4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know, from the Minister of Home Affairs, if it is the intention of the Government to ask the House to adopt the second distribution of New South Wales electoral divisions that has been proposed by the Commissioners, and also when he proposes to submit their report for discussion?
– We propose to move the adoption of the report, and a notice to that effect is on the businesspaper.
– I wish to know, from the Prime Minister, whether he has- had time to take into consideration the . report of” the Royal Commission on the sugar industry, and what action he proposes to take, or has taken, in regard to it?
– The afternoon on which I received the report, I made certain proposals to the Governments concerned. If they agree to take legislative action, we shall do likewise.
– Will the honorable member lav the papers on the table?
– Yes ; to-morrow.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he has read the statement that it was suggested recently, during the trial of a lad charged with stealing a large quantity of jewellery, that he was incited to the crime by witnessing moving-picture exhibitions of similar exploits. Has the honorable gentleman power to censor the exhibition of films to prevent the showing of such, as may be likely to make a criminal career attractive to young Australians? I understand that the films complained of are imported films.
– This Government cannot censor picture exhibitions. The Customs Act allows us to prohibit the importation of certain goods, but I am not sure that picture films of the kind referred to could be prohibited under the Act.
– Then tighten up the Act
– The subject of the importation of improper films is one of the most difficult with which we have to deal. The honorable members for Wimmera and Perth, and others, have raised the question before, and I have . gone into it carefully. It must be remembered that if we pro- ‘ hibited the importation of all the films which are considered objectionable, similar films could be manufactured in Australia and exhibited without the possibility of our interference.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral propose to introduce a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act so as to allow officials and. others employed by political organizations to obtain the benefits to be got by coming- within its provisions?Is he aware, for example, that Miss Grace Watson left her political organization ?
– The honorable member is now going beyond the question.
– I.ask whether the AttorneyGeneral has observed what I have stated, and whether he proposes to give the lady named the benefit of the Act. Miss Eleanor Cameron has also left her organization because of ill-treatment.
– It is not intended to amend the Act this session.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs yet come to a decision regarding the establishment of a testing station for explosives? If not, will he, in view of the importance of the question, expedite action.
– We have called for reports from the various -State Departments which deal with explosives, . from officers of the Defence Department, and from the Government Analytical Department, but the sittings of Parliament are now so long and so frequent that I have not had time to study the reports submitted. The question is an important one, and I have not lost sight of it. It will be dealt with as soon as I have a little more time, and I trust that my determination will be satisfactory to the manufacturers of explosives and to the miners as well.
Reductionof Cable Message Rates - Postal Employes’ Claims - Pacific Cable Board - Geelong Automatic Exchange - Payments to Queensland Railways Commissioners
– Has the Postmaster-General noticed the statement in the newspapers that the PostmasterGeneral of Great Britain, replying to a question asking if the cost of cable messages between England and Australia could be reduced, said that a substantial reduction had not been made because of the terminal charges in Australia? Will the honorable member see whether our terminal charges cannot be reduced, so as to cheapen cable messages between England and Australia ?
– I have read the statement, but the information obtainable is not sufficient to enable me to express a definite opinion regarding it. The subject of terminal charges has been, and is now, under consideration and observation. It may be possible at a later stage to do something in the way suggested.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral state what is preventing the claims of the postal employes from being dealt with by the Arbitration Court? Can he say if any of the delay is attributable to the Department, or give us any explanation, as the postal employes are complaining that their case is not being expedited?
– Order !
– As regards the’ hearing of the two claims which are now before the Arbitration Court, no delay has been occasioned by the Department. The time that is taken by Mr. Justice Higgins in hearing the claims is, I take it, due ito the considerable business which he has to deaJ with at present.
– Can the Postmaster-General tell me whether it is a fact that the’ Pacific Cable Board, which is subsidized by the Commonwealth, are not permitted to receive cablegrams in their Melbourne office, but that messages have to be taken to some telegraph office? What is the reason for the prohibition against the Board receiving messages over their- own counter in Melbourne? I do not know if it is the case in Sydney.
– The new cable which is being laid between Australia and New Zealand starts from the Pacific Cable office in Sydney, and lands in the cable office in Wellington.
– I am speaking of Melbourne.
– There is no cable laid to Melbourne, and it is absolutely necessary that messages must be transmitted over the land line between Sydney and Melbourne, but between Sydney and Wellington they run from one office to the other.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Brisbane, has furnished the following information : -
Cadets’ Travelling Expenses - Information of Area Officers - Fleet Unit - Camps of Training : Regulations
– What is the rule or practice of the Department in regard to the travelling of cadets from their homes to rifle ranges and other places for the purpose of receiving instruction or undergoing training? Is the Honorary Minister aware that complaints have been made by some parents that they have to pay, sometimes, is. and 2s. a week for the conveyance of their sons over long distances ?
– Such payments may have to be made occasionally, but not right through the year, as the question suggests, because the number of times that the cadets have to visit the rifle ranges is limited. When cadets have to travel beyond a certain distance in the interests of their training their conveyance is paid for,
– That distance is 5 miles.
– Within a distance of 5 miles from their homes they must pay their own fares.
– Has the Honorary Minister noticed that recently it was alleged that the area officer at Port Pirie has not been furnished with a copy of the amended Defence Act, and is consequently not in a position to know what amendments in the law were made by it ? Will the honorable gentleman ask the Minister of Defence to have an inquiry into the matter, and take steps to see that every area officer is furnished with the latest information on defence matters.
– The honorable member has already drawn my attention to this matter. His question, I understand, is based on a statement appearing in yesterday’s newspaper. I al once brought the subject under the notice of the Minister, and he will have the necessary inquiries made.
– On what date does the Minister representing the Minister of Defence expect the completion of the Fleet Unit in England ; on what date does he expect the vessels to arrive here; and what is the cause of the delay?
– There: was some delay in construction due to the conditions which prevailed in England, and over which we had no control but it is expected that, in the ordinary course of events, the cruiser Melbourne will be here in February. The balance of the Fleet Unit cannot arrive until about four months later ; they will come round the Cape of Good Hope, in compliance with the request of the South African Government, and that may take a week or two longer.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice - .
What action, if any, does the Minister propose to take in regard to -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
This Conference considers that the provisions of the Defence Act and Regulations with regard to liquor being prohibited in camps of continuous training; instead of operating in the interests of the forces will only lead to soldiers who resent the provision, going elsewhere and consuming bad liquor in larger quantities than they would at camp, and without supervision, and it is therefore recommended that they be suspended in so far as persons over the age of 31 years are concerned.
Instructions have been issued that all Commanding Officers at Camps of Continuous Training are to make, at the conclusion of the forthcoming camps, a special report as to the operation and effect of the section of the Defence Act dealing with this matter.
The resolution of the Militia Conference with regard tob reads-
Recommended that U.T. Regulation 166 which reads : - “ No cigarettes, or materials for making them, shall be sold or supplied in any camp of continuous training, and no member of the Citizen Forces shall have such article in his possession when on duty or during any continuous training,” be eliminated.
This resolution has been approved so far as it relates to the Citizen Forces. The Regulation, however, will continue to apply to the Senior Cadets.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to tell the House what business he proposes to deal with?
– I shall make a statement at a later hour of the day.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay upon the table of the House all papers and’ correspondence between the Commonwealth Government and South African Premiers in relation to the formation of the South African Union, and the advice “iven thereon by the Commonwealth law officers?
– Is it a fact that the Minister of Home Affairs hat given a large pipe contract to Hoskins Brothers, and has his Department considered the advisability or otherwise of putting down wooden pipes, which are a great improvement?
– Order !
– The DirectorGeneral of Works went into the whole business, and recommended the contract which we let to Hoskins Brothers.
– Yes; but did he give you any advice as to the relative durability of the two classes of pipes?
– I shall look into that matter.
– On the 6th November, the honorable member for Bourke asked the following questions : -
I have now to submit the answers, which are very voluminous, and which I feel sure honorable members do not wish me to read. They can see them at any time on application to the Clerk.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following papers -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at-
Northampton, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Port Augusta. South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Tolga, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Victoria Park, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Debate resumed from 4th December (vide page 6422), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The honorable member who obtained the adjournment of this debate yesterday evening has asked me to take his place this morning. I recognise that it is the desire of the Government, and I think the desire of both sides of the House, that the debate should be brought to a termination as soon as possible ; and, therefore, I shall do what I can towards that end by making my remarks on this Bill as short as I can. The first thing that strikes one in connexion with the measure is that it adopts the word “ monopolies,” which I have ventured to say, on several occasions, is quite incapable of legal meaning or definition. We have heard from the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and others, frequent criticisms of what is called judge-made laws. I can assure the honorable member that if he makes this word part of the Constitution, he is not only inviting, but compelling, the Courts to make law, and the criticism that the development of cur powers under the Constitution depends upon the decisions of the Court, will no longer lie in his mouth, nor in the mouths of any other critics who have used that argument.
– If Parliament itself is able to define monopolies, will not that cover the case ?
– I am glad that the honorable member has made that interjection ; I was really waiting for it. Then we are to assume, if the interjection is right, that in this Bill, as well as the other Bill about the Nationalization of Monopolies, the judge of what is to be a monopoly is to be Parliament?
– That is so.
– That is a point on which I think the House ought to have the guidance of the Attorney-General.
– You cannot suggest anything else.
– I not only do not’ suggest anything else, but I absolutely denv that that is the case. The provision to determine what is a monopoly in the other Bill is a provision to determine what is a monopoly for the purpose of nationaliz- ing it, and for no other purpose. In this Bill it is left entirely to the High Court to declare what is a monopoly. If, therefore, we pass the two Bills in their present form, we shall have two tribunals - one this Parliament, and the other the High Court - to determine what is a monopoly, and these tribunals may come into direct conflict wilh one” another. That is my answer to the honorable member.
– If this Bill becomes law, will not the dictum of this Parliament supersede that of the High Court?
– It would if we made the necessary provision in both Bills. If we declared that for the purposes of both measures this Parliament should determine what is a monopoly, Parliament having determined that the High Court would give effect to its decision. I should have liked the House to have had the benefit of the Attorney-General’s guidance in this matter. But, in his absence, all I can do is to put the view which I hold of these two Bills. In this Bill, it is proposed to amend section 51 of the Constitution, adding to it another power, namely, the power to make laws with regard to trusts, combinations, and monopolies. If the Bill receives the indorsement of the people, that power will stand in exactly the same position as do all the other powers enumerated in section 51. and it will remain for the High Court to determine whether any law enacted in regard to trusts, combinations, and monopolies is a law relating to them. That tribunal will then have to determine whether or not that law is valid, and in doing so it will follow exactly the course that it has followed in all other cases in which the validity of our laws has been questioned. With regard to the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill, what is the power which it will vest in this Parliament? It is not a general power to make laws in respect to monopolies, but a specific power to nationalize a monopoly under a definite condition. What is that condition ? This is how the clause reads -
When each House of the Parliament, in the same session, has, by resolution, passed by an absolute majority of its members, declared that the industry or business of producing, manufacturing, or supplying any specified services, is the subject of a monopoly, the Parliament shall have power to make laws for carrying on the. industry or business by or under the control of the Commonwealth, and acquiring for that purpose on just terms any property used in connexion with the industry or business.
Stripped of its legal phraseology, honorable members will see that that provision simply means that this Parliament may, subject to a certain condition, nationalize a business. That condition is that Parliament must first determine that the business in question is a monopoly. But that has nothing whatever to do with the general power to make laws with regard to monopolies, which the Bill now under consideration will confer upon Parliament. If we pass these two Bills in their present form, we shall be setting up two conflicting tribunals - Parliament,, and the High Court- for the purpose of determining what is a monopoly. Sooner or . later, these tribunals are certain to come into conflict on that question qf fact, because whether a business is or is not a monopoly is a question of fact. I am glad that the Attorney-General is now present to hear what I have to say upon this matter. In connexion with the Coal Vend case, we know that there was an absolute difference of opinion between one Justice of the High Court and three other Justices on a question of fact. If we can have such a difference of opinion between the Justices of the High Court themselves, what must we expect will be the difference of opinion upon a question of fact as between the High Court and a chance majority of both Houses of this Parliament?
– Will not the Inter-State Commission have authority to decide what is a monopoly?
– No. Before we are asked to vote upon these Bills we ought to have the advice of the Attorney-General on this matter. We ought not to be led blindfold into a legal impasse. If the Bills be passed in their present form, this Parliament may declare that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for example, is a monopoly, and if it enacts a law to control that monopoly other than by nationalizing it, the High Court may determine that it is not a monopoly.
– Suppose that the InterState Commission investigated its operations, and determined that it was a monopoly ?
– The Inter-State Commission will have no authority whatever to determine that matter. But, as the honorable member for Ballarat has already pointed out - and he represents the views of the whole Opposition on this matter - that is the very thing which we seek.
We want to vest in the Inter-State Commission, as a body which, I presume, will be composed of men with’ a practical knowledge of business, the right to advise Parliament, after full investigation, what is, or is not, a monopoly. That is our policy. But the policy of honorable members opposite is to leave it to the High Court to say whether or not a business is a monopoly, and also to leave the determination of the same question to a chance majority in both Houses of this parlimaent
– Does the honorable member say that the Inter-State Commission cannot inquire into the operations of the company, and make recommendations to Parliament ?
– The Inter-St’ate Commission will have no right to inquire into the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, except for the purpose of discharging its own constitutional functions, which do not include determining whether or not that company is a monopoly. But we could clothe the Commission with authority to investigate these things. That is the very policy which we advocate.
– The honorable member is coming to it now.
– I am glad that the honorable member is beginning to be a supporter of the Leader of the Opposition. Looking at these two Bills, it will be observed that they are to be enacted for different purposes. One is intended to permit of the nationalization of monopolies, and the other is designed to give this Parliament legislative control over monopolies. In both cases the question of what constitutes a monopoly has to be determined. Under the Bill which we are now considering, that question will be determined by- the High Court, but under the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill, it will be determined by a majority of this Parliament. My contention is that under these measures, in their present form, we shall bring Parliament and the High Court into direct conflict, and create infinite confusion.
– Would not the word “combination” cover a monopoly?
– I have always maintained that in using the word “ monopoly,” we are using a word that has no definition. The Government are inviting trouble by seeking to embody in the Constitution a word which it is impossible to define, and by thus forcing the High Court to define it. When the occasion arises, that tribunal must define it, and its definition will be a law made by the Court. Yet honorable members opposite complain of judgemade law. There is one other point to which I desire to refer. The honorable member for Cook has asked me a question in regard to combinations. I have said repeatedly, inside and outside thi&House, that I believe in combinations. I believe in the organization, both of capital and labour. I believe that it must go on, and that it is an essential condition of modern progress. We must have continually increasing and more complex organizations in connexion with capital, manufacture, labour, and production, in all their forms. But combinations, whether of capitalists, manufacturers, fruit-growers, dairymen, producers,, artisans, or workmen, are all subject to the same possible evils, and require the same kind of regulation. The evils to which I refer do not arise from any legitimate use of the power of combining, but from using the power of combination, in the case of the capitalist, not as a means of reducing expenditure and increasing his output, in the case of productive industries, not for the legitimate purpose of obtaining more regular and better markets for their products, and in the case of workmen, not for the purpose of securing fair wages ; but, in every case - and this is the mischief which will have to be dealt with by Parliament, sooner or later, arising from the exercise of this power to combine - in order to. boycott, injure, and destroy, all those who do not join the combination.
– Where the power is mis-, used.
– Yes. The evil is exactly the same in connexion with all the various classes of organizations, and is not confined to capitalists any more than to labour.
– It is human nature.
– That is so. It is not combination, or the legitimate effects of combination and organization, that call for prohibition. They call for regulation, and it is the abuse of combination that calls for prohibition. We are here to view these questions as reasonable men, no matter what our political stand-point may be. Our views differ very much as to how far Parliament can proceed in regulating these matters. All shades of opinion exist in this House on this question, but there is one thing upon which I believe we are all agreed when we view the matter calmly, and that is that, whilst we recognise that combination must go on increasing in every direction as human society evolves, it should in all its forms come directly under the regulating influence of Parliament.
– That is all that we ask for - that Parliament should be supreme.
– I knew there was no difference between us.
– There is a vast difference between us. There is a complete gulf between honorable members opposite and honorable members on this side as to the way in which Parliament should regulate these combinations.
– Is a monopoly not a combination ?
– I said that the word “monopoly” is incapable of definition, and now the honorable member for Cook desires me to define it. I cannot answer him ; but I may tell him that some combinations are monopolies, and some are not, and that some monopolies are combinations, and some are not. There are numbers of combinations that conduct businesses upon perfectly legitimate lines. There are others that use the power of their combination for the purpose of crushing out of existence all those who are opposed to them, and will not come into their ranks. We have examples of this in the ranks of Labour, as well as in the ranks of capital. The great example cited by way of illustration on the other side is the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It is claimed that the company is a monopoly, but it is not a combination.
– Can there be a monopoly which is not a combination,
– I have just said that practically the whole case of the other side is built upon the contention that the Colonial ‘ Sugar Refining Company is a monopoly. But it is not a combination ; it is a company. I could give the honorable member for Cook other examples. I remember well in the earlier history of Australia there was a coaching company that managed to obtain a practical monopoly of the coaching business in the eastern States. I refer to Cobb and Company. They were not a combination, and their methods of conducting business were very simple. Their operations are so much ancient history now that I may, without offence, mention even the name of the company, as the people chiefly connected with it are all gone, and it affords a very good illustration for use in connexion with this argument. What did Cobb and Company do? They did not adopt the ordinary methods of combinations, but, being possessed of a great amount of capital, if any man started a coach on one of their lines, they carried passengers over the route for nothing.
– And gave them a dinner at the end of the journey.
– They did this until the competitor was starved out, and so were able to build up a practical monopoly; but, though Cobb and’ Company formed a monopoly, they were not a combination. Is the honorable member for Cook answered? I think we should have a little more light thrown upon the legal aspect of the case by the Attorney-General before the House is asked to pass this Bill. I wish to say a word or two upon another aspect of the case altogether. We are told that if this power to control monopolies is given to the party at present in power, they intend to proceed to exercise it by fixing the prices to be charged by monopolies. I should like the attention of the Attorney-General on this point. He corrected me on a recent occasion when I cited a certain speech of his with regard to the fixing of prices, I am always prepared to be corrected, and to make full acknowledgement, if I am wrong. The honorable gentleman will recollect the speech which he made, and so much do I admire it that I propose now to repeat certain passages of it again. It was made in July. I quote from the Age report, which, so far as I know, the honorable gentleman has never denied. His speech was to this effect -
They were face to face with combinations in industry, manufacture, and production. They knew very well that prices of commodities had been raised sympathetically with increases in wages. It was therefore perfectly clear that unless Parliament could regulate prices and profits their ability to regulate wages was of very little value. So long as the people who had the control of commodities raised the prices the workers were very little better off.
We are now told by the honorable member in his very last utterances that the policy of the Government in the matter of fixing prices is to take the power to fix only the prices charged by monopolies. I wished to quote the actual words used by the honorable gentleman, but I have not the Hansard report of his speech by me.
– The honorable gentleman made a statement last night in reference to my speech which was quite inaccurate. I intended to have referred to the matter, but forgot to do so.
– I should like to know to what the honorable gentleman re fers.If the honorable gentleman can point to any inaccurate statement which 1 have made concerning him, I shall be glad to deal with it. The extremely short newspaper report of the speech I delivered last night was full of inaccuracies. I am reported as having said -
The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), in speaking of this matter, said that the fixing of prices had brought the cost of commodities down.
That is absolutely inaccurate. I did not say anything of the kind. Such a statement would be absurd, because prices have not been fixed.
– In what paper did the report appear?
– The Argus.
– As usual, inaccurate.
– The report was telegraphed.
– I felt sure that the honorable member had not made such a statement, because it would be nonsense.
– It is nonsense.
– I said the same in reference to a report of a speech made by myself, and I expect the honorable member to accept my denial only because the statement attributed to me is nonsense.
– I am going to. I know to what the honorable member referred. I did not mean to suggest that, when the honorable member said, as reported by a newspaper, that everything would come clown, he was referring to the whole fabric of society. I understood him to refer to wages, and everything else that his party are endeavouring to raise.
– I said, “ If you do not bring down prices, it will be no use raising wages.”
– I accept that statement, and never intended to convey or suggest that the honorable member had said anything to the contrary. What he did say was that, unless they brought down prices and profits, it would be no use putting up wages. We might as well get down to close grips. I do not wish to quibble. The issue is very distinct and clear. What the Attorney-General said in his previous speech was that the general raising of wages was ineffective.
– What I said was, “ If ou do not bring down prices, then all your efforts to lift up wages must be ineffectual.”
– That is exactly what I understood the honorable member to S;1 V. Let us clearly understand this issue, because, if it is to go before the public. I for one am determined that it shall mine under the fullest light of criticism. II. as the honorable member has said, the raising of wages was ineffective because prices went up. then the Government proposal is to make the rise in wages effective I iv lowering prices. There can be no doubt as to that. But do they propose to fix and lower only the prices of those articles of general consumption which are produced bv monopolies?
– Tin– Attorney-General said that.
– Then what a farce it is for the Government to talk about improving the conditions ot the workers by fixing prices if they are going to limit that fixation of prices to articles produced by combinations. What a farce it is for them to say, “ We are going to make the rise in wages effective by keeping down prices.” What does the workman consume? He consumes, for one thing, sugar. That commodity is said by honorable members opposite to be produced by a monopoly, and no doubt they will attempt to deal with it. The Attorney-General, however, says that it is not proposed to fix retail prices. If the Government fix the price of sugar, and bring it down from 3d. to aid. per lb., then what are they going to do in regard to the bread that the worker consumes? Is the price of bread fixed by a monopoly in which there is no competition? Is the price of butter fixed by a monopoly in which there is no competition? What about the milk consumed by the worker? What about his rent? Is there no competition of houses for workmen ?
– Not in Sydney.
– What about the worker’s clothes and his boots? Is there no competition in the boot-making industry? Thus, when the Government say that they are going to make the rise in wages effective by fixing prices and preventing their going beyond a certain level, their intention at the same time being only to fix the price of sugar and one or two other articles, which the)’ say have something to do with monopolies, they are simply keeping the promise to the ear and breaking it to the hope.
– I did not speak of monopolies; I said, “Where there is no competition.”
– AVhat else is a monopoly ?
– I thought that the honorable gentleman could not define “ monopoly.”
– I cannot; and, with all respect, I say that the AttorneyGeneral cannot do so.
– Does the honorable member say that where there is no competition there must necessarily be a monopoly?
– I say that it is impossible to define all the conditions that go to make monopoly, but that one of the essentials-
– The honorable member says, “ Where there is no competition, there is a monopoly “ ?
– I do not think I said that.
– Oh, yes.
– I said that one element of every monopoly is that there should be no competition. I am prepared to accept that view. If we have an industry carried on by various persons who are competing against each other, how can it be said that any one of them has a monopoly? Therefore, the AttorneyGeneral is now, so far as his great policy of the fixation of prices is concerned, in a cleft Stick. If he says to the public at large, “ Do not be frightened, we are not going to attempt the madcap scheme of running over the whole gamut of prices and fixing all of them ; we are going to deal only with the wholesale prices relating to industries in which there is no competition,” then, when he comes before the workman to whom he has been holding out these golden hopes, he must tell him, if he is honest, that his policy of fixing prices will do little to reduce his daily expenditure.
– Because he cannot cover the whole area, is that any reason why he should not cover the area possible to him?
– The area is extremely limited, and therefore the promise held out to the workers of Australia, that the Government are going to render the rise in wages effectual by a corresponding deter mination of prices, is an empty and hollow farce if the Government are going to limit that action to prices in businesses in which there is no competition. I have no more to say. I am endeavouring to keep my remarks within the narrowest possible limits, in order that we may have some opportunity to discuss other Bills that will come before us. I invite the AttorneyGeneral to give his attention to the legal, as well as to the other points I have raised, and I venture to suggest that the House is entitled to some enlightenment on that subject before it proceeds to a division on any of these Bills.
.- Following the example of the honorable member for Flinders, I intend to condense my remarks as much as possible, for I am satisfied that honorable members on both sides of the House will be glad to have from the Prime Minister a statement of the remaining business to be dealt with, and to co-operate in a proper way with the object of bringing the session to an early close. I am very pleased that in dealing with this question of monopolies and combines we have before us the report of the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry. No report that has been submitted to Parliament will be read more eagerly and with deeper interest by the people than will the report of that Commission. This report, I am quite sure, will be thoroughly discussed from one end of the land to the other ; and the reports of this debate, which the Prime Minister has promised to have bound in handy form, will also be discussed in every town, however remote. The Liberal party will promote as full and ample a discussion of the real position as there was in connexion with the last referenda campaign. We likewise have the distinct advantage that the matter will be put before the electors, at all events, as far as one monopoly is concerned, absolutely independently of party heat. The report of the Royal Commission for that reason will be of very great interest. It shows - as is not surprising to honorable members on this side of the House, but must be disconcerting to honorable members opposite - that the awful ills for which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in particular, was considered responsible scarcely exist. The report will be especially interesting from the point of view that the Royal Commission distinctly and emphatically shows the superiority of a private concern which has reached the very highest point of efficiency, as compared with a State-owned concern subject to all the evils of political influence, and affected, not only by conflicting elements within Parliament, but also very largely by irresponsible influences outside. The report shows, unmistakably, that this Government might, had they so desired, have settled the sugar question a long time ago. We have the report of the Commission at present, only as the result of continuous appeals from this side of the House, for the appointment of such a body to do work that should have been undertaken by the Commission appointed by the Deakin Government before it went out of office, but which appointment was cancelled by one of the first official acts of the present Government.
– The honorable member is now. going beyond the scope of the question.
– I rise to order. I am not sure whether the point is one of order or not, but I wish to say that the statement of the honorable member is most inaccurate. A previous Commission was not cancelled by this Government, and was not appointed by the Deakin Government.
– Order ! The Honorary Minister has no right to rise under cover of a point of order to contradict a statement of the honorable member who is addressing the Chair.
– It is a most shocking misstatement.
– I ask the honorable member for Wakefield to use the Sugar Commission’s report only as far as it re.lates to the question before the Chair.
– There is one thing on which the Royal Commission was very distinct, and that is that the sugar industry of Australia is sustained by a contribution from the people of not less than 000,000 sterling per annum. The matters dealt with in the evidence and recommendations of the Commission are of considerable interest from the consumers’, as well as from the producers’, point of view.
– Order The honorable member is now discussing the merits of the Royal Commission’s report. He is going beyond the scope of the Bill before the Chair.
– I was leading up to the point as to the existence of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as an alleged monopoly. I am quite in agreement with you, Mr. Speaker, that in pursuing that course I was probably giving details and getting away from the real principle of the matter at issue. I desire to conform to the agreement which has been arrived at, that the debate shall come to an end at an early stage; but I trust that you will allow me to place special emphasis on the fact that the evils of monopoly which have been dealt with so fully in this House, and in the country, and of which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been quoted as a glaring example, have not been proved by the report of the Commission. The statement of the Commission is that this company has been acting entirely within the law, and that if its operations may be regarded as in any sense detrimental to the public interest, there are means close at hand which might have been used by the Government to regulate and control the business. The contention that an alteration of the Constitution is necessary to deal with such a concern has not been proved. It seems to me, however, that honorable members opposite are always prepared to attack any wealthy concern, any concern which represents a large investment of private capital - the very thing that this country requires, possibly as much as, if not more than, anything else. The report of the Royal Commission and the comments of the chairman show that one of the reasons for the enormous success of the company is infinitely higher efficiency in the management than could be expected in any enterprise exposed to political influences. So far from recommending this Parliament to turn this business into a Government monopoly, the Royal Commission distinctly say that if it were nationalized it could not be conducted with anything like the same satisfaction from the point of view of the public interest. It the industry were nationalized, it could only be by penalizing the consumer, or the community generally, by added taxation.
