4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to correct some figures I used last evening. I then stated that the coal output for which the Vend was responsible was 150,000 tons; I should have said 1,500,000 tons.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Imports, Rates of Duty payable, Local Production, Wages and Salaries paid, and Percentage of Local Production in certain Industries,1908 to191 1 - Statements showing, for -
The State of Victoria.
Patent Medicines- Report by H. C. O. Will gerodt, Acting Federal Analyst, on Medicinal and Tonic Wines.
Ordered to be printed.
General Post Office, Perth- Particulars of Lands acquired for site, and of the prices to be paid therefor.
-I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether the circular which was to be prepared by the British Medical Association for circulation in connexion with the administration of the Maternity Allowance Act is yet ready. If so, will he make copies available to honorable members?
– Two or three members of the first rank in the British Medical Association are. drawing up a document for submission to the Treasury. When it has been approved, it will be printed, and made available, with the other literature that we are sending out. We hope to have it ready soon.
Amendment of Constitution - Trial by Jury.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether the Government intend to amend the Constitution of Papua, with a view of making the Legislative Council wholly or in part elective, instead of nominated as at present ?
– Time will not permit it to be done this session, but it will be one of the first things to be dealt with next session.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs ascertain whether it is a fact that Europeans in Papua are denied trial by jury, a right given to them all over Australia ?
– I shall make inquiry.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether the Government have taken, or propose to take, into consideration the submission to the people by way of referendum of a seventh proposal, namely, an alteration of the Constitution making the Commonwealth the sole borrower for Commonwealth and State public purposes?
– The powers of the Commonwealth dealing with State debts is an evergreen subject, and will remain so until authority is given to this Parliament to deal with the whole question in a broad and comprehensive way in the interests of the people of Australia. When the honorable member for Ballarat was leading this side of the House in 1909, and proposed an amendment of theConstitution dealing with the question,I said, on behalf of the then Opposition, that we would support him in asking for any power he thought necessary. The question submitted to the electors, however, went no further than giving the Federal Parliament power to take over all the debts at any time. The matter of a seventh question has received consideration, but we at present think six questions enough for the people to deal with.
– I wish to ask the
Leader of the Opposition why his party let the Estimates go through without discussing them from a protectionist standpoint ?
– I do not like to continually call the attention of honorable members to breaches of the Standing Orders, but the honorable member has offended in this manner before. I ask him not to put a question of the same kind again.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he made any arrangement with the Opposition for allowing his Estimates to go through without the discussion of the great question of Protection ?
-I made no arrangements with any one, but, as on two previous occasions, was fortunate in getting the Estimates of my Department through without debate.
– I am sorry that I was not in the chamber at the time.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a recent decision delivered by Judge Heydon in the New South Wales Industrial Court, instructing the Chairmen of Wages Boards as to the basis on which awards should be made, and reversing the principles of Mr. Justice Higgins’ judgment in the Harvester case? Will the honorable and learned gentleman obtain copies of the decision, to make it available for honorable members, so that they may compare it with the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins?
– I shall make inquiry, and see if that can be done.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
About three years ago a departmental committee was appointed under the auspices of the British Board of Trade to inquire into bankruptcy law and its administration. A copy of the findings of this committee should be in the hands of every member of Parliament, for they are the last words that have been uttered upon this important subject ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Further additions to the staff have already been approved. On 31st October last, 75 per cent. of the officers of the New South Wales staff had obtained this year’s recreation leave, and provision was then made so that the remaining officers might be satisfied before 31st December next. I will inquire whether there has been any alteration in that respect.
Allowances to Receiving Officers at Railway Stations - Insulated Chambers on Contract Steamers - Cost of Mail Bags.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiry is being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The desired particulars will be prepared ana furnished for the information of the honorable member.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Mr. TUDOR (for Mr. Frazer).- Inquiry is being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The proposal before the House is to amend paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution, which empowers the Commonwealth to make laws in respect to -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
The history of our efforts at legislation under that power has been most varied, disastrous, and almost pathetic. The judicial halls are strewn with the wreckage of the legislation that this Chamber has made under that power. When one contrasts the actual results of our efforts with that pictured in the inspiring and eloquent dissertation of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat when introducing the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, one must indeed sadly admit that the most emphatic prognostications and designs of men are futile. The honorable and learned member drew a most fascinating and pleasant picture. He declared that the Arbitration Act was to inaugurate a new era ; that disputes were to disappear ; that the reign of law and of harmony would replace that of strife and confusion ; conditions uniform and bounteous were to prevail throughout the length and breadth of this land. The facts are so very remote from such a picture, and are so well known to honorable members as to require no comment from me. It is sufficient to say that the Act has been riddled by High Court decisions, and its usefulness reduced almost to zero. And yet, as the President himself has said, such a Court can be of the greatest possible service to the Commonwealth. But, as the Constitution stands, this is impossible.
It is therefore proposed to replace paragraph xxxv. of section 51 by one empowering the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to -
Labour, employment, and unemployment, including -
the terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, or calling ;
the rights and obligations of employers and employes;
the maintenance of industrial peace ; and
the settlement of industrial disputes.
First it has to be noted that this proposal differs from that which was presented to the House in 1910 in relation to industrial matters. This is more definite, and it does not extend to employment on State railways. In other respects it is not, in my opinion, wider; possibly it is not as wide. It gives the Commonwealth power to make laws in respect to labour, employment, and unemployment. It declares that included in that power, whatever it is, the Commonwealth has authority to make laws in respect to “ the terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, or calling.” What those words precisely connote it is not easy to say. But I think that they include power to make laws in respect to the conditions of employment of all persons engaged in any manual trade; in any industry, such as, for instance, shop assistants and, say, persons engaged in clerical occupations. They do not enable the Commonwealth to make laws in respect to’ persons engaged in the learned professions ; I think it clear they are excluded. Subject to this, the proposal empowers the Commonwealth to make laws in respect to the terms and conditions of labour and employment of all persons, whether engaged in any trade, industry, or calling. It gives power, further, to deal with, the rights and obligations of employers and employed. That, for example, will enable this Parliament to* pass a Workmen’s “Compensation Act to provide for insurance against accidents, against injuries received in the course of employment; in short, to make such a Bill applicable to the whole country, as was lately passed here applicable to the Commonwealth Public Service. With regard to paragraph (c), “the maintenance of in dustrial peace and the settlement of indus. trial disputes,” those powers will enable us to make such laws as will create a Conciliation and Arbitration Court clothed with power to deal with industrial disputes when they arise ; and to take such action as may be necessary to prevent them from arising. That is the effect of the amendment proposed in this Bill.
Now, in support of the proposal, it may be observed that this question of industrial powers goes to the very root of one of the great problems of modern life. Industrial unrest is one side of the greatest problem which confronts modern civilized man. The other side is the control of the economic sphere by trusts and combines and great aggregations of wealth. That these are the main cause of industrial unrest is, I think, undeniable. The economic development of our age is amazing. It is, in fact, revolutionary. It is safe to say that, although sometimes it is said that then; is nothing new in the world, modern methods of production are entirely new. In the very nature of things there never were conditions at all analogous to those now surrounding us. Men are very much as they always were, and I suppose as they always will be. But in regard to methods of production, the whole process has changed, and changed fundamentally. This change has proceeded in a definite direction ; broadly speaking, towards centralization of economic effort and the control of production by coteries and combines of individuals co-operating for their own benefit. Necessarily, the industrial conditions which were suited to times when the control of industries was in the hands of various competing employers are now quite out of place. Yesterday I quoted some instances in America and Australia showing the extent to which combines had replaced competition in both countries. I showed that the Steel Trust, for example, controls 95 per cent, of the crude steel output of America; the Standard Oil Trust controls 86 per cent, of the mineral oil output; the Coal Combine in Australia controls 90 per cent, of the coal output ; the Shipping Combine controls 90 per cent, of the means of sea carriage, not confined to coal freight, but extending to all freight.ings ; the Colonial Sugar Refining Company controls 93 per cent., and, for all practical purposes, too per cent., of all the sugar used by the people in the Commonwealth. Although more notorious than others, these cases are not by any means singular. For, in this age, and in this country, too, we have arrived at a time when the industrial and economic destinies of the citizens are controlled by a handful of people. Now, unless these are subject to effective control by the laws of the country, the power that they thus exercise
Over worker and consumer - that is, over the .whole country - is a menace to the vital interests of the community. The industrial peace of the country depends entirely on the payment to the labourer of a fair and reasonable wage for his work, and on his being able to carry on his work, whatever it may be, under decent conditions; in short, on his being treated as a civilized man in a civilized community. The welfare of the consumer depends on his being able to purchase commodities at a fair price. All industrial strife arises through one of these two essentials not being insured.
For the last decade, or, perhaps, a little longer, there has been in vogue in this country and New Zealand a system whereby industrial disputes have been referred to legal tribunals. In New Zealand and Mew South Wales these are what are known as Arbitration Courts, while in Victoria Wages Boards have been preferred. The main principle underlying these tribunals is the same; it is the reference of a dispute, or the determination of what the conditions in any industry shall be, to or by a legal tribunal. It is not contended for a moment that the adoption of this principle has prevented industrial strife. Unhappily, strikes have been seen in this country, and also in New 7-ealand ; but it is fair to say that the system of arbitration, which is a step in the direction of extending the domain of law over a sphere from which it . has been for ages barred out, has been, on the whole, a success; and he would be a bold man who would advocate a .return to the preceding conditions. . We have to make up our minds whether we are in favour of arbitration. That being done, we ought, if we favour arbitration, to make the system effective. Whether arbitration be applied by means of Wages Boards or of Arbitration Courts is a matter of expediency to be settled by discussion ; but the principle of settling disputes by reference to legal tribunals is one to which, I take it, this Parliament, at any rate, this party, is committed. This principle has been very largely applied in nearly every State, with the exception of Tasmania, where, I understand, but little use has been made of it. But elsewhere its application has been general. Although the arbitration laws do not yet cover the whole industrial field, we every day have industrial tribunals of one sort or another considering the conditions of labour. Much good work has been done. But it can not be contended that the conflicting authorities are capable of effectively dealing with this question. The question is whether the present system, which prevents the Commonwealth from dealing with disputes other than Inter-State disputes, is one which makes for the preservation of industrial peace. Is it calculated to secure those conditions which make for industrial peace? I take it that it can never be contended that it does so. Let us consider the position. Before the Federal Court can move there has to ‘be an InterState dispute; that «is to say, a dispute that goes beyond the boundaries of one State. Disputes generally originate inside one State, and the common-sense method is surely to deal with any dispute in its early stages. This principle applies to disputes between nations ; and it is now recognised that the dispute in the Balkans, which could at one time have been put to an end by the stretching out of one powerful hand, cannot now be suppressed by all the nations of Europe acting in concert. There is a time and tide in the affairs of industrial men which “ taken at the flood “ permits of effective treatment; but, that time being missed, nothing further is to be done than to sit impotently by and watch the conflict wear itself out. That is our position, and it sufficiently illustrates the futility of the Commonwealth Court and Parliament at the present time. We have to sit with folded hands and wait until a dispute gets outside one State before we can begin to interfere. Very often, when it does get outside one State, and so satisfies the Act, it spreads with the rapidity of lightning to other States, and the whole continent is involved. Then, although we have jurisdiction, we generally can do nothing. Tt is too big a job to be settled by any Court. What is required, and admittedly required, is a power to deal with industrial disputes in their infancy - that is to say, when they arise.
Here I should like to deal with one phase of this question that the honorable member for Ballarat is continually putting before the House and the country. I mean the assumption that the grant of this power to the Commonwealth would involve an attempt to control by this Parliament all the industries of the country from Yass-Canberra or some other place. He assumes quite gratuitously that we should prescribe uniform conditions for all sorts and conditions of men throughout Australia without regard to local conditions or circumstances, which practical men of affairs always recognise, which the Arbitration Court now recognises, and which in any case will compel recognition in spite of any Parliament or of any tribunal. He is beating the air. Nothing can be further from the intentions of this party, and I am sure nothing can be further from the intentions of this Parliament, if endowed with such power, than to attempt any such foolish thing. What we want is power to preserve industrial peace ; not to promote industrial strife; for it is a very obvious thing that the best way to promote industrial strife would be to bring about a dead-level of uniformity regardless of those local or geographical conditions that prevail all over this great continent. The circumstances of a man in the Gulf of Carpentaria or Port Darwin are entirely different from those of a man in Hobart. The conditions applying to a man in Western Australia are entirely different from those of a man in New South M’a.les. We all admit that. It is self-evident. But what we are here to do, if we can, is to endeavour to secure to every man a fair and reasonable wage, having regard to what he does, where he does it, and how he does it. This power, I say, ought to be a national power. This does not involve the abolition of State tribunals. I wish to emphasize this in the strongest possible manner.”
We are asking for power to deal with all disputes and all industrial conditions, for the preservation of industrial peace, but it by no means follows that we intend to supersede State tribunals when these are able and willing to deal with industrial matters within their jurisdiction. What we wish to do is not to supersede State tribunals. We wish to supplement them. Our object is to set up machinery which will insure fair industrial conditions for all citizens in Australia. If these are secured by State tribunals, good ; if they are not, there ought to exist some tribunal by which these can be secured. It is for this purpose that we require greater powers. Our authority now is quite in adequate. Not only is the Arbitration Act which touches the utmost limits of our power at present futile, in that it is necessary to wait until a dispute extends beyond one State; but when the Court gets jurisdiction!,, its powers are emasculated. It has, for instance, no power to make a common rule. Yet this is a fundamental principle of any effective industrial law. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced in 1904, it was certainly thought by those who were responsible for it that we had power to make a common rule. The Act as originally passed expressly provided for it. The honorable member for Ballarat, as reported on page 790 of the Parliamentary Debates, 1904, said, amongst other things -
Shearers, seamen, miners, and others embraced in large associations will be afforded’ an opportunity to submit their grievances to an impartial Federal Court, whose finding will, I believe, be binding, not only upon those engaged in the dispute, but also, I anticipate, extend to others in similar employment throughout Australia. That point has yet to be established; but I venture to think that the Federal authority will extend so far. The powers included in the Bill, where they relate to private employment, seem to be ample. lt was clearly, then, in the mind of the gentleman who introduced the measure, that it provided for the common rule. Without it, proceedings are almost indefinitely prolonged; expense is heaped up, and industrial peace jeopardized. It would be easy to show that at the present time the Court is congested to a very large extent owing to the difficulty of dealing with disputes for this very reason. Uniformity is secured only at the expense of very great waste of time and expenditure of money. In one case on the list now - the Builders’ Labourers case - there are hundreds of employers, each one of whom is a party to the dispute, and has to be served with notices. If each of those employers exercises his right - and no one could criticise him for so doing - justice would be indefinitely delayed. The common rule power is essential to an effective Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
Again, the power to prevent disputes is wholly outside the jurisdiction of this Court. To prevent a dispute is infinitely better than to deal with a dispute when it arises. We do not want to wait until a dispute occurs. A dispute arises from definite causes. Those causes are not always the same. But they are generally known. There ought to be some means by which a Court can interfere to prevent threatened industrial disputes in exactly the same way as the law interferes in regard to civil disputes. If a man contemplates an assault upon another, that other, if he knows of it, has a remedy. He need not wait until he is actually assaulted. But the Industrial Courts of this country are placed in a position which is little more hopeful than the position of the Hague tribunal. The Hague tribunal is one upon which the sun of publicity streams occasionally with very great and illuminating effect. We hear orations from very great men about the benefits of peace. But those orations are from time to time drowned by the clattering of millions of bayonets and the deliberations of the tribunal are overwhelmed by the roar of parks of artillery. The Hague tribunal has been established to decide disputes between nations, and if it is ever going to decide them, it must have at its disposal some power to enable it to deal with disputes before they become acute, and it must be able to compel the reference of disputes to its jurisdiction. Talk about national rights, such a connexion is meaningless. That is not denied in relation to International arbitration. But when we come to deal with industrial disputes, there seems to be a surrender of those powers of judgment and foresight which in other matters are freely exercised. When we ask for powers to preserve industrial peace, we are met with cries of “ State Rights.”
That this power for which we are asking is not beyond precedent, and that it is clearly a national power, I propose shortly to show. In the first Parliament the honorable member for Melbourne North- now Mr. Justice Higgins - submitted the following motion : -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to acquire (if the State Parliaments see fit to grant it, under section 51, sub-section 37, of the Constitution Act), full power to make laws for Australia as to wages and hours and conditions pf labour.
The motion was supported by honorable members on both sides of the House. It was accepted by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Barton; the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Sir William McMillan, and the honorable member for Laanecoorie, spoke strongly in favour of it, and it was carried unanimously. The honorable member for Gippsland ‘ pointed to this in the course of the debate on the 1910 proposals. It is indeed most instructive to note that, even at that early stage in the history of the Federation, it was realized that this Parlia- ment ought to have full control of industrial matters without limitation of any sort.
As to the method of obtaining that power mentioned in the motion, the honorable member for Angas, in a memorandum prepared by him when Attorney-General, pointed out that the proper way to secure an amendment of the Constitution was not to approach the States under section 51, paragraph XXXVII., but to proceed under section 128 of the Constitution, as we are doing now. He pointed out very properly that section 51I paragraph XXXVII., applies to matters affecting only one or, two States, and not to matters involving the whole. It is admitted, upon the authority of these leaders of Federation, therefore, that we ought to have this power. The House, as I have shown, voted unanimously for it in the first session of the first Parliament. What has changed the opinion of the gentlemen opposite ? It is true that some of them dien occupied the positions now held by us, and the political atmosphere, therefore, assumed a quite different aspect. Dreadful shadows now pass over the political screen and horrify honorable members at the very mention of a proposal the beauties of which they eloquently portrayed but a few short years ago. Time works many wonders.
The honorable member for Ballarat, In 1909, went to Toowoomba and delivered there a speech to which I desire to refer in connexion with the question of the surrender of powers by the States. The State Premiers have lately been considering the surrender of certain powers to the Commonwealth. They have not been able to agree. Nothing, therefore, is possible in this direction. Yet this appeal to the States has always been a favourite scheme for shelving propositions for amending the Constitution. The honorable member for Ballarat, speaking at Toowoomba in May, 1909, said -
Mr. Fisher appears to aim at assuring something like the regulation of the whole of the industrial operations of the Commonwealth. For that we believe there is not a present demand. We feel that if we deal with the protected industries and justify its application to them it will be time enough to consider the extension. The Opposition, on the other hand -
The Opposition was then represented by the party led by the honorable member for Parramatta - in the matter of the new Protection, appear to offer us nothing but to promise inquiry and persuasion to be exercised by the Commonwealth upon the States. Judging by the results of persuasion in the past in that direction, the prospects were not extremely hopeful.
That was the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Ballarat in 1909 ; that was his view of the attitude assumed by the honorable member for Parramatta - an attitude he has now himself assumed. The honorable member for Angas quite indorsed his view so far as the settlement of our difficulties by appealing to the States to surrender powers are concerned. It was, he said, not a proper way to settle the difficulty. And his leader said it was not a hopeful one.
The honorable member for Ballarat declared, as I have already pointed out, that the State Wages Boards, good as they were, were not sufficient. He said that -
The standard of these tribunals appears to have been determined on the basis of a minimum wage. The aim of the proposals about to be outlined is more ambitious.
He went on to say that -
Effective and useful as State industrial laws have in many cases proved, their operation is circumscribed by State boundaries, and it can hardly be claimed for them that they either do or can secure uniformity in the conditions of manufacture throughout Australia. No authority but the Commonwealth Parliament can do this, and the attempt to do it in the way that has been outlined is in fullest harmony with the Federal aims and character of the Constitution.
There we have a recognition of the futility of State tribunals to secure necessary industrial conditions throughout Australia. That statement appeared in his first memorandum. The second memorandum was issued after the decision of the High Court in Rex v. Barger, that we had not power to deal with industrial conditions under the Excise Tariff Act. In this second memorandum he said -
As the power to protect the manufacturer is national, it follows that unless the Parliament of the Commonwealth also acquires power to secure fair and reasonable conditions of employment to wage earners, the policy of Protection must remain incomplete.
There we have another admission - in truth a frank and unambiguous declaration - of the fact that it is the business of the national authority to deal with this matter. It is perfectly true that he, proposed to deal only with protected industries. I do not know how one would distinguish a protected industry from a non-protected industry, but the honorable gentleman proposed to refer the matter to the Inter-State Commission. The Commission would no doubt make inquiries and report, and the Parliament, acting upon its recommendation, would take action in respect of protected industries. To what extent the entire field of industry is protected I shall not pretend to say. Very few industries are not in some degree affected by the Tariff, and to whatever extent they were this principle would undoubtedly apply. The honorable member for Ballarat thus undoubtedly proposed to invade State rights, to take away from the States the power to pass industrial laws in respect to all protected industries. “All protected industries,” at a very moderate estimate would represent at least 50 per cent, of the whole of the industrial life of Australia, and the honorable member proposed that the Federal Parliament should exercise supreme sway over that sphere. Yet his was a Federal proposal while ours is unfederal !
I desire now to point ‘ out how inadequate that was, and is, to deal with the present situation. He says that uniformity is desired. How does he propose to secure it? Is uniformity to be secured by dividing the industrial sphere into halves, and by saying to those who are protected, “ The Commonwealth will insure you decent conditions,” and to those who are not protected, “ The States will settle your conditions.” In that proposal there is such an utter lack of appreciation of the facts relating to modern industry as to make one almost despair of those who enunciated it. If there is one thing more than another that is clearly appreciated it is that uniformity of conditions is the most effective way of securing industrial peace. The honorable member for Ballarat admitted that. He said that in order to secure uniformity it was necessary to appoint a national tribunal; but he proposed under his scheme to leave the industries that were not protected to the State tribunals which he says cannot secure uniform conditions. If the States cannot secure uniform conditions and cannot secure proper conditions for the protected industries neither can they secure them for the unprotected industries. That being so his scheme fails, and his proposed amendments of the Constitution are quite inadequate.
The honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Wimmera, went far beyond the proposal made by the honorable member for Ballarat. They were .prepared to give full industrial powers to the Commonwealth. The honorable and learned member for Flinders proposed to give to the Common- wealth Parliament the power to make supereminent industrial laws, thus giving us full power over all industries. He was prepared to support the proposal made from this side before it was amended to include the railway servants, and to give this Parliament what this party thought it ought to have. I put the honorable and learned gentleman’s attitude forward as that of an authority upon constitutional law. The honorable member for Ballarat last night quoted the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral for New South Wales to show that these powers go further than is necessary to secure what is wanted. I do the honorable gentleman the honour, as a counter to that, to refer him to the opinion of the honorable and learned member for Flinders who says the exact opposite, and who, as a constitutional lawyer, may be considered, at any rate, the equal of the Attorney-General of New South Wales. I submit further that the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat himself went very much further than the Attorney-General of New South Wales says is sufficient. The fact is that in relation to this proposal it is admitted that no matter can be more important than the securing of industrial peace, that the foremost problem of to-day is the question of industrial unrest; that the powers of the Court are futile, and its efforts to give effect to the powers sought are strewn with the debris of awards and legislation. All these things are admitted. It is admitted by the honorable member for Ballarat that the control of protected industries and of industrial conditions connected therewith ought to be national. I ask the honorable gentleman by what process of reasoning he can say that if the control of protected industries’ is a national matter the control of unprotected industries should be a local matter? If he says that uniform conditions are necessary for industrial peace, how does he contend that the State tribunals that have failed to secure uniform conditions and industrial peace in protected industries are to secure these things in unprotected industries? I ask him to consider the attitude of the honorable member for Flinders who in the most unequivocal way claimed that this Parliament should have the power. Why should it not have the power ?
– The honorable gentleman must relieve me from the time limit if I am to answer all these questions.
– The State Parliaments have this power. The Canadian Parliament, which is a Federal Parliament, has this power, and more than this power. Why should not this Parliament have it? What is there about this Parliament that makes it dangerous to intrust it with a power that is intrusted to every State Parliament in Australia? What is there about this Parliament which makes it dangerous to intrust it with powers which are and have long been held by almost every Parliament in the civilized world with the exception of that of the United States ? Is it contended that this Parliament is not to be trusted? If that be the contention it is a reflection upon the people of Australia who elect this Parliament. But they also elect the State Parliaments. It is a curious condition of affairs if the people of the States, as electors, can exercise a close and vigilant scrutiny of candidates for the State Parliaments, and fail utterly to do so when electing candidates to the Federal Parliament. The electors of the States, acting in their capacity as Federal electors, are as well able to deal with this National Parliament as with the State Parliaments.
The people of the Commonwealth require protection from industrial strife, and fair and reasonable conditions for their labour. It is admitted by the honorable member for Ballarat that they cannot get fair and reasonable conditions from State industrial tribunals. It is admitted that we have not the power to give effect to the principles of new Protection, and that we have not the power to protect the consumer. The honorable and learned member admits all this in the most unambiguous way. Very well; why should not the Federal Parliament have the power ?
The grant of power must be distinguished from the exercise of power. No two things can be more dissimilar. At the present time we have the power to take every penny of every man’s income out of his pocket by process of law under our taxation power. No one could gainsay our authority to do so. An Act of this Parliament, taxing every person in Australia to the extent of 80 per cent, of his income, would be a valid Act, and could be enforced by every process at the disposal of the State. We have many powers plenary in character. We may do what we please, for instance, in regard to defence. If we chose to disband every soldier and sailor, and leave this country supine and helpless, we could pass an Act 10 give effect to that decision, and adopt the principle that they are safest who make no preparation for defence. That would he a valid exercise of our power. If we included in a law relating to bankruptcy the provision that a bankrupt should be liable to decapitation, that would be a valid exercise of our power. If we declared that a man who offended by giving false weights should be put in the stocks, have his ears cut off, or his eyes gouged out, that would be a perfectly valid exercise of our power. If the State Parliament of Victoria to-morrow declared that no football or cricket should be played in this State that would be a perfectly valid exercise of its power. But every man knows that no Parliament would attempt to do such things, because it would not live long enough to tell the tale. Every Parliament is a reflex of public opinion. It is intended to do what the people want it to do, but sometimes it cannot do what the people want it to do. The honorable and learned member is afraid that this Parliament may do something which would be very dreadful. I would point out to him that the history of the only occasion that it did something very dreadful is indelibly written in the records of this Parliament. It is inscribed in the public archives for ever. The honorable member’s name appears prominently on that record. My honorable friends opposite did something with which the people did not agree, and the people, exercising the power that is in them, expressed their opinion of it and of them. It is still a painful subject. But I say that the people would do the same with us in similar circumstances, and very properly so.
