4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.36 a.m., and read prayers.
Casterton-strathdownie-mountgam- biertelephoneline-postoffices, narranderadistrict.
– The honorable? itenibfer for’ Wann’q.n, sip , the’,2.znd’, instant, astfed for information; relating– to the. “-Mount Gambfer- to’ Casterton telephone-‘ line’.’1 My attention’ had not previotisfj;’ been drai?ti”t6 the matter. . In reply to -inquMes which weje thenbeingVmade, the ‘ Deputy” Postinaste’rGeneral, Melbourne, “has now. furnished . the following . ihf of matipn’:’ - ‘
The. Inspecting. Officer did ride from . Casteitoil, vid Strathdbwnie,’“to Mount, Garobie’r, on Hie 23rd of October, and retiiifled7tom’,-‘M6ont Gatnbier, : ri4 Stratn’downie, td> Castertoh, on the. «UDe::Bate ;; the : distance covered ‘-/nasi :.about: , $0 miles. TKe only portion of ‘the route ..which required inspection was that between Strathdownieand the South Australian . borders- a distance’ of 14 miles.’ The portion between Casterton and Strathdownie’ had previously been inspected,’ and particulars- obtained : in connexion with ..the proposed line between those- places. The portion of. the route ‘between . the. South . Australian border and Mount ‘Gambler is ‘being inspected by the Department in South’ Australia’1. The. actual time spent in inspecting; the 14, miles was five, hours, and it is considered, that the . Inspecting. Officer h’a.d . ample time- to’ obtain “all the necessary particulars ‘ in connexion with this section of the line”
The Department issues instructions , to its inspectors to meet the persons interested in the construction of telephone lines, and’ these instructions are . ‘regularly carried out. In this . instance; the’ Inspecting Officer interviewed a brother of the local postmaster, who is one of the . prime movers in the matter of obtaining telephonic communication. - “…
Care is taken, when proposed routes of lines are inspected, that all the- necessary7’ in formation is obtained before estimates are prepared. This. principle will be rigidly ‘observed, and any caseof “ scamping “ by the- Inspecting Officer which may come “under notice will be suitably dealt with.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries- are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Afforestation : Designs for City
– Y - Yesterday the honorable member for Brisbane asked a question regarding the scheme of afforestation to be pursued within the Federal Capital area. The answer to his question is as follows : -
As intimated in various editions of the printed schedules issued to members, the question of afforestation has been continually kept in mind. A nursery has been established at Acton for the propagation of trees, plants, and shrubs. Young native trees and shrubs for such nursery are being obtained from the Botanical Gardens, Sydney, also from other States and New Zealand. Water will be drawn from the Moloaglo. Later on, the area that is to be planted out will be determined. The honorable member may rest assured the importance of the subject is fully appreciated.
– I wish to know from the Minister when honorable members will have an . opportunity to see the design for the Federal Capital which has been chosen bythe committee’ appointed to consider the designs submitted.
Mr.KING O’MALLEY. - I understand that that design is now displayed in the Queen’s Hall.
– I wish to know from the’ Minister of Home Affairs if the redistribution, of New South Wales electoral divisions is yet available?
– I - I have re vived ‘a telegram from the Chairman of the Commission, stating that its report and plans should reach Melbourne to-day.
– Y - Yesterday the honorable, member for Cook asked a question regarding, the expenses incurred at the recent Werriwa election, and I have been supplied. with the following information . on the subject a - ‘
The returns required by law have been duly fried by the organizations and the persons’ con’: cerned and ‘may be inspected,’ as provided by the electoral regulations, at the office of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, Custom House, Sydney. The returns when filed are inspected by the Electoral Officer.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Has this Parliament the power to enact a law to establish the Referendum and Initiative in reference, to all measures” within the scope of the Federal Constitution?
– It is not the practice for Ministers to answer questions asking for an opinion on a matter of law.
Report of Acting Administrator
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
If he can explain the delay in making available the report of the Acting Administrator of the Northern Territory, dated 22nd March, and only just issued?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Copies of the report were received from the printer in June, and were immediately made available to the press and public. Copies were handed to me, when Parliament met, for the purpose of being laid on the table, but owing to a motion of censure being tabled, they, with other papers, could not be laid on at the time. Wheii the motion of censure was over I must have forgotten to lay the report on the table. It was laid on the table on the 8th November, my. at: tention having been drawn by the Department to the fact that it had not been tabled. It then, became the property of the House.
Debate resumed from 26th November (vide page 5944), on motion by Mr.. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– At no time in the history of this Parliament has there been presented for . its consideration proposals of such magnitude and’ of such interest to the community as those contained in the six measures which we arenow considering, and which you, Mr. Speaker, I think rightly, are allowing us.: to discuss together on the motion now before us. . I propose to cover as much of the ground as I can in the time allowed to me by the standing order. We have heard a great deal recently about what was in tended by the -f ramers of the Constitution . and what the people.believe to be the mean ing of the Constitution. I am one of those who took a very active part in bringing about Federation, and know the whole history of the movement from the first step that was made. At the beginning the politicians of the day attempted, by establish ing a Federal Council, to deal with Australian affairs ina Federal spirit, but the attempt was ineffective, because, although on several occasions certain proposals were agreed upon by . those who attended the meeting of the Council, the Parliaments refused to ratify what had been agreed upon, and nothing was done. After several changes the people took the matter in hand, and determined to establish the Federal Constitution as their own act. A conference of various bodies, of which not the least was the Australian Natives’ Association, assembled at Corowa, and there the foundation of Federation was laid on the surest basis possible - the people’s will. The honorable member for Bendigo was then prepared to trust the people, and on his motion it was resolved to take the matter out of the hands of the politicians, and to put it into the hands of the people, allowing .. them to elect representatives to a Convention for the framing of the draft Constitution to be submitted for the popular acceptance. I was one of those who advocated that course, and advised the acceptance of the Constitution. The honorable members for Parkes and Bendigo, and others who now make so much of the legal position, then adopted a different attitude, and the questions which the people were asked to consider were very few indeed. What had most to do with bringing about Federation was the fact that the colonies, especially New South Wales and Victoria, were gradually becoming hostile to each other as the result of the operation of Customs Tariffs. It was felt that Federation, giving freedom of intercourse and trade and commerce throughout Australia, and protection from the commercial assaults of the foreigner outside, would remove this feeling. That was the dominant factor in- bringing about the Union. The next factor was the desire to insure common preparations for the defence of Australia. The third factor was the need, in view of the experience of other countries, for keeping Australia white. Qf the thirty-nine articles conferring powers on the Federal Parliament, only one or two were considered in detail by the people. I challenge the honorable member for Parkes, who was working with me at the time-
– No; the honorable member was working with me. I have not changed my position, nor my party.
– In pre- Federation days I not only worked on committees, but at my own expense prosecuted a campaign in the various States in favour of the proposed Union, telling the people that they ought to accept the draft Constitution, and why. I was one of the workers, but the honorable member was one of the drones, and was content to remain in the limelight.
– I went to Deniliquin, in the honorable member’s constituency.
– The honorable member has been into my constituency once or twice to injure me, but has failed.
– The only occasion on which I went there was when I went to advocate Federation.
– The honorable member has been there on other occasions.
– I went there os.ce to conduct an action against the honorable member in the Supreme Court.
– The people of Australia, or at any rate the people of New South Wales, understood that Australia, to use the words of one who was. known in those days as “ Australia’s Noblest Son “ understood Federation to mean “ One people, one flag, and one destiny.”
– That is Unification. Is that what the honorable member is trying to realize now ?
– As an Australian, that is what I am trying to realize. Federation was for the benefit of the people as a whole, not for. the benefit of only a section. In New South Wales at least we heard it said from every platform that Federation would accomplish financial reform by the reduction and re-organization of the local Parliaments. As a matter of fact, the local Parliaments recognised that, in the first instance, by reducing the number of their members, although their powers have not been reduced. It was thought by the people that their powers would be reduced by the powers given to the Commonwealth, which would represent the whole people. Irrigation and navigation were matters seriously considered, at the time in several of the States, and particularly in that part of the country which I represent. The people are anxious to have the rich river lands made more productive by the utilization of the water. They were told that under Federation the Federal authority would have power, not only to control navigation on the rivers of the Commonwealth, but also to control the utilization of their waters for purposes of irrigation, subject to the reasonable use of the waters by the States. We find, however, that owing to a defect in the Constitution, the Federal Parliament is hampered in this matter. We could, if we pleased, interfere with and destroy navigation on the rivers of the Commonwealth, but we have no power to drive a single pile into the bank of a river, because, did we attempt to do so, that would be an interference with so-called State rights. Under the existing condition of affairs the whole of the boats used in the navigation of the Murray are registered in the State df New South Wales, whilst the whole of the trade is being done by Victoria and South Australia. In this matter the people have been deceived, and they have been obliged to look on helplessly ever since the accomplishment of Federation. Representatives of the State Governments interested have met in conference to try to bring about a proper use of the waters of the Murray, but because New South Wales is jealous of Victoria and Victoria is jealous of South Australia, nothing is done, and the waters of that river are allowed to go to waste. The people were also led to believe that Federation would have the effect of bringing about the adoption of a uniform railway gauge in Australia. What has been done in connexion with that matter? We know that the Prime Minister has intimated to a Premiers’ Conference that, so far as main lines are concerned, the Federal Parliament would be prepared to find a con,siderable proportion of the money required to bring about uniformity of gauge, but the States have done nothing in the matter.
– Does the honorable member mean to argue that if these referenda proposals are carried a uniform gauge will be brought about?
– I think so. I might mention many more disappointments which have taught the people the necessity for an alteration of the Constitution. When it was submitted to them in pre-Federation days they considered only the two or three points to which I have directed attention. Now, from experience, we have discovered that evils which we desire to remedy continue to exist, because the State Parliaments neglect to perform their duties, and the Federal Parliament has not the necessary power to remedy them. As a result the people have become much more conversant with the Constitution than they were when it was previously referred to them.
– They do not treat it as a body of cricket or football rules, as the honorable member for Corangamite treated it.
– They treat it as the members of the Federal Convention treated it. The framers of the Constitution saw that it would be necessary to amend it from time to time, and made provision for its amendment. The honorable member for Bendigo, who, with Mr. Garran, is the author of a deservedly applauded commentary upon the Constitution, said that it is a compromise. The members of the Convention were fighting not so much for Federation of the Australian Colonies as for the particular interests of the Colonies they represented. The ‘ representatives of each could not get what they wanted, and had, therefore, to effect a compromise, and our present Constitution is the result df that compromise. * It is now proposed that thequestion of its amendment shall be referred to the people for their consideration. It is ‘said that’ consistency is a jewel, and I should like to know why there should not be- consistency in this matter as in other matters:
– -Why does not the honorable member try it himself ?
– I I have tried it, and have been consistent.
Mr’.- Bruce Smith. - The honorable member is now opposing what he helped to create.
– I am doing nothing of the kind ; I am trying to bring about what ought to be brought about, and that is the will of the people of Australia. If they will that these amendments should be made in the Constitution, they are the persons to be considered in the matter.
– They have already answered these questions in the negative.
– I told them, and the honorable member for Parkes also told them, in the belief that what we said was true, that certain powers might be exercised by the Federal Parliament, and that certain things would be done. These things have not been done, and I now tell them that the power to have them done is in their own hands ; that, if they agree to the proposed amendments of the Constitution, this Parliament will be vested with the necessary powers, and we, as their representatives, will be able to accept responsibility for performing our duty to the electors in a legitimate manner.
– If they say “No” again, would the honorable member ask them a third time?
– I should be prepared to ask them a thirtieth time.
– At a cost of ^50,000 every time?
– That seems to me to be a puerile argument. The honorable member contends that, because the people when asked to do a certain thing did not agree to do it, they are never to be asked again, and the defective condition of the Constitution is to be allowed to continue for all time. Section 51 of the Constitution provides that -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have 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.
The honorable member for East Sydney said something about lawyers, and, while I have some respect for lawyers, I believe that in the framing of our laws we have depended too much upon lawyers, and we know that members of that profession frequently differ. The honorable member for Parkes differs from the honorable member for Angas, and also from the honorable member for Flinders. We know that lawyers will continue to differ.
– Judges, and occasionally laymen, also differ.
– Th That is so: but, from a fairly lengthy experience, I have come to the conclusion that when, lawyers desire to frame a provision in such a way as to make absolutely certain what its interpretation will be, they very frequently fail. The reason is that the language they use is of so technical a character as to provide subject for argument in the Courts. What the people require are laws framed in such a way that their purpose may be readily understood.
– We shall never get that.
– Yes, we shall. The honorable member for Richmond is himself a linguist of such high attainments that I am sure he could frame a law in such away. Referring to the section of the Constitution which I have just quoted, I am satisfied that 999 men out of every 1,000 would naturally understand “ trade and commerce with foreign countries and among the States “ to mean trade and commerce between the Commonwealth and countries outside the Commonwealth, and trade and commerce in the whole of the six States of the Commonwealth itself.
– Does the honorable member say that it refers to trade and commerce within any State?
– The honorable member is getting back to the legal quibble again. I was asking what the people understood from the use of these words, and I say that they naturally concluded that they meant that this Parliament was to have POwer over trade and commerce with other countries and in every State of the Commonwealth. But. our legal interpreters have introduced questions of InterState and Intra-State until we have now got into such a terrible state that we can do nothing, because we find that this Parliament has not the power which it ought to have. The Constitution further provides that for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth this Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to - foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
It was naturally supposed that that would give us power over outside corporations,, and every corporation formed within the limits of the Commonwealth. The people so understood it, but it is now found that we have not the power to deal with corporations operating within the limits of any State. We believe that this Parliament should have power to deal with these matters within a State, or any part of a State, in order to be in a position to protect the interests of the people. How often has the Minister of Trade and Customs in this House, through the press, and in a variety of other ways pointed out his utter helplessness to protect the people of Australia. Because of the interpretation of our law, the Minister is unable to exercise the trade and commerce power in such a way as to protect the people. He can prevent foreign importations, but the moment an article is landed within Australia, the Minister is powerless to protect the people in respect to it. Power was promised to the people in this Parliament, but they have never received it. The Minister of Trade and Customs has given dozens of instances in this connexion, and I remember one in particular. He called upon persons forming a deputation that waited upon him to remove a falsifying label upon a spirit that was being imported. and threatened legal proceeding?. He was coolly told that they would comply with his demand, and alter the label as desired, but that as soon as the article was landed in Australia they would put upon it any label they pleased. The Minister desires to protect the general health of the people, but he cannot follow up these injurious importations, because we have no power over trade and commerce within a State. In these circumstances we propose to ask the pepole to give us the power to protect their interests. This is not a party matter. It is immaterial so far as this matter is concerned whether the Labour party, or honorable members now in Opposition occupy the Treasury bench.
– We know what the Labour party want the power for.
– I know what the Labuor party want it for, but the honorable member does not. We want this power to protect the people in their lives, in their health, and in their homes, and not for the ridiculous purposes assumed by the other side. We are not such lunatics as to do what honorable members opposite suggest it is our intention to do. It is singular how differently matters are viewed from various parts of this House. When the Deakin Protectionist party were in power, and supported by the Labour party, a few honorable members, whose names I could mention, saw eye to eye with me on this matter. They saw that the people were being seriously injured in their commercial and industrial interests, and believing at the time that we hadpower to do so, we took steps to protect the people in that way. What is the new Protection but a section of trade and commerce? It was found that in certain industries, and in one in particular, the employe’s were not being justly dealt with.It was found necessary to protect them against that injustice, and to regulate and control these trading corporations. In other words, many honorable members of the present Opposition then approved of the very course which we are now seeking to take. The honorable member for Ballarnt, then Prime Minister, brought in a Customs and an Excise Tariff Bill practically declaring that the farmers were being robbed by manufacturers of agricultural machinery oversea, and that the Parliament intended to protect them. Those Bills regulated and fixed the wages to be paid to the worker in the local industrial establishments and the prices to be paid by the consumer of the implements manufactured. The present Leader of the Opposition, who intimated last week that he intended to recommend the electors to oppose the proposed amendments of the Constitution because they would give this Parliament power to control and regulate corporations, was the Leader of the Government who brought in the legislation to which I have referred, with a view to controlling and fixing prices. He was supported by the honorable member for Kooyong, Sir Robert Best, who has since changed his mind, the right honorable member for Swan, Sir John Forrest, the honorable member for Darling Downs, Mr. Groom, the honorable member for Mernda, Mr. Harper, the honorable member for Bendigo, Sir John Quick, the honorable member for Laanecoorie, Dr. Carty Salmon, and the honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Agar Wynne.
– Will the honorable member name any Act passed by this Par- ‘ Iiament which attempted to fix prices for the consumer ?
– Certainly. The legislation to which’ I have just referred did so. The Customs Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act, passed in 1906, contained a schedule fixing . the price of such machinery, and was supported bv members of the Opposition who are condemning the proposals now before us.
– Does the honorable member propose to use the power now sought to fix prices?
– That is useful.
– The inference to be drawn from the interjection made by the honorable member for Parkes is that he thinks my statement will be useful during the- approaching campaign. Let me elaborate it a little. Is it better for the people of Australia that the National Parliament should fix the prices of commodities, and save them from being robbed, or that the greedy rings and combines should do so? Every one knows that prices are now being fixed by rings and combines all along the line - and fixed so high that many commodities cannot be obtained by the poorer sections of the community. Under these proposals the National Parliament would be able to fix prices.
– Who is fixing the price of potatoes?
– Nature and the Irish blight. But the Irish blight has nothing to do with the price of strippers and harvesters, seed drills, and other machinery and implements.
– It is all a question of supply and demand.
– - Let the honorablemember put side by side with that statement the old saying that “ Competition is the life of trade.” If competition actuallyprevailed, then the old law as to supply and demand would be all very well. But when competition is killed, as it has been, in some cases, then the statement that it is all a question of supply and demand does not constitute a good answer to my argument. We have a demand on the part of the people that we shall protect their interests in every way, and we are seeking now a means of protecting them against greedy, rapacious trusts.
– The Opposition will not protect the poor farmer.
– No. I have just quoted the names of several honorable members of the Opposition who voted for a Bill to fix the price of agricultural implements as recently as 1906, but who, because they are not now on the Government side of the House, are going to oppose what they then supported with all their vigour. How they are going to justify their change of attitude I do not know.
– The Act to which the honorable member has referred was a scheme for the reduction of certain import duties if prices exceeded a certain amount.
– No. The honorable member for Hume was then Minister of Trade and Customs, and complaint was made by local manufacturers of agricultural machinery that they were threatened by an octopus ring, which had its tentacles on Australia, and which, failing action by this Parliament, would destroy their industry. They pleaded with the Government of the day to save them from the International Harvester Company of America. They said that they had been approached with a view to their being bought out, and that they had finally been threatened that they would be crushed out of existence by the moneyed power behind the combine. Local manufacturers then said that they could be saved from this octopus only by the imposition of an increased import duty on stripper harvesters, and other agricultural machinery, and they promised the honorable member for Hume that if their request were agreed to they would be prepared to deal fairly and squarely by their employes and by the consumer. Acting upon that promise, the honorable member, as a member of the Deakin Government, brought in legislation providing for an import duty of ;£i2 each on strippers and harvesters, and for corresponding duties on other agricultural machinery. It also provided that an excise duty of j£6 per machine should be levied where a manufacturer failed to pay fair and reasonable wages, or failed within three years to reduce the price of machines from ,£85 each - the price then ruling - to £6$. That legislation was passed, and immediately the local manufacturers had thus secured what they wanted, they refused to carry out their part of the agreement. Only one firm in the Commonwealth, that of Henderson Brothers, of Corowa, obeyed the law. All the others failed to do so - the validity of the Act was challenged by them - and farmers have since been robbed in this as well as iri other directions. The existence of rings, trusts, and ‘” honorable understandings” cannot be denied. I would recommend the honorable member for Boothby, who interjected a few minutes ago that it was all a matter of supply and demand, to read the report of the Royal Commission appointed in South Australia to inquire whether farmers there were getting a fair deal. That Commission reported that as the result of what was known as “an honorable understanding,” the farmers of South Australia were being robbed to the extent of 2d. a bushel on every bushel of wheat grown by them - the amount thus lost to them totalling in Australia about ^800,000. Will it be denied that in every country district where wheat is sold by the farmer there is no competition? Is it not a fact that every morning there arrives at each buying centre a telegram from the ring fixing the price of wheat for the day?
– Is not the price fixed in Mark Lane?
– Not at all. It is fixed every day in the Commonwealth. Mark Lane gets its share of the profits, but before we get to that stage the farmer has to face the fact that competition is absolutely destroyed. We have got away from the , old-time conditions when the farmer could enter the market and find honest competition prevailing on the good old-time British lines. To-day, there is no competition; prices are fixed, and the farmer must either accept them or reject them. The primary producer, perhaps more than any one else, is suffering most severely from the operations of combines, rings, and understandings. It has been said that there are- no trusts in existence in Australia. I do not think that that statement is worth replying to, because so many evidences of their existence have been given. It is admitted even by honorable members opposite that the trusts have to be dealt with. I remember a speech of the honorable member for Flinders, in which he said patriotically, amidst the applause of honorable members upon both sides, that this Parliament, in the interests of the people, should have power over trade and commerce, and that he had no fear that the power if given would be abused. If it were abused, an enraged people would penalize those who were responsible. The statements of the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Echuca that the Federal Parliament would take over the industries bf the washerwoman and the man with the barrow, are such ridiculous nonsense that I am surprised that they should be made in a deliberative assembly. As far as our party is concerned, the people have a guarantee as to how the power will be used. Everything proposed by this party is submitted to the people for their approval before it is brought before Parliament. That course is not followed by the other side, and from the very constitution of the Opposition party cannot be followed.
– The Ministerial party secured no authority from the people in regard to the baby bonus.
– I admit that. It is the one exception which proves the rule.
– The fact that’ that measure was required was proved by the circumstance that no member of the Opposition dared, to oppose it.
– No honorable members voted against the maternity allowance. One direction in which extended powers are required is in regard to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. At the time when Federation was established, it was believed by the people that this Parliament had’ ‘full power in that direction. But legal technicalities have been raised in the interpretation of the Constitution, as a consequence of which we discover that an industrial dispute may arise in any State, and may be of the most disastrous character to those engaged in it and to the whole community; but that, notwithstanding its nefarious nature, this Parliament is powerless to deal with it. I have always advocated, and honestly believe, that a properly constituted Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, presided over by a Judge of knowledge and experience, would be respected by the whole community, and that its awards would be obeyed. I cannot recall one case where an award of the Federal Court has been disobeyed. But what takes place at present? A conflagration breaks out in an industrial occupation, and the Federal Government has tq sit helplessly looking on whilst the whole industry is devastated. We are told that the States have power to deal with these matters. But where has any State attempted to ‘enforce laws to compel disputants to take their grievances to a Court before damage is done?
– The New South Wales Government went pretty far in that direction.
– Within my knowledge New South Wales has never compelled disputants to go to a Court to prevent a strike or lock-out taking place. Surely it is in the interests of the whole community that these disputes should besettled before great damage is done. This is a means of securing industrial peace. Is there any other means of securing it ?” If there were, I should only be too glad: to accept it, because I know from past experience that a strike or lock-out is injurious, not only to those directly concerned init, but to the whole country. Industrial’ peace is much better than industrial strife. I believe that the means now proposed wilt’ bring about an amelioration. Then, again.. in regard to trusts, combines, and monopolies in relation to production, manufacture, and the supply of services, is it not necessary to obtain the power asked for?’ If the power were obtained, would it be necessary at all times to use it? Would’ not the effect of the Federal Government having the power be to cause a number of combinations so to regulate their movements; as to act more fairly and justly to the people? I will give an instance to show why I think it will have that effect. I recollect when there was a monopoly in the- cable service, and when 9s. 4d. a word was charged for the transmission of messages to Great Britain. This was felt to be an abuse. The State Governments conferred with the Imperial Government. The mere fact of their conferring with a view of doing something to control the cable service, or to enter into competition, was that the price of messages was reduced by 3s. 4d. per word. The mere fear that action would be taken caused the cable company to reduce its charges. Even the charge of. 6s. per word was extravagant, and injurious to the commercial interests of the people. Then the Governments concerned entered into an arrangement amongst themselves, and laid down a competing line. Immediately that was done, cable rates came down to 3s. 4d. per word. There was a reduction of 6s. per word as compared with the original charge. In the same way I have not the slightest doubt that-other monopolies would bring down their pricesrather than run the risk of being interfered’ with or regulated bylaw. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for instance, would reduce the price of its commodity rather than run this risk. The’ cotton trust, the oil trust, the tobacco trust, the wheat trust, the harvester trust, the flour trust, and the coal vend would do the same. Is there any denying that these combinations are. in existence?
– The High Court has knocked over the allegations in regard to one.
– The honorable member is not going to lure me into an attack on the High Court. I have my own opinion as to whether the Court is right or wrong, but it is indisputable that the Court had evidence before it to show that the price of coal was raised to such an inordinate degree as to be severely felt by the people. I have it also in memory that the Government of Victoria took steps to protect their people, by opening up. a State coal mine and nationalizing it, for the supply ofthis commodity for Government requirements and for the use of the people.
– And what a commodity !
– The honorable member has been so long engaged in the coal and shipping industries that he has a personal bias. I have. none. I have never made a farthing out of coal. The honorable member cannotsay that. The Government, of Victoria introduced a . Bill, which was passed through the Legislative Assembly, for the purpose of competing against the Coal Vend, and supplying coal at one-half the price that the Vend had previously charged. But the bulwark of the State - to use the term employed by the honorable member for Echuca - stepped in and said “ No.”
– Very apt.
– It was indeed very apt to allow the people of Victoria to be robbed of 14s. on every ton of coal they consumed. The “ bulwark of the State “ in that action represented not the people, but property. Some of them were interested in coal themselves. They said. “ No; all we will permit you to do is to take coal from the State mine for Government requirements.” Afterwards they emasculated the measure so as to take the control of the mine out of the hands of the Legislature and put it in the hands of the Railways Commissioners, binding them to supply only their own needs.
– Do not forget the partnership between your own AttorneyGeneral and Mr. Bowling to run a little mine.
– I have no doubt that the Attorney-General, whether he be connected with Bowling or not, is quite able to answer the honorable member for Parkes, and to bowl him over at any time that he chooses to do so. This, then, is the position in regard to the Coal Vend. There are in existence other combinations of a similar character. It is idle to deny it. Only one member of the Opposition has had the courage to openly avow that he is in favour of trusts. The honorable member for Moreton unhesitatingly declared that the introduction of the Beef Trust into Queensland was a good thing for that State. Butthe stock-owners of Victoria and New South Wales do not regard it as a good. thing for any part of Australia. They know, from their own reading upon the subject of trusts - apart from what has been said in the Legislative Council of Victoria by Mr. McWhae and by Mr. Manifold - what has been their effect in the United States. To-day a man may travel from one end of those States to the other, and he will not find any stock salesmen such as are found in. Australia. There are no auctioneers there, no sale yards, no stock offering, and only one buyer, which dictates the price at which the stock shall be sold. The result has been that many ranchers have been absolutely ruined. The price of meat has been raised to such an inordinate extent that in many homes in the United States it is even scarcer than it is in many homes of the Old Country, where it is seen only once a week. Yet this Parliament has no power to deal with such combinations. The Queensland Parliament has power to deal with the Meat Trust in that State; but, according to the honorable member for Moreton, it is a good thing for that State. I hope that he is not asserting the belief of the Government of Queensland in this matter. I “am satisfied that it will be very difficult for any honorable member opposite to persuade the electors of this country that no trusts of an injurious character exist in Australia. We must recognise the existence of these combinations, and we must regulate their operations in seme form or other. So far as I am aware, no member of the Opposition has outlined any policy in this connexion.
– They are not the occupants of the Treasury bench.
– Nevertheless, they ought to indicate their policy in dealing with these trusts. Not long ago, with other members of this Parliament, I deemed it my duty to take a trip to the Northern Territory. There we were informed that a Meat Trust was in existence in Western Australia. Upon inquiry into the capabilities of the Northern Territory, we found that there was a great possibility of raising cattle profitably in that country,, and in that portion of Western Australia lying in the same latitude, if a market were provided for it. We discovered that there was a shipping combination in existence which was in the habit of purchasing cattle from the smaller growers at from -£2 to £2 10s. per head. This combination would not carry those cattle for them in the ordinary way at any price-. But, having purchased the stock, they took them from Wyndham to Perth and Fremantle, where they realized, on an average, about £16 per head during a period when, I admit, stock were extremely dear. The Government of Western Australia, which happens to be a Labour Administration, became seized of these faits, and entered into competition w;th this monopolistic enterprise. They chartered their own steamers, purchased the stock from, the grower at an increase of 100 per cent, upon the prices paid by the combine, shipped the cattle to Fremantle and Perth, slaughtered . them, opened shops, and sold meat to the people at half the price which was previously charged them by the trust. That is in verification of the statement which was made to us in the Northern Territory.
– We have heard, that the shops have been closed, like the Broken Hill bakery.
– The honorable member may hear what he chooses. I am stating absolute facts.
– Are the shops open, now ?
– Let the honorable member go to Western Australia and see. The fact remains that the Government distributed meat to the people of Perth and Fremantle for half the price which was previously charged them by the combine. That is sufficient for my purpose. The honorable member for Bendigo endeavoured to make capital out of the alleged fact that the people of the United States are perfectly satisfied with their Constitution, upon which our Constitution has been largely modelled.
– They are not constantly clamouring for a referendum.
