4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
Christmas Holidays - Postal Em ployes - Appointments - Treasury Staff.
– In view of the fact that the State, where possible, has allowed its servants extra days during the Christmas season without inconvenience to the public, I ask the Prime Minister if, as on former occasions, he will allow the Commonwealth’s public servants freedom for the two days following Boxing Day ?
– The request. . is a reasonable one. We shall ask our officers to provide for those under them having a holiday on those days, so far as that may be practicable.
– All over the Commonwealth, not in Victoria alone?
– Of course.
– I wish to know, from the Postmaster-General, whether any special allowance or consideration is given to the officials of the Postal Department, particularly the overloaded letter-carriers who have so much extra work to do during the Christmas season ?
– No special allowance is given. The letter-carriers, like all the other officials of the Department, must take the hard with the easy times. They are paid for the work they do during the whole year.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– An answer to the question about the number of permanent officers in the Service could be obtained within a very little time, but the other information will takelonger to get, and it will be necessary for the honorable member to state the data to which he wishes the return made up.
– Say, up to a month ago.
– To the end of November?
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Treasury is undermanned?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
We cannot obtain outside assistance for statistical and Budget work, and it would not be desirable to employ such assistance. It is better to impose a little strain on the permanent staff than to bring in new men.
– In view of the congested state of the notice-paper, I ask the Prime Minister if it is his intention to give any time at all for the discussion of private members’ business?
– I cannot yet fix a date for the discussion of that business, but I have promised faithfully that time would be given for it.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received an official reply to his communication to the Premier. of Queensland, and, if so, what action does he pro pose to take this session regarding the sugar industry?
– I promised yesterday . to lay a copy of the correspondence on the table of the House. I do so now, and move -
That the papers be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sydney Premises - Advances to Private Banks
– The other day I asked the Prime Minister some questions relative to the erection of bank premises in Sydney. Is he yet prepared with a reply ?
– I have not yet the facts before me, but I shall try to get them to-day. They have been asked for.
On the 28th November I undertook, at the request of the honorable member for Wentworth, to make inquiries with reference to the statement that the Commonwealth Bank had made advances to four private banks. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has now forwarded the followingreply - .
I beg to advise that, as the management of the Commonwealth Bank is to be free from political interference, I respectfully decline to answer this, or any question of a similar nature. Full information and returns, as required by the Commonwealth Bank Act, will be furnished from time to time.
– About a month ago
I asked the Postmaster- General a question relating to the case of Mr. E. A. Harden, and a fortnight later he told me that the matter had been submitted to the Crown Law officers. Has a reply yet been received from them, and, if not, when will it be received ?
– I have not yet had a reply, but I shall remind the AttorneyGeneral’s Department of the matter.
Name- Railway to Jervis Bay - Settle ment of Land Difficulties - Administrator - Design.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if it has been determined what name shall be given to the Federal Capital; what is being done in regard to the proposed railway to Jervis Bay ; and what has been done for the settlement of the land troubles.
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of his questions.
– I get that answer every time. I shall move the adjournment of the House about it. Can the Minister tell me whether anything definite has been done towards appointing an Administrator for the Federal Capital.
– The Administrator is in the Federal Capital Territory, with full powers to go on with his work under the Minister, but there can be no permanent appointment until the office has been created by Parliament, and money voted for it.
– I should like to know whether the report of the Committee appointed to consider the plans for the laying out of the city has been adopted. If not, when will the matter be finally settled ? What is delaying the adoption of a design ?
– I thought it only right to have the proposed design exhibited in the Queen’s Hall, to give the various experts in the Federal Parliament an opportunity to criticise it before its adoption. We are waiting to see what the final results will be.
– How long will you wait?
– A day or two.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, ufon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, ufon notice -
In view of the fact that the citizens of Ohio, containing 4,767,121 people, voted for the Initiative Referendum in September last, and that in November last the following seven States also voted, viz. : - Washington, 1,141,990; Nebraska, 1,192,214; Idaho, 325,594; Wyoming, 145,965; Wisconsin, 2,333,860; Nevada, 81,175; and Indiana, 2,700,87,6; being a total of over 12,000,000 population of the United States of America - Will the Minister, if possible, inform the House of the result of such votes at the earliest opportunity?
Debate resumed from 5th December (vide page 6529), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- So far as I am concerned the cardinal objection to this measure can be put in a few words. We are already familiar with proposals for conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, but the constitution at present strictly defines the range of our Federal power. It is now proposed that we shall enter the territory under State control, and legislate for the settlement of disputes between the employ6s of the State railways and the Governments representative of the electors of the States who control and pay them. The Commonwealth is to step between the representative Legislatures of the States and their employes on their railways. We are asked to set up an independent national authority, over and above tribunals already existing in the States, if any, and in every case intervening between the Parliaments of the States and their employed whom they employ and pay.
The one simple and practical consideration is that, when the employer is a State, within its limits, a sovereign State, responsible for the burdens it imposes on its own people, and foc the conduct of its own business, if there be any intervention by another authority, even if that be a fraternal authority, the axe is laid at the root of the tree of State sovereignty, and State prestige, once and for all. We not only depreciate its standing and influence, but, so far, make thereafter the financial policy of that State, and its financial interests, subject to the incursion of another Parliament in another sphere. A Federal alliance between a central Government and associated States always involves a demarcation of spheres. Only thus can they avoid the authoritative supremacy of the central authority and the subjection of each State Legislature. The very essence, the vital principle of a Federal system is that, within their own spheres, and in their own affairs, the State electors shall be absolute masters of their own Houses.
Whatever questions may arise, and there are some, as to the delimitations between the powers allotted to a Federal Government and those reserved to its States - whatever doubts may be entertained as to the drawing of the line of demarcation between particular points - there can be no question but that, once we step in between the employing authority, which finds the money, and carries all the responsibilities of managing the State railways, or any other undertaking, it is not only contrary to constitutional principle to permit such an invasion, dividing authority without dividing responsibility, but it is also bad business. It would be condemned out of hand by every business man as foreign to the essential principle on which these great undertakings must be carried on, whether by Governments or by their public bodies. This is a question of principle, and of fundamental principle.
I admit that, in regard to the particular place at which we draw the line between* our central and State powers, there may sometimes be room for argument ; but contend that, in this case, there is no room for any such discussion. We leave with the States all responsibility for financingtheir own railways and for their employment in the development of their own territory. That responsibility to their electorsthey are bound to fulfil, otherwise the electors are ignored and defied. Therefore,, it is an inexcusable intrusion to step in and interfere between them and their employes in the matter of remuneration, so that the latter are taught to look to another Legislature instead of to that by which they were appointed - to another Legislature than that which is responsible for finding, the money, and for controlling the railwaysso as to pursue the best development of thecountry. These are very serious considerations.