If this Parliament abused this power or any other the electors would deal with, it. Therefore, this power is not to be regarded from the stand-point of what a Parliament might do with it, but from the stand-point nf what a Parliament elected by the people will do with it after members have been before the people and have put their programmes before them. How are laws passed? A party goes before the electors and says, “ We are- in favour of so-and-so, and so-and-so.” Another party says, “ We are not in favour of that. We are in favour of something else.” One of these parties is returned to office, and does the things for which it was elected, or tries to do them. Public business has been carried on in that way from time immemorial. The Parliament does not do everything it has power to do, but only that which it has been elected to do. Too often it does not do that. Therefore, to urge that because Parliament is clothed with authority to abuse its powers, it will abuse them, is manifestly absurd.
We come now to another bogy. There is no question of unification or of State rights involved here. The honorable member for Ballarat proposed to’ destroy certain State rights to give effect to the new Protection, but’ he did not say that that was an invasion of the Federal spirit. He did not approach the States and ask them to grant the powers which this Parliament required, because he said it would be hopeless to do so. He proposed to ask the people to clothe this Parliament with the necessary authority. He was perfectly right, because the State Premiers, after a lengthy period of incubation, have brought forth nothing. They could not agree. Three agreed, but three would not.
This amendment, if agreed to by the people, will truly represent the opinions of the majority of the people. It is not easy to amend the Constitution. Before this amendment can become law it must receive the assent of an absolute majority of both Houses in this Parliament. It must then receive the assent of a majority of the electors voting in at least four of the States. Therefore, if this power be granted to the Commonwealth, it will be granted with the deliberate assent of an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia. That cannot be denied. The honorable member for Ballarat spoke of an amendment of the Constitution as if such a thing had never been attempted. But he is the greatest offender in that direction. He had the Constitution amended twice, and desired to amend it a third time. It was the Labour party who stood like a bulwark against the third proposed amendment of the Constitution, which we thought, and still think, was a most improper one, and one which would have fettered this Commonwealth financially in a manner in which it ought not to be fettered. He declared that we were not to be trusted. Time has passed, and has refuted his statement. We did what we said we would do, and the pledges given by this party in relation to industrial matters are as much to be relied on as are. their pledges in regard to other matters. It is, indeed, the chief offence urged against this party that they have done what they said they would do. That is a charge which can never be laid against any other party.
I come now to another phase of the honorable member’s proposal. He proposed to amend the Constitution to give us power to obtain uniform conditions in protected industries. He proposed to give us power to protect the consumer. I say that his proposed amendment, if it had been adopted, would have proved futile. It would not have accomplished the object which he had in view. I challenge him to show how the consumer could be protected under his proposal. I ask the constitutional lawyers in his party to say in what way the consumer could have been protected. The consumers of an article upon which a Customs duty is levied are not confined to persons who are engaged in protected industries. Sugar is protected. But although I eat sugar, it does not follow that I am employed in a protected industry. There are duties on candles, starch, soap, and on a hundred other things. But these things are consumed by the whole community. Practically, therefore, in order to protect the consumer, under the honorable gentleman’s proposal, we have to protect every person in the community. We must have power to protect all the citizens in the community if we wish to protect the consumer, because all citizens, or nearly all, use protected articles of one sort or another. Where, under the honorable member’s proposed amendment, was there power which would give this Parliament authority to pass such an Act? His proposal was futile, and would not have accomplished what he himself said it was necessary to accomplish.
And yet it must be accomplished. The new Protection was the reason urged why this Parliament should agree to the old Protection. It was the inducement which was held out to many honorable members to pass the Tariff. I confess that it had a very great effect upon me, and I am sure upon other honorable members also. The old Protection has been passed, but the new Protection remains unachieved. The honorable member for Ballarat said that until the new Protection was passed the Tariff was incomplete. What is he going to do about that? He asked for such power under this heading as would enable him to give effect to the new Protection. But his proposal, if accepted by the people, would not do that. That is quite clear. Let me cite an authority. The honorable member for Flinders said it was necessary to have uniform1 industrial conditions throughout the Commonwealth, and to achieve that, this Parliament should have power to make supereminent laws, extending to all industries, protected and unprotected. The honorable member for Ballarat repeated again and again that the objection to our proposal is that we wish to deal with all matters without regard to position or locality. I dealt with that aspect of the question while the honorable member was absent from the chamber. He said that there will be a dead level of uniformity if we are to govern everything from Yass-Canberra, because men, well-meaning, but entirely ignorant of local conditions, will deal with these industrial matters. How did he propose to deal with them? In his first memorandum he proposed to deal with them by means of a Board of Trade, and in his second memorandum by means of the Inter-State Commission. Are we shut out from the privilege of resorting to these perfectly simple and obvious expedients? May we not adopt them too? Has there fallen upon us the cloak of utter futility and stupidity? Are we condemned to do that which, on the honorable member’s own showing, no human being could do? Or may we not follow the simple path to which he has pointed, and regulate things by empowering the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to appoint local authorities to deal with these matters? The honorable member is evidently not aware that that provision has been embodied in that Act from the beginning. And that his proposal is actually the law of the land.
I do submit that if we are not to have this power some reason should be urged against it - some reason which deals with the question itself, and not with some fancied consequences of its application. The amendment as proposed will, in my opinion, give this Parliament power to secure industrial peace by enabling the conditions of labour and employment to be dealt with. The proposal is not indefinite and vague, but definite and precise, aiming, not at doing that which is necessary only in the future, but at doing that which is urgently necessary now. It will give to this Parliament power to make laws to deal with industrial conditions. The abolition of all State tribunals is not contemplated, but the creation of Federal machinery to deal with all industrial matters, where these require to be dealt with, is contemplated.’ Where fair and reasonable wages, and proper and effective industrial conditions exist, no interference is needed, but where they do not exist there should be some machinery for securing them.
I spoke last evening on the manner in which trusts treat their workmen. Some trusts - the Shipping Combine, for example - treat their men well enough, but, generally speaking, where workmen are well treated they are well organized, and what Labour has gained in this country it owes to no trust or employer. Organization has won for it the position which it holds, and neither employers nor combines can say that they grant to their workmen anything that has not been fairly earned by organization. The tendency of the age is towards the centralization of effort ; to-day it is . not a question of dealing with small employers competing for the trade of a small district or town, but with great combines controlling from one centre the whole of the operations of one or of many industries all over the continent. These conditions are developing every day. The individual employer is passing away; he must combine or perish. As time goes on, combination of employers in the States becomes greater combinations in the Commonwealth. On the other side, too, the Labour organizations of this country are for the greater part already federated. A national law is needed to give to industrial agreements the aegis of national authority. A national power is required to deal with disputes in the early stages, when they can be most easily settled, to create and promote such conditions as will prevent the interruption of industrial operations, and to secure that condition of things that we were promised when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was introduced by the honorable member for Ballarat, which experience has shown, unhappily, to be hopeless so long as ‘the Commonwealth remains crippled as at present. I earnestly hope that the proposed amendment will receive the approval of .Parliament and of the country.
– T see no reason to differ from the interpretation of this proposal put on it by the AttorneyGeneral, because while stating what he considers to be covered by the sub-section, he was particular to say that he could not absolutely declare what the particular words mean. Possibly the proposal would enable the Federal Parliament to deal with labour irrespective of employment. The leading words are “ labour, “ “ employment,” and “ unemployment.” If the proposal was to be confined to the relations of employer and employ6, the wording would naturally have been “employment and unemployment of labour,” but as it is not, the proposal may be interpreted as affecting general control over labour as well as over the relations of employer and employed Dealing with the relations of employer and employe’ it covers every calling. Each word in sub-section a may be entitled to the same significance ; no one of them should be regarded as determining the class of the whole. If. that be so, the measure applies to every trade, industry, or calling, and would cover not only the relation of employer and employe” in clerical and industrial pursuits, but the employment of musicians, and any attempts to convert the Wagnerian discords of the State into one universal paean of joy throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and create a symphony in which, all could take part. It would cover every calling embraced in the relations of employer and employ^, and in that respect would have a very far-reaching influence. I do not wish to analyze the provisions of the Bill at this stage. It is sufficient for my purpose to say that its scope is exceedingly wide, and must involve a large extension of Federal power at the expense of at least the industrial powers of the States. The Attorney-General . mentioned the desirableness of having a statutory tribunal to prescribe fair and reasonable conditions and wages for employes in industries. With that aspiration we all agree. Our conditions are artificial and complex, and, remembering the vital interests involved, we cannot leave the relationship of employer and employe” tocontrol what ought to be the standard of living in developing communities such as ours. It is between both parties merely a question of the best method of t attaining what we regard as the common end. TheAttorneyGeneral thinks that the extension of the central power is the proper method, and drew what seemed to me a somewhat sophistical analogy from the extension of international treaty agreements. So far as the governing of international relations by treaties can affect the consideration of” the matter before us, it tends to support the limitation of the power to Inter-State matters rather than its extension, because in international relations there is no internal application of a common rule, the agreements affecting merely the relation of” nations inter se. The question that arises is whether they are to be settled by the arbitrament of the sword or by some judicial method sanctioned by the countries concerned. One of the first considerations that strike me in connexion with this alleged impasse which the Attorney-General says has been reached in the operation of the Commonwealth industrial laws is that we are attempting by arbitration to compass something which legitimately, and, as a matter of common sense, does not belong to it. I say legitimately, because arbitration was never intended to be a means of assuming the industrial power of the States. And on that point it is sufficient for me to refer, as the Attorney-General has referred to the debate in this House, to one of the debates in the Federal Convention when Mr. Higgins proposed the adoption of this power of conciliation and arbitration. If I remember rightly it was Mist proposed in wider terms, lt was to be an industrial power, not the power of conciliation and arbitration, for the settlement of industrial disputes. At all events, it was cut down, and it is significant that Mr. B. R. Wise, who was one of the initiators of the system of conciliation and arbitration in Australia, at once discountenanced any attempt to encroach upon the industrial power of the States. On that point he said, in the Adelaide Convention, at page 786 of the Hansard report of the debates -
There is no matter which the industrial population of Australia would more desire to confine to the local Parliaments, where they can make their influence upon members felt, than matters affecting industrial disputes. To give the Federal Parliament power to make laws affecting industrial disputes gives them authority to regulate by penalties every detail of the industrial life of every trade in the colonies. Surely that cannot be desired or intended. There is no matter in which varied local development is more necessary or desirable to a State than the development of its industrial conditions, and the industrial conditions in every part of this continent in years to come may, and probably will, very largely develop.
So far then as to authority. If the authority of a member of Parliament in 1901 was to sway one’s judgment now, equally I think that the authority of one who has helped to frame the Constitution may, with some relevancy, be quoted to affect the judgment of honorable members. When 1 said that, apart from the intended scope, the power has been strained to uses which it cannot legitimately compass, I meant that we could not, from one centre, regulate the diverse industrial- conditions of the continent. Why, sir, figures like these are as eloquent as anything can be on this point : In the Commonwealth there are 13,822 manufacturing industries employing 286,831 hands, paying ^24,000,000 in wages, and turning out products, including some hot purely manufactured, of the value of ^121,000,000 out of a total production of ^187,000,000. We axe now asked under the proposed industrial power to regulate the whole of the conditions from the Federal centre.
– Not necessarily.
– We are asked to get power to do it, and in determining the maintenance, or the extension, or the restriction of our organs of government, the point is whether, if this power were exercised, it would be properly exercised by the central or the State tribunal. I am testing it on that ground. It -is no wonder then that the Arbitration Court, however well it has compassed the immense difficulties set before it by setting up a fair minimum standard of wages for the guidance of employers and employes, has had a Herculean task. I do admire the principle of some minimum wage. It was preached, not only in this country, but years ago in the Old Country. It formed part of a papal encyclical. I notice that one of the dignitaries of the Church of England, at Home, recently emphasized the necessity of a statutory standard being prescribed under conditions which we all read were deplorable. In connexion with the railway strike in England it was proved that over 100,000 of the railway employes were receiving less than £1 a week as their wages. Parties do not on any point differ as regards what the end to be attained is. The question is the efficiency of the method. The position of the Arbitration Court, then, is that down to the 31st December, 19 ti, out of nineteen plaints submitted, there were only nine awards, the other cases being settled or withdrawn. The hearings occupied 313 clays; the Shearers’ dispute took no less than 68 days of the President’s time. There were also 126 industrial agreements entered into. That is, from the middle of December, 1904, to 31st December, ion. These figures alone are eloquent as to trying to impose upon a tribunal like that the obligations of a common rule, which was rejected as not being lawful, in order to lay down the industrial conditions of the continent. And, whether you take the power over or not, you will be obliged to leave the States either your tribunals, or, better, as they are at present, their own tribunals to deal with this mass of conditions. Mr. Justice Higgins referred to this matter, though I dare say his leanings might be, speaking from my recollection of him as a politician, in the direction advocated by the AttorneyGeneral; but he did state, in order to prevent misapprehension as to what arbitration means, in the Bootmakers’ case, that he had no power to make a code, that his was a Court for the settlement of industrial disputes, not for framing a code of labour rights for the continent. We have heard something about the regulation of prices. It was asked what the Leader of the Opposition would do to regulate prices, and how he would protect the consumers. Summing up the suggestions for the constitutional amendment, which, personally, I recommended, as the Attorney-General mentioned, in lieu of a delegation of power from the States, to carry out the policy which was considered by the last Ministry, and which, probably, would have been determined had they remained in office, it was pointed out as part of that amendment that, in exercising powers under such laws, the Commission should take into account the difference of economic conditions in various parts of the Commonwealth, and have due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers, and of the public generally, so that there was within the purview of that policy a condition aiming at the protection of the consumer. As regards this new Protection, it has never yet been brought to the test of close argument. We all aspire towards it, but the point is - which is the means to attain it? If honorable members think that they are going to grade off the wages of an employe or the profits of a manufacturer in relation to all the items in the Tariff which are protected, I am afraid that they are a little more sanguine of the powers of human or political capacity than I am. In other words, we have to shade the profits according to the balance of Protection enjoyed under the relation of the duties on the raw material and the finished article, in each of the 900 or 1,000 items in the
Tariff. What we have to do is to see that the intention with which the duties are imposed is respected by both sides ; and the Canadian method, under the Act of 1910, I think, is, when it is found that the Tariff has resulted in raising prices to the detriment of the public, to suspend, abrogate, or diminish the duty. I do not wish to go into that Act in detail, but that is the principle ; and to my mind it will be ultimately found that, instead of prescribing wages and the profits of capital according to the amount of Protection - which would have to take into account the conditions of competition at the particular moment right throughout the Empire and the world - the method of bringing men, who do not recognise the legitimate rights of labour, to their senses is by operating directly through the duties which we impose. The AttorneyGeneral has mentioned that, since the tendency of the age is towards centralization of effort, there should be national power to deal with the position, and he asks generally why that power should not be given. I shall, for a few moments, refer to the expediency of reapportioning the powers in the direction that is inevitable if the proposal be proceeded with of giving a unitary character to our Constitution. To my mind a Federal system is more likely to be marred than improved by grafting any foreign material - by interfering with the basic principle on which power has been apportioned. There are two considerations in connexion with Commonwealth powers. These are given, primarily, for common and effective defence, and, next, with a view to the promotion, where it is legitimate, of uniformity or standardization. As to uniformity and standardization, the field for its application is comparatively limited over the continental sphere ; and it seems to me that any undue extension of our powers with a view to continental standardization must eventually raise the question whether unification would not be the,better system of government for Australia. I deliberately say that, on the whole, it seems to me that that would be the better system; that it would be more logical and more consistent than a system such as we should have if these amendments are carried - a spurious system containing foreign admixtures, and disregarding the essential relations, under a Federal system, of national and State powers. A unitary system would be less expensive, less open to the evil of the duplication of powers, less cumbersome and less liable to the political and judicial friction we have heard of, than a system which disregards the essential differences. It would absolutely prevent the possibility of that indefinite limitation of sphere which the AttorneyGeneral mentioned yesterday as one of the so-calied evils of the Constitution as it stands. At the same time, I ask honorable members to bear in mind that patriotism has always been most intense, and has flourished best in comparatively small spheres. The Balkans, I think, are teaching us that lesson, and also that, however diverse in many respects nations may apparently be for the moment, they become united under the compulsion of necessity for one common defence, or one common system of aggression. The President-elect of the United States, when dealing with suggested amendments of the American Constitution - or the “judicial straining” recommended by Roosevelt as a means of accomplishing the same thing - said that we must remember that the States are the ordinary Governments of the country, and that the Federal Government is the instrument for particular purposes. The Presidentelect went on to say, at the commencement of the last campaign, that he was opposed to adding greater scope to the central Government at the expense of the atrophy of parts of the body.
– That was before the President-elect was converted to progressivism.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon; I am reading a. report from an interview in The Outlook about eighteen months ago. We must beware of attenuating allegiance, loyalty, and patriotism by expanding the sphere of our national spirit over a continent, or, perhaps, too wide a recognition of the possibilities of Imperial nationalism. Only last Sunday I was reading something about a little State of which the world has heard much, Greece ; and we are here told that Pericles, in one of his great speeches over the dead who had fallen in defence of Athens, said, “ Let us draw strength, not from the ofttold argument of how brave and noble a thing it is to show courage in battle, but from the busy spectacle of our city’s life as we have it before us day by day, falling in love with her as we see her, and remembering that all this greatness she owes to men with the fighter’s daring, the wise man understanding of his duty, and the good man’s self-discipline in its performance - to men who, if they failed in any ordeal, disdained to deprive the city of their services, but sacrificed their lives as the best offering on her behalf.” In such a matter as this, neither Liberalism, Conservatism, or any other ism is involved. The question is what is best ; and the view I take, and seek to establish, is that Democracy and liberty will flourish most if we do not extend the unitary principle over the continental area. At all events, I submit the suggestion for consideration.. Democratic or popular Government is the only one consistent with the march of the times; but to me the problem is how to best apply it consistently with liberty - how to preserve the rule or the decision of the majority consistent with the play, application, and expression of the minority opinion. On this point I should like to quote a few lines from Lord Acton, who, from the outside, with his eagle eye and high intelligence, has, almost from the beginning, studied the comparative merits of systems of government. He intended to write the history of liberty, and his authority therefore ought to have great weight -
The distribution of power amongst several States is the best check on democracy. It is the protection of minorities and the conservation of self government.
In his lectures, recently published, on the French Revolution, Lord Acton said -
The true natural check on absolute democracy is the Federal system. It is the one immortal tribute of America to political science, for State rights are at the same time the consummation and the guard of democracy.
He mentioned that as a reminder of how America had solved the great and difficult problem of dividing the power of a Democracy in two. Let me quote the opinion of two great Americans, one perhaps their greatest jurist, and the other their purest, if not their greatest, statesman; I mean Marshall and Lincoln. The one with early, and, perhaps, unripe experience, but with marvellously clear-eyed prescience, and the other having behind him the record of about sixty or seventy years of troubled national life, dwelt on the effect on the one hand of continental unification, and on the other of the promiscuous blending of types - such as these proposals would give us. “ No political dreamer,” said Marshall, “ was wild enough to think of breaking down the lines which separate the States, and compounding the American people into one mass.’’ And Lincoln said at the time of the Civil
War, “ I declare that the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially of the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and extension of our political fabric depends.” Again, Burke, in 1797, and Isaac Butt, in 1873, made similar affirmations. They were both Imperialists. There is no man who can for one moment be compared in the range of his political information, his capacity for expression, or the tendency of his sound instincts for Imperialism with Burke; and he preached the principle of Federal autonomy, “ The right of domestic legislation in all Irish affairs. “ The same thing was said by Isaac Butt in 1873. There must be some limit, as they well knew, to the systematic application of the principle of unification. It is for that reason that even now, whatever may be the opinions on both sides - and there may be legitimate room for difference of opinion on this point - we find the Federal nexus advocated for the reapportionment of the relations of the parts of the United Kingdom!.. Mr. Asquith said, speaking at Dublin on 19th July last -
The new Constitution will pave the way for the complete application throughout the United Kingdom of the principle of federalising, which was neither understood nor known in the days of Grattan’% Parliament.
He pointed out that between 1891 and 1910 out of 1,100 odd public Acts passed by the Imperial Parliament, only about One-half - 550 - referred to Imperial matters and matters of general concern. The rest dealt with matters of purely local concern, better dealt with by local bodies. What do we find going on even in the Imperial Parliament, notwithstanding the comparatively limited geographical area over which its legislative power extends? We find that the right of public criticism is gradually going. Matters are developing into an executive or bureaucratic system of government. A test of that statement is afforded by some figures. In 1903 votes to the extent of about ,£3,718,000 were passed under the closure. But in 1910 votes to the extent of £52,238,000, and in 1911 to the extent of £67,046,000, were passed under the closure, and practically without discussion. Let me take another instance of the futility under our modern complicated legislative conditions of attempting to rule from one centre. Of 388 Govern ment measures passed through the House of Commons in ten years ending in 1909, sixty were finance measures, and they may be left out of the reckoning. The remaining 328 occupied 483’ days;, and of the 328, 318 were only allotted 276 days - not one day each for the discussion of measures many of which were important. The greater number of them, it was slated by a writer in the Round Table, were “huddled through their stages in the small hours of the morning, or amid the week-end listlessness of a. drowsy Friday.” Again, between 1900 and 1910, private members introduced 3,175 Bills into the House of Commons. Nearly all that were passed were noncontentious. Every Bill which was contentious had to be shelved because no time could be given for its consideration. I ask honorable members to say that when this great continent - now, as I suggested, quoting Burke, but a “ germinal principle “ of what it will be, remembering what America was 130 years ago - attains part of its destiny, and, as I hope will be the case, has a population of some 10,000,000 instead of 4,750,000, what hope would there be of a central Legislature sitting in YassCanberra dealing effectively with the complex and increasingly complex relations of the whole people? I say we must degenerate into what is the greatest curse that can afflict a nation - a community with an impaired national vitality and a complete loss of individual initiative; and this degeneracy must . end in mere executive or bureaucratic government. My theme, therefore, is that even the granting of general powers of this kind, not on grounds of clear necessity, is not federal, and that in time it may destroy true representative government, whilst the control of Parliament will be given over to the Executive. To quote Prentice, a writer on the commerce power -
To turn over to a single Legislative body the vast intricacies of social life throughout the country would be to abandon the effort for good municipal and State government, and once for all to entrust local fortune and progress to external’ authority.
We are dealing with six States, one of which, New South Wales, has been mentioned as being twice the size of France. Queensland is still larger; South Australia is larger still ; Western Australia is about three times the size of France. That is the geographical area which we are going to regulate on some standardized or uniform principle. I have already said that
I believe that this means making our type of government mixed and unworkable, and that, therefore, the tendencies manifested must develop towards Unification. I say, moreover, that I prefer that to a type that is spurious in the apportionment of its powers and not logical. We are dealing now with an Australia that may eventually become a continent with a population of 60,000,000, 70,000,000, or 100,000,000. Remembering that America, when its thirteen States federated, had a population of only 2,000,000 or 3,000,000, and that those States have now developed into a colossal federation of forty-six or forty-seven States, with a population of practically 100,000,000, we must recognise what centralism means. Doubtless, the time may come when our Federal union may pass into Unification. The time may come when the menace of the East - referred to in the second of an excellent series of articles by Professor Harrison Moore, in this morning’s issue of the Argus - or the changed relations of western powers may subordinate every other consideration to that of defensive strength ; or, perhaps, some new system of government may be conceived and presented for acceptance as at once recognising the sense and fact of local interest and diversity, and the growing continental consciousness of common nationality, and, in most of the relations of daily life, complemental aptitudes and similar points of view. But the coercive force of external danger is not yet, if it ever is to, come; and in this medley of disjointed proposals, pitched at the House and the people without the inherent recommendation of originality or principle, or the compulsion of clear necessity, we have much that is inconsistent with federalism, and little that really should appeal to the sense, so far as it exists, of Australian citizenship and corporate responsibility. A recast of the relations of the States and the Central Legislature on some logical, consistent, if revolutionary, lines is one thing; a modification of system by piecemeal and inconsistent amendments is quite another. It is bad policy to reapportion the powers without attempting to recast the machinery - to gradually take from the States practically all their reserve powers of substance while leaving them the empty autonomy of six expensive Legislatures with that standing invitation to mischievous meddling which arises when dignity is divorced from power-
That seems to be the logical development of these proposals. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has referred by way of interjection to Canada. Canada is practically a Unification, but it has to be classified. We cannot possibly deal with the comparative merits of any particular form of government without considering its history. It may be said generally that, in British Dominions, the forms of government adopted have been military government, Crown colony administration, representative government, responsible government, and then, as has been mentioned by a writer in the Fortnightly Review, either Union or Federation. We adopted Federation, whilst Canada adopted a form of government that really is coloured by Unification, and will have to be classified as one of its types. In the case of Canada there was clear necessity for strong central government. They began with Unification.
– Is there no necessity for strong central government here?
– I shall deal with Canada first of all, if the honorable member will permit me, not that I do not desire to reply to interjections, but because I must have regard to the limitation of time. In 1763, when the Peace of Paris ceded Canada to Great Britain, the Canadians were of one type. About 17 91, when Puritan and American immigration added the English - Ottawa - element to the French .settlement of Canada, Pitt set up two colonies, but he found that they would not mix. In 1840, after, I think, the Rebellion, Lord Durham recommended in his report that the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, Quebec and Ontario should be united in one unitary form of government. That system lasted until about 1865, but it contained the elements of disunion because, as was said -
Race, religion, and tradition all combined to keep apart two peoples ‘who had never really united.
