4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Referring to the Teport of Senator Pearce’s (Minister of Defence) statement at Newcastle on Saturday,23rd November,1912, as follows : - “ You will be asked for powers to control Trusts, and to give Parliament power to establish ironworks. If they had that power they could have established their own ironworks and made the rails for the Transcontinental Railway “-
Will the Minister inform the House under what power this Parliament has authorized the establishment of -
If Parliament had- authority to establish such works, could not Parliament, under similar authority, establish ironworks for the manufacture of rails for the Transcontinental Railway ?
– The published report of the speech made by the Minister for Defence at Newcastle, on’ Saturday last, 24th November, as quoted by the honorable member, is a condensation of what he said on that occasion. In that speech he pointed out that the only effective way to deal with trusts would be the power to establish their own ironworks, not merely for the purpose of making rails for the transcontinental railway, but also for the purpose of protecting the private consumer. The Federal defence factories referred to by the honorable member were established under the general defence powers of the Constitution, but in no case have they supplied the private consumer. No ironworks could be expected to be a success unless, besides supplying Government requirements, it should dispose of its surplus to private consumers, and the Minister understands that it is a legal question whether these factories could be used for any other purpose than for supplying the requirements of Federal Departments.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
As the second pay-day in December for oldage pensions falls on Christmas Day, and the day after also is a holiday, will he arrange for the pensions to be paid a few days earlier?
– The usual pay-day will fall on the day after Boxing Day. Instructions have already been issued for payment to be made before Christmas. Pensioners should inquire at the local postoffices as to the day on which, the money will be available.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is not immediately available; but the State Premiers will be asked for particulars.
Debate resumed from 2nd December (vide page 6254), on motion by Mr.
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– It will be generally admitted that this debate has been very fairly conducted by members on both sides of the House, and that the subject is well worth the close attention that, has been given to it. One has only to have regard to the experience of other parts of the world, and of Australia at the time when the States entered the Union, to know that, from whatever standpoint these proposals may be viewed, we are being asked to embark on an enterprise of great importance.. It has always been my view that our Constitution is by no means sacrosanct. Should it not meet the requirements of the people, they may fairly and properly be appealed to by referendum to secure its alteration. Circumstances may arise justifying a referendum as to whether powers hitherto left to the States should be transferred to the Commonwealth, or whether powers given to, the Commonwealth should be taken from, it and revested in the States. No objection can be taken to a referendum at the time of an election. In my opinion, the last referendum, as I stated at the time, was a wilful and wanton waste of public money. There was no need for putting the electoral machinery of Australia into motion merely for that referendum. The result proved that those who opposed the proposals of the Government were in the right. Consequently, the proposals have been whittled down to some extent, and the Government have admitted that the position taken up by the Opposition last year was the right one, and that the proposals, instead of being referred in two questions, should be referred in a number of questions dealing with each separately, so that, the electors might have the opportunity to accept or reject each one of them. Last year, arrogant in their numbers, the Labour party refused to listen to the fair and reasonable suggestion that the proposals should be submitted in a series of questions. “ Gape, sinner, and swallow,” was their policy in regard to the electors then. Now, of. their own accord, they propose the submission of the intended alterations by means of six questions. I believe that their proposals will be dealt with on this occasion as they were on the last. It has been said that they were then rejected because of misrepresentation ; but, speaking for Tasmania, I believe that the questions submitted were fairly and honestly discussed. They were not made a party issue, either by those who supported the proposals or by those who opposed them, and quite as many who advocated the alteration of the Constitution as opposed it appeared on the platforms of Tasmania. I appeal to the honorable member for Denison to say if that is not correct.
– In his electorate, and my electorate, both sides fought that referendum with a vigour which I think has rarely been thrown into a personal contest. I know that I ran against traces of my honorable friend wherever I went.
– I do not think that we ever made it a personal matter.
– No; and I think that the honorable member will admit that it was not made a personal matter from the other side. A member can only speak emphatically for his own State, and I can say that in Tasmania the referendum was fought as cleanly as it was possible for a contest to be fought. In Hobart, there are two daily newspapers, namely, a Liberal newspaper and a Labour newspaper. Each newspaper threw itself vigorously into the campaign, which was . fought fairly and honestly; there was no misrepresentation. Taking the whole of Australia, I believe that the Labour Government and Labour members fought for the referendum just as vigorously as the members on this side of the chamber fought against it in the other States. The reply was a most emphatic one, and it was that the people of Australia were not prepared to hand over to the Federation the enormous powers which were then asked. The coming referendum will, I believe and hope be fought just as cleanly as was the previous one. I know that by making it a partyquestion Ministers have seen their only hope of achieving success. When it was submitted as a non-party question it was defeated in every State but one by an overwhelming majority.
– Is it not in the party programme now ?
-I was about to say that the Hobart Conference settled for all time whether this would be a party question or not. They saw that if they gave a free hand to the people to vote “yea “or “nay,” on the previous figures there was not the slightest chance of winning the contest. Therefore they said, ‘ Let us tack this appeal on to the party propaganda ; let us make it a party question ; and let us hope that our organization will rally every man who votes for the Labour candidate to vote for the referenda.” That may prove to be a doubleedged sword; it may cut both ways. Has there been any necessity for taking these referenda ? The Honorary Minister, in the very fiery and eloquent speech he delivered the other evening, pointed out that this Bill is necessary to enable the Government to make the trusts disgorge - in fact, to use his own eloquent words, to place a ring round the cormorant’s neck, to prevent the trusts from robbing the people. Has there been one trust named in the whole of this debate which the Bill will give the Government powerto prosecute that does not exist now ? Not one.
– We cannot prove it ; you see we do not know.
– The honorable member for Batman knows, as a lawyer, very much better than I do, that full and complete power exists now to prosecute any trust whose business extends beyond the confines of one State.
– What has prosecution done in America?
– What will it do here, then?
– Hear, hear ! What will it do here?
– Honorable members on the other side are, I know, rather sore about this point, but they have to face the fact that, after all Their vapourings on the platform nearly three years ago, the Government have spent nearly that time in office and done nothing to prosecute a single trust in Australia.
– They have not put their own Act into operation.
– In 1910, an amending Bill was passed because it was said that the previous Act did not give the Government all the powers that they re quired. They strengthened their hand by amending the law in 1910 ; but the amending Act has never been opened by the Government, so far as any practical work is concerned. I am one of those who say that trusts do exist in Australia. . What have honorable members on the other side done to prosecute these trusts? What trust is there in Australia to-day whose ramifications do not extend beyond the confines of its own State? Let honorable members opposite name one.
– Well, give us the names yourself ?
– I name the Coal Trust.
– What about the Sugar Trust ?
– I also name the Sugar Trust.
– And the Jam Trust.
– Was the Coal Vend prosecuted ?
– Yes ; but in such a way that the Government failed to prove their case. The Shipping Combine was prosecuted in such a way that the Government did not prove their case. There is no honorable member here who can get up and say that the prosecution’ against either the Shipping Trust or the Coal Trust failed because the Federation had no power to deal with trusts. In those actions, the prosecution failed to establish its case.
– The verdict was against the trusts, and they paid the fine ; why did they do so?
-In the first Court, the verdict was against the trusts. They appealed, and I was sorry that the verdict was upset. If there is one business that does come under the operation of the Federal Act, it is the Sugar Trust. Why ? Because a very considerable portion of their business is done in Fiji, which is outside the Commonwealth. They grow the bulk of their sugar in Queensland, refine the raw sugar in Sydney, and ship the refined sugar all over Australia, and outside its boundaries. If there is one business which does extend beyond the confines of the Commonwealth, and which does come under the Anti-Trust Act, it is the Sugar Trust.
– Is there any lawyer on your side who says that we could successfully prosecute the Sugar Trust? The honorable member for Angas said that we could not successfully prosecute them.
Mr.Mcwilliams.-Is it this side of the House which is running the Commonwealth to-day? During the whole of this debate, honorable members opposite have taken as their guide, philosopher, and friend, the honorable member for Flinders. I believe that, had it not been for the speeches of that honorable member, and the Attorney-General for New South Wales, this debate would not have lasted for two days. The debate has consisted of quotations from the speeches of Mr. W. H. Irvine and Mr. W. A. Holman. But the Government have to face the situation. In 1910, they got the Anti-Trust Act buttressed, and, for nearly three years, they have sat on the Act, nursed it and done nothing. The other day the Attorney-General said, inanswer to a question, that they had not even made any inquiries into one of the trusts or combines in Australia. Let us take the Tobacco Trust. It extends its ramifications all over Australia. Every constitutional authority recognises that the actions against a trust commence the moment that its manufactured article is moved outside a State. Why has not the Tobacco Trust, with ramifications all over the Commonwealth, been prosecuted?
– We have got the trusts all right.
– Then why have not the Government prosecuted?
– We are waiting until this Bill is carried. We will fix things up later.
– The only power which the Bill will give is authority to nationalize. I grant that.
– Do you really think that we could prove that they are trusts?
– I do; I believe that the Government could prove to-day that there is a shipping combine in Australia, if they would only call as witnesses persons who have had transactions with them.
– The High Court says it is necessary to prove intent.
– I am expressing my own opinion. I believe that we have a coal trust, a shipping trust, a sugar trust, and a tobacco trust. Any Government, with an honest endeavour to prevent trusts and combines, can stop them under the existing law, but my honorable friends have done nothing.
– I wish we could.
– The Government have never tried to do so. The only cases which they have taken up were two which they were compelled to deal with in consequence of the action of their predecessors. When the last Administration left office that Government had practically commenced operations against the Coal Vend and the Shipping Combine, and so forced their hand and compelled them to go on with the proceedings. Apart from those two combines, against whom the previous Government had instituted proceedings, not one action has been taken by the Ministry, and, on the admission of the AttorneyGeneral himself, no attempt has been made to ascertain whether there are in Australia combines that are acting in restraint of trade, or operating merely for the benefit of the people.
– Has the prosecution of the Shipping Trust and the Coal Vend broken them up?
– The prosecution failed to prove its case.
– And the prosecution cost£50,000.
– Exactly the cost of the last referenda. The inierjection made by the honorable member for South Sydney brings me to the point that when Mr. - now Mr. Justice - Isaacs introduced the Anti- Trust Bill in this House he distinctly stated that unless a trust could be proved to be injurious to the public it would not come within the scope of that measure. In 1906, when we were discussing in Committee the Anti-Trust Bill, the honorable member for Newcastle, displaying that interest which he always shows in the men whom he specially represents - the . Newcastle coal miners - was exceedingly anxious that the Bill should not apply to the Coal Vend. Whilst Mr. . Isaacs was speaking, he interjected -
The decision read by the Minister would prevent a combination such as the Coal Vend.
The reply made by Mr. Isaacs is very interesting, since it indicates what was then his deliberate opinion, and he, as we all know, was the father of the Anti-Trust Bill. He said -
No. It prevented a combination which was intended to shut out legitimate competition.
– Among themselves?
Mr. ISAACS. ; Yes ; but it did not prevent the payment of prices that the competition would honestly bear. In other words, if the Vend were intended to prevent such cut-throat competition as would wipe out legitimate competition and ultimately leave the public, the workers, and everybody else, at the mercy of those who remained it would be legitimate, but if it were intended to prevent legitimate competition, and from the first to put every person at the mercy of the combination, it would be illegitimate.
Mr. Watson. ; Summed up, it would remain with the tribunal to decide upon the facts whether or not the competition was fair?
Mr. ISAACS. ; Exactly. It is impossible to predicate in advance what is reasonable and what is not.
– What would be a fair price for one colliery to pay might be an unfair price for another.
I was then, as I am now, a strong opponent of combinations and trusts. I was fighting, as i am now, against trusts, whereas honorable members of the Labour party then sitting on the Ministerial side of the House were in favour of shielding them. Whilst Mr. Isaacs was speaking I interjected -
Many of these combinations are established merely to raise prices.
Then Mr. Watkins interjected, in reference to the Coal Vend -
The combination to which I refer was not formed for the purpose of raising prices, but incidentally it has that effect.
Mr. Isaacs replied ;
If it isformed merely for the purpose of maintaining a fair and equitable price, such as the business will honestly bear, I have no hesitation in saying that it falls within the class of cases to which I have referred, and that its establishment constitutes no offence at all.
Later on, while the honorable member for Newcastle was speaking in regard to the position of the colliery proprietors, Mr. Isaacs interjected -
If they merely seek to put its selling price upon a paying basis there can be no question about their action. They are committing no offence at all.
Further on the honorable member for Newcastle said -
I do not think that a genuine honest combination which was formed for the purpose of improving the whole condition of those engaged in the industry, and whose prices are determined by open competition in the open markets of the world, can hurt any one.
To that Mr. Isaacs replied -
They are not struck at by the Bill.
There we had the deliberate opinion of the Attorney-General of the day - the father of the Anti-Trust Bill - that unless a trust was acting in such a wayas to crush all fair competition, and unless it was sweating the public, it would not commit an offence under that Bill. That, I venture tp say, is precisely the position that was taken up by the Chief Justice in giving judgment in the appeal case in favour of the Coal Vend. I believe that there is in Australia a Shipping Combine which is detrimental to the people.
– And yet the honorable member will do nothing to stop it.
– The Minister has done nothing to stop its operations. He has been in office for threeyears, and has allowed trusts to grin, so to speak, in his face, and to batten on the people of Australia, without taking any action to put a stop to them. He now tells us that it is necessary to grant the Federal Parliament the increased powers for which the Government ask in order that trusts and combines may be dealt with. He states that unless we take power to nationalize monopolies we cannot deal with, them. If Ministers were honest, then instead of putting up this platform gag about their inability to deal with trusts and combines under the present law, they would say, “ It is our desire to nationalize all these trusts.” If they did so, they would be on a fair wicket, and one on. which they could be fairly met. When, however, the Honorary Minister says, as he did last week, that these powers are necessary to enable the Government to make the trusts disgorge, he is simply playing with the question, because he knows that he and his colleagues have done absolutely nothing.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs has done more to strip dirty work since he has been in office than has any one else.
Mr.Mcwilliams.- As to that,I have only to say that although all the representatives of Tasmania, including members of the Labour and of the Liberal party, urged the Postmaster-General not to give a joint mail contract to the two shipping companies trading there, since by doing so he would only be assisting in building up a combine, the Minister renewed the existing contract for two years. He accepted a joint tender from the two companies so that there is no chance of any competition in the shipping trade between here and Tasmania. If any action taken by the Government since the original! contract was signed - a contract which I opposed -has tended more than any other to strengthen a combine it is that of the Minister in giving the mail contract to joint tenderers for a further period of two years. He has thus bolstered up and buttressed the combine and destroyed all possibility of competition. There are two shipping companies trading between Australia and Tasmania, and I do not hesitate to say that there is a combination between them. I do not state- that there is a written agreement, but I do say very distinctly that there is what is called an understanding between the two companies, and that there is practically no competition between them.
– How could we prove the existence of a combine to the satisfaction of the Court where there was no written agreement?
– Hosts of witnesses could be called to prove that there is such a similarity in the rates and conditions observed by the two companies as to suggest the existence of a combine. Evidence could be given as to the similarity of conditions that would be the strongest possible proof of the existence of a combine. I believe that there is no case in regard to which the Government could prove the existence of a combination so clearly as they could in connexion with the Shipping Combine, if they would institute a general prosecution instead of confining their attention to the combination in shipping in relation only to the Coal Vend. The action of the Government in extending the joint contract, to which I have referred, for two years, has made it utterly impossible for the people of Tasmania to bring competition into the field. Yet honorable members opposite talk about their desire to fight these combinations. I ask - and it is a question which will be asked from every platform in Australia during the next six months - what have the Government done to fight these combinations and trusts, which they say, and which I say, are injurious to the people of Australia? Honorable members, in this House, and most of those who know me outside, are aware how strongly I am opposed to the Shipping Combine. But, nevertheless, let us compare the prices charged by that Combine and by a Government monopoly. The question of coal freights has been mentioned often in this debate, and it is a fair one.
– To what Government is the honorable member referring now?
– I am about to refer to the Government of New South Wales. The price charged by the Shipping Combine for the carriage of coal from Newcastle to Melbourne, 680 miles, is 5s. 6d. per ton, or about one-tenth of a penny per mile. The cheapest railway rate in Australia, as far as I know, is that from Claremont to Rockhamption, about 240 miles, over which distance coal is carried at practically½d. per ton per mile. On nearly all the railways of Australia, the freight runs from½d. to¾d. per ton per mile. Where coal is simply hauled between two given points, it ought to be possible to carry it nearly as cheaply as by sea. But let us take the coal freight from East Greta to Newcastle, 22 miles. The price is between½d. and¾d. per ton per mile up to 9 miles. It is a mileage rate at a fixed price. Beyond that distance, there is a sliding scale. The freight is for haulage alone. The shipping companies have to truck their coal, but the Government of New South Wales simply hauls it, and allows the use of a crane at the end of the journey.
– That is included in the freight.
– I say so. I am now comparing a Government monopoly, with a shipping monopoly, and I say that the comparison is against the Government monopoly. All that the Government do is to supply an engine and haul the coal, and for that thev charge from½d. to¾d. per mile, as against one-tenth of a penny charged by the shipping companies.I say, again, that where you have a clean run by railway, as is the case from Greta to Newcastle, there is no reason in the world why the Government should charge fd. per ton per mile haulage. So that it by no means follows that, if we were to take the natural industries of a State, and place them under Government control, we should get a cheaper or better service.
– Why does not the honorable member make a comparison between the Emu Bay railway and the Tasmanian Government railways?
– I admit that the price charged for haulage on the Emu Bay railway is absurdly high as compared with the price charged by what, I freely grant, is a Shipping Combine. But, nevertheless, the prices charged by the Shipping Combine are not as high as those charged on Government railways..
– There is no comparison between railway carriage and water carriage.
– The deduction which I make as to the difference between freight charged by a shipping monopoly and that charged by a Government monopoly is a fair one. Nevertheless, I am strongly opposed to the Shipping Combine, and I can promise honorable members that if I have the honour of sitting behind a Government, they will not rest three years in office without some attempt being made to deal with trusts and combines in this country. I have asked honorable members opposite to name one trust or combine that could be dealt with under this Bill, other than by nationalization, and which could not be dealt with under the existing law. They say that the Coal Vend prosecution failed. If this Bill is passed, it will not confer one iota of power to deal with the Coal Vend other than by nationalization. The Government have failed to deal with the Shipping Combine because they failed to prove their case. This Bill will not give them one iota of power to deal with the Shipping Combine other than by nationalization. The people of Australia are not prepared to hand over the power of nationalization to the Federal Government. They clearly showed that, at the last referenda. Some of the strongest and most loyal supporters of the Labour party were distinctly opposed to the centralizing of the powers sought in the Federal Government; and we are not now breaking any new ground. In Knibbs, we find how State after State was created owing to the impossibility of governing the whole of the country from the centre. All Australia was governed from one central authority in Sydney. The States broke away in quick succession - Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and Western Australia - and, whatever may be said in favour of the proposals before us, I believe there are honorable members opposite who are honestly opposed to Unification. A great many, of course, are openly in favour of Unification ; and those who are opposed to it are being misled, unintentionally perhaps, by the desire of the more dominant factor to sweep away the State Parliaments. I say deliberately, and honorable members opposite may make what use they like of the statement, that, rather than see the State Governments and Socal home-rule abolished, I would rather fifty Federations were abolished and a fresh start made. No greater injury could be done to the people of Australia than to sweep away their self-government, and force them under a unified system, such as is being led up to by the Bills before us -
You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house.
The moment these powers were taken away from the State Governments and handed over to the Central Government, the State Parliaments would be rendered so ineffective, inoperative, and weak, that they would not be worth preserving. No greater calamity could happen to the people of Australia at the present time - no greater injustice could be done to them, than to centre the Government in Melbourne, or, in a few years, in the Federal Capital. However, I have no fear of the result, because I believe the people will resent this determination to abolish their home-rule. Is it not a strange parody that there should be honorable members opposite to plead and preach home-rule for every country in the world except their own - who are prepared to do as was done in Ireland 200 years ago, and leave to their children the awful inheritance of battle in order to regain their freedom? With the history of the world before them,the Australian people know what it has cost other countries to get back their home-rule once it has been surrendered. All the special pleading in favour of these Bills is by men who are drunk with the lust of power, and who are desirous to place all Australia under their domination to the extension of their own functions and powers. All this talk about dealing with trusts and combines is so much leather and prunella. The Government are in the awkward position that for three years they have sat in their comfortable offices, and have done absolutely nothing in the way of even inquiry into one trust or combine; and yet they have the audacity now to go to the people and ask for the power of nationalization. All this merely means that in the’ nationalized industries no man ‘shall get a day’s work unless he joins a union. They desire to bring everything into one arena for their own political advantage ; but the people will ask what they have done under the powers given by the Act of 1910?
– Why not trust the people?
– We are trusting the people. The people have a perfect right to demand a referendum, but there ought to be a fair fight. It ought to be plainly told the people that there is a desire to nationalize industries, and it should be frankly admitted that, although the Australian Industries Preservation Act of 19 10 gives power to deal with trusts and combines, that Act has never been opened so far as any active operations are concerned. That is the charge that Ministers and their supporters will have to answer ; and I believe that the greatest rebuff the Government will get will be because they have done nothing in this connexion - that they have done nothing, to use the rhetorical language of the Honorary Minister, to place a “ ring” around the necks of the “cormorants” who are gorging themselves on the substance of the people. When the Attorney-General proceeded to quote Prentice on Corners and Corporations, I wondered what he could find in that authority to assist his case. The honorable gentleman quoted, and quite correctly, the following : -
It is obvious, then, that the line between State and Federal powers, with reference to commerce, is an arbitrary ohe.
The honorable gentleman, however, did not quote the next paragraph, which reads -
A distinction of this nature, however clear it may at first be made, is difficult to observe. Courts proceed so largely by logical processes, seeking to create a consistent and harmonious body of decisions, that any arbitrary decision, undiscoverable by logic, inevitably tends to blur. In the history of Federal decisions upon the commerce clause, and conspicuously in cases arising upon the Sherman Act, this tendency shows itself with increasing force, and with twofold effect-
Listen to this - limiting State powers so as seriously to interfere with the legislation which most effectively can remedy commercial evils, and imposing upon the Constitution new interpretations which threaten fundamental alteration in our system of Government.
Prentice says that combines and trusts can be most effectively dealt with by the State Governments, because these have the police power -
It is of great importance then that State jurisdiction over corporations should be understood - that it should be known that there is no practical necessity which compels Congress and the Courts to supersede this jurisdiction, but, on the contrary, that so far as concerns State law the practical difficulties in the way of corporate control result from recent efforts to limit State authority.
These are the words of the admitted authority on Corners and Corporations ; and I direct attention to the sentences which the
Attorney-General did not quote. Then* McClain on Constitutional law in the United States, page 150, says: -
The general power to regulate commerce isin strict analysis a part of the police power….. Were it not for the limitations upon State power involved in the clauseof the Federal Constitution which gives Congress certain powers as to regulation of commerce there would be no necessity for any separate or particular treatment, but the powersof the States are greatly restricted in this respect. .
Then Pearce points out distinctly in his Federal Usurpation that it has beenthe Federal usurpation of powers belonging to the States in dealing with commerce matters which has rendered it sodifficult to suppress combines in America. My honorable friends opposite may point tr> the magazines of America, but I say that those magazines are out-doing the yellow journals just now in the matter of sensationalism. It is not to American maga-‘ zines that we should look for guidance in-, dealing with these matters.
– Those magazinescontain signed articles.
– To the American writer the great advantage of signed* articles is that it enables him to get ar higher price for his work. We are dealing with a vital matter, and, consequently,. we require a very much higher authority than an American magazine. Thoseauthorities are to be- found in Bryce,. Mcclain. Pearce, Prentice, and very many others who show that the trouble which.-, exists in America to-day is due to the fact that the Federal Government have so crippled the State authorities as to make thempowerless to deal with local concerns. Every trust in Australia to-day is open to> prosecution.
– Yes; is “open” to it.
– But the real desire of my honorable friends opposite is tonationalize industries. What has been theexperience of America ? There the first aim of any trust which desires to establish itself in the community is to secure the approval of the Labour unions. I was ratheramused the other evening to hear the honorable member for North Sydney tell theHouse how exceedingly well the . TobaccoTrust treats its employes. I believe that it does. It can well afford to do so, because it is making huge profits out of thepeople of Australia, and its only chance of surviving here is by securing the good willi of the trade unions, and by getting behind it the whole political power of the Labour party, lt has done that. I can well remember the magnificent abuse of this trust in which the present Postmaster-General was prone to indulge when he was a private member. He used to tell us that it ought to be dealt with immediately. But what has he done during the three years that he has been in office?
– Let honorable members opposite give us the power to deal with it.
– The Government have the power if they choose to exercise it. But the Postmaster-General has sat idly down, and the Tobacco Trust has romped over him. The Coal Vend and the Shipping Combine would not have been prosecuted if proceedings had not been initiated by a Liberal Government. Who joined me more heartily in my attempts to bring them to book than did honorable members opposite when they were free lances? The man who says the Government have no power to prosecute the Sugar Trust under existing legislation is either stating what is untrue or has never read the Act.
– What is the use of prosecuting a trust - say, the Sugar Trust - if it cannot be prosecuted successfully?
– That is the plea of the lazy policeman who refuses to arrest a hopeless “ drunk.” But instead of doing that, the Government appointed a packed Commission to inquire into the industry.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
Mr.Mcwilliams.-I withdraw it. The Government have appointed a Sugar Commission, which, with the exception of the chairman, is composed exclusively of representatives of the two sugar producing States. Is that a fair tribunal to deal with an industry of this magnitude? I say that the consumers of Australia ought to have been represented upon it.
– It is a lot better than was the Commission which the honorable member’s side allege they appointed.
Mr.Mcwilliams.-I do not know whom they appointed.
– Two Queenslanders and a Judge from New South Wales.
Mr.McWILLIAMS.- Then I say that such a Commission would not have secured my approval.
– The honorable member would have had to approve it.
– That is where the Minister of Trade and Customs makes a mistake. Like the fox who lost his tail, he cannot realize the advantages which are enjoyed by foxes who have preserved their tails. Honorable members opposite fail to realize the difference between the bond and the free - between a party whose members are obliged to support the Government upon every vital question, irrespective of whether or not they approve its action, and a party whose members are free to do as they please. I hope that there will be a fair fight on this occasion. I have no patience with the squealing of honorable members opposite, who, when they were beaten at the last referendum, declared that it was owing to misrepresentation. I remind them that there is, unfortunately, a considerable majority of Labour supporters in this House, and also in the Senate. Were these the persons who were guilty of misrepresentation, or did they sit down and do nothing when these questions were last before the electors? Speaking for my own State, I am able to say that Labour men fought loyally and hard to induce the electors . to accept the last referenda proposals.
– Did the honorable member see the circular which was sent round asking the capitalists to give money for carrying on the referenda campaign?
– No, I did not; but I have noticed that only the other day a man was “ chucked off a mining lease “ because he conscientiously objected to contribute to the expenses of the candidature of a man to whom he was politically opposed. Because a man refuses to contribute to the expenses of a political opponent, he is apparently to be refused a day’s work in Australia. It does not lie in the mouths of honorable members opposite to taunt honorable members on this side on the question of contributions to political funds. I make this statement, which honorable members opposite are at liberty to use as they please. I should prefer to see £50,000 contributed freely and loyally to the political funds of honorable members opposite than to see £5 wrung from political opponents, compelled to contribute to their fighting fund or lose their jobs. The amount contributed is not of so much importance as is the way in which it is collected.
– What about the contribution from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– They would not give very much to support me. During the three years in which they have been in office, the present Government have bolstered up the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and, in view of the Royal Commission they appointed to inquire into the sugar industry, I should not be surprised if the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were prepared to assist in keeping them in office. It would probably be the best paying move they could make. When the Minister talks of the contribution from the Sugar Company, let him consider the men who have fought the company, no matter on which side of the House they may have been. Though they have had the power, the Federal Government have done absolutely nothing to fight combines and trusts, and they now ask that they should be given the power to nationalize the industries in which they operate. I invite honorable members to consider the way in which the present Government are dealing with public works, the manner in which they have provided for the Liverpool manoeuvre area, for instance, and their magnificent achievements in connexion with railway construction; and then imagine them taking control of the sugar, tobacco, shipping, and coal industries, and practically the whole of the industries of Australia. It would lead to nothing but chaos. However, the contingency is one which we need not consider, because these questions have only to be submitted to the people to be answered exactly as they were answered before. I hope the referendum will be fought out fairly in the country, as it was on the last occasion, and that the result will be precisely the same.