Moreover, there is now no limit to thepower of the State in this regard. Its electors may, if they think fit, require their representatives and their Governments to establish in their own State some authority to which appeal may be made by the servants of the State, whether in the railways or any other employment, if they are aggrieved. That is perfectly within the bounds of State power, and a perfectly proper thing to do, if the State electors sodesire. The decision to-day rests with theGovernments and Legislature responsible to, and representing, the electors. It is a. matter between the people on the one side,, and their chosen representatives on the other. Intervention between them and in defiance of both by another body, however closely allied, and however authoritative within its own bounds, is, it appears to me,, an invasion, which cannot be justified. It is certainly not called for by any existing circumstances.
The future of this continent as a whole depends largely on the development of its railway system. That system, which has already absorbed scores of millions of pounds, will be enlarged, and with every enlargement the number of employes wilt naturally increase. Those affected by any such amendment of the Constitution as that proposed will become larger and largerbodies, more and more capable of expressing their views, and certain to receive the attention of their State representatives. Under these circumstances, no one can suspect that any real hindrance exists, or that any obstacle will be found, in any State, to prevent its people from instructing their representatives in this regard. The States are perfectly free to act in this matter whenever and wherever they please. As there is no constitutional or other obstacle in their way, and this not being, so far as I am aware, a party question, there is absolutely no let or hindrance to prevent, or even delay, the people of a State from grappling with this issue either in the way ‘ now suggested, or in any other way they prefer. Under these circumstances, to ask us, the representatives of the same people, charged with Federal duties in the Federal sphere, to take on ourselves the task of invading the State areas in order to intervene between the State Governments and their employes, shouldering aside the States as employers, for their own public purposes, within their own territory, and on their own railways, is wholly unwarranted by anything in their circumstances, and is not warranted on any Federal principle. Let us reverse the positions. ‘ A proposition of this sort, if supported, not merely by one but by the whole body of the States, suggesting that, for the convenience or advantage of some part of Australia, one or other, or all, of the States should be authorized to intervene between the Commonwealth Parliament, or Government, and the public servants engaged for our public purposes, would be met by honorable members of this House with an irresistible storm of disapprobation. Our constituents would insist, and properly so, that we ought to be masters in our own house, and that, in matters of the kind, we should permit no one to intervene. In this regard, in their relation as employers to employes, the States stand on a footing of equality with the Commonwealth as to rights and powers in respect to the principle involved. Either Government must, either govern or be governed. Interference by another body, whatever else it may mean or whatever else it may lead to, is a Mow levelled at that very sovereignty which is the basic principle of our Federal union in both Federal and State spheres.
.- I was (first asked my opinion with reference to the proposal to bring railway servants under the Federal arbitration laws when I was a candidate for the Senate in 1903. I then stated that I was opposed to the idea, and I have not heard any argument since to cause me to change my mind. It has always seemed to me to be absolutely wrong that this Parliament should, by means of an Arbitration Court, come between the employes on the State railways and the Parliaments that employ them, and have to find their wages by means of taxation. The people who are responsible for finding the money are the persons, and they alone, who should have the say as to the fixing of the salaries, either through Commissioners, Parliament, or any other body or Court they think fit. to create. Apart from the principle I have spoken of, the insuperable difficulty of carrying out an award under the proposal before us has always appealed to me. Before a case could get to the Arbitration Court, it must mean that the Government and Parliament of a State had refused the request made by the employes ; and thus we should start with the State Parliament and Government opposed to the whole proposal. Suppose we got an award, what would happen? If the railways were managed by Commissioners, as an independent corporation, as in Victoria, and they had sufficient funds in hand, as at the present time, they probably would comply with the award ; but an award might mean the expenditure of many thousands of pounds, and, if the Commissioners were short of funds, they would either have to increase fares and freights, decrease the train service, or go to their Parliament, as the Railways Commissioners in Victoria had to do yearly until a few years ago, and ask that the necessary money be placed on the Estimates.. But, supposing that the Government declined to put the money on the Estimates - or suppose that the Government consented, but that Parliament refused to pass the Estimates - what would be the position? What would be the next proceeding? The Federal authorities could not stand by and see the decision of a Federal Court flouted ; and something would have to take place. We may be told that no State authority would flout a decision of the kind, and so bring themselves, we might almost say, into forcible opposition to the Federal power. But we know what has happened in the past. It is possible that there may be in power in the States men like Sir Hector Carruthers or Mr. Wade, who are prepared to fight the Federal Government and all its authorities, by force if necessary, as in the case of the wire-netting. We have to face that possibility ; and, should such a state of affairs arise, the original trouble in regard to wages and salaries would be mild compared to that created by the conflict between the two authorities. If we had to resort to force, or the Federal Arbitration Court placed a receiver in charge of the State railways, the last stage of the trouble would be infinitely worse than the first, and no one could foresee the end. I do not think that what I have indicated is beyond possibility. _ If the railways belonged to the Federation, I should have no objection to placing the employes under the Arbitration Court, and applying to ourselves the same rules that we apply to private employers. But that is altogether different from the proposal before us, and, as I intimated when speaking on a former occasion, I intend to vote against this Bill, as I should have done two years ago if there had been an opportunity to separate it from the other powers proposed.
– This is one of the most important proposals with which this Parliament has had to deal. The honorable member for Gippsland, who has just resumed his seat, touched the gist of the matter when he spoke of the possibility of conflict between the Federal and State Governments. A dispute between railway employes and the State Government is postulated in the very Bill itself. If the Commonwealth Government is to step in and, possibly, say to the State Governments, “You must give these railway men what they want, or we shall take the whole matter out of your hands,” a very serious state of affairs will arise. I ask honorable members to note the language of the proposed amendment. It is to give the Parliament power to legislate for -
The prevention and settlement of industrial disputes in relation to employment in the railway service of a State.
– The honorable member voted for this proposal in 1905.
– Not for this Bill, nor this proposal, but for a proposal then before the House to bring railway servants under the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. It was explained by Sir 1 George Reid, and those of us who voted with him on that occasion, that we voted, not on the merits of the case, but for another purpose altogether. We voted to put an end to the alliance in existence at that time.
– And to bring about a stilt more unholy alliance.
– The honorable member should be the last to talk about an unholy alliance. While he masquerades as an Independent, we find him voting practically every time with the Government., Every one notes the difference between theway in which he argues for and against a-. Government proposal. When he is opposing a Government measure, we hear none of those bitter recriminatory speeches that heis wont to address to the Opposition, and1 to some of his old colleagues on this sideof the House. He simply makes a short statement, as he has done in this case, that he was pledged to vote against such a proposal some years ago, his statement being tantamount to the admission, “ If I could vote for the Government, I should do so, but, being bound as I am, I cannot do so.”’
– I am not bound by any party.
– No, but the honorable member has an eye on his electorate every time. .
– There is a big railway vote in my electorate, but I have the courage of my opinions. I am not considering that vote in opposing this Bill.
– I, too, have a big railway vote in my electorate, and 1 am going to vote with the honorable member. In considering this Bill, we have to determine, first of all, whether the means which at present exist in the States for the settlement of disputes between State railway servants and State Governments are adequate for the purpose. In New South Wales, the largest State of the Union, there are Wages Boards sitting almost constantly, I believe, and, on the whole, I should think, their results are proving fairly satisfactory to the men.