The result was that when government became practically impossible owing to the number of Ministries that were being formed - I think that no less than five Ministries were formed within two years - Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick suggested some form of union. The necessity for strong government became paramount over every other consideration, and the first suggestion made was for the adoption of the unitary principle.” Sir John McDonald, who advocated it, said -
If we could agree, to have one Government and one Parliament, legislating for the whole of these peoples it would be the best, the cheapest, the most vigorous, and the strongest system of government we could adopt.
They went as near to such a form of government as the circumstances permitted. It is somewhat significant, however, that the discontent which prevails at present in Canada, and, as I can show, in South Africa, is directed largely against the growth of centralization under the type of government that has been adopted. I find that the Economist, in April of this year, referring to the discontent of Manitoba, British Columbia, and Alberta, said that they complained of inequality in the pressure of the Tariff, and that they regarded a Highways Bill, introduced at Ottawa in March, for Federal improvement of roads 011 the basis of population - part of the powers we shall transfer under this amendment of the Constitution if it be agreed to - as a dangerous interference with local government. The South African Commission, which was appointed shortly after the Union was consummated in 1912, reported, in effect, against centralization. As put by one critic -
The tendency of the country is to insist on decentralized administration, as urged by all the Commissioners.
So much, then, for the tendency towards, and probable working of, unitary forms of government. Both the majority and the minority report laid stress on the necessity of avoiding centralization, which must be the inevitable result of the adoption of the proposals before us. I wish now to say a few words on the commerce power in relation to the measures before us. As I said yesterday, these proposals are cumulative and, to some extent, complementary. The commerce power covers all trade combinations in restraint of or in any way affecting trade. It also covers part of the corporation power, because we can incorporate for any purpose of our commerce, or other express, powers. It covers part of the conciliation and arbitration powers independent of the special provision in the Constitution. It ^touches the monopoly power, and it probably also gives some of the labour and employment power, if we are to trust to the decisions on this point in the United States. Even if we omit this commerce power, the others specifically cover a great deal of the intended field. One thing is proposed by this Bill dealing with the commerce power which seems to me extraordinary. I could understand, in deference to the States, leaving out the control of the commerce of the railways within a State, though, as I mentioned yesterday, that must lead to confusion. But the Government are seeking to get direct power to control the State operations of the competitors of the railways. We have not that power now. The Constitution is consistent now, because it does not seek to control the railways within a State, and neither does it seek to control competing curriers within a State. The Government now propose to extend our power to enable us to prescribe the conditions under which private carriers shall do their work within the States, whilst leaving absolutely to the State legislation the conditions applying to their great competitors, the State railways. I shall leave the Government to reconcile that policy to the electors on the hustings. Ought this power to be taken over ? Originally this commerce power was given to prevent interference with the freedom of trade between the States, and to prevent discrimination between port and port. That was the sole object of the commerce power. Let me quote upon that point Willoughby an the Constitution -
There can be little question that the chief and possibly the entire purpose of the commerce clause was, with reference to Inter-State commerce, to empower the Federal authorities to prevent the States from interfering with the freedom of commercial intercourse between themselves. But, being granted without qualification, except as to preference of the parts’ of one State over those of another, extrinsic evidence may not be resorted to in order to give to the grant a meaning narrower than that can convey.
That is to say, the words cover more than what he says was probably the sole object of the commerce power, and as such their wider scope must be recognised by the Courts. In our Constitution that invasion of Inter- State control is, to some extent, covered by section 92. There is no such provision in the American Constitution. The section referred to declares that there must be freedom of trade, intercourse, and commerce between the States after the passing of a uniform Tariff, and that all political arrangements which interfere with that are absolutely ultra vires of either the Federal or the State Parliaments. The present apportionment of the commerce power is fairly clear and consistent. It leaves the States one sphere that cannot be touched by the power of the Commonwealth. They know exactly what they are doing when they legislate. They can establish commercial enterprises of any kind, and develop industries under a certainty that there will be no meddling from outside with what they establish, because they have an exclusive power in relation to part of the commerce power. They have power, in the words of Cooley, “ over all the infinite variety of matters which are of local interest exclusively.” There is no power over them which is concurrent with the Commonwealth power. The principle is that, where a power ought to be national, as a matter of policy, it is regarded as exclusively in the Commonwealth. Take, for instance, Inter-State commerce. The decision in the case of Brown v. Maryland, referred to by the Attorney-General, was that where the regulation of commerce clearly ought to be on one uniform line the interpretation of the High Court should be that it is part of the Inter-State power which is directed towards uniformity. Similarly, as regards navigation, we were told as the opinion held by the Government of our power that we could in some respects regulate navigation throughout ali seas covered by ships that are within the territorial jurisdiction of either the Commonwealth Parliament, or the State Parliaments, so long as they are part of the waterways that connect the States with one another, although those waters are also, of course, the waters of the different States. The regulation of lights, for instance, is regarded as a matter for uniform legislation, because it would be clearly inexpedient that one State should require a red light to be displayed on one side of a vessel, and that another should require it to be displayed on the other side. Expediency in such matters points to the necessity for uniform legislation. Therefore, it is said that if we are in doubt as to the scope of our powers within the commerce power, and clearly the matter in question is not a purely Intra-State matter, we must be governed by the consideration of what is best, and most consistent with the scheme of government, and if it is desirable to establish uniformity that must determine that the matter is within the Federal power. But if these proposals be agreed to we shall have exclusive power over part and concurrent power over the whole of the field, and no State Parliament can risk any legislation under the commerce power, because, owing to changes of Federal political opinion, commercial or trading industries established, or enterprises begun, may be completely altered in their management by Federal law. I say that this is a promiscuous blending of types that interferes with the logical play and co-ordination of powers under the Federal system. Coming now to judicial interpretation, we were told something about the necessities of judicial expansion. I say that I believe that during the short time the High Court has been established it has recognised the necessity of the interpretation of ideas of principle consistently with the present and developing needs of our times. That is very different from changing the clear extent of powers. The matter is put in America, by Judson, in his last work on the commerce power, in this way -
The powers of government were wisely declared in the Constitution in broad and comprehensive terms, which have proved adequate to the changed economic conditions and tremendous development of commerce between the States. These forces have compelled a judicial recognition of the latent Federal power in the commerce clauses of the Constitution. These influences will doubtless be felt in the future as they have been in the past. Questions of the day which are now crowding for solution growing out of new business conditions, the development of great combinations both- of commerce and labour . . . will bring new legislation, and doubtless, in time, influence the judicial construction of the commerce clause in the application to new conditions, which demand an effective Government control.
And he welcomes - as we all do - this socalled Federal legislation, which really is not more than a judicial recognition of the conditions of the time in the application of any particular principle. He says -
The broadest judicial conception of the Federal power in Inter-State commerce is illustrated in the comparative unanimity of the recent decisions of the Supreme Court in the application and enforcement of the commerce clause recalling therein the unanimity of the Court in the great constitutional decisions of our early history, and contrasting with the close divisions of the Court of a more recent date.
The reference of the Attorney-General yesterday, according to Judson, would be more in point in the case of the earlier developments of the interpretation of the commerce power which, I will show, arose from the attempts of the State, rather than of the Federal power, to encroach upon the province of Congress. As a matter of fact, both in Canada and the United States of America, the national power of passing legislation has not been seriously challenged in the Courts. Willoughby says -
Not until 1824, by the decision of the Supreme Court in Gibbons v. Ogden, was a clear indication given of the extent of the power granted, and not until the Constitution was nearly 100 years old did Congress begin the exercise of the authority granted to regulate affirmatively commerce between the States.
Not until 1887 did necessity compel Congress to exercise any of its powers in relation to commerce between the States. Is not that significant of the necessary limitation, as a matter of political expediency, of the central power in relation to commerce? It is pointed out that since then the chief Acts passed were these Anti-Trust Acts - the Sherman Act of 1890, and the Regulation of Railway Rates Act 1906, together with a number of police regulations, such as safety appliances, hours of service of employes, monthly reports of accidents, arbitration of controversies between railroads and their employes, exclusion of impure goods and lottery tickets, and employers’ liability. So that, on the whole, there has been very little legislation called for. There are other matters to which I might refer, but I shall have to leave them for some other occasion. I will do what the honorable member for Ballarat did yesterday, namely, refer to the excellent synopsis given by the honorable member for Bendigo in one of his speeches of the particular items which are at present the subject of State legislation, and which will fall within the competency of the Commonwealth Legislature if these proposals are carried. There has been too little time available to enable me to more than suggest the direct scope and probable development of these co-related and far-reaching proposals. But to the electors is due a clear, concise, and exhaustive statement of their probable effect. Personally, I think that two of the powers sought are consistent with the Federal principle, and even if not recommended by grounds of Federal expediency, might have been accepted. I refer to the power in relation to trusts and in relation to corporations. But, unfortunately, they are parts of associated proposals of much wider significance and scope ; proposals which are in all cases extreme in extent, unitary in scope, and which, to me, have been recommended by no adduced considerations of necessity and principle. If adopted, I believe they will constitute a large step towards the development of centralism, which I have already described as one of the growing and crying evils of our time, and they will certainly interfere with the purity and consistency of the Australian Federal type. If there is to be a reapportionment of our powers, I would suggest that we may, perhaps, regard as an ideal system one which, based first and last upon effective defence, recognised the possibilities of development with population of our State diversity, and the comparatively small field open for Federal standardization. That may eventually call for a Legislature certainly not large in numbers - it may or may not consist of two Chambers - with few, but far-reaching and paramount, powers - powers to be exercised not often and felt more in administration than legislation - but which should appeal to the highest qualities of statesmanship, balanced acumen, generous consideration, urbanity of expression, and, to some extent, an Imperial, as well as a National, breadth of view. To me it seems that there is no other logical and consistent meaning between that and Unification, with the creation of subordinate State or municipal agencies. Such are the impressions, if not the faith and conviction, of one who, an Australian to the backbone, has risked some misconception by availing himself of what seems a meet occasion to avow them.
.- While I enjoyed the interesting speech of the honorable member for Angas, I regret that he did not pay more attention to the Bill which is now under consideration. He commenced his remarks by affirming that it would be a dangerous thing if the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court were vested with power to control the industries of the entire Commonwealth. I wish to point out by way of reply that that Court has already exercised such a power, and in many cases with the most beneficial results. For instance, we have an award of that Court which applies to’ the pastoral industry from one end of Australia to the other. That award has been in existence for some time, and has given entire satisfaction. There has been no dispute notwithstanding that it embraces the whole of the States. Now the pastoral industry, as honorable members must recognise, is of a varied character. It employs different classes of labour, and yet the award of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court has been such that there has been no dispute in that industry. I venture to say that had five or six different awards been made in reference to that industry things would not have worked so harmoniously as they have done under a uniform Federal award. That industry is now working effectively under the Commonwealth award, and it is one of the most important industries in Australia. The experience thus gained should stimulate us to give the Commonwealth Arbitration Court power to deal similarly with other industries, and I hail with pleasure this proposal for the amendment of the Constitution to enable that to be done. Most honorable members will admit that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should have power to make a common rule applying to every industry coming before it. Even in New South Wales, where the AttorneyGeneral and other leading men opposed the alteration of the Constitution, it was admitted that there should be a common rule applying to all industries extending throughout the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Angas did not refer to this matter, but I credit him with being in favour of a common rule. The seamen of the Commonwealth are working under an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court fixing their wages and conditions, and that award has been loyally obeyed. There has been no dispute for several years past. The stewards and cooks are working under another award which has given satisfaction. Those facts constitute an answer to the objection of the honorable member tor Angas that it would be impossible for one Arbitration Court to deal with all the industries of the Commonwealth. ‘When the New South Wales boot industry went before the State Court, it got an award of 9s. a day for labour of a certain class, but it was shown that similar labour in Tasmania was paid only 6s., and in Queensland 7s., or less, and that if the award were pressed the New South Wales manufacturers would be undercut by those of the States in which lower wages were being paid. In such a case the Commonwealth Court should have power to make a common rule applying to the whole industry throughout Australia, putting all engaged on the same kind of work on the same footing, and preventing unfair competition by the employment of cheap labour.
– Would the honorable member bring down some wages or put up others?
– I would leave that to the Court to determine after ascertaining the cost of living in the various States. It would not be necessary to make wages uniform in all the States. Living might be more expensive in Western Australia than in New South Wales, and the Court would have to tale into consideration cost of living, house rent, and so forth.
– Would you reduce the pay of the miners at Coolgardie to suit the conditions at Cobar ?
– I do not propose to reduce any one’s pay, but to give to the Commonwealth Court the power to regulate wages from one end of Australia to the other.
– Does the honorable member think that that would give satisfaction ?
– I think so. The awards of the Commonwealth Court have already given satisfaction in several industries. The waterside workers are carrying on their business under an award of the Commonwealth Court. They are not men who take things lying down, and have secured good conditions by their organization and fighting powers. Their associations are federated, and are all working “under a Commonwealth award.
– Their employers can pass on the extra cost by increased rates.
– Any increase of cost is always passed on to the public, the companies concerned paying dividends all the same. Why should not the Commonwealth Arbitration Court have power to make a common rule for the boot industry as well as for the waterside workers? But, after thousands of pounds had been spent in bringing a case before the Commonwealth Court and Mr. Justice Higgins had made an award, the High Court held that he could not make a common rule for that industry. The result was that the Wages Boards in the various States had .to be appealed to, and had to make the same award as Mr. Justice Higgins had made. This Parliament cannot be really a National Parliament until it has power to give the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the right to make a common rule with regard to all industries, and I hope that of the proposals before us this, at least, will be agreed to.
– Would the honorable member rest satisfied with that?
– No. The honorable member for Angas did not say what he thought of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court having the right to make a common rule.
– In speaking on the Arbitration law I said how it could be done.
– ls the honorable member in favour of it?
– I cannot express my position by a mere interjection.
– The proposal to amend the Constitution to give Parliament the power to enable the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to make a common rule where necessary should be generally acceptable. Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The honorable member for Angas quoted the opinions of some eminent men as to the effects of concentrating power in one place, and contended that such a policy is opposed to Democracy and democratic government. That idea, I think, can be carried too far in view of the fact that we have at present a. High Court, the jurisdiction of which extends over all the States, with power to decide questions which are raised in any part of the Commonwealth. It is not a bad principle, in my opinion, to have a central power to finally decide on a great variety of questions that may arise in a Federation. If it be undesirable to leave the supreme industrial power in the hands of a central authority at Yass-Canberra, why not apply the argument to the High Court ? f take it that the object of Federation was to unify and concentrate in regard to certain matters.
– The High Court has only an appellate jurisdiction.
– And so would the Arbitration Court. I point out, further, that old-age and invalid pensions are controlled from the Treasury, and this has been found to work fairly well - much better, at any rate, than if each State dealt with the matter within its borders. Further, the naval and military forces are controlled by central power, with agents and representatives in every State town anr! hamlet for the purpose of carrying out the policy of compulsory training; indeed, this is the only effective way in which the defence forces can be managed. When it comes to industrial matters, however, all sorts of objections are raised, although, as a further illustration I remind honorable members that the Post and Telegraph Department is administered by the Post master- General, from Melbourne.
– The naval control of the Empire is from one centre.
– Quite so. Only recently we passed a Navigation Bill to control all the shipping on our coast; and no one will deny that such an arrangement is better than leaving a matter of this sort to the Governments of the different States. As a matter of fact, as I have already indicated, the Australian people federated because in certain matters they desired central and powerful authority. At the time of the last referenda, Mr. Holman, the present Attorney-General of New South Wales, declared on the platform that in his opinion the States were prepared to hand over certain powers to the Common wealth, and he pledged himself to the people of his State that, if the referenda were defeated, he would take steps to bring about a conference of the State Premiers on the subject. Amongst the powers which Mr. Holman suggested should be handed over were those connected with all industrial disputes, whether local or Inter-State, the regulation of wages in protected industries, the regulation of prices of protected goods, and the control and nationalization of Inter-State monopolies. Mr. Holman assured his hearers that he had enough faith in. the other State Premiers to believe that they would extend these powers which are so necessary for industrial peace and development to the Federal Parliament. There have been various conferences, but the suggestions of Mr. Holman have been “turned down”; and we are left with the Constitution as it stands, with all the judgments of the High Court staring us in the face. Unless the Constitution is altered there will come a time when the Arbitration Court will become so congested with business, and so ineffective, that the industrial classes in the country will lose confidence in it. Such a result would be one to be very much regretted, because I believe the Arbitration Court is capable of playing a great part in the industrial history of the country. The time is past when we should resort to strikes and locksout; but if a proper ideal is to be created in the industrial classes, there must be a Court in which they have full confidence.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the industrial classes have no confidence in the Court?
– I have already instanced the dispute in the boot trade, and have shown how it was ascertained that, while the award in New South Wales was 9s. per day, the wages in Tasmania were 6s., and in Queensland 7s. Had the award been made a common rule for New South Wales, those other States, with their cheap labour, would have been able to flood the New South Wales market.
– As a matter of fact, the New South Wales manufacturer.s are beating the manufacturers of the other States.
– And why? The New South Wales Court found that it could not make a common rule, because to do so would have injured the industry in that State. Judge Heydon advised the trade to go to the Federal Court, in order to get a uniform award ; and this was done at considerable expense, only to find that Mr. Justice Higgins had no power to make a common rule. What is there in this industry that differentiates one State from another? We produce the raw material of leather, and, while the conditions of labour should be the same in each State, the President of the Arbitration Court could not make a common rule. I am sure that the opponents of any alteration of the Constitution will agree that the power which the President found he did not possess should be given in the interests of industrial peace. A common rule has been made in the case of shearers, seamen, waterside-workers, and others, and amongst all these there is peace and harmony. As the State Premiers have refused to surrender the power suggested, we ought to have a right to appeal again to the people, or otherwise we should, in my opinion, be treating the electors with contempt. Mr. Holman deceived the people of New South Wales to a certain extent when he expressed his belief that the powers suggested would be surrendered.
– Would this Government accept the surrender of the powers suggested?
– If the Government are of the same opinion as myself they would take all the powers surrendered voluntarily, and then, if more were required, appeal to the people. We should discuss these matters quite apart from party considerations, and merely endeavour to ascertain on what conditions we can best maintain industrial peace. Since the last referenda, there has been a dispute in the sugar trade which almost paralysed one particular in dustry ; and yet there was no power to ask the Arbitration Court to step in with a view to a settlement. It is a lamentable fact that we are powerless to settle a dispute in a great industry in which we are all interested, and which is so important to the” country. A large number of employes in the sugar industry are spread over the Commonwealth, in New South Wales, Queensland, and elsewhere, and certainly this is an industry which we should have power to control and regulate, apart altogether from the monopoly point of view. There is undoubtedly a monopoly in the trade. We are now bringing down proposals to enable the National Parliament to control monopolies, and in this connexion I should like to point out the extent to which the prices of certain articles have increased since the defeat of our last referenda proposals. Mr. Mcllwraith, a wholesale grocer in New South Wales, has supplied the following facts in regard to the increased price of several items of daily consumption : The wholesale price of oatmeal during the twelve months following the defeat of our referenda proposals increased by ,£125,000 ; the wholesale price of sugar by .£785,000; rice, ,£48,500; * jam, £55,15° i coffee, £19,950; condensed milk, ,£65,100; raisins and sultanas, .£51,200 ; and sago and tapioca, £7,500, or a total increase of .£1,157,400.
– Does the honorable member mean to infer that the defeat of the referenda proposals was responsible for these increases?
– The prices of these commodities have since increased.
– In what way was the defeat of the referenda proposals responsible for the increase?
– The honorable and simple member for North Sydney asks in what way the defeat of our proposals was responsible for these increases-
– Are potatoes a monopoly?
– I did not mention them. Let me deal with the position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Too thin !
– An increase in the price of sugar amounting in twelve months to £785,000 is described by the honorable member as being too thin.
– There has been an increase in the price of all commodities.
– I am aware of that. The point is that when our referenda proposals were defeated the monopolists were able to say, “ There is no Parliament in Australia with power to control us, and notwithstanding that we have been making good profits we shall take full advantage of our opportunity to put up prices before the next referenda.”
– Does the honorable member think that prices should be fixed?
– I am merely showing that we should have power to control monopolies and combines. In respect to these seven items we have been called upon to pay additional prices amounting to nearly a million and a quarter. Can my honorable’ friends opposite say that they represent the people of this country when they sit back and try to block an amendment of the Constitution that would enable us to prevent monopolists from robbing the people of Australia?
– They are supporters of trusts and combines, but they dare not say so openly.
– I am not going to make any accusation against them. They say that there is only “ an honorable understanding.” In reply to a question put by the honorable member for Cook the Minister of Trade and Customs recently gave some interesting figures in regard to the price of Australian butter in London and the Commonweal oh. It is just as well that the people of Australia should know that whilst the price of Australian butter in London, in April last, was 106s. per cwt., in Australia, during the same month, it was 132s. per cwt. In June, of the same year, the price of Australian butter in London was 106s. per cwt., and, in Australia, 130s. per cwt. ; in July it was 107s. per cwt. in London, and 149s. per cwt. in Australia; while in August it was from 104s. to nos. in London, and from 1 2 is. to 130s. in Australia. The people of this country are subsidizing our lal-ge mail steamers - the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company - to the extent of £100,000 per annum in order to secure for our producers certain cold storage space; and advantage is being taken of that provision to keep up the price of butter to the people of Australia who are supporting the industry, and to compel them to pay very much more than is being obtained for Australian butter in London.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the provision of cold storage?
– Certainly not. It is one of the necessities of modern civilization.
– The Opposition are constantly telling us that we never, had a better season than we had last year.
– Quite so.
– A comparison of prices for three months is not sufficient.
– I gave the figures for twelve months. They appear in Hansard.
– What did the Government do in regard to the moisture contents of butter for export?
– We have agreed to extend the maximum from 15 per cent, to 16 per cent.
– The honorable member came down in the most extraordinary way.
– I appeal to honorable members to discontinue these interruptions.
– Since the honorable member for Illawarra has referred to the question of the moisture content of butter for export-
– Order !
– I know that the question is not covered by this Bill, but it would be interesting for the public to know how much they are paying for water in butter.
– The honorable member accuses the farmers of watering their butter !
– I do not; I accuse the dealers of doing so. If we export, say, 100,000 tons of butter, and there are 15,000 or 16,000 tons of water in that quantity, what are the people paying for it?
– What about the bounty on wool tops manufactured in the honorable member’s own constituency?
– That relates, not to water, but to “ the pure merino.” I desire now to point out how the price of wheat has gone up of recent years, and I put these facts before the public so that they may know the position in regard to the defeat of our referenda proposals. In 1901 the price of wheat was 2s. 9d. per bushel; in 1902, 3s. id. per bushel ; in 1903, 3s. id. ; 1904, 3s. 2d. ; 1905, 3s. 5d. ; 1906, 3s. 3d.; 1907, 3s. 4d. ; 1908, 4s. id.; and 1909, 4s. 2d. per bushel. The price has been gradually increasing. The honorable member for Parramatta will recollect that in New South Wales, fourteen or fifteen years ago, a loaf of bread could be obtained for 2 d. To-day, however, although the area under cultivation has increased by some millions of acres, and notwithstanding that we export millions of bushels of wheat, the price of bread to the city consumer is id. per loaf dearer than it was at that time. Is that due to nature or to monopoly? Is it due to nature, or to the manipulations of men on the Stock Exchange and those who rig the markets?
– It will be interesting for the farmers to know that if these proposals are carried the price of wheat will go down.
– I do not suggest anything of the kind. To-day we are in the same position as are the people of the United States. To secure a seat on the Stock Exchange in New South Wales one has to pay £1,000, and it is proposed to raise the entrance fee to ,£2,000. Why should this high fee be charged? The object is to insure that there shall be only a few men in the inner circle to regulate and dictate the price of commodities to the people of Australia, and to be able to make thousands of pounds out of the consumers.
– Who regulates the price of butter?
– It is regulated by one man in New South Wales, and he almost dictates the price in Queensland.
– How does the Stock Exchange regulate the price of wheat?
– It is regulated by those who have a monopoly of the market, just as the American Beef Trust regulates the price of meat in America, and practically throughout the civilized world to-day. In America there is only one buyer of live stock, and one company can dictate the’ price at which it shall be sold. In Queensland we have a gentleman representing that American Meat Trust, which is spending £300,000 to establish works there.
– We are very pleased to see him there.
– I certainly am not. The honorable member for Moreton is very pleased to see a branch of the great meat trust of America being established in Queensland. What has been the result of the operations of that trust in the United States of America? The result is that there is there only one buyer of cattle, and that the man who is not prepared to sell his cattle to the meat trust must keep them, because he can find no other local buyer there. Attempts have been made to break down the trust, but they have failed ; yet the honorable member for Moreton says that he is pleased to see the trust establishing itself in Queensland. It will be a bad day for Queensland, for the growers of stock, and the people generally throughout Australia when the trust gets a hold here, because as soon as it does it will certainly crush them. If there is one thing more than another which should commend this Bill to the people it is the fact that under it we propose to secure power to control trusts that are not in the interests of the people.
– How does the local market regulate the price of wheat, seeing that two-thirds of our production is exported?
-The honorable member affects to be very simple, but he knows that all over the civilized world prices are fixed-
– I do not.
– Then the honorable member ought to see a medical man.
– The price of wheat in South Australia was regulated by a ring of wheat buyers, who deliberately kept down the price to suit themselves and stole from the farmers.
– The honorable member for Wimmera knows that.
– But the honorable member says that the price of wheat is going up.
– I again appeal to honorable members to cease interjecting.
– The speeches made by the Honorary Minister are the trouble.
– The honorable member is just as frequent in his interjections.