– The parties led by Dr. Woodrow Wilson and Mr. Theodore Roosevelt are clamouring for an easier and more expeditious method of amending the. Constitution, for the initiative, referendum and recall in the respective States, and for effective national jurisdiction over problems which expand beyond the reach of individual States. We desire the samethings. They are clamouring for the limitation of campaign contributions and expenditure. We desire that, too. They areclamouring for the popular review of judicial decisions on laws for securing social’ justice, for reform of legal procedure and judicial methods, for the prohibition of theissue of injunctions in labour disputes,, and for the strengthening of the Shennan anti-trust law by specific prohibitions.
– According to the honorable member they all have the samepolicy.
– There is this vast, and radical difference between the honorable member and myself - I have had a. policy all my life, and I am fighting for it-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. - - I think that the House is indebted to- the honorable member for Riverina for the consideration he has exhibited in not publishing his views concerning the recent judgment of the High Court in the Coal Vend case. No doubt he was restrained by the consciousness that if he had published those views the faith of the people in the decisions of that tribunal would have been seriously shaken. Another observation which he made in relation to the proposed fixation of prices rather amused me. With an airy wave, of his hand he dismissed the law of supply and demand, which has hitherto regulated human affairs, and the theories of all political economists by a reference to what I understood to be the “ quips “ of supply and demand. Why, the honorable member is a living example of the law of supply and demand. If there were not a demand for the sort of political rhodomontade with which he regaled the House on the subject of trusts, I do riot suppose that there would be any supply of it. Some demand must exist for it amongst his own constitutents as well as elsewhere. I feel the same difficulty as was experienced by the Leader of the Opposition in attempting to discuss this series of proposed amendments of the Constitution in the short space of an hour and five minutes. As I previously remarked, it is practically impossible for any honorable member to do so. The only course open to us is to take certain portions of these proposals which are correlated, and discuss them separately, relying upon opportunities which will subsequently present themselves when other Bills are under consideration to supplement what we say now upon what, after all, is one large and inter-related subject. I. therefore, propose this morning to confine my attention mainly to the proposal to amend the commerce power, and with it the provision intimately connected with that, and the last” of the series, relating to the determination or settlement of disputes on State railways. As to the proposed amendment of the commerce power my views are pretty well known ; they have been published in Hansard, arid some honorable members opposite have done me the honour to repeat them more than once during the debate.
– Very good stuff.
– I thank the honorable member for his compliment. I desire to say that I do not wish to withdraw one single word ; and honorable members opposite may make any use of my previous speeches that they like. I had carefully given the fullest consideration to the subject, and there is no indefiniteness about the expression of my views. I do not expect that honorable members on either side will desire to have them repeated in this debate .; and they may be accepted as being still the views I hold on the amendment of the Constitution with regard to the commerce powers. But in one respect my opinion has undergone a complete transformation. I had hoped, and 1 expressed the hope, that it would have been possible to discuss this amendment, as other amendments, free from the control or influence of party. I am now convinced that that is absolutely impossible, and that it is rendered impossible mainly by the action of the Labour party themselves.
– We will take the responsibility.
–OI course the honorable member will take the responsibility, because he has to.
– Not necessarily.
– Once these amendments are introduced in this form, the honorable member dare not attempt, from his position in the House, to alter in one iota, any of them - he dare not take that responsibility, as a member of the House.
– Because they are in accord! with my opinions.
– Of course, they are, once the honorable member comes into this House. The unanimity with which honorable members opposite find every single phrase, word, and letter in these amendments in accord with their opinions, is the remarkable fact to which I refer. It is not merely the fact that these amendments have been adopted outside the House by the Caucus - it is not merely that tact binding every honorable member opposite - but - there have been some recent developments in the policy of the Labour party which I think render it impossible for any of us on either side to walk in the_ path of pure constitutional theory in dealing with these amendments. For my part, I tell honorable members opposite at once that, with regard to this amendment, had it not been for £he fact that at a late stage in the debate two years ago, the railway amendment was, without notice, joined with it, I should have voted for the extension of the power. I shall now vote against it.
– There is nothing party about this ! This is red hot ! If party is a bad thing on this side, why is it not a bad thing on the Opposition side?
– The honorable member seems to be good at putting conundrums, and I shall leave him to answer them himself. It would be quite impossible to even refer to the various alterations which have taken place, or, rather, to the various steps that have been taken by the party who sit on the other side of the House, since this matter was discussed before; but I shall mention one instance of n most important kind. I suppose we may assume that the Attorney-General, if not the leader of the party, is the leader of its fighting battalions in connexion with these amendments, and also in connexion with their policy generally. The AttorneyGeneral is- not Prime Minister; but he has pledged his party, so far as any person in his position can pledge them, to the adoption of a policy which would mean, in itself, a confiscation of many existing rights of property, and a total dislocation of the whole machinery of production, industry, and distribution. I refer to the announcement made by him1 some, months’ ago, and never withdrawn or modified by any of his followers, that the Labour party would add, as part of their policy, the fixation of prices and profits. Honorable members opposite do not even now dispute for a moment that part of their policy at the next election will be the determination of prices and profits. In this connexion I shall read an extract from a report given by the Age of a speech made by the Attorney-General on 19th July, when fie was, i think, addressing the Victorian Railways Union. The honorable gentleman said -
Unless the Federal Parliament was able to regulate and control prices, the .mere ability to regulate wages was of very little value. Therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament would have to regulate prices and profits. That was the beginning and the end of the whole thing. Bring down. prices, profits, and rents, and everything else would come down with them.
– There is no doubt about that.’
– As the honorable member interjects, there is no doubt about that. We on this side of the’ House owe, I think, as much to the cynical frankness of the Attorney-General as we do to the unrestrained circus-play of the Minister of Home Affairs - both are valuable assets. Here we have the statement not withdrawn, but uncontradicted and unexplained, that if prices, profits, and rents are brought down, everything else will come down with, them.’ The AttorneyGeneral is a very clever man - too clever, in fact, for most of us.
– The honorable member admits that?”
– I admit that; and sometimes when I hear the’ honorable member developing some of his more ingenious political theories, I feel inclined to say, with Richard III., that I feel “ too childish-foolish for this world.” The Attorney-General has developed a marvellous faculty, apparently, for gauging the political temper of his forces,” which he helps to lead ; but he may be too clever even foi himself or for his own party in connexion with this particular matter. I do not think that any man in the House knows better than does the AttorneyGeneral that this talk about the policy of fixing prices and profits, unless it forms part of a general scheme for the nationalization of all means of production and interchange, is of absolutely gossamer construction - as fragile as a cobweb. It may serve to entangle the wings of some of the voters, but it will be destroyed almost immediately afterwards in their struggles to free themselves. It is impossible, not to attempt, but to carry through, as I feel sure the Attorney-General himself knows, any scheme whereby it is proposed to say to the man who sells bread that he shall sell it at a particular price, unless he is also told that he shall have his flour at a particular price. Then, when we tell the baker that he shall have his flour at a particular price, it is impossible to tell the milleT that he. must, sell his flour at a particular price, unless he is assured that he will get his wheat at a particular price; and it is impossible to say to the wheatgrower that he must sell at a particular price unless he is enabled to have his rent and the interest, on his mortgage fixed: Further, wages must, be fixed, not by a minimum, but by a maximum. My honorable friends opposite will admit that principle.
– That is done at present.
– Does the honorable member say there is any law or judicial tribunal to fix a maximum rate of wages? The honorable member knows that there is not; and yet, if we tell the farmer that he must sell his wheat at a particular price, he must also be told that he will not have to pay more than a certain wage, a certain rent, or a certain rate of interest, and he must be enabled to obtain all his agricultural machinery at certain prices. Then we shall have to go to the implement maker and say, “ We find that in order to maintain this fabric for the fixing of prices and profits, it is necessary that you shall sell your implements at 30 per cent. less than hitherto ‘ ‘ ; and thereupon the implement maker will say, “ I will show you my books, which prove that I am making only a fair rate of interest on my capital ; I am paying my workmen the wages which you have compelled me to pay, and I am dealing fairly with them; I am buying my iron and other raw materials in the cheapest market I can find, -and if you compel me to sell my implements at any lower price, I shall have to shut up shop.” To any one who views this question from any other stand-point than that of attempting to make a show platform for the elections, this policy has no substance in it. The fact is, as the Attorney-General well knows, and as honorable members opposite well know, we are approaching a very serious and critical position in our industrial affairs.. It is already patent that we have hitherto endeavoured by all kinds of artificial means, not to destroy what used to be called sweating, and not to fix a’ minimum or living wage, but to determine or fix wages far above a living wage. If you fix the rate in any particular grade of the industrial scale at 7s. or 8s. a day as a living wage, and give 10s., 12s., and 14s. for other grades, those rates are more than the living wage. Whatyou have been attempting to do is to treat the laws of supply and demand, as the honorable member for Riverina said they should be treated as mere inventions of theorists and economists having nothing to do with practical life. We have come then to the critical position at which something must be. done. Prices have gone up, and are going up to such a degree that all the attempts to raise wages are found to defeat their own ends.
– Prices Have gone up all over the world.
– I do not say that prices have gone up wholly as the result of the increasing of wages, but they have gone up partly as the result of that. The Labour party, therefore, now finds itself with its back against the wall, and must discover a remedy for its supporters. It has to solve the riddle of the Sphinx, and’ honorable members opposite can solve it in only one way : I refer to the avowed? policy of the Government and of the Labour party which was announced by the Attorney-General some months ago, and expressly acceded to by the interjections of supporters, namely, to put before the country at the next election the policy of fixingthe prices which the people are to obtainfor their goods, and the profits which they are to make on their capital.
– There has been no interjection of that kind from this side.
– Does the Honorary Minister deny that that is the policy of his party? I assure him that therehave been several such interjections. Perhaps he has only just entered the Chamber or has not been listening to the debate.
– I have heard every word spoken during the debate.
– The AttorneyGeneral, speaking a few months ago in themost measured language, said that -
Unless the Federal Parliament was ableto regulate and control prices, the mere ability toregulate wages was of little value. Therefore, the Commonwealth would have to regulate pricesand profits. That was the beginning and end of the whole thing.
– What I objectto is thestatement that, by interjection, honorable members on this side have accepted that as. the policy of the party. That statement is incorrect.
– I wish to know whether it is the policy of the party. It is the statement of policy of a gentleman who may be considered a leading member of the party. If the Honorary Ministersays that it is not the objective of the party we shall have to try to discover which of these two Ministers really expresses the views of the party.
– We might try to makethat discovery so far as the Opposition is concerned in regard to the honorable member and his leader. One. speaks of a “gelatinous compound,” and the other of a “ bold contour,” applying the words to the same thing.
– It never troublesme to have my words brought up against me, because I have never laid great stress on a virtue which seems to be regarded by some almost as an object of worship,. namely, verbal consistency. I have often changed my mind, and shall often do so again. But on the point which I am now discussing I have never had but one idea, and never expressed but one view. A man with the experience and ability of the AttorneyGeneral cannot help knowing that unless the Labour party is prepared to take the responsibility of nationalizing the whole means of production, exchange, and distribution, it cannot regulate prices. He knows, too, that those who follow him will give to hiswords the devoted acceptance with which tire words of some mollah are heard by the wandering tribes of India, who swallow his promises of Paradise, as the honorable gentleman’s supporters swallow the promises he holds out on the eve of an election. He knows that if in this way he can gain their assent to his policy, things will somehow or other right themselves afterwards. There is another aspect of the case. For some years the nationalization of monopolies has been the policy of the Labour party, but I ask if any honorable member on that side of the House can give an intelligent definition of monopoly.
– Your profession is a monopoly.
Mi. W. H. IRVINE. - An instance is not a definition.
– Monopoly cannot be defined.
– I know that. Honorable members therefore propose to put into the Constitution a word that cannot be defined. It is that to which I object. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is fond of speaking of judge-made law, and he has objected to lawyers’ interpretation of the Constitution. For some reason he professes great abhorrence of Law Courts and lawyers, but 1 would remind him that the surest way of compelling the creation of judge-made law is to put into the Constitution words incapable of definition. This creates the necessity for judgemade law. It is difficult by using the most precise and best known words to define one’s meaning exactly, and thus avoid throwing on the Judges what is practically the exercise of the legislative power. But now honorable members opposite tell us that they are going to nationalize monopolies. The power over trade and commerce in their hands will be used as a power for practically rendering impossible any trade and commerce other than that which can be taken over by the State. The whole object of the party on trie other side, as it seems to me, is now clearly apparent, and it is to ultimately nationalize the whole of the means of production and exchange. The Federal political platform of the Labour party has been referred to more than once, and when honorable members on this, side have said that this or the other was part of the platform of the party, they have been met with such interjections as “ That was not adopted,” or “ That was. rejected,” and in many instances these statements have been quite true. But a study of the speeches made at the conferences at which the platform has been decided upon, and the reasons why certain proposals were not adopted or were rejected, is not without its uses as throwing some light upon what is really the policy of the Labour party. I find that with regard to this very matter of the nationalization of monopolies, that that term, incapable of definition as it is, has been adopted expressly because it is incapable of definition, and because it is understood to mcar a great deal more than it says. Honorable members opposite are well aware that f.t the Hobart conference there was a debate as to whether the Victorian or Queensland objective in the matter of nationalization should be adopted. It was suggested that what should be adopted was-
The securing of the full results of their industry to all wealth-producers by the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, to be attained through the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and local governing bodies.
That proposition was, of course, the clearest possible exposition of the subject of nationalization, and covered the nationalization of all means of production, distribution, and exchange. Nothing could be clearer than that.
– Then that is clear.
– Yes, that is clear. Now, why was not that exposition adopted? Let us hear what Mr. Watson had to say about it. He said -
Then, again, the Federal objective asked for the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and municipality. There was no limit to that sphere of activity. He did not see that there was anything to be gained by an alteration being made, and no reason had been advanced in favour of any alteration.
Mr. Griffith did not agree with one of the speakers who favoured the adoption of the plain language showing what the party meant. He preferred the general expression, “ nationalization of monopolies.” And why ? He says -
The objective, providing as it does for the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State, covered everything, from flying machines to brick-making.
A pretty wide range -
He was a Socialist, and the Labour movement was a Socialistic one.
So the debate went on, and the term “nationalization of monopolies” was adopted for no other reason than that the use of the word “ monopolies “ in that connexion was less liable to hurt the feelings of a certain section of the people than if the objective plainly expressed what all supporting it meant, namely, the nationalization of all means of production, distribution, and exchange. The extension of the commerce power to the extent which, speaking purely constitutionally, I think it should go is one thing, but to extend that power in the hands of a party having such immediate aims as are admitted by the Labour party is something of a totally different character.
– It would be right enough if the Opposition were in power, but not if we are in power?
– Quite so. It would be safe if we were in power; it is unsafe since honorable members opposite are in power.
– The honorable member has given the whole case awa v.
– If it will help honorable members on the other side, I am prepared to make the admission that my reason for opposing these proposals is because I do not trust honorable members opposite. I shall say, further, that that was very largely the reason why the people refused to vote’ for the referenda proposals the last time they were placed before them. It can never be forgotten, in dealing with questions of constitutional form, that it is impossible to leave out of consideration what is behind, all constitutional forms, namely, the active living forces which are at work in every community. We have examples from nearly every country in the world of forms of government that are of comparatively secondary importance since they are used by organized forces of various kinds for their own purposes. In this connexion some very striking statements were made quite’ recently -by a gentleman whose words will be respected by most Australians. I have here the report of an address given recently in Bombay by Sir George Sydenham Clarke. Whether his political views are agreed with or not, he is one of the ablest men at present administering the public affairs of °the Empire. He is a man with a very wide outlook on general, social, and political questions. I propose to read three short extracts from a lecture which he delivered to show how in his opinion, from the facts which he states, constitutional forms are subordinated in most countries to those organized movements which conduct their operations outside ordinary forms, although they affect them very seriously. Speaking of the Constitution of the United States, he says -
The illustrious founders of the United States, while cherishing democratic principles, as became men who had recently revolted against what they regarded as autocratic rule, intended to guard their country carefully against mob rule. They therefore vested the executive power in the President, and they conferred important powers on the State Governors. In spite,- however, of the care bestowed upon it, the Constitution of the United States has failed to realize the noble intentions of its authors, and has even developed features which they would have abhorred. Politics in America are entangled in the toils of a political machine of which money is the driving force.
Honorable members will recognise that this is the language of a man who, as I said, has a clear insight into the affairs of other countries as well* as of his own. He went on to say -
The tyranny of wealth has attained such proportions in no other land, and has never before exercised such a sinister influence on the life of a great nation, sapping the foundations of liberty and spreading corruption broadcast. The dominance of the boss in political and municipal affairs has tended to cause the best citizens of America to stand aloof from public life, and thus to lower the standard of political morality. Already there are plain signs of a growing demand for the restoration of civic liberty, and this century will, I believe, witness far-reaching political changes in the great Republic.
So much for America, where he shows that forms of government have little to do with the real forces operating in the public life of the country. He then deals with France, and he says -
France, from the theoretical point of view, has said almost the last word in Democracy ; but political contentment has not resulted, and Socialist and syndicalist movements subversive of all constitutional principles threaten the national stability. Democracy in France has developed group politics to a surprising extent. Nine distinct groups contend for power in the Chamber of Deputies, and successive Governments are compelled to bid for the support of as many of them as will secure » working majority for carrying on public business. It is naturally followed that Governments change far too frequently, which has the double disadvantage of checking continuity of aims and of creating a sense of unrest. Nevertheless, in political conditions which are far from satisfactory, the richness of the country and the sterling qualities of the French peasant maintain the general prosperity. °
We have been made aware from other sources that the syndicalist movement threatens to break through the existing provision for the maintenance -of order and good government. Dealing with’ Great Britain, he says -
In Great Britain, new forces are making themselves felt in ways not generally expected. While we have not at present reached adult suffrage, our political system may be claimed as distinctly Democratic. What most strikes me at the present time is that constitutional methods, for which there are free opportunities, do not appear to satisfy the enfranchised population. With us, as in France, Socialism and syndicalism seem to make way, while the amalgamated organizations of workers in industries upon which , the life of the people depends, claim the right to paralyze government and to starve their fellow citizens. ‘ Whether this is a passing phase or »n impending danger, time alone can prove ; but, jit least, it is the flat negation of Democratic principles, and we may fairly infer that certain recent political movements indicate the failure of Democracy to secure the expected benefits.
I cite those passages as showing the opinions el a man of very considerable wisdom and observation. We cannot disregard all living, active forces when we are dealing with tHe constitutional form in which they are to find expression, and those forces are sometimes such as to compel men, where the pressure is very high, to submit to, and even to advocate, constitutional changes with which they would not in theory agree. By that means occasionally revolutions have been avoided. They also justify men, if they are wise, in sometimes resisting political changes where the forces are such as to render those political changes, in their opinion, dangerous. There is a time for all things. The time for largely increasing the political powers of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia is not,’ in my opinion, when that Parliament is absolutely controlled, as it is now, and possibly may be next year, by a party which has the objectives that I have been endeavouring to place before the House.
– Does not that statement constitute an attack upon adult suffrage, since we are here by virtue of the votes of the people?
– We are here to do our best and to form our wisest conclusions for the benefit of the people who have sent us here. We are here to advise them and to use our own judgment, rather than to say, ‘ ‘ We have no minds of our own ; vote; and we shall follow.” We are here, if we are worth anything, as men who are best suited to form judgments on political subjects.
– - And the honorable member has advised the people one way in one vear, and another in another year.
– On the last’ occasion I advised them to vote against the referenda.
– Did not the honorable member advise .them to vote both ways on the last ‘Occasion ?
– No. I advised the people to vote against the whole of the amendments, and I did so because, as I have said already, they included two provisions - that relating to corporations and that relating to railways. In the general scheme of constitutional amendments we find a rather curious anomaly. I give the Attorney-General, who is in charge of this Bill, credit for being able with every honorable member to find the political latitude and longitude, but I think that he has misread his chart on this occasion. It will be observed that this Bill, unlike that before us on the previous occasion, provides that the power sought in respect of trade and commerce is not to include - 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 is a very half-hearted way of .dealing with the subject. If honorable members wish to obtain the power to control commerce, they must obtain power to control the movements of goods. If they want a general control over commerce, they must have a general control over commerce on the railways. The great bulk of Intra-State commerce is carried on the railways, and if we exempt commerce on the railways fromthe regulation of trade and commerce by this Parliament this proposed amendment of the Constitution will be practically lame in one leg from its birth, and that, if I may use an Hibernianism, its best leg.
– But the one is a public and the other a private instrument.
– It may be doubtful whether we could pass an Act to control freights and fares upon the railways of the States, for, as the honorable mem-, ber has just suggested, they might be held to be a State instrumentality, notwithstanding ‘the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution.
– It is a million to one that we could not do so.
– The honorable member must recollect that we are- asked not to pass an Act of Parliament to regudate such matters, but to agree to a Bill to provide for additional powers to enable us to do so. It is highly probable that we could not now take the step to which I havealluded, but when the Attorney-General invites the Parliament and the people, as he does, to give this additional power to the Federal Legislature, the argument of the honorable member in regard to instrumentalities has no application whatever. If it is desirable that this Parliament should control commerce, surely it is desirable that it should control commerce on the railways, because the bulk of commerce is carried on the railways.
– But the danger is in respect not of commerce on the railways, but of other commerce.
– I agree with the honorable member that the ostensible purpose for which this House is invited to seek extended powers to deal with trade and commerce is to enable us to control trusts and combinations. I am inclined to agree with the honorable member that in America many of the trusts and combines rest very largely on their power to regulate transport. That is not the case here.
– The trouble in America is rebates, and the honorable member knows it.
– I do not object to interjections, but I think it is a pity that honorable members should tack on to their interjections, “ And the honorable member knows it.”
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh gives the honorable member’ too much credit.
– I am merely expressing the views that I hold. Rebates and all sorts of concessions, as well as various other matters, constitute some of the foundations upon which trusts and combines are based. The power to regulate and control freight over the great transport systems of America is by far the most important element in the formation of a combine. That power does not exist here, and therefore the power to control trade and commerce over the railways of the States, even if we possessed it, would probably not be exercised to a very considerable extent except to prevent anomalies in freights and fares as between the States.
But if we wished to control combinations and combines as far as we could do sounder the commerce power, we should doso by controlling the movements of the goods, apart from the rates or freights paid in connexion with their movement. In that case, if we are going to take this power in the form now sought, it will practically be hamstrung. We could forbid the movement of goods and use our commerce power to deal with combines, which honorable members opposite say is their main objective, provided that we did not deal with the movement on the railways where the great bulk of trade and commerce movements take place. Now. whilst it is not proposed to seek from the country the right to control any portion of that which is practically the greater part of Intrastate commerce, namely, that which passes over the railways of the States, on the other hand, the Government propose - whilst making what I cannot help calling a merely plausible concession to the States in that direction - to interfere with the autonomy of the States in another direction ; because they propose to hand over to the Federal Parliament the whole control of the State railway services. We have heard a great deal about Unification and Federation. Some statements of my own have been cited. Those statements, with others, I entirely indorse. I agree with them now. But I say that when you come to deal with this proposal, then you are directly bringing, about Unification. As long as you have the several States in complete independence in their government, you adopt a scheme which is consistent with the Federal idea, and therefore is not Unification. But when in effect you give this Parliament complete control over the acts of administration of the most important functions of the State Governments, you are bringing about Unification. You are not tending towards it, but creating it. We are to have a division’ of constitutional powers which has the effect of leaving it to one Parliament, one agency of the people, to direct what should be the terms of employment, whilst another agency of the people, another Parliament, has to find the money for paying the wages so fixed. That is a scheme which might find its place in one of those musical comedies which we sometimes go to see, but not, I should think, in any sober scheme brought forward by earnest and thoughtful statesmen.
– The same principle operates with regard to private employment now.
– Of course it does ; but I am pointing out that if you are going to place the State Governments an the position of private employers you deprive them of autonomy.
– There are Wages Boards which can dictate to the State Governments now what they should pay to employes.
– It is quite possible that a State, in the exercise of its own discretion, may authorize any tribunal which it may create to determine the wages which it should pay to certain employes. In some cases State Governments may have done that. They have done so. At any moment they may withdraw that power. They may act in this manner without forfeiting one ounce of their own power. But to allow another power to come in and dictate to a State the wages it shall pay, is to strike a blow at the very root of the independence of the States. It has often struck me that one of the problems which presents the greatest difficulty in Democratic forms of government has relation to public finance. If we are ever to have sound and permanent relations at all in the government of this country, or in any country in which there is Democratic representative government, there is one principle above all that must be adhered to, and that is that there must be an inseparable connexion between the spending of money and the finding of the money to spend. But what we are attempting to do here is to create practically a judicial separation between power and responsibility. The disastrous results that will follow from that must be apparent. The immediate effect is to deprive the States, which under any Federal scheme are supposed to be autonomous within their own spheres, of the management of their own finances. I can only quote a few figures which show the enormous angle which the administration of the States subtends. Mr. Knibbs at page 814 of the Commonwealth Year Book, points out that the whole of the revenues of the States from all sources, including the amounts paid over by the Commonwealth, is .£37,365,000. Out of that the public works revenue is £21,951,000. The great bulk of that is railway revenue. We may say that the railway revenue would be about £19,000,000 or £20,000,000, or more than half the revenue of the whole of the States.
So that from the point of view of ordinary business finance, and from the point of view of preserving the Federal character of our scheme of Government, this is a very serious proposition. But there is another aspect of it which is still more serious. The end to be achieved is, as I have pointed out, fraught with considerable danger. The road by which we are going to approach that end is more dangerous still. The very words in which the amendment of the Constitution is proposed are that the Commonwealth is to have a power in regard to-
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes in relation to employment in the service of a State.
Whatever may have been thought in 190’, when this Constitution was effected, there can be no doubt whatever as to the meaning of those words now. They mean now that we are going to recognise the right of the Public Servants of a State to strike ; that we are inviting them to strike ; that we propose to create a tribunal which will say to them, “ If you create a dispute which extends beyond the limits of one State, to the railways of various States, we will settle your wages Tor you.”
– A dispute is not necessarily a strike.
Mir. W. H. IRVINE.- A dispute, it is true, is not necessarily a strike, but those words bear a definite meaning. It is now held - although it is almost impossible to define exactly what a dispute is -that the demand of conditions is not a. dispute.
– Is it not a demand together with a refusal?
– No. But if you have a demand and a refusal, and the circumstances are such as to bring about a dislocation and a disruption in the relations between employers and employed, and it is likely to lead to serious trouble, you have a dispute. That is the very condition which you are inviting the railway servants of the various States to bring about. The right to strike, of which we have so often heard - a term which honorable members opposite are so fond of using - is a right which cannot be said to be of general acceptance even in regard to private employment. I do not say that my honorable friends opposite will not urge that it has a general acceptance. But I say that it has not. I would point out that that right has been recognised for very many years in the legislation of many of the
Australian States as well as of other civilized countries as a right which cannot be maintained under certain circumstances, even in the case of private employers. There is legislation, I think, in a great many countries, including most of the States, which makes it an offence for persons to conspire by means of a strike to cut off, for instance, the gas supply of a city, or other public utilities which are in the hands of private employers. So that the right of strike which in some cases may be the only effective weapon of employes is a weapon which in other cases they must not use, because their action would constitute an attack on the whole community of which they are a part. But the right to strike against the Crown, which represents the whole community,both in form and deed, is a claim to mutiny. I desire to emphasize as strongly as I can the fact that if we are going to couple with the extension of the functions of government in other directions the right of persons in State employment to strike against the Government which employs them, and against the Commonwealth, which sees that they get proper conditions of employment, we shall destroy the whole fabric of government.
– The honorable member means that civil servants have no rights.
– In Australia the various State Parliaments have always been found quite ready to extend to their employes fair, and even advantageous, conditions of employment. We ought not, under any circumstances, to divest any Parliament of the ultimate power of determining the conditions under which its own employes shall work. Unless we adopt the principle that a deliberate strike amongst those employes shall stand in the same category as a mutiny of soldiers against the Government which employs them, we shall find that in any extension of Government functions we shall stand upon ground which is becoming more and more insecure. The word “dispute “ has been mentioned, and I should like to refer the honorable member who interjected to the countries in which recent decisions have been given as to the meaning of that term. It is essential that we should have a definition of it. But as the honorable member for Hindmarsh remarked of another word, “It is the sort of thing that any man of common-sense can tell what it means.” May I point out to him that it is just that sort of word the meaning of which nobody can tell when the matter comes to be fought out.
– Lawyers can never tell.
– That is a very cheap sort of criticism, and I do not intend to enter into a dispute with my honorable friend by replying to it. The rea difficulty is that it is beyond the wit of man to forecast all the contingencies which arise in the complex affairs of life. That is why we cannot determine these things more accurately. I will not say any more upon this subject now, but I shall have to say something upon it during the second-reading debate upon the other Bills. This enlarged commerce power is coupled with the avowed intention on the part of honorable members opposite - that intention has been stated in the most distinct terms by the Attorney-General - to deprive the States of their real control over their own servants. I hope that it will be safe at some future time to extend the trade and commerce power of this Parliament, but I say emphatically that it is not safe to do so at the present time.