– The Royal Commission do not recommend that the industry be nationalized.
– No; on the contrary, they say that the industry, as at present conducted, is infinitely better than anything that could be substituted for it by the Government. The Colonial Sugar
Refining Company has been described as a dangerous monopoly ; but I ask honorable members to look at its history and consider the enormous amount of capital that it has invested at great risks since its commencement.
– The report of the Royal Commission does not mention a single loss that has been made.
– In a cursory glance at the report, I have not observed any mention of the great loss ofsomething like ^500, 000 that has been suffered by the shareholders.
– The honorable member, is now going into the details of the Royal Commission’s report.
– I am simply endeavouring to show that the nationalization of the industry would involve the country in enormous risks, which, according to the Royal Commission, are absolutely unjustifiable, and, in all probability, would result in loss. The sugar industry, as at present conducted in Australia, cannot be regarded as in any sense an injurious monopoly acting detrimentally to the public ; and yet, it is mainly this industry which has evoked the drastic legislation which we are now asked to adopt; it is this company which is made the basis of the appeal to the people to reverse their previous decision at which they arrived by an emphatic majority of 250,000 to 260,000 votes. The germ of the whole position is put by the Royal Commission in the following words -
Several reasons, in their cumulative aspect, convince us that, at any rate for the present, the nationalization of the refineries would be inexpedient. These reasons may be briefly stated -
The efficiency of the Refining Industry as it is at present carried on. Advocates of the public ownership of industries rightly dwell upon the avoidance of the wastes of competition.
Then the report goes on to speak of the cost to the Treasury of nationalizing the refining industry, showing that it would be enormous; in short, the Royal Commission deprecate the nationalization of the industry because of its efficiency as at present carried on, the cost to the country, and its speculative character. Another very interesting point is that connected with the profits made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The aggregate profits have been employed to influence public opinion against this company as an injurious combination, and an impression has been con veyed that the profits have accumulated as a result of the operations within the Commonwealth. Although the Royal Commission complain of their inability to get distinct and accurate details of the results of the Australian business, they do not suggest that they have not got a fair idea of the profits made within the Commonwealth as distinguished from the enormous profits earned by speculative transactions, and operations as general dealers, outside the Commonwealth. We are told in the report of the Royal Commission -
The inquiry has been practically confined to the ten years following Federation, very little information being sought or obtained concerning the condition of the industry in pre-Federal days.
– The honorable member is now proceeding to discuss the report of the Royal Commission, and I must ask him not to do so. I. have allowed the honorable member ample latitude to make the position clear as to the relation of statements in the report to the Bill before us; but he is now endeavouring to discuss the report itself, which is not before the House.
– I shall not transgress further in that direction. The case of the Government has been given away by the finding of the Sugar Commission appointed by it. That report must be a severe disappointment to Ministers, because it does not afford even the slenderest support for the appeal which they wish to make to the country. It will not be my fault if the report is not thoroughly understood by the people of South Australia. Notwithstanding all that has been said about trusts and combines, honorable members opposite who represent New South Wales are extremely silent about the Coal Vend, and those who come from the State in which the sugar industry centres have very little to say about the Sugar Combine. There is not a tittle of evidence to support the statement that drastic measures are needed to control the coal operations of New South Wales, and I question whether under any circumstances this Government would dream of interfering with them. Mention has been made of a wheat ring in South Australia, but no such ring exists, or ever existed, except in the imagination of certain politicians.
– What did the Commission, that sat in 1908, report?
– That there was ,an “honorable understanding.” The arrangement was not nearly so strong and fi despotic as that by which honorable members are governed in their political operations.
– What was its effect on the price of wheat?
– It was alleged that the farmers were being fleeced of ,£170,000, but that is the greatest moonshine.
– It was the unanimous finding of the Commissioners.
– Five or six merchants in the wheat business appointed a secretary, who every morning received cablegrams giving the Mark-lane prices of wheat, which are continually fluctuating. The South Australian prices were adjusted in accordance with the latest quotations from Mark-lane, and the distances of the wheat from the ports
– That is what this Commission recommends should be .done in regard to sugar.
– Yes. The Farmers’ Co-operative Union, in South Australia, which to-day handles more wheat there than any other concern, and has been in existence for about twenty years, was associated with one of the buyers in the “honorable understanding.” A report was quoted here the other day to show that there was a combine.
– The honorable member is now referring to a speech made in another debate.
– I shall not quote the speech. The evidence of a Royal Commission was quoted to prove that the union was not in the “ honorable understanding.” The evidence of a man who has not been in the service of the union for some years was referred to.
– The present secretary of the union supported that evidence. He said that the honorable member’s statement was incorrect, and that mine was correct.
– He said that there is not a ring, and never has been a ring. There is no wheat ring in South Australia that is a dangerous monopoly.
– There is no monopoly there at all.
– ‘The Farmers’ Union of South Australia, a cooperative concern, every penny of whose capital was subscribed by farmers, was associated with the “ honorable understanding “ until it was ended by a quarrel. But the statement that the farmers were defrauded of .1:70,000 has no foundation in fact, and is in keeping with a number of others made from that side of the House to influence public opinion.
– The statement was made by a Royal Commission.
– Years ago, and a good deal has transpired since. No doubt it was thought good enough to use. The arrangement of prices in Australia, in accordance with market prices obtaining in Great Britain, is what is recommended by the Sugar Commission. _ I am pure that the public will not be influenced by statements of the kind to which 1 have been referring.
– Not if they understand them.
– Exactly ; and I feel perfectly satisfied that the people will understand them. I am confident that, although there may be misrepresentations vigorously made, as was done at the last referendum, those misrepresentations will be followed up, and the people will have placed before them the true position, and the results will be such that there will not be a smile left on the face of the honorable member for Indi, who is now laughing, for many a long day after the numbers have gone up.
.- I would not like this debate to close without saying a few words on this important subject. The Attorney-General says that, as the Parliament is only asking to be clothed with powers which are possessed by the State Parliaments, it is not asking for an unreasonable thing ; and that this National Parliament should, have certain powers which are already held by the States. His view is that this, as the National Parliament, should be trusted quite as much as are the State Parliaments to deal with these questions. Now there is something to be said for that view, but, to my mind, the decisions of the people of this country when the issues are submitted to them will be based, perhaps to a large extent, on the underlying feeling that this Parliament, although it is representative of the whole of Australia, is being urged on by those who are at present leading it distinctly on the lines of Socialism ; and, inasmuch as I believe the people of Australia are not in favour of an v such change in social and general conditions, they will view with suspicion proposals which in other hands might be entertained favorably, to some extent at any rate. They will feel that their security against the introduction of destructive principles - as I hold them to be, and as ] believe a great majority of thinking men who have studied the question and learned the history of the past, hold them to be - they will feel that a proposal to remove any possible check that already exists against a movement in that direction is one which they should resist, and will resist, strenuously. 1 mean, like other speakers, to condense my remarks as much as possible. It seems to me, as a listener here, and as a reader of Hansard when I have not been here, that views are put forward in this House which I suppose are a reflex of views’ tha: are held, to some extent, outside by a section of the people, or it may be by considerable sections of the people ; but which to one who knows the facts, are absolutely extraordinary. Apparently, the Labour party are sedulously instilling into the minds of the public, both from the platform and through the press, the idea that all men who attain to any position, and all companies which attain to any position by skill, industry, and enterprise have gained that pre-eminence, not by the qualities which make for success, which in my experience has almost invariably been the case, but by means not reputable, and not in the interest of the public. I think that that view proceeds directly from a widespread want of knowledge of business affairs, which is natural; because no man - not even a cultivated or learned man - can understand the ramifications of al/ manner of businesses ; and not even a trained business man can understand and follow these ramifications, beyond applying to them his knowledge of general business principles. It is owing to this widespread misunderstanding, or want of knowledge, that many crude and essentially erroneous, and therefore dangerous, views are promulgated amongst the people.
The newspapers have news or telegrams, more or less correct, from all parts of the world, and every man who reads in a newspaper a report of the existence of any objectionable social development in any country, begins to inquire - May we not have something of the same kind here? It reminds me of a well-known fact in medical experience. There are authenticated cases of persons who, having been told that they were suffering from some disease, ab solutely got to believe it, although there was nothing wrong with them. Their nervous system was so completely unhinged and deranged by the belief that they were ill, that owing to the wonderfully complex character of the human frame, the effect upon them was to bring about the very evil which they dreaded. And so with the body politic. We read of predatory trusts and combines existing in America, and unless one is to disbelieve altogether what one reads, one must admit that there have been cases of that kind in that country, but its history supplies abundant reasons why there these trusts should be formed, and why some of them should become predatory. Speaking on this trust business here in former years, I have pointed, out that whilst it was possible in America to have a meat trust controlling the output and the prices of meat, and an oil trust controlling in every respect, and in an objectionable manner, the oil industry in that country - I pointed out from reading and study of the subject, going to the first American authorities, that the backbone on which they rested for their strongest success was their ability to lay hold of the means of public communication by the railways, and that inasmuch ‘ as in Australia, such a state of things can never exist, the first essential of a successful predatory trust is absent in this country, and we are to that extent free from the formation of any such objectionable bodies. Speaking advisedly, I believe that, at present, Australia is free from predatory trusts, and, as has-been so well put by the Leader of the Opposition, and afterwards by the honorable member for Flinders, combinations or arrangements - which I understand honorable members on both sides of the House admit are essential, and are practically part of the modern machinery for the more efficient carrying on of the processes of production and distribution - such combinations or arrangements as may exist in Australia are in themselves not only not objectionable, but absolutely desirable and necessary. It is only the misuse of power which renders combinations objectionable, and the misuse of their power, or the misuse of their opportunities, is a matter with which Parliament should deal.
My view is based upon close personal observation and some practical knowledge of trade, commerce, and production. There is no honorable member who is more opposed than I am to any combination which may be formed for the purpose of unfairly exploiting the public, and destroying by illegitimate means the interests which are opposed to it. What has particularly struck me in this discussion is that the AttorneyGeneral, and other honorable members who followed him, assumed, without exception, that because we have recently experienced an increase in the price of commodities, that increase is due to the operation of trusts. But I venture to say that if they will take the trouble to look up any historical book relating to trade, they will find that periods of high prices always follow periods of low prices, and that periods of low prices again follow periods of high prices.
– The AttorneyGeneral was speaking for himself, and not authoritatively.
– And I am speaking for myself.
– The honorable member for New England should not belittle his own party.
– Let the AttorneyGeneral speak for himself. We do not all believe what he says.
– When I was interrupted I was pointing out that many honorable members opposite have assumed that the increase in prices which we have recently experienced is entirely due to the operation of trusts, but that all financial and business history proves that periods of high prices are followed by periods of low prices, and vice versa. Let me remind honorable members of what I know from personal recollection, that in the seventies and early eighties there was a period of universal low prices throughout the known world - east, west, north, and south. So serious was that depression that many fields and plantations which had formerly been used to produce certain commodities were allowed to fall into disuse because the people of the various nations could not afford to cultivate those commodities and sell them at the prices which then ruled. By many persons those low prices, which were destructive of the interests of all classes throughout the world, were held to be caused by a lack of currency. They urged that the cure was to be found in the bi-metallic system, under which they would have made silver money bear a fixed value to gold, irrespective of the price of silver. But fortunately that craze went the way of many other crazes. The system was not adopted, and the operation of natural economic laws produced the usual result. The supply of commodities, which had formerly been in excess of the demand, declined, owing to non-production, and gradually the demand overtook the supply. Since then the supply has not increased as rapidly as has the demand, and this has been going on for twenty years. The result is that we have now -reached what I consider may be about the culminating point of the high prices, brought about by the operation of economic causes which no Parliament can control. It seems to me that honorable members have disregarded the fact that low prices andhigh prices are the natural result one of the other. They also appear to have entirely ignored the law of supply and demand.
– And of waste.
– But I am not dealing with the question of waste just now, and I prefer to develop my argument in my own way. I say that prices are affected by the law of supply and demand. In the case of cereals, which are the great staple food in all countries, it is well known that the production of the world each year is just about sufficient to meet the requirements of the world for that year, and for, perhaps, half-a-year longer. In many countries it is impossible to keep cereals longer than a year. without injury to them, and without incurring the risk of their destruction by insects. The remarks which I applied to cereals apply with equal force to almost every food product. There is no great production ahead of demand. If production proceeds sensibly in advance of demand, the result is that prices come down to such a point that producers lessen their production, and so the supply is adjusted to the demand. I wish to apply this principle to recent events, and especially in view of what has been said during the debate upon these Bills. I suppose I shall be allowed to do that if I do not refer to the speaker. The House was informed a few days ago by the honorable member for South Sydney -
We are now bringing down-
– Order ! The honorable member is now referring to .a speech which took place in another debate.
– No, sir, in this debate.
– The honorable member for South Sydney did not speak in this debate.
– It is part of the general debate.
– No ; the House is not now engaged in the general debate.
– I merely wish to be allowed to allude to certain facts stated in the House.
– The honorable member has no right to do that if the statement to which he refers was made in another debate. He should not dispute my ruling. I understand that he desires to refer to something which took place in another debate.
– Only to a statement of facts.
– The honorable member said that he intended to refer to a speech made by the honorable member for South Sydney.
– I wish to withdraw that.
– That does not overcome the difficulty that the honorable member stated his intention to do that. He must not try to evade my ruling. A difficulty has arisen from the fact that I allowed the freest possible discussion on a previous Bill. I have listened patiently to the honorable member, and have given him ample latitude to make all the points he desires to make in connexion with this Bill, but, up to the present time, he has not really dealt with this Bill at all. Will the honorable member proceed ?
– Of course, I bow to your ruling, sir ; but I do not understand how you can say that I have not been addressing myself to this Bill and the object of this Bill. I do not know where the figures used came from, but it has been stated outside, as -veil as inside this House, that the value oi certain commodities has been increased by lump sums to large amounts.
– The honorable member for South Sydney dealt with trusts and combines, and referred to the matter in question during the general debate.
– That is just the objection I took - that the honorable member for Mernda must not refer to that debate.
– The posi-tion is an extraordinary one, all the same.
– Order !
– I never understood that the general discussion permitted in connexion with the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill was to preclude a discussion upon each of the other
Bills for the alteration of the Constitution. The honorable member to whose remarks I wish to refer spoke upon this Bill in the general debate allowed on the first of these Bills discussed. In the circumstances I think that I am not out of order, when speaking upon this Bill, in referring to statements made in connexion with this Bill during the general debate on the first Bill discussed.
– I wish to impress upon honorable members the fact that in the discussion upon the first Bill I permitted the greatest possible latitude.
– For the space of an hour.
– I am not responsible for- that. That is a matter for which honorable members are themselves responsible. I told honorable members that I would permit the greatest -possible latitude in the discussion of the first Bill. I did so, and honorable members roamed all over the economic field in relation to industry of every description. They even dealt with matters that had no relation to economics at all. I thought that it was right to allow that latitude because the House agreed that a general debate should take place on the first Bill. But I distinctly stated that in dealing with the other Bills honorable members must confine their remarks to the measure immediately before the House. If I now permitted the honorable member for Mernda to refer to what was said by another honorable member in a previous debate it is possible that the debate on this Bill would resolve itself into the same general discussion which took place on the first measure. If I allowed this in one case I should have to allow it in all, and there would be no finality to the general discussion but that imposed by the time limit under the Standing Orders.
– I rise to a point of order. Your ruling, sir, if pushed too far, would make it impossible for honorable members to discuss this Bill in any useful or party way. The fact that references were made to this particular Bill during the discussion which took place oh the first of these measures should not prevent those references being made the’ subject of criticism when dealing with this particular measure. It would be competent for honorable members to refer to such statements if they had been made ten years ago, and why not when they were made during the general discussion on these
Bills? I remind you, sir, that this is the only occasion upon which the honorable’ member for Mernda has spoken upon these Bills at all.
– That is the honorable member’s own fault.
– The honorable member for Mernda is especially competent of all men in this House-
– Order ! The honorable member should discuss the point of order.
– To discuss- this question of the monopoly of industry in its relation to fixation of prices, because the fixation of prices is the essence of all monopolies and trusts.
– The honorable member is now going beyond a point of order. What is his point of order?
– My point of order is that it must be in order to make a reference to fixation of prices, and that statements, with respect to monopolies and the fixation of prices, wherever and whenever made, must be pertinent to the discussion of this Bill.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Does the honorable member propose to raise a fresh point of order ?
– No, to speak on the point of order that has been raised.
– Order ! I do not desire further assistance in the matter. When the position indicated by the honorable member arises it will be time enough to deal with it. In the present instance the honorable member for Mernda distinctly stated that he was going to refer to a statement which was made in another debate. I ruled that the honorable member must not do that.
– It was in connexion with this Bill.
– That is of no moment. The honorable member must not now debate a statement made by another honorable member in the discussion upon another question. He distinctly stated that he proposed to do that. While he discussed the question generally I did not , stop him ; but when he informed the House that he proposed to reply to a speech delivered upon another question it was my duty to stop him, and I did so.
– I rise to a point of order.
Do you, sir, by your ruling mean to convey that we cannot in this debate refer to the speech of the Attorney-General in relation to this Bill which he did net make on this Bill, but on the first Bill discussed? If your ruling in this matter is to hold good, we shall be unable to refer at all to the speech delivered by the Attorney-General on this Bill, because it was delivered not upon this Bill but on the first of these Bills discussed.
– When such a position arises I shall deal with it. I cannot give rulings upon hypothetical cases.
– I rise to a point of order. You, sir, very properly permitted a full discussion of the whole of these questions on the first of these measures dealt with. The honorable member for Mernda wished to refer to a matter connected with this Bill, but which was mentioned in the debate on the first of these Bills. I submit that if we are not permitted to refer to matters relevant to this debate that were discussed on the motion for the second reading of the first of these Bills, it will be impossible for us to deal wilh the measure as we should be able to do.
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– That the honorable member is entitled to refer to matters dealt with in the debate on the first of these Bills that are relevant to the present debate.
– On the point of order, Mr. Speaker-
– I cannot allow an endless discussion on the point of order. Three points of order have already been raised, each dealing with the same question. There must be a stop to that sort of thing. My ruling is that the honorable member is not in order in referring to a speech made by another honorable member i in another debate.
Mr. W. Elliot Johnson. On a point of order-
– Does the honorable member desire to take up the time of the honorable member for Mernda?
– No; but I wish to give notice of dissent from your ruling, as I understood it, that it is not in order to refer to a debate on another measure which specifically traversed the subject of the measure now before the House.
– The honorable member must put his notice ot dissent in writing. I would point out to him that the ruling I gave is not that which he has attributed to me.
– On a point of order, I think that ray honorable friend is wrong-
– They do not know where they are.
Mr. Joseph Cook. - I hope that the time taken up by honorable members opposite who are interjecting will not be deducted from the time to which the honorable member for Mernda is entitled. It is impossible for any one from this side of the House to rise-
– Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– I shall not until I am permitted to do so in quietness.
– Order ! Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– I ask you, sir, to protect me -when I am addressing the Chair. It is impossible-
– Will the honorable member state his point of order? I ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– I understood you to rule, .sir, merely that an honorable member may not quote from a previous debate. Is that ‘your ruling?
– If honorable members would only listen, they would know what’ my ruling is. I have said distinctly several times that the honorable member told the House that he was going to refer to a speech delivered by the honorable member for South Sydney, who, I find, has not spoken during the present debate.
– But he referred, in another debate, to this particular measure.
– Order ! I have repeatedly told honorable members that it is disorderly to interrupt the Chair. Finding, on referring to my list, that the honorable member for South Sydney had not spoken to this question, I knew that the speech to which reference was proposed to be made must have been delivered during the debate on another measure. I, therefore, told the honorable member for Mernda that he would not be in order in referring to a speech made by another honorable member in a debate on another measure.
– That is quite wrong, because the honorable member for South Sydney did speak on this question. The facts are in Hansard.
– That is very insulting to Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member for Parramatta asked for protection when addressing the Chair, and he must extend to others that which he desires for himself. The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair. I repeat that the honorable member for South Sydney has not spoken to this question, and the honorable member must know that that is so.
– He did not speak on this Bill.
– If the honorable member interrupts me again, I shall name him for disorderly conduct. He must not interrupt the Chair. The honorable member for South Sydney has not spoken to this question, and the honorable member is not in order in referring to something that has taken place in another debate.
– I was not present when the point of order was raised, but should like to call attention to the fact that, W ti your consent, Mr. Speaker, the debate on the second readings of all these Bills was permitted to cover the whole range of the amendments of the Constitution proposed by the Government. Under that arrangement the particular issue involved in this Bill among others was dealt with during the discussion of another Bill. I submit that honorable members will be in order in referring to references, made during the general debate, to matters strictly relevant to this Bill. Otherwise we should not have accepted the procedure. If that is not recognised, the concession granted by you, and availed of by honorable members generally, was to no purpose.
– My ruling is that an honorable member may not refer to a debate on another Bill.
– Might I ask, Mr. Speaker-
– Does the honorable member rise to a point of order ?
– Yes. I wish ro know, sir, whether an honorable member may not refer to a specific part of a previous debate which is thoroughly relevant to the question under discussion?
– I am not here to give rulings on hypothetical cases.
– I was pointing out when interrupted, that the natural result of scarcity was a rise in prices, and was proceeding to illustrate that by reference 10 a statement to which you ruled I could not allude. The statement to which I intended to refer, however, has been made outside as well as in the House, and I presume I shall be in order in referring to it to illustrate the proposition I had laid down. It has been said over and over again that last year, after the defeat of the last referenda proposals, and inferentially as the result of that defeat, the wholesale price of sugar increased in twelve months by £785,000. I do not vouch for the accuracy of that statement; I simply accept it for the purpose of my argument. It has been alleged thai an even larger sum has been filched from the people by the alleged sugar combine. If honorable members were only as conversant as I am with trade journals and circulars published all over the world, however, they would know that during the year in question, owing to the failure of the beet crop in Germany, Austria, and Russia, the price of raw sugar all over the world increased from about £8 or £9 to £14 or £15 per ton. That scarcity, due to that failure, was responsible for the rise in prices. If the sugar produced here had been exported to meet the demands in other parts of the world where there was a shortage, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company could have made a very large profit, whilst we should have been left without sugar. Other statements have been made with regard to rice and wheat. It has been said that large sums have been filched from the public with regard to these commodities. What are the facts? I am not now expressing opinions, but stating facts, which fo me are merely the A B C of the subject, though it appears to be necessary to remind other people of them. A few years ago, wheat in Australia fetched about 2s. or 2s. 3d. per bushel on the farm.
– It went as low as is. 9d.
– Now the price is something like 4s. or 3s. 6d., and has been high for the last two or three years. Why was that change brought about? Was it the result of a combination of farmers or of monopolists? Was it not rather that nature had not favoured mankind with bountiful harvests throughout the world, and that prices went up as the result of scarcity? For some time that rise was felt only in regard to wheat, which is the breadstuff of most of the European nations. But later, rice, which is the staple food of two-thirds of the human race became similarly affected. There has been a series of bad seasons during the last two or three years, not only in Japan, where 6,000,600 tons of rice are grown, which is not more than sufficient for the country’s requirements; but also in China, Siam, Cochin China, and parts of India suffered from drought, which destroyed large proportions of the crops. Suddenly prices went up 30, 40, and even 50 per cent. I had a telegram from Japan the other day quoting £16 15s. per ton for rice, which two or three years ago we could have bought for £11 or £12. These facts show that honorable members ought not to try to induce the people to believe that a period of high prices is the result of the machinations of disreputable and unscrupulous men. To do so is absolutely to mislead. Oatmeal has been mentioned ; I know something about that.
– There is a corner in oatmeal.
– There is not a corner in oatmeal. I have personal knowledge of this commodity. A few years ago the price of oats at Mount Gambier was from is. 6d. to is. 8d. per bushel.
– Quite right.
– Last year, the price was 3s. 6d. per bushel, and, of course, the price of oatmeal was similarly affected. Was that increase due to a combination of farmers* or monopolists? The honorable member for Barker, who represents an oat-growing district, ought to answer for his constituents.
– These statements burst up the high-wage theory.
– I am not dealing with the high-wage theory, but with ‘ actual facts.
– Does the honorable member say that the farmers were paid 3s. 6d. for oats?
– Yes, they were.
– They never got more than 2s. 6d. in my own State.
– All I can say is that the price of oats in Mount Gambier went up from is. 9d. to 3s. 6d.
– What is the cause of wheat being up to 3s. 6d. ?
– It is due to the failure of crops throughout the world, following on a period of low prices. Prices were depressed to such an extent that production decreased and a period of bad seasons supervened.
– Was- not the decrease due to gambling in the Wheat Rings of Chicago and Minnesota?
– My honorable friend is absolutely mistaken. The Chicago Wheat Ring is merely like a straw on the water. The man who is said to be a monopolist in connexion with a Wheat Ring is simply the man who foresees a prospective decrease of supplies and a consequent increase of prices, and who gets in first. But he may suffer such a reversal as happened to Mr. Leiter a few years ago. He was a big speculator in Chicago who bought a large quantity of wheat for a rise. The season took a turn, and. Mr. Lei.ter, it is said, lost for himself 500,000 sterling, and nearly ruined his much more wealthy father. Statements are occasionally made in sensational newspapers and in books which are quite misleading. A book was written about the Chicago Wheat Ring called The Pit. Those who believe that these highly coloured and sensational statements about speculative dealings in commodities cover the whole ground and account for everything that they see around them, make a grave and serious blunder. If they will only look at the facts, they will realize that no one can corner the wheat of the world ; nc one can corner the rice of the world ; no one can corner the sugar of the world.
– But you can gamble in those commodities.
– You may gamble and you may lose. We are impressed by the exaggerated reports of the magnitude of the operations, and the enormous gains of such gambling combines, and we but rarely hear of the losses and insolvency of a speculator. Of course, you may gamble in anything. If an honorable member sees two flies on a piece of paper, he may gamble as to which will arrive at the top line first. But that does not dispose of the argument that I am putting before the House. Honorable members, I am sure, desire - although I think they are mistaken in many of their views - to give consideration to the facts. The gist of my remarks is that it is not right to say that there is one grievance, one evil, which is defrauding all classes, rich and poor alike, all of whom are made to pay more because of the actions of trusts or combines. If honorable members look fairly at the circumstances they will see that the cause of the increased cost of commodities, especially of foodstuffs, throughout the world is not the result of the operations of trusts or combines, but is consequential upon a deficiency of supplies to meet an increasing demand.