– There is one other combine to which I desire to refer, and that is the tobacco monopoly. I take it that we are just as wide awake to the operations of the combine as are the people of the United States of America. In America there was, for a time, fierce competition amongst the tobacco manufacturers ; but ultimately an understanding was arrived at, and the American Tobacco Company was formed. That company controlled the price of the commodity in every part of the United States. Not content with capturing the market of 80,000,000 people - not content with having gained the power to determine the quality and the size of the plugs of tobacco to be sold, without competition from outside - in the United States of America, this combine ventured across the Atlantic and entered into competition with manufacturers in the United Kingdom. There fierce competition raged between British manufacturers and the American Combine, and, after some of the British companies had been completely wiped out, an understanding was arrived at. Then it was decided to form the British-American Tobacco Company, by means of which 48,000,000 people were added to their list of customers. That company dictate the size of the tobacco plugs, the quality of the leaf to be used in them, and the size of the tin tags which are placed upon each plug for the purpose of detracting from the weight of the tobacco in each plug. They then extended their ramifications to Africa, New Zealand, and the Commonwealth. I ask honorable members opposite whether it is fair that this great American Combine which controls the tobacco supply of the world should be allowed full play in this Commonwealth - whether it should be at liberty to dictate to the retailer the profit he shall make, and whether it should be able to encourage a trade in cigarettes which is injurious to the young people of this country?
– Why do not the Government prosecute them?
– That is what I hope will be done after these proposed amendments of the Constitution have been assented to by the people.
– Why do not the States prosecute?
– The States have no authority outside their own borders. We desire that the Commonwealth shall be vested with power to deal with this matter effectively. The Tobacco Combine by removing its head office from Sydney could defeat the object which we have in view, because Inter-State Free Trade must be preserved. My honorable friend knows that very well.
– I know that it is all make-believe. The thing could be easily done if honorable members opposite wanted to do it.
– I can assure the honorable member that if the States could do what he suggests, New South Wales would have taken action long ago. This Parliament has a right to protect the youth of this country. What is the effect of cigarette smoking upon boys? They soon acquire such an appetite for cigarettes that they will do anything to secure them. I am told that certain ingredients are placed in them to create that appetite.
– For the same purpose ingredients are placed in whisky.
– I am not a good judge of whisky. I trust that my honorable friends opposite will recognise the utility of supporting the proposed alteration of the Constitution, with a view to controlling the tobacco industry, and of preventing this monopoly from growing, in addition to giving the local growers of tobacco leaf a chance. We can grow tobacco leaf in Australia equal to that of almost any other country.
– Is the honorable member a smoker?
– No. Notwithstanding the fact that we can grow tobacco leaf in this country, I understand that the BritishAmerican Tobacco Company do not wish to encourage the use of Australian leaf.
– That is not so.
– In any case, we have a golden opportunity. Here we are a Parliament chosen by the people, and the parliamentary machine is ready to giveeffect to the desires of those who sent ushere. That machine has been running very freely. But it is incomplete, because we have not the power to make it run effectively, and we are calling upon honorable members opposite to assist in passing this Bill, so that the motive power may be supplied by the electors at the referenda. I hope that, as a result of the referenda, we shall be able to prevent the people being bled by those who have lately increased, in every direction, the price of commodities. It is a scandal that we cannot at present protect the consumer in respect of articles of every-day consumption. The price of every commodity has been increased. The price of boots and leather has gone up.
– What about potatoes?
– I believe that they have been increased in price, too. They are almost as dear as are Tasmanian apples. Some honorable members have declared that these matters can be dealt with by the States. When the aborigines had full possession of this country they were satisfied to live under primitive conditions. But with the progress of settlement people were not content to live under those conditions. We have discovered gold, we have learned to understand the value of electricity and of all the other forces which add to the productive energy of this country. We are not going to be satisfied with the small machinery which obtains in the State Parliaments. This is the National Parliament, and we have the right to go ahead with our legislation with the view of bringing about peace, happiness, and prosperity in the Commonwealth. This Parliament requires greater powers to enable it to make laws in accordance with the will of the people, so that this country shall not be ruled by High Court decisions. I have no intention of reflecting upon the Justices of the High Court. They have to interpret the law as it is laid down in the Constitution. But the Constitution does not meet the requirements of the present day. We have had twelve years’ experience of its working, and if it has been found to be defective we have a right to so amend it that the work of this country may be done in an effective way.
– During the speech of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat I asked if the Government were prepared to accept what was decided upon at the Inter-State Conference of Premiers, whereupon you, sir, said that I ought not to refer–
– Order ! The honorable member will see that if I allow him to make a personal explanation owing to his disorderly act in interjecting, and to another disorderly act on the part of some other honorable member in replying to his interjection, the whole time of the House may be taken up by personal explanations.
– You have told me, sir, that I created disorder. I have no recollection of having done so, and I should like your ruling as to whether an interjection for the purpose of elucidating debate is disorderly ?
– Yes. The honorable member has been long enough in Parliament to know that all interjections are disorderly.
– I do not know that.
– -Whether the honorable member knows it or not, that is so. I am very sorry that during his long parliamentary career he has* not learned that all interjections are disorderly. If they were not disorderly it would not be my province upon any occasion to ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting. In the circumstances I am not justified in allowing the honorable member to make a personal explanation in regard to the matter to which he wishes to refer.
– The proposal immediately before us is to omit from- sub-section xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution, the words - “ Conciliation and Arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State,” with a view to inserting in lieu thereof - “ Labour, employment, and unemployment, including -
It is admitted that the industrial power of the Commonwealth is not altogether satisfactory, and as the honorable member for Parramatta pointed out, it is a fact that at the Inter-State Conference of Premiers a resolution in favour of an extension of that power was agreed to. The powers which it is now sought to take from the States, and to transfer to the Commonwealth, are wide and far-reaching in their effect. I cannot state their effect better than it was stated by Mr. Holman, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, who, in speaking at the Premiers’ Conference, said -
What was desired, as I understand it, was that there should be an effective scheme of Federal arbitration and an effective scheme of new Protection ; and in order to secure that, our friends in the Federal Parliament propounded a scheme which handed over to Federal control every industrial topic that the Federal Parliament chose to legislate upon. I am anxious to put this in a concrete form, and I would like to put the matter to the Conference in this way : The States have an immense body of regulative industrial legislation in existence to-day, much of it, no doubt, calling for amendment and improvement, but still all of it operating more or less effectively. I have in my hand a list of the industrial enactments that are now in force in the State of New South Wales. They include the following : - Agreements Validating Act 1902, Apprentices Act 1901, Attachment of Wages Limitation Act 1900, Butchers Sunday Closing Act 1902, Clerical Workers Act 1910, Coal Lumpers Baskets Act 1900, Coal Mines Regulation Act 1902, Contractors Debts Act 1897, Early Closing Act 1899, Employers Liability Act 1897, Factories and Shops Act, Foreign Seamen Act 1898, Industrial Disputes Act 1898, Labour Settlements Act 1902, Masters and Servants Act 1902, Mines Inspection Act 1901, Miners Accident Relief Act 1900, Minimum Wage Act 1908, Saturday Half Holiday Act 1910, Seamens Act 1898, Shearers Accommodation Act 1901, Trades Union Act, Truck Act 1900, Workmens Compensation Act 1910.
These are the Acts which, if the proposed amendment of the Constitution be assented to, will pass over to the Federal control. The Attorney-General says that it does not follow that if you take a power it will (foe exercised to the full. He says that he only wants to go an inch; but we do not know that the force behind him will not constrain him or a succeeding Government to go yards. To ascertain the extent and effect of a power we must inquire into every legislative act that can be done under it. By doing this we can see what an enormous transfer of power would be accomplished by the adoption of the proposals of the Government, which mean the first step towards unification. The duty, therefore, devolves on us to examine the scheme of government under which we are working, to ascertain the degree of its efficiency, and to decide whether the proposals now put forward are likely to make it more efficient. Our Federal Constitution was deliberately ^chosen by the people of Australia. It was not framed hurriedly, but was the result of Convention after Convention, and the ^careful and critical examination of all schemes of government, ancient and modern. In the light of the learning to tie gained in the text-books, and the experience of other nations, as well as from the close study of Australian conditions, practical statesmen who had been born and bred in Australian public life, without regard for party considerations, and actuated only by the highest principles of patriotism, devised a scheme of government for application to Australia’s needs and necessities. The memories of -those men will always be treasured as one of Australia’s best possessions. The system of government deliberately adopted by the people was a Federal system, the scheme being taken from the Constitution of the United States, whose provisions were adapted and widely extended to meet the conditions of Australia. A Federal Constitution implies a highly complex form of government. To use the words of Freeman, Federalism is an artificial product of an advanced state of political culture. We might as well be asked to go back to the tribal laws of the aborigines as to go back from the high principles of government that we have adopted. Federalism is characteristic of modern civilization. Nowadays every industry is organized with the utmost complexity in order to procure specialization. Every calling of life has developed in the same direction, and it is only in the complex state that you get the higher forms of civilization. As man has developed from the simple conditions of his early nature to his present complex condi tion of civilization, so have political constitutions developed, and it would be to make a retrograde step to abolish the complexities necessary for the highest specialization.. The Honorable Herbert Samuel, M.P., writing in the October number of the Nineteenth Century, says -
Progress, Herbert Spencer says, is from simple to complex. The rule holds good in Constitutions. The need has arisen for systems of greater elaboration to be devised to fit the complexity of the problems with which we have to deal, in our own islands and beyond. In that development, there can be little doubt, such elements of Federalism as may suit the case will” be brought in to correct the present overcentralization of the government of the United Kingdom, the under-centralization of the government of the Empire.
Every great nation that has arisen of recent years and is now leading the van of civilization has adopted the highly complex Federal system of government. On this point I cannot do better than again quote from Mr. Herbert Samuel’s article. He says -
The principle of Federalism has made great strides in the modern world. Not far short of half the white population of the earth is now governed under Federal Constitutions. In area - excluding Asia and tropical Africa - more than two-thirds of the territories inhabited by white peoples are administered by Federal authorities. Two of the greatest of the nations, the United States and Germany; the three vast_ British Dominions, Canada, Australia, and Africa; two of the largest and most prosperous of the South American States, the Argentine Republic and Brazil ; and, in addition, Switzerland and the less important centres of Mexico, Venezuela - all these, with a population of 224,000,000 people, have chosen that their laws should be framed and their government conducted on the Federal plan.
When the isolated States of Australia adopted a Federal Constitution they were acting on the experience of the world, and in accordance with the highest and best principles of civilized life. In distributing the powers of government, we must seek to obtain the most efficient legislation and administration. Our political business should be managed by the agencies best fitted to conduct it. To this end we have established municipal institutions, State Governments, and a Federal Government. This allows the specialization of legislation and the best application of the various powers of Government. Australia is now entering a new sphere. As a Dominion of the Empire she claims some say in Empire affairs. Only recently Australians were proud to know that the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues had been admitted to the higher councils of the
Empire. But that means a corresponding obligation and responsibility, and an intelligent participation in the government of the Empire. If this Parliament tries to obtain, at the same time, further participation! in Imperial affairs and an increase of its powers in the management of municipal affairs, there will be a breakdown in the Federal system. Let us develop the higher side of our national life ; let us take our part in Empire affairs, and concern ourselves with national and external questions. If we do that, we shall have enough problems to occupy us, without wasting our time and destroying our efficiency by dealing with ‘local problems which can be better settled by other authorities. In this matter we can take advantage of the experience of the Old Country, which is now trying to better her legislative arrangements. Those who have watched the conduct of business in the Imperial Parliament must admit that that body, is overburdened ; that as a legislative machine it is incapable of doing efficiently and quickly enough the work required of it. In this connexion I wish to quote a passage from an article by Mr. Stephen Gwynn, M.P., who says -
The most obvious and immediate advantage of Home Rule would be in the working of Parliament. There would be a saving of parliamentary time amounting to some weeks in every session, yet the real benefit reaches far deeper.
Mr. Pringle, M.P., dealing with Home Rule from the point of view of a private member, says -
Apart altogether from the Irish demand, the problem of Home Rule or decentralization was bound to have been forced upon British statesmen, owing to the growing difficulty of the Imperial Parliament discharging efficiently the increasingly multifarious duties laid upon it. Every year millions are voted without a word of discussion, and the services to which the money is applied are free from all parliamentary supervision. The evil grows apace. In 1903 the sum approximately voted under closure was ^3,718,380, but it increased steadily every year, until in 1910 it reached the startling total of ^52,236,081.
Matters of merely local interest absorb an undue share of parliamentary time, and Imperial concerns are often neglected. It is calculated that during the last ten years 40 per cent, of the Bills passed were of purely local application.
In former days unofficial members could initiate and pass much useful legislation ; now their opportunities are almost eliminated. From 1900 to 1 910 inclusive, out of 3,175 Bills introduced by unofficial members, 2,001 had to be abandoned ; and of those .which were passed nearly all were non-contentious.
If the powers asked by the Government are granted and exercised to the full by this Parliament, it will cbe hopelessly overburdened, and will become incapable of properly dealing with the affairs of the nation. The distribution of the functions of government among a number of effective agencies, each doing the work specially assigned to it, is a wise arrangement. Honorable members opposite disclaim the intention to bring about unification; but let us examine the trend of these proposals, remembering, at the same time, the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert, who introduced a Bill practically providing for unification, and those, of the honorable member for Capricornia, and others, which indicate that they hope for the extension of the Federal power, and the taking of powers from the States. We, on this side, ask the people to stand by the Federal system. What is the essence of that system? Mr. Dicey points out three distinct features. The first is that it has a written Constitution to prevent disputes between the Federal and the State authorities. In the second place, there is a distribution of powers between the central, or Federal Government, and the Governments of the States comprising the Federation, and probably among the various parts of the Federal Government. In the third place there is a Supreme Court charged withthe duty of interpreting the Constitutionand enforcing obedience to its provisions, and absolutely free from the influence of both the Commonwealth and. the States. That is the position in Australia today. We have our charter written,, and during the last ten years that piece of parchment has been created a living organism which is praised by constitutional authorities in all parts of the world. The powers are wisely distributed ; and, as pointed out by eminent authorities, this Parliament has greater powers than even those of the United States or Canada. In the next place, we have a High Court which ought to be above party political criticism, because it is there to interpret the Constitution as part of its duties. Honorable members, however, do criticise the Court, praising it if the judgment is in their favour, and condemning it if the reverse be the case. That is not the light in which we should regard an arbiter who holds the balance equally, and whose duty it is to interpret the Constitution and1 the laws regardless of fear, favour, or affection. Even, if the Court does not give its judgment in favour of the view of honorable members opposite in one or two instances, it is still necessary that there should be some authority to interpret the distribution of powers. Neither the Federal Parliament nor the State Parliaments can fulfil the duty of deciding as to the distribution of power or of interpreting the Constitution; there must be some impartial body, and experience in the United States and Canada has shown that the Judiciary is the proper authority.
– Parliament is omnipotent.
– This Parliament is omnipotent in regard to all things within its jurisdiction, but the States are also omnipotent in regard to all things within their jurisdiction. The High Court decides as to any conflict arising between them. In Quick and Garran the following passage puts very properly the relative position of the Commonwealth and the States -
It may be added that the governing powers reserved to the States are not inferior in origin to the governing powers vested in the Federal Government. The States do not derive their governing powers and institutions from the Federal Government in the way that municipalities derive their powers from the Parliament of their country. The State Governments were not established by the Federal Government, nor are they in any way dependent upon the Federal Government, except by the special (provisions of section 119. The States existed as colonies prior to the passing of the Federal Constitution, and possess their own charters of government, in the shape of the Constitutions :granted to them by the Imperial Parliament. Those charters have been confirmed and continued by the Federal Constitution, not created thereby. Hence, though the powers reserved to the States are not wide, general, and national, no badge of inferiority or subordination can be associated with those powers or with the State institutions through which they are exercised. State powers and State institutions, Federal powers and Federal institutions, all spring directly from the same supreme source - British sovereignty. The Federal Government and the State Governments are in fact merely different grantees and trustees of power, acting for and on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth. Each of them has to exercise its powers within the limits and in the manner prescribed by the Constitution; each of them has different powers to be used in different domains for differentpurposes. The Constitution is the title, the master and the guardian of all these various governing agencies.
The Constitution has also been interpreted by the Chief Justice of the High Court in the case of D’ Emden v. Pedder in the following words -
In considering the respective powers of the Commonwealth and of the Stales it is essential to bear in mind that each is, within the ambit of its authority, a sovereign State, subject only to the restrictions imposed by the Imperial connexion and to the provisions of the Constitution, either expressly or necessarily implied.
The Constitution shows the nature of the compact made. Prior to Federation, there were six sovereign States with complete power within the ambit of their Constitutions. They were practically independent legislative bodies, but, for national purposes, they agreed to surrender certain powers and create a new nation. The preamble of the Constitution sets this out very clearly -
Whereas : The people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth, under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established.
There is no going back from this indissoluble compact which, as pointed out by the Chief Justice in another case, was in the nature of an international agreement. In the case of the Commissioner of Taxes v. Baxter, His Honour said’ -
The instrument (the Constitution) partakes both of the character of an Act of Parliament and of an international agreement made between the people of the self-governing Australian colonies and also between the people of those colonies collectively and the United Kingdom.
This international agreement contains the principle that all national affairs shall be carried out by the National Parliament, and all local affairs by the different State Parliaments. That is the one fundamental principle ; and when we are asked to amend the Constitution we must bear that in mind, and see whether the powers now sought violate that position. This principle of indissolubility is borne out by an American decision, when Chief Justice Chase, in the case of Texas v. White, said -
The perpetuity and indissolubility of the Union by no means imply the loss of distinct and individual existence, or of the right of selfgovernment by the States. Not only, therefore, can there be no loss of separate or independent autonomy to the States, through their union under the Constitution, but it may not be unreasonably said that the preservation of the States and the maintenance of their Governments are as much within the design and care of the Constitution as the preservation of the Union and the maintenance of the national Government point. The Constitution, in all its provisions looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.
– That judgment was given just after the war.
– And the war proved the strength of the doctrine. The preservation of the States is as much a part of the scheme of government as the preservation of the national union. This, shortly stated, is the basic principle on which we are united. What, then, are the merits of the principle we are asked to maintain, and to what extent do the various proposals now submitted trench on the Federal system? This point has been very well summarized by Bryce, who points out -
Federalism furnishes the means of uniting commonwealths into one nation under one national government, without extinguishing their separate administrations, Legislatures, and local patriotisms.
Surely that applies to Australia? The object of the Federal Constitution was to preserve these local “patriotisms.” Had it not been for the fact that local patriotism had been preserved, and that the States had been preserved to a great extent in their historic continuity, Federation would never have been established. The Australian people were feeling out for a wider nationality, for a wider existence ; they desired to form a nation as .wide as the continent. At the same time, the various parts of Australia had been developed locally, and men had formerly fought in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and other States against a unitary principle. Victoria broke away from the control of Sydney, and so did Queensland ; and Western Australia and the other States made similar claims for self government. The people of the various States had developed a local interest, history and patriotism ; and it was only a recognition of this patriotism that enabled us to emerge into the wider national life. But this local patriotism is not inconsistent with the wider patriotism; a man may loyally fight for ‘ local causes in a particular part of Australia which gave him birth and of which he is proud, and, at the same time, be capable of a higher and wider national sentiment. It is because Federalism exactly expresses these sentiments that we in Australia were able to adopt Federation. Then, next, Bryce says -
Federalism supplies the best means of developing a new and vast country.
How apt that is to conditions in Australia. The powers that are now sought will, in their combined effect, give this Parliament control over every calling, em ployment, and industry in Australia; and yet what has been the history of the development of the nation? It has been essentially a development from local’ centres. The people of each part know best what are the means of developing their own portion of the continent. The people of Western Australia, for instance, know better than do the people in Queensland’ what the western railway policy should be;, and so in regard to other matters throughout. The opening up of industries, thesettlement of the lands, the opening up of roads, and all the instrumentalities of commerce, are essentially local concerns, and the best means of developing the continent is by working from the various local* centres. The general trend and combined effect of all the powers now sought showsan invasion, in every respect, of local industries, callings, and pursuits. The third point insisted on by Bryce does not, I think, apply to Australia to any ex* tent -
It (Federalism) prevents the rise of a despoticcentral Government, absorbing other powers, and’ menacing the private liberties of the citizen.
Before 1910 we had so wide a franchisethat everybody in the country had theright to participate. Recently the electoral machinery has been restricted, and Democracy has been deprived of some of its power; but still the franchise is undoubtedly democratic. The only danger we have of despotism is that of organizations of either capital or labour vesting the power in few hards without due regard to tha public good. But so long as these organizations preserve the democratic principle-,, and the people are left to control their own< affairs, we are safe. Bryce’s fourth point is -
Self-government stimulates the interest of the people in the affairs of their neighbourhood, sustains local political life, educates the citizen, in his daily round of civic duty, teaches him that perpetual vigilance and the sacrifice of his own time and labour are the price that must be paid for individual liberty and collective prosperity.
The trouble that we, as a Parliament, suffer from is that it is extremely hard to let the public know what is done here. There is the difficulty of distance, and also that of. restricted press space, and the impossibility of members holding sufficient public meetings throughout the continent. If we centralize all power in one Government,, that difficulty in this great continent! will be intensified. If we desire that effective criticism which, ought to prevail,. we shall avoid centralization. As is pointed -out by Mr. Bryce, the highest efficiency is :secured when we have the man on the spot looking after his own local affairs. If the Government try to take from the States the municipalities, and the hundred-and-one local bodies that are managing their own affairs the power to do so, and endeavour to centralize all authority in the Federal Parliament, then they will to that extent deprive the citizens of Australia of the right to look after their own affairs, and the country will lose that efficiency in -government which can come only of local knowledge. I come now to the sixth reason given by Mr. Bryce, and it is certainly true -
Federalism enables a people to try_ experiments in legislation and administration which could not <be safely tried in a large centralized country.
The seventh reason is -
Federalism, if it decrease the collective form of a nation, diminishes also the risks to which its size and the diversities of its parts exposes it.
Lastly Mr. Bryce tells us that -
Federalism, by creating many local legislatures - and this is the point to which I have already referred - with wide powers, relieves the national legislature of a part of that large mass of functions which might otherwise prove too heavy for it.
I have already proved that the Imperial Parliament is overburdened, and that the idea of devolution - the idea of the distribution of its functions among local Parliaments - is becoming more and more an accepted principle of British political life. Here we are proposing to proceed in a contrary direction. Here the Government are proposing to centralize all legislative effort, to overburden this Parliament, and to call upon it to discharge functions which would be infinitely better left to the local bodies concerned. When we come to examine these proposals, we shall find that they , run counter to nearly every one of the principles of Federalism that have been laid down by Mr. Bryce. The Government are seeking to take away from our present Constitution the advantages that it gives, and to convert the present system of Federal Government more and more into a purely unitary system. The Federal Constitution contains within itself the power of amendment. No one ever conceived that the people of Australia should be placed in fetters under any scheme of Federation, however wise it might have, been when it was drafted. The idea of the Constitution is that it is an instrument of government created for the people, to be used by the people in the people’s own interests. Of necessity, therefore, the Constitution must not be too rigid. It must be elastic; it must be capable of amendment to meet from time to time the circumstances of the nation, otherwise it would cease to be a proper instrument of government for a nation. When we are asked to exercise these powers of amendment, however, we must bear in mind the fact that our Constitution is a Federal one. We have to remember that it is based upon the agreement to which I have already referred, and that every amendment made in it should be consistent with’ the Federal principles underlying it. Fortunately those principles have been very clearly defined by several leading authorities. For instance, the late Mr. Justice O’Connor, in the case of King v. Sutton, said -
The main purpose of the Constitution is the distribution between the Commonwealth and States of all the Governmental powers of the people of Australia. The States in the exercise of the powers exclusively reserved to them are confined, as before Federation, within the jurisdiction of their territorial limits, but in the exercise of the exclusive powers of the Commonwealth, State boundaries disappear and the whole of Australia becomes one territory.
Mr. Dicey, writing upon the test that should be applied, says -
Whatever concerns the nation as a whole should be placed under the control of the National Government. All matters which are not primarily of common interest should remain in the hands of the several States.
Then Chief Justice Marshall laid it down that-
The genius and character of the whole Government seems to be that its action is to be applied to all the external actions of the nation, and to those internal concerns which affect the States generally : but not to those which are completely within a particular State which do not affect other States, and with which it is not necessary to interfere for the purpose of executing some of the general powers of Government.
Chief Justice McClain said -
Practically it is to be noticed that the powers given to the Federal Government are, in general, only those essential to the existence of such a Government, and the discharge ‘if functions involving a union of the States and the common interests of the people of the different States: while to the State Governments is left such authority as is necessary to the protection of the people of the different States in their personal liberty, their property and their general welfare.
We have to regard the whole bunch of these proposals on the part of the Government and examine them in the light of these principles. We have to remember, first of all, that we are living under a Federal system. We have then to keep in mind the Federal principle that that which is essentially local is better managed by the local people, and when we come to make a distribution of our powers, we must be perfectly sure that any new power which it is proposed to create is one that can be better exercised by the central authority than by the various State agencies. It is interesting, in the light of these principles, to see what these proposals mean. It is idle to take any one of these Bills and to say, “ Oh, this is an innocent proposal,” or “That is an innocent one.” We can grasp the full scope of these proposals only by considering them as a whole, and determining what their complete effect would be on the machinery of government. Let me give one illustration. Let us take the case of a farmer who is engaged in carrying on his ordinary pursuits. At the present time, his produce, if sold within a State, cannot be regulated in any way by the Federal Parliament. Under this power, for which the Government are now asking, however, this produce, as soon as it is produced, becomes an article of commerce, and will come under the Federal power in relation to trade and commerce. As soon as it is sent to any part of a State, the very waggon by which it is carried will become an instrument of commerce, and it can be regulated by the Federal authority on its way to the market place. Then, when the produce reaches the market place, the Federal Government will have power to fix prices. I am merely showing the extent to which these powers may be exercised. There will be power, under this proposed amendment of the Constitution, to regulate the price of the very article the farmer has produced. Again, if the farmer decides to join a co-operative dairy company, and to send his produce to that company, then, if the Government think that the industry is one that is being regulated and controlled, and the Parliament determines that it is a monopoly, there will be power to nationalize the corporation so created. But that is not all. The Government are seeking power to go on to the farm itself. They are asking for the right to control every condition of labour and employment - every relation between the farmer and his employe - and in consequence the whole management of his farm. Could a wider range of power be sought? I am not exaggerating the position; I am merely showing the powers that” could be exercised under this Bill if it were approved by the people. I am not saying that the Government would do all these things. No doubt, the honorable member who is timidly Labour at present, when he becomes boldly Labour, and has a big majority behind him, may develop his proposals. We are asked to surrender certain powers, and we have to test them by determining the extreme to which they could oe put. Have I suggested an imaginary condition of affairs ? We have heard an honorable member opposite talk about the price of butter. Is it purely imaginary to suggest that if this power were secured the Government would fix the price of butter ? Why should they talk about the price of foodstuffs if they do not desire the power to fix prices? Is it possible that honorable members opposite are not going to nationalize the butter industry, if they get this power, when they talk of combines in connexion with it ?