.- Some of the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin were very refreshing, because they were diametrically opposed to almost everything that has been said by other honorable members who have spoken from the other side. They have all contended that there are no harmful trusts in Australia, and that, on the contrary, such commercial combinations as we have in our midst are really beneficent and delightful institutions. The honorable member for Franklin has, however, candidly admitted that there are a number of trusts operating in the Commonwealth that require to be dealt with. I believe that the honorable member for Bendigo is the only legal member on the other side who has asserted that we have already sufficient power, under our existing laws, to deal with these trusts. Admitting that both are men of legal capacity. I prefer the legal opinion of the honorable member for Angas to that of the honorable member for Bendigo.
– The honorable member for Bendigo was speaking of Inter-State and foreign trusts, which are within our power.
– It does not matter what the honorable member was speaking about. We know that when a prosecution did take place in connexion with one of these trusts, a conviction was secured when the matter was considered before a Judge, who is recognised to be one of the ablest men we have on the Bench, especially in dealing with commercial questions. But his verdict was reversed, on appeal, on the judgment of one man who, with all respect to him, seems to be of the opinion that in commerce people are justified in demanding for an article any kind of price they can get. Perhaps the learned Judge was correct, and, at all events, we know that that has been the general practice in commercial circles. We have to recognise that the reversal of the original judgment hinged upon a matter of opinion as to whether the trust in question was harmful in its operations or not. I venture to say that, despite the able Chief Justice who finally decided the matter, the public are agreed that it was a harmful trust, and that it is quite unreason able to raise the price of coal, as they did, by 10s. per ton. People must have coal, though in commercial life they may be told that they can leave it if they do not like it; that they can go without, or burn firewood, or something else. But I object to our being told that we should let the matter stand at that, merely because the decision in the case referred to was given against us.
– The honorable member forgets that the prosecution was under ther 1906 Act, which the Government he supports have since amended.
– I am taking a commonisense view of the position. The discussion has been somewhat narrowed by honorable members opposite, perhaps deliberately, to the question of some of the trusts and combines, overlooking the fact that a number of these Bills cover a very wide field, and one which is facing every civilized country to-day. Combines and trusts rare included in that field. Legislation which could deal with trusts is only a small part of our programme. The powers proposed to be taken here also deal with corporations - with that legal authority which is given to companies, and incidentally to those companies when they combine, and in which there are limitations that are undenied by legal members of the House. No honorable member whom I have heard has claimed that, under the existing arrangement, a company law can be made truly effective. Hence in that particular phase of the matter, if Parliament is given sovereign authority, it can deal with trusts, perhaps, in a way hitherto untried and more effectively. However, I do not wish to do more than make a passing reference to that matter. My object in rising was not to speak at length, but to give some information which, I think, is needed, and will be of some use, if not to honorable members, certainly to those who mayread the Hansard report. There is a desire expressed in the various Bills to deal in some effective way with practically all varying phases of industrial and commercial life, to control big trusts so that they shall not be harmful. None of us says that combines are necessarily harmful. It will be found that every Socialistic writer recognises the value of trusts and combines which are monopolies - contending that a monopoly cheapens things, that is, as far as the organization of the industry is concerned - and looks forward to the time when the whole community will own the industry, and carry it out on a well organized scale with that experience of monopolies which private enterprise has supplied. However, the phase on which I wish to contribute some information is in connexion with that portion of the machinery proposed to be set up which is meant to secure the peaceful working of the industry. That is a highly essential thing, and one which is becoming more important as the veats roll by. A great many random statements have been made here, especially by the honorable member for Parkes. Honorable mem bers on the other side wish to make out that the Federal arbitration machinery, of which we have control, has been afailure. The assertion is made - and a wild one it is, without any foundation in fact - that there have been more disputes and more strikes since this kind of legislation was enacted than used to occur previously. I have been trying to get at the absolute facts. I think that the wild random statements we have heard should carry no weight with any honorable member who honestly wishes to obtain a correct view of this very important question. Hence I asked the Commonwealth Statistician some time ago to supply me with all the information that he was able to obtain. I regret that the organization in his office is not yet so far advanced as to be able to furnish a complete and accurate record of these matters, though to a certain extent the office covers the field. I have risen mainly with the object of putting into Hansard what . I think is the first authoritative information from the Statistician, as to the. number of awards, the number of persons affected, and so on. I have in addition a list of cases of breaches of award. First, I shall read the covering letter, because it explains the position and the difficultv which the Statistician has to meet. Writing to me on the 2nd December, he says:-
In reply to your request of the 28th instant for certain information regarding Industrial Court Awards, Wages Board Determinations, &c., I have pleasure in forwarding herewith two tables showing such particulars as are available.
In regard to the number of persons affected by the awards, determinations, &c., no accurate particulars are available. The figures given in the attached sheet have been estimated from information furnished in the various reports as to the number of persons employed in registered factories, and are only approximate.
No reliable or comprehensive information is available as to strikes and lockouts. This matter will, however, be dealt with for future years in a systematic manner by the newly organized Labour branch of this bureau.
You will see that the particulars given in the attached sheets relate to Boards, &c., in existence, and not necessarily to number of awards in force, the latter not being available. In Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania the number of Determinations approximate closely to the number of Boards created. In New South Wales, during the period 1908 to 1912, under the Board system established by the Act of1908, 213 effective Boards were created, and 430 Awards were made. The multiplicity of Awards, however, was the cause of certain overlapping, and confusion was caused thereby. The Industrial Arbitration . Act of 1912 attempts to remedy this overlapping by the creation of twenty-eight groups of industries with but one chairman to each group. Under this system there will eventually be about 150 Boards. The number of Awards and Agreements in operation in Western Australia is specified in the table attached.
The tables are as follow -
– Are these awards which are in existence, or which have been given ?
– I shall come to that matter presently.
– A recent return shows that the awards given in Western Australia number over 200. Perhaps the Statistician is referring to awards which are in existence to-day.
– The report deals not with all those which have been given, but with those which are in operation now. I have tried to get at the actual facts, and have discussed the matter with Mr. Knibbs. I have taken the trouble, in some instances, to go over a year’s file of a newspaper in which most of these things were recorded to get an idea of the exact position. It is unfortunate that our statistical bureau can not make all this information readily accessible. If it were properly organized we should not have guessing, random statements which are absolutely without foundation, and which would not be made by any one who knew what is going on. It is only a member situated like myself who has an opportunity of knowing the positio n. According to this return, in the States there are 397 Wages Boards in operation, and since it was compiled the honorable member for Maribyrnong has obtained for me from the Victorian Inspector the ac tual number of awards operating in Victoria. There are111 Wages Boards in this State, and the number of awards made thereunder is ninety-seven. We cannot get a return of the actual number of awards in New South Wales, because the Boards in that State have been very busy. Making a large deduction, as I wish to be under rather than over the mark, I assume that in Australia there are about 300 awards in operation under the Wages Board system, and we know that there are 149 agreements registered. Under the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act there are eighteen awards and210 agreements filed. After conferring with the officials who control this matter in the Statistician’s Department, I estimate that there are at least 677 instruments of peaceful working - that is, determinations, awards, and agreements. They areinstruments which have been arrived at, some by conciliation, some by awards, and some by the Federal Arbitration Court. Let us now consider the number of persons who are affected. The
Statistician, taking the number of registered factories and so on, puts down the number in Victoria at 78,000.
– I think that a later return shows that the number is over 80,000.
– I am satisfied that my estimate is below the mark, because I am always unwilling to make a statement which I cannot verify. Practically all the factories are situated in the metropolitan area, where the Wages Boards have been longest in operation. There have been some extensions of the system by means of special Boards, and it is in these extended . areas that determinations have not been made. Taking the number of registered unionists in New South Wales and Western Australia, I have estimated at 100.000 tho. e persons of whom Mr. Knibbs has not given an approximate number, and I feel sure that it is considerably below the number of persons who were affected by the awards. I have set down 80,000 as the number of persons affected by these awards in New South Wales. There, the awards have been extended to country districts ; but, until recently, that was not done in Victoria. We find, therefore, that there are about 120,000 persons affected by Commonwealth awards, and 221,000 by awards of State tribunals, making a total of 341,000 persons affected by 677 determinations, agreements, or other instruments of peace. I am considerably understating the actual number. For instance, I have allowed only 20,000 as the number of persons affected in Western Australia, although I am sure that the number is considerably greater ; and the same may be said in regard to the number affected in New South Wales. Taking the figures as I have stated them, however, it will be admitted that the awards of these various tribunals affect a very large number of persons, and cover very many industries. The shearers, and those employed in several other industries, for instance, are federated, and their organizations cover the whole Commonwealth. Those who have been endeavouring to make out that our present industrial system has been a failure, have not taken the trouble to ascertain the facts as to the actual number of persons affected by the awards of the several tribunals. We have to consider the views long held by the two classes - the employers and the employe’s - ‘ in regard to industrial matters. Some of the workers are still somewhat in the position of slaves. They have begun, only to a limited extent, to think for themselves, and to realize their economic position. Then, again, the employer has been accustomed, until recently, to manage his own business in his own way, without let or hindrance. Even when trade unions were formed and strikes and other industrial disturbances took place, the employer continued to think that he should be free to manage his business without any interference. We find that the employers generally assume the same attitude in regard to industrial legislation. It is only natural that they should. We cannot expect them to be quickly educated to the belief that every member of society is interested in what they are doing - that we are all interdependent - that the man in business is dependent upon the consumer, and the consumer upon him, and that, therefore, he has no rights save those which do not trespass upon the rights of others Then, again, the workers -were loath to give up the right to strike. It would have been remarkable therefore if, in the circumstances, there had been no breaking away, since each side had been asked to agree to a complete departure from old conditions, and to have a third party to determine questions of wages and conditions of employment where they themselves were unable te arrive at an amicable decision. Honorable members who make random assertions as to the failure of our industrial arbitration system - and the chief offender in thi.” respect is the honorable member for Parkes - will recognise that the figures are against them. There are a few cases where complaint in regard to an award has been made by a union ; but every one knows that such an action has been denounced by Labour leaders generally, and that pressure has been brought to bear to induce the observance of the award, in view of the fact that our party is committed to the system. There are now, as I have shown, over 340,000 persons working under the awards of various tribunals, and it is a noteworthy fact that the awards of the Federal Court cover more than one-third of the number. I propose to put before the House a report from the Government Statistician, showing the number of cases in which there has been a breach of an award. I cannot recall to mind a case coming before the Courts in respect of a breach of an award made by the Federal Court. The working of the Commonwealth Industrial Court has been more satisfactory, tested by the question of breaches of agreement, than has the working of the Wages Board system. The Opposition seem to be pledged, to some extent, against the arbitration system, but experience is dead against them. The Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court has been in operation for several years, and it is, working more harmoniously than are the other systems. I have here a letter from Mr. Knibbs, dated 21st ultimo, in which he writes -
Dear Sir, -
In reply to your letter of the 20th inst. re number of prosecutions and convictions for breaches of awards and determinations of industrial courts and wages boards, I have pleasure in forwarding herewith a table showing the desired particulars so far as available for the last six years. From the information to hand in the various reports it is not possible to supply figures showing the prosecutions against employers and employes respectively. I. may say, however, that it is pointed out in the New South Wales Industrial Gazette - which is an official publication - “ that most of the prosecutions have been levelled against employers as a matter of necessity, because obligations of awards are particularly directed at the person in control of the industrial situation. In many cases, however, in which it has been shown that employes have been in collusion with their employers for the purpose of relieving the employer of paying the minimum wage, or complying with the prescribed conditions as to hours, &c., the employes have been equally prosecuted and fined.” It is pointed out that, although breaches of awards are almost invariably due to such collusion, or if not to positive collusion, to supineness on the part of employes, it has been found in practice that the evidence of the employé is so necessary to establish the guilt of the employer that he, the employer, must be allowed to go scathless in a great number of cases of inexcusable default on his part. This is probably true in regard to all the States.
I come now to the return showing the number of prosecutions and convictions for breaches of awards and determinations of Industrial Courts.
– That return merely shows the actual prosecutions and convictions.
– I am not attempting to mislead the House.
– No, but the honorable member means that breaches may have occurred that have not come before the Court. The honorable member for Darling is simply going to give us a retrun showing the number of breaches of awards or determinations of which official notice has been taken.
– I have been anxious to ascertain the actual facts, for anything, short of them can be of no value. The wild and silly statements in which the Opposition have indulged are valueless. Thereturn I am about to quote deals with thecases in which action has been taken, and. it is as follows -
There is no information in regard to South Australia, Western Australia, or Tasmania, and there was no Wages Board system in Queensland until about 1910. As to the statement in the second footnote, it is notorious that it is almost impossible to obtain convictions against Chinese in the furniture trade and other industries. In a sense, they are good unionists, since they stick to one another. To summarize this return, it shows that in six years there have been 3,055 prosecutions for breaches of awards in New South Wales, and 396 in Victoria, and that there were 1,690 and 279 convictions respectively. There are fewer convictions in respect of the Industrial Arbitration Courts’ awards than in the case of Wages Boards’ awards. There have been more breaches of awards of Wages Boards than of arbitration awards. It would seem as if employers were less careful to observe the awards of the Wages Board than they are to observe the awards of arbitration tribunals. If we take the figures for the last three years, which cover the operation of the newer legislation in New South Wales- prior to that we had in operation there the Industrial Arbitra- tion Act, one of the first of its kind to be passed - we find that there have been 2,756 prosecutions and 1,603 convictions; inVictoria, 210 prosecutions and 159 convictions; and, in Queensland, twenty-one prosecutions and ten convictions. During the last eighteen months, there has been, in New South Wales, an average of over sixteen prosecutions a week, and an average number of convictions slightly under eleven per week. As the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Moreton recognise, this return by no means covers all the cases ; it simply deals with those in which action has been taken. As the letter in the Industrial Gazette points out, where these breaches of award have occurred, some of the employers and employes have been in collusion. That may have increased the number to some extent. Another factor has been the very light penalties inflicted in many Courts. A case occurred recently in New South Wales, for instance, where an employer was prosecuted for a breach of an award. He made a clear profit of £24 after be had been finedIt is to the credit of the President of the Arbitration Court in New South Wales, Judge Heydon, that when a case of breach of an award comes before him, he sees to it that the penalty bears some proportion to the gain made by the employer. In another case recently, in New South Wales, an employer was actually a representative of his class on a Wages Board. Yet he broke the award to the making of which he had been a party. He was fined 10s. He continued to break the award after he had been fined. It is certain that honorable members opposite receive the support of the employing class. They have twitted us with not condemning employes when they have not observed awards. The honorable member for Parkes has gone so far as to charge us with countenancing breaches of the law, though he gave no evidence to support his statement. I recommend him and other honorable members opposite to undertake a mission to their own supporters, and urge them to observe the law. I am sorry that the list I have quoted shows no differentiation between employers and employed. No doubt, some of the cases affect employes. But I am not aware of any case in which a union, as such, has committed a breach of an award. The statistics which I have given are admittedly incomplete, but, as far as they go, they are valuable. It has to be remembered that the
Federal Arbitration Court covers more than one-third of the persons affected, and that there has been no case, as far as I can recollect, of a breach of its awards. On the other hand, there have been instances of breaches of Wages Board awards by employers. There is a case in Melbourne to-day. One of the big wool stores has attempted to break an award, and has been backed up by that powerful body, the Pastoralists Union. When the representatives of the Australian Workers Union have gone to the company to protest, the retort has been, “ You can take the matter into Court.” Surely it is time that the Opposition sent out missionaries to teach their own followers to observe the law. If they set such great store by Wages Boards, and have such a great love for this method of settling disputes, how is it that there have been so many breaches of Wages Board awards? According to the logic of the honorable member for Parkes, this sort of thing ought to be denounced. He tells us that we are responsible if employes break the law, and the Opposition must.be similarly responsible when employers do so. It is rather peculiar logic; I should be sorry to use it for my own part. But .the honorable member for Parkes believes in it, and he certainly ought to be no party to backing up people who are breaking the law. With regard to keeping a record of industrial disputes, we must all recognise one difficulty. It is not always easy to determine whether a dispute is due to a strike or a lock-out. Those engaged in the trade union movement are well aware that the press calls nearly every industrial disturbance a strike. But we know that many of such cases have been simply lock-outs. All that can be done in a record is to show what industrial disputes have occurred. I am sure that honorable members will agree that no apology is needed from me foi putting in the lastest statistics. I am only sorry that they are not more complete. I took the trouble to go through the file of papers for twelve months to see whether there had been any charges of breaches of award against trade unions, but I failed ±0 find any. In cases where employe’s have been sued, they have undoubtedly been in collusion with the employers. Hence, it is fair to take the view which the Industrial Gazette takes, that the employer, in such a case, is the person responsible. The history of the matter proves that it is not the wage-earner who is inclined to break an award. In the past, he has been charged with a readiness to strike. Now he is too frequently charged with a desire to break the law. But, as a matter of fact, it is the employing class - the captains of industry, the men who claim that they know “ how to manage their own business “ and “ want to be let alone,” those who say they will not permit any one to prevent them doing as they like, the class who are behind honorable members opposite - who have been guilty of this offence. Where collusion has occurred, the employer has been able to get hold of some one in his employment who has probably been moved by that slavish instinct which induces some men to be ready to fall in with an employer’s wishes. That is the sort of thing that has occasionally called forth a very ugly word. It is unfortunate that, though there has been an expansion of the Grade union movement, and an increase in the number of awards given, there has also been an increase in the tendency to break the law on the part of the employing class, and to refuse to pay the wages and grant the conditions stipulated by awards. But, nevertheless, the facts do not support the wild and random statements that have been made regarding the failure of this kind of legislation. I recognise - no one more so - the difficulties that have to be overcome. Very much depends upon the persons chosen to preside over Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts. The right kind of men are, however, available. I make no comment upon magisterial benches, but our New South Wales experience reveals the fact that miserably small penalties have been inflicted on employers who have been guilty of breaches - penalties, in some cases, amounting to no more than half-a-crown or10s. Some employers have made many pounds by disobeying awards. They seem to have no respect for honour, honesty, or law. As long as the employing class controlled the making of the laws of this country, we used to hear a good deal from them about “ respect for law and order,” but now that there has been a change in regard to the party controlling the law-making machinery of the country, that wonderful respect for law which these people used to profess seems to have gone bv the board. They are quite reckless about it. They care nothing for law when it interferes with the makins of their miserable profits. This sort of thing has to be faced. We are now appealing to the electors to give us sovereign power in regard to the settlement of industrial disputes. Hitherto, the faults of the Federal law have been due to our want of power. We want to make the law more effective. We have discovered its limitations. The Federal Arbitration Court has been hemmed in by limitations owing to the reading given to the Constitution by the High Court. That reading was, no doubt, correct. It is astonishing that the law has worked so smoothly as it has done in the circumstances. But the experience we have had of it proves that more power should be given to this Parliament to makethe Court efficient to deal with disputes immediately they occur, and wherever they occur. If we have that power, we shall hear nothing about creating Inter- State disputes. There will be fewer strikes, and more harmony in the industrial world. As far as I can learn, the industrial arbitration system in Western Australia has worked fairly well. There has been some little disturbance in connexion with some awards, but I believe there have been some grounds for dissatisfaction. Here, also, experience shows that it has been the employing class and not the workers that have been inclined to break awards. Experience also shows that the Wages Board system is not so effective, and that the Wages Boards have not the same power to enforce their awards as is the case under the Arbitration Court system. As to the referenda, there is no doubt that the people were largely misled on the last occasion; and there can be no possible wrong or harm in the Parliament, when it finds itself “ tied up,” appealing for more power. Honorable members oppos ite, who have been so strongly opposing the Bills, show a very miserable mistrust of the people; and I cannot help thinking that they are very much afraid the Labour Government will be returned once more to carry out those ideas which they have been the first in the world to suggest relating to the great economic problems which are day by day becoming more pressing. The desire is to deal with the evil of trusts here before it becomes too big and too powerful. It is of no use the honorable member for Franklin and others talking about leaving the treatment of trusts and combines to the States, which, even in the simple matter of securing pure foods for the people, have shown their disinclination or their inability to act.
– That is rather rough on the honorable member’s confreres in New South Wales.
– We are not afraid to criticise our confreres, though I ought, in justice, to say that the Labour Government of South Australia did deal with the subject I have just mentioned. It is simply disgraceful that people should be deceived and robbed, and have their health jeopardized, by the sale of impure foods and poisonous compounds. As we all know, this is a matter on which there is a great degree of unanimity; and yet the States have neglected to use the powers they have to protect the community. What” hope, therefore, is there of the States dealing with the much larger problem of trusts and combines? The Federal Parliament has control of the Tariff, and may pass Customs laws; and it is only right, under the circumstances, that it should be given the opportunity to pass harmonious legislation relating to trade and commerce. It is well known that these big combinations exert tremendous influence by means of their money power in the States of America; and it is admitted by the leaders of the trusts that, in fixing prices at the most the public will stand, the wages to be paid to the men never enter into their consideration. In Australia we are fast drifting to the position we see in America. We are told here that the high wages are the cause of the high cost of living; but it was the honorable member for Moreton, I think, who admitted that there are other causes with which we can deal, and with- which, as a central Parliament, we ought to have the power to deal, rather than wait for the States, which are admittedly slow and powerless, except to a very limited degree. I believe that the next referenda will be an eye-opener to the Opposition, because I am looking forward to a majority in favour of our being given power to pass legislation which will show a lead to the rest of the world.
.- To all appearances the debate is languishing; and before it closes I desire to make a few general remarks which, though permitted on this Bill, might not be permitted at a later stage, when the other Bills are under discussion. I should like to refer, in the first place, to the Constitution, that sacrosanct document for which honorable members on the other side profess such profound respect; indeed, one would im agine, to hear them, that the Constitution had come down from Mount Sinai engraved on a tablet of stone. As a matter of fact, there is not a single original thought or idea throughout the whole of our Constitution. Sections have been extracted, almost in their entirety, from the Constitution of the United States ; and yet we have the honorable member for Wimmera, the honorable member for Franklin, and others, referring in awed tones to the services of those gentlemen who devoted themselves to the framing of the instrument. Why, bless my heart ! in my box upstairs I have a better Constitution which I framed myself ; and in that there is something original.
– Why does the honorable member not trot it out?
– I did “trot it out,” and had 950 copies printed, of which several - at least a dozen - were circulated. The section in the Constitution relating to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States is, like nearly- all the others, taken from the United States Constitution, the latter giving Congress power to regulate commerce “ with foreign nations, among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.”
– It is a wonder we did not add “the Indian tribes.”
– It certainly is a wonder that we did not provide for trade with the aborigines. In connexion with this section there was room for some original work. The framers of the Constitution might have taken out the words “ among the States,” which seem to be the cau e of the whole trouble, and have inserted other words which would have given a clearer definition, and have prevented much litigation. Then, again, the Constitution gives the Commonwealth Parliament power to borrow money on the public credit of the Commonwealth, while the United States Constitution empowers Congress to borrow money on the credit of the United States. Right through the whole of the instrument we have- th;S slavish copying. Possibly some honorable members have an idea that there is something original in the provision for an Inter-State Commission, as laid down in section 101, as follows: -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of arl judication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and “maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder
But the analogous United States provision is as follows : -
A Commission is hereby created and established to be known as the Inter-State Commission, which shall be composed of five Commissioners.
There is practically no difference; both provisions are mandatory, though no time is mentioned. My only desire is to show that the Constitution is entirely lacking in that originality and thought one might have expected from the gentlemen - two of whom are in this Chamber at the present moment - who framed it, and who claim credit for it as an original document, the most perfect of its kind in the world. As to the powers of the State Parliaments, our Constitution says: -
Every power of the Parliament of a Colony which has become or becomes a State, shall, unless it is by this Constitution exclusively vested in the Parliament of the Commonwealth or withdrawn from the Parliament of the State, continue as at the establishment of the Commonwealth, or as at the admission or establishment of the State, as the case may be.
The provision in the United States Constitution is as follows: -
The powers not granted to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.
As to levying charges for inspection purposes, there is the following power in section 112 of the Constitution, though, so far as I am aware, it has never been in force : -
After uniform duties of Customs have been imposed, a State may levy on imports or exports, or on goods passing into or out of the State, such charges as may be necessary for executing the inspection laws of the State; but the net produce of all charges so levied shall be for the use of the Commonwealth ; and any such inspection laws may be annulled by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
The United States provision is: -
No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws, and the net produce of all duties and imposts laid by any State on imports or exports shall be for the use of the Treasury of the United States, and all such law shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.
– Why is the honorable member making these comparisons? Is he arguing for Unification?
– No ; but I shall deal with the question of Unification presently. I am attempting to impress .on honorable members opposite the fact” that the Constitution, for which they claim so much sanctity, and which they hold should not be interfered with in any way, is almost an exact copy of a Constitution framed over one hundred years ago. I am convinced that if the people of the United States had to frame a Constitution to-day, it would most decidedly not be on the same lines.
– Would it be more Democratic ?
– It would be more Democratic, and present fewer difficulties.
– Then the honorable member does not believe that the trusts control the political machine in the United States?
– The trusts do not control the machine - they control the whole country.
– If that is the case, how could a new Constitution be made any more Democratic than the present one?
– The new Constitution would be more powerful in that Congress would be able to control trusts and combines. Every one knows that these combines, trusts, pools, and corporations are at present absolutely beyond control. You will see that stated in the American journals on the table of the Library.
– That is another way of saying that they control the people of America, and, if they do that, they would control the making of any new Constitution.
– If the Commonwealth gets the powers that are asked for, they will not control the people of this country. Had the framers of the Constitution of America been able to foresee the condition of things a hundred years later, they would have adopted other provisions. Why should a man who has imported a cask of gin be prosecuted because he takes it from one State to another? It is said that our Constitution should not be altered. But it provides for its own alteration. The procedure requires the vote of an absolute majority of each House of Parliament. In the Convention of 1897, the honorable member tor Ballarat was so impressed with the need for making alteration easier that he moved to omit the word “ absolute.” Had his motion been carried, merely a majority of a quorum in this chamber would have been sufficient, instead of the absolute majority of each House now required. ‘Several of the measures introduced by the Governments of which the honorable member was Prime Minister were ruled by the High Court to be unconstitutional. Did he, when introducing them, think that they were unconstitutional ? I believe that he was perfectly sincere, and thought them to be constitutional, and also thought them to be necessary. If they were necessary then, they are equally necessary now, and we can claim his support for these proposals to enable us to give effect to the measures which he submitted, and which were declared unconstitutional by the High Court. The honorable member for Swan, who has been spoken of as the Emperor of the West - a man whose ambition has been to lead a Government, who has always had a great deal to say of the purity, honour, and dignity, not merely of the Ministry, but also of the Parliament - stated in his place the other night that the Governments of which he was a member had been pushed on.
– Did not honorable members push? They pushed as hard as they could.
– Fancy a member of the type and reputation of the honorable member for Swan admitting that he allowed himself to be pushed.
– One always helps those who help him.
– If the honorable member was pushed into doing something of which his conscience disapproved-
– I did not say that.
– Has the honorable member no conscience ? Did not his remark imply that he would not have done what he did had he not been pushed? Did he not say that he had been eating dirt for three years?
– I have never said that.
– It has been said that the honorable member said that he had been eating dirt. Certainly the diet seemed to agree with him.
– The Labour party were pretty hard masters.
– Did the Labour party do any pushing?
– I denynothing and admit nothing; but a Government that allows itself to be pushed is not worthy of the confidence of Parliament or of the country. The Governments of which the honorable member for Swan was a Minister need not have been pushed, because they could always entrench themselves, and call up the Opposition reserves for their defence.
– It was the Labour party that called up the Opposition.
– When the honorable member for Ballarat went to the Old Country, accompanied by the honorable member for Hume, who was at the time Minister of Trade and Customs-
– The honorable member for Hume went first to attend the Navigation Conference.
– During the absence of these two members, the honorable member for Swan was Acting Prime Minister.
– And a nice mess he made of it.
– His administration was as good as that of the others.
– That is not saying much.
– Possibly not. But when his colleagues returned, the honorable member for Swan, who had been suffering so long from the dread disease called by learned people ankylostomiasis, suddenly found the diet which he had been taking, without any apparent evil effects to himself, too nauseous, and vomited his billet.
– The honorable member is not likely to do that.