– They will not give the railway men in Victoria either a Wages Board or the right to go to an Arbitration Court.
– And the honorable member and his party want this proposal carried so as to coerce the Victorian Government.
– It is not a matter of coercing.
– The honorable member, in his interjection, has let out the whole secret. It is not because this work can be done better by the Commonwealth, tout because the Victorian Government will not give the railway men a Wages Board.
– They are the biggest sweaters in the community.
– I am glad to hear these interjections, because they show that the point which we ought to consider first and foremost is as to what right we have to coerce State Governments in the management of their own properties.
– We are coercing private employers.
– I doubt if that is the case. At all events, it is not the case in my own State. The honorable member for Cook, who is more intimately concerned with railway matters than is the honorable member for Maribyrnong, has said in this House that the conditions on our State railways are better than those in outside employment. No doubt they are, and I would not have them one whit worse than they are.
The only .thought dominating the Labour party in trying to carry this proposal is that there will be a chance of the men getting before Mr. Justice Higgins.
– It is not fair to make use of the Judge’s name in that way.
– I hope that we may refer to him. The honorable member’s colleague did not hesitate to quote in extenso opinions expressed by Mr. Justice Higgins regarding the qualities of this legislation, when, in fact, he was taking it upon himself to enter into a controversy with the honorable member for Flinders.
– He is a good Judge, anyhow - a good Judge for the posi-tion.
– Of course he is. But one would imagine just now that he was acting as counsel rather than as Judge.
– Order !
– He is a good Judge, but I should not like to have him against me. He seems to argue altogether too much for a Judge who has to decide issues on a perfectly fair basis.
– I do not think the honorable member ought to canvass the merits of the learned Justice in his official capacity.
– I am not. I am talking of what he does, and Mr. Speaker ruled the other day that we might discuss his judgments.
– I think it can be shown that you did not stop another hon orable member from referring to remarks made by Mr. Justice Higgins.
– Will the honorable member proceed?
– It is strange, Mr. Speaker, that while you did not call to order an honorable member opposite when he was citing controversial statements made by the learned Judge, you will not permit me to reply to those statements.
– The honorable member must not say that.
– Then, why are you pulling me up ?
– The honorable member is not entitled to discuss the merits of the Judge.
– I am not. I am discussing what he said in Court. Do you rule, Mr. Speaker, that I may not discuss a quotation that was made in this House by another honorable member?
– I shall wait until the honorable member proceeds.
– I am referring to a statement made by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and intended as a controversial reply to a statement by the honorable member for Flinders. It is, I think, the first time in the history of the Court in Australia that we have had the presiding Judge in such a Court replying to the statements of politicians.
– The honorable member is now going beyond a mere statement. He is criticising the Justice himself, and not the statement made by him.
– Very well, sir, I bow to your ruling, although I confess that I cannot follow it. I understood the’ honorable member for Cook to say last night that under this proposed grant of power there would be set up concurrent State and Federal tribunals, either of which could be appealed to by railway employes.
– This Bill provides, not for an exclusive, but for a concurrent, power.
– The honorable member knows very well that under this proposal there will always be an appeal from one of these powers to the other, and that the Federal power will ride supreme over the power appealed from. If this proposal be carried the Commonwealth Court will have the right to step in even before there is a dispute on a State railway and arrange the wages and conditions- of labour in spite of anything that the
State concerns may do.
– Only after State action fails.
– The honorable member is in error.
– This is not an exclusive power.
– Of course, it is. This power relates to conciliation and arbitration for the “prevention” as well as the settlement of industrial disputes. Could the Commonwealth as well as the State authorities set about arranging wages and conditions with a view to preventing disputes? Could we have two Wages Boards dealing with the same matter at the same time? The honorable member who makes that suggestion knows very well that if this power be granted we can and must step in before any dispute has matured. This power, if exercised, would give the Federal Government the right to step in where there was no dispute.
– That is ridiculous.
– It is not. The principle which I have just enunciated is that upon which Wages Boards throughout Victoria are constituted. It is not necessary that there should be a dispute in order that a Wages Board may be constituted to deal with a particular trade. Such a board is appointed for the very purpose of so regulating conditions in a trade as to prevent an industrial dispute.
– Does this power deal only with disputes?
– No, but since it provides for the prevention as well as the settlement of disputes, it will give to the Commonwealth the right to regulate the railway services of the States with a view to preventing disputes. If the word “ prevention “ were omitted the honorable member’s contention would be right. As it is, the proposal will give the right to the Commonwealth Court to inquire into the whole proceedings of the service from top to bottom. It could appoint Wages Boards, or any other form of inquiry it likes to institute for the purpose of preventing these disputes from coming to a head at all. My point is that, under the power which will be vested in the Commonwealth under this Bill, the Government will be able to investigate the whole of the services of the State railways, and to fix logs for them, even when no dispute has arisen. Consequently, they will be able to control the discipline of the State railways, deter mine the wages conditions which shall obtain on them, and thus practically take their management out of the hands of the State Governments. The Bill means that, and nothing else.
– A Judge would need to be stark staring mad to allow that to be done.
– The honorablemember has only to imagine-
– The honorable member imagines a lot.
– Then I will not imagine it. I take the statement of thehonorable member that the Government of Victoria is the biggest sweater in Australia so far as its railway servants are concerned. The honorable member for Cook has pointed) out that the conditions enjoyed by the men. on the New South Wales railways are better than are those enjoyed by the railway servants in this State, owing to the establishment of Wages Boards there. Under this Bill, that will be a sufficientjustification for the Commonwealth stepping in and making a log for the whole of the Victorianrailways.
– I do not mind that.
– Then, why does the honorable member say that a Judge would be stark staring mad to do it? It is the very purpose of this legislation.
– The honorable member wishes to deprive the railway servants of” votes.
– I do not wishto deprive them of votes or of anything; else. I believe that they are being fairly well treated on the whole by the State Government, and I hope that they will always be well treated. If there are any men who deserve good treatment, it is those who are employed upon our State railways.
– They ought to have the same rights as are enjoyed by other men.
– Admitted for the moment. But that question is quite a different one from that which we are now discussing. Our railway men have as much right as anybody else to justice and fair play. But our Constitution has left the control of our railways in the hands of the States. The States have built their own railways. New South Wales has spent more than£50,000,000 in this direction. While we are going to saddle them with the responsibility of running their railways, and of making them. pay, we are going to take the control of their employes out of their hands.
– What is the difference between a private employer. and the State as an employer?
– The position is quite different. A, private employer, if he cannot run his business successfully, may close down. But when we attempt to fix the conditions of employment on State railways, to be logical we ought to go further and take over the management of those railways.
– I would like to do that.
– I would not, because I do not think that we would get justice in Victoria.
– It is well known that there can be no exercise of concurrent power in connexion with matters of sovereignty, and if there is anything which goes to the very core of the sovereignty of the Commonweath and of the States, it is these instrumentalities without which the Commonwealth on the one side, and the State on the other, cannot be carried on with any degree of success under one form of Federal Government. There is nothing so vital to a State as its railways. A State as such cannot exist without railways. It cannot develop its territory without railways. If we take from the States the power to manage their own railways, we might as well take over those railways in their entirety, and I do not think that would be a good thing to do at the present time.