– They have done it in South Australia.
– The honorable member says that they have taken this action in South Australia.
– What I mean is that there is a Government butter factory in that State.
– That does not mean the nationalization of a monopoly.
– The honorable member did not say that the butter industry had been nationalized in South Australia.
– He said that this had been done in South Australia. . My reply is that the industry there has not been nationalized. It would be just as reasonable to say that we had nationalized the wool industry in Australia because we have commenced the manufacture of woollens in connexion with the Defence Department as it is to suggest that the butter industry has been nationalized in South Australia because a Government factory has been established there. Is it not a fact that the Government seek to regulate the conditions of the rural workers? Do they not claim that they ought to have that right? They are not asking for a mere arbitration power to settle disputes in the rural industries. They are proposing under this Bill to take the widest possible power. So far as the labour and employment power is concerned, if the people agree to it, it will be possible, without constituting a single industrial Board, to legislate in this Parliament. to fix all industrial conditions. It will be possible to determine them in this Parliament without holding any inquiry, the Government simply taking their opinion from a particular body that happens to be in existence at the time. Do we not know that they have sought to try to impose on a Judge, not as a condition to be decided, but as a term of his judgments, that preference shall be given to unionists?
– The States can do all that now.
– Of course they can.
– But they have not done so.
– I am only pointing out the extent of the power for which the Government are asking, and, what is more, this is a power that the Government seek because they wish to exercise it. If they do not desire to exercise it, why do they ask for it? I have given one illustration of what may be done under this power, and if I cared to do so, I could prove that the combined effect of these powers would be to enable the Government to do with the mining, the pastoral, and, indeed, every primary industry, what I have shown they could do in connexion with farming.
I do not wish my position to be misunderstood in the slightest degree. As I have already said, I do not believe in a rigid Constitution. I believe in proper amendments being made from time to time as they are required. But on every occasion -when it is sought to take powers from another, we should take only such as are necessary to meet the particular evil complained of, or to exercise a national function of which it has been proved we are really deficient. So far as I am concerned, I hope to move from time to time with the rest of the Australian public, so as to make our Constitution a living instrument of government, adapted to our needs, and the conditions of a growing nation. Let us analyze the effect of these proposals, first of all, individually. Let us see exactly what they mean. The first power for which the Government ask is in respect of trade and commerce. The Parliament at present has power to make laws for the peace, -order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. It is now proposed to omit the words “ with other countries and among the States,” so that the sub-section will read -
Trade and commerce, but not including trade and commerce upon railways the property of a State except so far as it is trade and commerce with other countries or among the States.
At present our power with respect to InterState trade is plenary and complete. It is absolutely untrammelled. So far as InterState trade is concerned, the States cannot hinder us in the slightest degree. As the judgments of the American Courts show, we can use the power in any way we like. As long as we keep within the power we possess, no one can question our exercise of it in the slightest degree. Let us see how far-reaching that power is at the present time. To what does it extend ? In Black’s Constitutional Law, page 189, I find -
The word “ commerce “ as here used is to be broadly construed. Its general meaning is intercourse by way of trade and traffic between different peoples or States. But as used in the Constitution the term is not restricted to the sale and exchange of commodities, but includes also their transportation, whether this be by land or sea. Nor is it restricted to the fact or process of commercial intercourse, but includes as well the substance of commerce ; and not only this, but it covers also the means, agencies, or instrumentalities by which commerce is carried on. It is not limited to the transportation of freight, but it extends equally to passenger traffic. Many, if not all, of the incidents of commerce are within its scope. This grant, moreover, was not made with reference solely to the conditions and course of commerce, as these existed at the time the Constitution was formed. Its terms are broad enough to permit the authority and its exercise to keep pace with the progress and development, not only of commercial intercourse, but also of the means employed in that intercourse. Powers and agencies are now made available for the interchange of commodities which were little dreamed of by the fathers of the Republic. But the advance of science and the arts serves only to enlarge the field for the exercise of legislative authority in this regard, without affecting the limits of the power itself.
I propose to give a few cases in order to illustrate the extent of this power as applied to Inter-State and oversea trade and commerce -
Commerce includes all commercial traffic and intercourse. (Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat 1.)
It means intercourse for the purpose of trade of all descriptions. (Corfield v. Coryell, 4 Wash., 371.)
It comprehends everything that is grown, produced, or manufactured. (Welton v. Missouri, 91 U.S., 275.)
It extends to the persons who conduct it as well as the means and instrumentalities used. (Cooley v. Port Wardens,c12 Jow., 299.)
It includes vessels, railways and other conveyances used in the transport of merchantable goods, as well as the goods themselves. (The Brig “Wilson” v. United States, 1 Brock, 423.)
It embraces navigation and shipping. (Cooley v. Port Wardens, supra.)
It embraces railways, highways, and navigable waters along and over which commerce flows. (Wilson v. Blackbird Creek Marsh Co., 2 Pet., 245.)
It includes the freights and fares charged for transport. (State Freight Tax Cases, 15, Wall, 233.)
It includes passengers. (Passengers cases, 7 How., 283.)
Power exists over all these matters as regards Inter-State trade. But under the proposals of the Government they wish to make that power apply in every State and part of a State upon all these matters I have enumerated. The next power which they seek to take is one enabling them to deal with corporations - not merely with their creation, winding up, and dissolution. At the present time, we have power to deal with foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth. But under the Constitution Alteration (Corporations) Bill, the Government seek to take power to deal with -
Corporations, including -
the creation, dissolution, regulation, and control of corporations;
corporations formed under the laws of a State, including their dissolution, regulation, and control ; but not including municipal or governmental corporations, or any corporation formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition of gain by the cor poration or its members; and
foreign corporations, including their regulation and control.
That we have need to frame an efficient Companies Act for Australia, I readily concede.
– How would the honorable member achieve his object ?
– By passing an efficient Companies Act. But in these proposals, the Government seek to go far beyond that. I cannot do better than quote the statement made by Mr. Justice Higgins in giving judgment in the case of Huddart, Parker & Co. v. Moorehead. He said -
If the argument for the Crown is right, the results are certainly extraordinarily big with confusion. If it is right, the Federal Parliament is in a position to frame a new system of libel laws applicable to newspapers owned by corporations, while the State law of libel would have to remain applicable to newspapers owned by individuals. If it is right, the Federal Parliament is competent to enact Licensing Acts creating a new scheme of administration and of offences applicable only to hotels belonging to corporations. If it is right, the Federal Parliament may enact that no foreign, or trading, or financial corporation shall pay its employes less than 10s. per day or charge more than 6” per cent, interest, whereas other corporations and persons would be free from such restrictions. If it is right, the Federal Parliament can enact that no officer of a corporation shall be an Athiest or a Baptist, or that all must be teetotallers. If it is right, the Federal Parliament can repeal the Statute of Frauds for contracts of a corporation, or may make some new Statute of Limitations applicable only to corporations. Taking the analagous power to make laws with regard to lighthouses if the respondent’s argument is right, the Federal Parliament can license a lighthouse for the sale of beer and spirits, or may establish schools in. lighthouses with distinctive or doctrinal teaching; although the licensing laws and education laws are, for ordinary purposes, left to the: State Legislatures.
– Was that satire?
– I am not aware that Judges in their judgments indulge in satire. The next power which the Government seek is one dealing with labour and employment. In a previous portion of my remarks, I dealt with that matter. The AttorneyGeneral has affirmed that the people of Australia have decided in favour of arbitration in industrial disputes. There is not the slightest doubt that the people of the Commonwealth desire that in disputes as to economic conditions that right shall’ belong neither to the employer nor the employe. But the Australian public have rights also. Two bodies of men ought not by a mere fight over a question of wages to be able to throw the whole nation into confusion. But that is not the power which is being sought by the Government. The power which they seek is one which can be exercised without any reference whatever to arbitration methods. We have heard that the Labour party are blazing the track of social reform. But I have not yet known that party to introduce an original measure dealing with this great industrial problem. Their one panacea for all these evils is nationalization. In dealing with industrial unrest, the AttorneyGeneral said -
In the very nature of things they do not, and cannot, know what industrial unrest is. Industrial unrest is a condition innate in the present position of affairs, and it will not cease until present conditions are completely changed. We are moving along on lines to change them fundamentally.
What are those lines ? So far, the Labour party have been only too ready to insert modifications in Liberal measures, and to distort some of their beneficent provisions. But this track of social reform has yet to be revealed’. Doubtless, they will go before the electors and say, “ We want to give you industrial peace.” But when the public ask them how they! propose todo it, their reply will be “By amending the Constitution.” What we are entitled to know from them is how they will exercise this power if it be granted to them? What would they have done if they had had the power which they seek, on the occasion of the Brisbane tramway strike? They could have done nothing more than exercise the powers which they already possess. That dispute extended beyond the limits of one State. Why did not they do something? How will they exercise the power which they seek ?
– Just in the way that the people want it to be exercised.
– I agree with the honorable member that the laws of Australia should express the will of its people. But when honorable members opposite say, “ We are going to effect reforms,” I ask, “ What reforms do the people want?”
– They want to kill trusts and combines.
– They want industrial peace, with justice.
– Yes, but in what way is it proposed to do it ? The Government are claiming for this Parliament original legislative power to fix the terms and conditions of employment, apart from industrial Boards of any description. They wish this Parliament to have power to settle contracts of employers by legislative act, and they also desire a further power for the settlement of industrial disputes. They could not take wider powers if they wished to do so. These powers cover practically every trade and calling in life. Could a bigger invasion of the powers of the State be made? I wish now to deal with the question of railway disputes. The Government do not ask for power to settle disputes affecting Inter- State trade and commerce. Undoubtedly, this Parliament ought to have power to regulate such trade and commerce. But the Government wish to vest in the Commonwealth the power to deal with the railways of one State only. Under one of these Bills, if a dispute occurred on the Cairns railway between a ganger and his boss, there would be power to settle that dispute through a Federal agency. Is such a state of affairs consistent with the Federal ideal ? The next new power which the Attorney-General proposed should be vested in the Commonwealth is one enabling it to deal with trusts and combinations and with monopolies. As far as the operations of trusts and combines are concerned, this House is practically unanimous. Nobody desires to see trusts and combines carrying on their ne farious practices in Australia. But I would point out that, at the present time, this Parliament has absolute power to deal with Inter-State combines - just as much power as it would have if we had adopted a unitary system of government. What have the Ministry done to deal with these trusts and combinations during the past three years? Absolutely nothing. If the existing law is defective, why have they not made it effective? In my opinion, they really desire only one power, namely, the power of nationalization.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Darling Downs on the very able speech which he has just delivered. I regard that speech in the light of an electioneering address, and I have no doubt that the electors of his constituency will be treated to it at a later stage. But in a debate of this character, I submit that the questions which we have to consider ought to be treated differently from the way in which they are treated on the public platforms >f this country. The existence of large bodies of workmen, in the employment of private individuals, companies, and corporations, whose relations with their employers are often strained, frequently creates disturbances of the industrial peace, and yet this marvellous High Court, which, according to the last speaker, should be almost worshipped, cannot deal with any of the disputes that arise. Should an action arise in connexion with a tort anywhere in Australia, there can be an appeal to the Supreme Court of a State and to the High Court of Australia, torts being regarded as of so serious importance that these appeals must be permitted, but in industrial matters, affecting perhaps a whole State, there is hd appeal to the High Court. There has been a great deal of abstract talk about our wonderful Constitution, and a great waving of the flag, but let us get down to the bedrock of facts. The people did not send us here to declaim about the glories of Federation ; our work is to pass legislation for the benefit of those who are pursuing their avocations and callings all over this vast continent. Honorable members opposite are so satisfied with existing conditions, and so imbued with the old Conservative feeling, that, following the traditions of their party, they will oppose everything brought forward by the advanced party on this side. The honorable member for
Darling Downs asks what we intend to do in the future. I know what he will do. No reform will be introduced into this Parliament that he will not oppose. It is a stupid thing to ask exactly what we intend to do when we get these powers.
– Why do you ask for the powers if you do not know what you are going to do with them ?
– I do not pretend to be able to say exactly what will be done with them. I cannot say what legislation will be brought in ten years hence. .Great thinkers like Adam Smith stated that certain things could not be done which, nevertheless, were done; and the American humourist had every justification for his maxim, “ Don’t prophesy unless you know.”
– Surely you ought to know why you want these powers.
– To obtain uniform jurisdiction in respect to industrial disputes throughout the length and breadth of the continent. That, I think, will be in the best interests of Australia. Our legislation will not supersede the legislation of the States unless there is a conflict of laws, in which case the Commonwealth law will prevail. I do not know what this Parliament can do when it gets the powers asked for, but one thing I should advise would A. the creation of a tribunal for dealing with industrial disputes all over Australia. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has already made successful awards governing those employed in the pastoralist industry, the waterside workers, and the seamen. Unfortunately, it could not make a similar award to govern the boot trade. The master bootmakers themselves deplore the inability of the Court to make a common rule. Why all this tall talk about the wonders Of our Constitution when under it employers have no guarantee that they will not be subjected to competition to which they should not be subjected ? It is said that we on this side favour unification. If there is to be a general discussion on the principles of government, it would be well to begin with the definition of terms. What is meant bv unification, and what is Federation? Some of the various Federal systems of government are as different as light and darkness. The chief Federal systems in force in the world to-day are those of Switzerland, the United States of America, South Africa, Canada, Germany, and Australia. We have been told that our Federation would be destroyed, and that all sorts of evils would happen, if we interfered with our High Court in any way. But under the Swiss Constitution there is no High Court to determine the constitutionality of laws, and the Swiss are not a stupid people.
– Switzerland is a very small country.
– Then, let us take Germany. I am. not a cosmopolitan, that is a man who believes in every other country but his own, and I am proud of Australia and Australians, but I have to believe in the Germans, because since the German Empire was federated forty years ago they ‘have made themselves one of the great powers of Europe, and their trade organization and military arrangements are marvellous. Do you think that Bismarck, shrewd, clear, German statesman that he was, was fool enough to borrow his Constitution from America? Many men who have the name of statesmen in Australia are really pettifogging politicians. That is proved by their handiwork in this Constitution. Have the German States no power? What about Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, and the rest of them? Of course they have power. But the German Parliament is supreme, and it dictates the lines that the Empire shall follow. There is no High Court to tell the Reichstag that its laws are invalid. No doubt, I shall be told by honorable members opposite that the German system is not a Federal one. What, then, is Federation? The various forms of Federation vary so much that a definition is very difficult. Actually, Germany is a remarkably successful instance of Federation. Had the speech which was made by the honorable member for Darling Downs been made by an ordinary man out of politics, it would not have surprised me, but it is the business of professional politicians to study these questions, and the people expect us to know something about them. He quoted from a judgment of Chief Justice Chase. Read to me any judgment of the High Court of the United States, and I will tell you within ten years the date of its delivery. Why can I do that? Because the judgments of the Court have varied with the opinions of the American people. The honorable member for Angas pointed out that the High Court of America is beginning to claim greater powers for- the controlling of trusts and trade and commerce. Why is this? Because the people of the United States are making so much noise about the matter, and their High Court is merely following its traditional policy. I do not know the date of the judgment of Chief Justice Chase, but it must be between 1865 and 1870. Certainly, the judgment was delivered after the war had! crushed the South, and it was feared that the independence and rights of the States would be entirely lost. It was therefore an assurance of the independence of the States. But what had it to do with this discussion? It throws no light on the subject with which we are dealing. What is the use to us of these American judgments? If our High Court delivered its judgment after careful examination of the Constitution, it would be a good thing. When it deliberately takes slabs from the decisions of Judges of the United States, and reads them into our Constitution, the people of Australia should realize what is being done. The honorable member for Darling Downs quoted the Imperial Postmaster-General, Mr. Herbert Samuel, and I must say that it pained me to listen to the misrepresentation arid twisting of that gentleman’s words. Personally, I have never been in favour of a High Court, because I think that the Federation of Australia could very well exist without one. I do not ask’ that a vote should be taken on this question, because I realize that many years would be necessary to educate the people regarding it. I am certain that the people will find sooner or later that they have had enough of the High Court. I might point to Switzerland, Germany, South Africa, and Canada, where there is no such tribunal, and in the two latter countries the only appeal is to the Privy Council. Our wonderful statesmen, however, took the idea of the High Court from America; and I suppose it is entitled to our great veneration. There are two systems of government represented by the British Parliament and by the Australian Parliament; and both are suffering from abuse. For the last thirty or forty years, the great complaint of British statesmen has been that the Parliament cannot possibly get through the work which is piled upon it. and it is to this state of affairs that Mr. Herbert Samuel refers in his article. His idea is to create a sort of Home Rule so that the British Parliament may be relieved arid permitted to turn its attention to really Imperial affairs. There is no doubt that if honorable members opposite were in the British Parliament they would instinctively fmd themselves opposing the Home Rule proposals there. I have sufficient faith in the strong common sense and intelligence of the Australian people to believe that they will always maintain the supreme power in the Federal Parliament; but when, proposals to amend the Constitution in the way indicated are before us all that the statesmen opposite can rise to is a. declaration that the Government or Parliament intend to interfere with even- old’ woman who sells a few apples on a stall or in a shop. There is no Federal Government on the face of the earth which would ever think of exercising such a power direct; all that is required is that the Government may have the power so that it may be delegated. I never heard any member of the Labour party claim that the proposed power was required by the Federal Parliament for the purpose of interfering in such trading. As I have already said, in the Imperial Parliament, Home Rule is suggested for Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, merely in order to give the Parliament time to deal with Imperial questions. There is no doubt that what a supreme Parliament delegates it can take away ; and here I would point out that we sit here merely by virtue of a British Act of Parliament. Our Federal Constitution is only a delegation of power by the Imperial Parliament. We could not exist until the British Act of Parliament was passed. I could never understand the fundamental principle that prompted the creation of our Federal Constitution. The honorable member for Angas told us this morning that the real object was InterState Free Trade, and that only the power in regard to trade and commerce secures that end. As to the other portions of the Constitution, the Conservatives in the community acted on the glorious principle which has actuated their party from time immemorial, and, while giving something with one hand, they took it away with the other. The Conservative party always gives something that looks nice on paper - something about which we may shout and beat the drum - but all the time there is “nothing in it.” We hear much of the glorious freedom of the Australian people, but we ought to remember that we are all subject to the will of one man. It is said that all Russia is subject to the will of the Czar, though I am rather inclined to the opinion that the Czar is in the hands of the bureaucracy; at any rate, we have something like a Czar in
Australia in the person of the Chief Justice of the High Court, who interprets the Constitution, and lays down the extent of our liberty and freedom, and we have to accept his dictum. If the Australian people, when they realize the position, say that they’ are prepared to suffer it, I shall be very surprised. The High Court takes the view that the Federal Constitution is based on the principle that the powers are in the hands of the States, and on every occasion the decision is in favour of the States and against the Commonwealth ; and I suppose the High Court would say that, in so deciding, it is entirely within its rights. We are told that the Australian people agreed to the Constitution as we have it, but there were many who did not understand what they were voting for any more than do children in the street to-day. I am not now talking of working men, but of men who would be very much annoyed if they were told that they did not belong to the educated classes. I am speaking of merchants, traders, and so forth ; and I can say that many of these were surprised when, after Federation, they found that the State Parliaments were not abolished.
– And the State Governors.
– Exactly; and, if a vote had been taken twelve months afterwards, there would have been a very different result. We are told that the vote of the people was deliberately given, but most voted, practically, as their ‘leaders advised, and a large number never voted at all. We are now simply asking that the people shall be allowed to exercise the right to alter their Constitution if they so desire; and it is in the best interests of the people that the question should be discussed on ils merits. It is not denied that there are combines, which honorable members opposite condemn; but, as soon as any proposal is submitted for dealing with those organizations, they oppose it. Do honorable members opposite intend to pursue the policy of their party in the Old Country, and make the very same proposals if they should happen to get into office?
– Surely that- could not occur after what the Leader of the Opposition has said.
-The honorable member must have a very slight acquaintance with politics if he does not realize the marvellous changes of the kind that are possible. We all know the power of the Sugar Trust and other combines, and I should imagine that any honorable member who represents a country district, where there are farmers and graziers, could smell the Meat Combine at a distance. 1 pity the grazier and the small farmer when the meat ring comes along. No doubt such a combination will raise the price of meat in the towns, but it will ruin the producers. The American Combine is now seeking fresh fields in Queensland, because they cannot get supplies in America. The reason the American supplies have fallen off is that the poor farmer there has been so bled that it does not pay him to raise stock; and the idea, I suppose, now is to similarly ruin Australia. Yet honorable members opposite tell us that all is right, and that there is plenty of power under the Constitution to deal with such organizations.
– The honorable member for Moreton said the meat ring would be welcomed in Queensland.
– I undertake to say that it will not be welcomed by the farmers and graziers, who will soon express their opinion as to the action- of their representatives, who seem anxious to assist the American combine. The Australian may have a prejudice against much of the Labour movement, but he is not so blind to his own interests that he will thank any one who is a party to a trust that will ruin him. We know that that is the position. Take, for instance, what has happened in connexion with the Steel Trust. A few months ago the Minister of Home Affairs told me that he intended to advertise for the supply of steel rails for the transcontinental railway. I replied that he need not bother his head about the matter, because he would have to pay whatever price the Steel Trust asked. “ Nonsense,” said the honorable gentleman; but I referred him to a book by Chiozza Money, which is in our Library, and which gives a full account of the Building up of the Trust as finally agreed to in England. All the ironmasters in the world are in that Combine, and neither this nor any other Government can obtain steel rails except from it. The only escape is to manufacture steel rails for ourselves, but we have not at present the power to do so. It may be said that we ought to subsidize some Australian firm or combination to make rails for us, but, as soon as an Australian firm took an order for the supply of steel rails from other than the Federal or a State Government, it would be at the dictation of the Combine.
– In any event, it would soon adopt the Combine prices.
– No doubt; but, assuming that they were patriots, the position would be different. We know that all business men are patriots, and consider the interests of the country rather than their own pockets ! Is it not idle to talk of this proposal as if there were no danger of monopolies in Australia? The Federal Government must undertake large railway works; the States must do likewise, and I am sure that the State Governments are not at all anxious to pay the Steel Trust any price it chooses to ask if they can see their way to obtain rails from the Federal Government. The existence of that one Combine in itself is ‘sufficient to justify us in seeking this power to deal with monopolies in the interests of the people. The more we examine the facts the more it seems to me that the position taken up by the Government is unanswerable. Honorable members opposite say that there is a certain amount of truth in our contentions, but that we are asking for too much. If that be so, let them tell us what they are prepared to give. I would remind “them, however, that it is useless to ask for a power that will not be sufficient to cover the ground that must be covered. This is admittedly a difficult matter, and it is to be regretted that so much party spirit should be displayed in the consideration of such questions. The National Government of Switzerland has repeatedly had difficulty in obtaining an affirmative answer to a proposal submitted to a referendum of the people there. There is a prejudice against referenda in other countries, and, judging by what occurred here some time ago, there may be a similar prejudice in Australia. But where Australian interests are concerned, the members of this Parliament should be able to agree upon something which they can unitedly ask the people to accept in their own interests. There are some matters which should be above the luxury of party quarrels and party fighting, and, if it is possible, party feeling should be avoided in connexion with the forthcoming referenda. The honorable member for Darling Downs has said that if this power be granted we may do all sorts of things. We should certainly do what he has suggested if we were a Parliament of lunatics, but such an argument as he has advanced is hardly worth listening to. The assumption ought to be that no Government would do that ‘which was unreasonable. The Federal Parliament, if the powers which we are seeking be obtained, will have sufficient work to do in laying down the mere lines upon which industrial peace should be secured. And so with regard to the power which we ask with respect to monopolies and trade and commerce. There is a great deal of humbug indulged in with respect to the liberties of the people. Instead of liberty being given to the people to-day, there is given to combines or monopolies the power to oppress. Trusts to-day are levying taxes upon the people utterly regardless of Parliament and of the King’s Government. There is practically no difference between them and other combinations which are illegal. Are we doing our duty to the people and to the chief authority in the Empires - the King - when we allow any power to exist in his realm which is stronger than his Government and stronger than the Federal Parliament? We know that there is such a power in existence, and, that being so, this question should be seriously faced. If the Opposition can show that there is no cause for fear in regard to the Meat Trust, the Sugar Combine, or the Steel Trust, let them do so. I question very much, however, whether they can. We ought to restore to the people the freedom which, in these respects, they have lost… I am sufficiently conservative to believe that if there is one thing that ought to be maintained, it is the principle that the King’s Government should be supreme, and that no trust should have the power to levy blackmail on the people. Whatever amendment of the Constitution is necessary to enable that principle to be maintained, ought certainly to be agreed to. Unfortunately, however, the real struggle is a political one. It is a struggle between the Legislative Councils of the States and the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The Opposition say, in effect, “ Although we sit in the Federal Parliament, we care not for its dignity or its power. We do care, however, for the power of the Legislative Councils of Australia to dictate to the people.”