– The concluding remark of the honorable member for Flinders was to the effect that these powers were coupled. Some two years ago when they were submitted for consideration they were to an. extent coupled, and that fact was seized upon by several honorable members opposite as an excuse for their opposition to them. The honorable member for Flinders himself seized upon the proposal to bring State railway servants within Federal jurisdiction as an excuse to justify his opposition to all the other measures then submitted, some of which he most emphatically indorsed. On this occasion they are not - as alleged by the honorable member - coupled. They are separate and distinct, .and if he remains true to his opinion of the proposal in respect of railway servants, he must admit that it is not coupled with other proposals. It stands absolutely by itself, and consequently it affords him no shadow of justification for exhibiting opposition to other measures. When, for some reason not yet explained to trie public, the honorable member finds himself in the position of having to do something which his conscience and intellect tell him he ought not to do - when he finds himself in the position of having to change his vote while frankly admitting that he has not changed his opinions - we can only conclude that all efforts put forward in extenuation of his attitude are merely the struggles of an individual who is attempting to make the public believe that the ties upon him are to his own liking, and have not been imposed against his will. Consequently, his remarks are seriously discounted by his opening statement that, although his opinion in respect to the trade and commerce powers of this Parliament has not changed, he intends to change his vote. I do not allege that there is any caucus domination on the other side of the chamber, or that there have been influences at work which honorable members opposite dare not make public. But the astounding fact remains that in respect of this Bill there has been a complete somersault on the part of the brainiest member of the Fusion, without a scintilla of excuse, other than that there is a Labour majority in this House, and that that majority will not administer’ any particular Act in the way that he thinks it ought’ to be administered. I come now to his peculiar statement that at some time extended trade and commerce powers may be given to the Commonwealth, but that the present time is not an opportune one, because a Labour Government happens to hold office. We are here by virtue of the votes of a majority of the people of the Commonwealth, and because our pledges to our constituents were approved by them. To assert that this Parliament has no right to be clothed with a particular power because the electors have expressed their approval of the Labour party in a constitutional manner, is an attack upon the grand principle of adult suffrage. While honorable members opposite may prate of democracy, this is, nevertheless, the second attack which has been made from that side of the chamber - the first having emanated from the Deputy Leader- of the Opposition - upon the principle of adult suffrage. Is it not an insult to the electors to say that in their choice at any particular election they should not have the right or power to carry into effect the desires of the majority? I doubt whether the ideas of honorable members opposite will receive the support anticipated when the position is properly explained to the community. It is contended that a minority section of the community shall have greater power of legislation and administration than shall the majority; and surely this is a great falling away from the ideal to which we have been living up, or attempting to live up to, during the last few years? It certainly evidences a very dangerous trend on the part of our political opponents. It indicates that if by some catastrophe or mischance they ever again secured power in this Parliament, they would so administer, and possibly legislate, as to destroy rule by majority - to destroy the power of the people, and retain it in the hands of a small section which arrogates to itself the greater brain power and knowledge of the legislative requirements of the country. I regret very much that there should be this desire displayed to place all the power in the hands of those whose work in the past has not been such as to commend it to the majority. Another proposition of the honorable member was of a most peculiar character. He quoted a statement made by the Attorney-General, and contended that because it was made by that gentleman it constituted a statement of the policy of the Labour party.
– I did not say so.
– The honorable member stated that it constituted a policy by which the Labour party was bound, and endeavoured to show that interjections from this side supported that view. The honorable member, however, has a copy of a programme of the policy of the Labour party, and is as well acquainted with it as any one in the Liberal ranks. He knows that the words of any individual member of the party, unless it be the Prime Minister speaking as such, do not commit honorable members on this side of the House. It is an astonishing assertion on the part of the honorable member that a statement by the Attorney-General or myself - if it suits his view at the moment, though views change rapidly in certain circumstances - commits the whole of the Labour party, which is Australian in character and formation, while a statement by the Leader of the Opposition, that the policy of the Liberal party is one of “ bold contour “ and “ vital comprehensiveness,” and so forth, does not commit the Opposition in any shape or form. I suppose that if the honorable member for Flinders himself describes the same identical Liberal policy as a “gelatinous compound” it is merely an expression of personal opinion, and does not commit his party in any way. Let us be logical - let us be honorable. If a statement by the Attorney-General en any particular subject commits the Labour party, then, manifestly, any statement by the Leader of the . Opposition must commit the Liberal party. Personally, I am not interested in this little matter further than to expose, to the best of my ability, the Curious line of argument adopted by the honorable member for ‘Flinders, not because he believes in it, or thinks it fair and reasonable, or that it accurately displays the position, but because, having turned a somersault of a most complete character in regard to the proposals, before us, he sees the necessity to cloud the issue by references of a character that will not bear examination. Let me, however, refer to this subject of the fixation of prices. The honorable member endeavoured to cast ridicule on the assertion that prices must be fixed in the future - on any attempt by the Legislature in this direction - and ‘ I think there was a touch of scorn in his manner at the time. If prices are to be fixed, who shall fix them? Shall they be fixed by a Government elected by the people in fair and open combat, knowing what they are doing, and whom they are electing, and understanding the intentions of the persons elected? There are two powers, and only two, which car control prices - the Parliament of the country, and the commercial organizations. These two forces are gradually coming together, and it will depend on the intellect, the patriotism, and the national life of the people whether they will govern themselves or supinely go down under the control of commercial organizations. These organizations are controlling prices in every direction, and will, unless checked, continue to more rigidly fix prices to suit themselves. If it be incontrovertible that there are these two forces, one or other of which must fix prices, which is the preferable? Is it the people’s representatives, elected openly in honour, who shall do this in their interests, or shall we submit to the domination of corrupt trusts - to institutions of the character that have ruined thousands, nay, scores of thousands, in other countries, and are raising their heads in no uncertain way in this land? Charles Edward Russell, in his recent book, The Greatest Trust in the World, tells us all about the Beef Trust, which the honorable member for Moreton says he would welcome in Queensland. By the way, are we to take that expression of opinion of the honorable member as com mitting the whole Liberal party to his views? Mr. Russell in his book says of the Beef Trust -
It fixes, for its own profit, the prices the farmer of the West shall receive for his cattle and hogs, and the prices the butcher of the East shall charge for his meat. It fixes the price that the grower of California shall receive for his fruit, and the price the labourer of New York shall pay for his breakfast.
It can affect the cost of living in Aberdeen and Geneva as easily as in Chicago and New York. It has in the last three years increased for its own benefit the expenses of every household in America. It controls or influences the prices of one-half the food consumed by the nation. It has its share in the proceeds of more commodities of daily consumption than all other trusts, combinations, and monopolies together, and the prices of these it seeks to augment for its own profit. It can make, within certain limits, the price of wheat, of corn, of oats, what it pleases; it will shortly be able to control the price of every loaf of bread.
Sitting suspended from 1 to2.30 p.m.
– The honorable member for Flinders sought to pour ridicule upon the suggestion that prices may in the future be regulated. What I have read from a book, entitled The Greatest Trust in the World, indicates very clearly that prices are being regulated, and that they are being fixed to the injury of a whole nation. What is more, the trust referred to is making its operations international, and, as it has robbed and murdered in its own country, we may safely assume that it will rob and murder as ruthlessly in other countries to which it owes no allegiance. Efforts will be made, especially when the farming community is being addressed, to make it believed that there will be an attempt to regulate prices to their detriment. Ask the farmers of South Australia, however, if prices were not fixed to their detriment. A wheat ring, composed of a few merchants, strong opponents of the Labour party and of the referenda proposals two years ago, in one year stole £170,000 from the wheat-growers of the State by its method of fixing prices. If prices are to be fixed, shall they be fixed by a wheat Ting which cares not an iota for the farmers, or shall they be fixed by the farmers by means of the public institutions of the country? A little while ago I read in the press a two-line advertisement, stating that on and after a certain date the price of sugar would be increased. There was no indication of the extent of the increase, no signature, no name or address, yet the consumers had to pay the increase, to justify which there had been no raising of duty and no legislative or industrial act. The power which fixes the prices of sugar said that there should be an increase, and there was an increase. Ask the consumers generally whether it would not be better for them to have a hand in the fixing of prices than to have prices fixed by unseen commercial organizations whose members are utterly callous of the public welfare. A short time ago I read in the Age a statement by a gentleman named Peacock, representing the jam manufacturing industry, to the effect that the purchasers of sugar are required to pay 30s. a ton more for imported sugar than they could import it for, or else a penalty of 10s. a ton on the Australian sugar they buy. It is necessary for them to take the Australian sugar in order to obtain rebate on the. exportation of jam, and therefore they are forced to pay these extra prices. Let me read some of the evidence given before a Royal Commission inquiring into Tasmanian matters by a witness named Alexander C. Gillespie, a miller, of Burnley. His evidence in reply to question 7415 and succeeding questions was -
Is there a Flour-Millers Association in Melbourne ? - Yes.
Does your Association regulate prices? - We try to.
The price at which you shall sell in Victoria principally? - Yes, not outside at all.
You have a free hand outside Victoria? - Yes, absolutely.
Therefore, we are to understand that in Victoria flour is sold at so much per ton, as the Association of millers agree? - Yes, that is right; but I must add, that we have not all the millers in our Association. You can easily understand, therefore, that our Association has not very great strength.
Does the Association include some of the most prominent millers in Victoria? - Yes, all the largest millers.
I ask honorable members whether it is better that the Millers Association should fix the prices of flour than that Parliament should do so? Let me again quote from Russell’s book, The Greatest Trust in the World. Attempts will be made to deceive our farming community into voting against these proposals, which are being put forward for their protection, and to give them greater powers of self-government- Listen to what the farmers of America have been subjected to by the Meat Trust, which is slowly, but surely, spreading its tentacles over other parts of the world -
The total losses of the cattle-feeders in Iowa in 1904 are computed at $12,500,000. In 1903 and 1904 forty banks in Iowa failed, closed their doors, or went out of business, and at least seven bank officers committed suicide. Even in time of national business depression and panic there has been no such record as this.
Do the graziers of Australia wish to be ruined ? Do we wish to see our smaller banks closed by those institutions? Or, shall we alter the Constitution so that Parliament may have the power to control the depredations of the trusts? On page 114 1 find this passage -
And is this the full tale of the evil done to the producing industries of the West? Good sir, it is no more than a sample. The ruined stockmen and looted farmers, the bankruptcies that ran into the thousands, the suicides, the wrecked families, the unhappy homes, make up a sum of iniquity destructive to any optimism.
The optimism of honorable members opposite is such that they would permit these institutions to establish themselves in this country, rather than give the Federal Parliament power to restrict their wickedness. Let me quote again from the same work -
Here is a great criminal organization, utterly illegal in its inception, utterly illegal in its operation, defying the courts, an active and pestilent public enemy. The works of this organization are to increase to every household the cost of living, to decrease to a very large number of producers the normal income from their toil.
May I give two more quotations which are significant in the light of what transpired during the investigations of the Sugar Commission -
In 1896 the contribution of Armour and Company to the Republican National Campaign
Fund was $400,000 in three checks…..
Some day we shall see that the smugly-disguised treason that accepts from the public enemy benefits, position, and campaign subscriptions, is far more hateful and far more perilous than the treason that fires upon the flag.
The attempt was made to pour ridicule on the remark of the Attorney-General that if you bring down prices, profits, and rents, you will be doing the right thing. When I pour ridicule on a statement, it is because I am opposed to it, because my views are contrary to those of the speaker. Are we to suppose that the honorable member for Flinders, and those with him, wish to raise prices, profits, and rents? I know from bitter experience, platform statements notwithstanding, that the underlying intention is to reduce wages and the remuneration given for the exercise of brain or muscle. If ridicule is poured on the suggestion that it would be well to bring down prices, profits, and rents, does that mean’ that it is the intention of the Liberals to increase them? If so, it is well that the people should understand the position.
– The honorable member should keep this stuff for the platform.
– The honorable member was cool and calm when he spoke; he should remain cool and calm when the natural rejoinder to his utterances is being made. In the name of Heaven, are not the people now suffering enough from high rents? Is there any justification for charging higher rents ? Is there any justification for the extortionate profits which are being made and for the prices that are charged on many articles? Shall we on this side be subjected to ridicule and contumely because a member of our party suggests that the tendency to increase prices should be checked by legislative action? To pour ridicule on that suggestion is to pour ridicule on the Leader of the Opposition, who was the first man in the Federal arena, not merely to suggest or propose, but to have placed on the statute-book, a measure fixing prices.
– Conditionally on a benefit being given by the State.
– I accept the interjection. Was there anything in the remarks of the Attorney-General to suggest that he would not accept conditions? What he said was torn from its context and distorted for political purposes. Is one sentence to be torn from a public addross and misrepresented, with a view to inflaming the minds of the people? I hope that the standard of our public life will be too high to permit that, and that in the approaching electoral contest we shall not drag issues in the mud, but shall discuss them openly and fairly. If that is done, I shall have no fear of the result. Notwithstanding all the eloquence that may be used by our opponents, notwithstanding all the contributions that may be made by the trusts to support them, notwithstanding all the literature that has been put under the doors, the people will recognise that in taking this power they” are taking greater powers of self-government than they have now, and powers that it is essential to their own interests that they should exercise. We read the other day in the Argus of a gentleman in this House descending to spade work. The honorable member for Flinders will know what the reference meant. I regret that there should have been an attempt to descend to what might be called petty
Police Court practice in dealing with the use of the word “ monopoly,” by first obtaining from an honorable member by way of interjection the statement of fact that no one man can accurately or properly define the word “ monopoly,” and then by turning round and saying to the Government and their supporters, “You are proposing to put into the Constitution a word that you cannot define, and the meaning of which you do not understand.” Even if these proposals be> approved we shall not put into the Constitution the word “monopoly.” Such an inference as that sought to be drawn should be beneath the dignity of any member of this House, much less one who has had so much experience as the honorable member for Flinders has had in the higher Courts, where, he knows full well, such an attempt to mislead would be to no purpose. It is not even suggested that we should place in the Constitution the word “monopoly.” What is proposed is that the Commonwealth Parliament in the future, however it may be constituted - whether the Labour party be on this or the Opposition side pf the House, exercising what should be its inalienable right - shall have power by resolution carried in both Houses in one and the same session to define what a monopoly is. Then, and only then, can a clear and unmistakable definition of the word be given by a majority of the representatives of the people elected to this Parliament by the vote of the people in a constitutional way. Circumstances may then arise to affect the opinions of even honorable members of the Opposition to such an extent as to enable us to get in both Houses an absolutely unanimous decision as tq what is a “ monopoly.” But if that position were to arise to-morrow morning - if every member, of this Parliament decided that a certain calling or industry was a monopoly inimical to the welfare of the community,the National Parliament would be absolutely impotent. We should have to go about our ordinary avocations and see the people injured, robbed, and fleeced without power to extend to them any protection. All that we are asking is that in the future a majority of the members of this Parliament shall have power to decide that a particular calling or industry is a monopoly injurious to the public, and then, and not until then, will it be possible for that industry to be taken over by the
Commonwealth. Even in such circumstances such a monopoly could not be taken over except on fair terms to be decided practically by the High Court. I hope that we shall not be subjected again to such references.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting what I said.
– I shall be glad of the honorable member’s correction.
– I invite the honorable member to look at the Bill entitled, !’A Bill for an Act to regulate Trusts, Combinations, and Monopolies.”
– That is merely a reference to the control of monopolies ; it does not relate to the taking over of a monopoly.
– If the honorable member will allow me to say so, I think that he has been misleading the House.
– The honorable member is at liberty to express that opinion.
– He has been referring to a Bill to which I did not refer.
– Then I express my regret. The honorable member undoubtedly dealt with the word “monopoly.” If his reference had relation to the Bill under which we seek power to control monopolies, then the position must practically remain unchanged. Is a monopoly something that is of use to the country? The honorable member himself has declaimed in very specific terms against monopolies.
– That is another matter. The honorable member accuses me of misleading the House, and will not withdraw the statement.
– I have expressed regret. I accept the honorable member’s explanation that in speaking of the impossibility of defining the word “ monopoly,” he had reference to its use in the Bill relating to the control of monopolies. Is that correct?
– No. The words used in the Bill are “ trusts, combinations, and monopolies in relation to the production, manufacture, or supply of goods or the supply of services.” It was that provision to which I referred.
– The honorable member says that his reference was to the proposal to add words to our Constitution giving this Parliament power to legislate for the regulation of trusts, combinations, and monopolies in relation to the production, manufacture, or supply of goods or the supply of services. He knows full well that the Constitution must be read as a whole, and not in individual parts. What must be the natural outcome of this proposal ? Even if the Parliament decided that a particular industry was a monopoly, it would still be possible for it to say, “ Although this is a monopoly, we should not be justified in nationalizing it, but we shall more effectively control it.” The definition would be precisely the same. It does not follow that because this Parliament, acting under a power conferred upon it by the Constitution, declared that a certain industry was a monopoly, that it must proceed to nationalize that monopoly. The position is merely that if this power be granted to us we shall be able to nationalize a monopoly if the people desire that course to be followed. It means that we may declare an industry to be a monopoly, and, that having done that, we shall have power to control it. Will the honorable member for Flinders say that monopolies are beneficial, and should be left uncontrolled? Will he say that a few .persons calling themselves capitalists ought to have power to come together and to completely control some manufacture, and that the Parliament of the nation should have no power to interfere with them, although they might be operating just as do the iniquitous trusts to which I have referred? Is this Parliament to remain impotent while the people are being interfered with in this disgraceful manner ? I venture to suggest that the people on this occasion will give a vote vastly different from that which they gave when this question was submitted to them a little while ago, and that they will do so, notwithstanding that some members of the Opposition have decided to change their votes, although they have not changed their opinions.
I wish now to refer briefly to references that have been made to opinions expressed by Mr. Bryce. A quotation was made from his excellent work, Studies in History and Jurisprudence, with the object of conveying the impression that that distinguished gentleman had said that the Commonwealth of Australia had greater power than had the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada. When the quotation was made I said . that only one sentence had been quoted, when two should have been given. I said then that it was an abuse of quotation, but the same sentence was quoted by another honorable member of the Opposition. The sentence is as follows : -
Now, the range of powers granted to the National or Commonwealth Parliament is very wide, wider than that of Congress or of the Swiss National Asembly or even of the Dominion Parliament in Canada.
There the quotation ended, although those who made it knew that it was a reference not to the actual, but to the enumerated powers of the two Parliaments. A man might possess twenty enumerated powers, and yet not be nearly so powerful as a man possessing one actual power. Honorable members of the Opposition knew, in making this quotation, that they were offering a gross insult to one of the Empire’s greatest men. The succeeding sentence, which shows that the reference was to the enumerated powers, reads -
I need not enumerate the powers granted - forty-two in number - for they will be found in sections 52 and 53 of the Australian. Constitution.
We have forty-two enumerated powers, whereas the Dominion Parliament has but twenty-nine. The reference was to that fact. If the Opposition desired to be fair, why did they refrain from quoting the following passage, which appears at page 529 of the same work -
Australia leaves to the States all residuary powers (i.e., powers not expressly granted). Canada withholds them from the Provinces, and vests them in the Dominion. . . . Australia gives to the Federal Government no right whatever to interfere with State Statutes. Canada invests the Dominion Government with a veto on Provincial legislation by placing the GovernorGeneral, as regards such legislation, in the place which the “Queen holds as regards Dominion legislation.
– I wish the honorable member would not look at me when he makes that quotation. I did not make the quotation in question.
– No, my honorable friend’s references were drawn from his imagination ; I am quite sure . that he would not descend to misquotations for any one. If further proof be needed of my statement as to what Mr. Bryce desired to convey, it is to be found at page 530, where we have the statement that in Canada the Federal Government has more power - or at least a wider range of action - than has the Parliament of the Commonwealth. It is to be regretted that the Opposition should be so devoid of argument that they have to descend to methods of this kind - methods which, I shall not say would be discredited in a fifth-rate debating society, but which would not be tolerated by any debating society. . We federated some years ago to widen the powers of self-government possessed by the people of Australia, and it cannot be denied that in the measures that we are submitting to the people for their acceptance there are embodied proposals which must undoubtedly widen our powers of self-government as a Commonwealth people. In addition, we shall be able to exercise a power of self-government which the people in the States at present cannof exercise. The Opposition are again silent.
– Surely the honorable member does not wish us to be disorderly, and to interject throughout his speech?
– I am grateful for the attention of the Opposition, but I know from long Parliamentary experience that if the Opposition could fire a bullet into my argument, or pierce my armour by an interjection, then, no matter how vivid the imagination that suggested it, an interjection would be made with lightning-like rapidity. I am justified in the circumstances, therefore, in calling attention to their silence. Their silence indicates that there is no possibility of refutation of my statement. If it can be refuted, let it be refuted here rather than at Aspendale, the Tweed River, Horsham, or elsewhere, where honorable members of the Opposition address audiences, who, because of their excessive labours in other directions are unable, perhaps, to arm themselves to reply to their statements. Here is the place, and now is the time, for them to refute my statement if they can. I repeat that our proposals, if carried, will widen our powers of self-government, and enable the Federal Parliament to govern the country in a manner that the States cannot possibly do at the present time.
– If the Honorary Minister wants an interjection, let me ask him, “ Why did not the Government prosecute the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ? ‘ ‘
– At the present time we have a Royal Commission inquiring into the operations of that company, and the disclosures made in the course of that inquiry will be of a character that will astonish even the honorable member, whose placidity in regard to the operations of trusts has become a by-word. Apparently he expects that while an inquiry is being conducted into the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company we ought to prosecute it. In “the circumstances I may be permitted to ask him what he thinks of our prosecution of the Coal Vend ? So soon as we obtained the necessary evidence we prosecuted that Vend, and whatever may be said to the contrary, the fact remains that the ultimate decision in that case rested, not upon a difference of law or of evidence, but upon a difference of opinion between two Justices, each of whom is a brilliant jurist, and against neither of whom as a jurist I can offer a word of complaint. Nevertheless, that case so far as Australia is concerned turned upon the opinion of two Justices of the High Court, one of whom said “yes “ while the other said “no.” Are We always to be subjected to the mere opinion of the Justices who happen to occupy the High Court bench? After all, that Court is largely ‘the creation of the political party which happens to be in power at the time vacancies in it occur. I have not a single word to say against the High Court. We have five Justices composing it. But a death or a resignation may mean that a decision which holds us in thraldom today will make us free to-morrow. Why not give to the people of the Commonwealth the power to say how they shall be protected instead of leaving it to the mere opinion of any individual who may happen to occupy a certain position at a particular moment? Time will not permit me to dwell upon the fact that we have been advised to take this power. We have the opinion of the honorable member for Flinders that we ought to have it.
– Not that you ought to have it.
– There my honorable friend commits himself more deeply. If ever the cloven hoof of arrogance; if ever a superciliousness or a self-claimed superiority was made evident, it is made apparent in that interjection. The honorable member would take to himself and his party this power, but he will not give it to a majority of the people. He knows full well that the people may decide tomorrow that some other party shall be intrusted with the government of this country. When I seek to discriminate between the conduct of honorable members opposite and that of the Labour party, may I be pardoned for quoting my own remarks in Adelaide recently? I stated that in the interests of the people of this Commonwealth it would be infinitely preferable that they should put the Labour party out of power and vote “ Yes “ for the referendum than that they should increase our strength and vote “ No.” I am not asking that a particular party shall put this power into operation. I care not what political party may occupy the Treasury benches. So far as these proposals are concerned, I say publicly that it is infinitely preferable that we should be deposed, and relegated to the shades of Opposition, than that the people should say “ No “ to them. When we ask the people of this country, “ Will you have greater powers of self-government - greater powers of protection than you enjoy at the present time? “ it is inconceivable to me that they will say “ No.” The honorable member for Flinders himself thinks that the Commonwealth ought to have this power. If he himself could use it, he would do so, but he will not allow the “ other fellow “ to use it, notwithstanding that the ‘ ‘ other fellow “ represents a majority of the people of the Commonwealth. To say that we shall not use a power for our own protection is to go back a hundred years in history.
– The United States of America have done without it.
– Unfortunately, the framers of our Constitution largely modelled it upon the American Constitution. But we know that- the United States of America federated under the cloud of war, and under what they regarded as iniquitous measures, which were thrust upon them by a Power thousands of miles over the water. They were subjected to what they considered injustice at that time. When they federated, trade and. commerce was an unknown thing. The only trade of which they had any knowledge was that with Indians, with whom they exchanged beads for furs. To say that we have followed the United States Constitution in the matter of our trade and commerce powers, and that they ought to suffice for the circumstances which operate to-day, amounts almost to an infamy.
– They have had time to alter their Constitution.
– During the past twenty years they have been attempting to alter it, and to their national chagrin they have been unable to do so on account of its rigidity. Need I recall the fact that, when the Federal Convention first framed a Constitution for Australia, it embodied in it provisions for its alteration which were not acceptable to the people. Only when the Constitution itself was made less rigid did the Australian States federate. Shall we not permit the people to effect an alteration of it ? As I view the situation, the Leader of the Opposition has practically urged that this power should be given to the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that yesterday he repudiated it. When he was asked by the authorities in South Africa what form of federal government should be adopted in that country, Mr. Garran was instructed to draw up a memorandum on the subject. He did so at the dictation of the then AttorneyGeneral, the honorable member for Darling Downs. That document clearly said an effect) “ “Refrain from these delimitations because of the impossibility of working satisfactorily under them, and take for your federal union the full power over trade and commerce.” When the memorandum was submitted to the AttorneyGeneral of the day - the honorable member for Darling Downs - he wrote a footnote to it stating, “ T have carefully perused this document, and I entirely agree with it.” After it had received that approval, the memorandum was forwarded to the Prime Minister, the honorable member for Ballarat, who, as the Leader of the Government, despatched it to South Africa as his opinion after eight years’ experience of /the working of our Constitution. But yesterday the honorable member repudiated it in circumstances that cannot be other than discreditable to him. When these Bills dealing with proposed alterations of the Constitution were submitted a few days ago, there at once arose a solid phalanx of legal gentlemen in opposition to them. There arose the honorable member for Ballarat, who is a lawyer ; the honorable member for Darling Downs, who is a lawyer ; the honorable member for Angas, -who is a lawyer ; the honorable member for Bendigo, who is a lawyer; and the honorable member for Kooyong, who is a lawyer.
It is the subtle work of lawyers in America that enthrones the trusts there. One -.after another they avowed their intention of lighting to prevent the people of Australia from securing greater powers of selfgovernment - of fighting to leave the control of prices, of rents, of the cost of the very food that we eat, and the clothing that we wear, in :the hands of commercial cormorants. The honorable member for Angas soared into the clouds and sought to envelop these proposals in an atmosphere of ethereal beauty. Almost immediately afterwards the honorable member for Darling Downs, attempted to cover them with all the sophistry of an enraged ^convert, because, written in an official document is his unqualified approval that this power should be taken. But to-day associations have forced him to repudiate his own written approval. I regret very much that this morning we heard from the honorable member for Flinders a repudiation of the vote which he would have registered on the last occasion that this matter was under consideration, and an intention to vote in an opposite direction from that which his opinion dictates he should follow. Need I remind honorable members’ that Canada and South Africa possess this trade and commerce power? If we look to Germany and Switzerland, we find that they possess it, too. Yet chaos has not overtaken them. Those countries have not been devastated because their Parliaments have this power. We have been told that the granting of it may be followed by its injurious exercise, and that, consequently, we ought only to take unto ourselves trade and commerce power in respect of “ restraint of trade.” But honorable members opposite know perfectly well that it is utterly impossible to define what those words mean. It is that circumstance which has plunged the people of the United States into the awful degradation which they are experiencing to-day.
– There has been no difficulty there.
– The whole difficulty has been to define the meaning of the expression “in restraint of trade.” Our difficulty in regard to the Coal Vend was not in proving the existence of the Vend or of a Shipping Combine, or of proving collusion between them as to how coal should be carried, and at what price, but our difficulty was in proving that their operations were “ in restraint of trade.”
– Nothing of the kind. The question was whether their, operations were in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public.”
– That is what I am saying; restraint of trade has to be restraint of trade to the detriment of the people, or otherwise what is the use of interfering with it? If it is merely restraint that is not injurious to anybody, do honorable members think that the community would be concerned, or that the Government would prosecute? Why these distressing quibbles ? The High Court said that there was a coal vend and a shipping ring in collusion, and that they were in restraint of trade, but it was held that the restraint was not injurious to the people. But if it be not injurious to the people to have the price of coal raised many shillings higher than there is any justification for, I do not know what can be injurious.
– The honorable member is in favour of the Coal Vend.
– I am not in favour of the Vend.
– The Labour party is.
– I know of no man in the Labour party who is favorable to the Coal Vend ; and to say that any one of us is in favour of it is an unfortunate misrepresentation, to use a mild term. I know of no member of the party who is in favour of a vend when the vend is injurious to the public. Honorable members opposite laugh, and one guffaws; but am I to say that I am opposed to a vend which is not injurious? If the honorable member for Swan would remain quiet, and out of Parliament, I should have to show no opposition to him; it is only when he gets into Parliament and endeavours to put his ideas into operation that I rise against him. The honorable member might live a peaceful life in Western Australia, or elsewhere, and enjoy the proceeds of his labours, and I should care not; but when he becomes, as a vend or a trust becomes, injurious to the people by reason of his operations, then he must expect opposition, and Parliament must protect the people. It is essential that there should be this proposed trade and commerce power in order to bring about uniformity of law in respect of companies, and to place reasonable restrictions on corrupt commercialism - to protect honest and legitimate trader and the honest commercial man against the depredations of sections which cannot be so characterized. I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Flinders when I say that the States cannot adequately put into operation the required power, and it is necessary, in order that we may place a ring around the necks of these commercial cormorants and prevent them from injuring the people of Australia. To assert that the Government, if the power be given, will put it into operation is equal to saying that, because Mr. Speaker has the power to prevent interjections as disorderly, he will exercise it with the utmost severity on every occasion. The power placed in the hands of Parliament by the people will be used, as in the past, for the protection of the people ; it will not be abused. To say that the power should not be extended because of the fear of’ what may be done by members on this side of the House is to infer that we have abused some power in the past. What power have we abused? There has been nothing on this side of the House to justify an inference that if the people give us greater power in their own,’ protection we shall abuse it.
