Victorian Wages Board increased the pay of bootmakers from 8s. to 10s., and a New South Wales Board refused to follow suit, the boot manufacturers of the latter State could undersell those of the former, both within and without the Commonwealth, and thus discontent would arise. The very ideal of our Federal government is that just and uniform laws shall prevail throughout Australia - that we should not allow that there is the least difference in our legislative duty between one State and another - and that there shall be no privilege favouring a merchant or manufacturer in one State as against another. We need, therefore, as far as we can obtain it, an appellate or Federal Court to try to bring about uniformity of industrial conditions throughout the States. Then, again, we have the argument that was advanced here yesterday, and was received with laughter by some honorable members, that since Tasmania lags behind and will not introduce industrial legislation it is useless to say to those who desire a prosperous and justly governed nation that Tasmania can pass such laws if she chooses to do so. To preserve the character of the legislation of the other States we must insist upon Tasmania taking action, and if she refrains from doing so, we must act for her, and secure uniformity of industrial legislation by means, perhaps, of some common rule. The Government having gone as far as any one could desire - and a good deal further than I should have gone under clause 3 - to bring about a change in respect of what I admit are the essential difficulties of our Constitution, I felt constrained yesterday to vote in accordance with my convictions for that proposal. At the same time I do not indorse that clause in its entirety. It was only on Wednesday nightthat the Government submitted to us a perfectly new set of proposals to take the place of clause 3 in the Bill as originally introduced, and on the following morning we were called upon to deal with them. It was impossible in a matter of such extreme importance for any one to frame an alternative that would give adequate play for the expression of one’s opinions. I felt that it was impossible for me to suggest an alternative to which I could pin my faith, and consequently I was compelled to vote for that which went in a direction of which I approved, although it went further than I thought necessary. But now, having reached the last stage of the Bill, I have to ask myself whether I can indorse it. It matters little whether I do or do not. The Bill is going to be passed by this House, and the people will be called upon to say for themselves whether or not these proposed amendments of the Constitution shall be made. I have, however, my own responsibilities. I strongly desire to see an amendment of the Constitution providing for an effective measure of conciliation and arbitration, and affording us a satisfactory method of settling quarrels between employers and employe’s. But I have to ask myself, “ Can I swallow the whole of these four propositions with their wide-reaching effects?” And I am obliged reluctantly to confess that I cannot. It is not right to call upon the public to say “Yea” or “ Nay” to the whole of these four questions, submitted to them as one proposition. I feel, with many honorable members on this side of the House, that we need a wider power to enable us to deal effectively with trusts and combines ; but the Govern ment are going further than is absolutely necessary. If it were proposed to submit these four questions separately to the electors, then, although I am opposed to three of them, I should vote for the third reading of the Bill. Believing as I do in the principle ofthe referendum and the initiative, I should not by my vote prevent questions being submitted to the electors for their decision. But when I am asked to agree to a proposal that four questions shall be submitted as one to the people, and that they shall be called upon to say “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ to the whole of them - when I know that only a lame and impotent verdict canthusbe obtained - I am obliged to say that I must vote against the third reading of this measure.
.- I have expressed in Committee my views on the several clauses of this Bill, and wish now to make only one or two observations before we are called upon to vote upon the measure as a whole. I supported an extension of our trade and commerce power, believing it desirable that we should widen the basis of our future legislation, and that, in the words of the Leader of the Opposition, we should transfer to the Commonwealth some of that vast reservoir of residuary power which now rests with the States. The Commonwealth is certainly entitled to share some of that reserve of power, and, believing so, I voted for the trade and commerce clause. There are several features in connexion with the remaining provisions - those relating to corporations, trusts, and combines, and industrial matters - with which I agree, and I regret very much that they have been all grouped in one Bill, so that honorable members are compelled to accept or reject the whole of them. In the circumstances I am sorry to say that the extremes to which the Government have gone in connexion with the provisions relating to industrial matters, corporations, and trusts, and more particularly the very serious blow which they have aimed at the sovereignty of the States in connexion with their railway proposals - the result of which must mean the subversion of all discipline in State services - will compel me to vote against the motion for the third reading of the Bill.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera intends to vote against the third reading of this Bill chiefly because of the clause relating to railway employes. That is the one provision to which I take a decided objection, and I have now to consider whether my opposition to that clause, and the dangers that I foresee in it. would justify me hooting against the third reading of the Bill. All the other provisions meet with my approval, and upon consideration I think that the advantages of the measure generally greatly outweigh the disadvantages - which, after all, may be regarded as problematical - of the proposal to bring railway servants under the Federal power. In the circumstances, therefore, I shall feel justified in voting for this motion.