– Who has said that?
– That is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the action of the Opposition, although they are too cunning to openly make such an admission. One can gather from press criticism what the actual position is. These questions should be amply discussed by the Parliament as they will be by the people. After all, I am not worrying, because I keep in mind the words of President Lincoln, who, when asked, during some of the darkest times of his administration, “ What are you going to do?” replied, “ Oh ! keep pegging away ; that is all.” The party on this side of the House are going to keep pegging away, and the people of Australia will ultimately realize-
– That they have been fooled by the Opposition.
– The people do not understand the question. They look upon their representatives in this Parliament as experts who have been returned to look after their interests; and when one set of men say one thing, and another set say quite the opposite, a curious impression is conveyed to them. One of the chief arguments used in South Australia to bring about the defeat of the last referenda proposals was, that if they were adopted every small shop could be wiped out by the Federation. Of course it could. We could pass an Act of Parliament to confiscate the property of the people; but is there any likelihood of our doing so? How long would Australians tolerate’ such a thing ? There is some influence exercised on the opinions of honorable members, and it is that, after all, .the people can reckon with their representatives. There is not the slightest fear in that regard. The policy of an Opposition is to oppose, but whether that is good from the point of view of the people, I leave the country itself to decide. When the late Government were asked by our good friends in South Africa whether they thought the trade and commerce power should be vested in the central authority, they replied in the affirmative. That statement is embodied in a memorandum by the late Government. Yet we find their party taking up a very different attitude to-day. There has been a shifting of the occupants of the Treasury bench, and this has brought about the change in their opinions. Such conduct may be all very well from a political point of view, but it is questionable ethics.
– It was not a Government memorandum.
– The right honorable member should not repudiate the action of his
Government after South Africa has acted upon it.
– Perhaps it was not a Government memorandum.
– It was ; it was fixed up by the late Government, and sent away by the order of the then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Ballarat.
– I can understand that it may be convenient to allow certain things to be done, and if they do not work out in the direction anticipated, to disregard them. But if that advice be good enough for the people of South Africa, why is it not good enough for the people of Australia? This is the place in which such questions should be answered. I ask, “Why should there be an appeal to the High Court in matters of tort and not in industrial matters ? “ In regard to unification and federation, I should like to have a definition of those terms. It is possible to have a Federation without a High Court at all. In my opinion it would be the best thing which could happen to the people of Australia if the whole of our Constitutions were thrown into the meltingpot, with a view to vesting supreme power in one Parliament with instructions that it was to delegate powers of home rule to the States. At the present time the supreme power is in the hands of the States. We require such power as is necessary to insure good government in Australia. I think that the time has arrived when the people are entitled to ask for more economical government. The present Governments are too expensive. The only way in which these difficulties can be overcome is by taking a referendum from time to time with a view to securing a balance which” will work effectively in the interests of the people of Australia.
.- In introducing these proposals yesterday the Attorney-General asked us to consider them’ on their merits, without reference to any such questions as unification, State rights, or the Federal ideal. I am not prepared to accept his invitation. Whilst I am willing to fairly consider any proposed amendments of the Constitution, my guiding principles are two in number. In the first place, no proposition for an amendment of the Constitution should be made merely on theoretical grounds, or with a view to complying with the desires of any political party. Certain facts and conditions must be proved fairly and substantially in order to show the great public necessity which exists for any such amendment. Secondly, and without any reservation, I would insist upon the condition that in no case should any change be made in the Constitution unless it is in harmony with the Federal principle of that Constitution. I agree with the AttorneyGeneral that the amending power contained in the constitutional instrument is an integral and vital power, and should be brought into use under proper conditions. I do not regard the Constitution as sacrosanct and beyond the reach of amendment when necessary. But our Constitution is not merely a legal document - it is an instrument of government which contains what I may describe as the very home and citadel of our national life. It should not be lightly altered. If necessary changes must be made they should be made along the lines of the Constitution itself. It was intended that that charter of government should grow and expand according to national requirements and national aspirations. But proposed changes should not be brought forward in bushels as they are on this occasion merely for the purpose of meeting party cries, or the demands of party necessities 01 ot putting opponents in a hole. I propose to deal with the question of what may be regarded as the fundamental principle of our Constitution. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has invited us to give a definition of the term “federation” and of the distinction which exists between a federation and a unified form of government. I accept his invitation, and without going too much into detail, I would roughly define a federation as a dual form of government in which the sovereign powers of government are divided between two sets of governmental agencies or organizations, one set of governing powers being conferred upon the Federal group, and the other set being reserved to the States. But these sovereign organs of government are merely vested with the powers of sovereignty as a whole. They do not exercise different or antagonistic powers. They represent the distribution of the whole of the sovereignty of the community and, as was shown in a quotation made this afternoon by the honorable member for Darling Downs, there is not necessarily any antagonism between the Federal or National governing portion of the sovereignty and the State or provincial group. They are all agents of the same people - they are merely assigned different classes of work. Shortly, a system of Federation is a system in which there is practically a division of labour among different agencies of the same people. The reasons in favour of the adoption of a Federal system may be briefly summarized in order to show its advantages as contrasted with a unification. In a Federal system the power is distributed among the two sets of governing organs - the Federal and State - instead of being centralized or concentrated in one State as in the case of a unification. Our Commonwealth is a truly Federal system- of government, and is admittedly based upon the American model. As such it is considered the most perfect and the most justly balanced system of Federal government in the world. The late Mr. Gladstone said that the Federal Government of the United States was the most wonderful system of government ever designed by the wit and wisdom of man. Why ? Because it contains that scientific, well-balanced, well -classified distribution of power between the Federal Government on the one hand and the State or provincial Government on the other. Our system is based on that model. The framers of our Constitution did that deliberately and designedly. They thought that they might fairly follow a model such as that of the United States, which had been adopted by the people of the British race of over 100 years ago - that they might fairly copy a model of government which had worked successfully in the great American republic.
– With a civil war thrown is to make it work.
– That war arose from no imperfections in the Federal system of government, but out of a domestic question, namely, the question of slavery. Apart from that tragic incident the whole history of the United States has been based upon the Federal system of government. As showing what the people of that country think of their Constitution, after more than 100 years of experience of it, and even after the Civil War, I intend -to quote from the manifesto of the Democratic party of the United States, which was published in connexion with the recent Presidential election.
– That is the State Rights party.
– The Democratic party at the recent Presidential election came out on top with a supreme majority. I propose to read an extract from the manifesto of that party in which .what is called the “ new nationalism “ - the doctrine promulgated by Mr. Theodore Roosevelt is attacked. It reads -
We declare that all powers not specifically granted to the Federal Government belong to and of right must be exercised by, the States in their sovereign capacity, and we assert that the most effective results in government are attained by the complete exercise by the States of these reserved sovereign powers. We are unalterably opposed to any usurpation by the Federal Government of the rights of the States.
That was the manifesto of the party which was triumphant at the polls, and which now has a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States. That does not show that the people in the majority of the States of America are in any way dissatisfied with that instrument pf government which was made the model for the Constitution of Australia. If it were their experience that their Constitution was defective and imperfect, lacking the powers proposed to be given to us by the amendments under discussion, the need for such amendment would have been disclosed, and a great party would have arisen to demand it. Tha United States of America are said to be the home of some of the strongest combinations and monopolies in the world ; but there has not been any great campaign, or, at all events, not a successful campaign, in favour of nationalization, or of an amendment of the Constitution. Why is this? It is because the dominant majority believes that the Constitution as it stands, without amendment, contains all the powers necessary for the suppression of trusts, combines, and monopolies. That is what we on this side say in regard to the bulk of the amendments now proposed. We say that the power to do what is needed exists, and all that has to be done is to exercise it. If any need for the alteration of the Constitution were proved to me, and the alteration were consistent with the Federal ideal, I should have no hesitation in advocating and supporting it; but, before undertaking that responsibility, I must be reasonably satisfied of the necessity. The tendency of the fundamental changes now proposed is to alter the structure, scope, character and operation of our Federal system of government for all time, and for good or for evil.
As I think that it would be for evil, I oppose them. The amendments, if carried, would tend to alter most materially the relations of the States and the Commonwealth, and to reduce their respective powers. If the amendments’ are made, this Parliament will grasp vast powers, and will undertake a mass of functions at present belonging to the States, and which should be reserved to them. Thus, what is proposed is an interference, with the States, and an impairing of their usefulness. The relations of the States with the Federal Government may be said to constitute the real stuff and essence of our system, of government. In deciding upon the distribution of powers, the Convention was guided, not only by the model of the United StatesConstitution, but by special considerations. It was thought that there should be reserved to the States all powers affecting; private rights, municipal functions, local! interests, resources, and trade; that they should control the administration of justiceand local governing communities, and have free opportunity for internal development and local option, and choice in internal affairs. To the Commonwealth were ceded such powers as are of a truly national Australian character, whether relating to, commerce, industry, finance, economics, defence, or external affairs. It would have been a great calamity had the Convention drawn up an instrument of government intended to last as the citadel of national life for all time, merely in a haphazard manner, without reference to fundamental and guiding principles.
– Does the honorable member think that the Constitution should lastfor all time?
– Being capable of” growth and evolution to meet the requirements of the’ people, it should do so. Thedistribution that I have outlined is not merely a matter of sovereignty or abstractreasoning, but one of vitality. It was not the jealousies of small States, but political’ statesmanship, expediency and necessitythat demanded the adoption of this principle of division. The Federal Parliament, as the central institution of government, no doubt looms’ largely upon the political horizon of Australia, and, unconsciously, many of us are greatly impressed with the sense of our importance as members of it. But if our powers and-“ our work are compared with the powers-. and work of the State Parliaments, it will . be seen that we are much less useful, and have much less to do in the great work of governing Australia, than they. The success of the Commonwealth as a whole depends, not so much on the legislation and activity of this Parliament as upon the legislation and activity of the State Parliaments. They have reserved to them the right of controlling all domestic institutions, the land, and the primary resources of Australia, from which are derived the springs of our national life, domestic, social, industrial, and commercial. We should not arrogate to ourselves powers of government which may be better left to the States, and can be better exercised by them. We should not interfere with the rights of self-government possessed by the States. The powers left to the States are of a purely local, domestic, and provincial character, and were left to them because it was believed that the Parliaments of the States, having special knowledge of local conditions, could be better trusted to solve local problems. To the Federal Parliament were assigned powers permitting legislation of a uniform character, operative throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It was not intended that this Parliament should pass laws applicable or suitable to parts of Australia only. The power of dealing with local questions and the making of local differentiations, in accordance with territorial differences and conditions, was left to the States. My test of a Federal power is this : Will its exercise yield laws of general application, suitable to every part of the Commonwealth, and capable of application throughout the States? Where there must be a variety of laws or regulations, differing with parallels of latitude, or according to local conditions, their enactment is best left to the States. The fundamental distinction between a Federal law and a State law is that the first must be universal and general in its application, and the second applicable to local circumstances. A power that must be exercised differentially or variously is not a Federal power, and should be left to the States. Let me illustrate what I mean by reference to the trade and commerce proposals. The Attorney-General objects to the constitutional limitation of our power to make laws relating to trade and commerce between the States and with other countries. He said that this is objectionable, and leads to confusion, being an artificial restriction, while commerce is an organic whole. He drew attention to what he considered the serious consequencesflowing from a division of the power. I join issue with the Attorney-General in his contention. I submit that the section in the Constitution is based on the true Federal principle - that the division of power between the Federation and theStates is truly Federal. What concerns the whole of Australia should be reserved te* the Federal Parliament, and what concerns each particular part or State of Australia should be reserved to the part or State. There is, therefore, a logical differentiation’ of power based, not on the difference in commerce itself, but on the operation of commerce. A branch of trade or commerce which begins in a State and ends in a State, is reserved to the State, because the State alone is interested in it, but when, the course of trade and commerce moves across the boundary, and enters another State, it becomes Federal, because more than one State is interested, and it admits of laws of general application. Trade and commerce, which are internal or domestic, may be fairly left to be dealt by the State authorities. What concern, for instance, has the State of New South Wales in the internal shopkeeping arrangements of the State of Victoria ? There is no community of interest whatever. The State of Victoria has a perfect right to make its own shopkeeping arrangements relating to the hours of opening and closing, and the conditions of labour. When, however, trade and commerce flows across the boundary, it becomes truly Federal and Australian - affecting certainly more than State- and falls within Federal control. This section; admittedly is taken from the American model ; and, as I pointed out just now, it has operated successfully in the United States for over 100 years. There has never been any serious complaint in the great Republic, on the part of the Federation on the one hand, or of the numerous States on the other, leading to any agitation for change, or reform. There have been suggestions for the alteration of the Constitution, but no party up to the present, so far as I know, has urged that the rights of the States to deal with their own internal shopkeeping arrangements shall be taken away and conferred on the Federation. If the proposal before us be carried, it will enable Federal laws to supersede State laws in reference to -
Sale of goods, ware and merchandise, wholesale and retail, forms of making contracts, thereunder.
Bills of sale, commercial instruments and securities.
Adulteration, laws to prohibit : adulteration of wine, beer, spirits, seed, manure, &c.
Pure food laws : margarine.
Vegetation diseases : goods affected by.
Bakers, millers, butchers, grocers, drapers : sales by.
Auctioneers, peddlers, hawkers : sales by.
Poisons and explosives : sales of.
Chemists and druggists.
Newspapers : registration and sale of.
Traction engines : regulation of.
Coal and firewood : sale of.
Milk and dairy products : supervision and sale of.
Fruit cases, bags, and sacks.
Marine stores and old metals.
Gold buyers and sellers.
Sundays and holidays.
Firms : registration of.
Railways and tramways : freights and rates.
Carriers and all means of traffic and transport : freights and rates.
Local option and licensing laws regulating the sale of intoxicants and other goods.
Markets, municipal and private.
I think I can fairly ask the AttorneyGeneral what public demand there has ever been in this country for an alteration of the kind proposed. I admit there has been a demand for some of the other proposed changes, but this one, relating to trade and commerce, stands alone. There has been no public demand, and no argument to justify the proposal, except that it is for the purpose of removing what is said to be an anomaly. There is no anomaly whatever ; and. there ought not to be an alteration of the Constitution merely because, in the view of a Minister, the divided power may lead to confusion. There is no reason why trade and commerce should be divided. Why enter on a constitutional campaign of this magnitude, for which there is no public demand, and, so far as I can see, no public need? Besides, this alteration, if carried, will mean a violation of the Federal principle - the taking away from the States of powers which justly belong to them, and which may be fairly and properly exercised by them to better advantage, greater efficiency, and with greater satisfaction to the people. It is said that, even if the amendment be carried, it does not follow that the Commonwealth will exercise the power. But why ask for amendment, if it is not intended to exercise any of the powers? Will the Minister specify any particular branch of business that I have indicated that he desires to deal with? Is there any direction in which the States have so exercised the control of domestic trade and commerce as to justify Federal intervention and a violation of the Federal principle? So far as I am aware, no case has been made out, and I have no hesitation in saying that, of all the proposals contained in the whole scheme before us, this is undoubtedly the most unjustifiable and the weakest. It will certainly come as a great shock to Federalists, as well as to those who have the management of our State institutions, to see this attempt to trench on the recognised domain of the States. If. carried, the amendment will lead to much trouble and mischief which it is most desirable to avoid. Up to the present there has been no agitation of any importance for any particular Federal law dealing with the internal and domestic trade and commerce of a State, but it is quite possible, if this amendment be carried, that we shall have numerous appeals to the Federal Parliament and Government to pass legislation dealing with local matters. The Federal Parliament has had up to the present time, and, so far as we can see, will have in the future, an abundance of work; and it would be a fatal mistake to so alter the scheme of government as to make it possible for appeal to be made to us over the heads of the State Parliaments and Governments in local and domestic concerns. This would result in overloading the Federal Legislature, and we have enough to do to mind our. own business, as outlined by the Constitution, without entering on work which is better done by the recognised authorities. I now come to the proposed amendment with reference to trusts, combines, and monopolies. This proposal was trenchantly dealt with by the AttorneyGeneral, and it is quite evident that it constitutes his trump card. When dealing with this branch of the case, he seemed elated, and as if he were animated with a firm belief in the strength of his case ; and for this I give him the greatest credit. There is no doubt that on the public platform appeals against trusts, combines, and monopolies are very popular. It is very easy for an orator to raise a cheer by joining in the denunciation of such associations in any part of the world. I fail to see, however, what good can be gained by dwelling so unctiously on the ruthless career of the Standard Oil Company in America, or the American Tobacco Trust. These are, no doubt, gigantic combinations, and, according to all accounts, their operations are most injurious to private individuals as well as to the public generally. It does seem strange that such combinations have not been drastically and successfully suppressed by the American Legislature. Some light, however, was thrown on this problem last night by the honorable member for Angas, who pointed out that probably one of the reasons why such legislation had not been more successful was that the Sherman Act, as it is called, is based on a different principle from that of our own Act. The Sherman Act was intended to deal only with trusts, monopolies, and combines that are in restraint of trade; and in the course of judicial construction it appears that the Courts had to take into consideration whether the restraint of trade is unreasonable or unfair to the public. That might have led to certain differences of opinion in each particular case, but that difficulty ought not to arise in Australia. Here we have an antitrust Act known as the Australian Industries Preservation Act - the consolidated version of which is to be found in the volume for 1909. In that volume all the amending Acts are classified and codified. I give the Ministry credit for their amendments of last session, and I think that that piece of anti-trust legislation may be regarded as one of the world’s masterpieces of anti-trust and anticombine legislation. Under due administration it would be found to be more destructive of trusts, combines, and monopolies than either the Sherman Act or any other legislation of the United States of America. The Attorney-General, in dealing with the failure of the Vend case in the High Court, did an injustice to that Act. In referring to the case, he brought forward a number of facts showing the wealth, influence, and business ramifications of the Coal Vend and shipping companies. He certainly showed that they were gigantic concerns, and after reciting certain facts, he said, “ Yet in the face of all these the case failed.” That statement has been recorded in Hansard, and will go forth to the world without explanation as to why the prosecution did eventually fail. I think it only fair, therefore, that I should cite from the judgment of the High Court the reason why that big prosecution did fail, and why the magnificent judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Isaacs - magnificent as a masterpiece of reasoning and for the marshalling of facts as well as of law - was reversed. It was not because of any imperfection or defect in the Anti-Trust Act, but that the combination, admitted between the Vend on the one hand, and the shippers on the other, did not amount, in the opinion of the Court, to a restraint of trade detrimental to the public. The facts were admitted, and all the Court had to decide was whether the Vend agreement was in restraint of trade or detrimental to the public. It seems to have been admitted that there was a certain measure of retraint of trade, but all restraint of trade is not necessarily injurious to the public. That is why our Act goes further than does the American law. The restraint must be either unreasonable or detrimental to the public. That is the test for which our Act provides, and that was the test applied in the Vend case. It is only fair to the High Court itself that the reasons for its decision should be shortly summarized. The Chief Justice, in delivering judgment, said -
When, in 1907, they fixed the price at ns. for 1908 the miners struck, demanding, amongst other things, that the price should be raised to 12s., on the ground that the 4s. 2d. hewing rate, attributable to an ns. rate, was insufficient. The Vend however adhered to the ns. rate. It is admitted on all hands that 4s. 2d. was then, and afterwards, the lowest hewing rate that could fairly be fixed having regard to the interests of the miners. Mr. Wheeler, the principal witness for the Crown, admitted that with a 4s. 2d. hewing rate he could not afford to sell coal f.o.b. at a less price than ns. Moreover, it appears that during 1908 and 1909 the declared price, and sometimes more, was obtained in the foreign market, subject in some cases to an allowance of a customary commission of 2^ per cent. Under these circumstances it seems strange to contend that the rate of ns. was fixed with intent to cause public detriment.
We find as a fact that the f.o.b. price of 10s. a ton fixed for 1907, and ns. a ton fixed for 1908 and afterwards, are not only not shown to have been unreasonable rates, but are shown affirmatively to have been reasonable. No inference of intent to cause public detriment can therefore be inferred from them.
It appears that these rates for coal sold wholesale at the pit’s mouth were imposed practically to enable the mine-owners to give better rates of pay to the miners. According to the passage which I have read from the judgment, at one stage the owners did not desire to raise the rates, and thereby consequentially to increase the hewing rates, because they thought they might not be able to compete with others. The miners, however, insisted on the rates being raised, and the High Court declared that it did not consider that the increase of the- f.o.b. rates was unreasonable in the circumstances. Later on the Chief Justice said -
We have already said that we cannot find anything on the face of the shipping agreement itself to show that the specified prices, c.i.f., were unreasonable. It is not in our opinion unfair that the merchants who pay a higher price for coal should ask on re-sale a price higher than a sum representing the exact equivalent of the increase in cost price.
Further on, he said -
The burden of proof is on the Crown, and we cannot assent to the argument that the burden is shifted by merely showing an increase of price. . . . There is in feet no evidence that any actual detriment followed from any such causes.
Finally, he said -
We are therefore bound to decide^ the case upon the evidence, and upon that evidence we are of opinion that the Crown has failed to prove any intent on the part of the appellants to cause detriment to the public. This disposes pf the case as regards penalties.
The case failed on its merits, and not because of any imperfections or defects in the Federal law. It failed, not because the Federal Parliament has no power to deal with these cases, but because there was no proof of any detriment to the public. I apprehend that no honorable member would say that there should be no understanding or combination in business matters of any kind whatever. There must be some qualification - some test of evil, moral turpitude, or detriment to the public. We do not wish to destroy all trusts, combines, and monopolies, although they may be quite harmless. Some may be beneficial ; some may do good, as in the case of the Coal Vend, which, I understand, some members of the Labour party have refrained from attacking because the beneficial character of the agreements made enabled the owners to avoid cut-throat competition, and thereby to pay a higher rate of wages to their workers.
– They have always consistently supported it.
– So I understand. I believe that the Attorney-General has spoken most strongly in support of some reasonable understanding, or combination, -as long as the combination is not detrimental to the public. Why should the Federal Parliament launch upon the destruction of all these organizations? The test should be whether a combination is injurious to the public. If it is not injurious to the public, why should Parliament intervene? Why not let them alone to carry on their own business in their own way ?
– That is the honorable member’s doctrine.
– It is a very good doctrine, and the doctrine of the AntiTrust Act.
– Let the trusts carry on as they like?
– If a combination is not injurious to the public, why intervene ? There must be some moral standard, and I accept the standard fixed under our Act. We must not go along, like Don Quixote, endeavouring to have a tilt at everything in this regard, without any consideration for the merits of the case.
– Does the honorable member say that trusts are not dangerous?
– A trust or combine that is injurious to the public is dangerous. If honorable members would like to insert in the Statute the word “ injurious,” by all means let them put it in. If they desire that the test shall be, whether a trust is injurious to the public, let them so amend the Anti-Trust Act.
– It is because of the use of the word “injurious” and such terms in the legislation of the United States of America that the big trusts of America have been able to go free.
– The word “injurious “ does not appear in the Sherman Act, the test there being “ restraint of trade.” The use of those words has led to judicial constructions involving the necessity of considering such questions.
– Does the honorable member say that it would be sufficient to leave out the words “ in restraint of trade and commerce “ ?
– No. I say that the words as they stand in the Statute, “ in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public,” are reasonable, and constitute a fair standard. It the Government wish to strengthen the Act by inserting the words “ injurious, unreasonable, or unfair to the public,” let them do so; but do not let them say they have no power to deal with Inter-State trusts.
– Of course, we have, power, but what is the effect of using that, power ?
– The Government could prosecute injurious combines until they were penalized out of existence.
– They could not get a conviction.
– That is not so.
– Let the honorable member read the High Court judgment in the Vend case.
– If it had been proved that the Vend was detrimental to the public, the Court would have been forced to sustain the judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Isaacs. As it was, the Court held that the Crown had not proved detriment to the public.
– That is so; and I say that we shall never get any more damning facts than were proved in that case, and that, therefore, whatever we had in the Act, we could not obtain a conviction.
– But do the Government desire to smash up all organizations, whether they are injurious or not, merely because of some sentimental objection ?
– The argument of the Attorney-General is that the High Court was wrong in not assuming that its operations were detrimental to the public.
– I say that the case was not proved. It was not shown that the Act was defective, or that the Constitution had broken down. If that case had broken down on the ground that we had not the constitutional power to deal with trusts, combines, and monopolies, every member of the Opposition would have been with the Attorney-General on this matter. But it did not break down because of any imperfection of the Federal law, but purely on the facts. I now intend to deal with another alleged combine, namely, the Tobacco Trust. I think that we are entitled to some information in regard to that Trust. It is said by some persons that there is a great Tobacco Combine in Australia. We used to hear a good deal about this matter, but lately we have not heard much about it. Recently a proposal was made in this House that an inquiry should be conducted into the operations of this alleged Tobacco Combine, and many honorable members upon the Opposition side of the House expressed their readiness to fall in with that proposal. But, strange to say, it met with a very cold reception at the hands of honorable members opposite. I could not help wondering what was the cause of that coldness. If there is in Australia a Tobacco Combine, whose operations are detrimental to the public, it is the duty of the Government to exercise the powers conferred upon them by the AntiTrust Act, and, if they can obtain the requisite proof, to institute a prosecution against it. The first step would be to put questions to it. If the Attorney-General thinks there is a Tobacco Combine in existence, why does he not set in motion the Anti-Trust Act by sending an officer to the representative of the alleged Combine to put questions to him, and to demand to see his books and documents? The Government have power to do that under the Act.
– But we cannot get any answers to the questions.
– If the Government do not get answers to their questions, the offender may be imprisoned.
– The High Court laid it down that we may ask any questions that we like. But we cannot get any answers to them.
– Then they may be prosecuted and imprisoned.
– When did the High Court decide what the Attorney-General just stated?
– I know that the High Court upheld the Act in the Huddart Parker case, and gave the right to the Crown to put questions to persons and to demand the production of documents.