– A lovely Democrat. The picture of inconsistency.
– I am sure that the honorable member is a good judge. He sits there jabbering all the time. Nobody can make any sense out of what he says. He does not mind how ridiculous he makes himself. Here is a law - the Constitution itself - which clearly disposes of the argument of the honorable member for Cook that there can be two concurrent powers in connexionwith this matter. Section 109 says -
When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.
Inasmuch as this Bill will confer upon the Commonwealth power to make a scale of wages and conditions for the whole of the railways of the States, those States must inevitably lose the control which they now have over industrial conditions on their railways.
The honorable member for East Sydney, who interjected just now, is a good judge of a Democrat. But I would like to remind him that there are many members of his own party to whom his gibe will apply just as much as it does to me. Before he begins gibing at other people I would advise him to go on a missionary enterprise among the members of his own party. I wish now to quote from a speech which was delivered by Mr. McGowen, the Premier of New South Wales, and which bears on this very point. In speaking of the Unification of the industrial interests of the Continent, he said : -
With the six States remaining as now, where one State had better wages than others, there was a spirit of friendly emulation amongst the other five, but where they had only the centralized authority, a kind of medium would be struck, and there would be in reality a levelling down for some of the States. . . .
– From what is the honorable member quoting?
– From the debate of two years ago. That is the statement made by Mr. McGowen in the course of an interview in Sydney during the. currency of that controversy. He was emphatically opposed to the Commonwealth taking over these powers, and he was certainly opposed to the Commonwealth taking over the control of the State railways. He said that the railway men of New South Wales are much better off than are the railway men in the other States, and it was of no use States, where wages and conditions are so much better than they are elsewhere, risking the averaging process which is the very essence of Federal control. Let my honorable friends opposite direct their energies to those States where justice is not being done; where industrial tribunals do not exist, and where conditions are not inaccordance with the high standard of social existence that we have to-day. But do not let them uniform the whole continent by Socializing its natural features. That is practically what this Bill means when it is resolved into its elements. There are many reasons which determine wages and conditions - reasons which are local, and which have to do with climate and geography. It is idle endeavouring to uniform the whole continent as my honorable friends opposite often seek to do.
– The honorable member is a most remarkable man after that.
– I doubt if the honorable member in his heart wants this Bill. At any rate, I know plenty of railway men in New South Wales who do not want it - men who say that they do not stand to gain anything from a process of this kind.
I come now to the question of whether the Government have a right to interfere with the instrumentalities of the States in this radical and drastic way - whether, while leaving the States with their own responsibility, they have a right to step in and say to them, “ We will praotically manage your industrial affairs for you. We will take them out of your hands altogether, and fix such wages and conditions as we think you ought to observe.” When that day arrives it will be time for the States to say to this Parliament, “ As you frame and determine our outgoings, as you frame and determine our income, as by implication, therefore, you insist upon such and such rates being charged, you had better take over the complete control of our railways.” Surely, that is not necessary to insure that the men employed upon our State railways shall get a fair and square deal in relation to the work which they are called upon to perform. My own opinion is that things are moving fast in that direction. It has been said that the lot of the railway employe has been materially improved of recent years, especially in some of the States. That is emphatically the case in regard to New South Wales employes. Good luck to them, I say. I hope that the improvement of conditions will continue, and that the men will be as well off as they deserve to be, in view of the dangerous nature of their employment, and the responsibilities with which they are intrusted. No man has a greater right to fair treatment than the driver of a railway locomotive.
– These men have thousands of lives in their charge.
– Yes. I cannot conceive of any more responsible position than that of a driver of a railway locomotive. He takes his life in his hand every journey he makes. He is entitled to good conditions, and I do not think is in any case overpaid. Indeed, I should like to see that service more highly paid.
– Yet the honorable member is preventing that.
– No. Mr. McGowen, the Leader of the State Labour party, says that the Government proposals will tend, by the adoption of an averaging process, to bring down the rates of those who are best off, although, on the other hand, perhaps, the rates of those worst off may be a little improved. This averaging process is not necessary, and will not contribute to the soundness of our prosperity. Efficiency and prosperity are not likely to be gained by it. But what is proposed now is in keeping with the otherproposals. Every one is to be on the samelevel. To uniform the country as is proposed will in the end create greater inequalities than those we set out to cure. How is a Judge sitting in a Court in one part of Australia to determine the rates of” wages for engine-drivers in Western Australia, Tasmania, and northern Queensland?
– It has been done for theenginedrivers in private employment.
– How long did it take?
– Not long.
– Is the resultconsidered satisfactory ?
– I do not think that it is. There has been a good deal of dissatisfaction. All the troubles ofthose concerned have not by any means been settled.
-They are better off than they were before.
– I hope so; but matters of this kind can be dealt with more easily and better by State authorities than by a central Federal authority. That being my view, I shall vote against the proposal on the ground taken by Mr. McGowen, Mr. Beeby, Mr. Holman, and many otherLabour members who stand stoutly for State control of State instrumentalities. They say that what is proposed will not benefit the employes, who will be morequickly and more fairly dealt with by State - tribunals, acquainted with and guided by local conditions, than by a slow-moving, conservative, central tribunal.
. -The proposed amendment is worthy of a wider discussion and greater ventilation than it has received, and it will be a pity if the debate collapses before honorablemembers have availed themselves of the opportunity to defend or to criticise it. I agree absolutely with the honorable member for Parramatta, that the railway servants of the States are entitled to most. favorable consideration, and that, no doubt, is the view of every member of the House. One cannot but regret. the manifestations of unrest and disatisfaction in some of the State railway services. Most honorable members would like to see provision made by the Parliaments of the States for the redressing of the grievances of their employes. I do not like to hear complaints by these men of the insufficiency of their payments, or of the unsuitability of their conditions, because a Government has not the excuse of insufficient financial resources. In many cases the railway authorities df the States have not displayed the generosity and liberality which I should like to see displayed, and on which I would insist as much as 1 could, were I a State member. Those who travel frequently by railway cannot but admire the work done by the drivers of locomotives, in whose charge are placed so many human lives and such valuable’ property. We must recognise the dangerous nature of the occupation of a railway locomotive driver, and the greatness of the responsibility attached to it. If I had my way, drivers of large engines would receive at least £1 a day ; but I believe that those of the highest grade receive now only 15s. a day.
– The honorable member ought to be Premier of Victoria for a day or two.