.- The honorable member has been profuse in his promises of the great millennium that willresult if more power be granted to our friends opposite. It occurs to me that some of those promises are accounted for by the fact that, as stewards for the people, they will very shortly have to give an account to their constituents, who will ask them where are the nice little bank balances that were held out, and where are the easy conditions and splendid times they were to have. Of course, if such questions are asked, the reply will be that all these conditions would have been given but for the horrible combines and trusts who are robbing the people - those iniquitous combinations which are keeping a beneficent Labour Government from turning, this country into a veritable Paradise. The forthcoming elections account for a good deal of the fervid rhetoric - and good rhetoric it was, from’ his point of view - indulged in by the Honorary Minister. The honorable gentleman’s tongueis so fluent that we found it impossible to get an interjection in edgewise, and then he, unfairly, I think,accused us of not interjecting. One matter which the Honorary Minister dealt with trenchantly was the enormous contributions made by trusts and combines in the United States for political purposes ; and I am sure that we on this side condemn such practices quite as much as do honorable members opposite. After the last referenda, when we heard so much of huge sums of money having been spent by the Liberal party, I pointed out in the House that that party were quite willing to have their expenditure investigated if the Labour party, the biggest combine in the country, would make a similar offer. I throw that challenge down again now.
– All our . expenditure is made public.
– Then we know that the Labour party on that occasion spent £195,000.
– We never had that much money.
– We are told that that is about the sum the Labour party spent, and I can assure honorable members that the whole contributions on the Liberal side did not amount to a tenth of that sum.
– Mrs. Berry, the President of the Women’s National League, said that the Liberal party spent . £50,000 in Victoria alone.
– I am in a position to know what was spent, and I can give the honorable member’s assertion an absolute denial.
– It is not my assertion, but Mrs. Berry’s.
– What did the Liberal party spend ?
– I said that if the Labour party are willing to have their accounts investigated, the Liberal . party are also wiljling ;and, further, the Liberal party are quite prepared to have their methods of expenditure made known. I would never be a party to any expenditure which was not absolutely and simply for the purpose of placing the position before the people, who are our judges. If a single penny is spent in bribery, the offence ought to be visited with the most condign punishment.
– Is it not political bribery to give a salary?
– It depends entirely to whom the salary is given. I have never spent any money in a way of which I am ashamed, and I would never consent to any money being so spent ; and I wish to flatly deny the continually reiterated assertion that vast sums of money are spent by the Liberal party. The salaries which are being paid to organizers on our side are a scandal ; indeed, I wonder those employed do not go on strike and demand a Wages Board. There was one gentleman who did yeoman service for the farmers, and who was roundly abused by the Labour party ; but when that organizer was discharged, and his salary ibecame known, the Labour party abused the Liberal party because the amount was so ridiculously small. Of course, I am perfectly well aware there is no pleasing our honorable friends opposite in political matters. I desire, again, to say that the amount of money spent by the Liberal party in the whole of Australia for political purposes is not so much as is spent by the extreme wing of the Socialists - those gentlemen who meet on the Yarra bank.
– Where do they get ft from ?
– I expect the unions shell it out.
– Those Socialists are antiLabour men.
– No doubt, the biggest combine in Australia is the Labour Combine; it not only supplies funds for the Labour movement, but if any one declines to join it, as a man is doing in Bendigo now, he is forced to join, and also forced to contribute to the political funds.
– What about the Pastoralists Union?
– We do not subscribe a single penny for political work.
– Why, a cheque was sent to me in mistake from Dynevor Downs - it was for the other fellow !
– Not from the Pastoralists’ Union.
– The Pastoralists’ Union struck a levy of so much per hundred head of sheep.
– Not the Pastoralists’ Union.
– Yes, the union had a meeting, and did so.
– There may be organizations connected with the Pastoralists Union; at any rate, the point I wish to make is that our friends opposite spend ten times the amount that is spent by the Liberal party, who are supposed to be the friends of capital and of trusts and combines. I have always held that the Constitution is not sacrosanct - that the Constitution is made for the people, and not the people for the Constitution - so that, when the proper time comes, I expect to see changes of a beneficent sort.
– When is the proper time?
– Not now, at any rate; and the changes proposed are not those I can support. We cannot expect to have a perfect Constitution all’ at once; but, on the whole, the Constitution is a very good one. There were two great reasons for forming this Federation. One was the sentimental reason; every Australian desired to be an Australian, and not merely a Victorian or New South Welshman. It was one of the proudest days of my life when I voted for Federation; and I have never repented my vote. . .
-Would the honorable member vote for Federation again?
– I would vote for it to-morrow, with all its drawbacks.
– It has not worked out as a number of people thought.
– I quite agree with the honorable member; but we are not here to go into that matter to-day. One other great reason which actuated the people of Australia was that some great common interests, particularly defence, ought to be dealt with by a National Parliament. It was felt that, instead of a number of little armies and navies, there ought to be one army and one navy, controlled by a central Government ; and I am pleased that this is now being carried out. We are continually told that the South African and Canadian Federations have far more power than we have. But the conditions of Australia differ entirely from those of South Africa and Canada. The South African Federation came about after one of the most bloody wars in modern times. The Boers and British, who inhabit that part of the world, were for a long time at each other’s throats. A strong central Government is therefore necessary to keep communities like the Orange Free State and the Transvaal from breaking away. The South African Federation was not formed by a number of settled communities peopled by the same race, having the same interests, and living in harmony, like the people of Australia. In Canada, again, there were living a large number of persons of French extraction side by side with people of British origin, and it was necessary to give the central Government strong powers to make the Federation secure. In my opinion, the best thing we can do is to leave as much power as possible in the hands of the State Governments. I have always held that the people are better governed by the municipalities than by the State Parliaments, and by the State Parliaments than by the Commonwealth Parliament. Australia is too huge to be governed from one centre. Unification was our original form of government ; but first New South Wales, and then Queensland, broke away, it being found that government from Sydney was unsatisfactory. In our Botanical Gardens is a tree bearing an inscription to the effect that under it was held the first meeting of citizens in favour of separation. It is comparatively recently that government from Sydney was regarded by Victorians as so slow and ineffective that an agitation for separation started and succeeded. In view of that experience, the attempt to bring about’. Unification again is little short of ridiculous. Honorable members opposite say that they are not trying to bring about Unification, but that is what these proposals mean.
– If the people want Unification should they not have it ?
– They can have it if they want it; but on Friday last a Government supporter felt constrained to deny so violently the statement that his party favoured Unification that he used language that was unparliamentary, and was suspended for the remainder of the sitting;.
– Does not the honorable member think that our system of government could be reorganized to advantage?
– I think that, if effect is given to the proposed amendments, we shall have all the drawbacks of Unification with none of its advantages. The State Parliaments will still remain, but this Parliament will have so much more work to do that its membership will have to be increased, and that will mean an increase in the cost of government. Many persons in Victoria favour Unification because the Commonwealth Parliament meets in Melbourne, but some day it will meet elsewhere. If we increase the work of this Parliament, the business of the country will be no better done than at present. Let me instance the want of common sense in connexion with the collection of land taxation to show how little benefit is gained by having work done by a central Government. The Commonwealth land tax costs about £80,000 to collect, while the collection of the Victorian land tax is about £15,000, and £10,000 for valuations.
– There is not much more than that collected from the tax.
– Most of the tax is spent in the cost of collecting it, and it will be the same with the Commonwealth tax in a year or two. The cost of collecting the land taxation of the States is about £75,000 in all, and the cost of collecting the municipal taxation on land probably another £20,000 or £30,000. If this work were done entirely by one authority, an enormous sum would be saved. Then we have 1,700 persons employed in the Savings Banks of the States, and the Federal Government propose to duplicate this work by establishing a Commonwealth Savings Bank.
This, of course, will double the expense. “In the end bad times will come and retrenchment will be necessary, and a great many persons will be suddenly thrown out of employment. The overlapping of powers is a thing which, as a common-sense -people, we should set our faces against. The Prime Minister the other day promised to inquire into the possibility of simplifying the collection of land taxation. The -other day a friend of mine sat down to lunch with no fewer than seven land valuers, who were engaged in valuing one property. Imagine the poor man’s feelings. He had brought one valuer himself, there was the Federal valuer, two shire valuers, two municipal valuers, and another.
– Why not adopt the New Zealand system, and have only one set of valuers ?
– Is there any chance of ^getting the States to agree to that?
– I think that they might agree to it if properly approached.
– The States have been the ‘ block hitherto.
– I think that the fault is with the Labour party, which is always trenching on State powers, and frightening State authorities, so that they are afraid to deal with the Commonwealth. The following statement which appeared in last Saturday’s Leader is worth quoting -
It is pointed out, with some degree of force, that this restriction is injurious to public interests, inasmuch as the Commonwealth cannot act for the prevention of fraud within State limits. . Labour troubles itself ‘little about great issues which have no connexion with its own policy of aggressive Socialism. . There is no energy to devote to the redress of these wrongs. But in pursuance of a selfish sectional interest, a feverish determination is exhibited to wring from the people consent to a policy which they have already unmistakably condemned.
These proposals were rejected by the people a short time ago, and our Labour friends then said that they would have all or none; but they now say, “ Give us any one of them to go on with.” The sum of £46,500 was spent in obtaining the opinion of the people on these proposals two years ago, and a majority of 250,000 rejected them. If we adopted the reasoning of the Attorney-General, we might see no harm in these proposals, but the real effect of them must be looked for elsewhere. Last night the honorable member for New England addressed the Trades Hall Council on the high cost of living.
He said that the consumers were paying the rents of thousands of shops, when a delegate interjected, “ We have to pay members of Parliament big salaries, too.” When he had recovered his breath after that interruption, the honorable member went on to say -
Co-operation was the method by which the high cost of living should be dealt with, but he had come to the conclusion that the voluntary system of co-operation was too slow. There was a better machine - the referenda. Australians were really a co-operative society, and if they decided to do their own storekeeping there was nothing to stop them. If they were to free themselves from the curse of the high cost of living, if they were going to say “ Hands oft “ to the waste, which mas the biggest thief of all, they must take over the steam-boat services and obtain control of the whole means of distribution within the Commonwealth.
That is the whole aim of the Labour party. It wishes to obtain control of the whole means of distribution throughout the Commonwealth. Everything will have to be nationalized. It was a straightforward, honorable thing for the honorable member for New England to say this plainly.
– He is at liberty to express his own views.
– I think it is our policy. I stand for it.
– Speak for yourself.
– That is all right. Mr. George Graham, the Victorian Minister of Agriculture, advocates the establishment of a line of State-owned steamers.
– But here is a proposal to nationalize the whole means of distribution, and it explains the object of the Labour party in seeking these powers. Their desire is that Socialism shall be at once brought about. In seeking for the motives of the Government in submitting these propositions to the people, we have to look to other than the diplomatic leaders for information, and it is from such an outspoken statement as that made by the honorable member for New England that we gather the true inwardness of things. Here we have a scheme to bring about Socialism, in our own time. Honorable members opposite also desire to extend to every enterprise the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. Even the State railway employes are to come within its scope, so that while the States will fix freights and fares, the Commonwealth will practically fix the wages to be paid. Such a proposal would lead to chaos, and is absolutely impossible. I am one of those who hold that we do not desire to see in Australia anything .in the nature of the enormous trusts and combines that exist in the “United States of America. I have always been strongly opposed to their iniquitous operations in that country, but I do not think any reasonable man will say that there is in Australia a trace of anything of the kind. We are told that we have a meat combine here, but no sound evidence can be produced in support of that statement.
– Nothing save the unsubstantiated statements of the Victorian Minister of Agriculture. r>
– And the statements of Mr. Manifold and Mr. McWhae in the Legislative Council of Victoria.
– I do not think that Mr. Manifold has had much to . do with the meat trade for some time. Then, again, the honorable member for Riverina this morning made the astounding statement that the wheat market in Australia is controlled by a combine. He said that every morning buyers in every country district received a telegram quoting the price which they were to give. As a matter of fact that is not the case. There is keener competition between the big wheatbuying firms here than there is in connexion with any other branch of business. They act on cabled orders from their constituents on the other side of the globe. They receive cablegrams from London every morning, and then send telegrams to their buyers, stating the prices which they are authorized to pay.
– Do they quote the same price for wheat as is offering on the same day in London? <
– An allowance must be made for freight and other charges, but business is cut finer in this trade than in any other of which I know. Freights are carefully studied, and wheat is often sold before it has actually been purchased. Orders coming in from day to day have to be met, and in order to secure parcels of wheat the buyers will sometimes out prices to a farthing, their desire being to satisfy their orders and to fill their ships.
– There is generally keen competition between the local millers and the exporters of grain.
– That is so.
– But we export two-thirds of our wheat.
– It must be obvious that the big wheat-buying firms here supply a want.
– The farmers themselves, by co-operating, could supply that want.
– And there is nothing to stop them from doing so. I fail to see why the position of the wheat industry should be relied upon as an argument for the extension of our Federal) powers. I know as a fact that there isno combination among wheat-buyers in thisState.
– Witnesses who appeared before a Royal Commission in South Australia admitted on oath that there was a combination, or in other words an honorable understanding.
– That is not the experience of Victoria. The appearance of the American Beef Trust in Brisbane has caused a flutter in the trade. We are told that the influence of that Trust in the United States of America has been of the very worst character. I dare say that ithas been, but a friend of mine who managed large meat works for us at Rockhampton tells me that since the American Meat Combine commenced operations here owners of sheep and cattle have obtained immensely better prices than they could secure before. The operation of such a combination must, of course, be carefully watched. It has been said that there is a combine amongst those at present engaged1 in the meat industry in Australia. If there is, I can only say that none of them have made big fortunes out of the business, whereas they have certainly done the country a great service in providing our farmers and producers with another market.
– These references to combines constitute part of the stock arguments of the other side.
– -I suppose that is the position. We are constantly being told that monopolies and combines exist here, but it is difficult to find any trace of them. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company might, perhaps, be regarded as thenearest approach to a monopoly that we have in Australia, but the sugar planters do not seem to throw much dirt at it. We have to remember that we are growing sugar in an exotic sort of way, since we are producing sugar by white labour to compete with that grown by black labour at much less cost. Even if the people of Australia have to pay j£6 per ton more than they would otherwise do, they feel compensated by the knowledge that they are thus enabling a large enterprise to be carried on by people of their own race. The Attorney-General, in introducing one of these Bills, quoted from some cheap sort of magazine, whilst quotations have also been made from such books as The Pit, in which insinuations regarding various institutions are made. Some of them may be based on fact, but they are grossly exaggerated. I fail to see why more powers are required., unless it be for some such sinister purpose as I have indicated, and which the honorable member for New England has admitted. If combines exist in Australia, why do we not exhaust our present powers to deal with them before we seek for any extension? In the only prosecution that has taken place, Mr. Justice Isaacs held the Coal Vend to be a combination to the detriment of the public, but the High Court, on appeal, declared that it was not, and that, instead of being a bad, it was a good thing. The AttorneyGeneral complained that we had no power to deal with this iniquitous Vend. We have first of all to consider whether at is an iniquitous Vend.
– The Crown did not prove that it was.
– That is so. So far as I can ascertain, our powers are ample. There has been no breakdown of our power to restrain monopolies that are detrimental to the public interest. Had there been, I should be one of the first to say that we should have wider powers, be-‘ cause monopolies such as exist in the United States of America, are not to be tolerated in Australia.
– They can be dealt with in the United States of America.
– And no doubt they will be dealt with. A determined effort is being made by the Government not to put in force the powers which we already possess, but to secure an enlargement of those powers. The reason is that their proposed amendments of the Constitution will furnish them with a fine electioneering cry. The enormous expense of taking a referendum is well known.
– The more we take of them, the better.
– If the Government had attached proper importance to the verdict of the people on the occasion of the last referenda, they would have immediately handed in their resignations. But they carried on as if nothing had happened. People oversea were surprised at their action. The honorable member for Bourke has affirmed that this Parliament has reached the end of its usefulness, unless it secures an extension of its powers. But I would point out that the taking over of the State debts is in itself quite a suffi cient work to occupy us for the term of a’ whole Parliament. Let us make a determined effort to deal with that problem.’ Let us devise a. scheme for the purpose, and throw upon the State Government which” will not agree to it the responsibility for its action. But instead of doing that, we are told that the States will not give us this and will not give us that. The fact is that they are afraid of the present Government. The Labour party has practically been in power ever since the inception of the Federation, with the exception ‘ of a couple of lucid intervals when Sir George Reid held office, and when the Fusion Government were intrusted with the control of the affairs of this country for a brief period. It is the fear on the part of the States that they will be wiped out by this Parliament which has ..alarmed them. Their alarm is, in my opinion, well grounded. We know perfectly well what happened recently in connexion with their Savings Banks. Nothing was working better in the interests of the people than the State Savings Banks. Then the Commonwealth established a Savings Bank of its own-. It said to the States, “ We are going to take over the savings of the people, but we will make an arrangement with you.”- My advice to the electors will be to vote “No” to every one of these proposals, because the powers which they seek to confer upon this Parliament are not required. The people of Australia do not desire the means of distribution to be nationalized. They want to be permitted to do their work in their own way. They do not wish to be dry-nursed in any direction. I have no desire to trespass upon the time of the’ House at undue length. I admit that monopolies and combines are a danger to the Commonwealth, and that their opera-‘ tions must be guarded against. But until the powers conferred by our Constitutionin its present form have been proved to be ineffective, I fail to see that any need exists for an extension of them.
.- In substance the six Bills which are now before us are practically the same as the two Bills which occupied our attention in 1910. Their subject-matter was then fully dis- : cussed, and, therefore, it is practically im- possible to say anything new on the present occasion. Nothing new has. been said during this debate, and, consequently, I need not apologize for repeating many of the remarks which I made upon a former . occasion. The matters with which we are now dealing have been incorporated in six Bills, in order to meet an objection which was raised when only two measures claimed our attention. On that occasion I stated that it would make no difference whether the proposals to enlarge our legislative powers were embodied in four Bills or in one, because the Opposition would counsel the electors to reject tHe whole of them. Their attitude now affirms the accuracy of my . forecast. It is very difficult to please them- When proposals to amend our Constitution were embodied in one Bill, the Leader of the Opposition told the electors that the Government were seeking to bulldoze them. Now that they have been incorporated in six Bills, we are told that the Government have ‘ ‘ put the Opposition in a hole.” It appears to me that if a Ministry are of opinion that amendments should be made in our Constitution, it is their duty to ask the people to sanction those amendments. Should the electors reject their proposals, the Government will then be able to say that they have done all that it was incumbent upon them to do. But this Government say that on the last occasion the electors rejected their proposals because they were misled, and that consequently another opportunity should be afforded them of saying “ Yes “ or “ No “ to those proposals. To my mind, there is a very great deal to be said in support of the contention that the position was misrepresented on the last occasion. I have closely followed every general election in Victoria during the past forty-five years, and I have no hesitation in saying that never before was such gross misrepresentation indulged in as was indulged in by the opponents of the Government proposals at the last referenda. I will mention only two or three examples. Speaking in South Gippsland, upon the Constitution Alteration (Monopolies) Bill, Mr. Livingston, M.L.A., said -
If this Bill were passed the Government could take over a man’s land or business, recompensing him as it thought fit.
He completely ignored the fact that the terms upon which the Commonwealth could take over any business must be “just terms,” those words having been inserted at the instance of the honorable member for Flinders. Mr. Livingston further said -
Shire Councils would be under the control of the Federal Parliament. … He would like to ask the Shire Councils where they are going to get their grants from ? Fancy sending a deputation to Yass-Canberra. You will be governed by a body of men who will sit thousands of miles away.
Of course, that was a wild exaggeration, especially in view of the fact that Gippsland lies closer to the Federal Capital than does any other portion of Victoria.* He continued -
You would be abroad so long that your wife would have reasonable grounds for a divorce.
These were the sort of statements that were made for the purpose of deceiving the public. Then I find that one of the lecturers of the Women’s National League, Miss Maize, in speaking at Camperdown - gave a harrowing picture of what would happen, if the referenda were carried. She warned her’ audience that there would be a great deal of impersonation as some of their opponents would probably vote eight or nine times. If such a dreadful thing as the referendum proposals were carried, I would not be’ surprised if it resulted! in civil war. Under Socialism the home would’ be broken up and the children taken away from# the parents by the Government.
What a very different way that was o£ dealing with the matter from the way which was suggested by the honorable member for Angas, who, in speaking in this. House, said -
It is our duty to keep clear of party prejudice, in our endeavour to educate the people upon. the subject. I believe that they invariably act’ right when they apprehend correctly. They donot always apprehend correctly because we do* not allow or help them to do so.
That was a fair admission which the honorable member made in his place in this Parliament. He had previously made thesame statement in addressing an audience.in Adelaide -
We must endeavour to put the issues fairlyand as clearly as we can before them.
When I discussed this matter on a former occasion, I absolutely refused to view it from a party stand-point, and I decline todo so now. I held the same opinions then as did the honorable member for Flinders, and I hold them now.- I have not been brought under the lash of any whip to induce me to change my views. On that occasion, the honorable member for Flinders said we ought - to approach it without regard to political prejudices or the state of parties in this.
House….. It is our duty to put out of our minds who sits on the Government benches., and who on the Opposition.
Mark what is the result if we do not -
If we fail to do so we shall fail ia our performance of the most sacred trust delivered tous by the people.
What did the honorable member do today? He went a little bit further on this- subject when speaking in this House on the last occasion. He repeated these words more strongly in Committee; and it is specially desirable to quote them after what he has said to-day. Referring to the Unification question, he said -
That is sufficient in itself to show not only that the power over trade and commerce, which this clause purposes to give, is not Unification, or an element in Unification, hut that it is not a step towards . Unification - that we should have to go very much further on the road before we even approached the position in which Canada now stands; and it is admitted that the Canadian Government is not only a Federation, but one of the most successful Federations of the world. So much, then, for the argument that in itself this proposal is a step towards Unification.
These are the words to which I particularly desire to call attention, in view of the honorable member’s remark to-day -
I have nothing to do with the motives of honorable members, or some of them, on the other side, who support this measure, and who say that they are in favour of Unification, or think that this is a step in that direction ; we have to do with the effect of the constitutional change proposed, and with nothing else.
– The question ought to be considered on its merits.
– We ought . to deal with it on its merits, and not allow party considerations, or what we may suspect or believe to be the motives of some honorable members opposite, to influence our true and direct decision according to our own judgment.
Could any condemnation of the position which the honorable member has taken up to-day be more emphatic than that contained in his own words ? When the honorable member for Darling Downs was speaking at Toowoomba, he said -
The proposed alterations of the Constitution should not be made a party question. A nation like this should arise superior to party considerations. The Constitution or machinery of Government was not framed merely for party purposes, it was framed for the welfare of the nation. Therefore, when we are asked to deal with the Constitution, patriotism, and statesmanship alike suggest that we should consider the proposals from the point of view of how they will affect the Government under which we live.
These were positions one could admire; and I certainly did admire them, and they were the recommendations that I followed. In my opinion, the question is simply whether the Federal Parliament, as the Australian agents for the Australian population, should be intrusted with the exercise of the powers embodied in the amendments before us. It is difficult in a few. words to answer the objections made to the proposals, because we are met with several. In the first place, we have honor able members like the honorable member for Bendigo, and, to a certain extent, the honorable member for Ballarat, who regard this Constitution as something sacred, which should hardly be touched - at any rate, the beautiful Federal idea should not, in their opinion, be interfered with. It is notorious that, from the time that Federation was first spoken of, it was recognised that we had to attain our ends step by step. At the Melbourne Conference in 1890, the present Chief Justice GriffftlT, referring to the Federal Council and what it had been able to do, said -
We did then all that we could see to be practicable and desirable. . . . Now I have no doubt of it being desirable, and I believe it to be practicable to do more. . . If we cannot get all let us get as much as we can. Every step in advance is something gained. If we get a Federal Government -
I wish to emphasize the word “ Federal “- even with limited powers let us have it. Therefore I would desire to go en as far as we can go-
Mr. Deakin said
It is perfectly true that there must be a division of authority, that some of the powers of the local Governments will have to be transferred to the Federal Government, but the judges of the powers to be given to either body must not be either the local Governments with their jealousies, or the central Government, with its ambitions. The judgment must come from those whom both exist only to serve, from the people themselves.
Again he said -
Yet the Constitution will, after all, however admirable, not be a final Constitution. . . . Let that Constitution be what it may, if in any respect it fails to meet the needs and wishes of. the people of Australia, they will still have the right, and certainly should be specially endowed with the power, of moulding it from time to time, more and more into harmony with their views and desires. In national growth there must necessarily be constitutional changes suited to that growth.
At the Federal Convention in 1891 Mr.. Justice Griffith said -
It is well to have a Constitution so elastic as to allow of any necessary development that may take place.
– Capable of being amended.
Sir Samuel Griffith. Everything is capable of being amended.
Sir R. C. Baker said
I do not care in what way you frame the Constitution, the people of Australia will mould and modify it in accordance with their ideas and sentiments for the moment, although its outward form may remain the same.
Then, turning to the actual Constitution, we find that, at the last sitting of the Convention, when it was adopted, the leader, Sir Edmund Barton, and also the honorable member for Ballarat, spoke on the final motion. The honorable member for Ballarat said -
In this Constitution, although much is written, much remains unwritten, and has to be supplied out of our experience of our own people and our working methods in political affairs. Can we have any doubt as to how and whence the forces of union will be supplied. . . . After all, and much as it accomplishes, this Constitution is but the framework and ground plan of the nation that is to be. It is, perhaps, by a wise discretion, that we have insufficiently and inadequately dealt with the difficulties with which we are at present perplexed. It is enough that we have provided the means of enabling those to deal with them who will be far better -qualified for the task than we are.
That is a very candid admission that we must expect amendments to be made in the Constitution. In what direction would amendments be made? We have the distinct statement by all those I have quoted that the document could not be perfect - that we had taken as much as we could get, and had given the public ample power to amend - as Sir Richard Baker said, “ mould and modify “ - the Constitution to suit their views and sentiments at the moment. Nobody could have imagined for a moment that amendments would be of a restrictive character - that Federal members would go to the people and say, as the honorable member for Swan, in his days of nationalism, put it, “ Take back the power or any of the powers that you gave us.” Every amendment must be in the direction of giving more power ; and this was contemplated .by the framers of the Constitution. It is very remarkable that this extra power over industrial matters was asked for in the very first session of the Federal Parliament. That, I think, is a strong piece of evidence that, from the start, this Parliament was dissatisfied in this respect. Before I come to that point, however, I should like to say that many of those people who are complaining about the pro”posed amendments, complained, when the Constitution was framed, that there was not greater freedom to make amendments. At present, any proposed amendment must be carried by an absolute majority in both Houses; but one of the last proposals made at the last Convention was one by the present Mr. Justice Isaacs, to the effect that, if an amendment of the Constitution passed one House, and was even rejected by the other, it could go to the people, and, if accepted, would become law. Who were the members of the Convention who voted for that proposal? Amongst them were the honorable member for Bendigo, the honorable member for Ballarat, Sir George Reid, and the late Sir Frederick Holder. Could any of us imagine to-day, on hearing the honorable member for Ballarat and the honorable member for Bendigo protesting so strongly against the proposed amendments, that their grievance, when the Constitution was framed, was that ari amendment could not be carried without the consent of the other Chamber? But the Constitution has never been treated as sacred. The very first amendment was made at the instance of the honorable member for Ballarat in 1906; and a very trifling amendment it was. It was simply to provide that the elections for the Parliament should take place in the first half instead of the second half of the year; and that was merely to benefit a certain part of the community in the southern parts of Australia, while simply ignoring those in the north. Then, in igo7-8, there was a proposal made by the honorable member for Ballarat to adopt what is known as the new Protection; and, again, in 19 10 there were two proposed amendments submitted by the Fusion Government. One of those amendments, in connexion with the payment. of 25s. per head to the States, was absolutely unnecessary ; and, therefore, I may say it was a wanton exercise of the power of amendment. We find from the pamphlet prepared for the Fusion Government by the honorable member for Angas, which saw the light for the first time two years ago, that he actually advised two further amendments ; and it is, therefore, nonsense to talk about the Constitution being something that should not be lightly tampered with. There is a great cry made about the Federal ideal ; and when speaking on the subject, two years ago, the honorable member for Ballarat said -
A Federal Government in the true sense of the term is the most complex and delicate form
Df Government yet devised by humanity. It represents the highest ideal, and requires the most political culture of the most civilized races of the world.
I am afraid that the people who could work such a piece of machinery do not exist anywhere in. the world; at any rate, in my opinion, it is “too complex for, the Australian of the twentieth century!. The honorable member for Flinders made reference’ to’ the question of Unification. I entirely agree with that honorable member that there is no magic in the words “ Federation “ or “ Unification.” We are told to-day that we must uphold the present Constitution, but two years ago the honorable member said -
I cannot think of any better way of upholding the Constitution than by rationally, sanely, and after full consideration, using the powers which the Constitution gives us.
It appears to me that what we require is a Constitution as simple as it is possible to make it - one that the people are able to understand, and not one that even lawyers are unable to understand. At present, Whether our Constitution is broad or narrow, depends entirely on the way in which it is construed by the High Court, and that depends on the trend of thought of those who for the time form that Court. It is admitted to this day that the American Constitution would have been absolutely unworkable if it had not been for the daring decisions of Chief Justice Marshall, who practically legislated for the people without any responsibility. Such a Constitution as that is, to my mind, most objectionable. It is far better to trust the Parliament, which is responsible to the people, with all the necessary power, than to trust to the accident of the occupancy of the High Court Bench, and its trend of thought, without legislative responsibility. That position was put forcibly at the time of the last referenda by Mr. Watt, the present Premier of Victoria, in the following words -
You cannot separate responsibility and power, for power without responsibility leads to tyranny. . . I am confident you will say, “ We believe our Parliamentary institutions, responsive as they are to the popular will and welfare, may best be trusted rather than judicial institutions from which in the past the people have had to wring their freedom step by step from reluctant Judges. . . You will find that Judges are just lawyers, with a little more education, and you cannot rely on getting absolute justice from Courts. You get law, which is not always the same as justice.