– I do not think that I would allow the disease to affect me to the extent that it affected the honorable member. I think I could take a little of the diet if it were offered to me. This Spartan from the West, who had allowed his vitals to be gnawed without saying a. word, who had allowed his troubles to feed unnoticed, “ like a worm in the bud,” suddenly found them too much for him. What was the reason that his diet disagreed with him? He gave up his position, not because he had been pushed, or because he feared that the dirt-eating disease would get too strong a hold of him, but because he was deposed from his position as Acting Prime Minister by the honorable member for Hume. His reference to pushing was unnecessary, because the Government of the day had a willing and subservient Opposition always at its call ; and whenever the Corner party became too strenuous, and wanted something which it was thought impolitic or injudicious to give to it, the honorable member for Parramatta and his confrères came over to the Government side to relieve the tension.
– You wanted office, and we did not want to give you that.
– Like a celebrated politician in one of the States, I never want “ hoffis.” I would take it if offered, but I never look for it, being one of the most modest of men in that regard. Let me now refer to the memorandum of the honorable member for Darling Downs, of which, as it has already been read, I shall quote only the concluding sentence -
It would be more satisfactory if possible to take power over trade and commerce generally.
That was the advice of the honorable member to the people of South Africa, and when confronted with it the other night, although he smiled, his smile was not his usual healthy one; so that I think he did not like it. His position reminded me of a story I heard told by the Virginian Judge some time ago. The negroes of America are rather prone to chicken stealing, and a negro charged with that offence was arraigned before the Judge. But he was equal to the occasion, and had quite a number of his friends present to prove an alibi. They all swore positively that Mark Antony - which was the nigger’s name - was at least ten miles distant when the chickens were lifted. But the Judge thought that the evidence on the point was too unanimous, and, consequently, he said to the accused, “What have you to say? Have you any remarks to make?” “ Well, your Honour,” replied Mark Antony, “all I have to say is that I wish I had never seen the damn chickens.” I dare say that the honorable member for Darling Downs, when he was confronted with the document which he forwarded to South Africa, felt that he occupied very much the position of the nigger. I suppose that he says to-day, “ I wish I had never seen the infernal thing.” The honorable member for Parramatta has asked me to talk about Unification. I have spoken to quite a number of intelligent persons - quite as intelligent as are honorable members - and without exception they have told me that had they known they were going to saddle Australia with another Parliament and Governor, they would not have voted for Federation. They say that they voted for it under the impression that by so doing they would get rid of six Parliaments and six Governors, and establish in their place one Parliament and one Governor-General. It is true that a copy of the draft Constitution was forwarded to each elector. But some of them had no time to read it, and others - if they read it - would not understand it. But they were all under the impression that with the advent of Federation we would have one Parliament, and oneParliament only. I say that if the question were submitted to the electors as towhether we should abolish this comic opera business of having fourteen Houses of Parliament, six Governors, and a GovernorGeneral, and replace them with, one Parliament, they would unhesitatingly vote in favour of that course being adopted. In every instance they have shown that they are in favour of reducing the number of members of the State Parliaments. In 1903 a referendum . was taken in New South Wales as to whether the Parliament of that State should be reduced from 125, members to 90 members or 100 members. On that occasion the votein favour of a reduction to ninety membersfar exceeded the vote, recorded in favour of either of the other propositions. Possibly if the electors had been afforded art opportunity of voting for the abolition of the State Parliament, or of reducing itsnumbers very considerably, they would have decided in favour of the adoption of one of those courses. The vote recorded’, in favour of a reduction of the members of the New South Wales Parliament to ninety was 206,273, that in favour of a reduction? to 100 was 13,316, and the vote recorded in favour of maintaining the Parliament at 125 members was 63,000. The last-named represented the Conservative vote, whicb always desires to leave things as they are. In this connexion I am reminded of a little story of a gentleman who was aloft at the time of the creation, and who, when it was proposed to create the universe, exclaimed. “ Oh, for heaven’s sake leave things as they are, let chaos remain.” For every vote recorded in favour of reducing the New South Wales Parliament to 100 and 125 memberscombined, 2.85 votes were registered in favour of reducing its membership to ninety. The most Conservative electorates of that State to-day are those of Lang. North Sydney, Parkes, and Wentworth. The votes recorded in Lang in favour of a reduction to ninety members totalled 15,683, whilst those in favour of a reduction to 100 members totalled only 849.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30p.m.
– We all know that Lang returns one of the most Conservative members to this Parliament. I regret that he is not present. At one time he was more than a Liberal - he was a Radical. In fact, if there had been any anarchists in existence at that period he would have belonged to them. In North Sydney the votes recorded in favour of a reduction of the State Parliament to ninety members numbered 16,000, those in favour of a reduction to 100 members totalled 312, whilst those registered in favour of maintaining the strength of the Parliament at 125 members aggregated 1,316. In Parkes, the votes recorded in favour of a reduction to ninety members numbered 16,616, those in favour of a reduction to 100 members totalled 530, and those in favour of maintaining the strength of the Parliament at 125 members aggregated 1,813. Similarly, in Wentworth, the votes registered in favour of a reduction to ninety members totalled 14,517, those in favour of a reduction to one hundred members numbered 616, and those in favour of the maintenance of the strength of the Parliament at 125 members totalled 1,746. I have quoted these figures for the purpose of showing that if the electors were afforded an opportunity they would abolish the State Parliaments.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– The honorable member for Capricornia, I regret to say, looks at everything with only one eye, and on that account his vision is very distorted. He thinks that there ought to be more States. The present condition of affairs appeals to me as a real comic-opera performance. The idea that we require fourteen Houses of Parliament, six Governors, and a GovernorGeneral to govern less than 4,500,000 people is absurd.
– And there are six Agents-General and a High Commissioner.
– Exactly. During this debate reference has been made to the South African Constitution. It will be interesting, therefore, to show the opinion which was held of the Constitution which was being framed in South Africa by its leading men. There were four States which gave up their sovereign rights to join the Union.
– A good thing to join.
– Certainly the South African Union is an exceptionally good thing from my point of view, in that the people of those States united for one purpose, and that purpose one of the most liberal and patriotic description. In speaking upon the closer union of the South African States in the Parliament of that country on the 22nd June, 1908, Mr. Louis Botha is reported in the South African Hansard to have said -
After peace was declared the policy adopted was one of Customs union and railway conventions; but that policy turned out to be an unfortunate one, as it did not satisfy either the Transvaal or the rest of South Africa. Everywhere dissatisfaction arose, which seemed eventually to lead to still greater dissatisfaction. The interests of one colony are practically identical with those of the other colonies, and yet because there are different governments it adopts its own policy.
That is the position which obtains in Australia. Each State adopts its own policy, which often conflicts with the policy of another State, or of the Commonwealth. Upon the same date, Sir George Farrar, Leader of the Opposition, said -
The patchwork arrangement which already exists in regard to the Customs, railways, and economic questions is really hampering the development of South Africa in the most fatal manner. As soon as we can do so let us put this Union through, and make a fresh start (cheers) and move ahead as fast as we can. (Cheers.) Sir, the most important solvent of all our questions in South Africa will be the spirit of South African, patriotism. (Loud and prolonged cheering.) When we are young and inexperienced, we think that intellect solves the problems of the world, that it is the reason of man that solves great problems ; but as we get older, sir, we see that while intellect does much, it is really the spirit of union, of comradeship, the spirit of friendship amongst men, that forms the strongest impelling force amongst mankind, and if we want to apply those methods to the solution of our problems, let us have the dynamic energy of South African patriotism, and South African comradeship, and the sooner the better.
On the 2nd June, 1909, Mr. Louis Botha, Premier of the Transvaal, in moving the resolution for the acceptance of the draft South African Act, as finally adopted at Bloemfontein on the nth May, 1909, said -
In conclusion, I wish to point out that by adopting the Constitution Parliament is signing its own death warrant. But it is an honour to sign that death warrant for the sake of the greater ideals of South Africa, one in sentiment, one in spirit, and animated with the same ideals. In case we accept that document, we shall consolidate all” our property, all our possessions, with those of our brethren in the other colonies.
The resolution was seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, Sir George Farrar, and agreed to amidst considerable applause. That was the spirit which animated them - a spirit which is entirely absent from Australia at the present moment, as is evidenced by the attitude which is taken up by honorable members opposite, and by the honorable member for Capricornia.
– Perhaps the honorable member will tell us how they elect the Senate in South Africa?
– I am not entirely in accord with the South African Constitution. In my Constitution, to which I have already made reference, and which is a document containing many novel, original, and brilliant ideas, I have adopted somewhat different methods. If I may be prophetic for a moment, I expeat to have an opportunity in the next Parliament to introduce my Constitution again, and I may inform honorable members that I shall then propose the abolition of the Senate. The Senate in South Africa is not elective. Some of the members are appointed for life. I entirely disapprove of that, though I have little doubt that the honorable member for Capricornia, in common with myself, would like to be appointed to such a Chamber for life. I may be pardoned for referring to the South African Constitution, because it has been mentioned more than once during this debate, and it is useful to compare the powers of this Parliament and their relation to the powers of the State Parliament with the powers of the Dominion Parliament of South Africa and their relation to the powers of the Parliaments of the Provinces of the Union. Section 85 of the South African Constitution deals with the powers delegated to the Parliaments of the Provinces, and amongst them I find : - (i.) Direct taxation within the Province in order to raise a revenue for provincial purposes. (ii.) The borrowing of money on the whole credit of the Province with the consent of the Governor in Council, and in accordance with the regulations to be framed by Parliament.
I have adopted that in my Constitution. But I provide that the States should have only one creditor, which should be the Commonwealth. That is an eminently wise provision, which honorable members would expect in a document emanating from myself. Here are some of the further powers delegated to the Provinces tinder the South African Constitution: - (iii.) Education other than higher education for a period of five years, and thereafter until Parliament otherwise provides.
I have eliminated the control of education altogether from the State powers in my Constitution. I give full power over education to the Commonwealth, because if there is one matter which should be of universal application it is the matter of education. There should certainly be one system of education throughout the Commonwealth. That is one brilliant idea in the construction of a Constitution which P present to honorable members for nothing. Section 85 of the South African Constitution further provides for the delegation of powers to the Provincial Parliaments with respect to - (iv.) Agriculture to the extent and subject to the conditions defined by Parliament. (v.) The establishment, maintenance, and management of hospitals and charitable institutions. (vi.) Municipal institutions, divisional councils, and other local institutions of a similar nature. (vii.) Local works and undertakings, within the Province other than railways and harbors, and such other works as extend beyond the borders of the Province, and subject to the power of Parliament to declare any work a national work, and to provide for its construction by arrangement with the Provincial Council or otherwise. (viii.) Roads, outspans, ponts, and bridges, other than bridges connecting two provinces. (ix.) Markets and pounds. (x.) Fish and game preservation. (xi.) The imposition of punishment by fine, penalty, or imprisonment for enforcing anv law or any Ordinance of the Province, made in relation to any matter coming within any of the classes of subjects enumerated in this section. (xii.) Generally all matters which, in the opinion of the Governor-General, are of a merely local or private nature in the Province.
I consider that most of the powers are very properly delegated to the Parliaments of the Provinces, whilst the main powers, such as the trade and commerce power, with which we are now dealing, are left under the South African Constitution in the hands of the Dominion Parliament. Honorable members opposite say that we should not have the powers for which we are asking because we are not -qualified to use them if we had them. But I point out that they raise no objection to the exercise of these powers by the Commonwealth Parliament in the Territories of the Commonwealth, the Federal Capital Territory, Papua, and the Northern Territory.
– They are Territories, and not States.
– But if we are going to do the mad things which honorable members opposite have suggested, and if we would abuse these powers, the objection should apply with equal force to their exercise in the conduct of the affairs of the Territories of the Commonwealth. I might be permitted to say that when honorable members opposite speak in this strain, the inference is that we are going to remain on the Ministerial benches for all time. Personally, I think we shall, but events might prove otherwise. Why should we not be refused these powers in the government of the Territories as well as in connexion with the conduct of affairs within the States? I quote now from Quick and Garran in regard to the attitude adopted on the question of broadening the powers of the Commonwealth, and proposing a scheme of practical Unification -
In 1894 Sir G. Dibbs, in a speech to his constituents at Tamworth, proposed a scheme of complete Unification. This was at once condemned by Sir Henry Parkes and Mr. E. Barton.
In a letter Sir G. Dibbs submitted his scheme to Sir James Patterson of Victoria, in which letter he stated that he had given much consideration to the matter since the Convention of 1891, more especially since the fiasco of the banking found us so injuriously divided. He desired to first unify the two largest colonies.
He further set out his objections to the Commonwealth Bill ; it leaned too much to the American ideas, and too little to the Canadian; it involved the expense of State and Federal establishments; its financial provisions were unfair and unworkable; equal representation in the Senate was absurd.
On the other hand, it secured no Federal control over the public debts, railways, or land revenues, and would tend to perpetuate the existing rivalries. “ How far more beneficial in every way ; how much more likely to extend our revenues and minimize our expenditure ; how far more impressive to the outside world and to our creditors in England, would a complete pool of our stocks, our railways, and our national establishments generally be.”
That is the utterance of a patriot, and I do not see one on the Opposition benches. Sir George Dibbs went on to say -
We are none of us so badly off that we cannot be permitted to meet each other on equal terms. In such a partnership New South Wales would not be disposed to say to her neighbours, “ Your debts are more burdensome, your railways and lands less productive, than ours.” We would give to the united Government that prestige and supreme control which is almost entirely denied under the Commonwealth scheme, wherein the Federal Legislature would be numerically and structurally overshadowed by the State Governments.
That was the scheme formulated by Sir George Dibbs, who, like myself, was a little ahead of his time. I am afraid I am a little ahead of my time in the Constitution I have framed, but I am in the sere and yellow leaf, and -
Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
And coming events cast their shadows before.
I can see the shadow of Unification remarkably prominent and well-defined before me at the present moment. I have only to close my eyes to see . one great Parliament dominating Australia, one nation, one people, one flag, and one destiny. I have something to say with regard to the right of the people to consider these matters, not as this Parliament or the State Parliaments desire, but as the people themselves desire. Our Constitution is based on the American Constitution. It was the outcome of a vote of the people, just as the American Constitution was. The preamble of the American Constitution begins, “ We, thepeople of the United States,” and Mr. Justice Marshall laid special emphasis on that in a decision which he gave. He has been repeatedly referred to by the legal talent on the Opposition benches as one of the most able men who have ever sat on the United States Supreme Court Bench. He has interpreted the Constitution, probably, as well as it was possible to interpret it. Its interpretation has been most remarkable, judging by the decisions given in the United States Supreme Court. They have been most contradictory and inconsistent. I would recommend honorable members to read some of them, and note the absurdities which they contain. In the case Marburg v. Madison, Chief Justice Marshall said -
That the people have an original right to establish, for their future Government, such principles as in their opinion shall most conduce to their own happiness, is the basis on. which the whole American fabric has been reared.
The Constitution of the United States was ordained and established, not by the Statesin their sovereign capacities, but emphatically, as the preamble of the Constitution declares, by the people of the United States.
There can be no doubt that it was competent to the people to invest the General Governments with all the powers they might deem proper and necessary ; to extend these powers according to their own good will and pleasure, and to give them a paramount authority.
As little doubt can there be that the people had a right to prohibit to the States the exercise of any powers which were, in their judgment, incompatible with the objects of the general compact; to make the powers of the State Governments in given cases subordinate to those of the Nation, or to reserve to themselves those sovereign authorities which they might not choose to delegate to either.
I will quote here the preamble fo theAmerican Constitution -
We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
There was no question of the Parliaments - doing these things, the whole matter rested with the people; and we desire that the form of our Constitution shall also rest with the people. It has been urged on the other side that, as we have already asked the people to give us these powers, we have no right to refer these questions to them again at so early a date. But, before these questions will be referred to them, more than two years will have elapsed from the time when they previously considered them; and surely it is not unreasonable to suppose that, within that period, the people would have had time for thought upon these matters, and may be prepared, as I honestl y believe they are, to reverse the vote they gave on a previous occasion. If, in the opinion of the Government, it is desirable that these questions should be again referred to the people at this stage, the Government is the proper authority to decide the matter. Many things may happen an two years. There is an old friend of mine who proposed eleven times in six months to the same girl, and was finally accepted, and has been sorry for it ever since. He was a very persevering sort of man. I propose to read from Quick and Garran a quotation as to why a matter should be referred to the people occasionally. Tt is not a quotation from any other authority, but a statement by the authors of The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth. At page 988, they say -
A Constitution is a charter of government; it is a deed of trust, containing covenants between the sovereign community and its individual units. Those covenants should not he lightly or inconsiderately altered. At the same time a Constitution which d’d not contain provision for its amendment with the development, growth, and expansion of the community which it is intended to govern would he a most inadequate and imoerfect deed of partnership. It would be doomed to collapse ignominiously, and without hope of reconstruction. It would be bound to break beneath the pressure of national forces, which it could not control or resist. A Constitution mav be compared to a living organism. It is not in the nature of a living organism to remain monotonously the same fromyear to year, and from age to age. As with individual units, so with nations, change is one of the laws of life. The Constitution of a nation is the outward and visible manifestation of its national life, to the pulsations of which it necessarily responds. The energy within anv healthy organic structure must find vent in change. Change assumes various external forms. The power in a progressive community is never quiescent or stationary.
I think that no words could be more impressive than those words written by a gentleman who now sits on the Opposition bench and condemns in the strongest possible way the attempt which is being made to bring about a change. The words are worthy of any honorable member sitting on this side. I ask honorable members to read them carefully and treasure them in their memories.
– What is the trouble about that ; who is objecting to that ?
– I am very glad that the honorable member does not object to it. But there are so very few things that he does not object to that this exception which he has made in favour of Quick and Garran is much to their credit.
– You want to put a charge of shrapnel in the Constitution.
– I would burn the Constitution in order to substitute my own. No doubt, the honorable member considers that it is something like sacrilege on my part to speak of handling the Constitution in so drastic a manner. At the same time, with all due respect to his feelings, I think that, given the opportunity at a later date when I have had my say in reference to the matter, the honorable member and others who are now opposed to me will be only too happy to support my proposal. In regard to coinage, I have taken some figures from Knibbs. As the first member of this Parliament who referred to the matter of coinage, I may be forgiven for taking a little credit to myself for having anticipated somewhat what would happen. In the first address I had the honour to deliver to this august Chamber, I estimated the profit on coinage at from , £60,000 to £80,000 ; and I find, from Knibbs, that the revenue last year was , £198.000. The cost of this Parliament is spoken of in a deprecatory way, and it is maintained that it is costing much more than it ought to do, that it is an additional tax, as it were, upon the people. But I contend that it is costing Australia practically nothing. Do not think for a moment that I am using this as an argument for increasing our allowances; I am not. This Parliament is costing Australia nothing in this way : that prior to Federation no State had the power to coin silver or copper. There was a power from the Imperial Parliament to mint sovereigns and half-sovereigns, but no power to mint silver or copper. By the establishment of the Australian Parliament we have power to do the hitter, and the cost of this Parliament last year, including the cost of the Governor-General, his residence, and everything else, and deducting the cost of the referendum of1911 and a third of the cost of the elections in 1910, would, according to Knibbs, come to about £ 170.000; whereas the profit on coinage was about equal. In conclusion, I wish to appeal to honorable members on the other side who say that we have no trusts in Australia. Admitting that for the sake of argument, I ask, why not prevent the possibility of a trust arising here? I do not even say that we should nip a trust in the bud, but I say that it should never be allowed to bud; the seed should not be allowed to be sown, and if sown it should not be allowed to germinate. Let us give no opportunity for a trust to arise. No honorable member on the other side will deny for a moment that a beef trust does exist in the United States. If a beef trust exists in that country, what better field for its operation can there be than Australia, where there are 92,000,000 sheep and 11,000,000 cattle? If their operations are so extensive, and have such a detrimental effect in the United States, whyshould they not extend their operations here if allowed? I appeal to honorable members for that reason alone to give the powers which are asked by the Government, and prevent the establishment of that trust in Australia. Even if there is no need to jump at once, you should, at any rate, keep in training for what is in front of you.
.- I should not have risen but for the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert in reference to the operations of the Beef Trust in America. In view of the fate of the referenda proposals in 191 1, I think it is a very bold act for this Government to again submit the proposals to the people. I have no hesitation in predicting that they will be defeated by a larger number of votes than they were defeated by last year. It is well-known that the Federal Parliament is in very bad odour. If a referendum were taken upon a proposal to wipe out the Parliament a much larger vote would be obtained for that course than for a proposal to give it extended power of any sort. The opinion generally entertained by the people is that Parliament is making a very bad use of the powers, it has, and that opinion will be found to be accentuated when the polls are declared next year. It is making too great a demand upon the electors to ask them to vote for senators and members of this House, and also to deal with proposals which take all the skill in the Chamber to understand. I feel quite sure that the Government will not get the electors to understand them. I propose to deal with things about which I know a little. We were told some time ago that with the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank we should be able to get cheap money all over Australia, but now we find that money is dearer than ever it has been, and harder to get.
– The Commonwealth Bank has not started yet.
– I hope that when it does start it will do something. Certainly the establishment of the Savings Bank branch has disorganized the whole of the financial business of the Commonwealth. At the present time no man cantake up any business and handle it at any profit. A little while ago one could get money for such a purpose, but now one cannot.
– In my electorate there are financiers who will lend the honorable member , £20,000 to-morrow at 4 per cent.
– I make bold to say that the honorable member cannot get in his electorate , £1,000 at 4 per cent, without giving three times as much security? as it is worth.
– I will take the honorable member to financiers to-morrow if he likes.
– I am sure that the honorable member could not carry out his undertaking. What we have to look forward to is fresh taxation, and the land-holders are those who will have to suffer. This morning the honorable member for Darling spoke about the unions and their control. I am always glad to see the honorable member on his feet here. He was the first president of the Shearers’ Union of Australia, and he did a lot of good in this way : that, while he secured very much better conditions for the men, he did not take away the incentive to a man to do his best. I think that if we look round Australia we shall find more shearers in responsible positions, and well-to-do, than we shall find in regard to any other class. The reason is that every shearer, when he goes into a shed, is allowed to dhis best. If he can shear 150 sheep in a day, he is paid for them at so much per sheep, and he does not pay any more for his food and housing than does a man whshears only 100 sheep. That is a great incentive to a man to go righton and do his best; but when you tie up men in a union and say to a man, “ You must not do more than this during your working hours,” you take the very best out of him ; there is absolutely no incentive for him to go on. At the conclusion of his speech, the honorable member for Herbert said that he did not wish the great American Beef Trust to get a footing in this country, where there are 92,000,000 sheep, and 11,000,000 cattle, as he would not like to see prices get any cheaper than they are.
– I would not like to see the Trust take them all away.
– That is not the way in which the honorable member put it. He said that the farmers and the graziers would not get as much then as they should do.
– Oh, no!
– Last year, some of us had the pleasure of visiting Chicago with men who had thoroughly looked into this business. We had an order to go over the works of Armour Brothers, one of the largest firms in that country, and also those of Swift and Sons. In this particular business, the former employ 1,000 clerks, and 5,000 other hands, and the number of animals they can put through in a day is 15,000 pigs, 3,500 cattle, and 10,000 sheep. The markets are the most perfectly equipped in the world. In every yard are to be found conveniences for feeding and watering the stock, and we were informed that at one market the day sales totalled 80,000 pigs, 60,000 cattle, and 70,000 sheep. Markets are held every day in the week except Saturday and Sunday, and at one which we attended the yardings were 24,000 cattle, 30,000 pigs, and 26.000 sheep. The rule of the market is that all stock shall be sold at per pound live weight. On the occasion of our visit, cattle brought 7½ dollars per 100 lbs., and . sheep 7 cents per lb. As soon as a sale is over, the animals are weighed on specially constructed weighbridges. There can be no thance of fraud, because the weighing takes place under the supervision of a Government inspector, and in the presence of the owners or the agents. Any one standing by may take the weights of the stock. The advantage of this system of selling at per pound live weight is that the farmer who specially feeds his stock reaps the benefit of his labour. Those interested in cattle raising know that cattle fed carefully on corn will weigh much heavier than will cattle fed on native grasses on the branches, and under this system the man who specially feeds his stock reaps the benefit of his work. Instead of decrying the system, I think that we might very well copy it. There is absolutely no waste in connexion with it. Everything is used up economically. On the occasion of our visit we met a farmer who had travelled a distance of about 1,000 miles with a mob of cattle, which he told us he was waiting to sell. “ After they are sold,” said he, “ I am going to see them weighed.” He sold his cattle at per pound live weight, and we saw them weighed and sent straight on to Armour and Sons’ factory, where they were slaughtered and dealt with withoutleaving the premises. Whatever may be said regarding the operations of these meat buyers, the fact remains that the farmers in the United States of America have far better facilities for selling their stock than exist in Australia.
– In the weighing of stock ; that is about all.
– I wish that the same system were copied in Australia.
– How do the prices compare with South Australian prices ?
– Cattle brought nearly double the price that they were then bringing in South Australia.
– The report of Government officials is against that statement.
– I am not in the habit of making misstatements.
– No; but the honorable member is quoting statements from a book.
– Of which he is one of the authors.
– I have put before the House figures taken at the time by the honorable member for Cowper, my brother, and myself. I had no idea when we were jotting them down that I should be quoting them in this House, but I have given them for the information of honorable members. I am prepared to supply addresses to which honorable members may write and verify the accuracy of my statements. The yardings and the prices obtained are placed every day on blackboards in the market.
– What is the retail price of meat there?
– A little in excess of the price of meat here, but the difference is not great.
– We were told the other day that beef was sold for 4d. a lb. in America
– Farmers and graziers in the United States of America are much better off than are their brothers in Australia. We hear a lot about the monopoly of land, but the fact remains that land can also be obtained on better terms in the United States of America and in Canada *han in this country. Instead of decrying the people of the United States of America and Canada, we should seek to emulate them in many respects. I have always been in favour of giving the land to the people on the most reasonable terms, and I think that we are making a serious mistake in not pushing on at once with the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. We have in the ranges some of the finest country in the world, and as soon as it is opened up by a railway, thousands of people from the United States and Canada will be prepared to settle on it. It would be much better to push on with Such a work instead of passing what I considerto be a lot of pettifogging legislation. I can only say, in conclusion, that if the Government think they are going to obtain for the Federal Parliament any increase of power, they are a long way out of their reckoning. The Parliament is in such bad odour in Australia that I am convinced that these proposals will be rejected by the people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Frazer) adjourned until a later hour (vide page 6313).
Debate resumed from 19th November (vide page 5644), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I had hoped to hear the AttorneyGeneral, in moving the second reading of this Bill, give in support of it some reasons which should have at least some relevance to it. This is essentially a measure which, on its face, proposes to invest the Federal Parliament with a new power, one that requires some highly technical explanations. The Attorney-General’s speech, however, consisted only of a long, and somewhat inaccurate, invective against what are known as trusts and combinations. Except in the most indirect way, the Bill before the House has nothing whatever to do with trusts and combinations. It is true that, among the multitudinous forms of machinery which trusts and combines in theUnited States of America have adopted for carrying out their purposes, there is onewhirh has occasionally been resorted to, and which is called a “holding corporation.” The great bulk of these trusts and combines,, however, have carried on their operations, whether they were injurious to the publicor not, by quite different methods. They have carried them on by agreements, by what are known as “ vends “ - which areusually only agreements - by other forms ofagreements known as “ corners,” by theconstruction of what are known as “trusts,”’ and by a host of other means, which any one who has any curiosity on the subject will find fully discussed in the great standard) work, Eddy on Combinations. That work, which is published in two volumes, deals; with monopolies, trusts, combinations, conspiracies, and contracts in restraint of trade. The point that I wish to emphasizeis that, in taking power over corporations,, we shall secure, to only an infinitesimal extent, the power to make laws with regard to the regulation or prohibition of combines’ and trusts. I shall be able to prove thatstatement in a moment or two. By seekingto take power over corporations, the particular power for which this Bill provides^ the Government are proposing to take that which has practically nothing whatever to do with trusts and combines, and* which may be attended with very mischievous and dangerous results. Thepower to deal with corporations as it now stands in the Bill is a power to deal with the creation, dissolution, regulation,, and control of trading corporations. The main purpose- of the Bill, apparently, is to enable this Parliament te make laws dealing with all the actions of corporations - relating, not merely to their creation, but to their conduct throughout the whole course of their history. That power is covered by the words “ regulation! and control.” Put shortly, the object of this Bill is to carry into effect what the High Court in the Huddart Parker case held to be the reductio ad absurdum of the argument as to the construction of the Constitution which was advanced by counsel for the Crown. Paragraph xx. of section. 5 r gives the Parliament power to makelaws in regard to “ foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporationsformed within the limits of the Commonwealth.” It was argued on behalf of the Crown, in the Huddart Parker case, that that provision gave the most complete control over corporations, enabling this Parliament to make laws with regard to anything that corporations might do. The Full Bench of the High Court, after the most careful consideration, came to the conclusion that to hold that that was the meaning of the provision would be to ascribe to those who framed our Constitution a scheme which would be not only unworkable, but absurd in the highest degree. In other words, the Court held that to say that that provision was intended to give this Parliament power to make laws with regard to the whole of the operations of corporations would be to introduce into the administration of the law the grossest confusion throughout the whole realm of business affairs. That cannot be better expressed than it was by one of the learned Justices. The passage, to which I am about to refer has been cited before. It cannot, however, be cited too often, because what was then condemned by the Court as evidence of the absurdity of the view put forward by the Crown as to the meaning of this provision in the Constitution as it stands, is the very thing which the AttorneyGeneral is now asking us to do. What I am about to quote is a passage from the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins, who, I think, puts this aspect of the case, perhaps, more forcibly than did any of the other Judges. He said -
If the argument for the Crown is right - or, to apply the criticism immediately to this debate, if this Bill passes - because it is exactly the same thing - what is the result ? the results are certainly extraordinarily big with confusion.