.- Like the honorable member for North Sydney I had intended to speak to the motion for the second reading of this Bill, but as there was a desire to come to a speedy division, I, in common with a number ot other honorable members, waived my right to do so. Since I understand that it is proposed within a few minutes to take a division on this motion, I shall do nothing to interfere with that arrangement, but I desire, before the Bill finally passes, to make a few observations. I was struck with’ the force of the arguments used by the honorable member for Flinders in support of the trade and commerce clause, concerning which he did not express the doubts and fears to which the honorable member for Ballarat and others associated with him have given utterance. His arguments in favour of that clause were both eloquent and forcible, but when we reached the clause relating to industrial matters, he seemed to turn to the “ right-about.” To my mind, the arguments that apply to the trade and commerce clause must apply w;th equal force to that relating to industrial matters. I am one of those who thoroughly believe in the extension of our powers to State railway employe’s. I have not the slightest fear that in taking this step we shall trench upon the preserves or rights of the State Parliaments. Indeed, I strongly hold the view that it is only right that there should be established a Federal authority able to deal with disputes relating to our railways. I ask honorable members to consider for a moment the great industrial dispute in France. The thought has been running through my mind during the last few minutes, “ What would have been the position had France been divided into States? What would have happened if there had not been one big national power to deal with that industrial dispute?” The disaster, instead of costing *he nation only ,£11,000,000, would un doubtedly have meant an infinitely greater loss. If secondary or State Parliaments had been called upon to deal with that great industrial dispute with its ramifications spreading throughout the country–
– Does the honorable member agree with the way in which the unionists were “ stoushed “ there?
– I am only pointing out that the National Parliament, by means of the immense power that it wields, was able to effect a cure.
– Does the honorable member believe in the suppression of that strike?
– I am speaking, not of the strike itself, but of the methods adopted in dealing with it. The honorable member is fond of setting traps for parliamentary greenhorns, but he is not going to sidetrack me. The greatest of all men in American politics at the present time is at the head of a campaign against trusts for the very purpose of doing in the United States what we are endeavouring to do here. The word that attracts my attention above all others in this Bill - the word in which I believe most strongly - is the word “ prevention.” To my mind prevention is better than cure, and when we have the control of disputes affecting all industries, in my opinion there will be no recurrence of the serious strikes that have besmirched the National escutcheon.
– I understand that there is a general desire to proceed to a division, and for that reason, and also because it seems to me that the merits of this particular Bill have passed beyond the region of discussion in this House, I shall occupy the attention of honorable members for only a few minutes. The discussion must be left now to another arena, and anything further that may be said here can really be of no avail. Notwithstanding the remarks which have been made by certain honorable members opposite, I have enough human nature to be rather strongly tempted to reply to some of the criticisms levelled at me, but I am going to repress the desire to do so. I intend absolutely to repress the old Adam within me at present, but perhaps I may be permitted 0-make: a few brief remarks on the general aspect of the Bill as it now stands. The speeches that I made on the motion for the second reading and in Committee, were sufficiently distinct to convey to the minds of honorable members on both sides of the Chamber, and to the country at large, what my views are on the principal parts of the original Bill. I said that that Bill, in the form in which it first came down, contained defects, that some of the clauses were badly drafted, and that others would produce great inconvenience unless remodelled, but that no amendments of ours would be accepted. For all that, I said the two main provisions in the measure - the general extension of the commerce clause and the general extension of the industrial power of this Parliament - were advances in constitutional development which I thought would be full of benefit and advantage to this continent, and must come sooner or later. But the Government, for its own reasons, has, at the very last moment of the debate, seen fit, either of its own volition or under pressure, to attach to those principles a provision which, in my opinion, is pregnant with mischief for the future of this country, and pregnant with strife of the worst kind between the Commonwealth and