What has caused the great prosperity of Australia during the last few years - a prosperity of which honorable members opposite are so proud, and for which they take no small credit? On the one hand, we have had good seasons, but honorable members opposite made no allowance for the influence of the sun. The scarcity of cereals, to which I have alluded, was caused by want of sun, and, in some cases, by want of rain ; but all such facts as these are excluded from the theories of the Labour party. Then, in addition to bountiful seasons giving large production, there have been the high prices. Wheat .has risen in Australia from about 2s. 6d. to over 4s. a bushel, and there has been a corresponding improvement in the price of butter, wool, and other produce. High prices throughout the world have made our prosperity, because the products in demand are those which constitute our wealth and thus high wages are made possible. According to honorable members opposite high prices are the creation of rings, trusts, and combines. But can it be said that Australia constitutes a ring because we have taken advantage of the bountiful seasons to get for our products the best prices possible in Europe and Great Britain? If honorable members opposite are consistent, why do they not insist on the unfortunate people of Europe being supplied with our goods at the lower prices we at one time had to accept? ls it a ring or combination that has sent the price of wheat up to 4s. 6d. a bushel ? Are honorable members opposite prepared to say that the farming and producing community in this country are to labour and slave, and, in times of overproduction, accept unremunerative prices, while they must not be permitted to take advantage of any favorable change in the market, but must sell at low figures, which the Labour party say ought to be normal. The Attorney-General has to-day made a correction in regard to his statement as to increase of prices and increases of wages, and he says there can be no increase in wages if there is a corresponding increase in prices - as the economists say - the real wage cannot be increased. The AttorneyGeneral proposes to regulate prices, but how I do not know, especially if he does not deal with retail prices. Attempts in the past to regulate prices have egregiously failed. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries an effort was made to fix the prices, not of everything, but of bread, meat, and beer, which were then supposed to be necessary to the labourer to enable him to work. But the prices were fixed because of the infamous Statute of Labourers, which limited the wage to a miserable rate insufficient for a man to live on; indeed, it was a penal offence on the part of the employer or employed to pay or receive more than the statutory amount. The legislation to fix the price of beer, meat, and bread was necessary to enable the unfortunate labourers, or slaves as they practically were, to live. But is it proposed that we should go back in our legislation to the ideas of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries - to the dark days of the Middle Ages? Are we going to do what was then done for a most improper purpose, a purpose, however, which was not carried out. because it was found impossible to keep down wages? Human nature is stronger than law, and Professor Thorold Rogers has told us that, although the Statute of Labourers existed, men, directly or indirectly, paid more than double the legal wage.
– The higher wages had to be paid.
– No; there was no compulsion. The proposals before us have an attractive appearance, and are made doubly attractive to those who. have not studied the question or read very largely the history of the past.
– The honorable member should read Thorold Rogers.
– I have read Thorold Rogers, though I do not think the honorable member can have done so, or he would have known that I had just quoted him.
– I knew the honorable member was quoting a section from Thorold Rogers, but only a very small section to suit himself.
– I quoted what was cognate to my argument, and I think the honorable member will recognise that I was quoting from a recognised authority, who was not a Tory, or even a Liberal, but an extreme Radical.
– The honorable member is misquoting.
– Yes, absolutely.
– These proposals for amendment of the Constitution are calculated to do infinite harm to this country. Industries are built upon confidence. Without confidence there is no enterprise, without enterprise there is no expenditure of capital, and without expendi.ure of capital there is no wages fund, and, of course, no production, or greatly decreased production. As Professor Shield Nicholson put it, in a useful lecture delivered before the Royal Society a few years ago, the real danger in connexion with proposals of this kind “ lies not in the definite proposals themselves, because they are constantly . shifting and changing, but in the propaganda of principles opposed to all history amongst those who know no history.” Those to whom honorable members opposite appeal are not aware that the experiments which they advocate have already been tried with disastrous results. The amendments of the Constitution are proposed to preserve the public from evils from which in the main they are not suffering.
– The honorable member would maintain things as they are?
– No, I am a thorough Progressive, but when advancing on new ground, I desire to put down my foot cautiously, and step forward only when I find it safe to do so. I do not say that we are to follow the past, but experience should be a guide for the future.
– We must do what the Romans did.
– We should avoid much that the Romans did. It is honorable members opposite who wish the community to do what the Romans and other ancient people, as well as the people of more modern times, have done with evil consequences. They are copying the mistakes of the past, and are the real Tories, because they stick to schemes which were devised centuries ago, and have failed time and again in the most remarkable and striking manner. But these subjects should not be discussed as party issues. I have sought to put fairly, and without feeling, facts on which I am in a position to speak with some degree of confidence, and I ask honorable members to consider them with open minds ; not treating the statements of the Opposition with suspicion, merely because they come from this side of the House. I trust that our speeches will receive consideration by h norable members opposite ; but whether they do or not, the public will take notice of the valuable statements of the Leader of me
Opposition, the honorable member for Darling Downs, and others. They will see clearly that the Sugar Trust is a mere bogy, the report of the Commission appointed by this Labour Government, proving that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is in every respect an admirably conducted institution, which in seventy years has built up a huge business that is a credit to the country, and should be the pride of the people of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.30 p.m.
.- While the Bill which is now before us seeks to regulate trusts and combinations, it seems to me that, underlying it, is the desire which is made prominent in a succeeding measure - the desire to nationalize industrial combinations. In discussing the general question of the power to regulate combines *nd monopolies, it is difficult to dissociate these two Bills. The argument in favour of the measure immediately under consideration is based upon the statement of the Attorney-General - which was reiterated by several honorable members - that the law of competition which has prevailed throughout the ages in the economic sphere is dead, or, if not dead, that it is in the position of Mahomet’s coffin - suspended somewhere between Heaven and earth. The AttorneyGeneral went on to say that we are living in a world in which competition has been wiped out, and that the consumer does not benefit from that natural protection which we have always understood he enjoyed under a system of competition which is more or less based upon the law of supply and demand. His statement may be true in a very limited degree of some commodities which, from time to time, have been controlled or “cornered” in a country like America. But I utterly deny that, in respect of the majority of commodities which influence the cost of living in Australia, that competition is dead, or that the law of supply and demand has been suspended. During this debate, no attempt has been made to submit any. proof of the Attorney-General’s allegation. Various extracts have been read- from more or less sensational magazines of the “ yellow “ journalistic type in America - extracts which would lead us to suppose that an awful condition of affairs exists there, and that so completely have monopolies developed there that the law of supply and demand has actually been superseded. We know that, underlying all these proposals, there is the desire on the part of the Government and their supporters - in fact, the Attorney-General openly admitted it - to obtain the right of nationalization. The honorable member for Flinders pointed out this morning that, in connexion with the two Bills, which are so closely interwoven that it is difficult to separate them, Parliament is really inviting an open conflict between the High Court and itself. Under the Bill which we are now considering, it is proposed to vest the High Court with power to determine what is a monopoly, whilst under the succeeding measure this Parliament is to be the arbiter of what constitutes a monopoly. I am not going to argue whether or not this Parliament is the best tribunal to determine a matter of such complexity as to what is a monopoly in restraint of trade. There is, I am sure, a general desire in this House that the public shall have some voice in the control and regulation of any combination or trust which may grow up in this country, and whose operations are calculated to be in restraint of a free interchange of trade, or may in any way enable a handful of persons to control the market, and, by that ‘means, “squeeze” the general public. But we have to remember that, under the national policy of this country, which we have accepted for good or for ill - under the protective system which has been operative in America for a considerable period, and in Australia for a lesser time - we hold out an invitation to capitalists on the one hand, and to combinations of workers on the other, to come together, and, within the” limitations of a protective Tariff, to so adjust their arrangements that they can in a measure manipulate prices, and in a lesser degree fix them. To what extent this may be good, from the point of view of producers, is a matter upon which there may be various opinions, but the consumer pays all the time. That these combinations have existed there can be no doubt, and only these arrangements between capitalists on the one hand and combinations of workers on the other have rendered possible working conditions in various industries. It seems to me that one of the mosteffective weapons available in the hands of this or any other Parliament in regard to certain combinations - I am free to admit that it has its limitations - is to re-open the Tariff from time to time and allow the law of supply and demand to prevent combines from building up a structure on the foundation stone of a high protective system. That would be possible in respect of certain industries. For example, let me instance the understanding between growers and workmen in connexion with the dried fruit industry. I quite believe that the coming together of these parties was almost necessary in order to establish that industry. Whether they are justified in carrying that idea to the extent that it has been carried is a matter open to argument - a matter open for inquiry and examination from .time to time. Whenever this Parliament chose, such a combination, if it were acting prejudicially to the consumer, could be regulated merely by an alteration of the Tariff. That is a weapon which may be left in die scabbard until such time as Parliament may deem fit to use it. But there are grave reasons why it should not be employed without due consideration. Having encouraged people to establish industries, the extent to which we would be justified in using that weapon is not for me to indicate at this stage.
– Under any such scheme the innocent as well as the guilty would be punished.
– Every law operates in that way.
– What punishment could be meted out to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which has mills in Fiji?
– We are endeavouring to build up the sugar industry by means of a protective Tariff, which it is urged is necessary to enable the industry to be established in certain parts of the Commonwealth where cane ought to be grown. While we are establishing it we are face to face with a number of difficulties. One of the largest of these is the problem of expanding it upon the basis of a white man’s industry. That is a problem which opens up a wide field of speculation. It would be a very dangerous thing to re-open the Tariff from time to time and allow sugar from Fiji or any other part of the world to flood our market for the purpose of bringing down the price of that article to the consumer. The whole question is one of a very complex character. But so far as the examples which have been cited in support of this Bill are concerned, they have more relation to the commercial affairs of the United States of America than to the business arrangements of the Commonwealth. Possibly it is true that some trusts in America have become industrial Frankensteins - that they are monstrosities on the commercial life of that country, but it would be absurd for us to institute an analogy by drawing upon sources of information in reference to the evolution of the trade union movement in America and seeking to apply that information to the trade union movement in Australia. Whilst we have a right to be warned by the experience, of America, we have no occasion to lose our heads or to imagine that a similar condition of affairs exists in Australia. Because a trade union secretary in America does something to bring him within the pale of the law, it would be absurd to say that the secretary of a trade union in Australia will do the same. Dr. Woodrow Wilson, President Elect of the United States, in an address which he delivered during his recent campaign, said -
We know the processes by which these monopolies have been developed, and the thing to do is to make the law specifically prohibit those things so that the man who does them will have to answer before a criminal tribunal.
But Dr. Woodrow Wilson did not urge that it was necessary to recast the Federal Constitution in order to accomplish this. He claims that, under the Constitution of the United States of America, the Government have ample power to bring the commercial thief into “the dock. We, too, contend that under our Constitution we can do so. It is not the fault of the Constitution, but it may be the fault of the law, or of the administration, if we fail to do so.
– How does the honorable member account for the movement in the United States of America for an amendment of the Constitution?
– My reading teaches me that the movement is not to alter the Constitution, but to amend the Sherman Act. The Stanley report on the Steel Trust, recently submitted to Congress, strongly supports that view. Mr Louis D. Brandeis, who drew up that report, points out that it is possible to improve the Sherman Act, and to make its application more farreaching than it has been. That gentleman, who is an authority on the question, holds that a business may grow large, but should not be allowed to be made large by combination. He adds -
If such combination controls more than thirty per cent, of the business, it should be presumed to be unreasonable. Such combinations do not tend to promote efficiency, nor owe their existence to the desire for increased efficiency, nor their profits to superior efficiency, and no conspicuous trust has been efficient enough to maintain its monopoly long without buying up its successful competitors.
He states, further, that the history of the Steel Trust proves that conclusion. It is important to bear in mind that the 30 per cent, provision, to which Mr. Brandeis refers, relates not to ordinary business, but only to combinations where the Court has already decided that restraint of trade actually exists. I find, also, among the evidence produced to the Stanley Commission, a suggestion made by Mr. Perkins, a well-known commercial man in the United States of America, as to how these businesses should be regulated by the Government. He did not suggest that it was necessary to alter the Constitution, or to empower the Government of the United States of America to nationalize monopolies. What he said was -
The rapid changes that have taken place in methods - and I believe are going to be just as rapid the next twenty-five years - make me feel that you cannot lay down many very specific rules, but that we have got to have here in Washington a controlling commission, composed largely of business men, to which a business enterprise would come and say : “ Now we want to do this and so. Here is the manner in which we propose to treat labour. Here is the manner in which we are going to treat our competitors, and here is the method of treating our consumers. Is this in keeping with good public policy,” and find out whether or not they can do it?
The whole point of this debate has reference to the objective underlying the passing of this Bill, and some of the others by which it is proposed to amend the Constitution. I think I am right in so interpreting the speeches that have been made by the Attorney-General and others on both sides of the House as to say that one of the principal objectives of some of these measures is the right to fix prices. Whilst I am ready to admit that in one or two specific cases, where the business is conducted within a circumscribed area, the Government would be able to control prices - and I think the Attorney-General stated that he would fix prices only in respect of the products of monopolies or industries where there was no competition - the effect of that fixation would be so limited as to leave untouched the prices of from 90 to 95 per cent, of the commodities in daily use. How is this fixation of prices to be accomplished? It seems to me that we have the Attorney-General speaking on this question with two voices. I remember a statement made by him earlier in the ses sion, that the workers of the world would be able, in some way or other, to get enough wages to live upon, but that there was no method at their command by which they could control profits and prices. That being so, he said there followed after every strike the turn of the wheel. “ Prices went up, and the whole ghastly business had to be gone over again. ‘ ‘ The honorable gentleman laid it down as an axiom that there is not at the command of the workers ‘ any method by which they can control profits and prices.” That being so, the very foundation-stone of the structure which he erected in opposition to the present commercial conditions in this country is to do that which he says there is no method of accomplishing ! I contrast these two statements, and should like to find out how honorable members opposite can make them agree.
– The Attorney-General was speaking only from a trade union point of view.
– I desire to ascertain on what basis prices are to be determined. Are they to be fixed high in order to help the manufacturer and his employes, or the producer and his workmen - in the interests of those who produce the goods - or are they to be fixed on a low basis purely in the interests of the consumer? There must be some limitation. We are entitled to some explanation as to the intentions of the Government. When speaking a day or two ago upon one of these measures I had time to refer only very briefly to Bradstreets, of New York. In its issue of 12th October last that newspaper publishes from its London correspondent under date 12th September, 1912, the following statement -
Industrially the world seems to be in for a period of exceptional prosperity ; at least this is the conclusion of competent observers.
There we have the statement of a great financial and commercial newspaper of world-wide reputation, and with no politics, that the world is in for a period of exceptional prosperity. It recognises that the world’s prices are daily influenced by the crops of various countries and by market fluctuations, however they may be caused.: It recognises that prices will fluctuate according to the world’s markets and the industrial situation. Is that a fact to-day, or is it not? Does this law of supply and demand still operate throughout the world?
– It does not.
– It is useless for my honorable friend, or for any one else, to make a mere assertion that it does not. That is not a refutation of my statement that, today, notwithstanding the development 0 the combine system in America, and in a lesser degree, in other parts of the world, the crops of the world and the various market fluctuations determine prices, with respect to the majority of commodities. We see the movements in the pig iron market affecting the steel and iron markets of the world, and so this influence goes on operating along the whole line of commerce. I say decidedly that that law is still in operation to so large an extent that it does not justify the Attorney-General’s statement that competition is dead, and that we have no longer the benefit of competitive systems. In the issue of Bradstreet’s, to which I have referred, there is a comparison of the wholesale prices of no less than 106 commodities - quotations ruling for standard grades at the low point in 1896, the succeeding low point in 1901, and the high, points in 1910 and 1012, with other comparisons. The commodities dealt with embrace breadstuffs, live stock, provisions and groceries, fresh and dried fruits, hides and leather, raw and manufactured textiles, metals, coal and coke, mineral and vegetable oils, naval stores, building materials, chemical drugs, and a long list of miscellaneous articles. Over this range of prices a very considerable fluctuation is shown from year to year. Sometimes the prices go up and sometimes they fall, being influenced by the crops. in various countries and by market fluctuations. And so with Australia. During the present season we have seen a commodity in daily use amongst all classes of the community - potatoes - moving upwards at a very rapid rate.
– And also meat.
– We have also seen a very big fluctuation in the price of meat. I have always taken the greatest interest in commercial subjects, and I am perfectly certain, so far as I can forecast the future, that the natural law of supply and demand is going to have a very serious effect on the price of meat, to the great disadvantage of the consumers in Australia, but greatly to the benefit of those who have it to sell. One reason is that there are, in the world to -day, more meat-eaters than ever before. The teeming millions of the Far East are being educated up to the eating of meat, and there was never at time in the history of cattle-raising in Australia when the prospects were brighter for the men who are breeding cattle, than they are at present. We are exporting beef to the Far East as we never did previously. Live cattle are being shipped in increasing quantities from Wyndham to the Philippines, and it will not be long before the Japanese acquire such a taste for meat that the world’s supply will almost be drained to meet their requirements. The natural law of supply and demand will operate therefore, notwithstanding any combination to assist or to operate against it. Whether it be a combination of cattle kings, or a combination of freezing works, in addition to the Beef Trust, that must be the resultThere is no doubt that, in a general way, the taste for meat is growing throughout the world, and the consumption per capita is higher to-day than at any previous time. These are factors which must have a very serious effect on the Australian market, no matter whatlegislation we pass or how we may seek to> control it. An extract was read by the Honorary Minister from a book which gave a very sensational description of the operations of the Beef Trust in America. I know nothing more about the Beef Trust than, I suppose, does the Honorary Minister or any honorable member ; all I knowis from what I have been able to read. I have here, however, an article which I have just taken from a magazine. The quotationI refer to is from the World’s Work for November, and the article sets out to give art explanation of the high price of beef during recent years. I do not propose to quote the article, which is lengthy ; but I have made a summary, which I shall beglad to hand to any honorable member as interesting and well worth reading. The article shows that it is costing the grower more to produce an animal, and that there is an increased demand owing to more people eating meat. In ten years the population of America has increased by 18 per cent., and cattle have decreased by 1.8 per cent. Big cattle-growers are being, forced out. by closer settlement, and the business is left to small farmers. The writer says that the cattle are sold by auction to the highest bidder, and that quality regulates the prices, the trade not being monopolized by the Trust; and the honorable member for Barker, who has recently been to Chicago, has told us that, when he was in the market there, he could 3aave bought cattle himself. The writer of the article in the World’s Work points out that the profits of the Trust are made out -of the by-products, and not out of the beef ; and he goes on to state that the demand for meat in America has overreached the supply. “ It all comes back to this,” said the writer’s informant, “ to the one law that Congress has so far been unable to repeal - the law of supply and demand. There are not as many cattle as there were, and there are more people demanding beef. And long before there are enough cattle being raised to supply the demand for beef there will be millions more people in the cities demanding beef.” It is not argument to shriek against trusts and monopolies, and say that competition is dead - we require proof - and so far as Australian conditions are concerned no proof has been advanced during this debate. My contention is that for the larger percentage of commodities in daily use the law of supply and demand has not been suspended, and that competition exists, very often of a cut-throat character. The other day an honorable member made some reference to commodities, the prices of which have risen, as a result, he holds, of the defeat of the last referenda. He instances, amongst other things, oatmeal and rice; but I should like to know how the success or defeat of a referendum in this country could have any influence whatever on the crops of rice in Japan and other riceproducing places ? The same honorable member also told us that the price of jam has been increased ; but what is more natural, seeing that the fruit supply has not been sufficient to fulfil orders for England, or to meet the local consumption, which, I am glad to say, is increasing every month. Notwithstanding the supposed high price of jam in Australia - whether the price is relatively high in comparison with past years does not affect the point - it is strange that the retail price in lists I have examined, although sugar is admittedly dear, and fruit not always plentiful, is at least 40 per cent, or £0 per cent, lower than in America, where fruit is in larger and more regular supply, and sugar is cheaper. Further, jam here is quite 40 per cent, cheaper, both wholesale and retail, than in England, where : sugar is at a much lower price. The whole question of monopolies should be dealt with by an appeal to reason, and not an appeal to passion or prejudice. If we are to deal with those great business concerns, we must have facts, and not mere assertions. It is of no use pointing out the awful examples of the growth of trusts and combines in America - we have to deal with our own country and with our- own affairs. I am not defending the meat trust or any other trust. We must have power to regulate and control ; but I, for one, shall always refuse, so far as I am able, to give power to nationalize. I am only claiming that we should look the facts fairly in the face, so far as Australia is concerned, and not allow ourselves to be misled by the sensational statements of more or less interested writers in other countries. I am quite sure that, when the time does arrive, this Parliament and the Australian people will be quite able to deal with the business affairs of this country ; but before we give a party or a Parliament the right to indulge in a system of the fixation of prices we have, at least, the right to invite some explanation of how that policy is to be put into operation - whether the prices are to be fixed high in the interests of the manufacturer and his workers, or on a low scale in the interests Of the consumer.
– I had not intended to take part in this debate, in which, I think, the question has been discussed to death, and I should not have done so but for some remarks 6y the honorable member for Mernda. The honorable member referred us to some trade circular; but I do not think that that presents a very satisfactory method of inquiry into the cause of high prices. By means of that class of literature, it would be an easy matter for any business man to prove anything he liked. The phenomenon we have to face is a uniform rise in prices all over the world, together with an increase in monopolies, trusts, and combines. The rise in prices is not confined to Australia, where wages have been increased, but is operating in Great Britain, Germany, America, and every civilized country. When we find parallel phenomena, such as I have indicated, in a universal rise in prices and an increase in trusts and combines, we have to look for some other and more general cause than increased wages in any one country. The Attorney-General proved, to the satisfaction of every intelligent man not eaten up with prejudice, that the only striking change in our commerce and trade that accompanies the high prices is an increase in combines.
– What about the report of the Royal Commission of the United States of America, quoted by the Leader of the Opposition?
– The honorable member for Boothby has quoted, no doubt accurately, from an American journal ; but we can prove any mortal thing from American literature. The combines and trusts have people in their pay,, and, of course, they circulate literature to suit their purposes. The Commissioners of one of the judicial Courts in America have certified that there is no Beef Trust; and yet we find the High Court granting an injunction against the Beef Trust. The explanation is that some people in authority are quite as corrupt as the Beef Trust itself ; and I warn honorable members opposite of the danger that lies in the fact that our Constitution is almost an exact copy of that of the United States of America. The law in America was put into operation against the Beef Trust, but the injunction granted did not affect it one iota. There must be power to scotch the trusts and follow them up. I say, more in sorrow than in anger, that the corruption of the trusts and combines has spread to the American Government and the American people. The worst feature of the position is that an American does not object to trusts and combines, but grumbles because he cannot get a “ cut “ at their profits. There is nothing like that in Australia ; and . I hope there never will be. It shows that, with a bad Constitution and a corrupt Judiciary, the people can become corrupt ; and Australia, while she is pure and clean, should guard against the evils that have afflicted America. The law of supply and demand does not rule prices. If it does, how do honorable members account for the phenomena to which attention has been directed from this side, and to the statements of men like Russell and other writers who have reputations to lose, men who are not in the pay of the trusts, nor the lackeys of a corrupt Government, but journalists and men of information ? Their statements are not to be disposed of with bluff. I am willing to admit that the good times which have prevailed of late all over the world are to be accounted for by increase in capital The honorable member for Kooyong has referred to the increase in the number of proprietary com- panies. A proprietary company is formed y dividing capital into shares. Such a company, having a capital of 50,000 shares, can get advances from a bank on the security of, say, 20,000 of the shares. In this way, the bank gets a liquid security which it can deal with on the market. Of course, the banks know the value of the shares on which they lend, and will not advance on shares of which they do not think well. But it is an advantage to them to be able at any time to put the shares on the market if their money is not forthcoming. This system of dealing with capital has increased prosperity and speculation, though the subject is too complex to deal with now any further. No doubt, too, there is more wheaten bread eaten now than was eaten some years ago. During the past twenty years, there has been an evolution of the capitalistic system which Parliament must watch, to see that the interests of the community as a whole do not suffer. That is the business of Parliament ; mere interference is not our business. The honorable member for Mernda quoted Thorold Rogers, that marvellous and illustrious Oxford professor who belonged to a band of men who spent their lives trying to make the world better than they found it. For years, he was returned to Parliament by the working men and middle classes of Southwark without it costing him a penny, because they appreciated his honesty, truth, love ot the people, and staunch adherence to Radical principles. He believed in free competition, which was a perfectly right thing to do in his day, but that has now disappeared. As to the Statute of Labourers, wages were fixed by it, and its provisions operated for a time until exceptional circumstances arose. I wanted the honorable member to deal with them ; but he dropped the subject like a hot potato. He knows that the Black Death so diminished the agricultural population that employers had to pay higher wages than the Statute demanded in order to get the labour that they needed. You will find evidence of that in the Rolls Court to-day. The Government wishes to restore competition. Honorable members opposite say that it cannot be done; but I think that it can. Even in Australia, we have seen trusts, rings, and combines fix prices and wages, though it used to be said that that could not be done. In the Old Country, there is a strong party desirous of following our example. No doubt what we suggest is surrounded with difficulty, but the Australian people are determined that they will control the conditions under which they live. What is the position to-day? Wages have increased, profits have increased, and plunder has increased.
– What does the honorable member mean by plunder?
– A return amounting to as much as 8 or 9 per cent, on capital may be reasonable, but when combines or trusts are making 15 and 25 per cent, on watered stock, they are robbing the public.
– Of two companies, one might be making 5 per cent., and another 15 simply because one was well managed and the other badly managed.
– Has the honorable member never heard of watered stock? Does he say that the workers ought to pay 5 and to per cent, on stock that has been watered ?
– Why does he not try to solve these difficulties instead of obstructing? What we need are statistics like the income tax statistics of Great Britain to show how incomes have increased and profits have increased. If we had the information that we should have, honorable members would not be able to taunt us, because the facts would be seen to be on our side. The difficulties in the way of doing as we wish to do will not frighten me. Why was it that in 1894 and 1895 wheat was only 2s. a bushel, and in South Australia as low as is. 11½d. a bushel, and that wool was very low, too, then ? Will honorable members say that it was due to the operation of the law of supply and demand ; that there was no demand for wheat? The fact was that prices were depressed by the gambling in options at Chicago, Liverpool, and other centres. At the time Mr. Bryan was going for the Presidency, and bimetallism was being talked of a lot. The American farmers were going for the Democratic ticket because of the low price of wheat, but the gamblers put up the market a shilling, and the Republican candidate was returned. The law of supply and demand had no more to do with prices than I have to do with Jupiter. Anyone who knows anything of the history of America^ politics knows that the only hope of the Republicans was in raising the price of wheat. They could not argue with the American farmer. All he wanted to know was why wheat was so low. When you gamble with 30 times more wheat than there is in existence, and mix up the fictitious and the real, you are sure to cause trouble. Senator Sherman sawthat, and did his hardest to stop it, holding that no man should gamble with a commodity unless he held what he offered for sale. There is no harm in selling forward wheat that you actually have, but trouble comes when you gamble with wheat that you never had and never intend to have. I refer to this matter to show the evolution of what I call capitalistic roguery. Those concerned in this business are all educated and intelligent men, but their religion is, “ If you can make money, make it, no matter how. Every one will bless you if you get on in the world ; it does not matter how you get on. Make money, and the world will admire you, and ask no questions.”
– Is the honorable member speaking from experience?
– I have made a close study of these questions for the past forty years, and if I do not know anything about them now, I should do well to leave them alone. 1 am satisfied that honorable members opposite know nothing of much that I have been speaking about. In the South Australian House of Assembly I submitted a motion in favour of this matter being dealt with. A somewhat similar proposal was debated in the German Reichstag, and in France and elsewhere it has been urged that men should not be permitted to gamble in any food products unless they actually held them.
– Did the countries of Europe follow the honorable member?