– I have always expressed sympathy with , the employes, but that does not prevent me from freely criticising this proposal of the Government. I doubt whether, in the final test, it would, if adopted, prove successful in redressing the grievances of the State employes. At the outset I draw attention to the discrepancy between the title of the Bill and the wording of the proposed amendment. The Bill is a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution by empowering Parliament to make laws with respect to “ industrial disputes in relation to employment in State railway services,” whereas the enacting clause makes provision for legislation for conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of disputes “ in relation to employment in the railway service of any State.” Large Inter-State disputes seem not to be provided for, the intention being apparently that the Federal power should operate in connexion with disputes within any given State railway service. This power seems to be too limited in its scope. Instead of covering great national upheavals, such as might arise from a strike extending by sympathy throughout the railway services of Australia, it is confined to disputes in the railway services of the individual States. Whatever justification there might be for giving the Commonwealth jurisdiction in respect to Inter-State disputes, it cannot be urged in support of a proposal for interference in regard to disputes in the railway service of any particular State. Under this power, the Federal authority will have jurisdiction to interfere in the smallest and most trifling dispute that may arise in any State railway service. It can be hardly thought necessary to create a Federal tribunal to deal with such disputes, yet, apparently, any dissatisfied individual in the railway service of a State, is to have the right to appeal to a Federal tribunal. There might be some argument in favour of the Federal authority intervening in a great, far-reaching dispute, with ramifications in one or two States, not merely to preserve the peace, but to insist on provision being made for the carriage of the mails. It has been held in the United States of America that it is quite within the compass of Federal jurisdiction to intervene to prevent any obstruction to the carriage of the mails between two or more States, and it could also be urged that the Federation should intervene to prevent breaches of the peace, or to secure the free flow of Inter- State commerce. That is a Federal idea, and whenever there is Federal necessity for intervention, either in commercial or industrial matters, there may be strong arguments in favour of the amendment of the Constitution. But the amendment before us is not based on Federal considerations. It gives the Federal authority power to intervene in the most trifling and insignificant dispute that may occur in the railway service of a State. The absurdity of such a limited form of constitutional amendment is that it might forbid intervention in an Inter-State railway dispute, and, perhaps, prevent the Court from settling by one hearing and determination, a dispute extending over two States. If the amendment before us is adopted, the Arbitration Court will be able to entertain only one dispute, namely, a dispute in any railway service of a State, to the exclusion of disputes extending over several State railways, and this is surely inconsistent with the title of the Bill. It seems to me that either the drafting is inadequate, or that the idea has not been properly expressed; and there may be a breakdown or unexpected consequences if the Federal authority is given jurisdiction over small disputes which might well be left to the railway authorities. That is merely as to the form of the amendment, and now I come to its substance or reality. I ask the House to consider the absolutely antiFederal character of a proposition involving Federal intervention in the government of State instrumentalities. We ought to have a reasonable, working, peaceful Federation, or no Federation at all. Federation means a complete demarcation and cleavage between State functions and State authorities, and Federal functions and authorities. The Federal principle means that there is such a division of power that each of the separate governing agencies is to act within its respective sphere, without overlapping and without any conflict, except such conflicts as may arise in law, which are to be determined by the High Court as the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution and the arbiter between the two governing agencies. This proposition, I submit, is absolutely inconsistent with, and repugnant to, the true principle of Federation. It means the wedge that, if inserted, will in the end shiver our Federation to atoms, because it will be absolutely impossible to preserve the Federal and State areas each independent of the other. The Federal authorities and the State authorities have their rights, powers, and jurisdiction preserved by the Constitution as it stands. But here we have an attempt to grant to the Federal authority, or an authority created by Federal law, power without responsibility. It means giving the Federal agency and Court power to intervene in, interfere with, direct, modify, and determine the operations of the State railways without the consequential responsibility. The honorable member for Gippsland, in his short speech this morning, fairly and reasonably summarized the fundamental objections to this proposed amendment, and showed how absolutely unworkable it must be in practice. In each of the States the railways are vested in independent Commissioners who have the power to determine largely, if not completely, the conditions of employment. In New South Wales, I believe, the railway employes, in addition to the jurisdiction of the Com missioners, have the right to apply to the local Arbitration Court and other industrial authorities. . This is a great concession which I think does not obtain in Victoria.
– There is a separate Board of Appeal in South Australia.
– That is for punishments only.
– At any rate, in New South Wales, where there is a highly developed form of industrial legislation, there are special safeguards; and provisions for appeal over the heads of the Commissioners to an authority outside. That, of course, amounts to an interference with the independent governing of the railways by the Commissioners, but it is an interference by and a reference to another authority created by the State Parliament, which naturally undertakes to honour and carry out the decisions of the extra authority. In the Bill before us, however, it is proposed to create a Federal authority outside the State sphere of action and legislation, and to give that Federal authority the power to decide any railway disputes. Supposing that an award, and possibly a just award, were made in favour of the railway servants of a State, and the Railway Commissioners, backed up by the State Government and Parliament refused to carry it out, what would then be the position? We should have, on the one hand, the Federal authority ordering the award to be carried into effect, and, on the other hand, the State authorities refusing to recognise it. This would bring matters to a deadlock ; and if there were no possibility of a settlement, it would mean the chance of a civil war. I should like some competent advocate of this most extraordinary proposition to show how such a problem is to be solved without leading absolutely to the smash up of the Federation.
– Inmy opinion this is a direct challenge by the Federal authorities to the State authorities. On the occasion of the last referenda the strongest objections were those to the control proposed to be taken over State railways and State instrumentalities, and it was pointed out that if the referenda were carried, the Commonwealth Parliament would have the power to regulate freights on State railways.
– That is not so.
– That is not so now ; and the exception that is made is a recognition of the objections raised on the last occasion, to this Parliament interfering in any way with the Railway Commissioners, so far as freights are concerned. The exemption of the railways under the trade and commerce power is an evidence that the Government are satisfied that the case of the other side in this respect was a good one, and that they made a mistake on the last occasion. In this Bill, however, the Government seek control over the railway servants of the various States. Of course there may be justification for discontent at times amongst railway servants, but, as a matter of fact, the men employed on the State railways of this country are better provided for than any other section of the industrial community. That view is borne out by information to the effect that the applications are always much more numerous than the vacancies in the Victorian railway service. I protest against any attempt to interfere with the control of the railway servants of the States, because it cannot have any other effect than to destroy the efficiency of the services.
– It is contended that these proposals are unnecessary, and too wide and sweeping in their nature. Dealing with this general charge and applying it first of allto the question of the corporation power, the honorable and learned member for Flinders said that the proposed power was unnecessarily wide for the purpose of enabling us to pass a general companies law, and would not assist us materially to deal with trusts, combines, and monopolies. In support of this argument, he quoted Eddy on Combinations. I must remind him and the House that on a previous occasion he also quoted Eddy in support of the general contention, which he then very strongly advanced, that the States could not deal with this matter at all, and that it was necessary to vest in the Commonwealth Parliament sufficient power to deal with it. As for me, I shall leave Eddy alone. He is a fountain, so to speak, under which we may all hold our pannikins. The honorable member for Flinders’ argument is that this corporation power is too wide, because it gives us more authority than is necessary for the purpose ; that it will create confusion ; because, he says, it will mean one law for persons and another law for companies. He quoted, in support of his contention, from the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins in the Huddart Parker case. The learned
Justice, when giving his decision against the validity of sections 5 and 8 of the Anti-trust Act, to which I shall refer later, said, referring to the argument for the Crown -
If it is right, the Federal Parliament is in a position to frame a new system of libel laws applicable to newspapers owned by corporations, while the State law of libel would have to remain applicable to newspapers owned by individuals……
If it is right, the Federal Parliament may enact that no foreign, or trading, or financial corporation shall pay its employes less than 10s. a day, or charge more than 6 per cent, interest, whereas other corporations and persons would be free from such restrictions. If it is right, the Federal Parliament can enact that no officer of a corporation shall fie an Atheist or a Baptist, or that all must be teetotallers. If it is right, the Federal Parliament can repeal the Statute of Frauds for contracts of a corporation. . .