We want such a Constitution as will enable the people to achieve, so far as they can by legislation, the ideal contained in the words of Ruskin, who said -
The world is so regulated by laws of Providence that a man’s labour well applied is always amply sufficient to provide him during his life with all things needful to him, and not only with these, but with many pleasant objects of luxury, and yet farther, to procure him large intervals of healthful rest and serviceable leisure.
There is another matter that should not be lost sight of. These proposed amendments are only grants of power. There are two kinds of amendments - one is what we may call legislative amendments, which take effect at once, as the Financial Agreement would have done; while the other gives grants of power, the exercise of which, to a greater or less extent, depends on Parliament at a later day. An objection taken to the proposals of the Government is that the powers which are asked for will be abused. The honorable member for Flinders stated that objection very strongly. But to say that a power may be abused is not to give a sufficient reason for refusing to grant it. The Parliaments of the States have all the powers for which we are asking, and what protection have the people against their abuse? The protection that they would have against our abuse of those powers. Should this or any other Parliament abuse its powers, or use them in a way of which the public did not approve, the majority in office would be unseated at the next election, and another majority more in accord with the popular feeling would take its place. What an enormous amount of misrepresentation there would be at the present time if we were asking for power to make laws in respect to divorce and marriage ! Yet we have that power in the Constitution, and, to our shame be it said, we have never exercised it, although we have possessed it for eleven years. The trade and commerce power, as has been said by the honorable member for Flinders, and by Mr. Wade, in New South Wales, is the key to the other powers, and without it their usefulness will be much restricted. As the honorable member for Flinders said, we cannot divide an organic whole, especially when it is one of increasing complexity. When last night the honorable member for Bendigo said that no case had been made out for the proposed amendment, I interjected that the honorable member for Flinders had made out a very strong case, and the honorable member for Bendigo evidently knew that that was so, because he replied in a very snappy and ill-natured manner. The honorable member for Angas, in a paper which he wrote for the Fusion Government, said -
A question that sooner or later may have to be reconsidered in the light of judicial decisions and the new conditions is the apportionment of the commerce and industrial powers -
He then proceeded to quote Professor Woodrow Wilson, the new President of the United States of America, who is a strong States Righter, but who has, nevertheless, had to admit that -
It is now no longer possible to frame any simple or comprehensive definition of commerce. Above all, it is difficult to distinguish the commerce which is confined within the boundaries of a simple State and subject to its domestic regulation from that which passes from State to State and lies with the jurisdiction of Congress.
How that admission differs from the statement of the honorable member for Bendigo last night, that there are two clearlydefined jurisdictions, that of the States, and that of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Angas goes on to say -
But the facts have to be faced. The division of a particular power may lead to indefiniteness as to sphere, harassing litigation that establishes no guiding principle, duplication and clashing of machinery, continual strain on the relations between commercial organizations and the State, and between capital and labour.
A most striking fact in this connexion is one to which reference has already been made, namely, that the Deakin-Lyne Government recommended the people of South Africa to give an unlimited trade and commerce power to the central Government When the honorable member for Ballarat was speaking the other day, the honorable member for Adelaide interjected, “ Is that why the honorable member advised South Africa to adopt these terms?” and I was astonished to hear the reply -
I did not so advise South Africa.
– The suggestion went with the imprimatur of the honorable member’s Government, and through his office.
– It went through my office. But it was neither drafted by me nor revised by me. At this distance of time I shall not say it was read. I hope it was. If so, it did not catch my eye. The first time my attention was directed to the phrase in the document I objected to it absolutely.
It was so unlike the honorable member for Ballarat to disclaim responsibility in the matter, because if he has a fault, it is that he is too ready to assume responsibility that is not his. We have known him here to accept responsibility for most trivial occurrences for which he was not responsible ; for instance, the wretched supper and cab incident, with which he had nothing to do, not being here at the time. It would not have occurred had he known anything about it. But he took the responsibility for it because he was head of the Government at the time. Yet he deliberately says that a document which went from him to the
Governor-General, and thence to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and so to the Governor of the Transvaal, and to the.public men there, contained statements of which he had no knowledge. Can it be imagined that he signed that document without knowing every word that was in it? Not only was there a formal request for information and advice on the framing of a Constitution sent through official channels, but the Premier of the Transvaal wrote to the honorable member asking him for information on the subject. His letter is dated 3rd July, 1908, and is in these terms -
Dear Mr. Deakin,
You will, no doubt, have observed the references in the public press to the resolutions adopted by the recent Intercolonial Conference in Pretoria on the subject of the closer union of the British Self-governing Colonies of South Africa, and the proposal to appoint a National Convention to consider and report on the most desirable form of South African union, and to prepare a draft Constitution.
The resolutions have been adopted by the South African Parliaments, and the Convention will probably meet in Durban about the beginning of October.
I am very anxious to obtain the fullest information possible, and with this in view,. I cabled you to-day, requesting you to inform me fully upon any matters concerning the Commonwealth and State Constitutions of Australia, which, as a result of experience, are likely to call for special consideration in the drafting of any form of Constitution’ of a United South Africa which may be agreed upon by the Convention.
It is difficult at the present moment to foresee what the line of discussion will be, or whether the consideration of the question will be in the direction of unification, or a form of federal union somewhat analogous to the Commonwealth of Australia.
There are, no doubt, many points on which the experience gained in the various States forming the Commonwealth of Australia will be most helpful in considering this question of South African union, and I shall esteem it a. great favour if you iwill send me all available information on the subject.
The Department of External Affairs, in sending on the request to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, said -
In forwarding the attached copy of a despatch from the Governor of the Transvaal Colony, I have to inform you that the Prime Minister will be glad if a memorandum can be prepared giving as far as possible the information desired.
I may add that the Commonwealth Treasury have been asked to deal with the financial aspect of the question.
Attention is invited to the last paragraph of the enclosure, from which it will be seen that the matter is one of urgency.
A reply was prepared by the Secretary to the Attorney-General, which received the- approval of the honorable member for Darling Downs, then Attorney-General, in these words -
I have carefully perused the memoranda prepared by Mr. Garran during my absence in Queensland, and I fully agree with the views expressed.
The document went to the Department of External Affairs, and was sent to the GovernorGeneral for transmission to the South African authorities, and a copy was sent to Mr. Moor, the Premier of the Transvaal. At the same time, the honorable member for Ballarat wrote this letter to Mr. Moor, dated Melbourne, 15 th August, 1908 -
Dear Mr. Moor,
In acknowledging your letter of the 3rd July relative to the proposed Convention to consider the question of the union of the South African Colonies, I beg to inform you that in compliance with the request contained in your cablegram of the 3rd July, I forwarded a set of the Debates of the Australian Federal Convention of 1897-8, and some notes. These will have reached you ere this.
I now enclose a copy of a memorandum prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department giving information regarding executive functions in connexion with the establishment of the Commonwealth Government. I have already sent you a copy of Quick and Garran’ s work mentioned therein.
I also forward under separate cover the following documents dealing with financial matters : -
Notes on the financial problems of the Commonwealth and the States of Australia ;
Memorandum by the Commonwealth Treasurer explanatory of his proposals for taking over the State debts;
A statement of the Public Debts of Australia as at 30th June, 1907 (two copies) ;
Report of the Premiers’ Conference (1908).
It is hoped that the various documents now forwarded will prove of assistance in considering the important question of the Federation of the South African Colonies.
Yours very truly,
That was acknowledged by Mr. Moor on the 19th September, in these terms -
Dear Mr. Deakin,
I have to acknowledge, with many thanks, your further letter of the 15th ult., forwarding copy of memorandum of information regarding the executive functions in connexion with the -establishment of the Government of the Australian Commonwealth.
This memorandum, as well as the other literature and reports on the subject which you have so kindly sent me, will, I am sure, be of much assistance to us in the course of our deliberations on the question of the closer union of the South African Colonies. - Yours, very truly,
In view of that correspondence, I cannot understand how the honorable member for Ballarat can say that he did not advise the people of South Africa to give unrestricted trade and commerce power to the Central Government of its Federation. He was addressed on the subject officially and semi-officially, and replied to both sets of communications. That he did not study the replies that were sent away is almost impossible to believe. If he did not read the document to which reference has been made, he deserves very sincere condemnation, because he had no right to send such an important communication to the South African authorities and to “ Dear Mr. Moor,” who had asked for our experience, and any information that we might have, to guide them in the important matter of framing a Constitution, unless he was prepared to in3orse every word of it. However, the subject is one on which I do not care to dwell too much. My opinions of honorable members are being shattered. The proposals now before us are not quite the same as those with which we dealt on the last occasion, and the alterations which have been made will prevent some misrepresentation.’ During the last referenda campaign it was misrepresented that we proposed that the Federal Government should take control of the railways, and in my district canvassers went from house to house telling the people that if they voted for our proposals their trains would be stopped ; that their service would not be as good as it is, because money would be saved to spend in the wilds of the north, or other places in which they had no immediate interest. That misrepresentation cannot be made on this occasion. The definite exclusion of municipal corporations from the corporation power should also prevent the misrepresentation that we desire to control the municipalities. By misrepresenting the position in regard to municipal corporations for all they were worth, the Opposition were- able to induce municipal councillors, not only to vote against the proposed amendments, but to frighten many of the ratepayers into doing so. As I have already pointed out, Mr. Livingston told them that they would have to go to a Government which conducted its operations thousands of miles away, and that it would take them so long to reach Yass-Canberra that their wives would be entitled to get a divorce from them on the ground of desertion. That is the sort of misrepresentation that was indulged in by. men holding official positions. The amendment of our power to deal with corporations is absolutely necessary. As has been pointed out during the course of this debate, we believed, until a few years ago, that we had full power to deal with corporations. The honorable member for Darling Downs, when he held office as AttorneyGeneral in the Deakin-Lyne Government, behind which I sat, drafted a Companies Bill for Australia, but after the decision of the High Court in the Huddart Parker case, that Bill had to be dropped. We found that we had not the power that we believed the people had given to us.-
Coming to the proposed amendment of our industrial power under the Constitution, I may say that I am particularly pleased that the Government have seen fit to deal with these questions separately, and that they have separated the question of the Federal control of the industrial conditions of railway servants from the general industrial power sought to be obtained. The first amendment of the industrial power possessed by us was proposed by the honorable member for Ballarat in connexion with the new Protection. In one of his memoranda on the subject, he wrote as follows -
The electors will be invited to empower the Commonwealth to determine the employment and remuneration of labour in protected industries.
The honorable member for Darling Downs, when the Deakin-Lyne Government went out of office, published a pamphlet entitled, Nation Building in Australia, stating what had been done by the Deakin Government, and referring to the proposed amendment of the Constitution, he said -
As the power to protect the manufacturer is national, it follows that unless the Parliament of the Commonwealth acquires power to secure fair and reasonable conditions of employment to wage-earners, the national policy of protection must remain incomplete. The Government accordingly proposed to invite the electors to amend the Constitution to endow the Parliament of the Commonwealth with a grant of power to do economic justice in protected industries, with due regard to the unity of the Commonwealth and the diversity of local circumstances.
When the honorable member for Ballarat was speaking at Toowoomba a few weeks before the Fusion party was formed, and when he would have nothing to do vi the proposed Fusion, he said -
We added to that protectionist Tariff the new Protection, which secured to the employes fair wages. In this particular the Prime Minister -
That was Mr. Fisher - proposes to go a great deal further than that. I am not prepared, until we see it definitely set out, to say how far he is prepared to go, but Mr. Fisher appears to aim at assuring something like the regulation of the whole of the industrial operations of the Commonwealth. For that we believe there is not a present demand. We feel that if we deal with the protected industries and justify its application to them it will be time enough to consider the .extension. The Oppositionist -
The reference was to the honorable member for Parramatta’s party, who now comprise the great bulk of the Opposition -
The Oppositionist, on the other hand, in the matter of the new Protection, appears 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 mere not. extremely hopeful.
The present Leader of the Opposition then proposed only to deal with the protected industries, and he was disposed to object to Mr. Fisher’s proposal to go further. As a matter of fact, however, he has since gone further. The platform of the present Fusion party, as voiced by the then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Ballarat, at the last general election, proposed to extend the new Protection to all industries whether protected or not. I commend the following words to honorable members who are now protesting against the creation of Wages Boards and their application to rural workers. The honorable member for Ballarat said -
I must now pass on to the great issue relating to new Protection, and which relates very intimately to the ascertainment of all the facts surrounding our industries. New Protection, as you know, means securing fair conditions to all those employed in industries which receive the care of the State, and I use the word “ care “ in a wider sense than “ Protection “ in the ordinary sense, because we propose that what is called the new Protection shall not be limited to protected industries. They have, perhaps, the first claim,, but we propose to establish protection in all industries in Australia, whether subject to fiscal protection or not. The securing of fair hours, fair wages, and fair conditions of employment is now seen to be, as it has long been felt to be, a matter of grave national concern.
My hope is to see every industry in Australia with its Wages Board.
That is the policy of the Opposition; and he proceeds to say -
I want to see an arrangement to prevent industrial competition as between possibly differing verdicts of differing Wages Boards in each of the States, taking care that no State suffers because of its establishment of Wages Boards by the conditions of employment in other
States, or because of inferior conditions elsewhere. . . .
The States have offered of their- own volition to connect their Wages Boards so as to accept the jurisdiction of a Supreme Court tribunal.
Amongst many misrepresentations that were made at the last referenda was one contained in a book entitled, The Speaker’s Handbook. I pity the unfortunate speaker who used it at a meeting attended by any one who knew the facts. The statement is as follows -
There is no necessity for arbitrarily wresting from the States all powers they possess for dealing with industrial matters, as these Referenda Bills propose. Any additional powers the Commonwealth Government requires for dealing with industrial affairs was voluntarily offered by the States.
There is then set out the agreement made at the famous secret Conference, when the rights of the nation were sold under the Financial Agreement. The statement concludes -
Here was a generous extension of Federal powers, freely, voluntarily, and unanimously offered by the States. This extension of power was in harmony with the principles of the Constitution which serve to preserve, not destroy, the deed of partnership under which the States retain such sovereign powers as are not inconsistent with the Federal compact. Conflict which has arisen, and which has caused so much disappointment, can be cured without destroying the authority of the States in matters of purely local concern.
Then comes a recital of what was agreed to at the Conference, and the further statement that -
To give effect to these resolutions, it was proposed that the Inter-State Commission, which the Federal Constitution already gives power to create, should be established. On 6th October, 1909 (following the Premiers’ Conference), Sir Robert Best moved, in the Senate, a Bill to create this Inter-State Commission.
The public were not informed that no State had taken a step to grant the Federation these powers, nor was it mentioned that the Inter-State Commission Bill was abandoned some four or five weeks before the Parliament prorogued. The honorable member . for Ballarat, after setting forth his policy in regard to the new Protection, made use of the following words which, to my mind, are at this juncture very impressive -
We have every hope that the change will be effected this Parliament.
That is to say, during the life of the present Parliament -
If it is not, we shall then ask the people to give us that authority direct.
That then was the policy of the Opposition in respect to the present Parliament.
They declared themselves to be in favour of the new Protection for all industries. The present Leader of the Opposition said that he hoped to see a Wages Board in connexion with every industry, and that if the necessary power were not given by the States to the present Parliament, then, at the next general election, they would ask the people to give them direct the required authority. The States have not merely failed to give us this necessary power, but have absolutely refused to do so. Mr. Watt, the Premier of Victoria, knowing what the effect of that failure would be, did his best to induce the State Premiers to agree to give the Commonwealth some grant of power, but he could not persuade them to hand over any power to the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member think that the offer of the Premiers of the States would satisfy the present Government ?
– I am not concerned at present with the offer of the Premiers.
– But that is the whole point.
– It is not. The point is that, at the last referenda, the public were told by the Opposition that there was no necessity to ask for these powers, since all that were necessary were to be freely and voluntarily given to us by the States. Then the present Leader of the Opposition said that if the States did not give them the requisite powers they would ask the people direct for the authority to do that which they desired to do. The Opposition now tell us that there is no necessity to ask for any extension of power.
– Who says that? No one has said that.
– Members of the honorable member’s party have been speaking while he has been absent.
– The honorable member for Angas, in his pamphlet dealing with the industrial powers of the Constitution, made the statement that -
It may be that the wider questions of the reciprocal operation or overlapping of the industrial powers of the States and Commonwealth respectively will sooner or later have to be considered in the light of the recent judgment of the High Court in the Woodworkers’ case.
Further on, he used these striking words -
If one Federal instrumentality suffice for the objects in view, it may, in the interests of simplicity, economy, administrative uniformity, and even of industrial peace, be undesirable to have several. The industrial development of a community must not be impeded by the .weight of the regulative machinery.
The honorable member for Flinders was equally emphatic. He said in this House -
The people of the country properly demand that the experiment of attempting to regulate ways and conditions of labour shall be honestly and fairly carried out on all sides. That being the desire, we ought not to impose technical objections to prevent it from being carried out. Let us give to that governing body which can effectually and best carry it out the power to do so.
And he added -
But whatever legislation we may pass, we cannot, unless we give the central Parliament the final and super-eminent control, deal effectually with all the cases which may arise. Therefore, I say, again, we should amend paragraph 35 of section 51 of the Constitution to give this Parliament a wider and more general power than it has to deal with conditions of employment.
I have already said that so far this debate has been marked by only one incident different from those associated with the debate on similar proposals two years ago. But it is an incident which I very much regret. I refer to the speeches made by the honorable member for Wimmera and the honorable member for Flinders, and to the attitude which they now take up. On the last occasion, the honorable member for Flinders took up a bold, statesmanlike position, and many of us knew that more than two or three members of the Opposition shared his views. He was followed by the honorable member for Wimmera, who, speaking from his own practical experience as a member of the Harvester Commission, supported an extension of our powers to enable us to deal with commerce and industrial matters. A day or two later, however, the Argus lashed these honorable members for helping, as it said, the Labour party, and the result was that, when the division took place, the only other member of the Opposition to cross the floor with them was the late Mr. G. B. Edwards. What has since happened ? The honorable member for Wimmera told us last night that he had practically changed his views, and that he intended to retract all that he had said on the last occasion. He told us that he found that the views that he expressed on the last occasion were not reliable, and that he now holds a different opinion. The tone of his speech, however, was infinitely better than that of the speech delivered to-day by the honorable member for Flinders, who said that he held exactly the same opinions that he entertained two years ago, but that, because of the ultimate objective and motives of the party in power, he was not prepared to give them the powers for which they asked. As against that, we have the statement by him in the speech which he made on this question two years ago, that he had nothing whatever to do with objects or motives. It was his duty, he said, to support whatever extension of the power of this Parliament he felt to be necessary. No wonder there was a slashing and stinging comment in the Age of to-day upon the subserviency of the honorable member for Wimmera to party. Every word of that comment was richly deserved. I do not know what that journal will say of the honorable member for Flinders to-morrow. His speech afforded us another instance of the wretched cant that we hear from honorable members opposite when they speak of their party as the party of freedom.
– What right has the honorable member, who is disciplined by a Caucus, to make such a charge against any honorable member? There is no justification for it. His statement is a deliberate misrepresentation.
– I know that it hurts. The public may draw their own conclusions from the facts. I say now what the honorable member for Flinders said last year when he was being cheered by honorable members upon this side of the chamber, and when he was reminded of the fact by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, “ I arn not concerned with their cheers, but only with my own position.” It is very well known that both in the House and on the public platform I have expressed my emphatic dissatisfaction with the system of party government - a system under which men enter Parliament and support measures of which they do not approve, just as the honorable member for Swan did when he was a member of the Deakin Government,, because, as he declares, the Labour party were “ pushing “ them. On the other hand,, there are members of the Opposition who are deliberately opposing measures in whichthey believe because those measures are put forward by the Labour party. Is anything, more calculated to engender disgust with the parliamentary machine? If the people are to believe us when we appear on public, platforms, surely they have a right to expect that what we say here is the result of conviction? If they have not. the sooner they throw us out of public life the better.. If they are to believe what we say on the platform, it is our bounden duty to support any proposal in which we believe, no matter from what quarter it may emanate. It was a pitiable exhibition that we witnessed last night. The honorable member for Wimmera spoke in a halting tone, as if he expected Hansard to be thrown at him at any moment, and when it was thrown at him he looked as though he was relieved. To-day the honorable member for Flinders, in speaking upon this Bill, played the party game, just as the other day when he called for a quorum at 1 o’clock in the morning, and did his share of “ stone- walling,” he was content ‘ to do what the Argus described as “ spade “ work. As a Minister remarked on that occasion, he thought that “ he was a bigger man.” So did I. We know that not long ago he lashed the Opposition and their programme very severely, and we can only conclude that he has been taken to task for his action, and that he is now prepared to play the humblest part by assisting to reject proposals which he says he believes are absolutely necessary. I would remind honorable members that on the last occasion these questions were not being put before the people at a general election, and that if the people vested this power in the Commonwealth Parliament they would have been intrusting it to a Government .which could not be displaced for two and a half years. But on the present occasion I would point out it is within the power of the electors to confer that power upon this Parliament and at the same time to elect another party to exercise it. Is not his attitude to-day a confession that honorable members opposite cannot expect a victory at the forthcoming elections? As I have previously remarked, the Labour party owe their seats on the Treasury bench to the conduct of members of the old Liberal party, some of whom are now sitting in Opposition, and they will probably owe their seats again to the Opposition, who, not only cannot agree amongst themselves as to a programme, but who, individually, will not to-day stick to the views they held yesterday. I regret that time will not permit me to deal with other questions, but I shall take an opportunity of expressing my opinions later upon at least two other Bills: I have not changed my opinions, -and in regard to the measure relating to railway servants, I shall express the same views as I expressed in 1903, and also two years ago. But upon this occasion, I shall have an opportunity of voting against that Bill.
.- During the address of the Independent member for Gippsland, who has made one of the strongest party speeches that we have heard upon this Bill, he said it was a pity that it was impossible to deal with it from a nonparty stand-point. I join with him in expressing, regret that it is not possible to approach the consideration of proposals- for an alteration of our Constitution in a national spirit. The Federal Convention.! which gave to Australia that exceptional charter of liberty was a non-party Convention, and it cannot be urged by any honorable member that there is in our Constitution anything which is suggestive of party advantage. The Convention which sat twelve years ago drafted a Constitution which has enabled a young political party to enter this House, and control a majority of its members. That Convention made it possible for every man and woman in Australia to express his or her. views through the medium of the ballotbox. The Honorary Minister stated thisafternoon that some of the speeches which- had been delivered by members of the Opposition had suggested to him that if ever the Liberal party were returned to power they would seek to deprive the people of. Australia of adult suffrage. It ill becomesa member of a Government, upon whose initiative postal voting was recently abolished, thereby reducing the opportunities of the people to express their will through the ballot-box, to suggest that the Liberal party desire to diminish that political freedom in Australia which is the envy of other portions of the British Empire. I regret that it is not possible for us to brush aside all party considerations in*, discussing these proposals. We are invited not merely to make an alteration in. our Constitution, but a series of alterations - alterations which the AttorneyGeneral has said involve “ tremendous powers,” and which have been described by the Labour Premier of New South Wales as of a “ sweeping character.” What isthe reason that we cannot approach the consideration of these proposals from a national stand-point? The explanationis to be found in the action of honorable members opposite, who, from first to last, have made these proposed alterations of> the Constitution a purely party question. If there be any doubt as to the party character of the proposals, that doubt will be dispelled by a reference to the official report of the proceedings of the Labour Conference, which met in Hobart this year. At that gathering, not only was a resolution carried that these proposals should again be submitted to the electors, but they were actually embodied in the platform of the Federal Labour party. The ideal that was contemplated by the framers of our Constitution was that any amendment of it should be put forward, not in the interests of a political party, but in the interests of the whole of the people. Vet we have been told from a hundred platforms in Australia that the proposed amendments of the Constitution are absolutely necessary if the Labour party is to give effect to its platform. The proposals contained in these six Bills are practically those that were submitted to the electors in 191 1. On that occasion, they were rejected by a large majority. One Bill was defeated by a majority of 269,000, and the other by a majority of 247,000. Surely there never was an occasion in the political history of Australia when the will of the people was ascertained in a more direct manner, or was registered in a more emphatic way than it was on 26th April, 1911. Why is it that the will of the people, as expressed on that momentous occasion, has not been observed by the party opposite? No sooner was that great majority vote recorded than the Acting Prime Minister said that the questions would be repeated, and the Prime Minister himself, in an address at the Hobart Congress, indicated that it was the intention of the present Ministry to re-introduce them. ‘ I do not object to the Government’s approaching the people from time to time by means of the referendum, and requesting them to agree to additional functions being given to the Commonwealth. This was, indeed, provided for by the framers of the Constitution, in order that it might be made more workable, and give the Commonwealth opportunities for carrying out the national mission for which it was created. But it is one thing to suggest one amendment, and another thing to introduce six different proposals, each of them of a very important and far-reaching character, and submit them to the people at one time; and notonly at one time, but on the occasion of a general election. These amendments are almost a Constitution- in themselves. What is going, to . happen at the general election ? An ‘ elector, on going into the polling booth, will be given, a .voting-paper, and asked to choose one from two or more candidates for the House of Representatives, and another voting-paper, on which he will be asked to select three candidates from six or more for the Senate. Then he will be presented either with six more voting-papers, or only one containing six questions. The elector, instead of having two voting-papers put into his hands, will be called upon to deal with eight votingpapers.
– Not necessarily.
– At any rate, he will be ‘ called upon to vote eight different times. This will lead to considerable difficulty and endless confusion, and, in the congested districts, will interfere very much with the electoral arrangements. The plan altogether seems to be suggestive of a desire on the part of the present Administration to follow out the policy they have indicated throughout this debate, of pegging and pegging away at the public until their patience, and their judgment, on these particular questions are worn down. If these alterations of the Constitution were promulgated in the public interests, and not for party purposes, they would not be placed before the people on the occasion of a general election, but would be submitted one at a time, in order that the full effect of the proposals could be realized by the electors, in amending their charter of liberty. . What Lincoln laid down as a principle of Democratic government in his day holds good in Australia, thanks to the Convention which gave us this Constitution and the machinery for altering it from time to time. Lincoln said that the country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it, and whenever they grow weary of the existing form of government they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it. I entirely agree with that sentiment; and it is the right of the people to alter their Constitution from time to time. I am not afraid of the referendum machinery; but when a referendum is taken ; and the people are invited to consider amendments in their Constitution, they should be permitted to give them consideration free from party bias, and away from the heat which is always generated at a general election. Have the public of Australia grown weary of their Federal Constitution? We have a right to ask that question to-day, and the people will have a right to ask it when these proposals shall be placed before them. Up to the present I have not been able to discover that there is any strong public opinion in favour of the , suggested amendments. Indeed, the only opportunity that we have had of judging public opinion was on the 26th April last year, when the people most emphatically declared, through the medium of the ballot, that they had not grown weary of their Constitution, but were anxious to stand by the Federal system - that they were not prepared to exchange their State sovereignties for any further addition to the -powers of the Commonwealth. Up to the present there has been no public demand, so far as we have been able to see, for any farreaching alterations in the Constitution. The Government of the day ought to act only on public opinion in initiating amendments, and in taking advantage of the democratic machinery provided by the Convention. We have been given to understand, however, that those proposed amendments, or some of them, are necessary, in order that the party in power, and the supporters behind them, shall have the op1portunity to carry out their political platform. I do not object to the will of the people being exercised through the medium of any party that can secure a majority of votes at a general election. I am not surprised that the party now in control of the Federal Government, having secured a majority at the last general election, should regard that as an expression of the will of the people, and seek to act upon it by carrying out as much of their platform as they possibly can. They were given their opportunity by the people of Australia in a constitutional manner. They secured a majority in both Houses, and they straightway began to put some of their promises into operation by carrying out portion of their programme. But they have told their followers in plain language, “ We have almost gone to the length of our tether; we shall not be able to obey your behests to the full unless you so alter the Federal Constitution in the directions we indicate, as to enable us to carry out our platform.”
– The AttorneyGeneral, in introducing these measures, said that unless the referenda were passed there would be nothing more for the Federal Parliament to do.
– That bears out the point that I am endeavouring to make - that the Labour party have plainly indicated to their followers and the public that, if they are to be given a further lease of power, and are to carry out the wishes of their supporters, it will be necessary for the people to alter .the. Federal Constitution in the directions indicated. That is perfectly fair and straightforward from the point of view of honorable members opposite. But they must not object, under the circumstances, if honorable members on this side are forced to approach this question from the party point of view, and to ask themselves whether they will be fulfilling the wishes of their constituents if they give the Labour party the opportunity to amend the Constitution in a partisan spirit in order that that party may carry out its political platform? Honorable members oppo? site take exception to the suggestion that, if these far-reaching amendments should be carried - if those “ tremendous powers “ referred to by the Attorney-General are granted - then the Constitution will be of such a party character that the platform arrived at by the Hobart Conference will be possible of achievement to the full extent.
– We are looking for that.