the States. The attempt to sever a certain power and the responsibility for the exercise of that power would, I pointed out, produce the same result as all similar attempts have done. I can only infer the facts from the time at which this alteration was brought down, from the immense delay that took place, and from the fact that the responsible head of the Government has never, since he assumed the reins of power, put forward this particular thing as part of his policy. So far as I know, he is at this moment absolutely unaware of this momentous addition which his lieutenant and his Ministers have made to a Bill for which he must be mainly responsible. Not only is that so, but I believe that, in pressing this proposal forward now, the members of the Government are really acting as the spokesmen of the Federal- Association of Railway Servants, a body which I have no hesitation in saying I believe to be far the most powerful combine in existence on this continent. T shall not press that question further. That we should, at this last moment of the debate, be compelled, or that the people of Australia should be invited, to pronounce an opinion “ Aye “ or “ No “ upon all these matters joined together, without any possibility of severing them, is contrary to the best principles of representative government, and, no matter how highly I think of the other parts of the Bill, I believe, and cannot help hoping, that that circumstance will defeat the whole of the measure when it is put before the electors next year.
.- I feel that, as a representative of the people of Australia, and especially as one attached to that great army of toilers whose interests we claim to have at heart, it is my duty to express my admiration for the measure now before the Chamber. If the 13th April last produced nothing more than the passage of this Bill, broadening our powers for the purpose of controlling those conditions which are specified in, and yet not provided for, by the existing Constitution, it would still have done for this country a work which no other election day has even approached. I entertain no such fears as those which have been expressed by other honorable members regarding the inclusion of the railway men in the measure. It is absurd to say that, because we include railway men within the scope of this constitutional amendment, we are going to take the control of the railways out of the hands of the State authorities and assume their administration. The whole matter is clear enough to any one who knows why it was asked that the railway men should be included. On a former occasion, this Parliament endeavoured to bring the railway servants under the arbitration laws, and the High Court decided that that could not be done. The whole argument in this House was, not in the direction of showing that those men should not be included, but related more to the question of the powers which the Constitution gave us to so include them. As we are in a majority to-day, we “are carrying out our promise to make it possible for these men to have the same protection from the Industrial Courts of this country as is extended to other men who are earning their livelihood in other and different occupations. The effect of this measure will simply be, when a dispute arises in a State, or in more than one State, to give the Federal Arbitration Court the same right to decide it as was exercised by that body under constitutional authority in the shearing dispute. If the Federal Arbitration Court had never done anything but settle for four years the periodically-recurring trouble among the bush workers of Australia, and allay the constant strife, bitterness, and hatred engendered between employer and employe” in the great pastoral industry, it would have fully justified its creation. If railway men go out on strike, and it will only be in the last extremity that they adopt any such course, the Federal Court will intervene simply for the purpose of allaying the friction, and not to increase it. This will be an instrument whereby we can bring to bear the pressure of the Federal power, in order to restore peace and contentment in the service. I am heartily in accord with the full text of the amendments moved by the Acting Prime Minister. I believe that the fears which have been expressed on the other side of the House as to the operation of this law will in time evaporate, but the good that will come out of this measure, not only for those engaged in industries, but for the consumers as a whole, by remedying injustices and controlling monopolies, will be incalculable. In fact, this is the most important piece of legislation that has yet been brought forward, or even suggested, in this Parliament. Its ramifications reach to the farthest ends of all matters affecting the daily life of the community, whether toilers, employers, or the public generally. Believing that the measure will bring peace where there is now warfare, bring justice where injustice now exists, rectify inequalities, alleviate suffering, and make Australia the most happy and prosperous nation on the face of the earth, I give it my heartiest support.