That is a rather picturesque application of the reductio ad absurdum argument. I take no exception to it. There it is for what it is worth, and we have to ask ourselves what it is worth. The answer is, it is worth very little. It can be applied to anything. It can certainly be applied to our power to pass laws with respect to banking and insurance. I shall so applyit -
If it is right, the Federal Parliament is in a position to frame a new system of libel laws applicable to newspapers - owned by banking and insurance corporations - while the State law of libel would have to remain applicable to newspapers owned by individuals - and companies such as banking and insurance corporations -
If it is right, the Federal Parliament may enact that - no banking or insurance corporation - shall pay its employes less than 10s. a day, or charge more than 6 per cent, interest, whereas other corporations and persons would be free from such restrictions. If it is right the Federal Parliament can enact that no officer of- an insurance or banking corporation - shall be an Atheist or a Baptist.
What is there in such an argument ? We have power now, and have always had power, to deal as we please with insurance and banking corporations, whether they be in a State or not. We have power to determine the law of libel in regard to newspapers issued by such corporations. We have power to deal with them in every phase of their operations. We have never used the power in such absurd fashion. This Parliament would never do so. No Parliament would be so utterly foolish as to attempt to do so. There is nothing in this kind of criticism at all, and the honorable member for Flinders, in seeking to apply it to the Bill before the House, did himself an injustice. It was not his usual method, since it is not argument at all. Let us come to his argument.
The honorable member says that we ought not to have a law applicable to persons differing from a law applicable to companies. I do not agree with that statement, even if it were true that the granting of the power would have that result. Regard must be had to circumstances. A method suitable for dealing with one variety of felines, for instance, is not suitable for all. One does not treat a domestic cat and a tiger in the -same way, although both are cats. Methods sufficient for dealing with a small individual trader are quite insufficient to control the great Steel or Oil Trust. Methods suited to restrain a boy of ten or twelve years of age are futile and absurd when applied to an athlete in training, or to a strong man determined to use all his strength against us. The law in regard to corporations is not necessarily the same, nor ought it to be the same, as the law with regard to persons. There is a potency in numbers, and we. must recognise and prepare for it. In order that equal treatment should be meted out to all, whether they be great corporations or individuals, the law must have in its armoury a variety of weapons so as to be equally effective against all.
As to the honorable member’s contention that confusion would arise, I should like to know how it would occur. The honorable member’s argument may be answered in two ways. First of all, there can be no confusion, for if we get that for which we are asking there will be, not two authorities, but one. We shall have authority under the trade and commerce power to deal with persons; we shall have authority under the corporation power to deal with corporations. Very well. There is no room for confusion in such a case. But suppose we get this power, and do not get the trade and commerce power. Is there anything wrong about that; ought we not still to have this power? Supposing we did have power to deal with corporations, why should the honorable member think that this Parliament would be so childish and absurd as to exercise that power to the extent and in the direction he has mentioned? Why should he suggest that, if we had power over corporations, we could decree that none but a Baptist should get employment in corporations ; that a person, who was not an athiest should not be employed by a corporation, or that none but teetotallers should be given employment. We have not exercised in that way the very great powers now vested in us. Need I remind the House that we have exercised them in a way which led the honorable member for Flinders, when speaking in this chamber in 1910, to say, “ Why not trust this Parliament and the people?” When this measure was before the House in 19 10 the honorable member certainly did not approve it. But, at the same time, I am bound to say that the grave and terrible consequences which he outlined the other day of obtaining such a grant qf power, did not then appear to him. At any rate, he did not tell us about them.
– The honorable gentleman is entirely wrong there.
– I have read the honorable member’s speech very carefully.
– I used exactly the same argument, and I gave exactly the same illustrations, as I did before.
– The honorable member cannot get in a speech at this stage. I will say, again, if it will please the honorable member, that he did not approve this Bill in 1910, and that he does not approve it now. But the dangers which the honorable member now foresees, as attendant upon this proposed grant’ of power, did not appear to strike him in 19 10, or, at all events, he did not lay them before the House.
– That is where the honorable member is wrong.
– I wish to point out that the power for which we are asking is one which was believed by this Parliament, and in particular by the honorable member for Ballarat and his followers, to be actually vested in the Commonwealth. We are asking for power to deal with corporations. The honorable member for Flinders, in support of his contention that we we asking for too wide a power, said it was sufficient that we should deal with the status of corporations - deal with them at their birth and at their death. I entirely disagree with him. The point is that we have no power now to deal with the behaviour of corporations. For all practical purposes we have no power to deal with them at all. That was clearly laid down in the Huddart Parker case. We cannot now pass a general companies law. It was certainly understood before the decision in that case that we had such a power. The Parliament acted not only upon that assumption, but on much more. The Parliament assumed that we had power to deal with the behaviour of corporations. I will prove it. When the Australian Industries Preservation Act was before this House, sections 5 and 8 were inserted to give that very power which the honorable member says it is necessary we should have. Section 5 provides that any foreign corporation, or trading or financial corporation formed within the Commonwealth, that enters into any contract, or engages in any combination with intent to restrain trade, or to destroy or injure, by means of unfair competition, any Australian industry, shall be guilty of an offence punishable by a penalty of £500. Under section 8, it was declared that any foreign corporation, or trading or financial corporation, formed within the Commonwealth which monopolized or attempted to monopolize trade or commerce, should be guilty of an offence, and liable to a penalty of a5°°- The judgment in the Huddart Parker case decided, however, that those provisions were ultra vires of the Constitution. Therefore they have not been effective. It was at the instigation of the honorable member for Ballarat that the House inserted those provisions in the Bill. The honorable member was then, I think, Prime Minister, and he, and many of those now associated with him, heartily supported them. The Parliament approved the proposal. We have, therefore, a distinct recognition of the fact that the Government and the Parliament of that day believed that we had power, not merely over the States, but also over the behaviour of corporations. It was thought then that we had that power, and that it ought to be exercised. I see no less reason for its exercise to-day. Surely the need for it is not less now than in 1908. When the honorable member for Darling Downs, who had charge of the Bill providing for an amendment of the Anti-Trust Act, was dealing with it in this House, he said, in urging its acceptance^ -
Our investigation leads us to believe that, in order that we may effectively cope with the evil, it is necessary for us to secure the powers for which the Bill provides.
Speaking of combines, he said- -
They are exercising their powers to the detriment of the public.