Of course, Mr. Justice Higgins was not referring to this Bill, which was not then in existence. But the Bill does exactly what it was argued that the Constitution did ; and with that argument Mr. Justice Higgins was dealing. He continued -
If it is right, the Federal Parliament is in a position -
We may say if this Bill passes this Parliament will be in a position - to frame a new system of libel laws applicable to newspapers owned by corporations, while the State law of libel would have to remain applicable to newspapers owned by individuals.
I am very sorry that we have not the honour of the presence- of the AttorneyGeneral on this occasion. In dealing with such a Bill, the House must to some extent trust to the legal members with regard to the explanation of a very technical matter.
– I will try to find the AttorneyGeneral for the honorable member.
– Unless the AttorneyGeneral is prepared to listen to the arguments of legal members on this side, the debate is certainly useless. I propose to suggest that certain words ought to be omitted, and the Postmaster-General, who appears to be in charge of Government business will not be able to follow exactly the technical arguments which I propose to advance. Can honorable members imagine anything more absurd than the state of things supposed by Mr. Justice Higgins? Is it possible to conceive of any sane set of people attempting, to enact as part of our Constitution a provision that would place in the hands of this Parliament the right to say what should be the law of libel in respect of a newspaper managed by a company, leaving to the State Parliaments the right to say what the law of libel should be with regard to’ newspapers owned by private individuals? You would have one law oflibel applicable to certain newspapers in Australia whichI need not mention, and another law applicable to another set of newspapers.
– We have practically six libel laws in operation in Australia now.
– They are applicable to the particular States in which the newspapers carry on their business. These two libel laws, however, would be applicable in the same city, to newspapers subject to the same conditions in regard to publication. If honorable members will only patiently listen to the view which I am endeavouring to put, on the authority of Mr. Justice Higgins, they will see that they are asked to impose a monstrous absurdity upon the Constitution. His Honour continued -
If it is right, the Federal Parliament is competent to enact licensing Acts creating a new set of administration and of offences applicable only to hotels belonging to corporations.
That is to say,you would actually have in this city of Melbourne, if an hotel were owned by a company, one set of licensing regulations applicable to it, whilst other hotels owned by private individuals would be subservient to another set of regulations. Let me quote Mr. Justice Higgins just a little further -
If it is right, the Federal Parliament may enact that no foreign, or trading, or financial corporation shall pay its employes less than 10s. a day, or charge more than 6 per cent. interest, whereas other corporations and persons would be free from such restrictions. If it is right, the Federal Parliament can enact that no officer of a corporation shall be an Atheist or a Baptist, or that all must be teetotallers. If it is right, the Federal Parliament can repeal the Statute of Frauds for contracts of a corporation -
That is a Statute which requires certain contracts, to be valid, to be in writing - or may make some new Statute of Limitations applicable only to corporations. Taking the analogous power to make laws with regard to lighthouses, if the respondent’s argument is Tight, the Federal Parliament can license a lighthouse for the sale of beer and spirits, or may establish schools in lighthouses with distinctive or doctrinal teachings, although the licensing laws and education laws are, for ordinary purposes, left to the State Legislatures.
Now, sir, one would at least have thought, in the face of that strong statement by one of the Judges of the High Court - backed, though not in such picturesque language, or with equal force of argument, by each of the other Judges - that the AttorneyGeneral, in coming to this House to ask us to pass a Bill which, in effect, gives the powers that were so absolutely condemned as absurd by the Judges, would have advanced some reasons why the House should do so. Yet I have looked from one end of the speech of the AttorneyGeneral to the other, and not one single reason is brought forward in support of the measure. The whole speech of the honorable and learned gentleman consists simply of a very ingenious, somewhat inaccurate, and very rhetorical tirade against trusts and combines, with which practically this Bill has nothing to do.
– This particular Bill.
– This particular Bill has nothing to do with them. It only touches trusts and combines in the most indirect way. In Mr. Eddy’s book on Combinations, there is a very instructive chapter on the extent to which the power of incorporation has been used as machinery for trusts carrying out the objects of business combination. Mr. Eddy points out that the earlier forms of combinations, in which large masses of wealth were aggregated, and which conducted practices not considered foi the benefit of the public, were usually carried out by a very simple agreement, or by the formation of a combine, or by other methods, all of which were merely machinery for attaining the main thing, and that was the actual combination itself. The trust, or whatever was the particular mode of carrying out what was desired, was only the machinery. Mr. Eddy points out in this book that within a comparatively late period the trusts had found it necessary in a somewhat small number of cases, to give effect to their purposes in carrying out injurious combinations, to form what were called holding: companies - that is to say, companies the main object of which was to obtain certain, shares in other companies. ‘ It is to that extent, and that only, that this Bill isgoing to deal with trusts and combinations y and to show how very indirectly relevant it is to trusts and combinations, we may take the speech of the Attorney-General himself, in which he attacked first the CoalVend, and then the Sugar Company. I think those were the only instances in Australia with which he dealt. I should like to ask the Attorney-General, was there a corporation of the kind which I have mentioned in connexion with the Coal Vend? Had the Vend instance, which he cited, anything to do with the additional powers sought to be given to this Parliament todeal with corporations? Absolutely nothing ! I was not engaged in that case myself, and I am not familiar withall the details; but I think I amright in saying that the agreement in» the Coal Vend case, whether right, or wrong, was merely an agreement between, a number of companies or persons carrying on their own businesses to carry on those businesses in a particular way ; and there was no corporation or company formed for the purpose of carrying out the purposesof a trust. So that the illustration which’ the Attorney-General gave from the Vend case had no bearing directly or indirectly upon the subject of the Bill which he was introducing. He also mentioned the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. That again, had nothing whatever to do with this matter. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company was originally, and has always been, an ordi-nary company carrying on a commercialbusiness. It may have been very success^ ful. Personally, I know nothing about its affairs. Probably it has been very successful. ‘ By that means it has created, possibly, a very large interest, or what may beordinarily called a monopoly. I do not. know whether that is so or not. But if you had had power to deal with corporations as this Bill proposes, you would not have had one ounce more power to deal with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company than you have now. Therefore, both, the illustrations upon which the AttorneyGeneral relied, I venture to submit, withall respect to him, had nothing to do with, the Bill before the House.
– They had more to do with the platform outside.
– Yes; and in that connexion I may be pardoned for reading a passage from Mr. Eddy’s book dealing with this very subject of corporate combinations. Mr. Eddy may be taken to be undoubtedly the greatest authority on combinations and trusts in the world. He deals with the rights of individuals, the rights of partnerships, the righfs of corporations to conduct large businesses in the ordinary method, and atpage 604 he makes use of language to which I wish to direct the attention of the Attorney-General. He says -
The mere size of the combination is immaterial. Whether a corporation be capitalized at a small amount or a large amount, is as immaterial as is the wealth of an individual or the resources of a partnership. The extent of the resources -
This is what I commend to the Attorney- General - is not evidence of either wrong doing or right doing. The association of two insignificant individuals commanding no capital and no resources may be an unlawful combination, whereas a partnership, or a corporation, having millions at its command, may be an entirely lawful combination.
With so much I think the Attorney-General will agree, because he has expressed that view in his own speech. It is not the mere fact of a combination that is the evil. It is a combination which possesses certain characteristics which tend towards the detriment of the public that is evil. Mr. Eddy goes on to say -
It is so easy to obscure right notions by the stise of sounding phrases, such as ‘“gigantic aggregation,” “ enormous combinations,” “ vast aggregations of capital,” “ huge monopolies,” &c.-
These phrases have all a familiar sound to us - many such phrases might be culled from decisions in this connexion - that it would be a wise rule to rigidly exclude all such terms from the discussion of the subject, for they mean nothing, and lead to nothing except erroneous conclusions. The legality of a combination is not determined by the use of epithets ; it is a matter for sober and serious investigation ; it is a question of fact to be determined by weighing a mass of evidence ; it is not a matter that can be successfully disposed of by rhetoric. ‘
With every word of that I cordially agree. In this connexion I was surprised to find the Attorney-General, in his secondreading speech, make what I am afraid was only a slightly veiled attack on the decisions of the High Court of Australia, it is a. great pity that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth should be found attacking the authority of the highest Court, which it is a prime part of his functions as Attorney-General to maintain in the respect of the people. It will be within the memory of honorable members that, even before the commencement of the session, the Attorney-General, in connexion with the Vend case, published in the newspapers certain extracts from the judgment of Mr. Justice Isaacs in the Court below, and from the judgment of the Court of Appeal. It was fairly apparent, I think, that that publication was not entirely for the purpose of enlightening the public as to the true meaning of the judgments of either the Court below or the Court of Appeal. All the Attorney-General’s utterances during the debate on this particular Bill tend to confirm the impression that he desired to show, in regard to the Vend case, that Mr. Justice Isaacs was right and that the Court of Appeal was wrong. I submit to the House that that is not the attitude that he should take up. I have always understood that in the very high position he occupies we should expect, not only a fair and complete measure of justice from him for all the tribunals within his Department, but that it should be his special function to maintain those tribunals in the respect of the whole people. If the Bill before us were one for the purpose of enabling this Parliament to make a uniform company law, I think it would mett with the approval of all sections of the community, and supply a very necessary want. It happens that now there is a good deal of confusion.In this comparatively small community, with a population of less than 5,000,000 scattered over Australia, if it is desired to form a company to carry on operations in the various States the promotors have to submit themselves to six separate laws, and obtain registration under six different sets of regulations. This, of course, leads to considerable expense and confusion. It is necessary to take the advice, it may be, of solicitors and counsel in each particular State in order to make sure that the regulations cf each State are complied with. Then, with regard to the winding-up of companies, a still more serious difficulty arises, which is felt almost every day in commercial circles. When a company is unable to carry on business, and its affairs have to be wound up, not only does confusion arise under the existing law, but very often there is loss and injustice. The assets of a company which is being wound up have to be, to a considerable extent, separately administered in the various States, with separate receivers and liquidators ; and the creditors in the various States have more or less conflicting rights in regard to the assets. They may have to prove in each particular liquidation ; and an immense amount of confusion and trouble, with actual loss, has occurred in consequence. If the desire were to make a uniform company law, which really is the main purpose, I think, to which this Bill ought to be directed, it could be done by merely using the words “the creation, winding-up, and dissolution “ of corporations. When we use the words “ regulation and control,” we claim that this Parliament shall have the right to make a separate code of laws for all Ihe businesses which are carried on by companies - laws distinct and separate, and, probably, inconsistent with the code applying to the same businesses carried on by private individuals. I cannot conceive that any one who has had experience in business, and in the practical application of constitutional principles, would desire to bring about such a state of things ; but that is what this Bill will do. The Bill deals with -
Corporations formed under the law of a State, including their dissolution, regulation, and control ; but not including municipal or governmental corporations, or any corporation formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members. 1 know that I am discussing a subject which, to most honorable members, is not only extremely technical, but very dry and uninteresting ; but it is none the less of the vastest importance to the business community throughout Australia, and it is my duty, as it is the duty of every lawyer in the House, to endeavour to make it as clear as possible.
– ls not an individual able to protect himself and his business, while a company law is required to protect shareholders ?
– Certainly; that is what I am pleading for. What we should do is to take power to do everything that is ordinarily included in company law. There are codes of company law in Great Britain, New South Wales, Victoria, and in every one of the other States ; and we ought to have power to make :i uniform law, as very essential and desirable. That is, a power which regulates the Creation, winding-up, and dissolution of Companies, but not their control through out the whole of their operations. Perhaps I may explain the position by a metaphor. The company law acts as the midwife and undertaker, for it does not control or deal with the operations of the creature, or the entity, once it goes forth into the world. It is a proper part of company law to say what kind of companies may be registered, what kind of powers they may possess, and under what conditions companies ought to be brought to an end; but it is not part of the law to follow a company into its business, and, in every step in its career, subject it to particular forms of regulation. Let us take the example which has been so often used, namely, that of the licensing law. A company law enables persons to form and incorporate, it may be, an hotel company, and once that company is incorporated and launched on the world, in every arena it enters it must obey the law applicable to that arena - it must obey the licensing laws of the particular State where it carries on business. If a’ company desires to carry on, say, the business of a draper, it must do so subject to the laws applicable to that business wherever it may be carried on. For instance, there may be State laws as to the opening and closing hours ; and I should imagine that it is highly desirable that all persons or companies who carry on the business of a draper, or a grocer, ought to obey the same laws in this respect. So long as the local Parliament is left with the power of regulation in regard to, say, the hours of opening and closing, then every shopkeeper, whether a company or an individual, ought to comply with the law, for otherwise there must be infinite confusion. If there be two laws, or two law-making authorities, one set of persons carrying on a. business will have to close at one hour, and another .set of persons, though carrying on the same business, and dealing with the same class of people, may have to close at another hour. That is another illustration, of which Mr. Justice Higgins gave so many in the Huddart Parker case. The theory is that the power to make laws iii regard to corporations is merely a power to create and launch a kind of artificial person; and the company may be limited by the memorandum of association in the kind of business carried on. By legislation we may impose all kinds of conditions on the bringing of a company into existence, but, once it is in existence, and allowed to enter on manufacture, trade-,. or any other field of commerce, it ought to obey the State or local laws applicable to the business. A law dealing with corporations which would enable us to control the creation, winding-up, and dissolution of corporations - in other words, with everything included in what is known as company law - would be sufficient. It would enable us to meet the only evil that really exists, namely, the absence of uniformity. To add the words “ regulation and control “ enables this Parliament, not merely to deal with company law, but to make a separate code of laws for every kind of business which a company created by it, or which a company created under any of the State laws, may enter upon in any part of Australia.
– Must there not be some protection for those who invest their money in companies?
– What kind of protection cart we give except that afforded by a proper company law ? The only power we should take is one to pass such a law ; in other words, speaking technically, to make laws as to the creation, windingup, and dissolution of companies.
– If we had power to pass a company law, could we not pass laws to regulate companies ?
– Under such a law, would not abuses creep in, as in the case of the trusts ?
– We could impose any conditions we chose on the registration; indeed, we might go so far as to
Bay we would not allow any company at all to be registered. If we thought, for instance, that the power to form companies was used, not merely for ordinary trading and financial purposes, but was used, or was likely to be used, sometimes foi the formation of illegal trusts and combinations, by creating companies with power to hold shares in other companies - the usual method in the United States - Parliament, if it possessed the power I suggest, might enact that no company should be incorporated, the memorandum of association of which permitted it to hold shares in that way.
– Could we discriminate : in that manner?
– Yes; we could dictate the terms of registration, and, if we found that certain powers were being used in a certain way, we could determine that the company should not have those powers, though I do not say it would oe wise for us to do so.
– That can be done under the present company laws of the States.
– Certainly. In taking power to regulate all the conditions affecting the creation of companies and therights with which they are to be invested,we shall do all that is necessary to effect our purpose; but to go beyond that, and empower this Parliament to regulate the business of companies as distinct from the business of individuals will lead to absurdity, and to mischievous and dangerous conditions, under which we are sure to haveconflicting codes of law applicable to the same business. It would be in the highest degree unwise to attempt to invest thisParliament with power to make separate codes of laws with regard to companies,, regulating every phase of the business they may be conducting. If you leave to the States the power to make general laws as to licensing, shop closing, sanitary conditions, and other matters with which they have now power to deal, every business,, whether carried on by an individual or a corporation, must obey those laws. Can it be said that this’ Parliament, when given power to legislate in a. particular way, wilt never exercise that power? If it does exercise it, its legislation will be sure to conflict with State legislation, and to lead to the confusion pointed to in the judgment to which I have referred. Honorable members should consider whether what we are asked to do is wise, and, above all, should disabuse their minds of the impression created by the speech of the AttorneyGeneral, that the Bill is directly connected with trusts and combines. That is not so, though there is an indirect connexion with certain classes of companies, which, so far as I have known, have never been formed in Australia, though they might be formed here - companies formed for the purpose of holding shares in other companies. It is these companies that have been used as one of the numerous instruments for carrying into effect the powers of corporations. We can pass a corporation law, and limit in any way which we think fit the powers giver to companies. But a great deal more than that is asked for. The Bill is intended to empower this Parliament to enter into the life of these companies, to regulate every act they do, and to substitute for the State law applicable to their transactions the law” of this Parliament, which is wot to be applied to all the other persons -engaged in the same business. We might have had from the Attorney-General some explanation of the legal aspects of the measure. He should not force it through the House, and through the country, as no doubt he will attempt to do, as a measure which has something to do with trusts and combines, since it has only the most remote connexion with them. You may have all the power you need for dealing with trusts and combines, if you choose to take it, without being required to take power to make a separate code for companies and another code for individuals.
– I wish to correct one or two impressions created by the Attorney-General’s speech. It is apparent that his utterances :have been delivered, not to elucidate the very abstruse . questions relating to trusts and combines and other matters, but to get these proposals accepted at the referendum as part of the political propaganda of the Labour party. In almost every speech he has come back to the subject of trusts and combines, and particularly to the Vend case, which was recently dealt with in the Courts, but he has hardly made a statement regarding the operations of the Vend which is literally and strictly correct. For instance, he began by alleging that it represents an absolute control of the output of <coal. Every one in New South Wales knows that that statement is entirely wide of the mark, and that it is hardly possible, under present circumstances, to have a coal combine in that State. There are three coal mining districts in the State.
– And a Vend for each district.
– Yes. Would the honorable member say that the Western District Vend should be dissolved?
-Would the honorable member say that it is not a good thing? One would imagine, from the speech of the Attorney-General, that these Coal Vends are abominable, and should be abolished at the earliest possible moment.
What are the facts? Each of the Vends has been forced into being by the miners’ organizations. There was almost a strike at Newcastle in the effort to get a vend established there; and the reason why coal is not more than ns. a ton at the pit’s mouth to-day is that the employers have resisted the efforts of the miners to put up »he price. A conference was, I believe, held a while ago with a view to compelling the masters to increase the price of coal, but they declared that the outside competition would not permit it to be done. The AttorneyGeneral would have it believed that the Vends are purely a device of the employers for forcing up prices, when, as a matter of fact, they are due to the demands of the miners for protection from the strife and competition which were leading to the reduction of their wages.
– Why have we to pay 248. a ton for coal in Melbourne?
– I suppose the difference is made up in middleman’s charges and costs of transport’ My present object is to show that the Attorney-General has kept back the facts. I am not defending the present price of coal. No one combine controls the coal output of New South Wales. The three coa I -producing districts of the State are in competition, and, if it came to a pinch, the western and southern districts could probably be sufficiently developed to meet the trade demands of New South Wales within a short time. With these three districts in competition there can be no corner in coal. The bulk of the Newcastle coal is sent abroad to compete against the coal of other parts of the world, and it is the same with much of the southern coal. The coal industry of New South Wales is not susceptible to the influences which affect the oil industry and other industries in America. There is no trust in coal in New South Wales. All you have there are trade agreements between masters and men, so that the miners may get a fair remuneration for their labour, and the masters a fair return for their capital. Not one representative of the coal districts would lay a finger on the Vends, because they know that the miners would not permit that to be done. The object of the miners in recent years has been to make the Vends increase the price of coal, because the hewing rate increases in accordance with a sliding scale as the price of coal increases.
– That is not so in the west. There they have a fixed rate for three years.
– Have they altered the sliding scale recently?
– Yes, last January.
– I suppose that they have done better for themselves by the alteration. The miners have agreed with the masters that after the increase in the price of coal of recent years, rates shall. be fixed for three years, so that there is no hope of getting cheaper coal in that period. If the Vends in the Newcastle and southern districts said to the miners, “ Will you agree to take another 4d. pelton in wages, and allow us to fix the price of coal for three years at 12 s.?” the miners would jump at the proposal.
– Would the honorable member object to having £200 a year added to his salary?
– I am not objecting to the vend arrangement, which is fair and business-like, and, so far as I know, speaking from a long experience, the only one that will guarantee to the miners fair remuneration for the hard work that they do.
Honorable members should read the statements of the Attorney-General in the light of the facts which I have just related. His rhodomontade needs to be corrected before we can have any real debate on this question. What does the AttorneyGeneral say of the Vend? He says -
It is not disputed that the Vend controlled oyer go per cent, of the trade, and that the Shipping Combine controlled over go per cent, of the carriage. It was proved in evidence that the persons who controlled 90 per cent, of the coal trade agreed with those who controlled 90 per cent, of the carriage ; that the coal companies agreed not to sell to any but the Shipping Combine, and the combine agreed not to carry any coal save that belonging to the Vend.
That statement needs to be corrected, because it has nothing whatever to do with the oversea trade in coal, and relates only to the Inter-State portion of the Newcastle trade.
– And to oversea trade as well.
– Does the honorable member say that the Inter-State shipping companies deal with all the coal that goes abroad? Does he say that their vessels carry the coal which goes abroad? Why, half the coal from the north does not go near the Inter-State shipping companies, but goes direct to markets oversea. Therefore, there is competition even so far as the shipping of the coal is concerned.
– The Northern Vend controls it all the same.
– What I complain of is these half statements on the part of the Attorney-General, who would lead people to believe that the miners are under the heel of these Vends, when, as a matter of fact, they are the head and front of them, the foundation of them, the mO’tive power which called them into existence. He said -
This, therefore, was an agreement which affected intimately the interests of the whole of the citizens in four of the States of the Commonwealth.
That, again, is an absolute misrepresentation, for, as I have already shown, half the coal from the north goes oversea, nearly the whole of the coal from the south goes oversea, while the bulk of the coal fi om the west does not go near the sea at all. So that the Attorney-General’s statement is an absolute misrepresentation of the factsof the case regarding this precious Vend. He went on to say -
One of the consequences was that coal was raised from 14s. per ton to 24s. per ton. The agreement restrained trade to the uttermost point.
I deny that absolutely, and there is not a mining member of this House’ who will subscribe to the statement that it restrains trade to the uttermost point. Honorable members know that the very contrary is the case.
– The price of coal was increased by only 3s. per ton in Newcastle, but it was increased 10s. per ton - that is, from 14s. to 24s. per ton - in Melbourne.
– That was nob the fault of the Coal Vend.
The Attorney-General also said -
Two companies attempted to defy this combine; both went into liquidation. … It was not disputed that, when the South Australian Government grew restive under the monopoly, and attempted to start a coal mine of its own, the Vend took measures to prevent it doing, so by influencing the Legislative Council. It was not denied that a sum of money was paid to get inserted in the press false information with that intent. … It was proved that no competition existed.
That is an absolute misstatement again. There is competition of the keenest kind going on to-day - the competition of the world, as a matter of fact - as to half the coal from the north, and, as to the balance, there is the competition of the south and west with the north.
– There is no competition in the south.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s statement is that there is no competition in the coal trade, and I am pointing out that that is an absolute misstatement of fact. There is competition, and there must always be competition between the north and the south and between the west and the south with the north. Here are the allegations of the Attorney-General concerning the Vend. Now listen to what he instructed Mr. Wise to say in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. After having declared that the Vend controls 90 per cent, of the trade, that it has been bribing people, that it is a complete monopoly, and that it is the worst thing in the world, he instructed Mr. Wise to say of it -
It may be convenient here to say that this is not a prosecution against the Coal Vend. We are raising no question as to the legality or propriety of an arrangement between the colliery proprietors to regulate their trade by fixing a declared price.
That is all they have ever done in the Newcastle district. The Attorney-General has given his best blessing to both the shipping combination and the Coal Vend. He has declared them both to be good combines necessary for the purpose of securing good conditions both for the men engaged on the sea and in the mines.
What we say is that the Vend was formed in 1906. and is being attacked now for fixing excessive prices for coal.
Will the honorable member for Newcastle say that irs. per ton is an excessive price for coal? I challenge him to say that it is, as was alleged by Mr. Wise, instructed by the Attorney-General.
– How does the honorable member connect the AttorneyGeneral with Mr. Wise’s statements?
– He instructed Mr. Wise, and engaged him to appear for the Government.
– And is he supposed to father every word that Mr. Wise uttered ?
– This Vend, in my opinion, is doing no harm to-day in Newcastle. It is doing a very reasonable thing by the public, and by all concerned. So fair and reasonable is it that the miners of Newcastle to-day, whose hewing rate is always based upon the selling price of coal, are receiving no higher rate than they received twenty-five years ago. It has been lowered in the interim, and the miners had to threaten to strike to get the rate put up again. It was they who forced this combination on the part of the colliery proprietors in order that they might receive a fair and reasonable wage. Then the Attorney-General made another statement which it is worth while to correct. After quoting Mr. Deakin in connexion with new Protection, he spoke in general terms, and did not relate his comment to the set of circumstances which existed some years before. He said -
Take the new Protection policy first. They do not propose to give a fair and reasonable wage to the workmen engaged in an unprotected industry, and, therefore, we shall- not secure uniform industrial conditions. Nor do they propose to protect the consumer in an unprotected industry, consequently a fair and reasonable price cannot be fixed for all things,, but only some. They do not propose to deal with trusts, combines, and monopolies in manufacture.
Now what are the facts ? When the honorable member for Ballarat, prior to the last election, declared the policy of his Government, this is what he said -
I must now pass on to the great issues re«lating to the new Protection. These also depend very much upon our ascertainment of all the facts surrounding, our industries. New Protection, as you know, seeks to secure fair conditions to all those employed in industries which receive the care of the State. I now use the word “ care “ in a wider sense than “ protection,” because we propose that the new Protection shall not be limited to “protected” industries.
Yet the Attorney-General has represented that we proposed to limit the new Protection to protected industries, notwithstanding that the declaration of the policy of the late Government by the honorable member for Ballarat expressed the very contrary in the clearest possible terms.
– The Attorney-General was dealing with the memorandum.
– The honorable member for Ballarat continued -
We desire to establish fair conditions in all industries in Australia, whether subject to fiscal Protection or not. Fair hours, fair wages, and fair conditions of employment are now seen to be matters of grave national concern.
That is as far as I need quote at the present time, and it is a” complete contradiction of the statement of the AttorneyGeneral. He says that we do not propose to deal with trusts, combines, and monopolies, but when similar proposals were before the House two years ago, we made a proposition which, if it had been agreed to by the other side, would have resulted in an effective proposal for dealing with trusts and combines being the law of the land to-day. It is only because of the obstinacy of honorable members opposite, and their refusal to accept the slightest amendment of their proposals, that we are faced with the position confronting us today.
– The honorable member must know that that is not correct.
– I know that it is correct.
– If the Opposition had agreed with us we should now be able to settle the difficulty.
– We do not agree with my honorable friends.
We cannot approve of a proposal to tear up the Constitution, and throw it into the cauldron, without knowing exactly how it is going to come out. As to many of these matters, we have all along expressed our intention to deal with them in some reasonable and business-like way. We say that we do not desire to make an ordinary, reasonable, beneficial corporation the football of party politics, as our honorable friends opposite desire to make it. The power they are asking for would enable them to deal with all sorts of innocent and beneficial combinations; it would enable them to deal with butter factories, than which I can conceive of no more reasonable form of combination from the point of view of the man on the land. The Government wish to be able to deal with all sorts of combinations, and to declare them monopolies whether the facts fit the case or not. We say that we cannot follow them in the rabid, unreasoning course which they insist upon taking.
There are some further statements of the Attorney-General to which I should like to refer if time permitted of my doing so. There is a question which I wish to ask in this connexion : The Attorney-General told us the other day, as he did a number of times before, that he does not know the extent of the powers he is asking for, what they will include, or what they will not include. Moreover, he says -
We come forward without a scheme or plati of any cut-and-dried character. There is no such plan.