– Exactly ; and, under the circumstances, we are entitled to look at the ‘Labour party’s platform, and ask whether it would be to the best interests of Australia that that party should have the opportunity to put their platform into full effect with the least possible delay. The ideal of the honorable member for Gippsland, that we should be in the position to approach these important amendments from a non-party point of view, is swept on one side; the Constitution is laid before us, with an invitation from the party in office to alter it, not necessarily in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, but in the interests of one particular party and their followers. I put it to honorable members opposite, in a perfectly fair way I hope, that we can scarcely conceive any party being granted a lease of power, and being kept in power by an absolute majority of the people of Australia. It does not matter whether it is the Labour party or any other party that wins at the general election - it must necessarily win by the votes of its own immediate supporters, plus that floating vote which represents the floating public opinion of Australia. If honorable members opposite claim, as they do, that the will of the people was expressed by a majority on the 13th April, 1910, and must therefore be obeyed, I ask them to apply the same logic to the will of the people as expressed on the 26th April, 1911, by an overwhelming majority, out of all comparison with the majority obtained by the Labour party at the election, and not push these amendments right to the last ditch. The general movement in Australia must, from time to time, suggest the necessity for alterations in the Constitution. We of to-day may think it desirable to alter the Constitution in one direction, while the people who come after us will, no doubt, as the occasion arises, see necessity for extending it in other directions. Amendments of the Constitution should always be submitted without regard to party gains. But we cannot approach the consideration of these proposals without realizing that they have been brought forward largely at the behest of outside organizations, and to enable the Government, should it retain its position on the Treasury bench, to give fuller effect to the platform of its party.
– The honorable member’s language is very moderate. The -outside organizations ordered the Government to submit these proposals again to the people.
– I wish to discuss the matter without party bias. Naturally honorable members opposite must take notice of those whom they seek to represent in this Chamber, just as we on this side claim She right to have regard to public opinion. We have been reminded on more than one occasion during the discussion that in the amendment of the Constitution we can take ji lesson from Switzerland. Distant fields ;are always green. I remember the time uri South Australia when, if it was difficult ito back up an argument, there was generally recourse to the example of New Zealand. In those days everything that New Zealand had done was right, and it was thought sufficient to support an argument “by instancing the experience of that country. Now it is popular to fly to little Switzerland. But let us consider the attitude of the people of Switzerland towards proposed amendments of the Constitution such as those now before us. In one of the series of articles dealing with “ The Initiative Referendum and Recall,” which recently appeared in the Age, it was stated that-
The Swiss electors when appealed to by the referendum have invariably refused to sanction any proposal of concentrating power in the Federal Assembly. The rule seems to be that the people are determinedly adverse to any encroachment on the domestic functions of the State Parliaments by the Federal Legislature. They vote almost invariably against measures which have a tendency to centralize authority, however admirable, in other respects such proposals may be. »
In Switzerland proposals such as those submitted to our electors, in April, 191 1, have almost invariably been rejected. The people of Australia have in the past fought hard for the right of self-government, for the right to keep the control of their affairs close under their own eyes; and when these proposals are again submitted, they will hesitate as to the wisdom of giving to the Commonwealth Parliament, although representative of the whole continent, powers which will be exercised at some remote part of the Commonwealth. Honorable members on both sides have admitted that there could be no subject demanding more thoughtful, dignified, and calm consideration than the proposals now before us. We are unanimous as to their importance. The Attorney-General spoke of the proposed amendments as conveying -“tremendous powers.” Others have referred to them as pointing to the parting of the ways, as bringing us to a time when we must decide whether our Constitution shall remain Federal or be a modified Federal Constitution, or whether the system of Unification shall be adopted. Other honorable members have referred to the proposals as equivalent to a demand on the States by this Parliament for a blank cheque, to be filled up as the occupants of our Treasury bench may hereafter consider advisable. It is admitted inside and outside the House that the amendments if made will alter the character of our Constitution, and possibly .lead us in the direction of Unification. Federation implies a system of government under which the National Parliament exercises national functions, the States retaining sovereign powers in respect to domestic legislation reserved to them. Whether the Labour party is or is not in favour of Unification does not now concern me. But remembering how some of them opposed the adoption of the Federal Constitution, I am> surprised that they should resent any reference to themselves as being in favour of a unitary form of government. The honorable member for Indi yesterday quoted a resolution of the Hobart Conference against Unification, and declared that Unification had never been publicly recognised by the Labour party, but I. know that for several years the Labour party of South Australia had this plank in its general platform - “ The unification of the Australian States.” I suppose that we have the right, therefore, to assume that Unification was the policy of the party there. It will be fatal to our system of government if we strip the States of their selfgoverning powers. Whatever may be the intentions of this Government, it must be admitted that the proposed constitutional alterations mean a distinct movement away from Federation. They give, not partial powers to the Commonwealth in respect of trade and commerce and other matters, but absolute powers. It is vain for honorable members opposite to say that these powers will not be used. The American Constitution, upon which ours is largely based, has stood a test of over 100 years, during which time the population of the country has grown from 4,000,000 to over 90,000,000, and the number of States in the Union has increased from thirteen to forty-eight. It is extraordinary then that a handful of people scattered over a continent like Australia should require for its central authority powers which are not needed by the central authority of the United States, where the population exceeds 90,000,000. It is a pertinent question to ask why are these alterations of the Constitution submitted at the present time? Is it because under Federation we have been less prosperous than we were in pre- Federal days? On the contrary, the Attorney-General showed that the annual wealth of Australia has increased in twelve years under Federation . from £114,000,000 to ^187,000,000, and that our trade has grown from ^92,000,000 to ^146,000,000 ; that our banking assets have increased from1 ^121,000,000 to ^165,000,000, and that our bank deposits have . grown from ^91,000,000 to ^149,000,000. It cannot then be said that Federation has kept Australia back ! Indeed, we never knew such prosperity in the pre-Federal days as we have enjoyed during the last few years. We have had it said in this chamber and from various platforms that under this Constitution we have seen a young party come into power, and that that party is responsible for most of this prosperity ! Early in October the Prime Minister told a public meeting in Sydney, in justification of these proposed amendments of the Constitution, that “ we want more power,” and it is remarkable that in the newspapers in which that utterance was reported, there appeared a cable from London conveying the informa tion that Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, the Leader of the Labour party in the House of Commons, had stated that -
It is necessary to decentralize the parliamentary authority’ and give local governing bodies more power.
It is, to say the least, remarkable that the leaders of these two parties, having somuch in common - having, in the main, thesame objectives - should differ on so vital a principle, and be seeking to lead their followers in opposite directions. Here in Australia, where we have fought for and won the right of self-government - where we have developed the system to an almost perfect state, bringing the governing bodies close to the people, we are asked to givemore and more power to the Central Government at the expense of the States. It is significant that the movement in England in the interests of the Labour party, as represented by Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, should be in the direction of decentralizing legislative functions, whereas in Australia to-day the Leader of the Labour party seeks to take from the States in order togive to the Federal authority. I propose to make one or two quotations which afford an indication of the opinions of public men in the United States of America, the Constitution of which is somewhat similar to our own. Mr. Taft, the President, has made this public statement -
In these days there is a disposition to look toomuch to the Federal Government for everything. I am liberal in the construction of the Constitution with reference to Federal power, but I am firmly convinced that the only safe course for us to pursue is to hold fast to the limitations of the Constitution, and guard as sacred the powers of the States.
Then we have Mr. Maurice Low, admittedly an authority on American affairs, declaring that to -the American “the sovereignty of the State is the pivot of his political system,” and adding -
The menace of an autocratic central government, which is what Americans fear, can only be prevented, Americans believe, by the States being strong enough to hold in check any encroachment or attempted usurpation of power by the central Government. So long as the Government of Washington is kept within limits little danger need be apprehended, but whenthe long arm of the Government stretches from Washington to the far corners of the Union, when through the taxing power it exercises art espionage over every activity, when it regulates trade and the instrumentalities of commerce, the American sees danger ahead and begins to tremble for his liberties.
Then, again, Secretary Elihu Root has said -
The nation cannot reform the functions of the State Sovereignties. If it were to perform those functions it would break down. The machinery would not be able to perform the duty. The pressure is already- too heavy for the national machinery to do its work.
During the present debate honorable members opposite have read long extracts from speeches made on different occasions by members of this party, and have justified their action on the ground that opinions expressed by members of the opposing camp in the direction which they desire must be of more telling force than any argument which they could possibly use. I quite agree with the tactics of honorable members opposite when they seek to confirm their arguments by quoting the opinions of their political opponents, and I propose briefly to follow their example. Men who are as prominent in the Labour movement in Australia to-day as are honorable members opposite have gone out of their way, at considerable political risk to themselves, to warn the wage-earners to beware of these proposed amendments, and to reject them. For instance, on the occasion of the last referendum, the present Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr. Holman, said -
The argument - if I dignify it with the name of argument - that because the Federal Parliament imposes the Tariff it should have charge of all industrial legislation, will not stand in’vestigation. This step, as suggested, will mean the end of State Labour parties.
– It was the honorable member for Ballarat who first said that since we had the power to frame the Tariff we should have the power to determine industrial conditions.
– I can give the honorable member the references to all the speeches from which I am quoting. Mr. Beeby, Minister of Education in the Labour Government of New South Wales, denounced the Federal referenda proposals in 1911, and has the courage to continue his opposition to them. He said, oil that occasion -
An attempt was being made practically to graft a united system of government on the Federal Constitution. He contended the submission of the questions now before the country was a mistake and .against the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– They are going to bundle Mr. Beeby out.
– He will not be the only martyr to political convictions in Australia. We must always admire a man who is prepared to make a sacrifice for the sake of principles that he holds dear. Mr.
Nielsen, when a Labour Minister in New
South Wales, said -
I do not believe in depriving the State of its functions one by one, and thus aggrandizing the Commonwealth Parliament. Whilst the State Parliaments retain full control of the matters within the State, and is under the Federal Constitution, I shall strenuously oppose any encroachments under State rights by the Federal authorities.
I can only regret that Mr. Nielsen is not in Australia to-day to help us to hold! up the Federal flag.
– The honorable member would find him a good fighter.
– He would have been a good fighting comrade. Then Mr. Holman said -
I am one of those possibly misguided individuals who regard the right of every people in every locality to self-govern themselves as one of the fundamental principles of progress and liberty. I don’t believe in it being taken up to-day and put down to-morrow, as the exigencies of party fortunes or warfare may dictate. It is the rock upon which I build my church, and against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.
Mr. McGowen, Premier of New South Wales, referring to the last referenda proposals, said -
These amendments are . fraught with_ grave possibilities, and, if carried, will result in endless confusion and conflict between States and Federal powers.
I am<. sure that it is the desire of every honorable member, whether he supports the Government or sits in Opposition, that we should avoid conflict and confusion as between the Federal and the State Governments. We all desire to have political peace within our borders. I find that Mr. Edden. Labour Minister for Mines in New South Wales, urged the electors to vote “ No,” contending that, in the interests of the wage-earners, industrial power should be retained by the State. Mr. Estell, who, I believe, is the Government Whip in New South Wales, referring to the advocacy of these proposals said -
I am not going out even if the Labour leagues carry fifty motions to do so.
Then we have Mr. Holman saying-
No man can consider the conditions under which the battle of social reform has to be fought out without realizing that State Parliaments are infinitely more valuable and effective weapons than the Federal Parliament.
Mr. McGowen actually went before the Labour Conference in Sydney, in’ January, 101 1, and made this statement -
I object to this Federal referenda, because I do not believe that the industrial powers can be administered properly by the Federal Government. The granting of the powers asked for will mean that all industrial laws now operative in the States will pass to Federal administration. What is demanded is too sweeping.
I come now to another statement made by Mr. Nielsen -
I emphasize the argument that the powers asked for (by the referenda) are too great, and that the States can better control industrial laws. Wages Boards are preferable to Federal Arbitration.
Then, again, Mr. Beeby, as recently as the 9th inst., speaking at a meeting at Oberon, said -
I intend to assert my right to take the same stand as I took when the referenda proposals were previously before the country. I have used all the power and influence I have had to obtain from the Labour Conference the right of freedom of action for every individual on this great issue. I have claimed that the issue is above party consideration, and that every man should not be compelled to subscribe to what he cannot possibly believe. That right has been refused me, and whatever the consequences may be, even though it may lead to my retirement altogether, I intend to persist in my opposition to certain of the referenda proposals.
– That right was refused to him by the State Labour Conference?
– According to his statement, it must have been. The report continues -
Mr. Beeby submitted that the alteration of the Federal Constitution was a step which would have a serious and marked effect on the future development of the whole of Australia.
– Hear, hear ! That is what I say.
– But the Prime Minister, and his Labour colleagues in the State Ministry of New South Wales, are on different sides of the fence with regard to this matter. While we are warned by these authorities on the spot to holds fast to the Federal system, we have outside authorities, unbiased by party considerations, telling us what a splendid instrument of government we possess. I need not go outside for authorities in support of my position, for those who heard the memorable speech delivered .by the Minister of Home Affairs at Port Augusta on the occasion of the turning of the first sod of the transcontinental railway, will remember that he referred to the political’ liberties that we enjoyed under what he described as “our matchless Constitution.” Indeed, he spoke of it as the key-stone of the arch in the palladium of our liberties. I do not know what that may mean, but it sounds all right. I propose now to quote Mr. Bryce, who, in his book, Studies in History and Jurisprudence,- writes -
The range of powers granted to the National or Commonwealth Parliament is very wide, wider than that of Congress or of the Swiss National Assembly, or even of the Dominion Parliament in Canada. . . .
Technically regarded, the Constitution is an excellent piece of work - the arrangement is logical, its language is, for the most part, clear and precise. . .
There is no such effort as in America to secure that questions of State law shall be determined solely bv State Courts, for such cases may be appealed from State Courts to the Federal High Court. Thus, the nation looms large over the whole instrument, overshadowing the States.
What is the objective of these proposals? The Prime Minister, speaking on behalf of his party, said, in effect, “We want more power.” The Attorney-General, in a letter to the Hobart Labour Conference, said, “ We want tremendous powers.” Putting the fairest possible construction on these .proposals, it seems to me that the Labour party has issued broadcast throughout Australia so many political promissory notes, and that the time has arrived, not for their redemption, but for their renewal. The members of that party are therefore sparring for time. They are saying to their followers, “ We have done all that we possibly could for you. We have created artificial conditions in regard to the wages system and in regard to other industrial activities.” In passing I wish to observe that in creating those artificial conditions they have been greatly aided by extraordinarily good seasons. But when their followers ask them, “ How do we benefit by receiving increased wages, seeing that simultaneously we have to face an increase in the cost of living? “ the reply of honorable members opposite is, “ We have . done all that we can for you up to the limitations imposed by the Constitution. We now ask you to alter that Constitution, and if you do that we promise to give you still better conditions. If you do’ not alter it we shall be handcuffed, and will be unable to give effect to our political promises to you.” What is the objective of these referenda? This morning the honorable member for Flinders quoted a public utterance of the Attorney-General, in which the latter said that unless this Parliament “ was able to regulate and control ‘prices the mere ability to regulate wages was of little value. That is the beginning and end of the whole thing.” My honorable friends opposite believe that if they can bring down prices, profits, and rents, ‘ everything else will come down with them. What a beautiful dream ! When the honorable member for Flinders inferred from interjections that that was the accepted policy of the Labour party, the Honorary Minister took strong exception to his deduction, and immediately proceeded in a lucid and forceful manner to absolutely support the very sentiments which had been expressed by the AttorneyGeneral. It seems to me that it is a fair deduction to draw from their utterances that one of the objectives of the Labour party is to take to itself the power to fix prices and to regulate profits.
– The honorable member wants trusts to regulate them.
– That is a very unfair interjection. I want nothing of the kind. T am as much opposed to the growth of industrial Frankensteins as is the honorable member. I am prepared to give this or any other Government all the power that may be necessary to enable it to control and regulate combines and trusts. But it is not the control or regulation of combines with which my honorable friends are concerned. . What they desire is the power to nationalize industries and monopolies. That is perfectly apparent when one reads in the report of the Hobart Labour Conference that the nationalization of one industry after another is the platform of the party.
– The proposal to nationalize and the proposal to control are contained in two separate Bills.
– I quite admit that the Honorary Minister may be a magician. But he will pardon me if I doubt his ability or that of his colleagues to do anything effectual in the direction of fixing prices and profits. They might just as well promise to adjust the law of gravitation ! If the power to fix prices, profits, and rents is one of the objectives of the Labour party, I would like some explanation of how they are going to realize their beautiful dream. Are they going to fix prices and profits high so as to suit the manufacturer and his employe’s, or are they going to fix them low in order to suit the farmer and the consumer? Will they fix them on a high scale so as to favour the producer, or will they fix them on a uniformly low scale so as to oblige the consumer ? The other day the honorable member for South Sydney instanced the price of a number of commodities to which I should like to refer in detail if time permitted me to do so. He said that, owing to the rejection of the Government proposals by the people in 191 1, certain monopolists had put up their prices, and, in this connexion, he instanced jam. I ask honorable members opposite how they are going to fix the price of jam ? Last year, the jam-makers of Australia were freely buying all the apricots they required for £4 per ton. This year they cannot obtain them-, although they are offering £18, and even £20 per ton for them. How, then, are my honorable friends going to fix the price of jam? Will they make it on the basis of £4 per ton or on the basis of £20 per ton for fruit? How ridiculous it is for them to claim that they would be able to determine the price of bread? As the honorable member for Flinders pointed out this morning, in order to fix the price of that commodity it would be necessary for them to fix the price of wheat in Mark Lane. Then other honorable members opposite have contrasted the prices obtained for our butter in England with those obtained in Australia. Do they mean that we should cease to export? At the same time, Ministerialists are advocating the establishment of a Federal line of steamers to the Old Country in order that those vessels may carry our produce, and thus assist in keeping up prices in the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite cannot blow hot and cold. How are they going to fix the prices of manufactured goods, which are regulated by the prices of raw products ? I hold in my hand a copy of a newspaper to which I subscribe - a well-known financial journal, which is published in New York. I refer to Bradstreet’s, in which is quoted the comparative wholesale prices of 106 commodities - those prices ranging over a period from 1896 to 1912. The figures show that during that period there has been a gradual increase in the price of all these commodities. I ask honorable members opposite how they are going to regulate prices, seeing that the prices of so many commodities are fixed in another part of the world? The price of wheat is settled in Mark Lane. The price of wool is regulated by the buyers who come to Australia. The seasons govern the prices of a great many commodities within the Commonwealth. For example, until a few days ago, potatoes were an unparalleled price. Now the news comes from Port Fairy that there has been a drop of £3 per ton. Why? Because of these referenda proposals? Not a bit of it. But the crops are now regarded as being very much better than they were a week ago, and, consequently, prices have fallen.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- At the outset of his remarks, the honorable member for Boothby took exception to proposals for an alteration of our Constitution being made a party question. But during his observations, he made it very clear that, as far as he is concerned, they must be regarded from a party standpoint. He had not a single word to say in favour of any of the proposals. I admit that the question which is immediately under consideration has been made a party one during the debate which has taken place upon it in this Chamber.
– Long before this debate.
– There are honorable members opposite so bound by party ties that, although they approve of certain proposals for the amendment of the Constitution, they are prepared to go on the public platform and advise the people to vote against all the proposed amendments. The honorable member for Flinders has said that this was made a party question long before the present occasion ; but if I held his views I should not have spoken as he has to-day. If the honorable member considers that it is in the interests of the people that certain amendments in the Constitution should be made, and he approves of those amendments, it is his duty to do his utmost to have them carried into effect, irrespective of any party considerations. We on this side are very often accused of being “brought to heel”; but the fact remains that, on the present occasion, there are honorable members opposite who, because of party obligations, are now prepared to vote against proposals of which they have previously expressed approval. If this is not being “ brought to heel,” I do not know what “ brought to heel “ means.
– It is not correct.
– I cannot see how the honorable member for Perth can say my statement is not correct, in view of what we have witnessed during this debate. When the last referenda proposals were before us, we were told by the Leader of the Oppo sition that the various questions should not have been combined, and he said that had they been separated he would have supported some of them; but now that the questions are separated, we find that he is not prepared to support any. A similar attitude has been taken up by the honorable member for Flinders, who, on the last occasion, was favorable to the proposals up to a certain point. It is to the honorable member’s credit that he does not flinch from the attitude he then assumed ; but in regard to the present proposals, he thinks it his duty to advise the public to vote against any of them.
– The honorable member should not talk about the party whip, because I publicly announced my present intention immediately after the Attorney-General had made his speech about the fixing of prices, and I did so without the slightest pressure from anybody in the Liberal party.
-The honorable member for Wimmera is in the same boat as the honorable member for Flinders and others, in that, on a former occasion, he was in favour of some of the proposed amendments, whereas, on the present occasion, he is opposed to the whole lot. Honorable members should remember, however, that they cannot “ blow hot and cold “ in this manner, but must show some consistency in their political conduct. Under the circumstances, the people of Australia, when they realize the position, will come to the conclusion that they ought no longer to be guided by such representatives. It has also been claimed by the Opposition that the Government ought not to take any referenda at the next general election, seeing that the electors have already decided against amendments of the Constitution. I contend, however, that those who are returned to this Parliament are supposed to have the best grip of affairs in the interests of the people; and if we consider it necessary to have additional power, it is only right that another appeal should be made, and the people educated on the questions at issue. Is it to be contended that, when once a reference has been made and rejected, that no further opportunity is to be given to the people to reconsider their decision ? As for the taking of a referendum at the time of a general election, I know no better time. The last referenda were made when there was no general election, and, but for that fact, I believe a much larger vote would have been recorded. There is not sufficient interest in such questions alone to attract the people to the public meetings, or induce them to attend the polling booth; and 1 undertake to say that 50 per cent, of those who voted had never heard an explanation of the proposals. No matter how able were the speakers on either side, it seemed impossible to get large audiences ; and, under the circumstances, the people, not having been educated on the point, and not knowing the merits of the questions, were perfectly justified in voting in the negative.
– The honorable member regards the people as educated when he has put his view.
– No. I am quite prepared to let the honorable member for Parramatta put his view, and then for me to put my view, and allow the people to decide. The press of Australia, with very few exceptions, were on the side of the “Noes” at the last referenda, and the press is the only medium through which people can obtain the information necessary to give them a grip of the issues. I quite agree that no one is justified in voting for an amendment of the Constitution unless he is absolutely satisfied that an amendment is necessary. The Constitution is an instrument that cannot be played with. There must be solid ground for any alteration, and we cannot expect the people, in the absence of solid ground, to vote for anyparticular amendment. The proposal to submit these questions again to the people represents the only straightforward action that the Government could take. If the Labour Government allowed themselves to be returned once more to power knowing their inability to pass desired legislation under the Constitution as at present, they would be open to the charge of simply hanging on to the Treasury bench. I should say that the Opposition, instead of being afraid, ought to regard it as an advantage that the proposals are to be re-submitted to the people, because, from their point of view, this fact ought to place the return of Labour candidates in jeopardy. In any case, I contend that the Government would not be acting in a manly way if they returned to power knowing they had made no effort to give effect to the people’s wishes. The findings of the High Court in regard to some Commonwealth legislation leaves the Government no other choice. And I go further, and say that, in the event of these proposals being rejected again, and the present Government remaining in power, as I feel they will, it would be their duty, at the first opportunity, to once more go before the country, and point out the defects in the Constitution.
– That is to say, the honorable member declines to accept the popular voice?
– No; what I say is that we are setting out on propaganda work, and it is our duty to educate the people. If the honorable member’s contention were correct, there would be no honorable members sitting on this side ; but, fortunately for us, the honorable member has not his own way. For years Labour men went before the country, and were repeatedly “turned down.” But we went again and again, knowing our cause to be a good one, and the result is that we are now returned to this House in a large majority. I contend that the same policy should be pursued in relation to the refer.enda proposals, which I regard as the most important that could come before this Parliament. In order to ascertain whether the proposed amendments are justifiable, it is necessary to briefly trace happenings since the beginning of Federation. Representatives from the different States were sent to a Convention to draw up the Constitution; and there is no doubt that those representatives were, to a certain extent, controlled by the States. Anxious as they were to bring about Federation, they knew that if too much power were given to the Central Government, there would be no hope of the States joining. Consequently, the Constitution, as we have it, is, in a large degree, a compromise.
– The honorable member for Bendigo says so in his book.
– Quite so. Most of those who assisted in drawing up the Constitution evidently did not expect that it would altogether meet the position, and they wisely made, provision for amendment at any time the people so desired.
– The Constitution was accepted because of that provision.
– That is so. And yet we are told by honorable members who supported that provision, that we should not interfere with the instrument. Having accepted the Constitution, we set about legislating; and with what result? Measures that were passed, not by the present Government, but by the Fusion Government, have been declared ultra vires by the High Court - that is legislation passed by the Government of which the honorable member for Bendigo, the honorable member for Ballarat, the right honorable member for Swan,’ and the honorable member for Angas were members.
Sitting sus-i ended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Although the four members whom I have mentioned were members of the Convention which framed the Constitution, they were not aware that it prevented Parliament from passing the legislation which they introduced. I presume that they believed that Parliament had the constitutional power to pass that legislation, because had they thought otherwise they would have known that the time of the country was being wasted on its consideration. That legislation, too, was introduced to protect the interests of the people, and, if necessary when introduced, is still more necessary now. But the High Court held it to be ultra -vires. Surely that in itself is a good and sufficient reason for the amendment of the Constitution. When legislation that the framers of the Constitution thought that Parliament had the power to pass was declared invalid by the High Court there at once sprang into existence good ground for asking the people to amend the Constitution. When that instrument was framed, no one considered it to be perfect, and indeed those who framed it knew that it was not. The defects of legislation can often not be discovered until it has been put into operation, and when discovered they are generally remedied. The Constitution itself provides for the remedying of its defects by a certain course of procedure which we are now following. It is the members of the Opposition who themselves have shown reason for the amendment of the Constitution. Furthermore, the State authorities have ‘admitted that the Commonwealth should have additional powers. In January of this year there was a Conference at which five of the States were represented. Two of the States proposed that the Commonwealth should have power to control all industrial disputes, whether local or Inter-State, the regulation of wages in protected industries, the regulation of prices of protected goods, and the regulation and nationalization of Inter-State monopolies. But when those proposals were put before the Conference they were modified, and it was agreed that the Commonwealth should control industrial disputes of an Inter-State character with power to make a common rule, the nationalization of monopolies when declared monopolies by the High Court-
– The High Court would never do that.
– And the adjustment on appeal of conflicting industrial decisions ‘ creating unfair competition between State and State. The representatives of the five States - South Australia was not represented at the Conference - agreed that the Commonwealth should be given additional powers, with the limitation in regard to the High Court which we could not accept. They realized that it is necessary to extend our powers. But when South Australia was asked whether she would fall into line, and agree to the proposals of the other States, she said that she would not give the Commonwealth any additional power, and as the result nothing has been done. The position, therefore, is that the authorities of five of the States are prepared to give us additional powers, two of them being prepared to go further than the other three, but the sixth State will not give us any additional power. That we need additional powers, and that therefore the Constitution should be amended, is proved, as I have shown, by the action of members of the. Convention who framed the Constitution in introducing invalid legislative proposals, not knowing that they were beyond the power of Parliament to pass, and by the resolutions come to by the Conference of Premiers to which I have referred. What, then, can this Government do but appeal to the people, the masters of both the Federal and the State Parliaments? It is our duty to point out to the people- the defects in the Constitution, and ask them to remedy those defects to enable us to pass the legislation which their interests require.
– There may reasonably be a difference of opinion as to the extent of the powers required by the Commonwealth.
– Exactly. There is a reasonable difference of opinion among honorable members. But when the partycry is raised, some honorable members, who of themselves think that the Commonwealth should be given certain additional powers, sink their opinions, and say that they will recommend the people to vote “ No “ in regard to the proposals of the Government. All honour to the man who is prepared to say to the people, “ I believe in the granting of this or that power, but I am opposed to the granting of some others.” The man who thinks that certain powers should be granted, but asks the people to vote “ No “ to the referenda proposals because these proposals come from the Labour party is not serving the best interests of the Commonwealth. A good deal has been said about the cost of living and its application to these proposals. Many persons, whenever they get the opportunity, blame the Labour party for the increase in the cost of living. The Victorian Government, which is not a Labour Administration, appointed a Commission to inquire into the cost of living and the value of a sovereign in the years 1901 and 1910, for the sake of comparison, and that Commission discovered that in 1910 the purchasing power of a sovereign, speaking from memory, was about 3s. 4d. less than it was in 1901. That reduction in purchasing power could not be attributed to the advent of this Labour Government in 1910. The Governments that were in power during the years in which the sovereign had been declining in value were Liberal Governments, and the inquiry was made by a Commission appointed by a Liberal Government. The facts speak for themselves. The increase in the cost of living is due to the fact that fair and reasonable competition is almost a thing of the past, and that to-day combinations are more general. There was a time when only the industrial workers thought about unionism and combination. But things have changed. A lesson has been learned. Every one now realizes that it is to his advantage to combine with others ; and combinations exist to control the markets, with a view to extorting as much as possible from the consumers. The honorable member for Flinders said this morning that the workers are getting more than a living wage; but in 1901 the ordinary labourer’s wage was 7s. a day, and now it is not more than 9s., and generally only 8s., whereas a sovereign is worth 3s. 4d. less than it was then. I am at a loss to understand how the workers, considering the wages they receive, can provide for their families ; prices and rents being so high. I do not say a word against combination; it is a good thing, if properly managed. But combination should not be for the benefit of the few. There should be economy in working, but not to enable the few to become wealthy. If there is to be control by combinations, let that control be exercised by the people of Australia. Let the people control production, and get the benefit arising from that control. The alternative is to re-establish fair and reasonable competition, but that, I fear, is gone for ever. It behoves us, therefore, to look to the interests of the people, and by legislation to prevent a few individuals from combining to control commodities, and thus to fleece .the consumers. We have to consider whether we should protect the people or leave them entirely at the mercy of those who enjoy the benefits of combination. We have been asked, “ Is there a Meat Trust in Australia? “ Whether there is or is not we ought to take time by the forelock. We ought to realize what has happened in America. We should recognise that there exists here the same conditions for the operation of a Meat Trust as prevail in America, and we should pass legislation to prevent such a trust obtaining a hold in Australia. At the break’ up of the drought in 1903, and even Before then, meat in Australia was cheaper than it has been since, although since that time we have had some of the best seasons known in the history of Australia. I have figures here showing that the price of our meat in London is a little less than it is in Australia, and when we recollect that it costs about 1¼d. per pound to carry it to the Old Country, we are naturally led to ask, “ What is the reason for the difference?” The honorable member for Boothby asked the honorable member for South Sydney the other day, “Would you put on an export duty?” That question is usually addressed to us when we deal with this matter. My reply is that I would not do so, but that I think that we should have under the Constitution power to inquire into the reason for the high cost of various commodities and authority to pass legislation to regulate an industry where we find that the people are not getting a fair deal. On the other hand, the Opposition are content to allow a few favoured individuals to go on, as at present, controlling everything, and to leave the consumer and the producer to pay the penalty. Some months ago there appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph a series of articles dealing with the Beef Trust, in which it was clearly pointed out that, unless the people of Australia were on their .guard, they would have the trust in their midst before they knew where they were. The writer showed that the company, which has commenced operations in Queensland, started exactly as did a company which commenced operations in the Argentine Republic. There a company was started on. a fairly liberal scale, and was said to have no connexion with the Beef Trust, but once it had been established it was found to be part and parcel of the trust.