– The farmers of Europe generally go to the commercial men who represent them, and the latter do not wish to be disturbed in a game which may touch them on the next occasion. We know how vested interests pull together. Vested interest No. 1 does not want to be interfered with, and vested interest No. 2 objects to vested interest No., 1 being interfered with anyhow. That is the reason why vested interests are represented by Conservatives. But to-day gambling in regard to the wheat market’ is not as effective as it was. Why ? Because the Beef Trust intends to operate on the wheat market just as it has operated on other markets. This morning the honorable member for Flinders,- following an established legal practice, called attention to one particular point in connexion with this Bill for the purpose of obscuring everything else. He declared that it will vest the High Court with authority to determine what is a monopoly.. In saying that he was perfectly right. But is there a sane man in Australia who knows, what a monopoly is? Neither does the High Court know. Why? Because there is no such thing as a monopoly except those which were granted by old Queen Bess and King James I. But, as both those monarchs are dead, the word “ monopoly “ is one that cannot be understood’ by our law Courts. So that the honorable member is perfectly right when he says that the learned owls of the High Court will probably knock out that word completely. The Bill relates to trusts, com.binations, and monopolies in regard to production. The High Court will not be able to make anything out of the term “ monopolies,” and consequently it will endeavour to define “ trusts and combinations.’’’ Therefore the argument of the. honorable member for Flinders does not carry very much weight with me. The clause is so framed that the High Court will have to ignore the term “ monopolies,” and endeavour to understand the meaning of the words, “trusts and combinations.” lt. is perfectly, true that there is no originality in our Constitution, which is simply a copy of the American Constitution. We should,, however,, keep in mind the. evil effect which, trusts and combines have wrought on the. American people. It behoves us to keep those evils as far removed from us a,s possible. I have lived long enough to see the people hold our law Courts and Judicial Benches in contempt. It will not be a good thing for Australia to hold fast to a- Constitution! under which, the decisions of the High Court will’ be regarded by the people with contempt. If our Constitution places: that’ tribunal in- a false position, it is our duty to. advise the people- to restore that tribunal to- a position which will command their respect.
The electors who returned the Labourparty to power at the last election must feel’ very disappointed at their* failure to supply this House with information as to the ravages wrought by trusts and combines, the talk about which is really their political stock-in-trade-. In introducing this Bill, the Attorney-General said that the- world’ to-day is ruled by trusts, and’ that we in Australia are, to a large extent, groping in the dark, so far as trusts and combines’ are concerned, although- he believes that they exist here., He declared that the trade of the country is overwhelminglyruled by certain understandings and combinations which regulate prices. Surely it’ would have been an easy matter during: the past three years for the Government to have placed the House in possession of the facts relating to this matter. I am prepared to vote for any reasonable means of suppressing trusts and combinations inAustralia.. The experiences of the world teach us that the rapacity of these great trade organizations - when they are used? to the detriment of the public - is such that we ought to put them’ down without any consideration whatever.
– What does the honorable member propose?
– At the present timeit is not my duty to propose anything. The Government have brought forward this Bill for the purpose of empowering Parliament to deal with trusts and combines, and it is their duty to. justify their proposals, and to. furnishus with reasons why the suggested alterations in our Constitution should be made. I am not here to put up a, defence of trusts and combines. If they exist in Australia, and if their operations are to the detriment of the public, legislation of the most stringent character should be enacted for their suppression. But before we areasked to grant, this extended power, the Government ought to furnish us with information as to the existence of trusts and combines in Australia. Personally, I occupy the .position of an agnostic in respect to them. The Leader of the Oppositiondealt very trenchantly with this question last night. He affirmed that a Board of Trade, or an Inter-State Commission - a body composed of men of high and irreproachable character - should be appointed to investigate fearlessly and impartially the operations of these great trading concerns,, with a view of furnishing, information to this Parliament. At the present time power is vested in the President of the Conciliation and’ ArbitrationCourt to compel any firm to submit their books and . documentsfor his inspection. We can arm the InterState Commission with a similar power. The Government can. be justly charged with: insincerity in connexion with this matter. The honorable member for Bendigo hasproved beyond all doubt that this Parliament already has sufficient power to deal! with Inter-State trusts and combines. His statement has not been disproved or weakened in the slightest degree.
– The honorable member knows that we have no such power.
-I do not. In 1905
Ti’e passed an Anti-Trust Act, under which the late Government initiated the proceedings against the Coal Vend. It is admitted by all the legal authorities that that Act is constitutional. The amending Act of 1910, introduced by the present Government, is a still more drastic measure.
– And yet it has failed.
– No. Our complaint ls that it has not even been put into operation.
– The honorable member’s party voted against that Act.
– I am speaking of the position of the Ministerial party. They declare that we have no power to deal with the trusts and combines which they declare are rapaciously battening on the consumers of the Commonwealth. Trusts and combines may or may not be doing so. I am not going to deny or affirm any such statement, whether it be wild or moderate. I wish only to point out that we can ascertain whether trusts and combines are in existence, only l>v putting the law in motion and requiring, as we can under our existing legislation, persons alleged to be acting in restraint of trade to open their books to the inspection of public officials and to answer questions put to them by the Attorney-General. During this debate we have heard from the Government side of the House exactly the same tales as were told on the occasion of the last referenda debate. We have been told by honorable members . opposite that there are in Australia certain combines and “ understandings.” We have been told that there is a Sugar Monopoly acting to the detriment of the public, and that there is a Tobacco Monopoly, as well as other combinations, in existence here. Notwithstanding these statements on the part of thu Government and Ministerial supporters, however, the fact remains that they have taken no action to prove whether such trusts and combines are actually in existence, If there are here such trusts and combines as the Labour party allege to be in existence, then the Government have been recreant to their duty in failing to inquire into them. It is time that the electors asked the Government, who have been talk ing of trusts and combines for the last three years - declaring that they are raising prices and controlling trade to the detriment of the public - why they have not taken action to deal with them.
– We have heard all this before.
– And the Labour party will hear it again, not only in this House, but, I hope, from every platform in Australia. We know that trade combinations and organizations are operating in every country. In Germany, where the Government have ample power to deal with combines, there are, according to one writer, 180 such organizations. The Chemicals Trust and other combines exist in France, whilst in Great Britain certain trade “ understandings “ and combinations are operating. The greatest number of trade combinations will probably be found in the United States of America. Is it not difficult to understand why, as w;as shown last night by the Leader of the Opposition,’ in the two countries where the least number of trade organizations exist - namely, Russia and Canada - there has not been of recent years a greater increase of prices than has occurred elsewhere ? I do not .say that that fact is in itself conclusive. All that I contend is that if the present Government had been sincere in their onslaught upon trade combines they would long since have made a judicial investigation into the whole ramifications of trade in Australia. The late Government proposed to appoint a Board to inquire into every avenue of trade and furnish Parliament with the latest and fullest informarion, and according to the report of a Select Committee appointed by the United States Senate an impartial expert and judicial inquiry into the avenues of trade is necessary before any proper determination can be arrived at. A similar Commission recently inquired into the whole question of prices in New Zealand, and found that the tendency of trade was to draw people from the rural to manufacturing industries in centres of population. In that way production in country districts is being weakened, while the production of manufactures is increasing. Because of this tendency we have a decrease in the agricultural population in the ratio of city population in nearly all parts of the world. Trade organizations in certain centres arecertainly attracting people from rural pursuits to engage in manufacturing industries in the cities. That is a bad state of affairs in any country. Instead of assisting that decentralization which is necessary for a highly vitalized community, it is centralizing industrial operations and decreasing rather than increasing production from the soil. These large trading organizations wherever they exist should be dealt with, if necessary, by the most drastic legislation. For three years, however, the present Government have simply been marking time, and the whole field in relation to trusts and combines has still to be traversed. “If the Government are shorn of their argument in regard to the existence of trusts and combines, and their alleged inability to deal with them, they will be deprived of their whole stock-in-trade of arguments in favour of the acceptance of these referenda proposals. Whilst” they have indulged in a general tirade against trusts and combines, not one of their party has attempted to show that any exist in Australia. The Government have not lifted a finger to prove that there is any justification for their fulminations in this regard from every platform in Australia.
– Why not let the people decide ?
– This Parliament is charged under the special charter of the Constitution with the duty of dealing with trusts and combines operating in more than one State. But, as I have shown, the present Government have failed to take any action under our anti-trust law. They have not attempted to put into force the drastic amending Act passed in 1910. No more serious charge of insincerity could be brought against a Government than that which can be levelled at the present Administration in respect of this flagrant neglect of duty. It has been said that during the last referenda campaign money was poured into the coffers of our party by the so-called trusts and combines to bring about the rejection of the Government proposals. In contradiction of that assertion, let me state my own experience. I traversed my own constituency from one end to the other, holding scores of public meetings, and ‘ urging the public to reject those proposals. Not £10 entered that electorate from outside to help the campaign, and yet we recorded there the biggest proportionate majority against the referenda proposals that was cast in any division in Victoria.
– Is the honorable member going to connect that matter with the question before the Chair?
– It relates to the question of trusts and combines. The one fact to which I have referred is sufficient to disprove the charge that trusts and combinespoured money into the funds of our party to carry on the campaign against the referenda proposals on the last occasion.
– Ask Mrs. Berry who said that£50,000 was spent in Victoria alone;
– That is a charge against the Liberal party that should never have been made.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– I am confining myself to the charges that have been made against this party of spending large sums of money.
– The honorable member must not follow that line of argument. I never heard the charge made.
– It has been made in this House.
– Has it been made against any particular member, or against the honorable member personally?
– It has been made against the Liberal- party.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the matter before the Chair?
– I know nothing more relevant to the subject of trusts and combines than a charge made against the Liberal party of being helped financially by those trusts and combines to defeat the last referenda.
– The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– I consider that it will be a very serious restriction of the debate if we are not allowed to deal with those questions.
– If the honorable member does not desire to keep to the question, he must resume his seat.
– As a representative of one of the largest wheat-growing districts in Victoria, I am convinced that if the policy of fixing prices is carried into effect, the agricultural industry of Australia will be ruined; because farmers will be prevented from taking advantage of the prices ruling in the markets of the world. It has been proved in, the United States of America, and recently in New Zealand, that the prices of agricultural produce have kept well up to the prices of the manufactured articles; and, in the case of New Zealand that was entirely due to the increased shipping facilities, which enable the farmers to send their produce to foreign markets. Some honorable members opposite go to the extent of suggesting an export duty on certain agricultural products in order to bring down prices; indeed, a year or two ago a deputation waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs with a request for such a duty on hides and similar articles.
– Did the honorable member not recommend, as a member of a Royal Commission, that the price of harvesters should be fixed?
– No, though I did make some recommendation as to the duty. A proposal to fix prices in Australia can only have as its object the keeping of agricultural products to the minimum figure; and this, I say, can only be accomplished by means of a practically prohibitive export duty.
– The honorable member is manifestly unfair !
– How, otherwise, can prices be fixed ? It must be by some means that will keep the produce in the country; and whatever is done to that end can only have the one effect of compelling the farmers to accept a lower price than they could get in the markets of the world. If the price of wheat, for instance, were only 2s. 6d. in London, the people here would not be prepared to have 3s. 6d. fixed as the price in Australia;” the fixed price must be lower than the foreign price, or otherwise there is no decrease of price to the lo al purchaser. In my opinion, to adopt the fixation of prices as part of our public policy will mean the death-blow of -the great agricultural industry of Australia.
– The trusts fix prices now.
– I am not discussing that question at present; indeed, it is impossible for one man to obtain that accurate knowledge of the varied trade operations of the country to enable him to speak with authority on every point. In any case, for the last three years the Government have had ample power under their own Act to deal with trusts and combines. I am not prepared to say that we do not require extended power. That is necessary in regard to certain combinations that operate in one State, and one State only ; and I would vote for any measure conferring the necessary power, if it be provided that the organization must be in restraint of trade, and detrimental to the public. There is no great trade organization in Australia which does not extend from one State to another; and illustrations of this may be found in the tobacco and sugar industries. And, as I have already said, there is ample power now to deal drastically with such trusts, though no attempt has been made to put the law into operation.
– The High Court has shown that our Constitution falls short.
– In no case has the High Court attacked our constitutional power; and, anyhow, proceedings could have been taken under the new Anti-Trust Act.
– At an expenditure of another ,£50,000, I suppose.
– The case has gone to the Privy Council, and will probably cost many thousands more. As a matter of fact, the sending of the case to the Privy Council gives the Government an opportunity to hold up any proceedings until after next election, and to pose before the country as the sworn enemies of trusts and combines, whose actions they have been condoning ever since they came into office.
.- It appears to me that the Opposition intend to indulge, during the next six months, in a campaign of misrepresentation.
– Is the honorable member in order in saying that of the Opposition.
– I do not know in what way the honorable member for Capricornia proposes to connect his remarks with the matter before us, but I suppose he intends to do so.
– The traditions of Parliament allow me very wide latitude in speaking of public men, so long as I do not say anything personally offensive.
– According to a tradition of this Parliament, if an honorable member regards any remark as offensive, it is readily withdrawn; and I hope that we shall observe that tradition.
– I do not” intend to say anything personally offensive; but, in the course of my remarks, if I give pain to honorable members opposite, I cannot help it. It is somewhat doubtful whether any of our opponents in Australia will be sensible enough to be disturbed by anything I may say. Without referring to honorable members opposite, I say that some of the opponents of the Labour party in Australia will, during the next six months, indulge in a campaign, not only oi misrepresentation, but of downright lying.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the matter before the Chair?
– Is it in order to say or suggest that the Opposition and their supporters intend to start on a campaign of deliberate lying?
– I did not understand the honorable member for Capricornia to say that.
– I think the. lying comes from the other side of the House.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark. He has no right to make disorderly interjections.
– Then I will say that the misrepresentation will come from those who support the referenda.
– It, is said that the Government have sufficient power now to deal with trusts and combines, and we are reproached with having taken no action ; but any one who has watched the proceedings of the High Court must know that that statement is not in accordance with fart. The fact is that we have tried to deal wi.t trusts and combines, and have been informed by high judicial authority that there are no combines detrimental to the public. The. honorable member for Bendigo has told us that we have already tried to deal with these organizations. I do not hope for very great results from some of the measures which we shall be able to enact if our proposals are accepted by the people ; I regard the judicial proceedings which will follow £he amendment of the Constitution, and the failures that will result, as part of the education of the public necessary to the true solution of the difficulty, which is the taking over of certain businesses by the Commonwealth Parliament on behalf of the whole of Australia, or by the State Parliaments on behalf of the States, or by the municipal councils on behalf of districts. These businesses must be made public monopolies, or must be conducted in competition with the trusts that are now fleecing the public. I am glad to find that some of the members of the Opposition, and one of the great newspapers of Australia, are favorable to two at least of our proposals, including that under review. The honorable member for Angas has stated -
Personally, I think that two of the powers
SOught are “insistent with the Federal principle, and even if not recommended by grounds of
Federal expediency, might have been expected. I refer to the power in relation to trusts and in relation to corporations.
The Melbourne Age, which has a circulation of 136.000 daily, has published the opinion that the time is ripe for the powers referred to to be granted to the Commonwealth by the amendment of the Constitution. The Leader of the Opposition, too, has said that the time has come for the control of corporations by the Commonwealth. In a manifesto which he issued in 1906 - “ What the Deakin Government proposes to do in the immediate future “ - he gave his programme of legislation -
Banking and foreign corporations - legislation for the protection of the public; better safeguards for Australian investors, capitalists, and traders.
Incidentally, I might remark that in that manifesto is this line -
What the Reid-McLean party proposes to do in the immediate future - Query? Anti-Socialism.
It is satisfactory that some honorable members opposite have the courage to state t their belief that the Commonwealth Parliament should have larger powers to deal with trusts, combines, corporations, and monopolies, but it is unfortunate that the party whip has been cracked, and that men like the honorable member for Flinders should be forced into the fighting line to express opinions differing from those that they held two years ago. The honorable member for Flinders wishes to know what is the meaning of the word “ monopolies,” and objects that there is no legal definition of it. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has remarked that the legal dictionaries do not contain a definition of the word, but that is only because they are not up-to-date. The honorable member for Angas, whom we all admit has a very wide and extensive knowledge, not only of law, but of subjects of general information, when I asked him what would the Judges do in dealing with a word not defined in the legal dictionaries - where would they turn for information - told me that they would consult the standard dictionaries of the language. They would no doubt recognise Webster as a standard dictionary. Last night this definition was given by the honorable member from an author named Cook, one of the latest and best American authorities. Referring to combinations, monopolies, and labour unions, he says -
Any combination, the tendency of which is to prevent competition in its broad and general sense, and to control and thus at will enhance prices to the detriment of the public, is a legal monopoly.
The latest edition of Webster’s Dictionary gives the meaning of “ monopoly “ and “ monopolies “ in these words -
The exclusive light, privilege, or power of selling or purchasing, a given commodity or service in a given market; exclusive control of the supply of any commodity or service in a given market, hence often in popular use any such control of a commodity, service, or traffic in a given, market, as enables the one having such control te raise the prices of a commodity or service materially above the price fixed by free competition.. At. the common law the term “monopoly” was specifically applied to an exclusive privilege of trade created by State grant or charter, and the term is still sometimes so used. Exclusive control of traffic constitutes a monopoly in the economic sense, whether acquired by State grant (as in the. case of patents or copyright, which are statutory exceptions to the common law rule making monopolies illegal) by control of sources of supply (as in the case of. mines) by engrossing an article (as in the case of cornering the market) by combination or concert of action or by any other, means.
Naturally politicians object to Judge-made law, but we might trust the Judges, if it were their duty to ascertain the meaning of a word which had not been defined in an Act, to consult the standard dictionaries of the language. I understand that, according to modern practice, it is not necessary to create a monopoly that a company or corporation should have exclusive control,, and that if a company succeeds in securing even a 10 per cent, control of service or goods in a given market, it is held to have a monopoly. I do not think we need be disturbed by the fear of the honorable member for Flinders that trouble will be created by passing the Bill in its present form because the Judges of the High Court will not be able to arrive at a determination of the meaning of the word “ monopoly.”
– Did the honorable member say 10 per cent.?
-I believe that it is held in America that the acquiring of exclusive control of 10 per cent, of a trade or service is a monopoly. The honorable member for Wimmera says that there are no combines in existence at the present time, but I shall take the opportunity to mention a few. They are not confined only, as some honorable members seem to think, to the great Protectionist State of AmericaThere are many combines in the United Kingdom. Quite recently a combine was formed1 to control the output of Portland cement. I take this, statement from the Times of 23rd December of last year -
The form in which the current combination: in England is to- be arranged is by the forma tion of a company entitled the British Portland Cement Manufacturers Limited, to take over and amalgamate a number of works outside the associated company. Lord St. Davids, Chairman of the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (1900) Limited, will also be chairman of the new company, which will have an issued capital of ^3,500,000, guaranteed by a number of leading London banking and financial houses, no public issue being made. The new company will control an output of about 1,500,000 tons of cement, annually, while it will have a working, agreement with the associated company. The capital of these companies will amount together to .£12,000,000, and they will control fivesixths of the cement production of the country.
Another trust in the United Kingdom is the Coates Cotton Thread Trust, which in 1907 made a profit of £3,056,125; in 1908, a profit of £2,701,698 ; in 1909, °f £2,917,667; and in 1910, of £3,171,000. This combine has been able to raise the price of a reel of cotton from i£d. to 3d., the poor seamstress and others who use cotton having to pay the extra cost.
– And the reels do not hold the length of thread that they are supposed to hold.
– I believe that the Minister of Trade and Customs has lately discovered that the trust has not only raised its prices openly, but has done so in a sinister underhand way by putting on the reels less thread than was formerly sold. Another monopoly is the Tobacco Combine, which is operating in Australia with con,siderable success. I understand that the employes of the trust here are treated comparatively well, and are better off than the/ were twenty years ago, or even less. The trust has an agreement with the vendors, the conditions of sale being these -
In order to insure the sale by vendors of . . cigars at a reasonable and uniform price, we have agreed with the Tobacconists’ Association’ of Victoria’ that, the express conditions on which they are sold - whether bought from us or any trader - are that they shall not be retailed at less than 3d. each, and shall not be re-sold, except subject to these conditions as a term of the sale..
The acceptance of the cigars by any purchaser will be deemed to be an acknowledgment that they are sold to him on these conditions, and’ on these conditions only, and that he agrees with the. vendor (as our agent in this respect to be bound by the same.
These cigars, when supplied to a wholesale dealer, are so supplied on the above express agreement, and also on the additional terms that these conditions shall remain attached to every package sold wholesale, and shall form part of the terms upon which such wholesale dealer re-sells every such package.
If these conditions are not agreed to, the goods must be returned at once to the vendor-
It is becoming a common practice throughout the commercial world for trusts to prescribe the prices which the retailers shall charge the general public. For Edison’s phonographic records, for example, the dealer must charge a certain price - no more, and no less. The trust determines what price will allow it a fair return upon its capital, and at the same time permit of the distributor making a fair profit. If it be possible for the Phonographic Trust or the Cotton Thread Trust to fix a price for any commodity, surely it is possible for a tribunal established by this Parliament to fix a price, and to fix it more equitably, than can private individuals, who have only to consider the interests of their shareholders, and who do not study the consumer. Honorable members have said that we are not prepared to advocate a State monopoly of tobacco. We do advocate that, but we cannot accomplish everything in the short space of three years. The tobacco monopoly in France was established by the great Napoleon, and since its establishment the State has derived from it no less a sum than £607,000,000.
– It supplies the worst tobacco in the world.
– I was talking to a French gentleman the other day, and, during the course of our conversation, I mentioned the statement which has just been uttered by the honorable member for Lang. The Frenchman became so indignant that I believe that if we had been in France he would have wanted to fight a duel. I decline to believe that the educated French nation, the thrifty French nation - the nation which is first in fashion, first in aviation, first in the matter of taste, both in food and dress - would put up with tobacco of a bad quality, manufactured by its own Government. If the honorable member for Lang challenges my statement that the French are first in taste in the matter of food, I ask him why it is that a French chef can obtain employment anywhere at a high salary, and why it is that French designations are adopted for the items which appear on our menu cards ? Let me remind honorable members that when the South Australian Government called for tenders, for coal in 1911, two shipping companies tendered jointly at 11s. 9d. per ton all round. Their supply was guaranteed by another company which controlled a coal mine. On the same date as these companies tendered, Messrs. Howard Smith and Company also put in a tender at 14s. per ton. The letter covering their tender was such as to induce the Government to believe that it was fair and above board. But the truth is that all three were in the swim. Consequently the Government accepted the lowest tender. Here is another instance which is related in the South Australian Parliament -
Mr. Coombe protested against the action of the shipping combine in increasing the freight on hay between Port Adelaide and Western Australia from 25s. to 50s. per ton, and thus killing the South Australian trade. This was more reprehensible as the freight on hay from Port Adelaide to Sydney was only 15s. per ton, while the same shipping companies carried hay from Victoria to Western Australia for less freight than was charged from Port Adelaide to Western Australia. The Treasurer said the shipping ring round the coast of Australia was complete, and it was only when the freight rates suddenly jumped -up that the people found out the extent of the exactions.
During the course of this debate reference has been made to the Flour Millers’ Combine, which fixes the prices that bakers must pay for their flour. The bakers, in turn, in some towns in Australia, fix the price which the public must pay for their bread. It is true that occasionally these little schemes are interfered with by associations like the Civil Service Co-operative Bakery, of Melbourne. These co-operative societies are sometimes successful in the teeth of the greatest opposition.
In the baking trade, so perfect is the organization of some of the employers that the drivers of the bakery carts are compelled to enter into an agreement that they will not start in business in the same line for two years after they have relinquished their employment. In some towns it is impossible to find .a driver of a baker’s cart who has a prospect of starting in the baking business himself, hecause of this new method of preventing competition. In connexion with all businesses we may witness the process of eliminating competition and saving expense. Only the other day I picked up the Melbourne Age - I usually read that journal before breakfast, and peruse the Argus afterwards. After I had read an account of an incident in which Mr. Willis, the Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, was concerned, I thought I would like to read the Argus report of it. On turning to that journal, I found that its report was identical with that published in the Age. If honorable members will take the trouble to look at the telegrams from Sydney which are published in the Mel- bourne newspapers, they will find that in many cases they agree word for word. Why? Because, in order to save expense, the newspapers have made arrangements with agencies to supply them with news, instead of each keeping a direct representative there.
– Very often one reporter attends a meeting for two newspapers.
– As our population increases, and our newspapers multiply, instead of half-a-dozen reporters attending the Law Courts to report for their respective journals, a press syndicate in the city will supply the reports for all newspapers. These are matters which greatly concern the wage-earners throughout Australia and the rest of the world. They are confronted with that organization of capital and industry which is displacing them in their various avenues of employment. Better methods of organization and modern improvements in machinery are rapidly displacing labour. I recollect that when I was on the Sydney Morning Herald, some twenty-five years ago, the compositors used to say that it was not possible to invent a type-setting machine with brains. Since then the almost human linotype has displaced three out of every four of the compositors who were formerly employed on the daily newspapers. Capital is organizing, and is placing the distributing portion of industry in the’ hands of companies, corporations, and combines. Upon the authority of the Social Democratic Herald, I find that-
In 1911 sugar was selling in the United States in the neighbourhood of 9 cents, a lb., and the prospects are that the price may go up to 10 cents
That would be equivalent to about 4½d. or 5d.’ per lb. This quotation shows what the public of Australia must contemplate in the future in regard to the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and those associated with it. I shall deal later on with that company. Meantime I desire to refer to the Meat Trust, which is finding a footing in Queensland, and, no doubt, throughout Australia. During the last few years there has been going on a remarkably rapid concentration of capital in the pastoral industry. For instance, the statistics of Queensland, dealing with the number of acres in various pastoral properties under lease from the Government show that during the last thirty years there has been a gradual reduction in the number of persons holding such leases, and that where a dozen squatters were to be found twenty-five or thirty years ago, only one is to be found to-day. The point is that properties previously held by a number of persons have passed OUt_Ot the hands of the individual pioneers into the possession of banking institutions, and such corporations as Dalgety and Company, Goldsbrough, Mort, and Company, and other mortgage and pastoral finance companies. It cannot be denied that trusts are operating in Australia at the present time. The following paragraph taken from the Melbourne Argus of 20th January, 191 1, refers to the existence of a salt ring : - “ Owing to the existence of a powerful ring, butchers’ salt is now 150 per cent, dearer than it was several years ago.” This startling statement was made to-day by Mr. Patrick Hegarty, a_ well-known master butcher. Before Federation, he said, butchers’ salt could be bought at 28s. a ton. Some years ago it could be purchased at 36s a ton. The last lot he bought cost 66s., and 76s. 6d. was now being quoted. No supplies could be obtained for less than 695 Mr. Hegarty also asserted that a ring was responsible” for an advance of 100 per cent, in the price of American skins for sausages.
Not long ago the Government of Western Australia, in order to cope with the operations of the Meat Trust in that State, established a butcher’s shop in Perth, and were successful, in that way, in reducing the price of meat by at least id. per lb. The Meat Trust, checkmated in this way, set to work to accomplish its object in another manner. I have here a newspaper report stating that the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Scaddan, or, as he is described by this newspaper, “ Mr. Scaddan, butcher,” complains that the Government can get no more meat, as the meat combination has bought up all the cattle. Here, then, is another instance of the difficulty that will confront us in our endeavour to deal with the elimination of competition by the trusts, and the burdens that are consequently imposed upon the people. I find that we have also in existence in Australia a Jam Combine.
– That has been in existence for some time.
– Quite so. I have before me a complaint made at a conference of fruit-growers held in Sydney in September, 1910, by a Mr. Tucker, of Beecroft. If I am not mistaken, Beecroft is in the honorable member for Parramatta’s constituency. The honorable member, who has admitted the existence of trusts and combines in Australia, has probably been listening to the complaints of fruitgrowers in his electorate regarding the existence of a Jam Combine but, with the true instinct of an Oppositionist, he can never see any good in a Government proposal, and, consequently, is determined to vote against this Bill. A newspaper report before me states that at the conference in question -
Mr. Tucker (Beecroft) produced a letter from a small jam manufacturer in Sydney ,who complained of the rapidly extending operations of the new combine, and also gave the names of the jam companies interested. Not only the jam companies, but large provision firms in Sydney as well, were interesting themselves in the amalgamation. One house, which he named, had taken up a very large number of shares. The fruitgrowers had never before been faced with such a serious question. The amalgamation had gone
SO’ far as to state that it was determined to use as little New South Wales fruit as possible. It was imperative that New South Wales growers should, take immediate action to co-operate, with’ a- view to combating the operations of the combine.