– I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that this is the most important piece of legislation that this Parliament has so far had to consider. Perhaps that is why there has been what amounts almost to a conspiracy of silence on the other side of the House with regard to it. With the exception of the able speech from the Acting Prime Minister, honorable members on that side have contented themselves with more or less irrelevant interjections. They have made no attempt to debate the question on its merits. Let it go on record that, during the whole course of the consideration in this House of these great fundamental changes, those honorable members who are the means of sending them to the country have never deigned to enlighten the country regarding their effect. The little that has been let fall has all been in the direction of showing how absolutely unnecessary many of these changes are. For instance, the honorable member for Cook’ to-day criticised the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I heard him for about five minutes, and in that time I think he used the word “ idiotic “ at least ten times. “It is idiotic,” he said, “ to suppose that we shall use these powers when we get them.”
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member said it was idiotic to suppose that, because they were asking for these large powers, they would therefore use them all.
– I did not say that. I said we were not necessarily going to the full extent suggested.
– The honorable member said it was idiotic to suppose that we should necessarily use them. In a Federation which consists of a nice balance and adjustment of powers between two sovereign entities, it is idiotic to take powers that you are not intending to exercise through their whole range.
– The honorable member is misconstruing what I said, as he always does.
– Will the honorable member hold his tongue? I admit that the idiocy of the honorable member is beyond my comprehension.
– You cannot tell the truth.
– I require that insulting observation to be withdrawn.
– I did not hear the expression, but I ask the honorable member to withdraw it, and discontinue these interjections.
– In deference to your ruling, sir, I withdraw it, but I ask that the honorable member should withdraw the reflection that he cast upon me.
– I withdraw it, of course. I wish to notice two reasons which have been alleged in the short addresses delivered from the other side as to the need for taking greater central powers for the settlement of these large disputes. The honorable member for Cook used, yesterday, as an illustration, the strike at Newcastle, and the railways of the various States carrying blacklegs to break down that strike. Am I correct in the facts?
– No; the honorable member was not present at the time.
– Then was the honorable member talking about blackleg coal ?
– I am not allowed to repeat what I said.
– Here, then, is the honorable member imagining, as illustrating the necessity for the exercise of this great central power, a condition of things in which union men strike because blackleg coal is being used. The honorable member, in effect, says that we require a central power so as to insure a hee passage over the railways of coal, hewn by blacklegs who travel over the railways for the purpose.
Mr.J. H. Catts. - That is not true!
– I ask the workers of Australia to note the reasons of their champions for the exercise of this central power. To-day the honorable member for Maribyrnong referred us to France, where there has been a Titanic struggle; but with what result? Owing to the exercise of the central power, which the honorable member says we require here, (he Premier of France has been able to defeat the unionists who provoked the strikes ; ergo, if the illustration means anything, we require the central power to defeat the unionists of Australia when they attempt to hold up the railway service.
– The honorable member is a champion misrepresenter.
– If honorable members will give such illustrations, it must be shown what those illustrations mean.
– The Premier of France is a Socialist !
-But he is fighting for his life against revolutionary Socialists. He is no longer a Socialist now that he holds the reins of power ; and he has just suppressed a strike of Socialists for political purposes. 1 desire the workers outside to know the illustrations cited bv their champions in favour of this central power.
– For which the honorable member voted in 1904 !
– No ! The honorable member has been told why I so voted, and to what extent; and I hope he will remind the public that the champions behind him voted against us on that occasion.
– I leave that to the honorable member !
– The honorable member may safely do so. However, I shall not be prevented by interjections from saying what I have to say this afternoon.
– The honorable member Ls taking a mean advantage.
– I shall take care that the honorable member and his friends do not take any mean advantage.
– The honorable member would not take a mean advantage if I had my way.
– I must ask the honorable member for Melbourne Ports not to continue his interjections.
– Why does the honorable member for Maribyrnong compare France with Australia, seeing that the State of New South Wales alone is onethird larger than that country? What analogy can there be except that which points to the wisdom of controlling these industrial affairs over small areas? The only two illustrations in favour of the extension of this power would seem to show that it is required for the purpose of repressing strikes by unionists.