I would emphasize the point that the honorable member was referring to combines, including companies and corporations, covered by sections 5 and 8 of the AntiTrust Act, which have since been held to be ultra vires. He went on to say - and it is because they are doing so that it is necessary for us to take action and to ask for these powers. The powers for which this Bill provides are not unknown to other countries, or even to our own law.
The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs was very emphatic. Admittedly, the honorable member for Flinders, if he approved of that provision, did so in a very lukewarm way. He is opposed to this proposal; but I may point out to him that he is now associated with those who supported it by ties so intimate that he cannot very well dissociate himself from them, their sayings, and their actions. Those who are associated with him heartily supported and advocated the passing of legislation providing for the very thing which we are now asking power to do - to control the behaviour of corporations.
There is no power in the Commonwealth to even make a general company law, no power to deal effectively with corporations at all; yet there is no sphere of human activity which demand the rule of law more. The field occupied by corporations, according to the very unsatisfactory statistics at our disposal, shows that in Australia there are ^300,000,000 invested in companies. Are we to have no control over a field in which this vast amount of capital is invested? Are our functions in regard to corporations to be confined merely to officiating over their entrance into the world, to bury them when they go out of the world, and to permit them to do what harm they may choose while they are here ? Are we to sit still while they behave as they please, to the detriment of the public? Is that the application of the advice, intimate and profound, which the honorable member gave us in 1910, when he counselled us to “ Trust the National Parliament.” There ought to be control of the conduct of corporations, as well as power to usher them into the world, and power to wind them up. I submit that companies stand in the same relation to the community as children do to individuals. Companies are the children of modern society. How absurd is the contention that society should not have power to control the behaviour of its own children. We must control them or they will control us. Companies are the units by which commerce is now largely carried on.
Corporations are largely the units of trusts. The honorable member says that it is not so. But I say that corporations are the warp . and woof of trusts and combines, that the overwhelming majority of the trusts and combines throughout the world are made up of the aggregation of companies, and that the great power with which the Sherman Act is vested is the power to dissolve trusts into their constituent elements, that is, into separate companies. Are we not to follow those elements and scrutinize their subsequent actions ? Are we to say, “ Get ye gone to your homes” and then to lose control over them? How absurd to lose control just at the moment when control is most necessary.
The honorable member for Flinders directed the same argument towards clauses 5 and 8 of the Australian Industries Preservation Bill as he has employed against the. general power which will be conferred by this Bill. While the honorable member for Darling Downs was speaking on that measure in 1908 he interjected -
The honorable member is proposing that a medicine which is suitable for a man in a raging fever shall be taken by a man who wishes to avoid a cold in his head.
– No. But we all know that prevention is much better than disease. The honorable member’s contention is that we should leave combines alone. He says in effect of a combine, “ It is only a little chap. Give him a hiding and that will cure him. After he grows up you can, if you like, put him in gaol.” We know that the evils exist in the United States-
I say that the honorable member adopted towards this proposal an attitude which placed him in complete antagonism to those gentlemen who are responsible for almost every piece of legislation, including the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which was enacted by this Parliament before the Labour party came into office. To all, or nearly all, of this legislation the honorable and learned member for Flinders was consistently opposed. Yet now his former opponents hang upon his lightest word. His every utterance is inscribed upon tablets. The Opposition now tell the citizens, with an air of finality, “ He has said it.” But when he said the very same thing in 1908 what did they do? They either voted him down or treated him with indifference, because the Bill embodying the principles which he then and now denounces, became law.
The corporation power is the necessary complement of the trade and commerce power. The power asked for is not too wide. Less would be futile for any purpose, no matter how limited. I wish to say a word or two upon this phase of the matter. We have had an ample exhibition of the results of this Parliament taking to itself insufficient power. Section 51, sub-section xx. of the Constitution provides -
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 foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
It was thought that that provision vested this Parliament with power over corporations - not only over their status, but over their behaviour. It was a contention which was based upon sound ground. In the Constitution which was drafted by the Federal Convention in 1891 it was proposed to vest in the Commonwealth power over the status of corporations only. But in the Constitution which was framed in Adelaide in 1897 the word “ status “ was deliberately omitted, and the Bill provided for vesting in the Commonwealth power over corporations without any words of limitation. The history of the Federal movement shows that as the Federal idea developed there was a tendency to vest more and more authority in this Parliament, and consequently the honorable member for Ballarat was perfectly right in assuming that we had power over the behaviour of corporations. He acted upon that assumption, and embodied the principle inthe Anti-Trust Act. But the High Court declared that, in spite of the plain words of paragraph xx. of section 51, we had not the power. Is not this lesson plain enough for every citizen to learn? Is it not clear that unless we have full powers over corporations we have none? That power we are asking for now. That power he thought- we ought to have in 1908, and most of those who sit with the honorable member thought the same. The honorable member for Darling Downs was emphatic about it in 1908. Why has he changed his opinion ? Its possession will give rise to no confusion. There will be no dual control. Unless this Parliament becomes lunatic, there will be none of the absurd and foolish abuses of power at which the honorable member has hinted. We could now, if we chose, abuse our power of taxation by taking 19s. 6d. out of every £1 earned in this country. We could abuse our powers of defence. But Parliament does not do these things. Parliaments are conditioned by their environment, and are controlled by the people.
I come now to the other Bill dealing with the proposal to amend the Constitution to give Parliament power to make laws in regard to trusts, combinations, and monopolies relating to manufacture or the production or supply of goods or services. The honorable member for Flinders said yesterday that this Bill would lead us into a legal impasse. He said that the power to deal with trusts, combines, and monopolies in regard to the production of goods or the supply of services would create very great difficulty, and would involve Parliament in endless confusion owing to the divided control of the power to interpret the word “monopolies.” He said that in regard to the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill, Parliament had power to interpret that word, tout that in regard to monopolies in this Bill, the High Court would interpret it. He urged that there would be a clash of authority. He was asked if he could define the term “monopolies,” and he replied “No.” When dealing with . the matter upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill, I said that “ monopolies “ was a word which, so far, defied definition ; that an attempt to define it only led to more and more confusion. But whilst we cannot define a monopoly, it is quite simple to understand what a monopoly is. The honorable member for Flinders argued that there will be a clashing of authority, and that as a result this Bill will be useless. Let us set out the position. The Bill deals with only one class of combination, or trust, or monopoly, and not with all classes. It deals with monopolies which affect the manufacture of goods or the supply of services. It does not deal with monopolies in regard to trade and commerce, or with combines in regard to trade and commerce, but merely in regard to manufacture. In short, it provides the supplementary power to the trade and commerce power, so that very much of the honorable member’s ingenious argument falls to the ground, because it does not relate to all the trusts, combines, and monopolies, but only some of them. In brief, this is a measure to enable us to get over the decision in E. C. Knight v. United States, which I quoted the other day. That lays down quite distinctly that the trade and commerce power does not authorize us to deal with trusts and combines in relation to manufacture. Therefore, even if the full trade and commerce power is granted as we ask, we shall still be unable to deal with trusts and combinations and monopolies in regard to manufacture. That is, we shall have no power over half the subject. So much for that point.