– Would a cooperativesociety of fruit-growers be regarded as a combine ?
– Co-operation is very useful, whether it be on the part of fruitgrowers or of wage-earners, to obtain due reward for their .labours.
– They are all combines, and. they are all out for as much as they can get.
– That statement has been answered by the Attorney-General. Some time ago a Brick Combine was established in New South Wales, and the State Government took action to deal with it. There is also a Brick Combine in existence in Victoria. I have taken from the Melbourne Agc the following complaint made against it in June last -
An investigation made within the last few days of the charges levelled against the brick combine by contractors shows that the principal grievances are : - (i) That the brick combine has declined to supply any bricks to contractors who in any way support, by taking shares, the new non-combine works at Northcote, and has raised difficulties when asked to supply contractors who employ re-inforced concrete for the main portions of buildings they erect. (2) That the price now charged in Melbourne per 1,000 bricks is so exorbitant that in some cases it is cheaper to import bricks from Sydney than to purchase the combine’s bricks. Among three typical cases cited is that of the builder of the new Britannia. Theatre, who stated, “That in order to complete his contract for the erection of this theatre he required 750,000 bricks. He went to practically the whole of the companies in the combine and sought to place orders for> the bricks. Everywhere he met with a refusal. . . . None of the combine- companies would take an order, although he was prepared to deposit ^500 on the spot.”
That is another combine to which I would draw the attention of the honorable member for Wimmera and others who say that we are not suffering from the operations of trusts in Australia.
– I have not said anything of the kind. I said the only way to find out whether trusts existed in Australia was to put the law in motion.
– I understood the honorable member to say that there were notrusts or combines operating here> but I accept his explanation. We have been told that the. Coal Vend is not really a. combine, or that, if it is a combine, it isa beneficent one, enabling the colliery owners to obtain a fair price for their coal and the coal miners to secure a reasonable reward for their labour. I have here a statement of facts which I think indicates that this combine could be brought to book for acting in restraint- of trade. The statement, which relates tadje experience of the owner of a small barque,, the Laura, trading regularly between Australia and New Zealand, is as? follows -
The Laura, since she was purchased about twoyears ago bv Mr. Peter Burrows, of the firm of E. D. Pike and Co., of this city, has been engaged in the timber trade, carrying hardwood from New South Wales to New Zealand, and bringing back cargoes of pine. During thewhole of this time she was only twice diverted- - once on a trip to the South Seas on a threemonths’ time charter, and once -with a cargo, of naphtha and kerosene to Suva.. She may therefore be regarded as a regular trader between Australia and New Zealand. The Laura. was recently chartered from the owners by Messrs. Redpath and Sons, of Christchurch New Zealand, and. she arrived at Newcastlefrom New Caledonia on Monday week to load coal# for Lyttelton, New Zealand. The vessel has now been lying idle at Newcastle for nearly n. fortnight- - says the Sydney Morning Herald of 25th September, 1909 - without any prospect of being’ permitted to purchase or load coal. Mr: Peter Burrows; theowner, applied to the. charterers’ agents- thcHetton Coal Coy. Ltd. - of which Mr. Wilkinsis the manager, for a cargo, but was informed that instructions had been received’ from the Coal Vend, that the Laura was not to be- loaded, as she was not included in the list of vessels authorized to be loaded by collieries connected with the Vend.
Whether this is or is not a combine in the legal sense of the term, there is certainly an understanding that the colliery companies in the Vend shall not supply any companies that, are not within the Shipping Combine. Honorable members representing constituencies where dairying isi carried on will learn with interest that, according to a correspondent writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, of 23rd October, j 909-
The privilege of fixing the selling price of “butter on the Sydney market is now held exclusively by one selling company.
In other words, one man fixes the selling price of butter for Sydney with its vast population. The statement continues -
It is strange that this same selling company should appoint a committee in London, empowered to call in selling brokers and agents. It needs but little brain power to understand that if such is necessary in London, the fixing of prices in Sydney should not be left in any -one man’s hand.
If I could give notice of a question, I should like to ask the honorable member for Richmond whether one company has not the fixing of the selling price of butter?
– I deny it, without notice of the question.
– In the report of a Royal Commission on the marketing of wheat in South Australia, consisting of four Liberals and three Labourites, we are informed -
Your Commissioners cannot but regard the explanation of the failure to pass the reduction of freights on to the farmers as extremely unsatisfactory. After careful consideration, your Commissioners have come to the conclusion that the existence and operations of the “ honorable understanding” are decidedly inimical to the interests of the wheat growers.
The wheat-growers are suffering from the same trouble as the cane-growers of Queensland, inasmuch as they have to take all the risks of drought, fire, and pests. We know that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has gone out of the producing business, and, like other combinations «.f the sort, they get the growers to do all the work and take all the risk. When those who market the wheat secure concessions from the Government in the way of reductions in freights, they do not pass over any of the advantage to the farmer.
Another instance is afforded in the cable services between Australia and Europe. At one time this business was entirely in the hands of the Eastern Extension Company, who used to charge at least 9s. a word, and refused all requests by business men for any reduction. When, however, the Pacific Cable was threatened, the price was brought down to 4s. 9d. The Pacific Cable was initiated by the British Government, the Canadian Government, the New Zealand Government, the New South Wales Govern ment, the Queensland Government, and the Victorian Government, who borrowed money to lay the All-Red line, which is now in operation. After all this, however, some of the business men who had taken a part in urging the various Governments to co-operate took their business to the Eastern Extension Company ; and that is the kind of treatment we may expect when a Government, State or Commonwealth, or a municipality undertakes to supply any public utility or service. The honorable member for Flinders was horrified, or was it amused, at the thought of attempting to fix prices, and at a meeting last night, he told the public, that any such attempt must be futile. He said that the price of bread could not be fixed, because the wheat-grower could at all times get the price of the world’s markets. But can the wheat-grower at all times get that price? As a rule, the unfortunate grower sells his wheat to agents, who go from farm 10 farm, and who, if they are able, induce him to accept is. 6d. a bushel for wheat,, which they may afterwards, exclusively to their own benefit, sell at 5s. Mr. James Patten, the “Wheat King,” who “cornered “ the wheat market about two years ago, and was supposed to have made at least £1,000,000 by that operation, was enabled to make that huge fortune simply because the farmer cannot get the price of the world’s markets. Such men as Patten corner “ the market, fix the prices, and reap the benefit, giving a low price to the farmers and charging the public a h’.gh price. As a matter of fact, the Government at the present time fix prices. We have entered on the business of common carriers, and we fix the price that shall be charged to carry a letter or a parcel from one place to another, and we also fix the price of telegrams. Further, the fees that lawyers may charge are fixed by law.
– I am afraid the lawyers get round that law.
– What I mean is that the law fixes a minimum price of, say, 3s. 4d. for a letter and 6s. 8d. for advice; but very often lawyers charge so much mere for their services that the Taxing Master is called upon to reduce the bill. However, my point is that the Government, e either State or Commonwealth, have created machinery to enable members of the legal profession to get a due reward for. their labours ; and, if that be possible, the resources of civilization ought to be sufficient to enable us to see that the poor wheatgrower, the dairyman, or the cane-grower gets fair prices.
In the case of the lawyer, if his client refuses to pay he may be summoned, and ultimately sent to gaol; and it will be seen that throughout the ages the lawyers have been intelligent enough to go right to the fountain-head, as represented by Parliament, to get justice. You, Mr. Speaker, will remember the days in your vast electorate when the water supply was in the hands of private individuals, and the water-carrier, with his waggon or cart, used to sell water at 6d. or is. a cask. As the villages and towns progressed, the water supply was taken over by the municipalities; and, as a matter of fact, the conditions are not only Socialistic, but rather Communistic, inasmuch as up to a certain point there is share and share alike. “ Each according to his or her needs,” the cost being covered by a general rate. Honorable members opposite support Individualism; and yet, under their very eyes, this Socialism and Communism is developing. If we can fix the price of water, why not the price of sugar or any other commodity or service, now supplied by trusts or combines?
One commodity certainly gives us a lead in the matter of fixing prices, namely, gold. I draw the attention of the honorable member for Flinders to this fact, and I point out that the price is fixed, although’ in no industry does the element of uncertainty enter so much as in that of the production of gold. Surely the honorable member does not desire to go back to the days of barter ? If so, I can understand his objection to the fixing of prices; but one can imagine the honorable member’s feelings if, having appeared for a circus proprietor and lost the case, he was offered, in settlement of a 200-guinea bill, a South African lion, with a request that he would say whether it should be taken in through the front “gate or led round to the back. Then, again, let us suppose that the honorable member for Brisbane sold somebody a case of oranges or apples, and that his customer casually remarked, “ I might as well pay you with a gallon of rum.” It will be remembered that at one time rum was the currency in New South Wales, and a “ rum “ currency it was ! Humanity is going through a long and weary process of evolution, and the honorable member for Flinders will remember, from his studies of Greek and Roman his- tory, that the Greeks, in Homeric times, gradually tended to cattle as a standard of value. At various times in the history of mankind, shells, furs, skins, animals, and cattle have been used as currency, and some of the very terms we use in relation to money to-day are derived from what described the various objects regarded as currency. The rupee derives its name from the word for herd, and in Germany, cattle being made the standard of value, gave to the word “ fee “ the meaning of salary.
– The honorable member might cite a commoner illustration; the word pecuniary comes from the Latin pecus, a beast.
– I am sorry that the honorable gentleman did not remember that when he was talking about our inability to fix prices.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I ask for an extension of a quarter-of-an-hour.
– I cannot grant that.
– Then this will be “ continued in our next,” in Committee.
.- For the last half hour I have been trying to determine whether the honorable member for Capricornia was joking or serious;, but the concluding sentence of his speech, makes me think that he was joking all the time. He has endeavoured to base his argument that this Parliament can fix prices on the fact that the price of gold is fixed at the mint. If that is the position which the honorable member takes up, I do no_t know what he has been doing during his parliamentary career, which has been a long one. Although it is true that the price of gold is fixed at the mint, and thereby a measure of value created, it is obvious that its value is not fixed. Value is a relative term ; it is the ratio which exists between any two commodities which can be exchanged the one for the other, and everything has as many values economically as there are things for which it can be exchanged. If honorable members, opposite think that because the price of gold at the mint is fixed at £3 17s. 10 Jd. an ounce, they can, on that basis, fix the value of every commodity, their argument is unsound. No doubt their mistake is responsible for many of the opinions which they have put forward. But I cannot now enter into an elaborate explanation to show the falsity of their argument.
There are one or two points connected with the honorable member’s remarks which” I wish to emphasize. He complained that there is a great number of combines in Australia, and mentioned almost every business, from the rock-salt to the butter industry, which, I understood him to say, are all controlled by combines. He said that one man fixes the price of butter. It is true that, in a sense, the price of butter is fixed by those who handle that commodity, but the word “ fixed “ in this connexion has the meaning of “ regulated.” The price of butter is regulated from day to day, and from week to week, according to its price in the markets of the world, during the greater part of the year, and according to the supply and demand locally during the rest of the year, For part of the year the quantity of butter coming into Sydney and Melbourne for local consumption regulates its price ; but when the supply altogether exceeds the local demand, the London market regulates the price. Prices in Tooley-street govern prices in Australia, and they are, to all intents and purposes, regulated by the actual supply and demand.
– So that at the last Tooley-street speaks for the world.
– That is perfectly true,
– The Danish Association fixes the prices for its butter.
– It fixes its prices with its eye on Tooley-street. If Tooley-street prices go down, the Danish Association prices must also go down. It cannot say, without reference to prices elsewhere, “ We demand so much for our butter, and will take no less for it.”
– Yes, it can.
– If the honorable member will turn up the records, he will see that the price of Danish butter is constantly fluctuating as the price of other butter fluctuates.
– How is it that the Danish Association can charge 10s. a cwt. more than is paid for Australian butter?
– Because the demand for Danish butter is such that a higher price can be asked for it in the London market. The demand for Danish butter is in excess of the demand for Australian butter, and therefore a higher price is paid for it.
It has been said during the debate that the law of supply and demand no longer operates, but I believe it to be an im mutable law of economics, as gravitation is an immutable law of physics. No one can fix prices, ignoring the law of supply and demand, though I admit that prices can be artificially controlled to a certain extent. There are trusts and combines which, by practically cornering supplies, can regulate prices, and, no doubt, that is done at times to the detriment of the public. I am willing that this Parlia-ment should have all the power necessary to control any trust or combine that endeavours to do that, and I am sure that the other members of the Liberal party are of the same way of thinking. Every member of this party would willingly concede to this Parliament every power necessary to protect the public against such action on the part of the trusts. But we say that the Government and the Labour party are asking more than the necessities of the case require. Those who believe in the Federal system of government as I do think that this Parliament should not be clothed with more power than is necessary to accomplish the purposes for ‘which we federated. The honorable member for Capricornia and other honorable members of the Labour party have said that there are very many combines in Australia, and have spoken of the continued existence of the Shipping and Coal Combines. Let me . point out that, although this Labour Government has been in office for nearly three years, it has not taken steps to deal with a single trust or combine, with this exception, that it continued, as it had to do, the prosecution of the Coal Vend, which was initiated by the Liberal party. The Crown case broke down, however, because of the failure to prove detriment to the public. Why did the Government not then turn round and put into operation the provisions of the amending AntiTrust Act, which it had put on the statute-book, and which transferred the onus of proof of detriment to the public from the Crown to the Combine? I hope that when honorable members are shouting about trusts and combines they will tell the public that they failed to put into operation their own law for the controlling of these organizations.
It has been stated repeatedly that the Liberal party has received financial assistance from the trusts and combines, but honorable members opposite have not proved that charge and cannot do so, be-, cause it has no foundation. The trusts and combines have never supported the
Liberal party; but I ask why is it that the Labour party will not allow the affairs of the Tobacco Trust to be investigated? I think that we have every reason for believing that they are supported by that trust.
– Prove it.
– I have quite as much ground for making that statement as honorable members opposite have of making the statement that I have just rebutted. Why do not they allow the investigation of the affairs of the Tobacco Trust? They refuse to do that, and there are circumstances which point most decidedly to the fact that the party opposite are financially supported by that great combine. There is another combination which financially supports honorable members opposite, and which, I venture to say, raises far more money for political propaganda than does all the other organizations in Australia - I refer to the great trade unions of this country. It is often stated by honorable members opposite that the amount of money which these unions handle is very small. I hold in my hand Mr. Knibbs’ statistics bearing upon this matter, which, unfortunately, are complete only in the case of New South Wales. From them I learn that in New South Wales, which comprises not quite one-third of the population of the Commonwealth, there are 129,544 members of registered unions who subscribe £128,433 a vear, or practically £1 per member. As it is practically certain that the percentage of unionists in all the States is about the same, it will be seen that the combined unions of Australia subscribe to union funds, which, to all intents and purposes, are funds employed for political organizations, no less a sum than £390,000 a year. The only State in the Commonwealth which compels the unions to furnish particulars of the way in which this money is expended is Queensland.
– In New South Wales every trade union has to make a return of every penny of its expenditure.
Mf. GREENE.- I know that, and I have the figures here. But. Queensland is the only State which puts the figures in the way that I want to use them. There, the actual proportion spent in union benefits is very small indeed. Over 50 percent, of the union funds are absorbed in management, which is practically organization for political purposes. Not only is this enormous sum of £390,000 practically at the’ disposal of honorable members opposite for political purposes, but they also have Labour leagues which contain a very large number of persons who are not members of unions, and which contribute a very considerable sum per year. How much they contribute I have no means of ascertaining.
– What are the contributions of members of Labour leagues?
– They contribute is. per year if they are members of a union, and 2s. per year if they are not.
– How much will their contributions amount to?
– To a considerable sum. I wish to make it clear to the public that honorable members opposite have at their disposal a sum of money compared with which anything that honorable members upon this side of the chamber have to spend is insignificant indeed. They affirm that we are supported by trusts and combines. I deny that statement absolutely. I say that any trust or combine in Australia which is acting detrimentally to the interests of the public has quite as much to fear from the Liberal party as from any party in this Parliament. The greatest combine in Australia - a combine which is using its powers in a way which exceeds in absolute barbarism anything that has been done by any trust or combine, which is depriving men of their living, by hounding them from place to place, and preventing them from obtaining employment - is practically at the disposal of my honorable friends opposite, and they are able to use its funds ostensibly for the benefit of unionism, but really to organize their political forces. A letter has just been put in my hand bearing on this matter from Mrs. Berry. It is dated. Blackwood, 3rd December of the present year, and reads -
My attention has been drawn to a statement made by Mr. Parker Moloney in the House last week, where he accuses me of having admitted publicly that ,£50,000 was given to the Liberals to use against the Labour party in the referenda campaign last year. He has misconstrued the meaning of a reported statement made’ bv me at the last State elections. I constantly stated that the £50,000 spent by the Labour Government in taking the referenda was, after all, money well spent, as the people saw for the first time the real danger they were in and voted against the proposal. No trust or combine ever gave us any money for political organization. On the other hand, after the last Federal elections the Brisbane Worker stated that the Australian Workers Union donated for political organization for the year 1909-10, £45,000.
That is not my statement, but that of the Brisbane Worker -
This combine gives freely and regularly, and those people set up the most, wicked monopoly of all, namely, a monopoly of employment.
I do not wish to pursue this matter further. Not only have I shown that the statement of honorable members opposite is incorrect, but I have demonstrated that, through their political unions, they have placed at their disposal enormous sums of money which enable them to carry out propaganda work which we cannot possibly attempt. I hope that we have heard the last of the statement by honorable members opposite that the political party with which I am associated is financially subsidized by the trustsI wish now to say a word or two in regard to the fixing of prices: Throughout this debate honorable members’ opposite have been- very, careful to refrain from saying how they intend to use the enlarged powers for which they are asking; The Honorary Minister, in the most excited way, took up the attitude that upon this question of fixing prices, the Attorney-General spoke only for himself, and not for his party. Yet, practically every honorable member opposite who has addressed himself to these Bills has made it clear that if they get these powers they will use them to fix prices. But they will not tell us whether they are going to fix them high,, or whether they intend to fix them low.
– That is a silly lie, but go on.
– I ask that the Honorary Minister should withdraw- that statement.
– In accordance with parliamentary practice, I withdraw it.
Mi GREENE.- I ask that it be withdrawn without any qualification.
– I understand that the Honorary Minister did withdraw it without qualification.
– The honorable member is wrong again. I withdrew it without qualification in accordance, with parliamentary practice.
– The Honorary Minister intended that to be a qualification. I very much object to any statement of that sort being made. Not only do honorable members propose to fix prices - which the Honorary Minister states is incorrect - but I would- remind him that the AttorneyGeneral, in the speech that he made in reply to the second-reading debate on the last Bill, most distinctly stated, not on his own behalf, but on behalf of his party, that it was intended to fix prices.
– He did not say any such thing. Again the honorable member is indulging in a shocking and lamentable inaccuracy.
– The Attorney-General stated that they intended to fix the prices of all commodities in respect of which there is no competition. I would also remind the Honorary Minister, who denies that his colleague made that statement, that this morning the Attorney-General, when confronted by the honorable member for Flinders with the statement he had made, confirmed it. I ask honorable members opposite, if they are going to fix prices at all, whether they realize where that wilL lead them?
– The honorable member’s own Leader passed a Bill through this Parliament to fix prices.
– I do not know that hedid. »
– Does not the ColonialSugar Refining Company fix the prices tobe paid to the cane-growers?
– That is one of the points with which I desire- to deal. Unquestionably the Colonial Sugar Refining. Company, and many other companies that have to deal with primary products, haveto regulate prices from time to time ; but they do not fix prices in. the sense of fixing, them independently of the markets of theworld. If the argument of honorablemembers opposite is that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company can fix prices of its. own volition, then- it must be urged that it can fix them at whatever level it pleases. Honorable members know, however, that sugar cannot be imported into Australia to-day at a less price, duty paid,, than: that at which sugar is being sold by l he Colonial Sugar Refining Company. A few weeks ago, when I was dealing with the sugar question in this House, the Minister of Trade and Customs admitted that the price of Australian sugar in the Commonwealth, taken on the- average, was about 10s below the parity of the price of sugar in London. Honorable members may verify that fact for themselves. If they take the average over a number of years, they will find that the- price of Australian sugar in the local market is somewhat below the parity of the priceof sugar in- London. That is always so- with regard to wheat, butter, and a number of other primary products, and it cannot be said, in these circumstances, that prices are fixed, in the ordinary sense of the term, by the particular companies dealing with those products. They are governed by the prices in the world’s markets; and where it is impossible to corner the world’s supply, all that the companies, do in the matter of fixing prices is to watch the market, and to apply ordinary business principles to the regulation of such matters.
– How can they regulate prices when they are absolutely dependent on the prices of the world’s market?
– They do not.
– The honorable member has just said that they do.
– I said that they regulate their prices in accordance with the prices that obtain in the markets of the world. Prices, therefore, are really regulated by the law of supply and demand. In respect of sugar, wheat, and like products, it is impossible for any one group of men to corner the whole of the supplies, and to arrogate to themselves the right to say what price the public shall pay. I wish now to refer to the fixation of prices so far as that policy affects profits and rents. I understand that honorable members opposite propose to apply this principle to profits and rents if they obtain the power necessary to enable them to do so. If, in that way, they reduced the dividends being paid at the present time by various companies they would practically destroy a very great deal of the system of credit which is constantly being used in the development of our country. Take, for the purposes of illustration, the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. According to the report of the Sugar Commission, that company, by strict attention to its business, and by the most careful organization of every department, has built up a most magnificent concern, with the result that its original capital has been largely increased, .so far as the market value of its shares are concerned. Assuming that the original capital subscribed was somewhere about £3,000,000, the market value of its shares to-day would probably be about £9,000,000. I have not looked into the question, but let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the market value of the company’s shares to-day is £9.000,000, and that the capital originally subscribed was £3,000,000. On the market value of the shares to-day, the company pays a dividend of 5 per cent. If this Parliament passed a law compelling it to pay not more than 5 per cent, on its original capital, what would be the result? The result would be that the credit which has accrued to its original shareholders - the increment in values - would absolutely disappear, and that we should destroy £6,000,000 of capital that had been built up by that company by means of business organization. Wealth so created is being used over and over again in the development of the country, and honorable members opposite must recognise that if they apply this principle to suddenly cutting down profits, the result will be to destroy a vast amount of credit. We all know what happened when the New South Wales Government introduced a Bill to limit the price of gas, and the dividends paid by a Sydney company. That Bill caused much consternation. The necessary result of limiting the price of gas and limiting dividends in the way proposed was to destroy at once the market value of the Gas Company’s shares. The Bill was not passed through the Legislative Council, however, and the shares came back to their original level. If the legislation proposed by the Labour party is carried to its logical conclusion, its sole effect will be to destroy a vast amount of credit that is being used to-day in the development of Australia. Wealth is useless unless employed, and wealth is now being used in these ways. Although the doctrine of the fixation of prices, profits, and rents may seem attractive, there is another side to the question.
– The honorable member wishes the people to be fleeced so as to increase inflated values.
– Whilst honorable members opposite might succeed in making living cheaper in some ways by applying the principle to which I have referred, they would destroy altogether the forces that enable people to live in other ways. I would be the last to suggest that the people should be fleeced; but it is most necessary that we should regard a question of this kind from every point of view, and endeavour, as far as possible, to do what is fair and just to every one. I should be the last to support any trust or combine that was acting detrimentally to the public. I am prepared to give this Parliament every power that is necessary for the suppression of such trusts, but I do not believe that that which the Government are asking the people of Australia to consent to is necessary for that purpose, and therefore it should be opposed.
– - The honorable member for Capricornia in the speech that he delivered this afternoon directed his observations mainly to two lines of argument. The first went in the direction of showing that the proposals embodied in this Bill were really not for the purpose of controlling trusts, combines, and monopolies, in the ordinary way, but to obtain power to nationalize industries. This would result in a bigger monopoly than any now existing. One line of argument adopted by the honorable member showed that several members of the Opposition, who had previously spoken, were not wrong in declaring that, while ostensibly the object was to effectively apply the powers of the Commonwealth in a legitimate way to the suppression, regulation, or control of these private organizations, the real object was to get power to make the various industries national monopolies. The honorable member was honest enough to admit that that is the real goal and objective; and, in support of it, he gave a number of alleged instances of trusts, combines, and monopolies having sprung into existence. Whether these are actual instances no evidence was given to show ; but if there are combinations of an injurious character it is fair to ask why the law we have at present has not been put in motion. We have the machinery and a Labour Government in power ; and yet not a single attempt has been made to prosecute any of those organizations. If those combines have been injurious to the public, it is clearly the duty of the Government, with the splendid majority behind them, and apparently greatly perturbed in mind over their existence, to initiate a prosecution, more particularly as the amending Act of 1910 places the onus of proof, not on the Crown, but on the suspected person. All the cases cited by the honorable member could have been made the subject of legal investigation by the proper tribunal, and we should have been able to discover whether they are the injurious combines and trusts he has described. The honorable member’s statements are, I think, the worst condemnation of the administration of the present Government that we have yet had on the floor of this House. It clearly shows that there is a lack of sincerity behind the great show of indignation, or that the Labour Government have wilfully, and even wickedly, neglected their duty. Several accusations have been made against the Liberal party to the effect that it is supported by trusts, combines, and monopolies; but, personally, I have never known a single instance of support coming from any of the organizations, nor do I know of a single member on this side who has ever said a word in favour of injurious trusts. As I showed in a debate on another question, the only avowed friends and champions of trusts, combines, and monopolies have been members of the Labour party, who have applauded, championed, and defended them in this House and in the Senate. Special reference has been made to the Coal Vend case, and what is alleged to have been a prosecution of that’ body ; but, as a matter of fact, the validity of the Coal Vend, as a combine, was not the basis of the prosecution. I call attention to the fact that Mr. B. R. Wise, in his opening address in that prosecution, as reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 14th April, said -
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. What we do say is that the vend was formed in 1906, and is being attacked now for fixing excessive prices for coal, unreasonably limiting competition, and combining with the ship-owners to the prejudice of all consumers of that necessity of life. We are not denying that a vend, if reasonable, may benefit trade and all concerned in it, but we do say in this case that the vend, which was formed under pretext of protecting the trade, has been turned into an instrument for restraining trade. It is not the principle of the vend which is being attacked, but the abuse of its powers and objects.
This is a definite declaration that the prosecution was against certain abuses of the powers and objects of the Vend, and not a prosecution of the Coal Vend itself. There has not as yet been an actual test of the present powers of the Commonwealth, the Government not having taken the trouble to submit a single case to the Courts, notwithstanding the frequent assertion on their part that there are growing up in our midst combines of a dangerous character, which ought to be .dealt with in a drastic fashion. They did not even initiate the Coal Vend case. The law was put in motion by the Liberal Government that preceded the Labour Government. Legal gentlemen on this side of the House, who are, I suppose, the most- learned constitutional lawyers to be found in the Commonwealth, have told us that we haw full power, conjointly with the States, to deal with every kind . of combine, monopoly, and trust that can arise. Whether we have those full powers or not cannot be determined until some test case is submitted to the highest Court in the land ; and the proper person to initiate proceedings is the Attorney-General. If we are to believe the statements made on the Ministerial side, that honorable gentleman has knowledge of the existence of all sorts of injurious trusts and combinations, which he says the States are not dealing with; and, if that be so, obviously it is his clear duty to commence proceedings. Why has that not been done? Why- is it not done now ? Why are not the powers we already possess tested by putting the legal machinery into operation? We have no answer, and the reason we have no answer is that the Government and their supporters are afraid that, if a real test is applied, it will be demonstrated that we have the fullest power under the existing Constitution, and, consequently, the ground would be cut from under the foundations of this agitation on the part of the Federal Labour Government for this referendum. Until our present powers are tested and found insufficient, we are not justified in asking the public to give us unlimited power. The matter is in the hands of the Government, and they have not taken advantage of the opportunity afforded during the time they have been in office. When they have tested the question, and shown that there is not power enough, will be time enough to apply to the people for unlimited extended powers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Thomas) adjourned.