Honorable members are asked to support proposals in which they do not believe, and, on the other hand, to vote against proposals in which they do believe; and that is fair neither to the House nor to the country. The honorable member for Flinders cordially supports the first proposition, and the honorable member for North Sydney supports the third just as heartily ; and yet both are compelled to vote against the Bill, because they disagree with the other totally distinct propositions. How, under the circumstances, can this be regarded as a fair referendum? This means of appeal to the people should be used only for the purpose of enabling them to express their opinion in a clear and definite way, and so receive from them a definite instruction, and to that end the proposals should be separated, leaving the alternative of voting for or against each. To use a popular slang term, this referendum is being “ faked,” but I fancy that, before the fight is over, the facts will tell more against the supporters of this proposal than against those who oppose it. In my judgment, this referendum would give no definite result of a useful character. It will not give us merely, as stated by the Government, the power to grant new Protection and regulate prices ; that is only an infinitesimal portion of the power sought. It will not only give power to control trusts, because very much more is asked for. We, on this side, are as strongly in favour of a power to control trusts and monopolies as are honorable members opposite. If there is one thing on which we are all agreed, it is that those huge monopolies shall not get their tentacles into Australia, as they have, unfortunately, got them into the United States. But we are not given an opportunity to vote on that question alone, and the referendum is being loaded for the Socialistic purposes of honorable members opposite. Combines, in themselves, are not invariably harmful, but are sometimes good, seeing that they embody the co-operative principle which honorable members opposite are always lauding, but which they will not leave free of interference, even when it is operating harmlessly. The proposal of the honorable member for Angas to limit this power to monopolies which operate inrestraint of trade, was not accepted ; all combines, good or bad, must be put under the Socialistic ban. The Ministry are not concerned whether they get this strong central power for the purpose of usefully governing Australia. Their concern is whether this power will help them in conjunction with their confreres in the State Parliaments, to further the Socialistic ends they have in view. That, in my judgment, is the first and last object they have in view, and not the balance of the constitutional machinery having regard to the requirements of a free and progressive country. They are seeking to make this Constitution an engine for the realization of their Socialistic projects, and, believing that to be the case, I shall, with the greatest cheerfulness, vote against their proposals this afternoon.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the House.
Bill read a third time.
– Before laying on the table the report of the Inspector-General on the action of Colonel Sellheim in connexion with the strike of markers on the Williamstown Rifle Range, I desire on behalf of the Minister of Defence to read the following statement : -
Lieut-Colonel Selllieim has apparently acted in accordance with the Regulations in taking the action he did, but in accordance with Military Standing Order 3 should have immediately reported the occurrence to the Central Administration, and he is to be called upon to explain whyhe did not take that action.
Whilst the Regulations apparently permit of the action taken, it is extremely inadvisable that members of the Permanent Forces, Naval or Military, should be subject to be ordered by an officer to take part in industrial disputes. I therefore desire that the following new Regulation under the Defence Act be promulgated : -
The Regulations under the said Act relating to the Military Forces of the Commonwealth (Statutory Rules 1908, No. 60), are amended by inserting therein, after Regulation 198, the following heading and Regulation : - “ Permanent Forces. - Industrial Disputes. “ 198A. No member of the Permanent Military
Forces shall be ordered or required to do any work or to act in the place of civilians who have refused to work because of some disputes as to wages, hours, or conditions of labour, unless and until the matter has been referred to the Minister, and his consent to the Permanent Military Forces doing such work has been obtained.”
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: - Defence Forces and Industrial Disputes- Employment of members of the Royal Australian Artillery in place of the Williamstown Rifle Range Markers.
Census and Statistics Act -
Regulations (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1910.
Regulations- Householder’s Schedule- Additional particulars.
Order of Business- Telegraph Poles - Bullfinch Communications - SubCollector of Customs at Gladstone. Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General) [4. 5]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Our intention is on Tuesday to take, first, the third reading of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, and to deal afterwards with the Lighthouses Bill, the Patents, Trade Marks, and Designs Bill, and possibly the ‘Post and Telegraph Bill. If there is any time left after we have got through these, we shall take private members’ business for the rest of the evening.
– Some of the replies given this morning by the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to questions asked by me respecting an attempt which has been made by his Department to charge the Sutherland Council for the removal of telegraph poles were, according to my information, entirely incorrect. The alignment of the road in which the poles have been erected has, I understand, not been altered, nor has its original width been increased. It is the practice in sparsely-populated districts to align the roads to the full statutory width, but to make only so much as is needed for immediate traffic, extending the traffic space to the full width as necessity requires and finances allow. I object to officials putting into the mouths of Ministers misleading replies whose object is to cloak the responsibility of Departmental officers.