The honorable gentleman has no plan defining the limitations of the power he seeks. He tells us very plainly that he does not propose to limit the power he desires to take. He will take the lot. He says, further, that he does not know what he is going to do with it when he gets it. He says, in another place, that he does not know whether he is proposing to take too much or enough power, and there is no plan in his mind in asking for . these powers. He is asking the people of Australia to put these proposals into the melting-pot, and how they will come out, and what powers they will confer upon the Government, he says plainly that he does not know. Is it not time that the honorable gentleman did know where he is trying to take this House and the country? The man who goes to the country and says, “ I have no plan for constitutional alteration,” is asking the country to treat him with derision and ridicule. There must be a plan. The people will want to know what the Government are going to do with these powers, and how far they will take them, before they surrender the present Constitution, and permit it to be torn and mauled about in the way proposed by the Government. One thing the Attorney-General is clear about is that he is going to regulate prices and profits. Here, again, there are not two honorable members on the other side who tell anything like the same story. Senator E. J. Russell, talking the other night, said he had heard of no proposition for the regulation of retail prices : but I venture to say there is to-day as much controlling of retail prices as of wholesale prices throughout Australia. If the Government are not going to control retail prices how are they to guarantee that the consumer will get his goods at a fair price? How are they to guarantee when they have gone into the warehouse or the factory in which production begins, and arranged prices there, that the retailer will give the consumer the goods at a fair price unless they follow the goods through the operations of the retail market ?
– Knowing the wholesale prices, people will know what the retail prices should be.
- Senator Russell says that he does not know. Does the honorable member for Maribyrnong contend that we do not know wholesale prices today?
– The great bulk of the people do not.
– Will the honorable member tell me of any commodity the wholesale price of which is not known to-day? Will he tell me of a staple food of which the wholesale price is not published every day in the newspapers?
– The people take a lot of notice of the newspapers. I have known them to be shillings out in the price of a cwt. of butter.
– Will the honorable member, who knows so much about these things, tell me that the farmers and fruit-growers do not study the market prices every day and shape their actions according to the reports of those prices which they see in the newspapers ? I do not say that they do not obtain other information. They get information from their agents; but there is not one of them who does not study his newspaper day by day, note the record of wholesale prices, and shape his action accordingly. It is idle for the honorable member to say that wholesale prices are not known. They are known as well as are retail prices. But we do not know yet . what the Attorney-General has in his mind.
– Where will the honorable member find the wholesale prices for clothing and boots?
– All I know about boots at the present time is that those concerned in their manufacture are telling us that they must have more Protection, and their prices must be much higher than they are now, if they are to pay the awards of ‘the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Cook knows that much about boots.
– The honorable gentleman does not know the wholesale price of boots.
– I know that the retail price is higher than it was some time ago.
– There is competition in retail prices.
– It is not just now bringing about any reduction in those prices. They are going steadily up the whole time, in spite of the competition . to which the honorable member refers. It is one of the things which clearly disproves the contentions of honorable members opposite that our prices to-day are controlled by rings and combines.
– So they are.
– Is the retail price of boots determined by rings and com bines ?
– Everything in the building trade is controlled by combines.
– Does not the honorable member for East Sydney know that the price of three-fifths of everything we eat, drink, and wear at the present time is controlled by some sort of agreement? How could the retail business of Sydney to-day be carried on without some form of agreement? Does not the honorable member know that the retailers have their associations, rules, and regulations to guide them in the control of their businesses? As I say, they could not get along without them. The same thing applies to every trade and business. Those engaged in the trade to which the honorable member for East Sydney belongs have an understanding, and regulate trade prices, to which they all subscribe. In this way the very details of almost every trade and business are regulated arid controlled. I fail to’ see how it could be otherwise. The conditions of trade and business to-day are so’ complex, intricate, and interdependent that it is impossible to successfully carry on any enterprise without some understanding or agreement. Are we to say that all these understandings, agreements, trade regulations, conditions and customs are bad, and that they all represent so many conspiracies to put up the price of goods to the consumer?
– What else arc they?
– Does the honorable member suggest that they should all be abolished?
All those who are associated with trade agreements may be said to represent corporations in broad outline, and do honorable members opposite propose to take power to interfere and tinker with all the details of retail as well as wholesale businesses? If they do, I wonder what a time they have before them, and who will have to suffer in consequence.
– Who will believe that sort of talk?
– It is up to the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the Attorney-General to tell us what they meanby the ‘ ‘ fixation of prices. ‘ ‘ No one has told us, as yet, what they mean by that term. They have not told us, either, what they are going to do in the way of limiting profits. The Attorney-General says, “ We are going to fix wages and conditions, prices, and profits; but we have no plan.’’ He offers the country a. blank cheque’ to sign. He says to the electors, “ Fill it up and sign it. What we shall do with it i’ do not know, and cannot tell. I have nothing at the back of my mind at present that I care to reveal.”
– The Attorney-General never said that.
– That is the honorable gentleman’s attitude. What he has said I will repeat for the information cf the honorable member -
We come forward with a scheme or plan of no cut and dried character. There is no such . plan. We say that, by the process of evolution, the people must come to their own.
What that means I do not know. I want people to come to their own ; every man has the right to the full amount of his own.But what is meant here exactly? The Attorney-General impliedly says that the only way in which the people can come to their own is through this amendment of the Constitution, and it is up to him therefore to detail the plan by which this coming to their own. is to take place per medium of the Constitution.
– You want all the Bills in detail laid upon the table?
– I do not want anything of the sort. When the AttorneyGeneral tells the country that he is going to regulate prices he has the right to state in outline at any rate how it is to be done.
– Take the harvester industry. We regulated the prices, did we not?
– Yes, and my honorable friends did a fine thing about the harvesters altogether. If I belonged to the party opposite, I should not talk very much about that case. They were warned well what was likely to happen when the Bill was going through the House, but they laughed at the warning, and the sequel justified our prediction.
It is by the regulation of profits and the regulation of prices alone that we can hope for any solution of this problem.
There is no other solution, therefore, to our labour and other problems. If it is only regulation that the Attorney-General wants why does he need six Bills? While he is talking of regulation here in his suave tones his colleagues go up to Newcastle and say that there is only one way out of the difficulty, and that is nationalization.
– In some cases.
– That is what the Minister of Defence said at Newcastle the other night.
– That is what we all say.
– Do I understand that all honorable members on the other side say that there is no other solution to all these problems than nationalization?
– Nationalization in some cases and regulation in others.
– Which, for instance, are my friends going to nationalize and which do they propose to regulate? Again, they do not tell us. They cannot give us a leading line at all. They say again that they have no plan. They talk in big, vague language. It is a very serious proposition for them to seek to undo the whole Constitution, to maul the whole document right out of its balance, when they cannot tell the public exactly what they want to do it for.
– You want Legislative Councils.
– Do I?
– Your statement on the South African Constitution shows that you do.
– The honorable member had better read what I did say.
– I did read the statement very carefully, and I cannot find anything else in it.
– The honorable member will find that I showed that in South Africa the States nominate the members of the Senate, and that our Senate, which he is going to put in control of these democratic proposals, is a more Conservative and less Democratic body in its constitution to-day than is any Upper House in Australia.
– Yes, there you are.
-Our Senate is a more Conservative and less Democratic body in its constitution than is any Upper House in Australia.
– Will you do away with the Senate?
– I have already said that if these proposals are carried there will begin a demand for a modification of the Senate. There must be more democratic supervision of these things if they are to come from the control of the States into the control of the Federation.
– Ifwe had these powers without the same balance as there is in South Africa it would be wrong - is that the argument?
– The honorable member has not followed that speech of mine at all, I am afraid ; in fact, he shows that he has not.
– It is a Conservative balance that you want.
– No, it is a Democratic balance that I want.
– Like that in South Africa.
– No, certainly hot. If my honorable friendsare going to unify these powers, then let them unify the control of the powers, and do not let the States retain control in the Senate on the present unequal basis. If they are going to unify the functions, then let them unify the powers. That is my position. It is an outrage on their Democratic principles for my honorable friends to put these national powers, so-called, taken from the States, into the hands of a State Rights Senate, where one man counts for as much as nine others.
There is just one other point I wish to make. The Attorney-General warned us that it is of no use to expect that they can do anything at all under the present Constitution, and with our existing powers.
Let no one imagine for a moment that any amendment of the Australian Anti-Trust Act can affect the position.
Was the honorable and learned member playing a part then, when, in 1910, he got the Parliament to amend the Anti-Trust Act ? Was he indulging in a piece of sheer hypocrisy when he asked the House to give him further powers so as to deal with these trusts? Was he playing a part when he came down and got power to compel the trusts to prove that they were not acting detrimentally to the public? That was the power which hesought in 1910.
– He was making the best of a bad job.
– The AttorneyGeneral does not know whether he was making the best of a bad job or a good one ; hedoes not know anything about the matter, for the simple reason that he has not tried to put the amending Act into operation. It is a dead letter on the statute-book so far, because the honorable and learned member has never had the pluck to put it into operation. Why should he not? That Act was passed long before the Vend case began.
– No; the proceedings had been started before we got into office.
– The proceedings were not started.
– Now, do not contradict all the members on your side.
– The ‘first hearing in the case took place in Sydney on 13th April, 1911, and the amending Act was passed in 1910, so that for half-a-year at the very least the Act had been on the statute-book before the Attorney-General began the actual proceedings in connexion with the trust.
– All the members on your side have been claiming that the proceedings were started before you left office.
– I am talking about- a point from which the AttorneyGeneral could have got back. I submit that up to the time the case came before the Court the Attorney-General could have wiped the whole proceedings out, and begun again under his own Act of 19 10, but he chose to proceed under the old Act, with more limited power than the one which he passed through the House. Despite the fact that the amending Act has never been tested in any way, and having worked with more limited powers, the AttorneyGeneral came down the other day and said that nobody imagined that we could do anything under the powers we possess relating to trusts. The Attorney-General and the Government aire playing a part, showing themselves to be insincere and hypocritical in their attitude to trusts and combines, or they would have strained every nerve to use the drastic powers which. Parliament gave them in 1910. It is idle for the honorable and learned gentleman to say that he can do nothing before he has tried. He comes here and says, “ This Vend is a fearful thing. This Vend, in its relation to the Shipping Combine of Australia, is a monopoly. It is controlling, fleecing, bribing, doing everything which it ought to be stopped from doing.” My reply is that there is not an honorable member that comes from the coal districts who would interfere with the prices fixed by the Vend. On the contrary, there is not one of those honorable gentlemen who would not support the Vend in putting the selling price up still further.
– Oh, nonsense ! Coal has never been dearer here.
– The honorable member says that my remark is nonsense, but I am getting back on facts, which he had better do, too. I repeat that the Newcastle miners Save tried to force a higher selling price in order to get a higher hewing rate for themselves.
– And you say that they would force the selling price still higher?
– There is only one way in which the miners can get a higher rate under the agreement they have with the proprietors. I am speaking all the time of the sliding scale which has been in the Newcastle district almost from time immemorial. The miners cannot get any more unless the selling price of coal does go up; It is this Vend which the AttorneyGeneral, after blessing it a year or so ago, now turns round to curse in the most unmeasured terms he can find. It is this Vend, too, and the Shipping Combine, and the agreement between the two bodies, that he to-day is leaving untouched rather than put the more drastic powers he possesses into active operation against them.
– How is it that the Newcastle men voted for the last referendum to control these Vends which you say they want to back up now?
– For one reason alone, which the honorable member knows as well as I do, and that is with the view of nationalizing the coal and iron mines of Australia.
– Yes, and then there would be cheaper coal for everybody.
– The honorable member knows that?
– Yes, I do.
– The miners, therefore, did not vote against this Vend until such time as they could get a national vend of their own.
– They know that they are on right ground.
– We are talking about controlling things. The proposal before the House at present is to control, and the nationalization proposal will come forward later. If the purpose of my honorable friends ultimately is to nationalize, they ought not to be hypocritical. They ought to have one Bill alone, and that is a Bill providing for the nationalization of large industrial enterprises. That would be straightforward. There is not one of them who will go into the country districts and tell the people that they want to shape their actions so as to nationalize the industries which affect the people there, and as to which they stand related for their living. They tell a different tale when they go to the country districts.
– Did you not advocate the nationalization of a coal mine?
– You did not?
– No; the trouble with the honorable member, who is so aggressive in his attitude, is that he has not been where he is now very long, and does not know anything about what I did or did not do.
– I know more about it than you do at present.
– The. honorable member keeps on saying that, but he only keeps on proving his ignorance by his interjections.
– There is no sliding scale there now.
– It has been altered recently, then?
– You did not know about that?
– It has been altered within the last twelve months?
– Yes, and you did not know about it.
– The honorable member knows all about it now, I am sure. Let me repeat my points. First, the facts alleged by the Attorney-General concerning the Vend are that a reasonable price is only now being paid for the hewing of this coal. But he is not putting into operation the powers which he has, nor has he tried to do so, because he says that it would be of no use. He asked the House to give him further power, but he has never once tried to use the power he has. He told us. further, that while he is asking for these large powers, which mean the destruction of the Federal idea in the Constitution, he has no plan or purpose in connexion with what he is doing.
– What additional power has he that he should put in operation against the Vend?
– No matter what additional powers he obtains, if he is going to the Court he will have to get the Court to decide the facts of the case which he presents.
– But the honorable member says that the Attorney-General has now some power that he has not put in operation.
– I refer to the Act of 1910.
– How much better off is he under that Act?
– I do not suppose that he would be in a much better position so far as the prosecution of the Vend is concerned. The Attorney-General says, however, that there are thirty-three of these trusts. Is he going to balk at thirty-two others because the facts in connexion with one are declared by the Court to be contrary to what he says they are?
– It was the honorable member for Angas who said that there were thirty-three trusts.
– I take it that the Attorney-General agreed with that statement, otherwise he would not have quoted it. The Attorney-General said -
Competition is dead or dying in more than half of the industrial and commercial held today. . . . Amongst the commodities which are subject to business arrangements are oil - kerosene and all subsidiary oils - bricks, tobacco, confectionery, shoe machinery, manures, trucks, photographic materials, certain proprietary articles -
I suppose that he is going to nationalize the little pill next -
Hour, meats, jams, wheat, certain lines of dairy produce, dried fruits, galvanized iron, and timber.
It is not long since the honorable gentleman told a deputation of fruit-growers from Mildura that he thought their combine was an excellent one. He spoke in the same way of the Shipping Vend and of the Coal Vend. He bestows his blessings on these Vends in one breath, and in the next tells us of their sinister features, and asserts that they are acting as octopi upon the community, and must be curtailed or destroyed in some way. Which of these thirty-three Vends has he tried to attack since he has been in office?
– He has no power to attackthem.
– How does he know until he has tried? If he has no power, why did he pass the Bill of 1910? Was he simply playing a part when he said that he intended to put that Bill into operation ?
– Something had to be done to test our power.
– Why has he not tested our power under that Act? Although he has been in office for two and a half years he has tried it in only one case, although we are told that there are thirtythree trusts.
– The honorable member for Angas says that they come only within the jurisdiction of the States.
– I was going to point out that as to twenty-nine of them that is so, but the Attorney-General has deait with only one of the remaining four.
We have had a Labour Government in New South Wales for two years. Why have they not investigated the doings of one of the trusts coming within their jurisdiction? What is Mr. Scaddan doing in Western
Australia that he has not brought some of them before the Court? What did Mr. Verran do during all the years he was in office? If these trusts are menacing our social existence, why are the Labour Governments neglecting their duties to such an extent that they will not even try to prosecute them? If the Federal Labour Government had made an earnest effort to deal with these trusts, one could understand their appeal for these fresh powers. They would then be perfectly consistent; but until they have tried to put their existing powers into operation they have no right to say, “ We desire these fundamental alterations in the Constitution, although we have no plan in view ; cannot tell what we are going to do, and do not even know how much power we are going to take. These are the powers we want ; what we shall do with them hereafter must remain for this Government and this party to determine.” That is the attitude of the Government, but before these referenda proposals, are disposed . of the people will want to know exactly what the AttorneyGeneral is going to do with these powers if he gets them. It will be no recommendation to his propaganda that he has to confess to the people that, although there have been four State Labour Governments in office almost ever since he has been in power, not one Government has tried to touch any trust; with the exception of the Coal Vend.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– Have there been any other cases tried in Australia?
– The Verran Government endeavoured to deal with the Brick Trust.
– Did Mr. Verran take that combine into the Court? Did he nationalize the brick industry ?
– The Legislative Council of South Australia point-blank stopped him.
– In New South Wales the Labour Government are nationalizing all sorts of things, but instead of bringing down prices, they are putting them up. The efforts of my honorable friends opposite are amusing in the extreme. “ Feebleness “ does not properly describe their attitude. This brave Government, which was going to do great deeds two and a half years ago, can point to the investigation of only one so-called Trust. The particulars relating to that case were prepared for them by their predecessors, and three Justices of the High Court have said that the Vend is doing nothing unreasonable.
– That was the decision of two Justices. It was given as the judgment of the Court on the casting vote of the Chief Justice.
– In other words, it was a majority decision. After all, it is only a majority that controls business in this Parliament; but they control it pretty effectively. I guess that as to some of the proposals that are brought forward here only a minority in the House as a whole believes in them. Here is a case in point. While they are legislating in this way from time to time to regulate and control industrial enterprises, they are going out and telling the world at large, “ There is no use legislating in regard to these monopolies. The only effectual action is to nationalize them.”
– Hear, hear !
– I am glad to hear those “ Hear, hears !” They show that honorable members opposite do not expect very much from this proposition. Therefore, until they say what plan of action they intend to follow when these powers are secured - how they are going to shape them, and the extent to which they intend to go - the people of this country will answer, as they did before - “ Use the powers you have. Bring into operation the Act that you have never tried at all. Use that Act which you have placed on the statute-book, and never once tried to put into operation. When you have made the best use of the powers that you possess, you can come to us for others, and we shall clothe the National Parliament with attributes of efficiency such as will enable it to curb and control all these vast, sinister organizations which you say are menacing the people of Australia, as they have menaced the people of other parts of the world.”
.- Those who have had the advantage, or disadvantage, of listening to the honorable member for Parramatta oyer any period of time become familiar with the lines upon which he bases his criticism. I venture to say that every speech which he has made while sitting in Opposition has been constructed upon the same plan. He begins with endless quibbling, and then proceeds to strain the language of his opponent until it has all the effect of deliberate misrepresentation.
– I rise to order. The honorable member is now alleging that I always engage in deliberate misrepresentation. Those words are very offensive.
– If the honorable member used the words “ deliberate misrepresentation,” he must withdraw them.
– What I said was that the honorable member so strained the language of his opponents that his action had all the effect of deliberate misrepresentation.
– Then the honorable member was not out of order.
– Cite a fact which I have deliberately strained.
– We can take every speech that the honorable member makes in opposition and find in it a straining of the language of his opponents which has all the effect of deliberate misrepresentation.
– Give us a case in point.
– Does the honorable member wish me to deal with the miles of ranting in which he indulges in this House? It would be impossible for me to do so within the time limit imposed on our speeches. One would need to start on the 1st January, and even then he would not finish before the 31st December. Another feature of the honorable member’s speeches in Opposition is that his criticism is entirely destructive, and that he has not a constructive idea of any description. According to him, everything is right with the world. There are no wrongs to be redressed. Then again, when one directs attention to the character of the speech he has delivered, the honorable member uniformly denies either what he said, or the effect of his statement. A careful examination of the honorable, member’s speeches will show that they come within these cardinal headings. Let me summarize them. The speeches of the honorable member for Parramatta are constructed on the following plan : -
The honorable member referred to the balance of power in the South African Constitution. It had been said in this House that the power of the National Parliament of South Africa was much larger and wider than is the power with which this Parliament is vested. No one reading the honorable member’s speech, in which he sought to point out the difference between the two, could come to any other conclusion than that he was showing that, owing to the balance of power in the South African Constitution, there was a justification for the wide powers allotted to the National Parliament, whereas the balance of power in the case of the Federal Constitution of Australia did not warrant a wider control being given to this Legislature. I have read the honorable member’s speech very carefully, and, for the benefit of those who desire to test my statements by reference to Hansard, I will give the page upon which it is reported. It is page 5878, and the speech was delivered on the 22nd November, on the motion for the second reading of one of these Constitution Alteration Bills.
– I should like to know whether the honorable member is in order in quoting from the Hansard report of a debate during the present session?
– Is the honorable member quoting from a debate on one of the Bills now under consideration ?
– I have not quoted from the debate ; I simply have a copy of Hansard in my hand.
– The hon- orable member will not be in order in so doing.
– I am very much disappointed, because the honorable member for Parramatta has challenged me on this point, and now I find that one of his bosom comrades raises a point of order to prevent me from quoting what was said. If it is not convenient for honorable members opposite to hear a speech of their Deputy Leader quoted, I suppose I must abide by the Standing Orders. But I can. at all events, direct attention to the speech, and mention the page on which it is to be found. I particularly direct attention to the portion devoted to the South African Constitution, where he argued, in effect, that if there were in the Commonwealth the same balance of powers as is the case in South Africa - that is to say, if there were in this country a Conservative Upper Chamber, that would prevent the exercise of these wider powers by a democratically constituted House - these enlarged powers might be safely granted. No other inference can be drawn from the speech.
– That is an absolute misrepresentation. The honorable member knows it, too.
– The honorable member’s previous speech contained an attack on adult suffrage.
– One could not help feeling that.
– Considering that my argument was a claim for adult suffrage, that is very funny.
– I have pointed out that one of the characteristics by which the honorable member’s speeches may always be known is that, whenever a point is pressed home, he tries to wriggle out by denying the plain words and inferences of his own statements.
– The honorable member is getting away from the ruling of the Chair bv reading from Hansard.
– I have not read a single sentence.
– The honorable member is looking at Hansard.
– I do not know that there is any standing order that prevents me from looking at Hansard. I have a copy in my hand, and I wish to keep close to the facts of the case. If I cannot quote, I like to look at the copy, so as to refresh my memory. I know that these debates will be largely read. I am compelled by the Standing Orders to limit my references to the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta to directing the attention of readers to the speech and to the principles which are at the basis of his remarks. I am sure that reference to the report will bear out what I have said.
I might refer again to one of the cardinal principles of the honorable memberthat if it is proposed to attack an evil, he always says that it ought to be done in some other way than that proposed. Very seldom do we hear the honorable member stand up and say, “Here is a thing which is wrong, a grievance under which the community is suffering, and there should be some redress.” If the position is inescapable, what he always says is, “I admit that there ought to be redress, but the way you are proposing to remedy the evil is the wrong way.”
– He said that about oldage pensions, the maternity allowance, the land tax. and the Commonwealth Bank.
– The honorable member said, in regard to old-age pensions, that the surplus revenue ought to be paid to the States-
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– Besides, I never said anything of the kind.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that he voted against the Surplus Revenue Bill, which was to provide the money for old-age pensions.
– The honorable member has not made a correct statement yet.
– Order !
– The honorable member’s denials compel me to go a little bit further than I intended. He is quibbling again.
– He is discussing me, not the Bill.
– The honorable member is a very entertaining subject. One never needs be at a loss for a text while he is above the earth.
I also ‘find that the honorable member for Ballarat made a reference to the balance of powers under the Constitution. I am not allowed to quote from Hansard, but the passage to which I refer is to be found on page 5619, in the second column. He said that if these wide powers were given to the Australian Parliament, there ought to be a readjustment; that the balance of power ought to be altered.
Then we had the honorable member for Echuca stating that the powers for which we are asking are much safer in the’ hands of the States, because of the existence of the Legislative Councils. He did not believe that such powers would be safe in the hands of the National Parliament, elected -by the suffrage of the whole adult people of Australia.
What was the point of objection of th* honorable member for Flinders? In the year before last the honorable member gave an unqualified support to the Con stitution alterations as, regards trade and commerce and corporations then proposed. But what does he say to-day? He says, “ I was in favour of the alterations then, but I am not in favour of them now.” Why? Because there is a’ Labour party on the Ministerial side of the House, and because he believes that after the next election the Labour party will still be here. That also was an attack cn adult suffrage. Does the honorable member for Flinders think that he is to be a dictator in this country, and that if the people choose to place on the Treasury bench a Government supported by a majority who will bring forward progressive legislation they should not have the legislation which they desire? Was not that the effect of his argument? It was absolutely so.
Likewise also, it was the honorable member for Ballarat who suggested that probably this party would come back with a majority after the general election, and that he was not prepared to trust us to exercise these extended powers under the Constitution.
Can the honorable member for Wimmera, who sits facing me, deny that that is the reason why he is voting against the proposed Constitution amendments ? Is it not because he does not want the Labour .party to exercise these powers? If he thought there was a hope of his own party coming back to office, he would be prepared to give them such extended powers.
The honorable member for Darling Downs, who was Attorney-General in the Fusion Government, sent the memorandum to South Africa, advising the people of that country to put in their Constitution the very powers for which we are asking.
– The powers are not the same.
– That is a good lawyer’s answer.
– Perfectly true.
– Does the honorable member deny that the South African Constitution gives an unlimited power over trade and commerce? He is silent. Does he deny that he advised the South African Convention to give the National Parliament such powers? He is dumb again. He advised that those powers should be given into the hands of people who, a few years ago, were alien to the British Empire. They are new-comers to the Kingdom. Yet he does not think that the same powers can safely be granted to a Parliament elected to represent a British community whose history, traditions, and forefathers are and were entirely British.
Honorable members opposite cannot deny that they have turned turtle on their previous utterances because of the temporary ‘exigencies of party politics, when they are not prepared to allow a majority of the electors of Australia to govern themselves according to what they think best, and under a majority of representatives elected by the people themselves.
I find that the honorable member for Bendigo, who is also now sitting on the front bench opposite, said much the same thing on the 20th November, as recorded in Hansard, page 5726.
– Has the honorable member any objection to the honorable member for Bendigo sitting on this bench?
– I should be pleased if the honorable member for Parramatta would get off the political earth altogether.
– A number of people would be just the same as to the honorable member.
– I believe they would ; and so we must tolerate each other.
– It is hard work, I admit, to tolerate the honorable member !
– I can assure the honorable member that if he contested an electorate where there was a chance of anything like a fair fight, many people would find it hard to tolerate him. He takes good, care, however, to choose an electorate so extremely Conservative that there is no sporting chance of success.
– I am sure it would be bitter.
– And strong, too. The honorable member for Bendigo objects to the trade and commerce power, but is in favour of an extended power in regard to corporations. I have no doubt, however, that the honorable member will, all the same, vote against the power in regard to corporations when the division bells ring.
Prior to the last referenda honorable members opposite contended that it was absolutely unfair to bunch the five or six questions together on one ‘ballot-paper, and compel the people to accept or reject the lot; but we find them objecting with just as much warmth now that the questions are separated.
Another reason offered by anti-Labour gentlemen for objecting to this legislation is that, while they may believe in handing over the powers to the Commonwealth Government, they do not care about them being exercised by a Labour Government. This would seem to indicate that they have rather a forlorn hope, and are starting the electoral battle with their flag half-mast high. I have no doubt that, if they had the slightest hope of finding their way to the Treasury benches, they would be whole-hearted supporters of these additional powers. We are told that these powers would not bc safe in the hands of a Labour Government ; and yet we have the honorable member for Parramatta asking why precisely similar powers are not exercised by the Labour Government of New South Wales. What logic is there in such a position as that? The honorable member, as a politician from New South Wales, knows that every time the State Labour Government have attempted to pass any advanced Democratic measures the Legislative Council has voted solidly against it.
– Name one measure.
– A measure was introduced to regulate the price of gas, and the Legislative Council so emasculated it that it is now hardly worth the paper on which it is written.
– Not with the help of Labour nominees?
– I was waiting for that interjection. The honorable member knows perfectly well that the State Government are limited in the number of nominees they may send to the Upper House.
– I do not know.
– The Legislative Council has been kept at a certain strength over a long period of years .; and it is not possible to get the assent of the Governor to the appointment of enough Labour nominees to give the Labour party a majority in that Chamber.
– Has the honorable member never heard of a Government going to the country on a question like that?
– Yes, I have.
– Not the New South Wales Labour Government, though.
– -The Labour Government of New South Wales will go to the country when they are ready, and not when the honorable member for Parramatta thinks they ought to go.
-This. is an attack on the adult, franchise.
Mr.J. H, CATTS. - No, it is not; it is ; an attack, on the legislative fossils who are supported by the Opposition in this Chamber.