– I promised last night that I would make a statement to-day as to the business the Government propose to deal with during the remainder of the session. Of course, it is not necessary to say that the Estimates must be disposed of. The question of the redistribution of seats in New South Wales must also be settled, and there is the Navigation Bill, together with other important measures at present before another place. The Government propose to introduce an Inter-State Commission Bill, a Judiciary Bill, and about half-a-dozen small Bills dealing with Excise and bounties, the latter readjusting and amending the various Acts.
– Will the sugar question be dealt with?
– Probably. If Queensland does her part, I should say, Yes. There will be a Bill to amend the Public Service Act, and another to amend the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act, a slight amendment to enable the statement of both sides of a question to be submitted to the people. An Immigration Bill, a Post and Telegraph Bill, dealing with the shortening of poles, and an Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Bill will also be introduced. The last-named will provide that the value of a pensioner’s home is not to be taken into consideration in fixing the amount of his pension, and will enable pensions to be paid to blind persons by special appropriation instead of out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account.
– Will the Bill also deal with the question of naturalization?
– It will give effect to the honorable gentleman’s- suggestion that citizens of the Commonwealth who have come from foreign lands, and have resided here for many years, shall be given another opportunity to naturalize, and to thus secure pensions. There will be a Land Tax Bill containing technical amendments, some of them easing the provisions of the law, and others tightening them. The Oodnadatta Railway Survey Bill will be introduced and passed, and a Bankruptcy Bill will be laid on the table, and, if possible, advanced to the second-reading stage. A Bills of Exchange Bill makes a merely technical amendment of the law. An Inscribed Stock Bill will be introduced, because of what the lawyers call a hiatus in the Act. We intended to provide that the sinking fund should be $ per cent., but it is thought now that the actual wording of the measure makes the sinking fund 1 per cent. Then there is to be a Naval Defence Bill.
– Is that a formal measure?
– Nearly so. There is to be an adjustment, as I promised in connexion with the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Bill, which will enable the military men to be covered. The honorable member for Parramatta and others asked that that should be done.-. An Insurance Bill will be introduced, but whether it will be passed or not must depend on circumstances. I have mentioned that the Bankruptcy Bill will be introduced, but the intention is to give an opportunity for its discussion outside before its consideration is proceeded with here. The Minister of External Affairs reminds me that the motion relating to the Northern Territory Lands Ordinance must be disposed of as well as the other business of importance on the notice-paper. I suggest that it would be convenient to arrange to finish with the Bills for the amendment of the Constitution not later than tomorrow, at, say, 3 p.m.
– I am afraid that that cannot be done, but we are willing to try-
– Say Monday.
– Monday would not do, because that arrangement would prevent members from leaving Melbourne during the week end.
– Then let the matter go over until Tuesday, and proceed with other work in the meantime.
– We do not propose to proceed with other work until these Bills have been disposed of.
– You will have some tomorrow, and perhaps all.
– I should like to have the division at 3, or, at latest, at halfpast 3 to-morrow.
– That would mean the conclusion of the discussion by lunchtime.
– I am sure that Mr. Speaker would be willing to shorten the luncheon adjournment, to provide more time for the discussion, though I do not wish to over-press honorable members. Those on this side are not occupying time, and it is far from our intention to restrict debate. But if we are to finish before Christmas we must use the utmost expedition consistent with the nature of the work to be done.
– Leave the matter open until Monday. No time will be lost by doing that.
– Monday would not suit. We have a full fortnight left, but I should like honorable members to agree to finish with these Bills to-morrow.
– Why not three tomorrow, and the others on Tuesday?
– We hope to get three to-night, and the others to-morrow, but desire to meet the convenience of the Opposition in every way.
– We will give you three more; that will leave only two for Tuesday.
– I cannot do more than appeal to honorable members.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Fisher) read a first time.
Report (No. 4) presented by Sir John Quick, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
Sitting suspended from 6.25 to8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 20th November (vide page 5745), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I propose to occupy the short time at my disposal in submitting a plain view of the dangerous nature of this Bill. That, in the first instance, at all events, will be more, clearly apprehended if we notice the provision in our Constitution which this proposal is to supersede. Our present constitutional endowment in this regard authorizes the Commonwealth Parliament, under paragraph xxxv., section 51, to make laws with respect to -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
That is the whole of our present power in this respect. It is limited to Inter-State and foreign trade, and applies to the settlement of disputes by means of conciliation and arbitration. The exercise of this power required the establishment of a judicial tribunal, though with extensions of latitude. This specific endowment of power authorized that tribunal, on behalf of the whole Commonwealth, to prevent and settle industrial disputes. That is the whole power conferred by the Constitution. It has existed for twelve years.
It is now proposed to amend that power, not by any extension of the powers of the tribunal itself, but by an entirely new departure. There is to be another and very dangerous endowment of power differing in practically every respect from this, though including the existing power in a minor and inconspicuous manner. The fruits of the existing tribunal can only be discussed under conditions other than those which retain the time limit. It is admitted that this tribunal has already accomplished a great amount of good, and I venture to say that the unseen fruits of its operation would probably present an even larger total. It is admitted that this tribunal with its endowment has not what might be termed in practice an all-embracing sphere, but the test of experience shows that it has not only marked a great advance in the maintenance of peaceful industrial relations, but has made much clearer that which was previously obscure. As, for instance, the possibilities presented by such a tribunal,- and the various deflections to which it may be subject in the circumstances in which it operates. Its endowment of power was one of those most closely contested in the Convention that framed the Commonwealth Constitution Bill. It is the subject of a great deal of contest to-day, on grounds that cannot be discussed in this brief survey. I wish, not so much to call attention to the status or the usefulness of arbitration as it has been practised for some twelve years in the Commonwealth as to note that the Government proposal, while not exactly turning its back upon the existing system of arbitration, which can be retained, just; as it stands, under one of the sub-clauses ot this Bill, marks an entirely new departure from the methods sanctioned by the Constitution. It marks a departure from the only method that we have yet tested, and an extension of authority relating, not merely to the settlement of disputes, but to the whole realm covered by the wide terms “ labour and employment.”
I make a passing allusion merely to the first of the amendments, which seeks to extend the trade and commerce power to the business transactions of all sections of the people of Australia. Add to that the absolute control of labour and employment contained . in this fresh endowment, and we realize that the two, taken together, may fairly be said to cover the whole of the Commonwealth, and almost the whole of its varied relations, activities, investments, and employments, and including, among other things, the settlement of industrial disputes. Not only are they still to be settled by the tribunal that now exists, but this Bill seeks the endowment of this Parliament, ‘with an entirely independent, fresh, and original power to legislate over the whole industrial sphere. It seems to me that this is a fact to which the attention of the electors should be first invited. This Bill is not an extension of the existing system; it is not an addition to or development of the powers that we at present possess ; it is a new departure, an enormous endowment of fresh and independent power to be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament of the future.
In the circumstances, having regard to the election programmes and party conflicts now before us, we may well anticipate how this complex issue will be viewed by the man in the street, and still more by the man busy at his occupation, whatever it may be, his attention distracted by domestic cares and obligations of various kinds. Is he likely to find sufficient time to scan the nature of proposals whose purport can be but dimly apprehended by him, unless he is accustomed to legal phraseology, and starts with some foundation of constitutional knowledge? It becomes our duty, as simply as we can, to call the attention of such men, and that of other inquiring members of the community, not to the stride that the Government propose to take - for it is more than a stride - but to its leap, its bound, from one set of powers to another set, practically unlimited, and covering the whole community. If that fact be once apprehended, and its importance realized, we can then trust the people to investigate the matter for themselves, and, with the assistance of the expositions they will hear from both parties during the referenda campaign, to form their own opinions.
But if we are to catch the attention of the public, we must be prepared to endeavour to reduce to the simplest terms, and to state in the simplest manner - even if we have to sacrifice a good deal that we think particularly deserving of criticism - the exact effect of this proposal. To put this proposal in a plain, straightforward way before the country is, in the present circumstances, our peremptory duty. My recollection of the campaign of last year is that the magnitude of this proposal was very rarely appreciated ; it appeared then almost impossible to place in one evening before the audiences one met anything approximating to an adequate description of the body of our powers that were affected most vitally and materially by the amendments of the Constitution here proposed.
The people will always recollect, I hope, that it is not an Act that we are proposing to amend, neither is it a custom nor a method. This proposal is to amend the Constitution of Australia, and that Constitution, great as it is when looked at in its largest aspect, has limitations. The powers that are here proposed to be given to the Commonwealth are, in nearly every instance, to the full extent, or in all instances to a very large extent, existing already in Australia. They form part of the endowment of the several State Parliaments, necessarily confined, in the operation of their laws, each to its own particular territory. They are crowned on the Federal side by paragraph xxxv. of section 51, to which I have more than once alluded. ‘ Many gifts of power possessed by the States have not been exercised. If they sought to exercise them they would be brought face to face with some serious limitations. Making every allowance for that, the fact remains that the greater portion of the powers that are now sought to be transferred to the Federal Parliament will, if not to the full, at all events to an immense extent, be deducted from the powers of the States.
The net effect of the whole of these proposed alterations to the Constitution will be to materially affect the status of the States, not simply in their reputation and prestige, but in their exercise of similar powers. While that is an aspect not to be considered alone, it ought not to be forgotten, having in view our ideal of a Federal Government. Our ideal is not to remain content to govern Australia from one centre by one segment of our citizens, but to distribute among our fellow citizens the ever-increasing burden of public duties that follows the footsteps of civilization, and, by the help of a full development of local self-government, enable the Central Government to carry the great burden of national responsibilities which by-and-by will become of staggering weight. If these broad, familiar, and general outlines of our problem are taken into account, we can better approach the actual proposal now submitted, which the electors will shortly be invited to indorse.
The proposals now before us cover all labour. What insignificant fraction of Australia is not labouring? There is no section of Australia that is not deeply and profoundly affected by labour, its condi tions, and opportunities ; but labour, employment, and even unemployment - another additional field which apparently is to be dealt with from a distinct point of view - are all covered by these proposals.
– What does that reference to unemployment mean as a constitutional limitation ?
– That is a question which I shall be glad to hear my honorable and learned friend discuss. It would take us far.
In addition, power is proposed to be taken to legislate in regard to “ the terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, or calling.” Nothing is omitted from these wide spheres. No one will be left outside the scope of this power, except, perhaps, a small professional section of the community. It is further proposed to take power to legislate in respect to “ the rights and obligations of employers and employes.” Who in this community is not either an employer or an employ^? Indirectly, at all events, many are both. Absolute power to legislate in that regard also is sought to be conferred by this amendment. Then, again, the proposed amendment makes provision to legislate for “ the maintenance of industrial peace,” which, nowadays, involves apparently as much bellicose preparation - more or less legal - as does the preparation for war in civilized countries intent on maintaining that which they call “ peace “ by an exhibition of armed power which it would be unsafe for any other country to challenge.
Finally, we have the proposal to give power to legislate for the settlement of industrial disputes. That comes last on the list. It is treated as if it were the least. Yet, within that one provision, there is not only ample room, and verge enough for the whole of the powers we now possess under the existing Constitution, but room for very much more. That one simple sub-clause extends far beyond, and will have far greater effect than’ the whole of the endowment in this regard which the Commonwealth at present enjoys. I do not put this forward as a matter of mensuration. Any analogy of the kind would be liable to be misleading. I simply put the fact forward in its plainest aspect. I hope the whole community will appreciate the fact that this is not merely a proposed extension of our domain, not merely a substitution for the old power, but contains entirely new departures, the whole proposal covering effectively all the field that it ia possible to cover by legislative power relating to labour and employment.
That, it appears to me, is a fact that cannot be too often repeated. However often it is repeated, it will be a long time before we are able to convey to the community what this transfer really means. A considerable portion of the power now proposed to be acquired by the Commonwealth will, in effect, cease to be a power exercised by the States. In some cases that will be necessary. In many other cases it will be unnecessary. It is being pushed much too far to permit of that equable national development which the far-seeing desire for the whole of this community.
Whilst concentrating the whole of our attention upon some of the problems of the present which are important and urgent, there is no excuse for turning our backs upon the significance of the manner in which we are now choosing to deal with these questions. I should like to point out that when you have scrutinized this proposal with the greatest care, and applied to it your best knowledge, you will find that even then you have not fathomed anything like its full meaning. Speaking to my fellow members of the legal profession, as well as honorable members generally, both will realize this. The Attorney-General, who is in charge of this measure, and, no doubt, is in a large measure its author, has frankly said, speaking of this particular power -
It gives the Commonwealth power to make laws in respect to labour employment and unemployment. It declares that included in that power whatever it is - “ Whatever it is !” The Attorney-General, who is recommending this legislation, is not sure what it is; that is to say, he is by no means sure how far it extends, and makes no claim to know all the directions in which it will operate in actual practice. In point of fact, there is here no limitation or restriction ; this may apply to everything and anything.
– Subject to the limitation of the High Court.
– The High Court is well within the terms of this endowment ; and if the honorable member could find vaguer, more general, and more comprehensive terms, I would like to hear them, and to be shown how the High Court will have an’ opportunity of restricting them.
However, the Attorney-General, proceeding, said - the Commonwealth has authority to make lawsin respect to “ the terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, or calling.” What those ‘words precisely mean it is not easy to say.
These are the Attorney-General’s own’ words. He was not obliged to choose those words any more than he was obliged to choose those proposals. He is frank, that is all.
– From what speech isthe honorable member quoting?
– From the speech of the Attorney-General in introducing this Bill. It is quite certain, however, that some one will have to discover what these words mean. Some members of the public will have the privilege of paying learned counsel to assist them in approaching the judicial authorities, with a view to learning what the law really requires. The effect is that it will be left to the High Court to put its own interpretation on the words - and that is just what the honorable member for Hindmarsh always objects toHowever, if the honorable member can regard the position with equanimity we. may do so. It is impossible to set any limits to the interpretation that may be placed on these phrases, and yet it is thought fair to the public - that is, the electors - to ask them to give us a power which we cannot ourselves define! The Attorney-General proceeds on this point -
But I think-
The Attorney-General is right to be modest, because he is not sure even here -
But I think that they include power to make laws in respect to the conditions of employment of all persons engaged in any manual trade; in any industry, such as, for instance, shop assistants and, say, persons engaged in clerical occupations. ,
By this, I take it, he means clerkly occupations, and not clerical in another sense. This, he thinks, extends to all those he mentions. However, he says that it applies in respect to the terms and conditions of labour and employment of all persons, whether engaged in any trade, industry, or calling.
What is there in this community that is not either a trade, an industry, or a calling? Consequently, whatever else may be said for the words chosen, it is quite certain that they embrace everything it is possible to embrace; how far the effect goes its author does not know - does not care - and will not attempt to say. Then, again, with regard to paragraph c, which is the “maintenance of industrial peace and the settlement of industrial disputes,” he says - those powers will enable us to make such laws as will create a Conciliation and Arbitration Court clothed with power to deal with industrial disputes when they arise, and to take such action as may be necessary to prevent them from arising.
Here, again, in lias explanation, stating it sis widely as he can, he makes it clear that even beyond the enormous extent over which his mental eye is roving there lies another region into which this power penetrates, but how far he does not know, and does not even attempt to guess.
The Attorney-General, in another quotation, refers to the opinion which has been expressed on this side, and toy myself amongst others, that this amendment will enable the Government of the day to prescribe uniform conditions for all sorts of men throughout Australia, without regard to local or other circumstances which practical men of affair’s always recognise. The Attorney-General refers to probable abuses, only to repudiate strongly the suggestion that he or his Government would ever so use the powers for which he is fighting - -the power is there, but they will not exercise it. The AttorneyGeneral, by way of defence, points to those powers in the Constitution which have not yet been wholly exercised, and may not be exercised for a long time to come. All we have is his own assurance of his own restraint, and that of all future Ministers. We have it for what it is worth. He speaks simply as a member of the Government of the day, which in a few years or a few months will have passed away. But they will leave behind them, long after they have ceased to exist as a Government, the Constitution of Australia as they made it, if not otherwise altered in the meantime. This Constitution is not for one generation, but is intended to last, with necessary developments, for many generations ; and, therefore, there is no excuse for taking, in every possible direction, every possible power, without inquiry, or attempting either to define the conditions under which the power should be exercised, or the point at which it shall cease to be operative. Everything will have to be found out by others at their own expense, by the unpleasant method alluded to by the darkie as “ barking his shins over it.”
These amendments, instead of being drafted with an eye to the necessities of the present, and the coming few years, are drafted in the most abstract form, to apply for the longest term possible, .so that all the unforeseen can be brought within the meshes of the net now being spread. Of course, honorable members will exercise their own judgment. There are a few cases, but very few, in which such provisions may be legitimate - matters not of everyday occurrence, or likely to arise often in :a generation, but matters of bread and butter, which come home to the whole people, and may affect the whole people from the moment of their emergence, having unexpected effects which they cannot foresee, and must discover at their own costs. To make such proposals is to fly in the face of the requirements of a practical working modern Constitution, which, in these matters, should be adapted expressly to the necessities of our time and the generation immediately following, leaving to those who come after the further duty of extending them at need. But I shall not labour the point, which is only the same as before, put in another aspect.
These two or three, as it appears to me, characteristic, significant, and important qualifications - or, in several cases, want of qualification for seizing powers - all point to the handling of this instrument, not with an eye to its permanent operation as the Constitution of a nation, but with an eye to possible party issues within a short period of time. Of such new departures those who are now asked to accept these vague amendments will receive no notice, and can receive no notice. No occasion has arisen as yet in which many of these vague powers may possibly prove capable of employment. That is a serious defect in the drafting of a Constitution; a principle which should have been borne in mind is being deliberately put aside at the cost and expense of the nation without advantage or gain iri reference to any present-day problem with which we are grappling.
The powers now to be taken, as the AttorneyGeneral himself said, are creative. The old judicial tribunal, judicial forms, and safeguards, independence and impartiality, all of which appear, or should appear, on the judgment seat of our highest Courts, are what we have hitherto had to depend on ; and these we shall retain. But we find the old principles embedded in, and largely smothered by a series of proposals far more daring, not shielded by the well-known safeguards surrounding judicial action, which compensate us for some of those delays of the law and costs of the law which we all regret. We find all those advantages, and the disadvantages to which I have alluded, brushed aside, when we are confronted with endowments which are to be employed by the Government of the day, whatever that Government may be, and are to be applied by them through their majorities to any circumstances arising, without any other appeal beyond that general appeal to the people which every three years at least must be made by the representatives in this Chamber and the representatives elsewhere. But in the confusion of general elections, and the elaboration of party programmes - in the clash of strife upon some particular urgent, or believed to be urgent, end - the electorates and the electors are alike obliged to divest themselves of many of their desires, however dear to them, in order to devote themselves to an endeavour to secure particular necessities of a particular kind at a particular diction. All the rest are apt to be brushed aside. Hence this wholesale reserve of vague, but enormous, powers lying there can and will be used casually and without proper criticism, until our methods of Government are improved - until some better manner than we have yet devised shall be found requiring the submission of all cardinal issues separately to the people instead of tied together in bundles containing enormous and growing issues. Yet that is the practice under our present system.
Paragraph b reads with, the others, but it is specific - “ the rights and obligations of employers and employes.” I need not again remind honorable members what a vast section of our population is comprised in those two terms, “employers” and “employes.” As it stands, this is a power to legislate in regard to them, but there is no ‘limit confining the application to strictly industrial ends. The application may relate to matters altogether outside the industrial province, and may imply the enforcement of severe obligations on an employe which have nothing to do with his employment, while, possibly, it may, in the same way, authorize inroads on the employer. But neither of these contingencies appears on the surface, and neither would be read into them by the average citizen of the country - neither would be suspected by the man voting for them. Such an elector would vote simply for a power to be vested in this Parliament, capable of being exercised so as to affect the ordinary relations of employer and employed in matters directly associated with the employment. There is no such condition or limitation visible. He would be a bold man w ho would say what an employer could not enforce on his employ^ under this power, or what it would not be possible for an employe to do by way of retaliation. No man or woman in Australia will vote for this clause except as it may be supposed to affect the commercial relations of employer and employed ; yet we have this unexpressed and unexplained, but very actual, power for mischief palmed upon us.
Is that the way to amend a Constitution - riddling it with unexpected inlets and outlets, which will alter, or may alter in time, the whole complexion of the instrument. You greatly embarrass those who are asked to vote for amendments framed with such generality that even the most expert lawyer that we have in Australia to-day would hesitate if he were asked to summarize all the powers that might be exercised by either employers or employed under this particular endowment. Is this a desirable state of things? Why force it on Australia? Why should there be underground, covert transfers of power which the public are not able to discover, and of which they are not warned or informed until they suffer from them? Is this dealing fairly with the country and the electors? We are amending our Constitution, the highest and most sacred instrument of government we possess. Whatever it may appear from time to time, it will be taken to express the will of the majority, and must, therefore, be obeyed. Those who idly scorned the present Constitution are now enthusiastic for an altered Constitution, of which they will be as eulogistic when seeking the suffrages of the electors as they are censorious of this. But I say to them, “ Put what you want in plain terms on the face of the document; let us know the limits of the powers for which you ask.” That, at least, we are entitled to be sure of. To the proposals of the Government there are no bounds, limits, or qualifications ; and this vagueness carries with it endless possibilities which could, and should, be avoided.
I pass on to a brief reference to paragraph c, the maintenance of industrial peace.
– The power given in the Constitution has failed.
– The President of the Arbitration Court, than whom there can be no higher authority, has expressed an opinion of the value of the work of this Court, which I, for one, am satisfied to accept without dispute. The AttorneyGeneral, when challenged, says that nothing is further from his intentions than to use the new power sought for, at all events, in the manner suggested. But to-morrow he may have other intentions; and next year, another Attorney-General may be in his place. Can the people foresee these intentions, these changes ? It is no answer, when we point to the huge and unnecessary power now taken without definition, explanation, or the. statement of its particular ends, to say that there is no intention to use it. Why ask for a power that you do not intend to use now, but which you may use at any time when you change your intention ?
Paragraph d deals with “ the settlement of industrial disputes.” Here, again, an undefined power is taken, covering a right to legislate in regard to our arbitration and conciliation procedure, and a great deal besides. Under it, the existing system may no longer be continued. Its place may be taken by whatever a majority in the next Parliament may choose to substitute for it. No provision is made for the maintenance of the system that we know, and have lived under, either in its present or in a more limited scope, conditioned or unconditioned, with the same or with an altered Court, with the same or with altered procedure, in relation to an Inter-State Commission, or without it. The power asked for covers the present practice, or any other utterly unlike it which may be put in its place. What the public “will not, but should, realize is that this amendment, like all the others, has been drafted in the largest and most sweeping fashion. Definition has been wholly avoided, the object being to let this Parliament loose without any statement of scope or direction. The public will believe that they are voting for the retention of the existing system, or some alteration of it, and may subsequently learn with surprise that it has been abolished. There is no guarantee that it will be retained, either with or without amendment, or that it will not be supplanted by something else. What ever may be adopted must, of course, please the majority that adopts it; but it will not have had the sanction of the electors ; neither the employers nor workers will have had a fair opportunity to consider it.
Those who wish the paths of government made straight and clean, who desire that every constitutional step should be taken with care and forethought, receive no encouragement in this Bill of. amendments which merely let loose the dogs of unending legal war, with consequences to the public that no one would venture to predict. Parliament is no longer asked to vote for a definite scheme ; but the public are to be asked to rid us of the constitutional obligations which at present rest upon us with reference to every matter relating to labour and employment and unemployment. We desire them to turn us out into the vast, to find, by any pleasant or unpleasant paths, into which we may drift, or be driven, and at our own cost, a solution of difficulties, which our constituents will not have been asked to sanction, and which they will not have had an opportunity to demand. We wish to take the reins into our own hands without consulting wisdom or experience, with consequences, I fear, recalling the ancient fable of him who, recklessly taking possession of the reins, found himself unable to guide his soaring chariot to safety.
.- We have had from the honorable member for Ballarat an almost unending torrent of words. He has played again the political dodge which is such a favourite with the Conservatives. He has raised once more the political scarecrow. We know how the farmer, when his fruit crop is ripening, raises a pole, with, perhaps, a bag at the top of it, and the birds at first perch on the surrounding trees,’ afraid to venture into the orchard, for fear that the object may be alive. In the end, however, they discover that it is not alive, come down, and have a good time. The honorable gentleman has erected a political scarecrow in the hope that its effect will not have worn off until after the referenda. The Liberal party has always been ready with a scarecrow of some description. At one time it was “the sanctity of the marriage tie,” at another it was “Socialism.”
– TheTe have been the “ six hatters,” and the Petriana case.
– Yes, one scarecrow after another serves its turn to frighten the people from accepting Labour proposals, and time and again their party organizations are reconstructed.
– You ought not to forget the “ Unification “ scarecrow.
– My time will, not permit me to name them all, nor to mention all the reconstructions of the party. The honorable member for Ballarat has referred to the power asked for to ‘legislate in respect to labour, employment, and unemployment. He says that it is almost boundless, and pictured this Parliament as using it in all sorts of terrible ways. He seems to forget that many of our present powers are unlimited. For instance, there is no limit to our power of taxation. If that had to be asked for from the people now, we should have him throwing his arms about and raising fresh scarecrows. We should have the suggestion that the power to tax would be used with the utmost recklessness. It could even be suggested that every working man would be required to pay £1 a week, and all sorts of statements of that kind would be made. If the people were lunatics, and elected representatives of the same kind, there might be something in these objections. But the people are sane, and return reasonable men to the National Parliament.Therefore, much that has been advanced against our proposals has been said without rhyme or reason, and is absolutely foolish. As I mentioned in a former speech, we have already an unlimited power of legislation in respect of marriage, divorce, and matrimonial causes. Into what a fury would the honorable member lash himself if that power had now to be asked for. What mischief he would point to as likely to result from the use of this unlimited power. Under our constitutional power we could legalize polygamy, giving every man the right to take to himself four wives. We could prohibit marriage unless the parties were at least forty-five years of age, and could do all sorts of silly things. But no Parliament which passed such laws could live.
The Leader of the Opposition knows well that in practical politics difficulties crop up at every turn owing to the powers of Parliament being very much circumscribed. Our present troubles have arisen because our power to legislate is too limited. The Constitution empowers us to pass laws providing for - conciliation and arbitration, for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
There have been legal contests about the meaning of every word in the paragraph of the Constitution which gives us that power. There have been lengthy arguments as to the meaning of “ conciliation,” as to the meaning of “industrial,”, and as to the meaning of “ dispute.” It has been shown that there may be a dispute which is not an industrial dispute, and there may be an industrial matter which is not a dispute. The lawyers have argued as to what “ arbitration “ means, and as to the effect of the words “ extending beyond the limits of any one State.” Had any person in Aus- tralia, including the legal luminaries opposite, written down- in 1900 his conception of the meaning of. the provision about which I am speaking, it would be found to be very different from that which, as the result of a long series of judgments, has been put upon it by the High Court. The honorable member for Ballarat, when leading a Government, passed through this House certain industrial legislation which he believed to be constitutional; but the bottom was knocked out of it the moment that it was tested in the High Court. Yet he was a member of the Convention that framed the Constitution. Quite clearly he did not know the extent of the powers he assisted to place in the Constitution. To-night he tells us that we should not put into it powers which we cannot define.