– The Meat Packing Company started in the same way in America.
– And the writer of these articles points out that we may have the same experience. He states that a Mr. Wilson was appointed by the Government of the United States of America to inquire into the reason for the high price of beef and other commodities, and that he found that it was simply due to the operation of monopolies. He stated that the people of the United States of America were entirely in the hands of the Beef Trust, and that some of the States had taken action to cope with the trusts, but found that they were practically powerless. Yet we are told that the States have sufficient power to deal with these matters. Our Constitution is similar to that of the United States of America, and I appeal to honorable members to say whether we should stand idly by and allow a like state of affairs to come into existence in Australia. The writer of the articles in the Sydney Daily Telegraph states that, instead of the American Parliament having complete control of the Beef Trust, the trust has complete control of the American people. We should have power to control all trusts and monopolies that are not in the interests of the people. That is the power for which we ask. We do not desire to take over any monopoly, unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. The Opposition ask how it would be possible for us to regulate and control different industries. My answer is that we legislate to control those who break the law in certain respects; that we pass legislation in relation to various civil matters, and that, in the same way, if we found, upon inquiry, that the people were being fleeced by any combination, we could pass a law, under the amended powers for which we ask, that would enable the National Parliament to control that monopoly. We could so control it as to make sure that whilst those engaged in it obtained a fair return on their capital, it should not plunder and rob the people of Australia. A good deal has been said with regard to the Coal Vend, and the Opposition have sought to make much capital out of the attitude adopted towards it by certain honorable members on this side of the House. It was said last night that Mr. J. C. Watson, the late Leader of our party ; the honorable member for Newcastle, and one or two others, had declared, in 1906, that the Coal Vend was a good thing from the stand-point of the workers in the Newcastle district, and that, after all, it was obtaining only a fair price for its coal. The point that I wish to emphasize is that at that time the Shipping Combine was not in touch with the Coal Vend. The Vend was brought about as the result of an effort on the part of the miners to obtain better conditions, and an attempt to break down the cut-throat competition existing in the district. Under the sliding scale which prevailed, the miners were not obtaining a living wage, whilst the colliery proprietors were not securing a fair return on the capital they had invested. The Vend raised the price of coal to j is. per ton. That is a fair price for Newcastle coal - which will compare with any in the world, with the exception, perhaps, of the best Welsh - and Newcastle coal is still selling at us. per ton. A year after this, however, an arrangement was entered into under which the Shipping Combine was able to control the whole of the Newcastle output, representing about 90 per cent: of the output of the Newcastle district. I admit that the present price of coal in Victoria and other States is too high, but, at the same time, the selling price of coal at Newcastle is fair. In 1906, the price of coal at Newcastle was raised to ns. per ton - an advance of 3s. per ton - whilst the miners’ wages went up to the extent of is. per ton. A year later, when the Shipping Combine appeared on the scene, Pelaw Main coal was selling in Melbourne at 14s. per ton, but it suddenly rose to 17s., 18s., and, eventually, to 24s. per ton. If the hewing rate increased by only is. per ton, and the selling price from bedrock to ns. per ton - an increase of 3s. - how is it that the price of coal in Melbourne jumped from 14s. to 24s. per ton ? Who is reaping the benefit of the difference? It must be the Shipping Combine. Probably is. per ton would cover the increased wages which the Shipping Combine has to pay, but, allowing the liberal margin of 2s. per ton, there is still a big difference to be accounted for. Is it fair that any combine should be in a position to bleed the people of any State to the extent of an additional 10s. per ton, seeing that the increase in the price at Newcastle is only 3s. per ton? If we allow 2s. per ton in respect of the increase in wages on ship-board, we have still 5s. per ton in excess of the amount previously obtained, and that additional amount must be going into the pockets of the Shipping Combine. An allowance of 2s. per ton in respect of increased .wages paid by it is a very fair margin, having regard to the fact that the average vessel carrying coal from Newcastle to Melbourne is of 3,000 tons capacity. This, then, is the question which needs to be inquired into. It is a matter, not as between the Vend and the miners, but as between the Shipping Combine and the consumers of coal in the various States. Unless we have power to protect the consumer, we may expect the price of coal to be raised still further. ‘ If we are to have no control - if these combines can fix prices as they please - then the people might as well be without a Parliament. We ask for these additional powers to enable us to inquire into these matters, and- to see whether it is necessary to put a check upon any extravagant supply charges made in the interests of certain individuals as against the general well-being of the people. The Leader of the Opposition said in this House, last week, that he was not prepared to support any of the proposed amendments of the Constitution. On the previous occasion he said that some of these enlarged powers should be granted to the Federal Parliament, but that since the Government proposals were bunched together he could not vote for any. The proposals are now dealt with separately, and yet he says that he cannot support any of them. Speaking in this House on 4th September, 1903, on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, he said, as reported in Hansard, page 4665 -
My own view was that industrial legislation should be left wholly in the hands of the States until the Federal Parliament assumed this power, as it has a right to assume certain other powers under the Constitution, and that after it had assumed responsibility the industrial legislation for the whole Commonwealth should be in the hands of the Federal Legislature. That was the view which I held then and which I still hold.
That was at the Federal Convention. Owing to -the influence of State rights, the honorable member could not then get all that he thought was necessary for the Federation. Some years later, speaking in this very Chamber, he said that he still held the same views - that he thought the Commonwealth should have power to deal with all industrial matters - whereas to-day he is unfurling his banner in opposition to this proposal to give the Commonwealth power to deal with industrial matters. He said, further,, on the occasion to which I have just referred -
I saw at the time that the particular manner in which it was proposed to insert this authority in the Constitution was open to objection, on the ground of its vagueness, and of the difficulties that must arise in endeavouring to apply it, and the present discussion proves that those anticipations were well founded.
That shows that he foresaw that some difficulty might be experienced in dealing with this question. In reply to the honorable member for Angas, who said -
The Attorney-General assured the honorable and learned member for North Melbourne during the Adelaide session of the Convention that he did not desire to interfere with local enactments, the honorable member for Ballarat said -
No. In 189r I was not prepared to go so far. I proposed that the States should be absolutely independent in their industrial legislation until the Commonwealth assumed control and became the only industrial arbiter. That is what should have been provided. The present arrangement creates a number of difficult problems.
In other words, the Leader of the Opposition admitted that it is impossible to do justice to the industrial conditions which obtain in Australia in the absence of an amendment of the Constitution. Similarly we find that, two years ago, the honorable member for Flinders supported a proposal to amend the Constitution in certain directions. But, although he holds the same opinions to-day, merely because the Labour party are in office he is prepared to vote against his convictions. The sooner this Parliament recognises the necessity for permitting the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court to deal with industrial trouble, irrespective of where it may occur, the better will it be for Australia. None of us desire strikes. We have always opposed them. It was the members of the Labour party who advocated the enactment of legislation to prevent them. But to-day our industrial legislation is so unsatisfactory that if industrial bodies cannot gain access to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, there is likely to be trouble. Why not throw open the door of that Court to them ? Where is the justification for saying that, in common and criminal law, men may go from a State to the Commonwealth tribunal, but in industrial law, where the question at issue is one of the wages which shall be paid in an industry, resort shall l)e had only to a State tribunal ? I have no .desire to deprive State industrial tribunals of their powers. Under the proposals of the Government, industrial bodies will still be at liberty to resort to them if they choose to do so.
– The Government do not propose to give them any option of resorting to State Industrial Courts.
– The proposals of the Government will not deprive State Industrial Courts of any of their powers.
– What is the great virtue in having a case determined by a Commonwealth Judge in preference to a State Judge ?
– It is not a question of the value of a. Commonwealth Judge or of a State Judge. It is a question of giving every facility for( the settlement of industrial differences without resort to strikes or locks-out. If industrial bodies prefer to take their troubles to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, they should have a right to do so. They are the most competent to decide what is best in their own interests. I do not suggest that there is any difference between one Judge and another. But it is better to open two avenues for the prevention of industrial trouble than one. The greatest opportunity should be afforded employers and employes to resort to any industrial tribunal they may deem fit to obviate the possibility of strikes or locks-out. I disagree with the honorable member for Flinders that in asking for this particular power we are inviting the employe’s of the States to go upon strike.
– That has been the experience.
– I entirely differ from the honorable member. We merely propose to provide an additional safetyvalve to prevent State employes from going on strike. In the absence of some such safety-valve, we may expect industrial strife. So long as we leave the control of the railways to the States, why should we deny the employes of the Railways Commissioners access to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court? Instead of that facility being an inducement to them to go upon strike, the very reverse will lie the case. It will be an incentive to them to continue in their employment, even though they may not be satisfied with their industrial conditions. Is it not better for the general public that there should be no interruption of this great transport service? Where is the reason for objecting to these men invoking the aid of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court in preference to the Courts of the States ? I come now to the common rule. The framers of our Constitution considered that the common rule should be applicable to certain industries. This Parliament enacted legislation which provided for the application of the common rule. But the High Court held that that provision was ultra vires of the Constitution. The result has been the congestion of business which is being experienced in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court to-day. There can be no question of the necessity which exists for the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite have themselves affirmed that the constitutional powers of this Parliament should be extended. Yet they are prepared to advise the electors to vote against the Government proposals. Not long ago all the States, with the exception of one, were willing to hand over additional powers to the Commonwealth. But because South Australia was adverse to the adoption of that course, we were denied an opportunity of securing those powers. It was merely a question of one State standing out against all the others. We ought to remember that the people of Australia elect both the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments. Now, it is quite possible to conceive that a. combine may establish itself in a State which may regard it with favour, and which would not legislate against it.
– We have as much power as have the United States Congress.
– The United States have insufficient power. It is a slavish following of the United States Constitution which has landed us in our present position. I repeat that one State may consider that it derives an advantage from the establishment of a trust within its borders, and, consequently, may decline to enact legislation to control it. That being so, such a trust may inflict considerable injury upon the people in other portions of the Commonwealth. But if this Parliament were granted the power which we seek, it would be in a position to deal with it. We. ought also to remember that all our legislation is enacted in the light of day. If legislation detrimental to the community be passed at the instance of a Labour Government, that Government will be speedily relegated to private life. There is nothing, therefore, in the argument that, because a Labour Government happen to be in power, these additional powers should not be granted to the Commonwealth. We are amenable to the people in exactly the same way as are honorable members opposite. If it be necessary to educate the people up to a sense of their responsibility, I am prepared to refer these proposals back to them again and again. If we were to appeal to the country without submitting these proposals to the electors, we should be open to the charge of simply coming back to sit on the Treasury bench, and do nothing for Australia. It is admitted by all on this side, and by a number of honorable members opposite, that additional powers are required, and, that being so, it is only fair and right that the shortcomings of the Constitution should be pointed out to the people, and the necessary amendments made. Whether a Liberal Government or a Labour Government Be in power, we should take care that this country is so governed that the people as a whole, and not individuals, shall reap the benefits. Unless something is clone, a few years will see Australia in much the same position as the United States, with millionaires by the thousand.
– Not by the thousand.
– Yes; and it will not take long to bring that state of affairs about. I do not know personally whether there is a meat ring. Every grazier who dies leaves a large estate behind him. Of course, I do not begrudge any man his wealth, because each does the best he can for himself.
– How many graziers has the honorable member known go bankrupt ?
– Not any. If we cannot get the additional powers, and thus be enabled ‘to pass much needed legislation, it will matter very little to me personally on which side of the House I sit; but I fancy that, on this occasion, the people will be found very much more enlightened, having regard to the education they have had since the last appeal was made. They have seen the dire results of the working of the Constitution in its present limited form, and I believe they will grant the fullest power necessary to enable us to give effect to our platform. If the question be dealt with as a party question, I venture to assert that, should the amendments be adopted, the Fusion Government will never have another opportunity to occupy the Treasurybench.
.- As this may be fairly regarded as a people’s question, it would be advisable, I think, to endeavour to look at it from the people’s point of view. If the electors read the speech of the AttorneyGeneral, I should strongly advise them to immediately afterwards read the speeches of the honorable members for Angas, Bendigo, and Darling Downs, so that they may see how the inaccuracies of the Attorney-General are corrected. The effect of the referenda if accepted will, in my opinion, be Unification. It has been said by honorable members opposite that such is not their aim, but we have to consider, not what they intend, but what will be the real result of the amendments. There is no doubt that if these large inroads are made oh the Constitution, we must have Unification sooner or later ; and, personally, I would sooner see Unification advocated straight out rather than have it introduced in a way that must inflict a most harassing time on both States and Commonwealth. We have been told that these amendments will place the Commonwealth much in the same position as that occupied by the Dominion of Canada ; but, as a matter of fact, the two Constitutions are based on quite different principles. In Canada, the Dominion Government are given all powers of legislation not specially reserved to the Provinces, whereas in Australia the State Governments have all the powers not specially reserved to the Commonwealth Government. Under the proposed amendments, the Commonwealth Parliament could pass almost any of the laws now within the jurisdiction of the States, and this would in time give rise to conflict, when, of course, the State laws would have to give way. There is no doubt that if the extended trade and commerce power be given it will give rise to the greatest crop of law cases we have yet seen, and there will be a veritable harvest for the lawyers at the cost of the general community. Some amendment is desirable in regard to trade and commerce ; but no suggestion has yet been made which shows clearly what the exact results of any amendment would be, and until we have information on that point, I am not prepared to throw down the barriers. It is all very well for the Government to say that there is no desire to use the powers asked for, but the people, who will have to suffer will doubtless ask why powers that are not intended to be used should be given?
– Why should the Commonwealth, rather than the States, have the power to inspect all produce?
– I claim that there is power to inspect produce already in the Constitution if the Government would only use it. The Minister of Home Affairs told the electors of Tasmania that if the Labour Government were returned, the Commonwealth would exercise its power in this connexion within three weeks; but, of course, nothing has been done, and, in my opinion, even if all the powers asked for be granted, the producers will find themselves exactly in the .same position that they are in now. The promise of the Minister of Home Affairs to the Tasmanian electors is all moonshine. There has been no demand for an amendment of the Constitution in regard to the trade and commerce power, and nothing has been shown to warrant the change proposed. Honorable members opposite have confined themselves almost entirely to the depredations of trusts in America ; but I cannot see how the_ trade and commerce power will help them in this connexion, seeing that a special power is asked for in regard to trusts and combines. As to the Bill to deal with corporations, I should like the public to read speeches by members of the Opposition, from which they will see that the power under the Constitution now could be used more effectively than in the past if the Government were so minded. I am, however, quite in favour of a reasonable alteration in the Constitution to deal with corporations. I should be prepared to go as far as the proposal made by the Liberal Government two years ago, when the honorable member for Angas moved to simply omit the words “ regulation and control,” from the proposal of the Government, which would then leave to the Commonwealth the creation and dissolution of corporations. That is as much as is required. The words “ regulation and control “ have a bad, rather than good, effect in practice ; and I cannot understand honorable members opposite advocating their retention when they have been so trenchantly condemned by Mr. Justice Higgins, who, I thought, was regarded as an authority by the Labour party. In the Huddart Parker case, the learned Judge showed clearly that the retention of the words created an anomalous position, inasmuch as the Com monwealth Parliament would be able to deal with a certain business carried on by a corporation on one side of the street, while it would be powerless to interfere in a precisely similar business carried on by an individual on the other side. Supposing, for instance, that the Commonwealth passed a licensing law, it would have effect only on hotels conducted by corporations, and would not in any way touch similar places of business conducted by individuals. I cannot understand my friends opposite pushing their proposals to such a puerile extent. As to trusts and combines and industrial matters the public, who will have to finally settle this question, may see on one side of this House a party who are advocating an amendment so as to give further powers to that won- ‘derful institution, the Arbitration Court. What is offered to the public by the Opposition? At the last election the party to which I belong advocated the leaving of industrial matters as much as possible to the States. We think that industrial disputes can best be settled by Wages Boards, with an Inter- State Commission to harmonize’’ conflicting awards, to prevent un-“ fair competition between the States. That is a much simpler arrangement than the proposal of the Labour party to refer all industrial disputes to the Commonwealth. Arbitration Court. This Court, although it deals now only with disputes extending beyond any one State, is congested with business, and it has been suggested that another Judge should be appointed to assist Mr. Justice Higgins. Wages Boards have settled far more cases than the Arbitration Court has settled, have done their work more quickly, and have given more satisfaction. Of course, both parties in this House desire the payment of fair wages ; no honorable member wishes to reduce wages. But we on this side think that the Wages Board system is more likely to secure industrial peace than are the proposals of the Labour party. As to trusts and combines, we are quite prepared to suppress any that may be injurious to “the public, although the members of the Labour party would make it appear otherwise. When a trust is beneficent it should not be interfered with. But there are trusts which may be fairly accused of increasing the cost of the necessaries “of life, charging unfair prices for their productions. No one is more earnest in the desire to prevent that than are the members of the Opposition. When this subject was being discussed two years ago, the honorable member for Angas moved for’ an amendment of the Constitution enabling this Parliament to deal with combinations or monopolies in restraint of trade, commerce, or manufacture in any State or part of the Commonwealth. If the power for which he asked were given, it would be almost as great a power as that for which the Government asks, but his proposal was more reasonable than theirs, because it was confined to combinations acting in restraint of trade. We do not wish to interfere with combinations which are doing good to the community. We should on] 7, create mischief by punishing the innocent as well as the guilty. Under our present anti-trust legislation, it ought to be easy for the Government of the day to obtain the information necessary to bring trusts to book, because the onus is on such corporations to show that they are not operating in restraint of trade. The Vend case, about which we have heard so much, was brought before the anti-trust law had been amended, and a great deal too much has been made of that case. The AttorneyGeneral used it to try to frighten the public ; but if the matter is looked into, it will be seen that the High Court did not override Mr. Justice Isaacs on any point of law ; that it did not decide that the Commonwealth had not power to deal with the matter ; it differed with ‘him as to the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence.
– The result would have been the same had the Government possessed all the powers for which they are now asking.
– Why have not the Government instituted other prosecutions?
– I do not know. lt would be interesting to hear, why they have not questioned the injurious combinations which they say exist, to discover whether they cannot be prosecuted for injuring the public. We should like to know why Ministers are not on the qui vive in this particular. As one of the public, I ask, too, what they propose to do with their additional powers when they get them? They say that the trusts are ravaging the country. How do they propose to prevent that? You cannot get any direct statement from them on the subject ; but they have indicated that they have no faith in legislation dealing with combines, and that the only course to be followed is the nationalization of industries w> controlled. I- call that the remedy of despair. Their proposition is to turn * private monopoly, which there would be some chance of dealing with, however remote, into a public, or Government monopoly, which no one could ever interfere with. - I do not think that the public will be ready to accept that proposal. The Attorney-General stated, according to Hansard, on page 5634, that the tendency of the age is towards nationalization where the public welfare is involved, and said that in Germany the nationalization of iron and coal mines was suggested. Speaking, of Germany, he said that that country was worse off in respect of trusts to-day than, it was in 1906. The German Government have as much power as any Government can have. If the Commonwealth Government are given all the powers which .have been asked for, they will not have more power than the German Government now possess. We are interested, therefore, in knowing what Germany is doing to control the trusts. If she is making any attempt at all to interfere with, them, the attempt cannot be very successful, supposing the statement of the Attorney-General to be true that the state of affairs is worse today than it was six years ago. Apparently the Labour party asks for these powers only to provide an excuse for the nationalization of industries. When the powers have been given, they will say, “ All our legislation is useless. The trusts which we wished to destroy still exist, and it is impossible todeal with them by legislation. The only course left, therefore, is to nationalize the industries which they control.” The path to that step is to be made very smooth, because in one of these amendments power is asked for to declare, by a resolution of Parliament, any industry to be a monopoly. It would be the simplest thing in the world for a Government having a majority such as the present Government have, to pass a resolution in both Houses of the Parliament declaring any business to be a monopoly, and thus to provide for its nationalization.
– We should then have a still worse monopoly.
– Yes, a monopoly which could never be checked. The problem with which we are confronted is how to settle the present industrial unrest. TheAttorneyGeneral and other speakers have said that if matters do not improve the Arbitration Court will probably break down ; but I do not see how their proposals wall improve matters. Apparently they intend to fix prices. That seems a startling proposition,’ but it is evidently the policy of the Attorney-General and of many of his supporters, if not of the whole party. The other night the Attorney-General quoted with approval an article by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, published in the North American Review for November, 191 1. Mr. Carnegie ought to know a great deal about trusts. I suppose the Attorney-General, remembering the adage, ‘ Set a thief to catch a thief,” is of opinion that what Mr. Carnegie says is a good way to deal with trusts, must be a good way. Mr. Carnegie thinks that the remedy is to have industrial courts, charged with the enforcement of fair prices and the prevention of extortion. He says that “the producer should not fix prices. I am not aware that the producer has much to do with the fixing of prices. That is governed by the law of supply and demand, and by many other factors. If the producer could fix prices, the price of wheat would not fluctuate from year to year.
– -Honorable members opposite state that the law of supply and demand is dead.
– They say so. Mr. Carnegie says that every member of any industry, large or small, should be placed on the same footing, and subjected to the same laws. He says that if that is not done, and you deal with any particular concern, its members will simply transfer their shares to some other concern, and thus evade the law. A virtue claimed for this proposal is that it would enforce publicity and render governmental control possible over such bodies. The publicity that it would secure might have some good effect, tout that, after all, is only a small portion of the problem. Here is another sentence from Mr. Carnegie’s statement which, I think, is very enlightening. He says - “ The root of the problem lies in fixing maximum prices.” At the same time, Mr. Carnegie believes that the workers should become shareholders in all the big concerns in whicli they are engaged, so that, while he holds these views, he also believes, apparently, that profit-sharing is a remedy for the trouble. He states that “ Capital and labour should be rowing in the same boat together.” I see no hope of solving the difficulty by means of fixing prices. A moment’s consideration shows that it would be very hard to do anything of the kind. The Attorney-General, speaking in this House last week, quoted from an article by Mr. J. A. Hobson, which appeared in the October number of the Contemporary Review,- but his quotation scarcely showed the proper trend of the article. Those who read it will find that Mr. Hobson dates back the coming into operation of high prices to about 1895, and states that the movement is practically world-wide. He shows that there are a great many reasons for it. Listening to the Attorney-General one would have thought that the rise in prices was due chiefly to the operation of trusts. Mr. Hobson, however, gives that as only one of many causes. He gives as contributory causes, not only the great increase in the output of gold that has taken place during the period in question, but the fact that there has been a tremendous increase in the demand for credit, and the tremendous developments in both North and South America. Other reasons for the high prices are, according to him, the great increase in metal and other manufacturing industries in the United States of America, the fact that Japan has entered upon an industrial career requiring the introduction of a lot of capital from Europe and elsewhere, the fact that the rate of the supply of goods has been retarded during the period in question, and that there has been a lot of waste as the result of the war in South Africa and the Far East. Other reasons given by him are the enormous expenditure on armaments of war and the rapid rise in, cartels, trusts, and pools, which, he says, operate by controlling the output. I am inclined to think that there are other bodies which also largely control the output of various industries. I think - 1 heard the other day of a man employed in a factory in Adelaide who was turned out of his union because he did too much work. I have heard it said that unions have a habit of controlling the output of various factories in that way, and that they do so, not so much with a view of keeping up prices as with the idea of “making the job last.” They, like trusts, have this bad habit of controlling the output. In addition to the reasons I’ have given, various others are cited by Mr. Hobson as contributing to the rise in prices. I commend his article to the consideration of honorable members, and I would draw attention to the following paragraph which appears at page 492 -
When the development of the large, rich tracts of agriculture and of mineral resources in the new countries has advanced further, we may expect so large an increase in the output of the world-supply of foods and raw materials as to more than offset the increased manufacture of money. A fall of prices will then ensue. But at present it appears as if the world were passing through a period in which an unusually large proportion of its productive energy was being applied to the developmental processes, and a correspondingly smaller proportion to the processes turning 0ut final commodities for consumption. This consideration, closely related as it is to that rapid expansion of international finance, which, far more than the enlarged output of gold, is the dominant factor in the new economic situation, will serve to harmonize the two tendencies whose co-operation explains the rise in prices, viz., the acceleration in the supply of money and the retardation in the supply of goods.
Mr. Hobson has dealt impartially with the question, and those who read his article will find that the part played by trusts in controlling and keeping up prices is not so great as the Labour party would have us believe. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I hold no brief for trusts, and that I am prepared to do as much as is any honorable member of thi Labour party to take effective action against them. If the Government would accept the. amendment which the honorable member for Angas moved when a similar measure was before us two years ago - an amendment which would take us nearly as far as the amendment of the Constitution proposed by them - I should be prepared to vote for it. It is on more common-sense lines.
– One might just as well put a mustard plaster on a wooden leg as apply the honorable member’s remedy to this evil.
– That interjection shows what the Honorary Minister knows about the matter. If the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Angas were made, it would give results as good as any that could possibly be secured from the Government proposal, save that it would not enable the Federal Parliament to nationalize combines, as the Labour party would like to do, unless it could be shown that they were acting in restraint of trade. I think that many members of the Opposition would support such an amendment as that proposed by the honorable member for Angas. Returning to the question of the fixing of prices, I think that, when dealing with such a matter, it is well for us to look for examples of what has happened in other countries. A few days ago I read a hew book by an American professor - Professor Abbott - entitled The Common People of Ancient Rome, in which it is shown that at -the time dealt with by the writer the posi tion of the Roman Empire was not altogether unlike that existing here to-day. Trusts were operating more or less in the way that modern trusts are operating today. Prices were very high, and were rapidly increasing, and, altogether, the State of Rome was very much troubled about the cost of living. That was in year a.d. 301. At that time there was in power an Emperor whom Gibbon has described as a great administrator. I refer to Diocletian, who attempted to cope with the difficulty with regard to the fixing of prices. He issued an edict covering 800 items, and divided into tables, dealing with the necessaries of life as well as with the wages that were to be paid in every industry, and with manufactured articles as well as with raw products. The penalty for disobedience of this edict was death. An important point which I would recommend for the consideration of Mr. Andrew Carnegie is that Diocletian fixed maximum prices. Let us see how far he succeeded in his attempt to cope with the difficulty. His edict has a very remarkable introduction, in which complaint was made of the raging avarice, increasing hour by hour, and of the mad desire, without control, to pay no heed to the needs of the many. Later on, as shown at page 155 of Professor Abbott’s work, Diocletian went on to say -
It seems good to us, as we look into the future, to us who are the fathers of the people, that justice intervene to settle matters impartially, in order that that which, long hoped for, humanity itself could not bring about may be secured for the common government of all by the remedies which our care affords. . . . Who is of so hardened a heart and so untouched by a feeling for humanity that he can be unaware, nay, that he has not noticed, that in the sale of wares which are exchanged in the market, or dealt with in the daily business of the cities, an exorbitant tendency in prices has spread to such an extent that the unbridled desire of plundering is held in check neither by abundance nor by seasons of plenty.
Professor Abbott makes the rather neat comment -
If we did not know that this was found on tablets sixteen centuries old we might think that we were reading a newspaper diatribe against the cool storage plant or the beef trust.
Diocletian continues -
It is our pleasure, therefore, that those prices which the subjoined written summary specifies, be held in observance throughout all our domain, that all may know that license to go above the same has been cut off. . . . It is our pleasure (also) that if any man shall have boldly come into conflict with this formal statute, he shall put his life in peril.
In the same peril also shall he be placed who, drawn along by avarice in his desire to buy, shall have conspired against these Statutes. Nor shall he be esteemed innocent of the same crime who, having articles necessary for daily life and use, shall have decided hereafter that they can be held back, since the punishment ought to be even heavier for him who causes need than for him who violates the law.
I should not have made this quotation but that we have in this work a clear indication of the result of Diocletian’s attempt to fix prices. In a.d. 3^3-14 a. book was published entitled On the Deaths of those who persecuted the Christians. A man named Lactantius was the author of that book. In chapter vii. of his treatise, after setting forth the iniquities of the Emperor in constantly imposing new burdens on the people, he writes -
And when he had brought on a state of exceeding high prices by his different acts of injustice, he tried to fix by law the prices of articles offered for sale. Thereupon, for the veriest trifles much blood was shed, and out of fear nothing was offered for sale, and the scarcity grew much worse, until, after the death of many persons, the law was repealed from mere necessity.