– We could not ask the questions that we wanted to ask.
– This is the first time that I have heard of that. If the Act is not strong enough, let us amend and strengthen it. There is no other Act in the world which entitles a Government, before instituting a prosecution, to send its representative into a man’s office to demand the production of his books and documents, and to compel him to answer questions in order that it may prove a case against him.
– We have not power to compel him to answer questions.
– The Government have power to compel him to answer bymeans of fines or imprisonment. If they suspect this Tobacco Combine, why not make an effort to discover whether its operations are detrimental to the public? Why not go to the camp and get the necessary evidence?
– Will the honorable member supply me with the material for a prima facie case?
– I am not here as an informant, but to insist in the enforcement of law.
– I have no information. If the honorable member can give me any/ I shall be very pleased.
– Then the AttorneyGeneral has no right to go about the country talking of the existence of this Combine. One of the reasons urged for the proposed amendment of the Constitution is that we require more power to deal with these combinations. Now, it is alleged that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a great monopoly. Honorable members upon this side of the House have no sympathy whatever with any monopoly. We are out to enforce the law against all these combinations. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is such an injurious monopoly as is alleged, why has it not been prosecuted under the monopoly section of the Anti-Trust Act? Has any attempt been made to get information from its members for the purpose of proving that they are engaged in a moponoly?
– I am aware that a Royal Commission is inquiring into its operations at the present time. But I do not believe that an attempt Has been made by the Government to avail themselves of the powers conferred by the Australian Industries Preservation Act to get the desired information.
– Under what section could proceedings be instituted against the Tobacco Combine?
– That Combine trades in tobacco. Next to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company it is the biggest Inter-State Combine in Australia. There is no doubt about its Inter- State character.
– Does the honorable member say that we have power over the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– Yes; that company is of an Inter-State character.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The few addresses we have heard from members of the Opposition have apparently developed their ideas on the various amendments of the Constitution which are proposed. According to the honorable member for Bendigo, there seems to be a good deal of the “ shut-your-eye “ policy in their refusal to recognise patent facts. They tell us that there are no such things as trusts and combines, or that if there are they are quite harmless - in fact, their operations are of a beneficial character. We have been told, for instance, that the Coal Vend is a beneficial institution. Then the honorable member for Bendigo com plainedthat the Governmenthave not prosecuted the Tobacco Trust. Why should the Government prosecute these combines if they are such beneficent institutions? It is quite refreshing to find somebody in this Parliament who is prepared: to say a word or two in favour of trusts and combines. It is certainly very difficult to establish so clearly as was established the relationship which exists between the shipping combine and the coalowners. There 95 per cent. of one side agreed with 95 per cent. of the other side to do certain things in their own interests. Even if they are not unreasonable in their demands at first, it will not be long before they will become unreasonable. They are out for profit, and they have an idea that the time of combinations and trusts will not be long. Consequently, they exploit the public as freely as possible, making hay while the sun shines. The honorable member for Bendigo is the only member of the Opposition who got close down to any of these proposals. But even he did not touch that which is immediately before us. We have been told that the Federal Constitution is a most sacred thing - that it was perfect when it was framed some years ago-
– It is not a bad one.
– Nobody has said that it is. But how it can be claimed that the American Constitution is the ideal one, seeing that the American people themselves hold so different an opinion, I do not know. The honorable member for Angas, in the course of his remarks, made a quotation from a very able man in the person of Dr. Woodrow Wilson. I also propose to make a quotation from that gentleman’s work, in which he reviewed the Constitutions of various countries, including that of the United States. In dealing with the question which is now before us, he says, on page 478 of that work -
The plan of leaving to the States the regulation of all that portion of the law which most nearly touches our daily interests and which in effect determines the whole structure of society, the whole organic action of industry and business, has some very serious disadvantages - disadvantages which make themselves more and more emphatically felt as modern tendencies of social and political development more and more prevail over the old Conservative forces.
There is a very clear statement which is absolutely contradictory of everything which members of the Opposition have been saying.
– What statement has been made over here which it contradicts ?
– After pointing out the very sweeping changes which has taken place since the American Constitution was framed, the writer goes on to say -
State divisions it turns out are not natural economic divisions. They practically constitute no boundaries at all to any distinctly marked industrial regions. Variety and conflict of laws have consequently brought no little friction and confusion into our social and business arrangements.
This is experience similar to that which we have had in the limited time during which our Constitution, which is a copy of the American Constitution, has been in operation. I commend these opinions to the honorable member for Angas, who made only one quotation from his work. To show the evil effect of leaving matters to the States, which is the policy of the Opposition, he says -
At some points this diversity and multiformity of law almost fatally effects the deepest and most abiding interests of the national life. Above all things else it has touched the marriage relations, that tap root of all social growth, with a deadly corruption.
That is a very serious matter. He says, further -
So, too, the matter of corporations, diversity of State law makes great confusion and partial disaster to the interests of commerce and industry, not only because some States are less careful in their creation and control of corporations than others, and so work harm to their own citizens, but also because loosely or unwisely incorporated companies created by the laws of one State may do business and escape proper responsibility in another State.
That justifies the demand for a uniform law to control corporations. On page 481 he says -
Federal law cannot touch agencies of commerce which lie wholly within a single State; but there, are now-a-days, very few such agencies, and the jurisdiction of Congress over commerce, where it does exist, is exclusive of all interference by the States.
That is getting to be our experience, and hence the alarm which the demand for the control of those agencies by the Federation has created is an exaggerated one. Reference to the actual proposal now before us has been carefully avoided by the Opposition. Following the example of New Zealand, and almost simultaneously with the adoption of Federation, Australia established tribunals for the settlement of industrial disputes. The great labour organizations, which were very loth to give up the power they possessed to accomplish their ends, have been induced by their leaders, and Labour representatives generally, to give this system a fair trial, and to remove the warfare into the political arena, if their efforts to secure social justice can be so called. They are willing to allow the Commonwealth Court to decide industrial matters, but the Constitution is not very plain in its statement of the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to allow the Court to do this. The honorable member for Bendigo and others have admitted the difficulty of exactly defining the meaning of “ prevention,” or determining the exact limitations of the provision; and the High Court’s decisions have added to those difficulties in such a way that it is marvellous that the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has been able to do so much to prevent and settle disputes. He has succeeded so well because of the loyalty of the organizations to the arbitration system. Their deliberate request to this Parliament is to provide for an amendment of the Constitution, so that the Court may be made more efficient. That the request is reasonable is obvious from the silence of the Opposition about it.
– The President of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has generally given the men what they have asked for. That is why they wish to go to his Court.
– If the honorable member were to attend the Court, he would find that the Judge feels, to use his own words, that he is walking amongst pointed swords, his jurisdiction being limited in every direction. If he has given the men what they have asked for, it is because they have asked for too little in most cases. Does the honorable member grudge them what they have received? If he were President of the Court, would he give them less? I do not think that he would. That, however, is not the question. When both sides submit their cases to a tribunal, it should be an efficient one, and the proposal now before us is to remove all limitations so that the President may have full jurisdiction. This will enable disputes to be nipped in the bud, because the excellent provisions for conciliation can be put into operation, to the great saving of expense. The work of the Wages Boards is a kind of conciliation. By means of compulsory conciliation, the great cost attending arbitration proceedings would be largely avoided. In arbitration cases in which big industries are concerned expense is unavoidable. At present, the parties to a dispute cannot go to the Court to which they wish to go. Why should not they have the right to do so, just as in civil matters litigants can choose how they will proceed. Scores of cases have cropped up before Wages Boards showing the need for jurisdiction. As in the Boot case, Federal jurisdiction is often needed to give fair play to the employers. At present the tendency of the Wages Boards is to lower wages to the lowest rate prevailing in the State, while the tendency of the Arbitration Court is to raise wages. That is why there as such opposition to the Court. We do not complain of that. The employer must study his own interests, but it is our business to study the interests of the public. Conciliation is simpler and cheaper than arbitration, and will enable understandings to be arrived at in a great number of cases.
– Will the Court travel to the various States?
– Yes. It travels now. Mr. Justice Higgins is at present in Western Australia, and has travelled a good deal, having shown his readiness to oblige the parties appearing before him, at considerable inconvenience to himself. In regard to ordinary legal business, we provide circuit Courts and other Courts to meet the demand, and that can be done in this case. I have previously expressed the opinion that the federation of trade unions which is rapidly taking place will enable cases to be more carefully handled and conducted, and the making of awards will toe simplified. The wool industry, with which I am connected officially, is the largest in Australia ; and in a case lasting sixty-eight days an award was secured which has a currency of five years, and may continue longer if the parties to it remain satisfied. The obtaining of that award cost the employers an enormous sum, and the labour organizations about £8,000 ; but we do not grudge the expense, because we have spent as much as ,£2,000 to feed the men in one strike camp, and we prefer peaceful methods of settlement. After the first rush of business, the work of the Court will lessen, and the people will not regret having adopted this method of settling disputes.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to S p.m.
– I have always been a believer in the parties to a dispute meet ing, and, though the result is generally a compromise, a good feeling is left behind; indeed, the setting up of the Arbitration Court recognises this desirable principle, and hence the powers given to the Judge to convene what is termed a compulsory conference. As an illustration of what I. mean, I may point out that some time ago a dispute arose in the fruit industry, and the parties were called together by the Judge. In order to secure the gathering of the crops, the employers were practically forced to agree to terms they did not desire, His Honour promising to visit the district and settle the matter afterwards when all was quiet. The Judge carried out his promise ; but when the matter came again before the Court, he found his power so limited by his jurisdiction that, although he may have considered, the wage paid not sufficient, he could not award a higher one, all parties being bound by the previous agreement. If the parties to this dispute desired to secure a further consideration of the matter, a dispute would have to be created in two States, and a case brought before the Court in the ordinary way. Such a state of affairs is not calculated to tend to the equitable settlement of questions, and it imposes needless expense on the parties. Both employers and employed are becoming organized in this age of unionism in all branches of industry; and this is a very natural and healthy development, presenting the only means of securing collective action and the proper presentation of the views of the parties concerned. It ought to be quite sufficient for a claim to be served by the employers on the employed, or vice vend, whereas in a case in which I was interested it was necessary to serve a separate notice on each of 700 or 800 employers resident in four of the States. This expense is quite unnecessary where it is generally recognised that a dispute is in existence. Complaints are made by members of the Opposition about the delays and the expense in the Arbitration Court ; but all this is brought about by the lack of power, due to the foolish limitations placed in the Constitution. Those limitations the Opposition refuse to remove; and yet they do not hesitate, both here and on the platform, to declare arbitration a failure. They do not realize, however, what would follow if they had .their own way, which would be to abolish the Arbitration Court in favour of Wages Boards. This is a question I do not propose to discuss now, seeing that it has already been fully ventilated. The
Wages Board system is good so far as it goes, but it is only conciliation, and is not calculated to do that efficient justice to the parties concerned, and the community generally, that the Arbitration Court can. In the Arbitration Court evidence is given on oath, and all who are interested, however remotely, may state their case. This is not the procedure before Wages Boards, which, however, are better than no system at all. It has been suggested that the length of time occupied by some of the cases in the Arbitration Court is due to the absence of lawyers. My own opinion, however, after observation, is that no lawyer could, have shortened the proceedings in any way. Most trade unions are becoming federated, and they employ able secretaries, who study industrial problems closely, gain experience by attending the Court, and aid one another. They thoroughly understand the views of the presiding officer, and the rules of the Court, which is a Court of Equity, and, therefore, presents fewer difficulties for a well-balanced lay mind than would any Court of Law, with its reliance on cases and precedent. Where barristers have been engaged, they have been men whose temperament fitted them for this particular kind of work, rather than men noted for a keen knowledge of the law, because in the Arbitration Court no point of law can arise except, perhaps, one relating to jurisdiction. People learn from the newspapers, which probably do not give the facts, that there have been strikes; but to me it is marvellous that there have not been more. I know something .of the difficulty in inducing men to take the new departure of applying to the Arbitration Court, and a few odd cases of the application of the strike principle are only to be expected. However, if honorable members opposite imagine that strikes may be avoided by keeping the Arbitration Court restricted in its powers as at present, they are making a huge mistake. There is a section of men, and a fairly active section, who advocate strikes, but they are not Labour supporters; indeed, they generally vote against the Labour party. This and many other influences are at work; and if we desire industrial peace, the spirit and feeling of those connected with the Labour organizations must be realized. Breaches of awards are almost unknown so far as the workers are concerned, but, notably in New South Wales, there are a large number of breaches by employers. The num ber of such cases would astonish honorable members, and every week heavy fines are imposed. We hear nothing of these cases from honorable members opposite; but the facts I have stated are an answer to those who complain that the Arbitration Court has not entirely abolished industrial trouble. The day is passed when a working man was - perhaps, in a few cases, it may be so to-day - invariably obedient to his alleged superiors. The working man is now a thinker, and takes an active interest in all public affairs ; indeed, one of the objections raised to his having an efficient Arbitration Court, untrammelled by lack of jurisdiction, is that he takes part in politics. However, the working man is not going to rest until he has secured a measure of justice in this respect ; and I warn those of the Opposition that they will gain nothing by throwing dust in his eyes in talking about a sacrosanct Constitution. In this, members of the Opposition show, apparently, that they would rather have a weak Constitution that hinders progress, than do justice to those who need amendments of the kind now proposed. The position cannot rest where it is. Every credit must be given to the two learned Justices who have acted as Presidents of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Since the establishment of the Court, special efforts have been made by the two learned Justices in whom was vested its control to meet the situation that confronted them; but, in each case, they have been hampered, and more so of late, because of the decisions of the High Court. The High Court has given an interpretation of our written Constitution different from that which the honorable member for Bendigo, the honorable member for Ballarat, and other members of the legal profession in this House led us to expect. They led us to believe that we had certain powers which the Court has declared we do not possess. They joined with, us in passing legislation, and the High Court, giving an honest decision, according to their interpretation of the law, have arrived at conclusions which we did not anticipate, having regard to the opinions expressed by these honorable members. Yet, when the Attorney-General mentions the fact, it is said by them that he is making a charge against the Court. That is an unfair position to take up. We cannot ignore the facts. One cannot help noticing how carefully the Opposition avoid the obvious fact that it is because of interpretations, different from those which we laymen had been led by the many lawyers in the House to believe would be given, that we are now asking for amendments of the Constitution. We are asking to have restored to us that which was supposed to be given to the Commonwealth Parliament by the framers of the Constitution. We should, therefore, be credited with a desire to uphold the Constitution; but, instead of that, the Government have been denounced. I admit that, in some respects, we are going further, and asking for more than the original framers of the Constitution provided. We are led to do so because it has been found that the Constitution really does not carry out what was the aim of its framers. That surely cannot be described1 as unreasonable. The references that have been made to the American Constitution constitute a piece of special pleading which one would not have expected from honorable members of the legal profession who took an active part in the debates in this House on constitutional questions when we were framing certain laws. To-day, those honorable members are taking up an attitude different from that which they then adopted. They then declared that the American Constitution had been found to be a cast-iron one ; that it was found to be almost unworkable ; and that it had been made workable only by the broad interpretations given to its provisions by capable men such as Chief Justice Marshall and others, who made it fit in with the demands of the American people. We are asked now to ignore those facts, and to follow the plan of the castiron American Constitution, instead of adopting the common-sense course of moulding our Constitution to suit the demands and the needs of the Australian people. The honorable member for Darling Downs spoke of the American Constitution as a grand one, and in many respects it is. It would have been, to say the least, remarkable if those who framed that Constitution 120 years ago could have so designed it as to make it fit in with the needs of the present day. When it was framed, the conditions were entirely dissimilar from what they are to-day, and it is too much to expect that it should have been framed originally to meet the needs of the present time. The quotations I have made from the writings of President
Woodrow Wilson show the present situation in America. In the circumstances, why does the honorable member for Darling. Downs lay such emphasis on the position in regard to the Constitution of the United State of America, and ignore the fact that we are working under a British, and not an American, system of government? Our methods of parliamentary procedure and1 Cabinet responsibility are modelled on the traditions and conditions of the House of Commons, which is often spoken of as the Mother of Parliaments. Does any one pretend that the American political institutions are similarly moulded? It is true that the interpretation of American law largely follows British lines, but the position in Australia is altogether different from that in America, where, with every change .of President, the personnel of various public offices is altered, even municipal offices being filled by men sharing the political views of the reigning party. The American professors, when writing of the government of the Philippine Islands, and other matters, specially, praise that feature pf continuity which is a characteristic of British government. They admire the fact that heads of Departments and chief administrators are retained in office, notwithstanding political changes, and are not swept away from time to time, as is the case with every Presidential change. All these facts are ignored by the Opposition, and we are told by them that the American Constitution is the most perfect instrument of government in the world. We certainly desire a perfect instrument. Our Constitution should be made to meet the wishes of a self-governing people, such as the Australians undoubtedly are. We are the only people who are entirely selfgoverning ; but, at the present time, there is no power in the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with certain matters. The Attorney-General has been twitted by the honorable member for Bendigo with not, attempting, by means of improved legislation, to tackle the trusts and combines. He has overlooked the fact, stated by the AttorneyGeneral, and voiced by the party generally, that we do not believe that it is possible, by means of legislation, to control trusts and! combines. Experience has led us to that conclusion. In America, the trusts have control, and they will have control here if they get the chance. The Labour party has supported certain legislation because the public mind demanded that it should be given a trial. It has been given a trial, and, although the decision of the Court in the first place went against the Coal Vend, we found that there was no change in the price of coal. Neither has there been any change in prices in America as the result of prosecutions under the Sherman Act.
– The Vend case was upset on appeal.
– Quite so; but when the decision of the lower Court went against the Vend, and the fines were paid by the defendants, no change took place in the prices charged by them. I venture to say that the position would have been the same, even if the Full Court had upheld the decision given by Mr. Justice Isaacs. In America big fines have been imposed on trusts, and the only result has been that the trusts have immediately increased their prices, so that the public have really had to pay those fines. We think that these great evils can be d’ealt with otherwise than by the imposition of fines. That is my answer to the honorable member for Bendigo. He seemed to think that we had an exaggerated idea of the effect ofl the operations of trusts and combines. How a man who reads at all could form such an impression is a surprise to me. The difficulty of handling the trusts has long been a problem in the United States of America, Germany, and elsewhere, and has become so pronounced as to cause sweeping changes in the opinions of many, political parties, with the result that States and municipalities have taken over undertakings previously confined to private enterprise. That is our policy. We think that when a monopoly arises in connexion with any commodity, with the result that it is handled only by a few, the State should take it over. That is practically the only way in which to deal with big trusts and combines. I should like to see the Opposition come to closer grips with this question. So far, the honorable member for Bendigo is perhaps the only member of that party who has not indulged in mere generalities. We have before us proposals so to extend the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament that it may carry out the work intrusted to it by the people. At present, neither the Commonwealth nor the States can deal with certain monopolies. If a Victorian firm arranges with a firm in New South Wales engaged in the same line of business that each shall confine itself to the trade of its own State, neither the Parliament of New South Wales nor the Parliament of Vic toria can interfere with such an arrangement ; and, apparently, the Federal Parliament is also powerless to take action. That is a condition of affairs which I am sure the people of Australia will not allow to continue. They will have a clearer knowledge of these proposals than they had on the last occasion, and I believe that they will decide in their favour. We shall not allow them to be misled as they were on a former occasion, and I believe they will vote to give the National Parliament sufficient power to deal with evils of which they are aware, even if the Opposition are not. I venture to predict that the next Parliament will have powers that are worth possessing. The honorable member for Angas caused me some surprise when he said that there is more patriotism in small than in large communities. I do not know what is his ground for that statement. Since Federation, there has undoubtedly been a greater patriotism and a stronger national feeling than ever there was before. While our written Constitution is a new experience for the people, and whilst it must take some time for them to understand it, and for the Legislature to ascertain its difficulties, no one can deny that it has many grand features. But, to say that, because certain men - the majority of whom had Conservative tendencies - drafted that Constitution for Australia a few years ago, we should not alter it, notwithstanding that experience has shown that it needs to be amended, is to argue that we are incapable of self-government. The people of Australia have proved that they are capable of self-government, and when they understand any question they cast an intelligent vote upon it. Usually, the vote on a referendum is a Conservative one, and that being so, it is perfectly safe to, submit these proposals to the people. I believe they will be carried, and that the new Parliament will have power to tackle some problems that are well worth tackling. As it is, we have reached a stage at which there is nothing very big for the Parliament to deal with. What a ridiculous idea it would be to assume that this Parliament will allow itself to be tied up in its power to deal with these important matters, and to meet only for a short period each year, even then doing very little good for the community. That would not be fair to the Federal system. It would not give to the people the return to which they are entitled for having set up this great central Parliament. I do not for a moment anticipate that the electors will adopt that attitude. I believe that the result of the referenda will be that the Commonwealth and the States will work harmoniously together. I recognise that the difficulty connected with limitations always is that those limitations may lead to litigation. But this Parliament has always shown fair consideration to the interests of the States, and has never exhibited a desire to encroach upon their rights. I have every confidence that if these proposals are assented to by the people, the relations between the Commonwealth and the States in the future will be as harmonious as they have been in the past.
– I regret that the Government have decided to take these referenda at the coming election. It has been conceded that it is desirable that any alteration of the Constitution should be determined upon only after thoughtful consideration, unbiased as far as possible by party feeling. Even the honorable member for Hindmarsh did not hesitate to say that he agreed with the contention that an amendment of the Constitution ought to be above party considerations and party conflicts. But the drastic amendments which the Government propose cannot be severed from the personal aspect, so far as the candidates for seats in the next Parliament are concerned. Those candidates will, of course, ally themselves either with one political party or the other. They will declare themselves either in favour of, or opposed to, the proposed amendments of the Constitution, as the case may be. Under these circumstances, apart from the personal consideration, the electors will not be permitted to give to these questions that judicial consideration which it is desirable should be associated with any amendment of the Constitution. The honorable member for Darling and other honorable members opposite have stated that members of the Opposition have indicated from time to time that they regard the Constitution as sacrosanct.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Darling and other honorable members. But I have never heard that sentiment expressed by any speaker on this side of the House. We all realize that the Constitution was intended to fit the immediate conditions of Australia. We all recognise that in that Constitution provision is made for the growth and evolution of Australia, and that concurrently with its expansion the Constitution must be made to fit its conditions. But what is contended by honorable members upon this side of the House is that there has never been any public demand for the drastic alterations proposed by the Government, and no proof has been forthcoming that such alterations should be made. The onus is thrown on those who seek these amendments to establish their public necessity, and in this they have altogether failed. While I am not pre-‘ pared to suggest that no alteration of the Constitution is necessary, I do say unhesitatingly that no amendment of the drastic character proposed by the Government is warranted, or represents a response to any public demand on the subject.
– How will the honorable member determine the public demand?
– There is one special, and almost conclusive, test, and it is that when these proposals were submitted to the people, they were rejected by an overwhelming majority.
– The people’s minds were poisoned by the money which was poured out by the financial institutions to defeat the Government proposals.
– That is a statement which is utterly without foundation - a pure piece of imagination on the part of the Honorary Minister.
– Will the honorable member deny that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company made contributions to the referenda campaign?
– I never so much as heard of any contributions having been received from that company until the statement was made the other evening by the Attorney-General. My point is that there has been no public demand for these alterations, and, so far as the public mind and public opinion has been tested on the subject, the electors by an overwhelming majority have said that they are not necessary. Yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh says : “ But in spite of that rebuff we will go pegging on and endeavour to show the people that they were wrong, and that the Federal Labour party was right.”
– The honorable member met with a rebuff at the last general elections, but he still goes pegging on.
– And my honorable friend does not know what is before him. No man and no Government is free from rebuffs. But my point is that there has been no public demand for the drastic amendments of the Constitution which are proposed. So far as the working machinery of the Constitution is concerned, I do not suggest for a moment that it is incapable of improvement in certain respects. On more than one occasion I have stated on the public platform that there are two directions in which there is room for some amendment of it. There is room for its amendment in regard to trusts and combines. I -feel - and it has always been the policy of the Liberal party - that it is necessary that this Parliament should have full and complete control over trusts, combines, and monopolies which operate in restraint of trade. I have said so before, and when the referenda proposals of the Government were under consideration on a prior occasion, the honorable member for Angas, on behalf of the Opposition, moved an amendment to give expression to that view. In the second place I think there is room for a useful alteration in the Constitution in regard to industrial matters, but certainly not to the wholesale extent which the Government propose. The late Government did arrange for a surrender by the States of the necessary power to enable a Federal tribunal to be created, having for its object the reconciliation or the harmonizing of conflicts where they exist so far as the Wages Boards of the several States were concerned, the prevention of unfair competition as between the States, and the creation of Wages Boards or like industrial tribunals in those particular States where they had not already been established. In my opinion, there is room for a useful alteration of the Constitution in. that regard. There is on the part of the Opposition a strong desire, so far as industrial unrest is concerned, that some solution of this vast and complex problem may be discovered - some solution which will result in the establishment of peaceful tribunals to which resort may be had for the purpose of settling differences as between employers and employes, with a view to avoiding the array of labour against capital. These objects we all desire to achieve. Where we differ is as to the means to be employed. In my opinion, the real solution of these difficulties lies in our Wages Board system, which has proved its value, and an extension of which, combined with an appellate Federal tribunal, would complete the industrial edifice, and achieve in an effective manner the settlement of industrial disputes.
– Wages Boards have no power to make a common rule.
– They would have. The late Government had arranged for the surrender by the States of the power necessary to enable us to invest the Inter-State Commission with plenary powers in that direction. It was stated at the time that if they failed to surrender those powers the only alternative was for the Government to go to the country and seek the necessary alteration of the Constitution. But there ‘ is a vast difference between the proposals which are now under consideration and those of the late Government. My honorable friends have never condescended to ask the States to surrender powers to enable them to overcome the difficulties that have arisen in regard to industrial matters. The States were prepared to surrender sufficient powers to enable us to effectively meet the actual difficulties which were industrially created.