– If the Constitution is amended as proposed, the meaning of the amendments will have to be determined.
– We have asked for grants of power in the broadest and most general terms, not because we propose to exercise them to the greatest extent possible, but so that, when we deal with the larger industrial matters, our laws shall not be whittled down and be made nullities by the procedure of the High Court. We must ask for wide powers, not because we wish to dot every “ i “ and cross every “ t “ of the whole industrial regulation of Australia, but to prevent the legal troubles of which we have had so much experience. We have no desire to have our legislation ineffective. As honorable members know, the President of the Arbitration Court has himself declared that litigation there has to proceed through a veritable Serbonian bog of technicalities. The honorable member knows the difficulties in regard to the common rule which have so crippled the power of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court. All his criticism, however, is directed to the raising of scarecrows with respect to the power for which we are asking. He is not prepared to apply himself to any of the difficulties that confront Australia to-day, and makes >no effort to help to mould this constitutional power for which we are asking into such a form as will really meet, in an effective way, the crying needs of Australia.
Some people consider it to be the duty of an Opposition merely to indulge in destructive criticism. My own view is that it is one of the duties of arn Opposition, when measures are submitted to the Parliament, to help, by its criticism and suggestions, to pass workable laws. Honorable members opposite, however, seem to think that this country should pay some thirty of them a fairly good salary to attend here, not to help to” mould legislation so as to make it effective in meeting the difficulties of the people, but to destroy what is put forward with that object, and to refrain from offering any useful suggestions likely to be attended with good results.
In the short period of time at my disposal, I wish to deal with the proposition “by quoting certain notable authorities, namely : - (1) Sir John Quick in the Federal Convention, (2) Mr. Justice Higgins, (3) Judge Heydon. (4) Sir Edmund Barton, (5) Sir William McMillan, (6) Mr. Deakin on new Protection. I propose to refer to some prophetic words used by Sir John Quick in the Federal Convention in regard to this very question, in which he indicated that the time might arrive when we should “be seeking to do that which we are now attempting to do. I shall then quote statements made in this House by Mr. - now Mr. Justice - Higgins and Sir Edmund Barton, as well as by Sir William McMillan, who was then sitting on the Opposition side of this House, but is now out of politics, in which they gave their assent to these propositions. These are gentlemen who cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be termed Labour politicians. I shall then refer to the Leader of the Opposition, and show that he, too, desired at that time practically the same grant of power as that for which we are now asking.
Having done this, I shall compare the arbitration systems of New South Wales and the Commonwealth. The time at my disposal will not permit a more general review of arbitration matters. I shall deal with that branch of the subject under three headings : - (1) The basic principles upon which wages awards are constructed by the Federal Court, (2) The directions issued by the New South Wales Industrial Court to Wages Boards to follow in framing awards, (3) the restrictions imposed upon workmen’s organizations under the Commonwealth and New South Wales State arbitration tribunals respectively, (4) the extent of interference with the individual liberty of working men under the Commonwealth and New South Wales State industrial jurisdictions, (5) a reference to workmen’s compensation showing the need for a Commonwealth law, (6) the necessity for this extended power to deal with unemployment. First of all, I shall compare the principles upon which Wages Boards are constructed under the New South Wales Statute, and presided over by Judge Heydon, with those in operation in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, presided over by Mr. Justice Higgins. Then I shall discuss the infraction upon the liberty of industrial organizations under the New South Wales laws as compared with what occurs under the laws of the Commonwealth ; and, further, I shall discuss the attitude of the Court in New South Wales on the subject of the personal liberty of individual workmen as compared with the situation in connexion with the Federal tribunal. I shall be able to show absolutely that the great mass of the workers in New South Wales, at all events, have everything to gain and nothing to lose by voting solidly in support of the proposal to’ give this grant of power to the Commonwealth Court. I shall be able to show that they will thus secure the immense benefits that can be obtained only from legislation passed by a Parliament elected, as this is, upon the broadest franchise. I shall also make a reference to the question of workmen’s compensation, which comes within this power. I shall point out the limitations of the New South Wales Workmen’s Compensation Act, and also the effect of a similar proposal in Victoria. Then I propose to refer to the question of unemployment. Honorable members opposite profess that provision for unemployment is very dear to their hearts, but they are now seeking to prevent this Parliament obtaining the power to deal with that very matter.
The Constitution at present provides that -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to . . . (xxxv.) Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
It is proposed by this measure to strike out the words -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limitsof anv one State, and to insert in their place the words -
Labour, employment, and unemployment, including -
the terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, or calling ;
the rights and obligations of employers and employees;
the maintenance of industrial peace; and
the settlement of industrial disputes.
This very question was discussed at the sit tings of the Federal Convention on the 27th January, 1898, when Sir John Quick, in dealing with the arbitration power, made use of the following words -
It may be that we are passing on to the Federal Parliament another insoluble problem - insoluble apparently as regards the method of settlement and the enforcement of the awardbut I do not know that we are bound at the present stage to suggest solutions or methods of solution. It will be for the Federal Parliament to devise some means of giving jurisdiction to a competent tribunal and of conferring upon that tribunal power to enforce its decisions.
It is thus plainly evident that when this matter was being discussed in the Convention in 1898, the honorable member for Bendigo, who now sits on the Opposition side of the House, was not at all positive that the proposals then being incorporated in the Constitution would meet all the difficulties surrounding the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. He indicated very plainly that it would be for this Parliament to find the methods of solution. This Parliament has had ten years’ experience of the working of the power then agreed upon, and, having ascertained its shortcomings, it now seeks to remedy them. We have now arrived at the very stage which the honorable member prophesied, some fourteen years ago, would be reached.
I come now to a statement made in this House by Mr. - now Mr. Justice - Higgins. In the first Federal Parliament Mr. Higgins moved the following motion : -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient for the Parliament of the Common wealth to acquire (if the State Parliaments see. fit to grant it, under section 51, sub-section 37, of the Constitution Act) full power to makelaws for Australia as to wages and hours and, conditions of labour.
That was a proposal to secure a practically unlimited power to deal with those subjects. Speaking in support of his motion, Mr. Higgins said, as reported in Hansard of 28th June, 1901, page 1819 -
We have the responsibility of dealing withthe Tariff for Australia, we have the responsibility of dealing with trade and commerce with other countries and between’ the States, and we have the responsibility of dealing with the influx of alien coloured races. We feel that these problems,, especially the problems of the Tariff, are soinextricably intertwined with legislative attempts to regulate wages, hours, and conditions of labour, that we cannot properly fulfil our functions in the one respect without having power to deal with the other. With Free Trade between the States it will not work well to let one State have one set of laws regulating the wages, hours, and conditions of labour in that State, and to allow another State to have another set of laws dealing with those subjects within, its boundaries.
Mr. Justice Higgins went on to foreshadow certain incidents.
Before proceeding to refer to speechesmade during the same debate by Sir. Edmund Barton and Sir William McMillan, I think it desirable at this stage to allude to some remarks made by Judge Heydon in the ArbitrationCourt of New South Wales on 14th December, 1907 - some six and a-half yearsafterwards - in connexion with the very set of conditions to which Mr. Justice Higginshad referred in his memorable speech that I have just quoted. Judge Heydon wasdealing with what is known as the Boot Trade case. An award had been given in New. South Wales raising the wages- of certain, boot operatives to 9s. per day. It was thenfound that a lower rate of wages prevailed in Victoria. The boot manufacturers in. New South Wales were subjected to cutthroat competition on the part of Victorian, boot manufacturers, who were able to engage their labour at a lower rate of wages. As a consequence, application was made to’ the Arbitration Court of New South Wales to reduce its award to the level of the wages, payable to boot operatives in Victoria. Thejudgment given by His Honour on that application is very interesting, but I have not time now to quote more than one portion of” it. He said -
If the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration had been dealing with this case it would havehad the conditions in all the cities of Australia under its notice ; and can it be supposed for- an instant that, unless some distinct difference in conditions calling for a differential ‘wage had appeared, it would have put the manufacturers of Sydney under more onerous terms than the manufacturers of Melbourne? We, of course, are not a Commonwealth Court, and have no power whatever over the adjoining States, but we think that the principle of equality is one that we cannot disregard.
Judge Heydon reduced the rate of wages payable to boot operatives in New South Wales to the rate payable in Victoria, subject to the condition that if a higher rate could be obtained in Victoria the wages of the operatives in New South Wales were to be raised to the higher level. This course was taken so that the boot manufacturers in New South Wales should not be at any disadvantage in competing with their fellow manufacturers in this State. That was one of the very cases that arose six and a-half years after Mr. Justice Higgins, as a member of this House, had foreseen the difficulties that surrounded our limited and restricted power to deal with arbitration as it .now exists in the Constitution.
I come now to a quotation from the speech made by Sir William McMillan on the motion moved by Mr. Higgins in this House. He said -
Since we met in the Federal Convention which framed the Commonwealth Constitution, there has been a very considerable evolution of thought with regard to certain matters that were then discussed. …. I hold generally that everything that affects the rights and liberties - especially the industrial life - of the community ought to be in the hands of the National Parliament - I hail with delight this motion, and I trust the Government will have sufficient influence to get the States to surrender powers which they have now so that we may deal with those great and far-reaching subjects.
Sir Edmund Barton, who was then Prime Minister of Australia, also spoke to the motion, and said, in the course of his remarks -
That there ought to be such a power exercised 1 am now convinced, and for this reason : That *he grant of Inter-State Free Trade, which follows the adoption of a uniform Tariff, is likely, in many respects, to be crippled, unless the Commonwealth has power to deal uniformly with the conditions of employment throughout Australia. . . . That this grant of the power should be made to enable us to meet inequalities of condition which ought not to occur amongst equal people, I have, on full investigation of this motion, convinced myself.
Air. Justice Higgins, Sir William McMillan, and Sir Edmund Barton were all members of the Federal Convention which framed the power to deal with conciliation and Arbitration which exists in the Constitution to-day. Those three gentlemen, who helped to “frame the power to deal .with industrial disputes under which we are operating today, declared, within two years of the sittings of that Convention, that we should have the very power which we now, nearly twelve years later, are asking the people to ratify. None of those gentlemen could be called Labour representatives; and Sir Edmund Barton particularly dealt with the subject from, the point of view of a protective Tariff, showing that in order to properly protect the industries of Australia there must be some corresponding power over the conditions of labour and employment.
– The honorable member for Bendigo pointed that out in one of his addresses.
– Probably ; but it is useless to quote such gentlemen as authorities when we find them turning double somersaults at every political breeze that blows. At one time some of those men could be referred to with confidence ; but now that the temporary exigencies of party politics have caused them, to desert their life-long convictions, they cannot be regarded as reliable constitutional authorities.
The honorable member for Ballarat, when Prime Minister, issued a memorandum in connexion with the new Protection, and such documents as these remind us of the old saying, “ Oh, that mine enemy would write a book.” After showing that the new Protection is designed to supplement the Customs duties by conditions as to wages and employment in protected industries, and as to the regulation of prices, he indicates the powers that the Commonwealth Parliament should have in the following words -
In order to carry out these objects, it is pro* posed to insert new paragraphs in section 51 of the Constitution, so as to enable the Parliament to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to : - “ (xxxv.a) The employment and remuneration of labour in any industry which, in the opinion of the Inter-State Commission, is protected by duties of customs.” “ (xxxv.J) The grant to the Inter-State Commission and its members of such powers of regulation, adjudication, and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for giving effect to any laws made in pursuance of the last preceding paragraph, subject to such review, if any, as the “Parliament prescribes.”
Under that power the honorable gentleman wished to constitute an Inter- State Commission, a tribunal to which he would hand over power without limit in regard to labour and employment in protected industries. The powers of the Inter-State Commission would be prescribed by Parliament, and, so far as protected industries were concerned, the control would be just as wide as that now sought by the Government. As a matter of fact, however, if the honorable gentleman had been able to carry his idea into execution, a very short experience would have shown him that it was necessary to go a step further. For instance, the InterState Commission as a Commonwealth tribunal might, in the harvester industry, have provided that 12s. a day should be paid to blacksmiths, engineers, and so forth ; while in a railway shop under the State Government, perhaps in an adjoining street, the wage under the State law would be found to be only 10s. Such a position, of course, would be farcical; and the honorable member’s proposal would, I do believe, have proved the most prolific cause of industrial .disputes ever introduced into Australia. There is not the slightest doubt that the lower-paid employes may have gone on strike, and thrown other industries into confusion. Under the circumstances, the honorable gentleman would have been compelled to seek power over all factories and industries, whether connected with protected industries or otherwise; and therefore, as I have said, he would have found himself precisely in the position of the Commonwealth Government to-day.
I should now like to compare the principles which are adopted in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court with the principles adopted in the State tribunal of New South Wales. The working men of Australia have industrial grievances to redress, and they must proceed either constitutionally or return to the old method of the strike. They will not concern themselves with the scarecrows that the honorable member for Ballarat puts up to frighten them, and do not care whether the symmetry of the Federal Constitution gets a knock here and there. All that they desire to know is what legislation will best improve their condition, and make the country a desirable one to live in. Some time ago the honorable member for Darling, who has had a lifelong connexion with industrial organizations, produced some telling figures showing the number of disputes settled in the New South Wales Courts and in the Commonwealth Courts with respect to breaches of award. These breaches,, under the State system, have grown; to large proportions ; indeed, they were so many that in order to assist the unionofficials in seeking them out, with a view to prosecution, the Government appointed a considerable number of inspectors. In> spite of that, however, I can say, from considerable experience of arbitration inNew South Wales, that there are thousands of breaches of industrial awards to-day that are unredressed, and with which thereare not enough union officials or inspectorate cope. In the union with which I am associated there are two or three hundred! cases of breaches of awards by employers,, but the number has become so overwhelming that we cannot move the machinery fast enough to overtake them. Under the system of Wages Boards in New South? Wales, this is inevitable. There are somany boards, and so much overlapping, that it is almost impossible to know when? a breach of an award has been committed, and many of them arise from the confusion, that is caused.
In the famous Harvester case in 1906,. Mr. Justice Higgins laid down a basic principle, which, so far as I know, hasbeen followed by all industrial tribunalsthroughout Australia. His Honour laid it down: - (1) That there ought to bediscovered the rate to be paid to the unskilled labourer, which should represent a wage necessary to maintain an averageman, with his average family, in a condition of average comfort, such as workers ia Australia were entitled to under the conditions of the country.
Suppose, for instance, that a bricklayer’s labourer was paid 8s. a day, and the bricklayer was paid 14s. a day, then the margin for the’ skilled labourer was 6s. ; and Mr. Justice Higgins determined that when the basic wage of the unskilled labourer is raised, the wages of the skilled workman should be increased accordingly.
That principle, so far as I am aware, hasbeen followed in New South Wales until a few weeks ago, when Judge Heydon, in. what is known as the Furniture case, laid. down principles which are nothing short of revolutionary. These principles, which are to be taken as an instruction to chairmen of Wages Boards, are so opposed to those laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins as to practically nullify the whole future effect of industrial arbitration in New South Wales.
Many awards expire and have to be renewed, and this occurred in the Furniture trade when the Wages Board increased the wages for a period of another three 3’ears. The employers appealed to the Arbitration Court. The demand for the increase of wages was based, first on the increase on the cost of living, and secondly on the general increase in the price of labour ; but Judge Heydon laid it down that the workers were not entitled to a further increase because of the increased cost of living if that increase arose from several causes. The effect of the judgment is: -
An increase for skilled labour is not justified because of : -
Increased cost of living may arise from : -
The Judge said that the wage-earner must bear his share of the burden with the rest of the community, and must not be allowed to pass it on. We know that when wages are raised by Wages Boards the employers immediately proceed to add the increased expenditure on to the price of the commodities they sell ; and Judge Heydon has laid it down that if the employers take that course, and so nullify the increase in the wages, the men are not entitled to make a further appeal to the Court for readjustment to get back to the point at which the industrial tribunal deliberately placed them. This is a monstrous theory. According to this, all that the employers have to do on an increase of wages being ordered is to call a meeting of the Employers’ Federation and decide to add the increased expenditure on to the cost of the goods, and thus reduce the workmen to the same position as before.
I ask the workers of New South Wales to observe the difference between the principles adopted in the Commonwealth Court and those adopted in the State Court. In the Commonwealth Court the living wage must be discovered, no matter from what causes it arises ; and there must be corresponding increases to skilled workers, at least, to this extent, according to the custom of the various industries, and so forth. There may also be taken into consideration questions relating to higher efficiency, strenuous ness of conditions, the use of machinery, and the various factors that influence industrial employment.
In New South Wales they are up against a dead-end, and if an increase is nullified by the concerted action of the employers, the wage-earners concerned cannot go effectively back to the Arbitration Court.
I have some quotations here from the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins which I should like to read; but my time does not permit me to quote them. Copies of that judgment, however, can be obtained by those of the workers who desire to read it, and if applications are made for it to me, I shall be glad to supply them, so that the workers may compare it with the dark forebodings of Judge Heydon, and be in a position to say in which Court they would like to have their conditions dealt with.
The next question on which I wish to speak is the placing of restrictions upon individual workmen. In 1905 what is known as the Eiffe case arose. Some wharf labourers of Newcastle were called upon to work on the night of the King’s Birthday. They were not under an award or agreement of the Arbitration Court, but were employed by the hour, their employment being terminable by an hour’s notice on either side. They notified their employers that they expected to be paid 3s. an hour for working during a holiday; but this was refused, and at midnight, or some other time, after notice of their intention had been given, they ceased work. An action was brought in the
Industrial Court, and Judge Heydon ordered them back to work, stating that if they did not comply with the order of the Court within a certain time, the union, would be fined , £250, and each workman £5. There was an appeal to the Supreme Court, and, curiously enough, we had to rely on the Chief Justice of New South Wales for a decision protecting the individual, and guaranteeing him. the freedom to offer or refuse his services when under no agreement or award. This paragraph of his decision is worth placing on record. Referring to the Arbitration Act in New South Wales, he said -
This Act of Parliament, as I have previously pointed out, is one in abrogation of certain common law rights ; and unless the power to deal with the liberty of the subject aimed at in the order complained of is provided for in the Act, the Court cannot give effect to it. The Act must be strictly construed, its provisions, so far as we can do so, must be given effect to, but they are not to be unduly stretched. A man’s liberty is not to be interfered with unless the Act gives the Court some authority to say to these men, “ You must go towork.” A man has a right over his own labour, and a right to decide whether he will work or not, and unless some Act is passed saying that men mustgo to work, whether they like it or not, that right will continue to exist. No such power is given in the Arbitration Act, and I hope it will not be found in any other. For these reasons I am of opinion that a prohibition must go-
Sir Frederick Darley thus preserved the liberty of the workmen of New South Wales, and stated that he did not know of any Act which restricted it in the manne; attempted, and that he hoped that no such Act would ever be passed. Judge Heydon made his order under section 34 of the Arbitration Act of 1901, which says -
Whoever does any act or thing in the nature of a lock-out or strike, or suspends, or discontinues employment or work in any industry, shall suffer the penalties provided for.
Although that wording is clear and direct, the Chief Justice c? New South Wales held that it did not expressly interfere with the liberty of the subject, and therefore, Judge Hey don’s decision was overruled.
– Did not the Arbitration Act apply only to those who were registered under it?
– It applied to all, whether registered under it or not. I amconnected with an organization of 15,000 workmen, the registration of whose union was cancelled during the last week or two; but, although it has been cancelled, and they have been told by the Judge that they are not to go to the Court to have their grievances redressed, they are liable to suffer all the penalties of the law if they use the weapon of a strike, or desist from work.
– That is red-hot.
-I think that it is.
Mar. Joseph Cook. - What was the cause of the cancellation?
– The cancellation was due to the faot that a Wages Board chairman, who had been operating on principles calculated to drive to distraction those affected by his awards, was publicly criticised, not by the union, nor by the men, nor with their consent or authority. Because the men read a newspaper in which this article appeared, and did not repudiate this criticism, the registration of their union was cancelled.
I do not speak with any disrespect of Judge Heydon, but I am.- entitled to show the difference between one tribunal and another, so that the electors may be in a position to say which they would prefer for the settlement of their grievances.
To show the attitude of the Court to such matters, let me quote a few words delivered in connexion with the case of Hardman v. Saunders, in December, 1909. Referring to the ruling of Chief Justice Darley, which I have just quoted, Judge Heydon said “ ex parte Eiffe, except on a mere technicality, is a monstrous decision.”
That statement indicates that this notable gentleman thinks that the law should have been put into operation against the individual workmen in the case to which I have referred.
I have not time to fully deal with the restrictions upon the liberties of organizations. But I would mention that the railway and tramway men, with whom I am associated, secured from two different Wages Boards a minimum rate of 8s. a day. A little while before, the Arbitration Court had said that 7s.6d. must be regarded as a living wage. But that held good’ only until evidence could be brought forward to show that the rates should be higher. We secured two awards, one under a District Court Judge, Mr. Edmunds, and the other under a barrister, Mr. Parker, by both of whom the rate of 8s. a day was fixed.Evidence similar to that put before those two Wages Boards was put before Mr. Montgomerie Hamilton, 4he chairman to whom I have just referred, but because the Presidentof the Arbitration Court had some time previously fixed the rate of 7s. 6d. a day, he went back on the 8s. rate, and awarded 7 s. 6d. as the basic rate for large sections of workmen. Seeing that about£1,000 had been expended in obtaining evidence from all parts of New South Wales as to the cost of living, it is not to be wondered at that this award created irritation, especially as it had a term of three years. Consequently a stinging and scathing criticism of the gentleman responsible for it was published in a newspaper with which I am associated, and which is read by practically all the members of the organisation. I am free to admit that the article gave an opportunity for the bringing of an action in the Law Courts of the country. It was privately brought tinder the notice of Judge Heydon eight or nine months afterwards. The person -criticised had the article brought under his notice, because every criticism of him that appeared in the paper was posted to him. When, eight or nine months afterwards, this criticism was privately brought under the notice of Judge Heydon, he called on the union to show cause why its registration should not be cancelled.
– Eight or nine months afterwards?
– The article was dated 18th April, and the cancellation took place last week. The Judge refused to give the grounds upon which the cancellation was made, and consequently it is not possible to define what was in his mind or what was the- nature of the offence. He did not indicate that any industrial offence had been committed, but the Act allows him to cancel registration for any reason that he may think good, and provides that no adjudication of the Court shall be appealed against, quashed, or interfered with on any ground whatever. Apparently the right of appeal to a higher Court is taken away, though I do not think that it is. The time limit on my remarks does not allow me to cover the whole ground I set out to deal with, but I can with confidence urge the workers of New South Wales and Australia generally to support this extension of the Commonwealth’s industrial power.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I propose to merely indicate the view which I hold regarding the drastic and far-reaching proposals of the Government. The honorable member for Cook, as is customary with him,, began by carping at and criticising other people. He assumed to know more than any other person in the House about the subject under discussion, and gibed at the Opposition for not offering any suggestion for the betterment of the legislation proposed., A more audacious, incorrect, and absurd charge could not be made against us. The Government would have been in “ Queerstreet “ many a time but for the help of the Opposition. It has had more assistance from the Opposition on questions of law than from, any other quarter. In no previous Parliament has the best learning and erudition of the country been placed more freely at the disposal of the Government in power.
– Can you cite an instance in which the Attorney-General took the advice of honorable members opposite.
– After the criticism of the Opposition he has many times taken back and reshaped his measures. The Northern Territory Lands Ordinance, for example, has been withdrawn because of our criticism, and the Attorney-General could mention a dozen instances in which he has reshaped his proposals because of the advice tendered to him by the lawyers ‘on the Opposition side. No previous Government has been similarly helped by an Opposition.
The honorable member for Cook spoke of the crying industrial necessities of Australia. But what are they? I have read lately statements issued by the Government showing that Australia was never better off industrially, socially, and in every other way than she is at present. Never before were wages or conditions better, and everything has been on an upgrade. This is what the party opposite are saying. During the last few years there has been a tremendous increase in the instrumentalities for the fixing ot wages and the regulating of industrial enterprises. To-day there are over 400 Wages Boards and other tribunals in Australia whose end is to insure industrial peace, and give fair wages and conditions in the various branches of employment.
– Their awards are all inconsistent one with another.
– Does the honorable member wish to uniform the continent, and to put it into a straight-jacket? To do that would be to strike a deadly blow at its industrial operations. The community cannot be pressed into one mould, and fashioned by one process in one particular way. Our circumstances are varied in the extreme by climatic and other conditions, so that the circumstances of one State are often very different from those of another. Problems arise, and will continue to arise, from time to time, out of the peculiarities of the climate and other things - these things differentiating our industrial life throughout Australia. To try to press all this multiform industrial progress into one particular mould is to strike a deadly blow at the prosperity of Australia as a whole.
– Does the honorable member think that the bootmakers in Tasmania should receive less than do the bootmakers of New South Wales?
– Their wages should be fixed in the light of their local surroundings, with a view to furnishing them with an adequate return for the work they perform. Is it impossible for a Wages Board in Tasmania to deal out justice to the bootmakers of that State?
– That has not been done up to the present.
– The State Parliament has the constitutional power to provide for it. There is manhood suffrage there.
– Not in respect to the Upper House.
– I suppose the Upper House, like all Houses of Parliament, is susceptible to the popular will. If the people of a country say that the Upper House of its Legislature must bow to its will, that House cannot resist the people’s will.
– The people have not got a chance of expressing their will in regard to the Upper House.
– The honorable member and his party are going to put the industrial conditions of Australia under the control of the Senate, where one man, when it comes to a vote, counts for as much as nine others. Does the honorable member believe in that sort of thing? There is no manhood suffrage as far as the Senate is concerned.
– The honorable member should ask his leader about that.
– On this matter my leader believes as I do, that the Senate is limited in its powers, and ought to be, while it exists on its present unequal basis, and that the moment we begin to unify these large industrial and domestic- powers of the States, an argument will be furnished for the composition of the Senate ore a different basis. No Democrat can defend that House in its interference with the domestic and internal affairs of the States. So long as there are large powersto be exercised, which are common to ali the States, and as to which no State distinction should fairly be drawn, there is no reason why these State powers should’ not inhere in the Senate. But when Ave come to deal with the industrial and domestic affairs of the nation, and with that which relates to the internal and domesticwelfare of the States, it is not right that such matters should be placed under the control of a Senate based on these electoral! inequalities. That is my answer to rayhonorable friends opposite when they talk about the Upper Houses of the States. Toescape from the Upper Houses of the States they are going to commit a democratic outrage of a far worse kind. It is time to call a halt when honorable members talk about putting these matters of internal and domestic concern in the hands of the Senate with its present inequalities.
– The honorablemember would leave them to the LegislativeCouncils, which represent no one.
– I would leave them to the Lower Houses of the States, which, I repeat, in a democratic State can. a; ways control the Upper Houses.
– They have not done that so far.
– Then it is because the people of the States say they must not. Are not the Labour party sufficiently democratic to admit that when the majority is against them, it has a right tobe against them ? When they point to the Upper Houses of ‘the States, I point in turn to the political franchise of the States. The remedy must come from there, and nowhere else.