The argument of honorable members op positeis to the effect that this National Parliament, elected on the broadest franchise, must not be intrusted with powers equal to those exercised, for instance, by the Government of New South Wales. I have just been looking through the New South Wales Constitution, and 1 find that the State Parliament has power to legislate for the peace, order, and good government of the State without limit or qualification, except, of course, the limit imposed by the Commonwealth Constitution in regard to the present limited powers of the Federal Parliament. The State Parliament has full legislative control over, amongst other things, the following : -
It will be observed that, even where there is a Labour majority, State Parliaments do not seek to exercise such powers in any undue or unreasonable way, though honorable members opposite contend that, if the Bills before us are passed, all sorts of dreadful things will happen. It might, just as well be argued that, because the New South Wales Parliament has unlimited power over children, they will, when the children reach a certain age,, take them from their parents and remove them to industrial centres for any purpose which the State may think good - for socialistic enterprises, and so forth. What an absolutely ridiculous thing it is to say that any Parliament, elected as our Parliaments are, would exercise its powers in such a way !
If the Parliaments were elected for ten or twelve years, there might, perhaps, be a temptation to an unreasonable use of power; but the fact is that in three years every member of Parliament has to face the electors. This is a kind of sword of terror hanging over every representative’s head ; and he knows that his conduct, not only as a legislator, but as a private individual, must be such as will commend itself to the electors. In the first place, a member must be a perfectly sane and reasonable person, to get here at all ; and then his conduct is kept in check, if any check be necessary, by the fact that he must face his constituents at the end of three years. Parliament moves slowly - altogether too slowly for me - no matter how we seek to hasten its work. After all, what is it possible for a Parliament to do in three years? It would be impossible for a Parliament to do in that time such things as some of our opponents would have us believe are probable. We know how quick the people are to visit punishment on a party in whom confidence has been forfeited. Previous to the last election, two diametrically opposite parties fell into each other’s arms, and went on to the platform together; but the electors, regarded this as a kind of immoral combination, and gave the Fusion very shortshrift. It was a Fusion of persons with no other object than to advance their own personal interests.
– Will the honorable member confine hisremarks to the Bill?
– I submit that I am right on the point. I am showing that, if the proposed powers are handed over to the Federal Parliament, there is a proper check and corrective in the exercise of them.
There is what is known as a Socialistic party in power in New South Wales but we have found no band of Anarchists going around seeking to destroy or confiscate the private property of the citizens, although, as I have pointed out, the Parliament has full power over private property. And in the case of the Commonwealth Government the extended powers will be reasonably exercised.
At the present time the Commonwealth has practically unlimited power over taxation, and honorable members opposite must wonder why that power has not been wielded in such a way as to cause wholesale distress. We are told that theLabour party is a party of great nationalizing schemes, for which millions of money ale required ; and we have to reflect that, with the unlimited power of taxation, the Government could confiscate private wealth to such an extent as to make it impossible for any one to hold more than £10,000. Such taxation, however, has never been suggested ; and is it to be supposed that the Labour party would be any more unreasonable in the exercise of a power over trade and commerce?
– But the Government have to face the electors every three years.
– Exactly ; and that is a complete answer to the somersault of the honorable member in regard to the power over trade and commerce. It shows that the people hav« a proper check upon the powers which Parliament may exercise.
Then, again, the Commonwealth Parliament has power to borrow money on the public credit of the Commonwealth. What an awful thing it is for a Labour Government to be in power’ with a right to go to the London money market and borrow as much as they like. According to our opponents, it might be thought that the opportunity to do ill deeds would make ill deeds done - that the Federal Government would go to the money lenders of the world and pawn everything within the control of the Commonwealth in order to create nice conditions, and make all sorts of presents to their party supporters. The argument of honorable members opposite, if it means anything, means that we will exercise the powers we have unreasonably ; and yet there has been a Labour Government in power for nearly three years, with a majority in both Houses, and nothing dreadful has happened. The fact that our opponents are afraid that we shall be in office after the next election to exercise the extended powers for which we are asking is evidence that they feel that the people are satisfied with the manner in which we have exercised the constitutional powers now intrusted to us.
– Deal with the subject.
– No doubt the honorable member wishes me to deal with a subject with which he is sympathetic. He does not deny that he is favorable to the Beef Trust coming to Australia. I am not allowed to quote the Hansard report of the honorable member’s speech. But a reference to it will indicate his views.
– I denied it yesterday.
– I cannot make a speech at the honorable member’s dictation, because I should be out of my element in endeavouring to support the Beef Trust, which I think an unmitigated evil.
– What has the Labour Government’ done to cope with the Beef Trust ?
– We require an extension of the trade and commerce power to enable us to deal with the disease germs in the body politic before they can get beyond our control. The Beef Trust of America controls ^30,000,000. It wields such a gigantic power that it can practically defy Congress. Honorable gentlemen opposite wish to allow similar organiczations, which are in their infancy in Australia, to grow to like proportions, when it will be impossible for the community to control them. I hope the Trusts will never be able to do here what they have done in America, where, when elections are taking place, millions of dollars are spent in bribing newspapers and magazines to publish distorted views. These trusts are able to bribe senators and members of the House of Representatives in the United States Congress, and even to pollute the course of justice. Do we desire financial debauchery of that kind? Our wish is to obtain power to crush these trusts and combines before they can assume gigantic proportions.
– You have the power now ; why do you not use it ?
– The honorable gentleman need not get excited.
– The question is a straightforward one; why do you not answer it?
– I have been too long in political life to be drawn off the trail because a red-herring has been dragged across it. Were I to follow the honorable member, my course would be as straight as that of a serpent in the bush. We have exercised our existing powers against the Coal Combine, the Shipping Trust, and the Sugar Monopoly, and our present power has proven too weak and restricted to prevent the exploitation and robbery of the people. Last year the honorable member for Wimmera, who now interjects, said that an extension of the trade and commerce power should be granted to the National Parliament, but since then he has turned a somersault, arid now says the very opposite.
– Nothing of the kind. That is a complete misrepresentation.
– I should be sorry to misrepresent the honorable member, but he knows that he will vote against the proposed extension of the trade and commerce power.
– The Bill now before the House is not a Bill for the extension of the trade and commerce power.
– It provides for the extension of a supplementary power to be used in connexion with the trade and commerce power. There should be an affirmative vote in regard to both proposals. But the honorable member for Wimmera, who, twelve or eighteen months ago, thought that the trade and commerce power of the Commonwealth should be extended, has since found excuses for doubling back on his tracks.
– The honorable member must not refer to a speech made in another debate.
– I understood that on this Bill some latitude was to be allowed.
– I told the House that in the debate on the Trade and Commerce Bill I would allow the discussion of the proposals contained in the six measures for the alteration of the Constitution, but that on the second reading of the remaining five I would limit the discussion to the measure immediately before us. If that is not done, we- may have a general discussion on every Bill.
– I have no desire to follow the honorable member any further in his winding ways, and can say what I wish to say on the various Bills as they come before us.
It must be assumed that the extended power for which we are asking will be reasonably exercised as we have reasonably exercised the large powers that we already possess. For instance, we have power to den! with currency, coinage, and legal tender. We might, therefore, enact that all the business of the community must be transacted with a currency of farthings. But we are not a set of lunatics, and do not do what is unreasonable. We have exercised this power to provide for the minting of our own silver, and to establish a Government note issue, and it cannot be said that any great calamity has followed in consequence. Our future must be judged by our past and present deeds.
Then we have power to legislate in respect to marriage, divorce, and matrimonial causes. We . could, therefore, legalize polygamy. Our opponents have charged us with disregarding the sanctity of the marriage tie, and with having no concern for home life, wishing to introduce free love.
– This has nothing to do with the Bill.
– I am showing that we have not exercised unreasonably the constitutional powers which we already possess, and that, therefore, we may be trusted with the extended powers for which we ask. The evidence which the electors have of the fact that. they may with safety put extended powers into our hands is that we have not used our present powers unreasonably. The power to legislate in respect to marriage, divorce, and matrimonial causes is one which might be used to do incalculable harm to. the community. No power could be misused to give more lamentable results; but this power has not been used to inflict disaster on the community, nor have the other powers of the Constitution been used in that way. They have been used only to further the best interests of the people.
Besides, there is a check upon the exercise of our powers. The electors return by a majority those whom they desire to frame laws for the Commonwealth. The party in power must be supported by a majority of the electors, and cannot pass its proposals into law without the consent of majorities in. each House of the Parliament.
If we get the extended corporation power we shall be able to regulate the conduct of certain monopolies, and thus give effect to part of the new Protection policy. When the honorable member for Ballarat was in power, his Government submitted a Tariff, and lie promised members like myself that if we would support his proposals he would give us new Protection, providing for failwages and reasonable selling prices. When doubts were raised as to the possibilities of new Protection under the Constitution, he said in this chamber that if effect could not be given to it we should have an opportunity to reconsider our Tariff votes. On that distinct understanding a number of us voted for certain items of the Tariff. Subsequently the honorable gentleman refused to allow the Tariff to be reconsidered, although he had got it through on the promise to which I have referred. Now he goes still further, and tries to prevent this Parliament from securing power to give effect to the new Protection policy, which he said was complementary to his Tariff proposals. The Tariff was got through under false pretences. The honorable member could not have passed it but for the statement that he would stand by the new Protection policy.
Then it has been said that the Labour party have no mandate to resubmit these proposals to the people. I was elected on a distinct platform which provides for -
Honorable members opposite say that we have already referred these proposals to the electors once, and that they were rejected. But I conceive it to be my duty to embrace every opportunity which offers to enable me to give effect to the platform upon which I was elected, and to provide opportunities to the electors to clothe their own National Parliament with sufficient power to carry out the programme they have indorsed. Suppose that we had faced our constituents without again submitting these proposals to the people, what would have been said of us? Would it not have been said, “ These men are arrant cowards. The moment there is a little breeze in opposition to them they abandon the pledges which they made to their constituents.” After all, what are we to do in this National Parliament unless we are granted extended powers? Are we to come here simply to do something which can have no effect on the people? Shall this Parliament be maintained with all its costly paraphernalia when we have no power to deal with matters which are crying out for treatment all over Australia? My constituents should understand that one of the logical corollaries of returning the Labour party to power is the alteration of the Constitution in the directions which have been outlined by the Government, so that that party may carry out its platform.
– And flout the will of the people.
– We cannot do that. If we secure a majority we shall give effect to the mandate of the electors.
– The decision of the people put the honorable member for Kooyong out of Parliament.
– Curiously enough, he received a great beating. According to the honorable member’s argument, because he was once turned down by the electors he had no right to re-enter this Parliament. That is exactly our position. The fact that the people failed to give us a majority in favour of our proposals does not disentitle us to re-submit those proposals to them. The determination of these questions is a matter entirely within their power. There can be no coercion exercised. Realizing, as we do, that we are coming back here, it is only reasonable for us to say to the electors, “ We do not want to come back merely to twiddle our thumbs, and to draw our salaries. We want to do something effective so that we may give you a return equivalent to the cost of this National Parliament. We want to do something to make the country better than we found it:”
Within the past three years we have carried into effect some great constructive proposals. We have done our share of nation building, and we want opportunities to carry that work still further. We want to complete this great national structure, so that Australia maybecome one of the most enlightened and self-reliant countries in the world, where the people will secure the full results of their labours, and where justice and equity shall prevail.
.- The Bill under consideration seeks to obtain an extension of the powers of this Parliament in respect of corporations. Owing to the action of honorable members opposite we are, unfortunately, not in a position to discuss it from a non-party point of view. In an interview with the Prime Minister in Sydney some time ago, he was asked - whether the referendum on the next occasion would be a purely party issue?
The report says -
Mr. Fisher answered, without hesitation, “Yes.”
At the last Hobart Labour Conference, held in January of this year, whatever chance there may have been that this Bill would be considered from a nonparty stand-point was entirely destroyed by the fact that plank No. 3 of the fighting platform was made “ Effective Federation,” and the general platform provides for -
Effective Federation. - The inclusion in the Constitution of the powers asked for on 26th April, 191 1.
That being so, it is clear that at least one section of the House must view this Bill from a party stand-point. Coming to the measure itself, I wish to state exactly what are our powers with respect to corporations. Section 51 of the Constitution provides, inter alia -
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 - (xx.) Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of (he Commonwealth.
That is the extent of our present power, which is fully set out in the case of Huddart Parker v. Moorehead, in which the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Barton laid it down -
Section 51 (xx.) of the Constitution confers upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to prohibit foreign corporations and trading and financial corporations formed under State laws from engaging in trade and commerce within a State, as distinguished from trade and commerce between States or foreign countries, or to impose conditions subject to which they may engage in such trade and commerce, but does not confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to control the operations of such corporations which lawfully engage in such trade and commerce.
Mr. Justice O’Connor laid it down ;
The power conferred by section 51 (xx.) of the Constitution is limited to the making of laws with respect to the recognition of corporations as legal entities within the Commonwealth, and does not include a power to make laws for regulating and controlling the business of corporations when once they have been so recognised, and are exercising their corporate functions by carrying on business in the Commonwealth.
Mr. Justice Higgins, upon being faced with the scope of the power conferred upon this Parliament, is reported upon page 412 of the Commonwealth Law Reports, volume 8, to have said -
I think it is my duty to face this question, but I do not wish to be taken as giving any final or exhaustive definition. In the first place, this sub-section (xx.) does not give any power to incorporate companies. Such power of incorporation as the Federal Parliament has is implied, not express, not direct and independent, but ancillary, incidental to its other powers. This sub-section applies only to corporations which have been formed abroad, or (if_ trading or financial) by the States. But there is ample scope provided for the Federal Parliament by this sub-section. lt can regulate such companies as co their status, and as to the powers which they may exercise within Australia., and as to ‘ the conditions under which they shall be permitted to carry on business. It is well established that each country has a right to prevent a foreign corporation from carrying on business within its limits, either absolutely, 01 except under certain conditions- - Hooper v. California (1) - and this principle seems to be at the base of sub-section (xx.). The Federal Parliament can, in my opinion, prescribe what capital must be put up, probably even how it must have been paid up (in cash or for value, and how the value is to be ascertained), what returns must be made, what publicity must be given, what auditing must be done, what securities must be deposited. The Federal Parliament controls, as it were, the entrance gates, the tickets of admission,’ the right to do business, and to continue to do business in Australia; the State Parliaments dictate what acts may be done or may not be done, within the enclosure, prescribe laws with respect to the contracts and business within the scope of the permitted powers.
– Czar Griffith does not agree with that.
– This is a case in which four of the Justices of the High Court were in agreement.
The. Federal Parliament has no power, in’ regulating the actors, to regulate, in whole or in part, transactions which do not belong to InterState or foreign trade. It can confer on a corporation power* to hold lands as a matter of corporate capacity ; but the State Legislature, having the control of the lands within the State, can forbid such lands to the corporation, can prescribe laws in the nature of mortmain : Colo, nial Building and Investment Association v. The Attorney-General of Quebec (1). The Federal Parliament can, as it were, regulate the terms of admission into a field and of remaining therein, but it cannot make a law imposing a penalty for picking a turnip. The distinction may be fine, but it is clear, and necessarily incidental to the fine distribution of powers and subjects between Federal and State Legislatures in a complex society. The Federal Parliament can regulate corporations as to status, capacity, and the conditions on which business is permitted. But it is for the State Parliament to regulate what contracts or combinations a corporation may make in the course of the permitted business. The principle on which the distinction is based is not peculiar to federations, or novel to British law; for, according to the Privy Council, the status of a person in a colony (e.g., as alien or subject) may have to be determined by the law of England, while the law of the Colony decides what rights and liabilities are attached to the status thus ascertained : Donegani v. Donegani (2) ; In re Adam (3). In fine, if the Statute of Limitations or the Statute of Frauds, or the common law as to contracts, is to be altered or repealed, even as to corporations, it must be altered or repealed by the State Parliament, which can deal with private persons as well as with corporations, and secure uniform treatment.
In that statement, Mr. Justice Higgins sets out what he believes are the powers which this Parliament at present possesses. I should like to see those powers go further. When I was Attorney-General I gave instructions for the preparation of a Companies Bill, which was to include the general powers which are generally provided for in such measures in regard to the ordinary principles of companies law. After we had got our rough draft of the measure ready, and entered upon the consideration of its principles and details, we -came to the conclusion that it was doubtful whether, with our present powers under the Constitution, it was possible for us to frame a satisfactory legislative measure dealing with the subject which would be of uniform application to the whole of Australia. We had not any legal decision at the time to inform us as to the exact powers we possessed. Ultimately, the case to which I have referred came before the High Court, and there was then for the first time an interpretation of this particular section. There had been previously to this a ruling of the High Court in the Jumbunna case, declaring that incidental to the other powers we possessed under the Constitution we had the power to create corporations. I refer honorable members to the report of the Jumbunna case at page 309 of the Commonwealth Law Reports, from which I make the following quotation -
The provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 in respect of the registration of associations as organizations, particularly in so far as they permit the registration of an association of employers or employes in an industry in one State only,, and provide for the incorporation of organizations when registered, are valid as being incidental to the power conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament by section 51, paragraph xxxv., of the Constitution.
That is to say, it was held that, so far as our general powers of control are concerned, this Parliament has unlimited discretion in the selection of the proper agencies and instrumentalities to give them effect. It was ruled that as regards our power with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of disputes extending beyond the boundaries pf a State we had the ancillary power to create agencies and instrumentalities in the shape of industrial corporations to secure our end. Incidental to each of our express powers under section 51 of the Constitution there is the incidental power of incorporation. But that is quite distinct and different from the power we are considering in connexion with the present Bill. The attitude I have always assumed in this connexion is that I desire to see the Commonwealth Parliament given the power necessary to enable it to pass an ordinary Companies* Bill which shall be of uniform application throughout Australia. It might not be necessary for us to exercise such a< power to the full, but I think this Parliament should have the power to deal with the creation and incorporation of companies, their dissolution, and winding-up.- When a corporation is once created and endowed with power to act as’ an artificial entity, it should have the same liberty and freedom that an individual has to move from State to State, and engage under the laws of the States in the ordinary operations of trade, commerce, and industry. In other words, if a business firm desire to carry on operations in three or in six of the States, once the firm is created a corporation it should be able to engage in business in each of the States as freely as the circumstances would permit. We do not want, six systems pf registration for the six States, or six sets of returns furnished in connexion with every little operation. Our corporations should be, so far as we can make them so, Australian corporations, and our legislation should deal with the’ question of their dissolution and windingup. When a company is dissolved, its creditors, wherever they reside, should be regarded as Australian creditors, each entitled to a share according to fixed terms and conditions in the assets of the liquidating company. This has appeared to me to be a highly desirable object to attain.
– Then the honorable gentleman will vote for this Bill ?
– No ; the honorable member fails to understand the point. If this Bill sought only to bring that about, there would be no objection to it. The Government have somewhat modified the terms of the resolutions previously submitted. It was not the intention of the Government in introducing this Bill merely to bring about what I have suggested. The object of this measure is to go further, and the Government have inserted the words “ regulation and control.” That is the point. I have dealt with the power we now possess, and the necessity for an amendment of that power. I wish now to deal with the third point. How do the Government in this instance propose to legislate? The Bill deals with -
Corporations; including -
the creation, dissolution, regulation, and control of corporations ;
corporations formed under the law of a State, including their dissolution, regulation, and control ; but not including municipal or governmental corporations, or any corporations formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition or gain by the corporation or its members; and
foreign corporations, including their regulation and control.
When a similar Bill was before this House on a previous occasion this provision appeared in a different form, and readas follows -
Corporations including -
the creation, dissolution, regulation, and control of corporations;
corporations formed under the law of a State, except any corporation formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members, including their dissolution, regulation, and control; and
foreign corporations, including their regulation and control.
That provision of the previous measure was subjected to a good deal of criticism, and the point was taken that the AttorneyGeneral, and those associated with him, when they drafted that provision, hardly realized its full extent. Competent lawyers outside, analyzing it in a perfectly impartial way, saw the extent to which it would go, and warned the Government of the position. I am very glad to say that at least on one point the Government have benefited by the criticism, as by this new Bill and the alteration in the form of the preceding measure they have practically admitted that they realize the value of the criticism and the accuracy of the lawyer who expressed an opinion on the subject. I propose to quote now from an opinion given by Mr. Mitchell, in a letter which he wrote to the Argus on the 28th February, 1911.
– The honorable gentleman does not mean to say that the present Government were influenced in any way by Mr. Mitchell?
– I take it that the Government should be influenced by correct criticism, no matter from what source it comes. In view of the high standing of Mr. Mitchell at the Bar, his well known integrity, and proved ability, I should say that, no matter how much we may personally differ from the views he expresses, when he deals with a bare question of scientific criticism his opinion is well worth listening to.
– Only that he is politically biased.
– He never has a brief but from the honorable gentleman’s side.
– I do not think that that is a fair thing to say of Mr. Mitchell. I think that honorable members should leave the personal element out of the question, and confine themselves to the principles of the measures before them. In dealing with these Bills, I have tried to keep to the principles they contain, and I ask honorable members opposite to do the same. Referring to the provision with respect to corporations embodied in the proposals of 1910, submitted to the electors in 1911, Mr. Mitchell says -
The effect of the proposed law would be that, as regards every corporation (except those “ formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, and not for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members”), the Federal Parliament could pass any law it pleased. That is to say, any corporation or company formed under the laws of a Stale, even though not engaged in trade and commerce, and including’ as I read the words of the amendment, the city of Melbourne and all other city corporations throughout the States, would be entirely subject to the regulation and control of the Federal Parliament, which could pass laws directing them to carry on their business in an entirely different manner to that in which their competitors were to carry on theirs under the laws of the State, and could direct them to do, or restrain them from doing, any particular act or class of acts.
– He gave a similar opinion against the land tax, did he not?
– No ; how could he give an opinion like that on the land tax?
– He said it was unconstitutional .
– I need only refer honorable members to the answer which the Government have given to the criticism I have quoted from Mr. Mitchell’s letter. They have now proposed to exempt municipal or governmental corporations. Mr. Mitchell pointed out what might happen under the original Bill, which included them, and the Government are to-dav submitting a Bill from which they are exempted. Seeing that they have paid so much respect to Mr. Mitchell’s opinion, I think it is a pity they did not pay more respect to it. Mr. Mitchell went on to say -
Leaving out the very serious matter of the control of municipal and similar corporations, hut having regard to the place that companies now occupy in the development of the community, such a position of affairs would surely be too intolerable to be endured. For instance, any business carried on by a company might have to be carried on under one set of conditions under the Federal law, while in a neighbouring street a rival business could be carried on by a firm under the different conditions of State law.
He is not singular in that opinion, as the honorable member for Angas has expressed a similar opinion during this debate. The honorable member for Flinders has expressed a similar opinion, and, lest there should be any doubt upon the matter, we have had a judicial determination by Mr. Justice Higgins, who, in his judgment, pointed out what would be the effect of fully granting the contention of the Crown then submitted, which amounts to what is being asked for under this Bill. The passage from Mr. Justice Higgins’ judgment has been read several times during the debate, and, as I do not wish to take up time or space in Hansard by again repeating it, I refer honorable members to the extract quoted by the honorable member for Angas and by myself at an earlier stage from the judgment in the Huddart Parker case, which will be found at page 409 of the Commonwealth Law Reports. Mr. Justice Higgins points out in that judgment that the results of the full acceptance of the contention of the Crown at that time would be “ big with confusion,” and that there would be two different sets of laws prevailing in the same community. There would be a Federal law applicable to corporations, and a State law on the same subject applicable to persons. The point I want to make is that as regards creating a legal entity, and allowing that entity to engage in its operations throughout Australia as a trading corporation, that is desirable. Bui once a corporation is created, let it go into the different States and carry on its operations under the ordinary conditions of the State law, in the same way as persons with whom the corporation itself would have to come into competition. It is too ludicrous to imagine that a business man who privately owns a trading concern should be subject to one set of State laws, and that a corporation - the Federal institution - should be put under an entirely different set of laws as regards its operations in business, trade, and commerce, the carrying on of its duties, its liability for negligence, the making of its contracts, and its liability for its financial dealings generally. They ought, as far as possible, to be exactly on one footing. As regards the dissolution of a private firm, when the Bankruptcy Bill is passed, we shall have an Australian law. What we desire to see to is that if an Australian corporation goes insolvent, and has to be dissolved or wound up, it, too, shall be subject to a Federal law. I have come now to the point raised by the honorable member for Hindmarsh as to how far that position carries us. I would draw his attention to the fact that the phrase “ regulation and control of corporations “ occurs in paragraphs a, b, and c of clause 2 of this Bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
– The question to be considered in connexion with these amendments - with the amendment now before the House particularly - is the phrase “ regulation and control.” That is a new term which has been introduced into the Bill, and it is because of its introduction that the effect of the amendment becomes so far-reaching. The same words were in the previous Bill. As I pointed out previously in the opinion of the counsel who was quoted here, the effect of the words “ regulation and control “ amount to the conferring of a power that would enable the Federal Parliament to deal with matters which are at present confined to the States. I was pointing out before the dinner adjournment that according to that opinion we should have an unfortunate position. I am assuming, of course, that this is the only amendment which will be carried at the referenda; we are dealing; with it now as a distinct and substantial amendment. As the learned counsel pointed out, we should have in the one street those corporations which are incorporated under the Commonwealth subject to one set of laws, and those persons in a. neighbouring street who were carrying on the same calling as the corporations subject to a different set of laws. I notice that in the case of Huddart Parker Limited v. Moorehead, Mr. Justice O’Connor used the expression to which I have drawn attention. After agreeing with the judgment by the Chief Justice, he gave the reasons why he came to his conclusion. He said -
For these reasons, I am of opinion that the power conferred by sub-section xx. must be construed as being limited to the making of laws with respect to the recognition of corporations as legal entities within the Commonwealth, and that its provisions do not justify the making of laws for regulating and controlling the business of a corporation coming within the section when once the corporation has been recognised as a legal entity within the Commonwealth, and is exercising its corporate functions in carrying on its business within Australia.
There he used the same words as we find in this phrase “ regulation and control,” although he used the present participle “ regulating and controlling.” I do not know whether that is the source from which the draftsman got the idea of using the phrase. But there it was used by Mr. Justice O’Connor apparently in a wide sense. The objection taken to this amendment is that it goes far beyond the necessities of the case. It is not limited simply to creating general companies so as to enable legal entities to carry on their business throughout Australia in the same way as private persons can do at the present time ; but it will set up an anomaly, as pointed out by Mr. Justice Higgins so forcibly in his judgment. It will create the anomaly of having in one district dealing with the one subject, two sets of laws prevailing, which, as His Honour says, is “big with confusion.”
– Will not the Commonwealth law override the State law?
– No, because the Commonwealth law will apply only to corporations, while the State law will apply to persons.
– But under this amendment ?
– I do not like having to go over ground which has already been covered. This is what Mr. Justice Higgins says, and this is what will he the effect of the amendment -
If the argument for the Crown is right, the results are certainly extraordinary, big with confusion. If it is right, the Federal Parliament is in a position to frame a new system of libel laws applicable to newspapers owned bv corporations, while the State law of libel would have to remain applicable to newspapers owned by individuals.
It is not a case of a Federal law overriding a State law, but a case of a Federal law applying to one set of persons organized as a corporation and a State law, on identically the same subject-matter, applying to another set of persons in the same place, and under the same conditions.
– Will not that he confusion enough?
– I think that it will be “big with confusion,” and that is what Mr. Justice Higgins says would happen. It is a confusion which I hope my honorable friends opposite do not want. If they are going to have in the States one law of libel, let there be one law of libel j but do not let there be one law of libel for a number of persons if they start a company, and an entirely different law of libel for an individual who is running a newspaper in competition with the newspaper of that company. That is where the trouble will come in. That is why Mr. Justice Higgins saysthat if we do this thing the whole subject will be “big with confusion.” That is why it is highly undesirable that we should take that particular action.
– Are we not in the same position now?
– Practically, we are.
– Not even practically, because the law of libel at present is the same. “
– Deal with other questions.
– Take, for instance, trade and commerce. The law in regard to internal trade and commerce applies to private persons, and also to companies.
– Will you define “ trade and commerce?”
– The honorable member is now asking me for another definition. I dealt with another question as he requested. We might have different laws of negligence, liabilities for torts, and methods of making contracts. That is what Mr. Justice Higgins pointed out in his judgment. He referred to the case of the licensing law - .
Taking the analogous power to make laws with regard to lighthouses, if the respondent’s argument is right, the Federal Parliament can license a lighthouse for the sale of beer and spirits, or may establish schools in lighthouses with distinctly doctrinal teaching, although the licensing laws and the education laws are, for ordinary purposes, left to the State Legislatures.