Sixty years later the great Emperor Julian, so admired of Gibbon, made an attempt on a small scale to fix the price of corn in the city of Antioch by edict. What happened? Very much what would happen to-day. The holders of grain hoarded their stocks. The Emperor brought in supplies from Egypt and elsewhere, and had them sold at the prices set out in his edict. But speculators purchased the Imperial corn, and in the end Julian had to confess his inability to cope with an economic law. In the middle ages of England experiments prompted by very much the same idea were undertaken, and always with the same result. There are several other aspects of this matter; with those, however, I shall be unable to deal to-night. The proposals for an amendment of the Constitution ought to be re; garded from a non-party ‘ stand-point. Seeing that the electors have to pass judgment upon them we ought to set the facts before them without party bias. When the Attorney-General was dealing with this proposal two years ago he recommended it to the electors as a non-party measure. But honorable members opposite cannot do that to-day, because they are bound hand and foot bv reason of the action of the Hobart Labour Conference. As a party they have to go for these proposals bald-headed. Honorable members opposite have condemned the American Constitution in a wholesale fashion. It struck me that they did not know very much about it. I think that they denounced it more on that account. In my judgment the American Constitution has withstood the test of time very well. Our Constitution is an improvement upon that, because the framers of it were selected by the people, who were careful to choose men who were most fitted to undertake the work. They threshed out matters, and I am sure that they knew what the people wanted at that time very much better than we do. They framed a Constitution modelled on the American Constitution, but provided an easy method of amending it. No honorable member upon this side of the House claims that it ought not to be amended. All that we say is that when it is amended it should be amended along the lines upon which it has been fashioned. To talk about the powers enjoyed by the people under the South African Constitution, the American Constitution, or the Swiss Constitution is simply to beat the air. The framers of our Constitution did not draw up a charter of government for Switzerland or Turkey, but for Australia. At the time our Constitution was framed the Australian States occupied a very different position from that occupied by the Provinces of Canada. Owing to local circumstances no other form of government would have been acceptable in .Canada. But our States were self-governing States. They did not hand over all their powers to a central legislative body, but agreed to create a new governing body. This Parliament should always remember that it has been vested with the powers which it at present enjoys because it was considered that those powers could be better exercised by a central Government in the interests of Australia. The Federal Convention profited by the experience of America. The framers of our Constitution admitted that the power of amendment in the American Constitution was not sufficiently elastic. I am not averse to any reasonable amendment of the Constitution, but I am opposed to an amendment of it of a revolutionary type - an amendment which would change its whole character. It seems to me that the Federal system is going to live in Australia. It offers the best opportunities for securing a strong local Government.
When the United States of America federated there were thirteen States in the Union. We have only six States. To-day there are forty-eight States in the American Federation, and yet the people are not anxious to surrender State rights to any appreciable extent. All the Theodore Roosevelts who have endeavoured to persuade them to do so have failed. As America has progressed, and the resources of each State have been developed, the local bodies have been strengthened. If we adopt a proper policy of immigration in Australia the result will be the same here. Even in Queensland, have not the people in its outlying portions endeavoured to separate themselves from Brisbane many times? Has there not been talk of dividing that State into two States? Do not residents in its remote portions say that they cannot make their voice heard in Brisbane? Has not the honorable member for Capricornia advocated the splitting up of Queensland into three States? If we allow the Commonwealth to progress along natural channels we shall obtain a strong form of Federal Government. The longer that form of government continues the more will the ‘people adhere to it in preference to a unitary form of government. If the proposals of the Ministry be carried we must sooner or later have a unitary form of government, because the Commonwealth would then have power to nullify almost every State law. I do not say that it would do that, but it would have the power to do it, and there would always exist a temptation to exercise that power. In the Old Country evidence is forthcoming every day that the House of Commons cannot attend to the big things with which it should deal. Consequently a system of devolution is proposed, under which it is suggested that a sort of council should be given to Wales and another to Scotland, in order that the British Parliament may have time to devote to national questions. If the powers sought by the Government are vested in this Parliament it will be overloaded with matters with which it is not fitted to deal. How can an honorable member make himself conversant with all the local requirements of the far-distant portions of Queensland or Western Australia? To expect him to do so is an utter absurdity. I have shown that in two cases, at least, if a little common sense be shown bv honorable members opposite, they can have the support of the majority of honorable mem- bers on this side. I hope, above all things,, that the public of Australia, who are sovitally concerned, will acquaint themselveswith all the facts of the case; and if they do so, I am- satisfied they will vote even a more emphatic “ No “ than on the previous occasion.
.- When the question of Federation was first brought prominently before the people of Australia, the larger States were reluctant to join because of the equal representation in the Senate ; and it was right that they should object to such an undemocratic principle.
– The Labour party fought against equal representation, whilst the honorable member’s party supported it.
– The question before us now is one that should be above party. The larger States, however, consented to join the Union on the clear understanding, that the Commonwealth would deal withnational matters, while the States should have sovereign and supreme control in local or State matters. Doubtless the large States felt that it would be better that innational and international matters Australia should speak with one voice instead, of six or seven, perhaps, discordant voices. We now find that the Labour Government desire that the Commonwealth shall havegreater powers, notwithstanding the bloton representation in the Senate. In thisconnexion, it may be interesting to quotefrom a speech delivered by the AttorneyGeneral in 1898 on proportional representation, of which he was then a strongadvocate
It has been said that equal representation wasunavoidable under Federation, but, as a matter of fact, one of the greatest Federations in theworld was based on the principle of proportional representation. (Cheers.) He referred to Germany and to Canada, which latter was on all-fours with our own case. The Labour party believed in proportional representation, and on that rock they had fallen out with the Federalists. If the Anti-Convention Bill people could get proportional representation, they would* swallow everything else. (Cheers.) Althoughstill capable of being out-voted, we would still have what we were entitled to, namely, a voteequal to our strength. We have not got this, and he ventured to say that, until we did get it, we should not accept Federation.
The Attorney-General now waves all those conditions aside. He knows that there is still a blot on the representation of the States in the Senate; and yet he proposes additional powers for the Commonwealth, although this would place the larger States, and especially the largest State, absolutely at the mercy of the smaller States. I was taunted the other day with quoting from the Age of some little time ago, and asked by an honorable member opposite to quote from that newspaper at the present time. I now proceed to do so, taking the issue of 22nd July of this year, in which there are the following comments on the AttorneyGeneral’s utterances on the fixing of rents and prices -
Speaking at thi annual smoke social of the “Victorian Railway? Union last week, Mr. Hughes expressed his views on industrial -economics as follows : - “ Unless the Federal Parliament was able to regulate and control prices, the mere ability to regulate wages was of very little value. Therefore the Common. wealth ‘Parliament would have to regulate prices And profits. That “was the beginning and end of the whole thing. There was nothing else in it. Bring down prices, profits and rents, and everything else would come down with them.”
All this is very cheerful for the farmers and primary producers, and the comment of the Age is as follows: -
There is a wonderful and beautiful simplicity in the gospel thus enunciated -
I never thought that the Attorney-General would be guilty of anything beautifully simple -
What have the older economists been about that they never suspected, never dreamed, that the millennium could be so easily accomplished? Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Kant, Fisk, Spencer, and the rest of them - surely there must have been some fatal kink in their brain folds that blinded them to the truth which the clearer genius of Mr. Hughes has so unerringly detected. “ Antiquated fools,” they looked upon the world of work and commerce and affairs and conceived it to be a machine infinitely diverse, infinitely complex, and infinitely delicate and mysterious. We now know, on Mr. Hughes’ authority, that it is nothing of the kind. It is a machine so simple that a babe may understand it and a child control it. Bad men possessed of wickedly selfish hearts have hitherto ruled and manipulated it for their own enrichment and the cruel oppression of the masses, but we only need to hand the machine over to Mr. Hughes and give him full power, and, hey presto ! Australia and Utopia will be convertible terms.
That is a very nice doctrine if we could only give effect to it -
There is no mystery in his processes. First of all he will catch the industrial employer and force him to pay very high wages for very little work. That is the first step. There is only one other. That is to cut down to a minimum the price at which the industrial employer shall sell the commodities produced by the very high wages and the very little work. Thereupon everybody will be blissfully happy and prosperous. Rents still fall down with such a run that the average labourer will be able to inhabit the “ bijou villa “ of his dreams for about 5s. a week, and so cheap will be the cost of living that we shall all be able to set apart about three-fourths of our incomes for pleasuring and luxuries; and every man who wants one will own a motor’ cai in less than no time. Who could fail to be captivated by a prospect so delightfully alluring? And nothing is required to realize this exquisite vision except to empower Mr. Hughes to fix wages and prices. That is all he asks for. With characteristic modesty he abjures the temptation to demand larger powers, and he distinctly tells us he will be quite content with constitutional authority to compel the employing classes to pay the maximum and accept the minimum.
There is much more that is interesting in this article, hut I shall make only one more extract -
The notion is really too comical for words. Just picture for a moment the. idea of a big manufacturer under the Hughes system. Let us suppose he owns a large hat factory, and employs, say, 1,000 men. Mr. Hughes strolls one morning into his office and orders him to pay his men ^4 a week apiece. The manufacturer replies, “Very well, sir; you are on ‘ top, .-and I have no option, but I’ll have to raise the price of hats to do it.” ..>… “ Oh, no, you don’t,” says Mr. Hughes. .” I’ve examined your books, and I find you can both pay thé high wages and reduce the price of.your hats bv 6d. apiece. This reduction iri price will have to be made at once.” “ But,” exclaims the manufacturer, “ in that event I’ll not have income enough to keep my house going : I’ll be a poor man.” “ Can’t help that,” says Mr. Hughes, “ your day is over. You’ve had your good’ time. My advice is, close up your mansion and live in one of Mr. King O’Malley’s cottages.”
All this talk of fixing prices is the greatest rubbish, because such .a thing. is. absolutely impossible. We are told there, is a Meat Ring, but let the Government try. .to fix the price of meat. I have sent, sheep of, say; 65 lbs. to Flemington, and received only. 5s. 3d. per head ; while, on another occasion; sheep not two-thirds as heavy have realized. 16s. per head. Further, I have sent bul-locks to the Sydney market .and received £3 10s. per head, and for ..others not’nearly so good £o. Where, then, is the controlling influence of the great Meat. Ring? As I say, it is absolutely impossible to regulate prices. For instance, a. short time ago potatoes were at a very low’ price, but they have recently been as high’ as £22 a ton. There has now, however,, been a drop of something like £10 in the price ; and are we to infer from this that a potato ring has been broken up? One’ honorable member, talked of the high price of apricots, so I suppose there is an apricot combine that requires dealing with. I should like to quote some expressions of opinion by leading Labour members of the New South Wales Parliament in regard to the proposed alterations in the Constitution over a year ago. These quotations, I think, are applicable now, because I fail to see that there is, in substance, the slightest difference between the proposals now submitted and the proposals then submitted.
– The honorable member for Boothby quoted them all this afternoon.
– We of the rank and file are, perhaps, unfortunate in having our thunder stolen by the leading lights on either side, including the Honorary Minister; but that will not deter me from reading the quotations I desire. I do not mean to be debarred from making quotations simply because the passages have been quoted before. I wish first to quote an utterance of Mr. McGowen, the Premier of New South Wales, at the Political Labour League Conference of 1911. He said, then, respecting the proposals which were submitted at the last referenda -
What is demanded is too sweeping. The powers asked for by the Federal Labour party are outsideof the Labour platform, and for that reason any individual has a perfect right to adopt the negative attitude.
Mr. Holman, the Attorney General of New South Wales, speaking at the same Conference, said -
I am an unswerving adherent to the doctrine of what is sometimes described as State rights.
– Has Mr. Holman become a friend of yours?
– We have never been bad friends, although Ihave called him hard names. He did me a good turn in defeating me for the State electorate of Cootamundra, because it enabled me to secure the Federal electorate of North Sydney. I, like him, am an unswerving adherent of the States right doctrine. To continue the quotation -
I still believe that the State House of New South Wales, so far as the people of New South Wales are concerned, is the instrument by which the liberties, the rights, and the happiness of this State are to be secured.
No man can consider the conditions under which the battle of social reform is to be fought out without realizing that the State Parliaments are infinitely more valuable and effective weapons than is the Federal Parliament.
All the powers asked for in the referenda exceed the Labour platform, and I claim the right, without any violation of the spirit of solidarity, to hold’ the views I do.
I am sorry that Mr. Holman has since been brought to heel by the Trades Hall, and is now prepared to swallow those words. We shall find him now on the side of the Unificationists.
– Good men change their views.
– Yes; and he is a fool who never changes his opinions. But, although pressure has been brought to bear on others besides Mr. Holman, they have not changed their views on this matter, but have dared to give expression to what they honestly think. The Secretary for Lands* in New South Wales, Mr. Beeby, has done this, and because he has refused to be brought to heel by the Labour ‘leagues and the Trades Hall, which have endeavoured to make him act against his principles, they are trying to kick him out of the movement.
– He believes in Unification.
– I do not think that he goes so far as that. The only man in the Parliament of New South Wales who professes to believe in Unification is Mr.. Griffith. Mr. Nielsen might be regarded as a man of weight in the State Labour party, because the Labour Government of New South Wales is at present paying him four guineas a day, in addition to his parliamentary remuneration of ?500 a year, to do practically nothing. To get him out of the way, they made him a sort of dummy agent in America. It was awkward to have him in the New South WalesParliament, because of the views he held on the land question, and therefore he got this billet. He said., speaking on the subject now under discussion -
I do not believe in depriving the State of itsfunctions one by one and thus aggrandizing the Federal Parliament. Whilst the State Parliaments retain full control of ilie matters left within the State ambit under the Federal Constitution, I shall strenuously oppose any encroachment on State rights by ‘ the Federal authorities. The powers asked for are too great… The States can better control the industrial laws,, except those definitely dealing with corporations.
The late Mr. Dacey was always looked; upon as one of the most conscientious men in the New South Wales Parliament, andhis opinions as a leading member of the State Labour party are worth having. He said -
There is a movement on foot now for what is called Unification, that is, the six State Housesshall be shut up and the whole of the legislation centred in the Federal Parliament. So far as my vote can go, I will protest against that: to the end of the chapter.
Last week, when some one on this side ventured to say that the objective of the Labour party was Unification, he was calleda liar.
– The honorable member must not refer to that matter.
– This is what Mr. T. C. Watson said regarding Federation -
If it meant that in order to obtain Federation we were to place our necks under the heels of people resident in smaller Colonies, he was not prepared to pay the price.
He was referring to the representation given to the States in the Senate. On 8th February, 1897, Messrs. McGowen, Holman, Hughes, and others addressed a meeting on behalf of the Labour party, and the Attorney-General then said-
The Labour party, believes in the establishment of a Federal Court of Appeal, and that Court should be the final Court of Australia. As in America, it should have the right to determine questions affecting Federal as opposed to State rights.
Great consideration should be given to words like those. We are asked to extend the powers of the Federation, but does the experience of the past twelve rears warrant this being done ? The Commonwealth Parliament has had full control of defence since 1901, but has that control been satisfactory ? I am not now referring to our compulsory system of military training, which I do not wish to criticise, but I say without fear of contradiction that our Defence Forces to-day, permanent and militia, are not as efficient as they were before Federation. The Federation has failed to deal satisfactorily with defence. How has it dealt with the Post Office? Can any one say that the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department has been satisfactory under Federation? Today, it is in a state of chaos, and the employes are on the verge of mutiny. I favoured the Federation of the States because I thought that it would lead to the improvement of the national defence, but in that I have been sadly disappointed. I believe that our defence is not as efficient now as it was prior to Federation.
– Is it wise to publish that fact to the world?
– We are sent here to speak our minds on these questions. The honorable member may take it for granted that the world at large knows as much about our defence as we do. These things cannot be hidden. The Japanese know as much about our defences generally as we do, and probably more about the defence of our coast line. The greater shame to us !
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– I am the first to be called to order in this debate. Other honorable members, including the Attorney-General, have been allowed a wide range of discussion.
– Order ! I have allowed honorable members ample opportunity to deal with the constitutional points at issue, but the honorable member is not in order in confining his attention to the Defence Forces.
– I merely desired to show that since that service had noi been satisfactorily dealt with by the Federal Parliament - since the parliament had tailed todeal satisfactorily with the services already intrusted to it - there was no warrant for giving it an increase of power. Another reason which actuated me in advocating Federation was that I believed that some attempt would be made by the Federal Parliament to bring about a uniform railway gauge for Australia. The Parliament, however, has utterly failed to deal with that important problem. That, again, is a reason why the people should not grant an extension, of its present power. The Post master-General’s Department affords another illustration of the absolute failure of this Parliament to deal satisfactorily with the services intrusted to it. It takes two months - I know of one case in which it took three months- to be connected with the telephone system after an application for a telephone has been granted. That being so, how long would it take a trader to obtain supplies from a nationalized industry? That is a question for honorable members opposite to answer. From the way in which the Defence Department and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department have been dealt with, it is plain that they are incompetent to satisfactorily carry on those services, and, therefore, there is no warrant for granting these increased powers. I come now to the nationalization of monopolies. A very pertinent question is. “What is a monopoly?” As has been clearly demonstrated during this debate, no one on the Government side of the House can define the word, yet the people are to be asked to give this Parliament power to deal with monopolies. Under the Government proposal, if both Houses of the Parliament, by resolution, declared that any industry was a monopoly, then it would be within the power of the Parliament to nationalize it. That is a very dangerous power to place in the hands of any Parliament, more especially when we consider how both Houses are constituted. What does it mean ? It means practically placing in the hands of the Attorney-General of the day - I am not referring particularly to the present Attorney-General - the power to1 bring down a motion declaring that any industry is a monopoly, lt would open the door to a state of affairs worse titan that prevailing in America. We talk about bribery and corruption, “graft,” and that sort of thing in the United States of America, and I certainly say that the placing of this power in the hands of practically one man would open the door to all sorts of malpractices here. Let us assume for the sake of argument that we had power to nationalize any industry declared by resolution passed by both Houses to be a monopoly. If that were the position, then the Attorney-General of the day would be able to say to a man who was conducting a profitable business, “ I think you are making very large profits, and I intend to submit a resolution to Parliament asking that your business shall be declared a monopoly.” To what would that open the door? If the Attorney-General of the day - no matter what Government was in power - brought down such a resolution, it would be carried. The Parliament as at present constituted, at all events, would pass it. There would not be one dissentient voice raised on the Government ‘ side of the House, and, as the Labour party are also in the majority in the Senate, such a resolution would also be passed in that Chamber. I ask honorable members to say where any monopolies are in operation in Australia? Can honorable members point to any monopoly, trust, or combine here? I ask the smiling Honorary Minister how many businesses or industries he can point to as being controlled by a trust, combine, or monopoly? The Coal Vend has been trotted out before us again and again. We know all about it. Mr. Ed den, Minister of Mines in New South Wales, has declared that it is absolutely the best friend the miners ever had, because it has kept up the price of coal, and has enabled the colliery proprietors” to pay good wages to their employes. Turning from the Coal Vend, which has been flogged to death, we come to the sugar monopoly, and I venture to assert that, notwithstanding that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has a monopoly of the business, the price of sugar in Australia to-day is, having regard to our import duty, as low as it is in any other country. If we were to do away with that big company, and substitute for it ten small refining companies, I venture to assert that we should not obtain any reduction in price. The price of sugar would probably be increased.
– And we should not get as good an article.
– Quite so.
– Let us take it over, and make it a national monopoly.
– Then the price of sugar would undoubtedly go up. We should have, in connexion with the industry, the day-labour system and “ the Government stroke.” The position would be the same as it is in connexion with Mr. Griffith’s State brickworks, lime quarries, and other Socialistic concern’s in New South Wales.
– There would be no big dividends to pay.
– If the company is able to pay big dividends, it is probably because of its clever management.
– And the underpaying of its employes.
– The employes are well paid.
– Rubbish !
– The price of sugar in Australia is not exorbitant, and I believe that, allowing for the import duty, it is as low as it is in any other country.
– Seeing that we produce our own sugar, what has the import duty to do with the matter ?
– It undoubtedly affects the price. We have also been told that there is a Meat Ring in Australia. As one who knows something about the sale of stock, I do not hesitate to say that that is an absolute myth. An honorable member of the Labour party accused me of being the President of the Meat Combine, but I repeat that there is no Meat Ring and no Meat Combine to keep up the price of meat. It has been said that the Sydney Meat Preserving Company is subsidized by pastoralists to keep up the price of meat. From its inception, however, it has never paid a dividend. I am not a shareholder, but I know that it operates on the Sydney market, irrespective of whether prices are high or low. If it be subsidized by graziers to keep up prices, how is it that there are times when those who are raising stock have to accept for their cattle in the Flemington yards a price that does not pay them? If this company exists simply in the iiiterests of the men on the land, and for the purpose of keeping up the price of meat, why does it not keep up the price ? I come now to the only other Trust which has been, mentioned by honorable members opposite - the Tobacco Trust. If any body can show me that this Trust exercises a baneful influence on the community, that it raises the price of tobacco, or that it provides an article of inferior quality, I say that it should be dealt with. I have recently endeavoured to gain information in regard to the Coal Vend, the alleged Sugar Combine, the mythical1 Meat Ring, and the Tobacco Combine. The only Trust about which I have been able to secure reliable information is the Tobacco Trust. I learn that this combination was formed on the 1st February, 1904, and that, for the eleven months of the year, it employed in its various factories 1,614 hands, including men, women, youths, and girls. Their total wages amounted to .£98,728, or an averaSe °f £fi6 14s. 7d. per annum. The average wage earned for the twelve months ended 30th June last was not less than £100. This shows a difference in favour of the year 191 2, as compared with the year 1904, of 5s- 5^- per employe, and, allowing for the same, number of hands, of ;£53>°99 in wages. I do not think we can find fault with the Trust, therefore, on the score of the wages that it pays. It has also been pointed out to me that the wages paid are quite apart from the benefits which the employes receive in the way of subsidies towards friendly societies, life assurance, sick and accident allowances, building schemes, luncheon provision, &c, the total cost of which runs into many thousands of pounds annually. In addition to the increased cost of manufacture involved, there has been a heavy increase in the cost of the raw material during the past two years, but notwithstanding this increase, there have been no increases in the price of the main products, other than those which have been brought about by changes in the Tariff. Consequently we cannot find fault with the Trust on account of the price of tobacco. I fail to see, therefore, that it exercises a baneful influence on the community.
– What dividends has it paid ?
– I do not know.
– Did the honorable member ask for that information?
– No. I have no brief for the Tobacco Trust. I have not received a dividend from it, because I am not a shareholder in it. It is well that the public should know the way in which the business of this Trust is conducted. Unless it is conducted in such a way as to impose hardship on the employes, or to increase the price of tobacco, or to supply us with an inferior article, we have no warrant for interfering with it. It was stated the other night, by way of interjection, that these trusts treated their employes well only because they were forced to do so. I find, however, that the Tobacco Trust gives its employes a number of privileges which it is not obliged to give them. For instance, it has inaugurated a savings bank scheme, under which employes may bank their savings with a Government savings bank. Arrangements have been made with the Commissioners for the company to act as agents for the employes. I learn that -
Deposits from is. upwards will be accepted on the day that wages are paid, starting 14th September, 191 1, and interest will be allowed on sums from £i to ^250, which will be calculated by calendar months, namely, from the first day of the month following that in . which a deposit is made.
The number of the Trust’s employes is now nearly 2,000. This scheme is intended to convenience them. I further gather, from a circular which has been forwarded to me, that-
All accounts will be kept with the Victoriastreet branch of the Savings Bank. On the Tuesday of each .week the employes will fill in the slip with the amount they wish to “deposit, and hand same to the foremen, or place it in the box provided for the purpose. This sum will be deducted from their pay, and they will receive the balance and the bank pass-book showing a receipt for the sum deposited.
The circular also says -
Interest which will be allowed on all sums up to ,£250 will be added on the 30th day of June each year, and will be subsidized by the company by such an amount as will bring the rate up to 4 per cent, per annum.
That is a very considerable concession. It proves that a good deal is said about trusts and combines in this country that might very well be left unsaid. I do not think that they exercise the baneful influence which honorable members opposite would make us believe. They are not to be compared in any way with the trusts in America of which we have heard so much. I certainly should not approve of the existence in this country of such trusts and monopolies as we read of as existing in America. If we had them here, it would be time for us to put our foot down and deal drastically with them. I fail to see, however, that there is anything connected with the Tobacco Company which justifies such an amendment as the Government propose to make in the Constitution.I may also point to the fact that the company has instituted a life insurance scheme for its employe’s. In order to encourage male employes of the company to make provision for their old age, the directors have introduced a scheme by which every man twentyone years of age and over, who has been in the service of the company for a period of two years, and whose salary does not exceed , £300 per annum, is eligible to enter. There is also a house building scheme, whereby employes are assisted to build houses for themselves.
– What are the interest charges ?
– A statement concerning the scheme, which I hold! in my hand, shows that the payments work out at about 9s. 6d. per week, which covers interest, and enables the property built to become the property of the employ^. I quote this information to show that these supposed trusts and combines do not always act in the manner which honorable members opposite would lead us to believe. The same company assists those of its employes who belong to friendly societies. It has circulated an announcement that - the company will refund to the employes half the amount of each quarter’s contributions after production to it of a certificate from the lodge secretaries certifying that the full quarter’s contributions have been duly paid.
– Does the company share profits with the employes?
– It is not a co-operative concern ; but, of course, these privileges granted to the employe’s must come out of profits. From what other fund could they come? The company is sharing profits with its employes by making these concessions. It has been said the tobacco company does not encourage the growing of tobacco leaf
An Australia. I had some particulars with regard to that matter, but somebody has stolen my notes. I am informed that I have only two minutes left, and somebody has certainly taken away my notes. “ However, shall conclude by a reference to the question of Unification. I repeat the words of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the ultimate objective of the Labour party is Unification.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motionby Mr. Frank Foster) adjourned.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following paper -
Federal Capital City Designs - Report of the Board appointed to investigate and report as to the suitability of certain Designs for adoption in connexion with the lay-out of of the City.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
If it will suit the convenience of honorable members, I think it would be possible to arrange to take the division on the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill about 9 o’clock on Tuesday evening. The House will not sit on Saturday, but will sit on Monday at 3 o’clock, if that meets the views of honorable members. The Attorney-General could make his reply from 8 o’clock to 9 o’clock on Tuesday evening, and this would enable as many honorable members as possible to go home in the week-end interval. I ask honorable members to attend, as far as they can, on Monday to continue the debate.
– It will have been noticed that, during the debates on the Constitution Bills, most honorable members have, under the time limit, been cut off most abruptly. I should like to suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that you might have a small bell at hand to ring five minutes before their time has expired, so that honorable members may have an opportunity to round off their speeches.
.- The plans of the Capital City now being exhibited in the Queen’s Hall are, I understand, made up of the first prize plans and pieces taken out of the other plans. I suggest to the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister of Home Affairs, that it would assist us greatly to a proper understanding of the plans if those other plans from which pieces have been taken were also exhibited.
– I shall make the suggestion to the Minister of Home Affairs.
– I donot think that it is fair, on the part of the officials who have prepared these plans, to mislead the House, and the people of Australia generally, by showing a water-way that it is impossible to get on the
Molonglo Rivet .I believe the intention is to place a dam somewhere between the Federal Capital and the Murrumbidgee ; butI may say that I have visited the place three times, and I have never seen any water flowing in the Molonglo. There should be some information afforded as to the means by which it is proposed to keep the water at the requisite height in the summer season, because, if it is allowed to recede, there must be pestilence. Whether it is proposed to cut a channel from the sea, or pump the water from the Murrumbidgee, I do not know. But I do know it is impossible for, at any rate, eleven months in the year to keep the necessary level in that portion of the Molonglo course. It may be regarded as an impertinence on my part as a layman to speak as I am doing ; but, at any rate, I know that it is impossible to get so large a quantity of water there unless it is brought there, and we ought to know where it is to be brought from. The names of the officials on the plan are those of men who occupy high positions in their profession, and how they can have placed their signature to anything so misleading, I cannot understand. Australia has been imposed upon enough by the placing of the Federal Capital where it is, and it is not fair to mislead the country any further.
– I should like to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it would be possible to lay on the table to-morrow the Tasmanian mail contract ?
.- When I saw the Federal Capital plan exposed in the Queen’s Hall, I was really afraid that some Victorian members would take a fit, so jealous are they of the beautiful city that is to be built in New South Wales. The sheet of water shown has completely spoilt the digestions of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and the honorable member for Indi; and I really think that a constable ought to be placed in the hall to guard the plan. Some Victorian honorable members who were conducting a few ladies through the House to-night showed them all the pictures in the Queen’s Hall, but I noticed that they hurried them past the plan of the Capital site. Such conduct is really very distressing.
.With reference to the utterances of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I wish only to say that I have known the Queanbeyan River all my life. It junctions with the Molongo River above the Capital site, and it has never been dry, to my knowledge, within the last forty years.
– The honorable member apologized four years ago for the small amount of water ‘ in that river.
– There was probably a small amount of water in the river at that time, but it has never ceased running, to my knowledge, during the last forty years. There is a weir known as O’Sullivan’s Weir, at Queanbeyan, which has been full ever since it was built; and, though it may not be a very satisfactory source of water supply, the town is supplied from it. As the Queanbeyan River is always running, and junctions with the Molonglo River above the Capital site, it is clear that what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said cannot be correct.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121127_reps_4_68/>.