Recent developments have been remarkable for one thing - they have shown pretty plainly what we have thought for a long time, and now that the referenda are coming on, in order to make political argument in support of the powers for which the Labour party are asking, they are by implication making damaging state- ments about the machinery we already possess. The Attorney-General is constantly emphasizing the point that unless further power be obtained to regulate conditions of trade and business which have nothing to do specifically with industrial disputes - unless power is given to this Parliament to deal with prices and profits - our Arbitration Courts must be a failure. It things are to remain as they are, he says, we might as well close and lock the doors of the Arbitration Courts. That is what he says by implication. He urges that as long as private individuals may monopolize prices and profits as they do now, it is useless to raise wages by means of Arbitration Court awards or in any other way. Clearly, therefore, in his opinion, our Arbitration Courts in their present position are doing no good. The Attorney-General says that they may be keeping the industrial peace - they may be stopping the fratricidal strike which many a time has laid Australia, metaphorically speaking, in sackcloth and ashes ; but they are doing no good to the workers of Australia in the absence of these further powers to regulate prices and conditions. I agree with the Attorney-General that unless something is done a very serious situation must gradually develop in Australia. While our Courts are busily engaged shaping industrial conditions and giving higher wages, those higher wages are being passed on. Honorable members opposite are beginning to find out that what some of us have been asserting for a long time is really the case. I speak as one who did my best to bring this experiment into operation.
– The honorable member did not talk like this when he was “ grafting.”
– When I was “ grafting “ I always managed to settle troubles over the table, and without going to the Court, the disputes with which I had to deal. During the whole of the time that I did so settle them there was never a strike, and, what is more, the men had better wages and conditions than they have even now.
– That is not true.
– It is. I defy the honorable member to show that it is not.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I appeal to honorable members to discontinue these interjections.
– I was one of those who, in the Parliament of New South
Wales, helped to mould and shape our first industrial legislation. I am not sorry the experiment was made. We began by a voluntary system of arbitration. Every Labour man in the New South Wales Parliament was for a time against compulsory arbitration. Perhaps the honorable member isnot aware of that.
– I did not know it.
– It was before the honorable member entered Parliament. I am speaking now of the, first Conciliation’ Board, which was presided over by Dr. Garran, father of the present secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department - one of the finest men Australia ever had.
– And he never had a chance to settle a dispute all the time that he presided over that Board.
– Only a few momentshave elapsed since I called upon honorable members not to interject. I trust that they will observe the request of the Chair.
– He had before him one dispute amongst the southern miners, and he had also to deal with others. Nothing, however, came of the proceedingsbefore his Board.
The experience of the miners, at any rate, has shown that wherever there is a final Court to be resorted to,, no intermediate Court can settle a disputeHuman nature comes in. A man will always back his chance of getting a better deal from some other Court that is a little further off. That is also the experience of New Zealand, which began in the same way. Its industrial legislation commenced by providing for a Conciliation Court and an Arbitration Court, but the men would not be satisfied with the Conciliation Court whilst the Arbitration Court was available to them. These Conciliation Courts, therefore, in process of time came into disuse. Then came the proposal for compulsory arbitration. I remember very well the deputation which waited on the Right Honorable Sir George Reid and urged him, as Premier of New South Wales, to bring in a Bill to provide for compulsory arbitration. Later on, that Bill was introduced by Mr. Wise. I cordially supported it, one reason for my action being: that I believed it would lead to better relations between employers and employes. I thought that it would lead to their comingtogether to discuss their differences, and find out each other’s point of view. I believed that it would lead to much better relations than had previously existed. I am bound to say that no such result has accrued. Instead of acting as a salve - as a meliorative agency - it has simply driven further in a wedge between the employers and their employes. The relations existing between employers and employes to-day are not as harmonious as they used to be in those days. Class feeling is more rife, and discontent is keener.
– Because the men are getting better educated.
– I am simply pointing out that Arbitration Courts for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes are not bringing about a better state of affairs in that respect. Added to all this, we find that there is going on a simple process of passing on the awards of these Courts the moment they are made; they work round in a sort of circle, and a man finds that he has, after all, to pay the full amount of the increased wage awarded to him, and, perhaps, a little more. There are some honorable members who will remember the case of the Balmain Ferry Company. The men asked that their award might be varied, and their application was granted. The directors of the company immediately raised the price of the ferry from id. to 1½d. per trip. In other words, they made a 50 per cent, increase in their charges to meet what would be about a 10 per’ cent, increase in wages. They say they had to raise it to pay the award. Who pays that award to-day? The workmen, amongst others, who use that ferry every day have to pay an extra penny per day. The workers and the public generally are paying for the increased award. These concessions are not being wrung out of the capitalists, as honorable members opposite have imagined ; they are being wrung out of the workers themselves, and so the process, as at present carried on, in a word, is very much like a dog living on its own tail.
The man with a fixed salary does not get very much of a chance in connexion with all these matters, and that is why we hear complaints from time to time about’ the pay of the Public Service. The wages of the post-office employes, for instance, have been increased a great deal during the last ten or eleven years, but the Government have only increased the average over the whole Department to the extent of is. 5½d. per week.
– That is not the right way to put the position. We must not forget that a number of juveniles who joined the Department at a very low wage have received considerable increases.
– Put it at its best, and I doubt whether the increased pay has kept pace with the increase in the cost of living. These industrial awards are increasing the cost of living. A baker, for instance, is awarded an increase of is. a day, and thinks he has done well. He finds, . however, that the butcher, the milkman, the jam-maker, and others have obtained similar awards increasing their rates of pay, with the result that the prices of the respective commodities in which they deal have been increased, so that the whole of his additional wages, and even more than the increase, has to go towards the payment of the hundred and one other awards that have been made in connexion with the same process. Not only is the actual amount of the increase passed on, but a little is added to it in the passing. It is like the passing on the duties under the Tariff ; and this is only to be expected, because all work has to be paid for. But it is this passing over of charges that enables employers to make quite as much profit to-day as they ever did. They have found a way to repay themselves for arbitration awards.
– Are the workmen to have no betterment ?
– I desire them to have all the betterment we can provide them.
– How would the honorable member get over the difficulty?
– That is a problem that has puzzled the best brains of the world for centuries, and yet the honorable member asks me to solve it in five minutes over this table. Neither I nor the honorable member can, by one prescription, cure the social evils of the day. John Morley has said that if he were asked to write a prescription to cure all the ills of the industrial world, he should have to confess himself utterly unable to do so.
This is a many-sided problem; and we shall never solve it by looking at one facet only.
– The honorable member would leave the workers to the tender mercies of the legislative Councils?
– Would the honorable member leave them to the .tender mercies of the Senate, simply because that undemocratic body happens to be of a particular colour to-day? The AttorneyGeneral is beginning to plainly say what none of the Labour party could be induced to say a little while ago, and that is only because an argument can in this way be found in favour of the referenda. Honorable members opposite are now saying that the Arbitration Courts have done no good, or, at any rate, that any good they do is more than counterbalanced by the economic re-adjustments, and that there must be regulation of prices. If that is all my honorable friends opposite can suggest, the salvation of the workers is yet a long way off. How can we fairly and equitably adjust prices and profits? It is an impossible task, and no method yet suggested by honorable members opposite seems to get near the fringe of the question. Even the AttorneyGeneral says that the Government have no plan or purpose in this connexion.
– What about the new Protection ?
– I desire a new Protection that will work, and honorable members opposite, with all their brilliant intellects and their equally brilliant gibes, cannot suggest a proper method. They are constantly bringing forward proposals, and ‘ ‘ scrapping “ them in a year or two. In New South Wales, in spite of all the political capital that was made out of Mr. Wade’s Arbitration Act-
– Leg-irons !
– The leg-irons are there to-day. The honorable member knows that Mr. Beeby is serving the workers no better .than did Mr. Wade in the matter of industrial legislation - that the present measure is in many respects worse than the previous one.
– There is no trial without a jury under Mr. Beeby’s measure.
– A man may be sent to gaol just the same, with this difference : that under Mr. Wade’s Act, a man wiped out his offence by going to gaol, whereas, under Mr. Beeby’s measure, his wages can afterwards be garnisheed for the ^50 fine.
– That is a reason for Federal arbitration.
– Even under Federal arbitration there must be penalties if it is to be effective. As a matter of fact, under the regime of the present Government there have been more strikes than in any previous three years. There have been nearly 250 strikes since the present Government came into office, or nearly three times as many as during the lifetime of any other Government.
– Every little strike, including that of local preachers, is included.
– The figures have been quoted before.
– By the Employers’ Federation.
– No, by the honorable member for Bendigo, who got them, I believe, from the Industrial Registrar. Throughout Australia there are 400 odd Wages Boards in operation, and in the last two or three years the network has been extended, so that even in little Tasmania there are twenty-four Boards. There are 13,000 factories in Australia, employing over 300,000 people,, and in nearly all of these the wages and conditions are guaranteed by awards. Here we have an industrial community living under conditions which insure a living wage subject to no competition; and I do nor think that the centralizing of all the industrial power would tend to lessen industrial disputes or bring about industrial’ peace. Indeed, I fancy the conditions would prove worse, because no Court could cope with the tremendous problem with which these proposals are weighted. The Commonwealth Court is congested now, and I see no hope of improvement. My only desire is that our working men shall enjoy the best possible conditions ; I have no interest otherwise than in the working men of Australia.
– The honorable member has a funny way of showing it !
– I am accustomed to these gibes. We shall, however, have an opportunity of discussing these matters before the country. In my judgment, Australia will be worse, and not better off, through the unifying of this industrial power. The terms of this Bill make it possible for the occurrence of disputeswhich are not even thought of to-day. The Bill means making it possible to control all the conditions of employment of all the school teachers in Australia. They are all included in the word “calling.”
– The school teachersare State servants.
– But does not “calling” include them? The Bill says “ all callings.” Are not those engaged in> education engaged in a calling?
– The honorable member knows that State school teachers are not included.
– I know that there is nothing to exempt them. It appears to me that when you have got to tlie point that you cannot give the worker industrial justice and fair play unless you fix for him his labour conditions, and proceed to fix the amount of profit his employer shall make for himself, and the amount of price he shall charge for the commodity he produces, you are landing yourself in unknown difficulties. It appears to me that what we are doing now in this twentieth century is to make a return to what has been done many a time before.
This is no new process that my honorable friends opposite have in contemplation. I remember a very remarkable speech being delivered in this House as the result of a tremendous Amount of research by Mr. Conroy, a former member for Werriwa. He had rummaged amongst Statutes in existence centuries ago, and found a state of things which fitted exactly to the course of evolution of to-day. Those Statutes controlled the kind and colour of everything relating to a man’s clothing. They fixed the price of everything that he ate and wore, and these prices had also relation to a number of other commodities. I remember that the price of beer was fixed according to the price of barley. The quantity of beer that could be sold for a penny was laid down in a Statute. The price of bread was fixed according to the price of wheat. The price of meat was fixed according to how much had to be paid for the beast. The price of the beast, in turn, was fixed. Right through the whole gamut of prices everything was strictly regulated.
– The honorable member for Mernda pointed out that that was owing to the shockingly low wages paid at that time.
– The people of England revolted from that condition of things. But, apparently, we have entered the same cycle again. I personally do not see how we can get through.
– There was not a Labour Government in power then.
– The honorable member appears to think that there was -.not a Labour nian in the world until he and the members of his party came out of the eternities and fixed themselves on the Treasury bench.
The opinion of Mr. Justice Higgins has been quoted in regard to the distribution of industrial power. 1 should like to direct attention to a statement made by Mr. Higgins in the Federal Convention of 1898. Speaking of a State standing supine while its industrial affairs were rendered idle by strikes, he said that the State -
Cannot afford to stand idle and to allow these disputes to be carried out to their bitter consummation. It is quite too late for that. All I ask for by this amendment is that just as Victoria can deal with Victorian trade disputes, that just as New South Wales can deal ‘with New South Wales trade disputes, that just as Great Britain and Ireland can deal with disputes in the United Kingdom, so the . Federal Parliament shall be enabled to deal with disputes which are Australian.
I submit that that is a principle that is good for all time. Whatever arises out of the evolution of our social affairs, the underlying principle of this Federal. Constitution is that, as far as possible, the industrial and internal affairs of a nation shall be kept close under the grip of the people of the nation, separated in their various State Governments. Disputes should be settled as near as possible to the spot where they arise. They should not have to be settled at some central point in Australia. Disputes arise out of local conditions. They arise suddenly. That is the case particularly in mining, where a dispute may occur in the morning, and the very traces of it may be obliterated entirely in the course of a day or two. You want somebody on the spot to act promptly. For the want of that, disputes have resulted in strikes which have laid the whole community idle. You want a facile means of dealing with disputes at once on the spot. I say that that can be done better by State authority than by any centralized Federal authority. We, by our very Constitution, are set to look after the national affairs of Australia that cannot be controlled properly by the States. There are certain trades that come into competition with each other. But there is no need to get this tremendous accretion of power to deal with such cases. The unit for the settlement of these disputes is intended to be the State Court, the State authority. Whatever needs adjusting to make competition fair should be the prerogative of this Parliament. The Federal Constitution should clothe us with all power necessary for legislation for an efficient settlement of these disputes. But I believe that local disputes can be best settled on the spot where they occur, by tribunals locally appointed, and working under local laws. I think, therefore, that the proposal of honorable members opposite to centralize all these matters is a step in the wrong direction.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 5842), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
-I wish to say a few words before the Bill passes.
– There is no fairness in this. We, on this side, have agreed to impose a self-denying ordinance upon ourselves in regard to this matter. Surely an agreement is an agreement.
– I shall not occupy more than about fifteen minutes.
– There is an arrangement to give the Opposition all the time tomorrow.
– The proposal before us is one for . the alteration of the Constitution to provide that -
The Parliament . shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to (xxxv.) Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes in relation to employment in the railway service of a State.
It is necessary to put a specific power of this description into the Constitution, to enable us to pass the legislation necessary to benefit the railway servants of the States, because it was decided by the High Court, in 1905, in the case of the Amalgamated Railway and Tramway Employes Association and the Traffic Employes Association, with which I was associated, that the Commonwealth cannot interfere with a State instrumentality unless the words of the Constitution plainly and clearly declare that it may so interfere, and that in such a case its interference is exactly limited by the wording of the Constitution.
The proposals of the Government for the amendment of the Constitution, if adopted, will not enable this Parliament to legislate in regard to any State servants except railway and tramway men. Our legislation cannot deal with the conditions of school teachers, employe’s of the Lands Department, or any other of the servants of the States.
But tramway as well as railway men can be dealt with, a railway meaning vehicles running on rails, and thus covering a tramway.
I have been connected with the railwayand tramway men of Australia for many years. Not only am I connected with a large State organization, but I am also secretary of a Federal organization which has a large branch in every State, and wherever I have met railway and tramway men, they are desirous; of having the option of going to the Federal Court.
In some of the States - notably in Victoria -there is no Arbitration Court. A few years ago a disastrous railway strike occurred here which might have been prevented had the men been able to appeal to the Federal- Court, and at the present time there is the greatest discontent in the railway service of Victoria because of the sweating wages paid by the Victorian Government.
– They are a disgrace. The Victorian Government is the biggest sweater in Australia so far as the railway men are concerned.
– It is hinted that a ballot is to be taken to see whether drastic action shall be resolved on to force” the Victorian Government to pay reasonable wages to these highly skilled workmen.
The plank in the Federal platform of the Labour movement to which the proposal now under discussion gives effect was adopted at the instigation of the Amalgamated Railway and Tramway Employes Federation at the Federal Conference held in Brisbane in July, 1908, in the debates of which I took part, and this is the second attempt by the National Parliament at the instance of the Federal Labour party to give effect to it. I hope that it may be successful.
It has been said in some quarters that the railway men do not wish to come under the Commonwealth law, but that is not correct. There is no organization of railway and tramway men which ia not desirous of being able to appeal to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It is true that on a previous occasion some of the railway men were misled. They were informed that the wages of those in the best paid services would be reduced if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court were to determine the conditions of the railway men for all the States, and therefore some of them voted against this proposal. This misapprehension has been almost entirely removed. The railway and tramway men represent an enormous voting power. They represent more than 100,000 votes in New South Wales alone, and in all the other States they are an important factor in elections. I am satisfied that the whole weight of this vast voting power will, on this occasion, be used by the railway and tramway men of Australia to give themselves the opportunity, if they so desire, to submit their case to the Federal tribunal.
The honorable member for Flinders developed a technical argument, intended to suggest that giving a Federal Court power to fix the rate of wages for State railway employes is an interference with the sovereign powers of the State Parliaments. The State Parliaments have to provide the revenue from which the railway and tramway servants of the States are paid, he said, and it is contended that this proposal, if given effect, will place the Federal authority, through the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, in a position to dictate the rates of pay which the State Parliaments shall give their servants. Around this the honorable member weaves a great fabric of technical argument. He says that the proposal strikes at the root of the relations between the Commonwealth and the States, tends to Unification, and that all sorts of dreadful results are likely to follow. The railways are independent businesses, and the moneys to pay wages are not raised by taxation any more than the money raised to pay the wages of private employers. There is, therefore, no interference with the State taxing power proposed. Let me say that for a number of years there was an appeal from the State Arbitration Court of New South Wales to the Commonwealth High Court. In innumerable cases the .High Court of Australia, which is a Federal instrument, was able to dictate to the State Arbitration Court, within certain limits, what should be the industrial conditions in the State of
New South Wales. Nothing very terrible happened because the Federal Power exercised a paramount influence over industrial! affairs within a State. At the present time the State Parliaments of New SouthWales, Western Australia, and, I think, also of South Australia, have given theCommonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court the right to fix the wages and conditions of State railway and tramway employes.
Independent Railways Commissioners areappointed, with fixed tenures of office, tomanage the railways as business concerns, yet their control in regard to industrial conditions has, in New South Wales and Western Australia, at least, been made subject to the determinations of independent industrial tribunals.
The honorable member for Ballarat wilt probably argue that there is something dreadful about giving this power to the Federal. Parliament, and I think it quite proper toremind honorable members that in the Federal Convention the honorable gentleman was prepared to go a long way further in the direction of interference with State railways. At the Convention held in Sydney in 1897, the honorable gentleman said -
It appears to me to be essential to the full and perfect government of these colonies, that such important agencies as the railways should be taken over by the Federal authorities. We are in this country unfortunately not possessed1 of the advantages of the United States of America, traversed as that country is by magnificent ‘ streams which afford natural highways for its people. Our railways in the future W1 have to serve as streams as well as for railways. They will be practically our only great means of inter-communication, and it appears to me, for reasons which I urged prior to the meeting of the Convention, that under these circumstances Federation will not be complete, will not be able to serve the common interest of the whole of the people of Australasia - for which purpose I understand a Federal Government is to be created - it will not be able to conserve them or develop them as it must and should do, 1*11110111 the control of the railways.
Tt will, therefore, not lie in the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition to complain that this proposal to enable a Federal Court to lay down wages and conditions for State railway and tramway employes, in the event of an industrial dispute, is such an interference with the functions of the State Parliament as to destroy Stale rights and bring about a system of Unification. I have just quoted what the honorable gentleman was prepared to advocate, and he was very disappointed that his proposal was not included in the Constitution.
I wish now to point out that the Commonwealth is embarking upon railway construction. The great transcontinental railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia, has already been commenced at both ends. There will shortly be a railway from the south to the north of Australia. We are embarking, also, upon railway construction in and about the Federal Capital area, and propose to connect that area with the coast. Already the Commonwealth, in connexion with railway undertakings, is paying better wages than are paid in any of the States. If we are to have Commonwealth railways running side by side in the same territory with State railways, and higher wages and better conditions are given to those employed in connexion with the Commonwealth lines than are conceded to State employes, what more potent element of discontent could we have ? The service in which the less favorable conditions obtain is certain to become agitated and discontented. There may be great industrial disputes and disturbances if there is no authority empowered to secure uniform conditions in the Commonwealth and State railway services working side by side. I say that it is wise, before the situation develops, and before the house catches fire, to adopt measures calculated to prevent a great industrial conflagration, which might extend throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth in the near future.
It must be remembered that before this matter is dealt with by a Federal Court, the State railway servants must themselves submit it to the Court. The Railways Commissioners would have the right to set the Federal Court in motion, but such a contingency is unlikely. A case must be initiated by some interested party. It will, therefore, lie with the men themselves to say whether they will appeal to the Federal Court. They need not do so unless they like. The Government proposal will offer them another tribunal for the redress of their grievances if they choose to avail themselves of it. What we are seeking for is not an exclusive, but a concurrent, power. The. State Parliaments will be left under this proposal to continue to exercise their existing powers, but the railway and tramway employes of Australia will be able to make use of the Federal tribunal if they so desire. They will have a choice of two tribunals to which to appeal for the settlement of disputes in which they may become involved.
Another point I wish to make is this : It has been said that if the State railway employes come under Federal law the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court may make an award fixing wages lower than the wages fixed by the State” Court. In New South Wales nearly all the railway and tramway employes are working under industrial awards.
It is important to remember that if they choose to appeal to the Federal Court they will ‘ not be bound by an award fixing a lower rate of wages than is fixed by a State award. This is a matter which has already been decided by the High Court. It is true that where a Federal and a State law are in conflict, the Federal law is supreme; but if, for instance, under a New South Wales State award the rate of wages fixed is 9s. per day, “and under a Commonwealth award it is 10s. a day, the High Court has laid it down that there is no conflict between the two, the employer paying the higher rate complies with the lower award, since the one will include the other.
We propose, in this case, only to enable the railway and tramway men of Australia to appeal to the Federal tribunal if they think it is in their interests to do so, and the higher rate laid down will be the rate prevailing in the service by whichever tribunal the award fixing the higher rate is made. I do not wish to repeat the arguments which I used in discussing the general power over labour and employment. But the references which I made to them may be regarded as the complement to what I had said on this matter, or vice versa. I feel sure that none of the bogies which have been raised by the Conservatives and the Fusion will have any serious effect in restraining the railway and tramway men of the Commonwealth from availing themselves of the magnificent offer which is now made to them by this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Greene) adjourned.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I am authorized to intimate that by arrangement with the Leader of the Opposition the time between the beginning of the sitting to-morrow and 11.45a.m.will belong to the Opposition, and that the other half of the morning sitting will be occupied by the Attorney-General in replying to the criticism upon the various Bills, upon which a vote will be taken at 2 p.m. I think that this arrangement is a very practicable one. It has also been mutually agreed, subject to the permission of Mr. Speaker, that in his speech the Attorney-General shall have leave to refer to the whole of the measures upon which we shall take a vote to-morrow. As regards the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill, that will not be debated or decided to-morrow. It will be the first business to occupy our attention on Monday next.
– Will a vote be taken upon it on Tuesday?
– It may or it may not. Tuesday would be a convenient day. I think we shall be able to arrange when a vote upon it shall be taken. I ask you, sir, to consent to the Attorney-General referring, during the one ‘speech which he will make to-morrow morning, to all the Bills upon which a vote will be taken in the afternoon.
– I should like to say that I do not appreciate what has taken place tonight. I made an agreement with the AttorneyGeneral, which was ratified by the Prime Minister and by my leader, under which it was distinctly understood that there were to be no further speeches on the Government side of the House this evening. Here we are putting two important Bills through with about four hours’ debate. We have agreed to do that. Tomorrow there will be only one hour in which to discuss the whole of these measures. After this arrangement had been made, the honorable member for Cook was allowed to make his speech, notwithstanding that nearly everybody else had gone home.
– Did the honorable member read my note to him?
– I have just torn it up, The note stated that the AttorneyGeneral had informed the Prime Minister that there was an understanding that the honorable member for Cook was to speak to-night. I wish to say that I never heard a word of that arrangement. No mention of it was ever made to me. That speech will have to be answered to-morrow, and if the time occupied in replying to it comes out of the period that has been allotted to the Attorney-General he cannot complain. Otherwise, I hope that the arrangement will be kept.
– I can only assure the honorable member for Parramatta, and the House that the AttorneyGeneral stated to me that the Opposition were quite willing that the honorable member for Cook should make his contribution to the debate, extending over about a quarter of an hour, to-night, rather than that he should intervene ‘to-morrow. I kept to the arrangement bond fide. If there has been any error it certainly is not mine.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that to-morrow I should follow the course which has been suggested by the Prime Minister?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Does the honorable member for Parramatta object?
– I have no objection.
– I hold in my hand a letter which has been addressed to me by Mrs. Berry, the official organizer of the Australian Women’s National League, in which she takes exception to a statement that I made in discussing the Constitution Alteration Bills in this chamber a few days ago. The statement which I made was that these were the words uttered by Mrs. Berry herself at a conference of the Australian Women’s National League held in Ballarat -
The Socialistic party, if it were returned in a majority at the coming State elections, could bring into operation all that it had asked the people to allow it to do at the late referenda, and the ,£50,000 which had been spent in defeating them lately was the best money ever spent, so far.
I quoted those words to prove a statement which I had previously made that certain combinations at the back of the Liberal party had contributed that amount to its funds. When I was asked for my authority, I quoted the statement made by Mrs. Berry.
– Where was it reported ?
– In the official organ of the Australian National League known as the Woman. Now Mrs. Berry writes to me and says that she did not make that statement. She says -
But I did constantly say that the ,£50,000 was spent by the Labour Government in putting the referenda proposals to the. people.
She says that she referred to the , £50,000 which was spent by the Labour Government in putting their proposals to the people. She may have made that statement elsewhere, but I am indifferent as to what she did say on other occasions. All that I quoted here was a part of the speech which she delivered to the Conference. I do not wish to do an injustice to the lady. I quoted the words as they are given in the report, and if they can be construed to mean anything else-
– As they appeared in the Woman.
-Yes. The lady says that when she said “ the £50,000 which had been spent in defeating them lately,” she meant the . £50,000 which was spent by this Government. That would mean that we, as a party, spent £50,000 to defeat ourselves. This is the only interpretation we can place on her words’. English is English, and black cannot be made to appear white. I quoted the words as she said them.
– She repudiates them.
– I am quite willing to mention her repudiation to the House. Eighteen months have elapsed since the statement was made, and until I brought it up here the lady never took any opportunity to deny it to the country. Then, as is usual with all who support my friends opposite, when they are challenged with anything, they will tell us that they did not mean what they said.
– Do you suggest that your side never say that they are misreported?
– That is beside the question. I am very sorry that I am not able to withdraw the statement.
– You know why the statement has been twisted and misrepresented.
– I shall do what is perfectly fair. I have quoted the very words which the lady used.
– Have you read the whole of it?
– It concludes with those words, . “ so far’ as this amount is concerned.”
– She has been misrepresented, according to her view.
– Leave it at that.
– The Prime Minister . himself corrected a misrepresentation the other day which has been current for years.
– I feel perfectly satisfied that this lady must have read the report of this very interesting conference, and, seeing that she did not deny or make an attempt to deny it-
– She never thought that it would be so twisted or distorted.
– It is of no use for honorable members to try to tun away from the statement. Mrs. Berry can say what she likes, but here is the statement in black and white. If she is not prepared to stand by the statement, that is an end of it. Apart from this statement, we know quite well that large sums have been spent on behalf of my honorable friends and their cause.
– And on your behalf . £40,000 was’ spent by the Australian Workers’ Union.
– When honorable members are confronted with the amount spent on their side, I have heard them talk, both here and outside, about the amount which has been spent by the Australian’ Workers’ Union. If they would take the trouble to look at the published balance-sheet of that union, they would not make these misrepresentations.- Here is a copy of the balance-sheet, showing, that in the twenty-four years, up to June, 1910, the total amount spent on political and parliamentary work was £12,938, which averages£534 a. year. I know one organizer of : he People’s Party in my electorate who is getting more than that, and his expenses.I am very sorry that I cannot comply with the request of this lady. It is a fair conclusion to draw from the official organ of this very interesting organization.
– I beg to move . the addition of the words “till a later hour this evening “ to the motion.
– If I am not allowed to move my amendment, sir-
– Order ! The honorable member has already spoken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.25p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121205_reps_4_68/>.