– They exist now.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that there are in Victoria to-day two educational systems, namely, a Federal one and a State one - or two sets of licensing laws, namely, a Federal one and a State one? I am pointing out what the effect will be if the amendment is carried.
– You can reduce the thing almost to an absurdity if you like to go far enough.
– Is it desirable that a number of persons who are organized as a company should have one set of libel law applying to them, and that one individual, who -is publishing the same matter, should have another set applying to him; that it should be a crime for a corporation, but not for a private person, to do something ?
– That is an argument for Unification.
– No ; in a particular State area it is an argument that the State or the Federal law should prevail there. The honorable . member may put it that way if he likes. What I am pointing out is that he will not do that by this amendment, but will bring about the very confusion which he says he does not want to exist. That is the position very clearly as pointed out by the eminent counsel, Mr. Mitchell, the honorable member for Angas, the honorable member for Flinders, and the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins.
– Were there not dissenting Judges in that case?
– The only dissenting judgment was that of Mr. Justice Isaacs, The Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Barton, Mr. Justice O’Connor, and Mr. Justice Higgins were the other four Judges in the case; but Mr. Justice Isaacs gave a dissenting judgment, in which he dealt with the question of the powers under the Australian Industries Preservation Act, holding that certain sections were constitutional. I do not wish to go into the details of the judgment. I desire to . say a few words now in reference to trusts and combines.
– What does the phrase “regulation and control” mean?
– That is what I am asking. We have not had an explanation from the other side yet.
– In Committee, can we not make it more evident what it does mean ?
– That is for the AttorneyGeneral to say. At present very eminent counsel say that it will produce the result here stated; whether that is desired or not, I cannot say. I can only point tothe very pungent criticism which has been given. I desire now to refer to the corporations which it is said are great trusts and combines. I would, first of all, emphasize the point that we have complete plenary power to pass laws to deal with combines and monopolies engaged in theInter-State trade. If there is any trouble at present, and there can be devised any remedy by way of Act of Parliament, that the present Government are to blame for having failed to provide that remedy. I can understand the argument of those honorable members opposite who say, in support of the amendments of the Constitution now sought, that legislation will never effectually cope with monopolies and combinations, and that the only remedy is nationalization. That is a logical position to take up; whether it is a wise one is quite another matter. It is illogical to ask for powers to deal with legislation, and then assert you can never devise legislation to suppress trusts. My own view is that the aim of honorable members opposite is, if they obtain these powers, to deal with trusts and combines in only one way, and that is by their nationalization. This proposed power, in conjunction with that which they seek to nationalize monopolies, would enable the Commonwealth Government to acquire all the property used in connexion with an industry or business said to be a monopoly. For instance, in the case of a large dairying association registered as a corporation, and having associated with it a cooperative concern holding large areas of land, there would be power to nationalize, not only the corporation itself, but all the property used in connexion with it. So far as monopolies and combines engaged in Inter-State trade are concerned, it is idle for honorable members opposite to say that but for the wording of the Constitution as it stands at present a form of legislation could be devised which has not yet been devised. As a matter of fact, the Government may devise any legislative remedy they think fit to deal with Inter-State monopolies and combines, so long as that remedy comes within our power to legislate in respect to Inter-State trade and commerce.
Mr. Frank B. Kellogg, special counsel for the United States of America in the Standard Oil cases, has written an article dealing with that prosecution, in which he points out that it has had three good results. He writes in the American Review of Reviews that, in the first place, it has caused the discontinuance of the unfair practices to which I have already referred in a previous debate. He goes on to say -
Another thing which has been accomplished is that the Government has demonstrated that it is bigger than any corporation, and can legally control aggregations of capital organized under State authority.
That should apply to our position in Australia. He points out that, as the result of the prosecutions, the Federal authority was established by the Court. Then he adds -
I have often said that Congress should now, in the light of these decisions, establish a Commission something like the Inter-State Commerce Commission, and license corporations and large aggregations of capital under strict supervision and control.
In another part of his article he deals with the question of so improving the legislation with respect to trusts and combines as to make the Federal power over them more effectual. He writes -
The fault is that the Government never has had adequate supervision or control over large aggregations of capital, with the proper publicity which follows such control. What Congress should now provide for is a voluntary system of Federal incorporation, and a compulsory system of Federal licence of large corporations engaged in Inter-State business. Such a licence could be issued upon condition that the corporation comply with the terms and conditions of the Act of Congress providing therefor, and the first and most essential of these conditions would be proper publicity of the business and affairs of such corporations. This would’ work for the benefit of the stock-holders as well as the general public.
He is dealing there with the present Constitution of the United States of America, which confers upon Congress the same powers that we possess in this regard, and he points out a further remedy that might be provided. He goes on to sn-y -
It is sufficient here to say that such a licence law should make clear just what corporations shall be permitted to engage in Inter-State commerce, and under what conditions. When licensed, so long as they comply wilh the terms of the licence and the Acts of Congress, they should be protected in their right to do business, so that there may be security and certainty in the right to engage in commerce. The “law should also provide that, if such corporations engage in unfair methods of competition for the purpose of obtaining a monopoly, their charter or licence shall bc forfeited. The object, of course, should be to regulate and prevent the abuses of large aggregations of capital, keeping open the opportunity for all men fairly and with equal right to engage in commerce.
That is the opinion, not of an amateur, but of a man who went through all the
Standard Oil prosecutions, and who occupies a position of considerable eminence at the United States Bar. He holds exactly the same view as was expressed by Mr. Mackenzie King, when Minister of Labour in Canada. In the Dominion Parliament in 1910’ there was introduced a Bill giving further power with respect to large combines. At page 6838 of the debates of the Canadian House of Commons, Vol. IV., Session 1909-10, Mr. King, in discussing that measure, and dealing with the operations of the combines in Canada, is reported to have said -
If I have made myself clear, I shall have shown, in regard to the attitude of the Government in this matter, that it is not assumed that combines are wholly responsible for the increase of prices; that combines, in other words, may be one cause, in some cases they may not be a cause ; but there is a strong reason for believing that in certain cases combines have contributed to the enhancing of prices unduly.
For’ that reason it becomes necessary to pass laws to try to control their operations.
– He was a very clever fellow to find that out !
- Mr. King knew what he was talking about. When we hear an honorable member saying that trusts and combines in Australia are responsible for the industrial unrest existing in the Commonwealth it seems wise to bring forward this corrective even if it may appear that the authority quoted was merely indulging in platitudes. Mr. King went on to say, as reported at page 6859 -
In conclusion, let me say that it is not claimed for this measure that it will by any means abolish all the evils which are claimed to be the result of combines and trusts in this country. The most that can be hoped for any such legislation is that it may be a step in the right direction. Broadly viewed, it is in the machinery for investigation, and for the framing and shaping of an intelligent public opinion, which the measure provides, that its main features consist. It aims to get at the truth, and to have the truth, when ascertained, so presented that the remedy for a wrong disclosed will be self-evident. It is framed in the belief that, once in possession of the facts, which are of first importance to itself, the public will find a way of seeing that any evil under which it may be wrongfully suffering will be removed, ana that no situation, however complicated, will prove too intricate for a satisfactory solution, but to ascertain the facts, to get at the truth, is the first of all essentials.
That applies equally to the position in Australia. We desire to get at the truth, to find out where these trusts are, and to ascertain what is the character of their operations and their effect upon the community as a whole. He continues -
It relics on the moral sense of the community as a “compelling force” when concentrated intelligently on a business wrong. Intelligent public opinion will protect honest business and condemn unfair practices.
Mr. King takes the same view regarding the importance of publicity as does Mr. Kellogg. He said -
In the publicity, therefore, which this measure secures, not to private affairs of honest business men, as may be urged by those who are interested in thwarting legislation of this kind, but to the wrongful acts of mean men, lies its strength in securing the well-being of the people, which it is its purpose to maintain. It is an honest endeavour to grapple, in a fearless, practical, and thorough manner with what is, undoubtedly, the most complicated, intricate, and far-reaching of those problems to which our present social, industrial, and commercial life lias given rise ; and which presents, I believe, more difficulties than any single problem in the world to-day. If it does nothing more than restrain to some extent the aggressive tendencies of large aggregations of wealth, and to secure, as respects those powerful interests, some measure of that social control which is essential to the protection of the well-being of the many, it will prove not only a benefit to this nation, but I believe, an onward step in the march of social progress.
This shows that the Dominion Parliament is prepared to take action to investigate trusts, and that the Government there are devising remedies that have not hitherto been tried in Australia. We have to consider whether it may not be wise for those who are going to legislate to study the operation of this law in Canada and to determine the advisableness of adopting some of the suggestions which have been made for the amendment of the law in the United States of America.
During the last three years we have heard many speeches regarding our defective powers under the Constitution, and yet we have the undoubted fact that during the whole of that period honorable members opposite have not brought to light the legislative remedies of which they have talked. We are told that it will be necessary to regulate the prices that corporations charge for their products. Judging by the wording of the proposed amendment of the Constitution, I presume that the control and regulation of prices is what is in the mind of the Government. We hear honorable members opposite speak as if the recent increases in prices and in the cost of liv ing throughout the world were due only to the existence of trusts and combines. The question has been fully and completely investigated by Commissions, and whilst it may be perfectly true that trusts and combines constitute one of the causes for this increase they represent by no means the only cause.
– How does the honorable member account for the rise in prices all over the world ?
– The causes are divisible into three classes. There are first of all the causes that are world-wide - causes that seem to be operating in every country ; then there are causes which operate in a particular country ; and finally there are those which operate in a particular city such as Melbourne or Sydney. A world-wide cause is discussed fully by Layton in his Introduction to the Study of Prices, and is also mentioned by Mr. McKenzie King, who refers in his speech to several economists. It is mentioned in the report of the Massachusetts Commission, and by the Committee of the Senate of the United States of America. That cause is the increase in the production of gold throughout the world.
– -Is the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the subject?
– Yes. Honorable members opposite say that corporations are responsible for the rise in prices. 1 atn showing that corporations are not solely responsible, but that other causes also have to be taken into consideration, one of them being the increase in the production of gold.
– I thought the honorable member was going to argue for bimetallism.
– -I am giving the opinion of a few experts.
– A few cranks.
– These so-called cranks consist, in the first place, of Mr. McKenzie King, the Minister for Labour in Canada, v/ho gives the names of several leading professors. We also have the opinion of the Committee presided over by Senator Lodge, who is, I suppose, one of the most capable men in the United States.
– That is doubtful.
– Unfortunately, any man. who differs from the honorable member for Hindmarsh is, in his opinion, a crank. J should not like to call the honorable member a crank simply because he holds different opinions from a man like Senator Lodge, and from Mr. Layton, the author of a recently published work on prices. The increased production .of gold is generally admitted to be a cause.
– Is there a man in the City of London with a reputation to lose who believes that?
– Other .causes alleged to contribute to the advance in prices in the United States are stated to be the increased cost of production of farm products by reason of higher land, values and higher wages; increased demand tor farm products and food ; the shifting of population from food-producing to foodconsuming occupations and localities; immigration to food-consuming localities; reduced fertility of land resulting in lower average production or in increased expenditures for fertilization ; increased banking facilities in agricultural localities which enable farmers to hold their crops and market to the best advantage ; reduced supply convenient to transportation facilities of such commodities as timber; cold storage plants, which result in preventing extreme fluctuations of prices of certain commodities with the seasons; increased cost of distribution; industrial combinations; organizations of producers or of dealers;, advertising ; increased money supply ; overcapitalization and higher standard of living. These are a few referred to in the report and there discussed. If honorable members will look through the report of the Committee of the Senate, they will see that the increased cost of living, and the increased standard of life set up by virtue of the progress of education and civilization throughout the world, are given as causes. When we commence to regulate prices, however, we have to deal with an exceedingly complicated and delicate problem. All sorts of causes have to be investigated. Some of the causes of increased prices are found to be world-wide; others extend over the whole operations of a nation; others are purely local. For instance, the Royal’ Commission that inquired into the fish supply of Sydney found that the increased cost of fish was not due to a combine, but to the steadily increasing demand due to increasing prosperity and changes in domestic conditions. They reported : “ After the most careful inquiry we have been unable to discover any trace of the existence of any combine among the persons engaged in the distribution of fish.” There are some of the causes for the increase of prices which I do not want to see removed. For instance, I do not want to see. the standard of living lowered in any way ; but I do wish to see, as the result of increased efficiency and augmented power of production, the output of industry increased, so as to enable a higher standard of living to prevail. I wish to make one other point, in conclusion. Honorable members opposite run away with the idea that the Commonwealth is the only reforming power in Australia, and that it is not possible to accomplish anything by anybody outside the walls of this Parliament. In justice to the Parliament of Queensland, I want to tell the House that an Amending Health Act 1911 has been passed in that State which is a model for other communities. The amending Act alone consists of ninety-six sections. The Queensland Parliament have tried to bring the Health Act up to the highest modern standard. They have dealt with patent medicines, and have taken complete power to prohibit the advertising and sale of harmful productions of the kind in Queensland. Further than that, they have taken power to deal with those appliances or apparatus which we sometimes see advertised as being capable of curing everything. I need only refer honorable members to section 18 of the Queensland Health Act of 1911, which deals with the prohibition of sale of injurious articles.
– How is it that such advertisements are still published in the Brisbane newspapers? I can show them to the honorable member in the Brisbane Telegraph lately.
– That may be so. I am showing what the Parliament of Queensland has done.
– The Queensland Government are not administering the Act.
– Oh, yes; the Minister is quite wrong. But the Act was only assented to on 31st December, 1911. Consequently it has been in operation only a few months.
– The Queensland Government were frightened into that by the last referendum vote.
– That is an unjust remark.
– The honorable member cannot deny it.
Mr. GROOM. I do deny it. Inasmuch as the legislation of the Government of Queensland throughout its whole career has been characterized by liberal, humane, and democratic measures, I can make the denial without the slightest hesitation.
– They have suspended the operation of one portion of the Act for two years.
– Let us discuss these matters temperately, quietly, and without undue excitement. Honorable members opposite need not get into a frenzy when they hear pointed out what a State Government has done. The section to which I have referred prevents the advertising or selling of any food, drug, or article in contravention of a prohibition which may be notified in the Gazette. This has not been suspended. There is another section of the new Act dealing with boots, and providing that no person shall manufacture or sell any boots, shoes, or slippers, the soles, or counters, or stiffeners whereof consist wholly or in part of cardboard or paper.
– Parts of that Act have been suspended until 1913.
– Surely we can deal with a matter relating to the preservation of human health without raising questions of party politics. Why should honorable members from Queensland wish to cast a slur upon the legislation of their own State? Why cannot they, when they find a State Parliament trying to legislate to improve the condition of the people, and preserve the health and welfare of the community, honestly admit that the effort is a good one? Why should they - as honorable members opposite always do - try to cast other people into disrepute because they hold different political views?
– The point is that the Act was suspended for two years.
– Even if it has been suspended for thirty years my point as to Parliament having legislated would be a good one. But the Act is not suspended.
– It is so; I have definite information.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Debate resumed(vide page 6281).
– The measure before the House has served as a means for the expression of opinions upon the whole of the proposed amendments of the Constitution now before the House. When these measures were submitted, I ventured to ask that they should be dealt with on their merits. The warmest supporters of honorable members opposite cannot say that they have been so considered. The general character of the criticisms has varied from vague generalities to efforts calculated to mislead the people as to the true issues before them. The criticism of the honorable member for Ballarat typifies admirably one kind of treatment to which these proposals have been subjected. His métier is vague criticism, that safe and profitable line of generalities, in which there is so much scope and so little danger. A subject difficult in itself has been rendered, in the honorable member’s case, ten times more difficult by reason of those pale and unhappy ghosts of his former self which rise sadly up to rebuke and contradict him. The honorable gentleman - who is able to throw the glamour of his eloquence over the stalest platitudes, and to weave around the most prosaic utterances that veil of romance and poetry which has been so happily satirized, but not silenced, by his colleague, the . honorable member for Flinders - lent to the discussion of this measure that attraction which I was unable to supply myself. I, stumbling and halting amongst facts, endeavoured to deal with the matter from the stand-point of a dweller upon earth ; he soared amongst the clouds. I tried to present to the people facts relevant to the discussion, to review the Constitution, and the circumstances under which it had evolved, and to ask one or two pertinent questions as to the necessity for its amendment. The honorable member dwelt with rapt fervour on its esoteric beauties.
Quotations from those memoranda which the honorable member for Ballarat, in a moment which he now, I am sure, regards as inexcusably weak, drew up and laid on the table of the House, were freely made; but they left him unmoved. I quoted also from that admirably compiled memorandum which the honorable gentleman himself sent, under his own hand, to South Africa, to advise our fellow colonists there how best to build a new nation. Drawn up by Mr. Garran, joint author with the honorable member for Bendigo of the chief text-book for students of our Constitution, it embodied the fruits of actual experience of the working of our Constitution. Mr. Garran, differing widely from his collaborator, said in the most unambiguous way that the one blot on the otherwise spotless surface of the Constitution was the fact that the trade and commerce power is divided. The honorable member for Darling Downs, whose perspicacity in seeing the truth and noting it is becoming more and more evident as the days go on, indorsed that memorandum. He wrote, “ I have perused this, and I entirely agree with it,” and with the additional indorsement of the honorable member for Ballarat, the document went its way. Yet, when I quoted from this memorandum, the honorable member for Ballarat sat unmoved. Nay, he smited. When I quoted from that other admirable memorandum by his colleague, the honorable’ member for Angas, who, after marshalling the facts, declared in the most unmistakable way that the Commonwealth was helpless to deal with trusts, and that what was wanted was an amendment of the Constitution, to give power to deal with “ Trusts and combines in restraint of trade in any State or part of the Commonwealth,” this teo, left him unmoved; he merely muttered something about State rights. There is something very curious about this memorandum, and, indeed, about a.ll of them. I never heard from the honorable member for Bendigo, or the honorable member for Ballarat, that the proposal of the honorable member for Angas was an invasion of State rights; and yet, if anything is, that is, declaring, as it does, the right of the Commonwealth to deal with trusts and combines wherever they may be found. The honorable member for Ballarat heard it, and sat there, and he sits there still, unabashed.
His sole answer to all this heaped-up evidence of Ms own attitude and that of his followers is mere vague generalities. ‘ When we tell him that the reign of competition is so far impaired as to practically destroy those safeguards to the consumer that the science of economics, based and built up in relation to competition, had relied on. and that we must have new powers to meet new conditions, he says that he ,: doubts if there is another Constitution in the world so truly Federal in spirit, in the greatest part of its form, as the Federal Constitution of Australia !” When we tell him that the people of this country, in common with the people of other countries, are exploited by combines who fix prices to suit themselves, and not to suit the public, and that there is no power to deal with those combines, he says that the word “ Federal “ never occurs in the United States Constitution, and only once in the Constitution of Canada ; while it occurs fifteen times in the Constitution of the Commonwealth ! Consider, Mr. Speaker, what a happy fate is that of the electors of this Commonwealth ! It is true that the Coal Vend, the Shipping Combine, and the Sugar Trust are here; that the Beef Trust is starting operations; that we have cardboard soles to our boots ; and that there are various other kindred blessings to be had for the asking or without in this happy country of ours ; but, as a set-off to all these things, let us never fail to thank Heaven that the word “ Federal “ occurs fifteen times in our Constitution, while it appears only once in the Constitution of Canada. As for the United States of America, that unhappy country has been pottering along for over a century and a quarter in benighted darkness, for the blessed word “Federal” is not once mentioned in its Constitution.
We tell him that we have no power to put in force the new Protection upon which he contested three elections - or was it two? - let us give’ him the benefit of the doubt - on each occasion holding this up as the one thing necessary to consummate the salvation and happiness of the people of this country. We remind him that he admits that the new Protection cannot be secured without an amendment of the Constitution. We place the facts before him, and he says that “ If we throw away the priceless possession of a truly Federal system, capable of allowing endless development, it may be long before our posterity will recover it.” That is, indeed, a happy saying, fit to be gibbetted along with tlie “gelatinous compound,” as the honorable member for Flinders so finely described his “ national policy of bold contour,” though, since so describing it, he has imbibed its characteristics so as to himself present the consistency of a “ gelatinous compound.”
This is the helpful contribution of the honorable member for Ballarat to the discussion of this great question. We tell him that trusts and combines are here, and point out that his lieutenants on either side have strongly urged that the necessary power shall be given to deal with them; that the honorable member for Angas has said that the Constitution ought to be amended so as to give power to deal with trusts and combines in restraint of trade wherever we find them; and he replies that the word “ Federal “ occurs in the Constitution fifteen times. We remind him that the honorable member for Flinders stated that the necessary powers cannot be exercised by the States - that trusts and combines are growing and developing, and eating like a canker into the heart ot governmental institutions - and he.’ replies that if we are not careful we shall lose the “ priceless possession of the Federal spirit, and that posterity can hardly recover from the loss.” I leave the honorable member with the consolation that the beatific contemplation of the word “ Federal “ occurring fifteen times in the Constitution can give to such a gentleman as himself.
I come now to the honorable member for Bendigo, who ventured from that safe - I was going to say “ and profitable,” but if has hardly proved so in his case - line of generalities in which his chief indulged, and reverted to details. I wish to give the honorable member for Bendigo every credit for an attempt to deal with this matter from the only stand-point from which it ought to be dealt, namely, the stand-point of facts - he is the only honorable member on that side who made the remotest attempt to grapple with the question in detail. He has furnished the country and the House with a list of the powers that the Commonwealth will be able to exercise if the trade and commerce amendment be made. The list is rather an imposing one. The honorable member for Ballarat has said that this list has been put forward, and that no one has contradicted it. I do not know whether honorable members have read the list ; but I think that the people of the country will be inclined to regard it as too long to read. I hope, however, they will net therefore accept it. If the list is examined, it will be seen that the honorable member for Bendigo has contrived this imposing array of subjects over which the Commonwealth will have power in a very simple, yet most effective, way. He does it by repetition. He, first of all, states a thing generally, and then states it in particular ; in this way he swells it meagre list to four or five times its length. I invite honorable members to look at the items. Some of them have their amusing side, and shew to what straits the honorable member has been driven to swell its proportions. In the list of subjects on which, according to the honorable member, the States, if the Bills before us be carried, will not be able to legislate exclusively are “ The regulationof traction engines.” It is seriously contended that the States’ position in regard to traction engines will be impaired. This is intolerable. Then we are told that the control of marine stores and old metals, which represent, I suppose, an industry as old as the world itself, will pass from the States, which will no, longer be able to deal with people who ‘ go round purchasing odds and ends, and endeavour to make an honest, and sometimes lucrative, living. Such a’ thing is an outrage. Then in regard to Sundays and holidays the States will not be able to legislate - I do not knew why. but the honorable member has said so. Then we are told that the States will lose their rights over local option, the licensing laws, and the regulation and sale of intoxicants and other goods. It is very sad.
But we must bear up. Things are really not so bad as they appear. The States will be able to deal with many of these matters under their police powers, even if the Commonwealth acquires the powers asked for and exercises them. Some of the items on his list will clearly remain to the States. Let me give an instance. According to him, the State legislation regarding poisons and explosives, chemists and druggists, will be interfered with. He seriously suggests that this Parliament may legislate for the regulation of every retail chemist’s and druggist’s shop throughout the Commonwealth. I do not agree with him. If the power asked is given to us, we shall not have authority to deal with such matters. The opinion of the honorable member for Flinders, expressed very fully when this measure was before the Parliament in 1910, shows this. The interpretation of the Canadian Constitution given in Parsons v. Citizens Insurance Company shows clearly that the Canadian commerce power, which goes further than this proposal, does not preclude the State from making laws for the local regulation of commerce within its borders. That is retained under its police powers. It will be retained by the States here.
The same thing applies to most of the other items on his list. The honorable member has enumerated many kinds of the shopkeepers over whom the States wi.l lose control. This is not so. The States would retain power to deal with them. So much for the honorable member’s list. Let me now show the other side. Here are some of the matters which will be left to the States when the constitutional amendments have been carried -
Land and settlement, agriculture, &c.
Development and protection of natural resources - roads, forests, fisheries, game, mines, water conservation and irrigation, &c.
Education - primary, secondary, and higher.
Public health and morals.
Manufacture, except as to combinations and monopolies.
Industrial law generally, except as regards labour and employment.
Criminal law generally.
Civil law generally - contracts, torts, real and personal property, inheritance, &c.
Liquor and Licensing.
State Constitution and Government.
Municipal and local government.
State Railways (except arbitration or industrial disputes).
State works and undertakings.
State insurance within the State.
State banking within the State.
State Public Service.
Administration of justice and legal procedure. Police.
Intra-State Commerce on State Railways.
In addition to the exclusive powers over allthese vitally important matters, the State . Parliaments will be able to legislate in regard to trade and commerce, corporations, labour and employment, combinations and monopolies, and all other matters not exclusively vested in the Federal Parliament. None of the proposed amendments does vest exclusive powers in this Parliament, therefore, so far as the field is not covered by Federal laws, the States can legislate freely. This list has not been lengthened by putting down things generally and then again in detail. It is a plain statement of the wide general powers of legislation remaining to the States. It shows how unfounded is the contention that the carrying of these amendments will mean Unification and the emasculation of the powers of the States.
I come now to another point dealt with by the honorable member. The honorable member admits that trusts and combines may be bad, but he says that the law as it
Stands is sufficient to deal with them. I quote from his speech -
I give the Ministry credit for their amendments of last session, and I think that that piece of anti-trust legislation may be regarded as one of the world’s masterpieces of anti-trust and anti-combine legislation. Under due administration it would be found to be more destructive of trusts, combines, and monopolies than either the Sherman Act or any other legislation of the United States.
He thinks that it is easier to secure a conviction against trusts under our laws than in America under the Sherman Act, but the exact opposite is the truth. According to the honorable member, we have only to prove that a combination is in restraint of trade. That is not so. Before a prosecution can be instituted, the AttorneyGeneral must be satisfied that there has been restraint of trade, that it . was unreasonable, and that it was to the detriment of the public. And all these must be proved before a prosecution can succeed. The High Court has held that it is not sufficient to prove restraint pf trade; the restraint must be unreasonable and detrimental to the public. That is made clear from the judgment in the Vend appeal case.
In order to make the position quite clear I asked the Crown Solicitor whether the statement of the honorable member was correct. He has supplied me with a memorandum in which he says that it was not. In regard to the Sherman Act, the section requires proof only of restraint of trade. There is nothing in that Act about the restraint being unreasonable or detrimental to the public, but the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the Standard Oil case, and afterwards in the Tobacco Trust case, held that the word “ unreasonable “ must be read into the Act. Therefore, although the language of the Act is as I have said, yet two things must be proved to secure a conviction under the Sherman Act - that there was restraint of trade and that it was unreasonable. Here, as I have shown, three things have to be proved. The word “ unreasonable “ was read into the Sherman Act by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, and into our Act by the High Court.
The honorable member for Bendigo says that our Act is the most efficient legislation in the world for dealing with trusts and combines. If he means that it is as efficient as the Sherman Act, I shall not contradict his statement, because that Act has been proved, by a series of lamentable and pathetic failures, extending over a period of twenty years, to be the most inept and inefficient piece of legislation for its purpose ever drafted. Not one trust has been crushed by it, the trusts prosecuted being all stronger after conviction than before.
The honorable member contends that we have power now to deal with all trusts, and that we did not succeed in the Vend appeal case because we failed in our facts. Let us look at the matter a little closely.
If we failed to justify our contention that there was such restraint of trade as was in fact detrimental to the public we cannot . complain, and it may be, as he says, not necessary to amend the law. But the facts are strongly against such a contention.
Here I feel constrained to point out that the Vend appeal case had no relation to what is known as the Vend agreement. By misrepresenting the position the honorable members for Hunter and Newcastle and myself have been unfairly attacked. The agreement, attacked was not the Vend agreement nor the Shipping Combine agreement, but that between the Combine and the Vend. As to the insufficiency of our facts to justify conviction, I say that, in proportion to the trade dealt with, they proved the existence of a greater and more complete monopoly than the Standard Oil Trust or the Tobacco Trust in America, both of which were convicted under the Sherman Act. Mr. Justice Isaacs, speaking of certain acts by members of the Vend, said -
The condition “ all or none “ was in the circumstances a powerful, and, indeed, a resistless, weapon. Summing up this transaction, the combination enlisted in their service both force and fraud.
I have already mentioned the extent to which prices were raised. Mr. Justice Isaacs said -
No one acquainted with the facts, and who thought for an instant, could have any doubt that the result of the combination and its operations would in all probability be to bring about the detrimental consequences which I have narrated.