– I ask the Postmaster-General to proceed with the construction of the new telegraph line to Bullfinch as rapidly as possible. Information is to hand that the Western Australian Government is spending about£15,000 in providing a water supply and other facilities there, and that a railway is to be taken to the field; but neither telegraphic nor telephonic communication has yet been given. Probably there will be 5,000 or 6,000 persons there, even before the line can be surveyed. I need not remind honorable members that the want of rapid communication imposes very severe hardship and inconvenience, not merely on speculators, but also upon those who are present on the field conducting ordinary business. A very serious situation will arise if something is not done, and I hope that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General will urge him to take immediate steps to provide communication.
– Something should have been done before this.
– The right honorable gentleman, when Premier of Western Australia, set the Department an example, which ought to be followed in all such cases. As soon as information reached him regarding the discovery of a new goldfield, he dispensed with all red-tape formality, despatched survey parties to the scene, had a line surveyed, and by the time that a new find had been proved, it was in telegraphic communication with Perth.
– Has a Deputy PostmasterGeneral power to do that?
– No. But delay on the part of the Department will be used as an argument against the centralization of government, and this being an exceptional case, the Minister should take immediate steps to supply the required means of communication. There should be no waiting for confirmation of reports. Evidently a great, new gold-field has been discovered, and within a few weeks there will be an enormous and rapidly-increasing population there. I need say no more to impress upon the Minister of Trade and Customs the importance of immediate action.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs a telegram that I have just received from the Mayor of Gladstone, informing me that the Town Council has passed a resolution protesting against the abolition of the office of subcollector of Customs at that town. Gladstone is an excellent port, but its progress has been retarded, and it has been kept from public notice, mainly by the political and other influences at work in Brisbane, which have also prevented the advancement of other Queensland ports. I can understand the abolition of a sub-collector’s office where all that is to be done is merely to examine
Inter-State certificates, but Gladstone is an oversea port. I do not know whether the Minister in agreeing to the abolition of this office has overlooked that fact, but in any event I should like him to explain the circumstances to the House, and to give an assurance that this office will be continued.
– In reply to the honorable member for Lang, I have only to say that I read the official reply furnished by a Department with which I have practically no connexion. It was given to me as correct, and I assumed that it was so. The honorable member for Coolgardie can rest assured that the Government will do all in its power to sec that the people of Bullfinch are brought into direct communication with Perth as soon as possible.
– Has nothing been done yet?
– Yes. Honorable members will recollect that on Tuesday last I stated that the Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia visited the field about a week ago. I think that he went there some three days before the honorable member for Coolgardie raised the question in the House, with a view to ascertain what facilities could be afforded. Since the honorable member for Coolgardie brought this matter forward, I have been informed by the Minister of Home Affairs that he has authorized the setting apart of a certain sum for special services in this locality. The money will be paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account, I presume, and I am sure that the Housewill indorse such a payment in view of the extraordinary conditions that we have to meet.
– Is the money to be spent to provide a telegraph line?
– I cannot say at the moment, but I promise “the honorable member for Coolgardie, and the right honorable member for Swan, that I shall bring before the Postmaster-General - whom, I am sure, we were all pleased to see in his accustomed place for a few minutes this afternoon - the representations that have been made. My honorable colleague realizes the importance of bringing this new field into direct touch with the rest of Australia as soon as possible. In reply to the honorable member for Capricornia I wish to explain that, with the abolition of InterState certificates, the Department of Trade and Customs is dispensing with officers whose services are thus no longer required. Within the last few weeks we have closed sixoffices in Victoria, and are not pursuing in Queensland a policy different from that adopted in the other States. Where the services of an officer can be used to better advantage at one port than at another, it is the duty of the Department to make a transfer. But, if Gladstone is an oversea port, I think the honorable member may take it for granted that the office there will not be closed, and that proper facilities will be afforded for the convenience of the trading community.
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101028_reps_4_58/>.