As regards trusts and combines, it seems to me that the proposals of the Government are a hollow pretence. It is not the power to control trusts and combines that they desire at all. It is the nationalization of monopolies. That is the fad at which they are aiming. I had charge of the anti-trust legislation during the period that I was leader of the Senate, and I know it was a matter of mere condescension on the part of the Labour party that our efforts in that direction were supported. Whilst they said that they would grant us the desired powers, they insisted that there was nothing in them.
– It has turned out that way.
– No, it has not. The rigid and complete control of monopolies has been at all times the policy of the Liberal party, which they have translated into legislation now on the statutebook.
– That legislation proved ineffective when applied.
– My honorable friend is wrong. The powers of the Commonwealth in regard to anti-trust legislation are absolute and. complete, so far as Inter-State trade arid foreign trade are concerned. The operations in Australia of trusts, combines, and monopolies engaged in the Inter-State trade and foreign trade can be subjected to the most complete control by the application of the drastic provisions of our anti-trust law, or if that is found defective, then by amending legislation. No effort has been spared to discredit that legislation ; but the law, nevertheless, is ample and effective.
– It has been declared ultra vires in every case in which an attempt has been made to put it into operation.
– That is incorrect. Sections 5 and 8 were held invalid in the Huddart Parker case because they sought to control the operations of combinations and monopolies confined wholly to one State. The High Court held that it is not within our constitutional power to control and regulate such operations.
– What about the coal and shipping trusts?
– That case was decided on the facts, and on its merits. Mr. Justice Isaacs held that the evidence justified him in concluding that a combination existed, that it was in restraint of trade, and that it was detrimental to the public. But, on appeal, the High Court held by a majority that it was not in restraint of trade, and was not detrimental to the public. I have heard honorable members opposite say that there are both good and bad trusts, that some trusts are beneficial to the public. None of us would wish to interfere with combinations or trusts which are beneficial to the public. If my honorable friends were able toamend the Constitution as they desire, and this Parliament were given all the powers which they wish to exercise to control or repress trusts in restraint of trade and detrimental to the public - for I apprehend that is the class of trust they seek to deal with -then the Court would still have to decide as a fact whether, in a particular prosecution, the operations of a trust were in restraint of trade and detrimental to the public; and if it held that they were not detrimental to the public or in restraint of trade, the prosecution would fail. The result of the coal and shipping case does not prove the ineffectiveness of our anti-trust legislation, which, I say, is absolutely effective so far as trusts and combines engaged in Inter-State and foreign trade are concerned. The AttorneyGeneral would not willingly mislead the House, but he created the impression that it has been held by the Court that there is no power to ask questions of corporations, and the Honorary Minister made the same suggestion.
– No. We have power to ask any questions we like, but there is no power to compel answers.
– We have the fullest power to compel the answering of questions, or to punish any one who refuses to answer the questions which are put.
– Only when the questions relate to matters within the ambit of the Constitution.
– Of course, we have no power to control or regulate trusts and monopolies carrying on their business wholly within any one State, and have no power to enforce the answering of questions relating to their operations.
– If we wish to alter the Constitution we have no power to require the answering of questions relating to matters over which we have not now control.
– My honorable friend is begging the question. We have, of course, no power to deal with anything which is wholly within the control of the States. The Attorney-General drew a harrowing picture of the conditions caused by the American trusts. All here have denounced the rapacity, tyranny, and nefarious practices of the trusts, and the Liberal party has passed legislation to regulate their operations in Australia. But it is not to be suggested that the American trust laws are not, to some extent, at least, effective. There is the Sherman law, upon which our law was founded, although it is of a more drastic character.
– The Sherman law applies to every contract of trade.
– Speaking broadly and generally, our law is the more drastic within its ambit. There have been several prosecutions of trusts in America; that of the Standard Oil Company, which controlled and dominated the oil resources of the country, being the most famous. In that case the Sherman Act was tested, and the Federal Government was successful in asserting unmistakably its strength and power. Injunctions were ordered in regard to violations of the law, the combination was declared illegal, and was dissolved, some thirty-seven companies were dissevered, and in many respects the unfair practices which had been complained of were discontinued. A most interesting article giving the results of the prosecution was contributed to one of the magazines by Frank B. Kellow, special counsel for the United States. I am glad to say that the elements which contributed to the colossal character of the trusts in America, and which permitted of their tyranny and nefarious practices, do not obtain in Australia; but we have a first duty cast on us to make every provision against their obtaining within the limits of the Commonwealth. In Australia we control the means of transport over the State-owned railways ; and it was by reason of the fact that the railways in America are in the hands of private companies that the trusts were able to secure their vast proportions. No one can calmly look at the amendments submitted and say that they are not destructive of the fundamental principle of the Constitution. I am aware that the Constitution is held very lightly by some honorable members opposite ; and the honorable member for Hindmarsh did not hesitate to say that he was prepared to abolish the High Court at the earliest possible moment. That would mean, of course, the destruction of the Constitution; and the honorable member is not alone in the expression of that view. It has been proposed by some of the Labour Councils, with which honorable members opposite are associated, that the Constitution should be re-cast, so that any law passed by the Federal Parliament shall not be subject to any review or interpretation by a High Court.
– That is the position in Canada.
– It is not in accordance with the Constitution accepted by Australia. The Canadian Constitution is founded on a different principle. In Australia there were highly-developed States, which, by reason of their autonomy, had achieved positions of great importance; and they were sovereign within the limits of their Constitutions. But it was realized that they had no power to legislate beyond those limits, and it was desirable that a national power should be established. Thereupon, the States surrendered enumerated powers to the central nr National Parliament. In regard to the enumerated powers, the Federal Parliament was given sovereign jurisdiction; but as to the powers that were not enumerated, they were reserved to the States completely. That was the form of Constitution framed by a Convention elected by the people themselves; and it was framed after the fullest consideration of the Canadian Constitution, the German Constitution, the Swiss- Constitution, the American Constitu- don, and others. It was felt that the American model was best calculated to suit the conditions of Australia; and that was the model accepted by the people by overwhelming majorities after a campaign, both for and against, extending throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Every effort was made to enlighten the public; and the Constitution finally determined on was an absolute compact between the States and the Commonwealth. While the enumerated powers of section 51 give full and plenary jurisdiction in certain matters, there are three in regard to which it was decided that, as they so seriously affected the powers of the States, there should be limitations imposed. The first limited power is that in regard to trade and commerce. It was realized that there were departments of trade and commerce, such as Inter-State and foreign trade and commerce, over which no State had jurisdiction, and, therefore, a limited power was delegated to the National Parliament. But as to trade and commerce within the limits of a State, that was expressly, by the terms of the Constitution, reserved to the State.
– What does the honorable member for Flinders say about that?
– That is his concern, not mine; I am merely stating the actual fact as it was embodied in the Constitution, and I am sure the honorable member for Flinders would not venture to deny the assertion. This provision in the Constitution is founded on precedent, and is not a mere experiment. The next limited power is that in regard to industrial matters, with which the States themselves had been accustomed to deal. In the State Parliament of Victoria I had from time to time advocated means for settling industrial disputes ; and the limitation had for its object the remission to the Federal body of only that particular class of dispute which spreads from one State to another. Then, in regard to corporations, there was also a limitation; and the three were deliberately put into the Constitution in order to conserve the rights of the States. Our Constitution contains fundamental and recognised Federal principles. It is a written Constitution, the powers are scientifically distributed as between the National body .and the States, and there is established a High Court to interpret the Constitution and determine the several rights of the Commonwealth and the States. The idea of the Constitution is that national matters shall be undertaken by the central Government, and that State domestic concerns shall be left to the States. This form of Constitution has commanded the admiration of the highest constitutional authorities, including Professor Dicey and Mr. Bryce. The latter, in referring to the principle of Federalism which is embodied in the Constitution, says -
Federalism supplies the best means of developing a new and vast country. It permits an expansion whose extent, and whose rate and manner of progress, cannot be foreseen, to proceed with more variety of methods, more adaptation of laws and administration to the circumstances of each part of the territory, and altogether in a more truly natural and spontaneous way than can be expected under a centralized government which is supposed to apply its settled system through all its dominions.
– Who disputes that?
– The amendments radically and completely alter the fundamental principle of Federalism, as contained in the Constitution. Mr. Bryce goes on to say.
Federalism furnishes the means of uniting Commonwealths into one nation under one national government without extinguishing their separate administrations, Legislatures, and local patriotisms.
This form of Constitution has proved effective in every way in the United States for upwards of 120 years, and the appreciation of the principles underlying it is best shown in the manifesto of the Democratic party at the last election. That manifesto declared that all the powers not specifically granted to the Federal Parliament belonged to, and of right must be exercised by, the States in their sovereign capacity, and re-asserted that the most efficient results in government are attained by the complete exercise by the States of their reserved sovereign powers. The manifesto went on to say that the parties thereto were unalterably opposed to any usurpation by the Federal Government of the rights of the States. That appreciation of the principles of the American Constitution, and of our Constitution, was indorsed by the unparalleled and overwhelming victory of the Democratic party at the late election. It is proposed, however, by the amendments to alter all this and to usurp the rights of the States most unfairly. We know, as a fact, that the States had full and complete control of trade and commerce within their respective boundaries before the Federal Constitution was accepted by the people, and that by the terms of that Constitution they deliberately retained full power over trade and commerce within their own limits. Under these proposals it is intended to wrest from them every scintilla of power over trade and commerce, subject to the small qualification that the Commonwealth shall not have power to deal with trade and commerce upon railways the property of a State, except so far as it is trade and commerce with other countries or among the States. That means that the rights of the States are to be invaded, and these powers taken from them, notwithstanding their protests.
– Have they not offered to concede some of these powers to the Commonwealth ?
– Did not New South Wales, through Mr. Holman, offer to do so?
– Not the power to deal with trade and commerce generally, so far as my recollection serves me. The Attorney-General made the audacious claim that these proposed amendments of the Constitution were strictly Federal in character, and he scornfully referred to the suggestion that they would result in unification or in an invasion of State rights. I have no hesitation in saying that they point inevitably in the direction of unification, and that so far as they relate to trade and commerce, industry, and corporations, they inevitably mean that the Federal Parliament shall have unitary powers.
– Have we not unitary powers in respect of banking, insurance, divorce, and many other subjects?
– We have in regard to all the subjects enumerated in section 51 ; but our power to deal with the three subjects to which I have referred was specially limited. What I contend is that if these amendments be agreed to the power of the Commonwealth will be absolutely complete and supreme. I wish to show that the system which we followed in framing our Constitution has worked successfully and for freedom in the United States of America. The principles of the Federation there are so completely established that the machine works with great exactness. I shall give only a few illustrations of the numerous cases wherein the fundamental principles in relation to the Federal power «over trade and commerce under the Constitution of the United States of America have been laid down, and now form part and parcel of- a successful governmental instrument. In several cases it has been laid down that -
When the subjects of commerce are not national but local, and do not require a uniform rule of action, the powers of Congress are not -exclusive; and in such cases the States, in the -exercise of their police powers, may, in the absence of congressional regulation, exercise local control over them.
The extent of that power is referred to in several cases. It has been laid down that -
The grant of power to Congress extends no further than to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States. Every -State, therefore, may regulate its onn internal commerce according to its own judgment and views as to the interest and well”being of its citizens. So the laws of the States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, imposing licence on sale of intoxicating liquors are held valid, notwithstanding in the case from Rhode Island the liquor was -duly imported from France and purchased by the party indicated from the original importer, and in the case from New Hampshire the liquor sold was a barrel of American gin, purchased in Boston and carried coastwise to New Hampshire and there sold in the same barrel. “Then it is held that-
Congress has nothing to do with purely internal commerce of a State, that is, with such -commerce as is carried on between different parts of the same State, if its operations are confined exclusively to the jurisdiction and territory of the State, and do not affect other -nations or other States or Indian tribes.
Further, it has been laid down that -
The rule that the regulation of commerce which is confined exclusively within the jurisdiction and territory of a State, and does not affect other nations or States or Indian tribes (that is to say, the purely internal commerce of a State), belongs exclusively to the State, is as well settled as that the regulation of commerce which does affect other nations or States or Indian tribes belongs to Congress.
Lastly, in another case - and I mention these few decisions simply by way of illustration - it has been held that -
In conferring upon Congress the regulation of commerce, it was never intended to cut off the States from legislating on all subjects reflating to the health, life, and safety of their citizens, though the legislation might indirectly affect the commerce of the country.
I have quoted only a few cases which have involved fundamental principles stating the terms of the Constitution and the ma- chinery under which it works.
– But the people there are mot -satisfied.
– The American machinery has worked satisfactorily. The term of the Constitution which in America has restricted domestic legislation, so far as trade and commerce is concerned, to the power and jurisdiction of the States has worked satisfactorily for 120 years. Various cases decided from time to time have developed the Constitution, and laid down certain fundamental principles, and have placed the machinery of the Constitution of the United States of America upon a basis which enables it to work harmoniously and without friction. That is the position which has been achieved by a nation which, starting with a very small population, has risen to a population of 100,000,000. What is good enough for 100,000,000 in America is good enough for less than 5,000,000 of the same race in Australia. That vast expansion has taken place under the present Constitution of the United States of America, which we used as a model in founding our Constitution. The Commonwealth, too, during the twelve years of its existence has made vast strides, the character of ‘ which has been indicated already by the Attorney-General himself. All this goes to show that that class of Constitution which provides for trie distribution of powers in the manner I have indicated is thoroughly satisfactory. All that has been attempted under the Constitution of the United States of America, as well as under our Constitution, is the enumeration of the subjects with which the Federal Parliament mav deal. It has been left to the Supreme Court of the United States of America and to the High) Court of Australia to declare exactly by interpretation what is meant, and the extent to which we are limited in ‘ dealing with those subjects. In those circumstances we in Australia have the advantage of a magnificent Judge-made law - Judgemade by reason of the luminous interpretation that has been given to provisions similar to those which appear in our own Statute. Various cases have evolved great fundamental principles which are of infinite value to us in the construction and interpretation of our Constitution. It is now proposed that all these shall be swept aside ; all the benefits and advantages that we derive from this vast number of cases laying down great fundamental principles are to be lost to us. Whilst the most plenary powers are taken to deal with trade and commerce, it is intended, I understand, that they shall not all be exercised If all are not exercised then there will exist in the Common wealth and the States a concurrent jurisdiction, so that in respect of various subjects unfortunate citizens will be subjected to two laws. As Mr. Mitchell pointed out, in the opinion given by him, that will cause the most serious confusion, embarrassment, and complication. What is proposed by these amendments is a mere experiment. We are to enter upon a hitherto untrodden path where we cannot have the benefit of precedents obtainable from the decisions of eminent Judges in the United States of America. If these proposals are carried into operation, I say we are venturing upon an altogether new experimental field. In other words, there will be dual legislation on the same subjects by this Parliament as well as by the Parliaments of the States. The citizens of the several States will not know where they are. Indeed, I do not know that any of us will know where we are when complexities and embarrassments such as I have suggested arise. Apart from being a serious invasion of State rights, amounting practically to the purloining of State powers, it will mean, so far as legislation is concerned, a direct conflict with the States which otherwise would not occur. The National Parliament and the several Parliaments of the States are the parliamentary agencies of the people. The idea has been to secure by means of them the most effective class of selfgovernment, and one of the best features of the Constitution at present is that under it that autonomy - that selfgovernmen,t in which we glory - has been specially preserved. It preserves that selfgovernment which has made the States, and from which has been evolved the National Government that we have achieved - We are deliberately depriving the States of that same self-government, and in that connexion we are making a serious mistake. I venture to say that the best features of Democracy are associated with the present system of Federal government, because it enables the people to secure more direct representation. As regards their local affairs, it permits them to develop their own several States according to the immediate conditions of those States. It gives them direct representation in regard to all important subjects in their own particular Parliaments. They have more power in that connexion by reason of the legislation thus enacted being of a more- local char- acter, and of more immediate domestic interest. But the Government propose to unify these powers so far as trade and commerce and labour and employment and: industrial matters generally are concerned.
– We propose to federalize - not to unify them.
– The fact remains that the Government propose to vestin this Parliament supreme power, and in so far as that is done, the State Parliaments must be shorn of power. From that stand-point alone it is not wise that we should take the step which is suggested. I wish now to cursorily mention one or two other matters. In regard to corporations it is proposed to omit from section 51 of the Constitution the words “ foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth,” which appear in paragraph xx, and to insert in their stead the words “ corporations, including the creation, dissolution, regulation, and control of corporations.” I approve of the creation and dissolution of corporations being well within the powers of this Parliament. As a matter of practical experience, I recognise that where a company is formed, it is exceedingly inconvenient to be obliged to register that company in six different States if its operations are to be of an Australian character. I realize, moreover, that so far as the dissolution-, of a company is concerned, it is exceedingly inconvenient to have six windings up of thesame company instead of one winding up. Consequently, if we can unify our law in that connexion, we shall accomplish a good work. The formation of corporations is,, of course, a matter of the gravest moment to Australia. I admit that a large portion, of the trade and commerce of Australia isdone by these corporations, and I acknowledge their popularity and developmentwithin the last few years. But what I cannot understand is how the AttorneyGeneral came to suggest to this House that there is such secrecy about the operationsof these corporations that he is unable toobtain information in regard to them. Thelaw already provides for the most complete information being furnished in thatconnexion. My observation especially applies to public corporations or trading companies. Now there are also in the Old Country corporations which are known as privatecompanies - corporations which in Victoria are known as proprietary companies..
That class of corporation has for its object merely the carrying on of private concerns. In Victoria, if any two persons choose to do so, they may form a proprietary company for the purpose of carrying on their business affairs. There are many advantages connected with that system. Honorable members are aware that most firms which previously carried on business under their own names are now carrying on those businesses bv means of a proprietary or private corporation. The advantages which they derive are a limitation so far as their liability is concerned. That is a very valuable and legitimate consideration. There is nothing wrong with it because everybody trading with that corporation knows exactly the character of its responsibility and its financial resources. They treat with it upon that ‘ basis. In some instances the amount of its capital is fully paid up, but in others there is an uncalled liability. These corporations merely carry on private concerns, and really have nothing whatever to do with the public.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The far-reaching consequences of these proposals, if adopted, can scarcely be overestimated. They are certainly so important in their influence upon all the industrial, commercial, and manufacturing concerns of Australia that we are bound to regard them from the most serious aspect. The whole question seems to me to gain an added interest from the fact that it engaged the attention of this Parliament on a previous occasion. It was carried through this House by the same majority that will doubtless carry the present proposals. The proposals were submitted to the people, who, after due consideration, by an overwhelming majority rejected them. Honorable members opposite declare that the electors voted upon them blindly, or in ignorance of the true facts. If so, they speak their own condemnation, because they had their emissaries in every centre of Australia, seeking to educate the people from their point of view, just as we sought to educate them from our point of view. The difference between us was that we succeeded in impressing the electors, whereas honorable members opposite failed to do so. The result of that appeal to the people was that, by a very large majority, the proposals were rejected. There did not appear to be any great regret on the part of the electors at that result. There was no great outcry against that decision. Yet we find that almost the same proposals are being resubmitted to us for our consideration. Probably they will meet with the same fate at the hands of the electors that they met with previously. Still, it is necessary for us to put our view of the matter before the country. I am not aware that there is anything to justify the very drastic alterations which are now proposed in our Constitution after so short an experience of it. The Commonwealth Parliament is only twelve years old. During that period there have been one or two minor amendments made in the Constitution. Now it is proposed to bring into existence an entirely altered condition of things. The powers vested in the States under the Constitution are to be reft from them and taken over by the Commonwealth. For what reason are these drastic alterations of’ the Constitution sought ?, Honorable members opposite have not been too candid with us in that regard. We know that it is part and parcel of the policy of honorable members opposite to unify Australia.
– It is not.
– It is their policy to destroy the fundamental character of the Federal Constitution. It is also part and parcel of their design to nationalize the industries of the Commonwealth. These results will be consummated if the proposals now under consideration are adopted, and are subsequently assented to by the people. I have very little doubt, however, that they will be rejected by the electors. But if the people allow the Constitution to be amended in the direction proposed, very grave difficulties will confront us. Under the Constitution as it stands the power of (the States to control industrial matters within their own borders has been very carefully conserved. But if the proposed amendments be assented to, the States will cease to have any control over those mat.ters. All the conditions of labour, of wages, hours of employment, &c, will be prescribed for them not by a Parliament which will be representative of the particular State where an industry is established, but by a Parliament which is representative of the whole Commonwealth. Even the rural industries will be subject to the control of this Parliament. The tendency of members is to vote for the reduction of the hours of labour and the increasing of the rates of wages, and this will create conditions making rural occupations unprofitable, except in those cases in which men are able to work their own land without help. As a consequence, the volume and bulk of our staple products would be largely reduced, and the great measure of prosperity which we have been enjoying for some years would be diminished, with the most serious consequences. The diminution of our exports would mean monetary loss to the community, and the first to suffer would be those whose interests Labour members are supposed to have particularly at heart. I do not know that there would be much objection to offer to a proposal to give the Commonwealth absolute control over monopolies, were it not that it is intended that this Parliament, by a resolution, twice carried by an absolute majority, shall be able to determine that any industry is a monopoly.
– Does the honorable member think that Parliament would declare an industry to be a monopoly if it were not one?
– Parliament has done many mad things, and will do many more. A Government supported by a large majority is always capable of doing things which sound reason and judgment would condemn. Any branch of production, manufacture, or supply might thusbe declared a monopoly. What would there be to prevent Parliament declaring the production of wheat to be a monopoly ? Parliament would have it within its power to assume control of all the rural industries, taking them from the hands of the private individuals who have conducted them so energetically and successfully. Such a step would take us far in the direction of absolute Socialism. In short, should the people be foolish enough to agree to these proposals, they would practically commit themselves to the creation of a Socialistic State. No doubt, it will take a considerable time to bring about this change, but the declared policy of the Labour party is to socialize everything, to control by direct Government interference all manufacture and production. That will not conduce to the welfare of the country, and will be fraught with grave danger to that spirit of independence under which our national greatness has been built up. The Government have already presented these proposals to the people, and received a solid rebuff ; they now intend to tell the people that they voted in ignorance on the last occasion, and that they should reverse their decision. What is the opinion of the Labour party of the people’s own common sense? Do honorable members opposite think that the people do not know their own minds ? The honorable member for Hindmarsh has expressed himself as strongly opposed to the High. Court. He asked, why should we have the High Court to overrule this Parliament? The question should rather be, why should this Parliament always kick against the. Constitution, passing measures which are known to be unconstitutional? The honorable member for Hindmarsh appeared to desire that there should be no authority for the interpretation of our laws ; but in every Parliament there must be a majority of members who are not versed in constitutional law and procedure, and without an authority to determine the validity of our laws we should be in a position of grave danger. Australia has at present two bulwarks - the Legislative Councils and the High Court. If the Labour party can bring about unification they will annihilate the Legislative Councils, and prevent them from doing good. That is a strong reason why the common-sense people of this country, who are many, should assert themselves.
– Will the honorable gentleman’s leader indorse his remarks?
– I am satisfied that he will, since he knows from long parliamentary experience the value of Legislative Councils for the reviewing and checking of hasty legislation. Unfortunately, our Senate is worse than useless for that work. The honorable member for Bendigo has made out the following list of State laws which in his opinion may be superseded by Commonwealth laws if the proposed amendments of the Constitution be carried into effect -
Sale of goods, wares, and merchandise, wholesale and retail : forms of making contracts thereunder.
Bills of sale, commercial instruments and securities.
Adulteration, laws to prohibit : adulteration ofwine, beer, spirits, seed, manure, &c.
Pure food laws : margarine.
Vegetation diseases : goods affected by.
Bakers, millers, butchers, grocers, drapers sales by.
Auctioneers, peddlers, hawkers : sales by.
Poisons and explosives : sales of.
Chemists and druggists.
Newspapers : registration and sale of.
Traction engines : regulation of
Coal and firewood sale of.
Milk and dairy products : supervision an d sale of.
Fruit cases, bags, and sacks.
Marine stores and old metals.
Gold buyers and sellers.
Sundays and holidays.
Firms : registration of.
Railways and tramways : freights and rates.
Carriers and all means of traffic and transport : freights and rates.
Local option and licensing laws regulating the sale of intoxicants and other goods.
Markets, municipal and private.
In short, there is not an operation of commerce, manufacture, or production which may not be affected. What, then, will be left to the States to do? - practically nothing. But the State Parliaments are most valuable. I, as a Victorian, would resent any attempt to amend the Constitution to allow a representative from Queensland or Western Australia to legislate in regard to the internal affairs of this State. A representative from Queensland knows as little of Victoria as I know about his State; and I should be sorry to be called upon to assist in legislating for either Queensland, or say, Western Australia in matters peculiarly affecting the interests of those portions of the Commonwealth. If we destroy the State Parliaments we constitute the Federal Parliament the sole arbiter; but I believe that the common sense of the people will rebel against a territory like this, with its 3,000,000 square miles, being governed ‘ from one centre. Each State, in its own particular interests, should be legislated for by men who understand thoroughly the local conditions; and I raise my voice against any amendment of the Constitution which would render the producers of Victoria subject to the influence and votes of men from distant States. The Constitution, as it is, furnishes us with sufficient work to occupy us profitably; and I cannot understand why there should be this continual interference with State rights. A system is being evolved under which all the component parts of the Empire are represented at some sort of National Council, where our own Prime Minister finds a place; and this is a very proper extension of power and influence. The Bills before us, however, seek to extend powers in the contrary direction, by wresting them from the State Parliaments. It is sought to deprive the State Legislatures of their power to control their own industrial affairs and to place it in a Parliament which may act unwisely, because the reason behind the proposal is not that it is desired to conserve the best interests of the whole of the people ; it is sought to conserve only the interests of one particular section whom hon orable members opposite pretend to specially serve.
Debate (on motion by Mr. W. Elliot
House adjourned at 10.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121120_reps_4_68/>.