The conclusion to be drawn from these and similar instances is that the defendant collieries intended, with regard to the competitive conditions in the Inter-State and Newcastle coal trade, there should, as far as possible, be a clean slate.
For the plain guiding principle of the combination was to sweep away by artificial arrangements whatever protection the public might have against the terms of price, choice, and other conditions of supply, which the will of the combination might at any moment think opportune to dictate…..
I have no doubt, and I cannot imagine any doubt, existing, that the intention of the defendants was to monopolize, in the sense in which I have explained that term. They intended to efface competition in every form - competition of production, which is only material as bearing on the Inter-State trade in the article when produced - and competition of carriage. They intended to grasp into one huge hand the whole Inter-State supply of Newcastle coal. I have no hesitation in concluding that the elimination of competition was the main and central object of the whole combination complained of.
To these excerpts from the Judge’s own words two facts only need be added : first, that the operations of the agreement extended over the whole of the four States, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia; that it raised the price of coal and carriage 30, 40, and even 50 per cent. ; and, secondly, that it was a combination between persons who owned 90 per cent, of the coal and persons who owned 90 per cent, of the carriage. In other words, it was virtually a monopoly - a complete one - of a vital necessity of modern civilized life ! We proved all these things, yet the Court says they did not constitute detriment to the public. The honorable member says that these facts were not sufficient to secure a conviction. If that be so, we shall never get a conviction against any trust in this country.
He says, in the face of these facts, that the law is sufficient, without amendment, to deal with trusts and combines. He asks, “ Why do you not prosecute other trusts? What about the Tobacco Trust? What about the Sugar Trust?” He declares that we have plenty of power to prosecute them. I will deal with these statements. In the first place I would like to say, both in regard to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Tobacco Company, that these companies are concerned in manufacturing as well as in distributing. As the honorable member knows, the case of the United States v. E. C. Knight and Company laid down . that the power to deal with trade and commerce does not include the power to deal with manufactures. That case has settled the law on that point, and it shows clearly that, although, as in this case, combinations may exist which control the whole of the refineries, and therefore the whole of the sugar output, yet the Sherman Act could not deal with them because those combinations were only in relaitrion to manufacture, and not in relation to Inter-State commerce ; and the same thing applies here.
– The company was convicted ten years afterwards.
– I am rather glad of it. But I do not think that affects the question. The law is as I have said. If the company was convicted ten years afterwards, it was not convicted because it was monopolizing the manufacture of sugar.
– Because it suppressed the manufacture of that article.
– I submitted this matter to the Crown Solicitor. The honorable member says, “ Why do you not prosecute the Tobacco Trust?” Now, the operations of that Trust were inquired into by a Royal Commission, which took evidence and submitted a report. That report states that it would be idle to endeavour to deal with the Trust by means of a manipulation of the Tariff, and that it would be useless attempting to dissolve it into its constituent elements. That is to say, that no remedy under the Anti-Trust Act would touch it. It points out that the only effectual remedy is to be found in the nationalization of the industry. Thereport stated that there was no evidence to show that any control was exercised over the retail trade, owing to which the retailers were excluded from buying tobacco elsewhere. But that fact was established in the Vend case. There was no means of getting coal except through the Vend, there was no means of getting carriage except through the Combine. Those who tried to do it were crushed. Yet we were unable to get a conviction in the Vend case. But the honorable member says that we could get a conviction against the Tobacco Trust, although the evidence taken by the Royal Commission showed that no attempt was made by the Trust to compel retailers to deal only with it. And the Royal Commission expressly stated that such aotion was useless.
I have here a departmental report dealing with this subject. On 28th December, 1907, when honorable members opposite were in office, the Crown Solicitor was asked whether there was sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution of the Tobacco Trust. That was asked after the operations of the Trust had been investigated by a Royal Commission. In reply he wrote -
I have already advised that the papers previously submitted do not contain evidence of any unlawful combination, or any breach of the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906. . . . There is no evidence to show that in Australia the combine has up to the present time endeavoured to force a policy of exclusive dealing in their goods on the retailers. I am of opinion that the evidence submitted is not sufficient to justify proceedings against the combination known as the Tobacco Combine for entering into or continuing in a combination in contravention of the Australian Industries Preservation Act.
That is the answer to the honorable member’s inquiry as to why we do not prosecute the Tobacco Trust. It is an answer which has been in the Department, and at the disposal of honorable members opposite who have been asking this question, for years. It is they who asked for this advice, it is they who acted upon it, and it is they who evidently did not care to prosecute the
Trust. Then we are asked, “ Why do you not prosecute the Sugar Trust?”
– You altered the law.
– The policy of honorable members opposite has always been to do nothing. The Crown Solicitor, to whom I have referred this matter, writes -
It would be madness to prosecute, in the light of the Full Court judgment in the Vend case. The Sugar Commission attempted to make inquiry, and were blocked by the Full Court. Although Sir John Quick says they are engaged in Inter-State trade, the Full Court held that the Commonwealth had no power to inquire into the domestic affairs of the company. That is reserved to the State.
Yet the honorable member for Bendigo says that we can prosecute the Sugar Trust. The Crown Solicitor, who is as good an authority in this matter as is the honorable member, affirms that it would be madness to do so. He declares that when we were endeavouring to get the materials to prosecute them we were blocked on every hand, and that we could not inquire into their domestic affairs, because that power is reserved to the States. The company have refineries in four States. Theirs is largely an Intrastate trade. They refine in Sydney, presumably for New South Wales; they refine in Melbourne for Victoria; they refine in Adelaide for South Australia and Western Australia, and they refine in Brisbane for Queensland. The greater part of their trade is therefore Intra- State, and not Inter-State, and in any case they are engaged in manufacture, and not in trade. These are the reasons why we have not prosecuted the Sugar Trust or the Tobacco Trust. The reasons why we have not prosecuted other trusts have been supplied by the honorable member for Angas. He declared it to be useless. The Vend case has shown it to be so. The Opposition slept peacefully on this question for years, and never attempted to wake up until ten days before we took office. The dead could not have slept more peacefully than they did all’ that time. They did nothing except write memoranda, urging an amendment of the Constitution to deal with combines. Now they say : Why do you not prosecute without amending the Constitution ?
The Anti-Trust Act is not sufficient. It is quite futile. We cannot prosecute the Sugar Trust, or the Tobacco Trust, or any other trust. We are powerless. These gentlemen who cry out now, “ Why do not you prosecute more trusts?” when they were in office for eight years, prosecuted none.
I turn now to the honorable member for Flinders, whose attitude is Most remarkable. He quoted from a speech which I delivered at a railway union social in Melbourne, at which it was asserted that I said, “ We must bring down prices, profits, and rents, and then everything else would come down.” Upon that statement he built his elaborate edifice. He said, “ That shows what the Labour party “are doing.” I wish to say that if the honorable member will look at the statement attributed to me he will see that it is downright nonsense. What I said was that unless we regulate prices the regulation of wages is futile. What I said was that unless we bring down prices and profits, which are another form of prices, everything which we are endeavouring to lift up will come down. That is, unless we bring down prices and profits, wages must come down. That is my position. The other is just nonsense. Unless we regulate prices, what is the use of putting up wages, for, as fast as we raise them, prices are increased, so that the whole business has to be gone over again? What I said on the occasion referred to is what I am saying now, and any man who reads the report of my speech will see it.
Then the honorable member ridiculed my statement that prices could be regulated. He said in effect, “ How futile and absurd it is to tell people that we can regulate prices.” He then gave an illustration of what would happen if we attempted to regulate the price of bread. He said that we should then have to regulate the price of flour, the price of wheat, the price of labour, and the price of machinery to the farmer. He declared that it was absurd to attempt to regulate prices, and that I knew it to be absurd. It appears that I am protean in his eyes. At one time he alludes to my cynical frankness, and at another I appear to him as a sort of Mollah, whose followers gyrate about him. regarding his every action with a slavish devotion usually reserved to the gods. But there was nothing subtle or ambiguous about my statement. What I said then was what I meant. What I said then I say now. In that I have the advantage over the honorable member. I said it then, and I say it now. I say, without any hesitation at all, that unless we can regulate prices and profits all our laborious efforts to preserve industrial peace by substituting arbitration for strikes must be futile. If it is right to regulate wages, how can it be wrong to regulate prices ? We ought to recognise . itI believe that the honorable member for Flinders, in his heart, does recognise it, and is opposed to both. He says,, indeed, .plainly, that all this business of Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts is wrong, -,but honorable members opposites - I do not know whether they are his colleagues, his followers, or his leaders - do not say this. They say that Wages Boards are good things, and that the regulation of wages is a good thing. I say that the regulation of wages is as much fixed by the natural law of supply and demand as is the regulation of prices. What applies to one applies to the other. What does a union do, and what does a Wages Board do? A union corners the supply of labour and says, “ You cannot have labour excepting at a certain price.” and if the corner is effective, the union gets, within reason, what it asks for. If a. Wages Board says that the wages of such and such a man shall be so much, what is that but a corner in labour? The law says you cannot get a plumber unless von pay him 12s. a day, and straightaway the price of the labour of a plumber for one day is 1.2s. There is no natural law of supply and demand in such a case, but we hear no complaint about the invasion and the terrible consequences that follow from the invasion of the natural law of supply and demand. But when we attempt to deal with prices it is a different matter. The honorable member for Flinders says that prices cannot be fixed. I say, on the other hand, that not only can prices be fixed, but that prices are fixed every day. The honorable gentleman, in support of his contention, referred generally to the teachings of the economists. When I made the speech referred to, the Age, in criticising my remarks, said that I knew very well that this was .heresy, that John Mill, Ricardo, and Adam Smith had said so-and-so. When I found the Protectionist Age quoting Mill, Ricardo, and Adam Smith, I was amazed, and said, “ Can the prophets of Baal have come to worship and fall down at the altars of Jehovah “ ? However, it was so. The honorable member for Flinders says that economists declare that prices cannot be fixed; that the natural law of supply and demand must operate. I propose to make a few quotations to show what modern economists do say. I should premise by saying that some gentlemen have never ‘read political economy since the revolution in production which necessitated a revolution in political economy. Henry R. Seager, Professor of Political Economy of the Columbia University, quoted in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science for July, .1912, says -
I am quite prepared, however, for the discovery that under a regime of free combination the giant producer will, in certain industries, have such great advantages that competition will cease to be an active force, as it has so largely in the railroad industry. In this event, I should feel constrained to advocate Government regulation of prices, just as most of us now advocate Government regulation of railroad rates. I should feel that the choice between Government’ regulation of prices and Government ownership and operation could not be fairly based on the ground that one policy is more dangerously socialistic than the other. Government ownership and operation of railways is accepted as a matter of course in Germany, and Germans even believe that they can prove that their system is better than ours of private ownership and operation. Germany has also gone a good way towards actually controlling, if not completely owning and operating, some of the trusts, like the Potash Trust.
I come now to W. H. Dawson’s The Evolution of Modern Germany. At page 171 I find the following - “ Never before,” wrote the Austrian Consul in Berlin to his Government in 1906, “ was economic Germany so entirely under the absolute rule of a group of men, barely fifty in number ; in no former period of industrial expansion was the old formula of ‘the free play of forces’ abandoned to such a degree as in 1906, when the momentous decisions as to the extent of production, sales abroad, prices, the granting of credit, the raising of. new capital, and the fixing of wages and rates of interest, lay in the hands of a few persons found at the head of the large banks, mammoth industrial undertakings, and great cartels.”
At page 199 of the same work I find a statement made by Professor Gustav Schmoller, a distinguished political economist of Germany, not a Socialist, who was at one time bitterly opposed to Government interference with the object of fixing prices. Speaking of a cartel,, which is a form of trust, he says -
The gentlemen of the cartels say, “ Do leave us alone, and do not disturb our circle.” That is exactly what Mr. Knox says -
We should be glad enough to do that, if only the cartels and syndicates would leave us alone. The syndicates have, however, enormously increased the price of coal, and colliery shares have, as a result, increased from 40 or 50 to 300 and 400 per cent. Formerly, legislation placed in the foreground the principle, “ all economic development depends on free competition,” and now suddenly the contrary holds good, for the cartels destroy all competition and set up monopolies in its place. … I am no friend of nationalization, but I. have no doubt that if we had a Minister of the strength and decision of Prince Bismarck, the collieries in the Ruhr district, at least, would have been nationalized. In any event, it is necessary that the State should acquire an influence on the syndicates. A mere veto on an increase of prices, however, is not enough ; the State must use its influence to secure a reduction of prices.
Now I come to J. A. Hobson, one of the most noted of modern economists, who, at page 156 in his work on The Evolution of Modern Capitalism, says -
It is all-important to an understanding of the subject to recognise that a monopoly price and a competitive price are determined by the operation of an entirely different set of economic forces. The loose opinion that it must be to the interests of the trust or other monopoly to sell at the same price as would be fixed by competition is quite groundless. . . .
These considerations show that the power of a trust or other monopoly over prices is determined by a number of intricate forces which react upon one another with varying degrees of pressure, according as the quantity of supply is increased or diminished. But a trust is always able to charge prices in excess of competitive prices, and it is generally its interest to do so. It will commonly be to the interest of a trust or other monopoly to maintain a lower scale of prices in those commodities which are luxuries, or satisfy some less urgent and more capricious taste, and to maintain, high prices where the article of monopoly is a common comfort or a prime necessary of life, for which there is no easily available substitute.
It is the poor who are always most easily and shamefully exploited. In the face of these statements, will honorable members opposite continue to say that economists deny that prices can and ought to be fixed ? Will they say so in the face of the fact that the evidence shows that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company fixes prices for sugar in Australia? There is, in fact, no other seller of sugar except the Millaquin Company, and, as they have admitted in evidence, they fix their pr.ee by arrangement, and whatever the Colonial Sugar Refining Company say the price shall be, the Millaquin Company sell at the same price. Will honorable members now say that the price of sugar is not fixed in Australia ?
– Could we not fix prices now in relation to Inter-State commerce? It is said that they can in America, and the Commission recommended it.
– The honorable member for Angas is not a humourist, of course. He asks me whether we could not fix prices in Inter-State commerce, and not in Intra-State commerce. What is the use of such a power, even if we had it? Would that satisfy any one? Would it help any one? We have a sugar refinery at Yarraville, and the sugar refined there is sold in Melbourne. We cannot fix the price of that because it is .not InterState commerce. This applies to nearly all the States. Cannot ‘ the honorable gentleman see that if we could fix the price of some sugar, and not of all sugar, we should not be able really to fix the. price of any, because the price of the sugar over which we should have no control would determine the market? It is a wellknown principle that unless you can control the whole market, or a certain proportion, at all events, you cannot fix prices in that market at all.
But the practice of fixing prices is general. I have here a copy of the rules of the Victorian Mill-owners’ Association. This is an association to fix the minimum prices respectively at which members of the association may sell roller flour, sharps, pollard, bran, and wheaten meal respectively in any locality in the State of Victoria. They manage to fix prices in this- way -
The Committee may offer and pay a reward not exceeding ^50 to any person, including a traveller, but not being a member, giving such information with respect to a breach of this agreement as shall lead to a member being proved to have committed such breach, and the Committee may also pay to any such informer, including a traveller, not being a member, the whole or any part of any fine paid by a member committing a breach.
That is a quotation from a copy of their agreement. They are prepared to pay a reward of ^50 for proof that any member of the association has dared to charge any less than the minimum price fixed.
I find, again, that the New Zealand Commission that inquired into the cost of living decided that the Merchants’ Association of New Zealand constituted a monopoly, that they fix prices, and that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company fix prices. They report -
The Commission has definite proof that the members of this association have banded together for the purpose of restraining trade in their own interests, and boycotting independent traders. , Where they have succeeded in securing control of imported and locally-produced commodities their operations have been followed by increased prices.
My time is up, or I could multiply cases where prices are fixed almost indefinitely. I cannot follow it out as I could wish, but I say that the instances which could be cited to show that prices are fixed are so numerous and so wide in their application that any man who would deny that prices are fixed to-day must go about the world with his eyes shut. Prices are fixed, and by persons outside the scope of the Jaw. We demand that prices shall be fixed by persons under the law.
One more point, and a most vital one. I did not recommend any such absurdity as our fixing the retail prices of goods. No such absurd suggestion was ever put forward by this side. The honorable gentleman talked about difficulty with the baker, butcher, and retailers generally. That is an objection which must be brushed aside.
– Oh, j-ou stop with the miller, do you?
– I shall tell the honorable member in two words where we stop, but not in his words. There is one broad principle to be applied in this matter. Where there is competition it is ‘not necessary to regulate prices - they regulate themselves ; but where there is no competition it is necessary to regulate prices. On that broad principle we stand. Where there is competition there is no necessity to regulate prices : we are entirely with the honorable gentleman and. his laissez faire school on this point.
– And now you are speaking for the Government, I take it ?
– I am speaking for myself.
– You said “ we.”
– If the honorable member for Flinders wishes to set himself up as a questioner of the Opposition-
– 1 ask him if he is authorized to put that question? I ask him which were his true sentiments - those expressed in 19 10, or those expressed today ?
– Both the same.
– I ask the honorable member whether, in 19.10, when he said that this ought to be done, he was speaking then as he felt? How have things altered in the meantime? I know how they have altered.
– We have had two years’ experience of you.
– They have altered because when the honorable gentleman ventured to assert his independence there were ominous crackings, there were leading articles, minatory and unmistakable, stating that this was not the time nor the manner to show independence, that there were various methods in which it could ‘be shown, and that his were most undesirable.
Then the honorable member who stigmatized the “policy of bold contour” as “a gelatinous compound “ got up here and said, “ It is true, I believe, that trade and commerce ought to be handed over to the Commonwealth ; it is true, I believe, that industrial powers ought to be handed over to the Commonwealth ; it is true, I think, that trusts and combines are the greatest danger of modern civilization; but I am going to vote against these very necessary measures, although I said in 1910 they were necessary, and if they were put singly I would vote for them.I am going to vote against every one of them because Labour is in office.”
What does that mean - “because Labour is in office?” Is it not a fatal admission of impending defeat at the hands of the people? For what is the position? Before we can have one of those powers to exercise, the people must have returned us to power, and given us the required majority in approval of these measures at the referenda. Here, then, is a revelation, unconscious, but complete, of the honorable member’s real opinions. It is not, as he and they say, that they are going to the country to sweep the polls. If they were they would say, “ Give the powers to us who will use them wisely, not to those men who will use them as spendthrifts and prodigals.” We shall not be here, according to the vociferous Greek chorus opposite. From that side we shall see these honorable gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, clothed with ample powers - to do what? To do nothing. The honorable member for Flinders said that we want those powers - that Parliament ought to have them. He will be on this side, according to his boast, next time; what will he do ? He is going out to tell the people not to give those powers to the Labour party. Why ? If we are on the other side, what will it matter if the Parliament has the powers? We shall not be able to use them unless we have a majority. What they fear, then, is that they are going out, not to victory, but to defeat.
Is not this a recognition that the real nature of the crime we have committed is that we are where we are. They fear the people will again return us because we have done what we said we would do. The people believe in us and intend to support us. The Opposition charge us with a hundred and one offences, but the greatest offence of all is that we are here, and have been true to our pledges. We are going to the country now, and the honorable member says that we are. going to do this and htat foolish, or wrong thing, if these powers are granted. But it is not what he says, but what our party manifesto will say, before the election, that matters to the electors. There will be set down in black and white the uses to which we propose to put the new powers if we get them. By that we shall stand or fall, and none of the misrepresentations, none of the efforts of the other side, which misrepresent us, will avail. The people will look at our record; they will say, “ These men said last time that they would do so-and-so, and they did it. They said that they would not do so-and-so, and they did not do it. They are men of their word ; their manifesto says ‘ If you will give us so-and-so, we shall only do so-and-so; then we shall come back to you, and if we want to use the power any more we shall tell you the extent to which we will use it.’ “
– The question is, “ That this Bill be now read a second time.” ‘
– It was understood, sir, that the vote was to be taken at 10 o’clock. I would rather that you did not put the question until that hour.
Sitting suspended from9.45 to 10 p.m.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority … …11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Trade and Commerce).
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes), by leave, proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I appeal to the Leader of the Opposition to, if possible, arrange a time when we may conclude the debate on the second reading of the five other Constitution Alteration Bills which have been discussed, practically, on the Bill, the third reading of which has just been agreed to. I am in hopes that a time to-morrow might be fixed, but if that is not possible, we shall endeavour, of course, to meet the convenience of honorable members. It would, I think, be more convenient to most of us if the debate on the whole of the five Bills were concluded before we take a vote, and on this point we may arrive at an understanding to-morrow. We desire to conserve, as far as possible, the time at our disposal, without, of course, unduly restricting any honorable member. It was understood that the principle of all the Bills would be discussed in the debate which has just closed.
– The second reading of all the Bills.
– Without, of course, interfering in any way with discussion in Committee. I hope that we may arrive at some arrangement to expedite the business.
.- I apprehend there, will be very little difficulty in arriving at such an arrangement as that suggested. We on this side are merely desirous to emphasize some of the features of the measures by criticism which we think is due, especially in regard to labour and employment. That embodies proposals of the widest character. I venture to believe that there will be no undue protraction of the debate, either by individual speeches, or in the whole time occupied. The stage of the session at which we have arrived makes us the more anxious to co-operate in the most effective way consistent with the full and free expression of opinion on all important questions involved.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs in the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Corporations) Bill to-night, referred to statements that I made yesterday, to the effect that the States had not co-operated with the Federal Government in regard to certain provisions of the Commerce Act. I stated that the Government of Queensland had not done so, and I made the statement on the authority of a report of a deputation which waited on Mr. Denham, the Premier.
– Is the Minister making a personal explanation?
– Yes. The honorable member for Darling Downs has shown me a copy of the Queensland Act, in which there is a section prohibiting the sale of footwear containing material other than leather; but, according to the report of the deputation in the Brisbane Courier of 22nd August last, the Government have suspended the operation of that section for twelve months. Mr. Denham, in reply to the deputation, said he understood that their request did not involve any deceitful representation to the public as to the goods in question. He also said that “the deputation had impressed him with the reasonableness of their views, and he would undertake to extend the suspension until 31st December, 1913.”
– This is not a personal explanation, but a speech.
– The Queensland Parliament did pass a law, but, apparently, the Government do not intend to administer it, they having deliberately suspended its operation for eighteen months.
-i rise to a point of order. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will allow me time to reply to the Minister, under cover of a personal explanation.
– I understand that the honorable member rose to a point of order, but I have yet to learn what that point of order is.
– The point of order is that the Minister is not making an explanation, but a speech, and introducing fresh material in reply to a speech made during a recent debate.
– I asked the Minister whether he was making a personal explanation, but I think he went a bit further. I may point out, however, that on the adjournment of the House the Minister could have brought the matter up independently of any personal explanation ; and, under the circumstances, he is in order.
– By way of explanation-
– Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that an honorable member, on the motion for the adjournment, may reply to a speech made during a debate in the House ?
– I did not rule in that direction.
– In Queensland there is a complete and more up-to-date Health Act than, I suppose, in any other State in the Commonwealth, as I think the Minister of Trade and Customs will admit.
– I believe it to be one of the best ; but, of course, it depends entirely on the administration.
– All Acts depend on the administration, but the real question raised was as to the existence of such State Acts. The Queensland Amending Act 191 1, which is very lengthy, is based, on the latest legislation in the United States of America, and some of the sections bring it into line with the corresponding New South Wales and Victorian Acts. It deals with adulteration of foods, false description of goods, advertised articles, disinfectants, bread, short weights, and, indeed, all that is necessary in an Act of the kind. My point is that’ the Queensland Government have done as much as the Commonwealth could do if it were given complete power.
– We should make the Act operative and not suspend it.
– It was stated that the whole of the Queensland Act had been suspended, but as a matter of fact only one or two sections have not been put into operation for the time being, and for good reasons, which are shown in the following extract from the report of thedeputation already referred to : -
Mr. J. Gray (President), W. Robertson, J. L. Lade, W. Read, and J. S. Heathwood, members of the Boot and Shoe Retailers Association of Queensland, with the Secretary (Mr. S. Earle), were introduced to the Chief Secretary yesterday by Mr. Jas. Allan, M.L.A., and a case was submitted for certain alterations in the Health Act. The deputation pointed out that the Act prohibited the sale of footwear containing material other than leather. No objection was offered to this in respect to the stronger classes of footwear for ordinary rough and wet ‘weather wear, but there were otherclasses of goods, such as dancing shoes, fancy shoes, and certain classes of slippers, which people insisted upon having, and which could not be made wholly of leather to suit public requirements.
Are not some of these being admitted, under the Customs Act?
– Provided that they are branded ; but they can be made in Queens- land without being branded.
– There is a Queensland . section - section 31 - dealing with the question of their manufacture and sale.
To continue the quotation -
As a matter of fact one of the greatest difficulties in the construction of footwear had been, overcome by the invention of a material known as leatherboard, the use of which would not be allowed under the Act. It was pointed out that the Commonwealth laws allowed the importation of goods such as the public wanted, and the operation of the Queensland Act would simply drive the trade to southern firms, who were enabled to post their goods to any part of Queensland. The Government had suspended the operations of this particular section for twelve months;but the dealers wished to have some finality inthe matter. A letter was read from, a firm of English manufacturers, stating that under the hew conditions it would be impossible tomanufacture goods for the Queensland market,as no English goods of any quality were manufactured entirely of leather. The deputation objected further to the provision of section 32 of the Act;which compelled the stamping of the manufacturer’s name on the sole of all footwear. Theywere quite prepared to stamp the names of their own firms as retailers, and to stand behind their own reputations. The deputation submitted a draft of the Bill which they held would meet their requirements, and which was said to be similar to an Act of South Australia.
Mr. Denham, in reply, pointed out: that the Commission on Uniform Standards would shortly be sitting in Brisbane, and he suggested that those interested in the trade should give evidence before the Commission- upon this subject. He understood from their request that it did not involve any injury to public health, nor any deceitful representation to the public as to the goods in question.
– It does.
– They say not. There is no prohibition against these goods being admitted into the Commonwealth if they are branded. The Queensland authorities are blamed for permitting what the Commonwealth does not prohibit.
Further, they had said that if the provision became operative it would simply mean- the trade going from the Queensland firms to the southern houses, who could supply the demand through the post. He did . not know that he could introduce any legislation on the subject this year ; the Government programme for the season was so extremely full that he doubled that they could get through all that was now included,He would like also to await the results of the sitting of the Royal Commission in Brisbane. Meanwhile, they had impressed him with the reasonableness of their views, and he would undertake the suspension of these particular sections until . 31st December, 1913.
Only particular sections, not thewhole Act, as was suggested -
The provisions in question had emanated from the Commissioner of Public Health, and there must be some reason behind them. He was fully seized with the unwisdom of embarrassing trade, and would endeavour to relieve their difficulties as he had said. Meanwhile, he strongly advised them to submit any evidence they had to adduce to Dr. Asbburton Thomson.
We are all agreed as to the importance of legislation for the preservation of the public health. The Minister now admits that we have the most up-to-date legislation in Queensland, and Queensland only allows the sale of what the Commonwealth admits.
– But the Commonwealth requires the articles to be branded to show what they are made of, whereas the Queensland authorities permit them to be sold without any such brand.
– That is the whole point.
– No, the vital point was the existence of the Act. We were told that the Queensland Government ought to prohibit the sale of certain goods, but we find that the Commonwealth does not absolutely prohibit their importation. I admit, and have always contended, that the public ought to know what they are buying.
-Why was the law suspended ?
– The reasons were given, and the matter is now being investigated. The parties admit that the question does not affect the public health in the slightest degree. I have pointed out that the Queensland legislation is of the most modern type.
.- I wish to know from the Prime Minister when an opportunity will be given for the discussion of an important motion on the business-paper, in my name, for the disallowance of the Northern Territory Lands Ordinance ?
.- I should like the Prime Minister to inform us when we may expect the report of the Royal Commission on Sugar.
– Itis stated that the Sugar Commission’s report has been published in the Sydney newspapers, though I do not know that that is so. The report is not yet available in Melbourne, but I hope to be in a position to lay it on the table to-morrow. So far as I am concerned, this Parliament will be the first to be made officially acquainted with its contents. As to the motion of the honorable member for Illawarra, it is desirable that the important Bills which we have been considering should first be got out of the way, but ample opportunity will be given for its discussion at some time convenient to him and to the House.
– Within the next day or two?
– More likely next week. As His Excellency the Governor- General has desired the pleasure of honorable members’ company at luncheon to-morrow, it may be convenient for Mr. Speaker to leave the chaira little before 1 p.m., and to. resume it at 3 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.39p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121203_reps_4_68/>.