The Bill deals with trusts, combinations, and monopolies - three things - and we shall have power over all, and not over monopolies merely. We may enact that any combination which does so and so shall be liable to such and such consequences. Now, a combination can be dealt with without reference to whether it is a monopoly or not ; it is sufficient if it is a combination. A trust can be dealt with without reference to a monopoly. It is sufficient if it is a trust. Suppose that, under the proposed amendment of the Constitution, a Bill relating to trusts, combines, or monopolies, were passed, what the prosecution would have to prove is either the existence of a trust, or a monopoly, or a combine. It must prove one of these three things in relation to manufacture or the supply of service. It need prove only one. Therefore, the interpretation of the word “ monopoly “ is not essential to the exercise of the power at all. It is effective without the word.
The honorable member for Flinders says that there may be a clash of interpretation. Let us see if there can be. He has assumed that this Parliament will take no notice of a decision of the High Court, and that the High Court will take no notice of a decision of this Parliament. What reason has he for saying so? Suppose that a decision of this Parliament precedes a judgment of the High Court as to what is a monopoly, are we to assume that the High Court will take no notice of that decision ?
– It would not even be evidence before the High Court.
– I do not say that it would. But the same evidence which is before the High Court could be before this Parliament. That is to say, this Parliament is composed of men who are as well able to express an opinion of what is a monopoly as is anybody else. The honorable member himself pointed out that the High Court is so far from certain as to the meaning ofthe word “monopoly,” that one Justice says, “ This is a monopoly,” while two others say, “ It is not a monopoly.” But he does not urge that as a reason why the High Court should not have the power which is vested in it. He says, in effect, “ You may come to loggerheads as much as you like.” Why, sir, how can there be more confusion than at present? The High Court, according to the honorable member’s argument, may be quite unable to agree as to the meaning of a plain word. That is not material. They may be safely trusted to give a decision on something upon which they cannot agree. But if the Parliament differs from the interpretation which the majority of the Court put upon any word, that would be dreadful. Why ! It is high time we understood where we are. Plain words are no longer plain. The High Court is going to tell us what “ industry “ means. At present it does not know. We were all under the impression that we knew. But evidently we do not. The Chief Justice of the High Court says that it is the most elusive and subtle of words. This declaration has so unsettled my opinion, that I propose to ask the House to amend the Constitution Alteration (Industrial Matters) Bill, so as to make quite clear what we mean, if byany words at our command we can do so. The High Court cannot agree as to what is the meaning of the word “ monopoly.” Here is the definition of it as set forth in the American cases. In the Standard Oil case, the dictum in the Mogul case was cited that “ Exclusion by competition is not monopolizing.” It was held that -
Monopolizing within the Act - the Sherman Act - is the appropriation of trade by means of contracts, combinations, or conspiracies in restraint of trade, or other unlawful or tortious acts whereby “ the subject in general is restrained from that liberty of . . . trading which he had before.”
In United States of America v. E. C. Knight, 156, United States Reports, it was laid down that-
All the authorities agree that in order to vitiate a contract or combination it is not essential that its result be a complete monopoly.
The Sherman Act provides that -
Every person who shall monopolize or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons to monopolize any part of trade or commerce, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour.
The judgment from which I am quoting continues -
It is sufficient if it really tend to that end, and to deprive the public of the advantages which Sow from free competition.
In the Northern Security cases, 196, United States Reports, 197, it was held that -
It need not be shewn that the combination in effect results or will result in a total suppression of trade, or in a complete monopoly, but it is only essential to show by its necessary operation it tends to restrain Inter-State or International trade or commerce.
In the case of the Standard Oil Companyv. United States of America, 221, United States Reports, 25, this was laid down -
Neither did Congress have in mind an absolute monopoly. This can only be obtained by legislative grant. In a country like ours, whereevery one is free to enter the field of industry, no absolute monopoly is probable. It is sufficient to bring it within the act of the combination if the aggregation of capital tends to monopoly or is reasonably calculated to bring, about the things forbidden.
In the case of the American Tobacco Company, 220, United States Reports, 106, it was shown that the combination controlled at least 75 per cent. of the whole trade in tobacco, and this was held to be a monopoly ; but our Court has said that where 90 per cent. of a trade is controlled it is not a monopoly. Under the circumstances, I think we are doingright in asking for power to enable this Parliament to determine what a monopoly is. I cannot see why it should not be able to do so. It does not matter whether a combination absolutely excludes all persons from trading, if it tends to exclude them. If it substantially interferes with free opportunities, that is sufficient.
As for this Bill, it is very necessary. It will not create confusion; it will prevent it. We are not confined tomonopolies. It will be sufficient that there is a trust or a combine. It does not matter whether we establish that there is a monopoly or not. If there is a combination, or if it is a corporation, we shall have power to deal with it, whether it is a monopoly or not. The honorable member for Flinders spoke about the clashing of the two authorities, but why should there be a clashing? The honorable member for Maribyrnong asked whether the InterState Commission could not decide this?To that the honorable member replied- “ No.” The honorable member for Maribyrnong then asked, “ Suppose the InterState Commission investigated a corporation: and determined that it was a monopoly.” To that the honorable member for Flinders replied - “ The Inter-State Commission will have no authority whatever to determine the matter.” I ask the honorablemember, “Why not?” The Inter- StateCommission can be given this power, and I see no reason why it should not be given* the power. Somebody must make inquiries. This Parliament appoints Royal Commissions or other bodies to make inquiries ; it does not do the work itself. Later the honorable membersaid, “ This is the very policy we advocate.” It is the first time that I have heard of it. What does “we” mean? Does it mean the honorable gentleman when opposing the policy of his colleagues, ©r his colleagues when opposing him.
– I referred to the policy of the Opposition as announced in this debate by its leader.
– There has been no suggestion by any one on that side that the question of deciding what a monopoly is should be remitted to the Inter- State Commission. Certainly it is not the policy of honorable members opposite. I admit that their policy is Protean; it changes from hour to hour, from election to election, so that no one can be blamed for misunderstanding it.
One other point and I have done. The honorable member for Flinders said that since this Bill dealt with ‘‘monopolies,” which we could not define, and which the High Court would interpret, and since we propose to fix prices in regard to “ monopolies,” the power for which we ask is vague and indefinite, and its exercise would be uncertain and of little use. My reply to the honorable member’s argument is, first, that the power covers trusts and combines as well as monopolies. And, second, it is not proposed to regulate only prices controlled by monopolies. I said ‘ something very different. I said that where there is free competition prices are regulated by the law of supply and demand. There- is no need for the law to interfere in such cases. The law of supply and demand operates under those circumstances. But when free competition ceases from any cause to operate by reason of a combination, a ring, or an understanding, honorable or otherwise, it is the business of the Parliament to see that the community is not exploited. It is untrue to say that the law of supply and demand determines all prices at the present time. The honorable member for Flinders, in all his illustrations, exhibited a total inability to grasp some of the common facts of life. That is not to his discredit. Happily for him he has not had to delve and dive into these matters as some of us have had to do. His ideas regarding trade axe those of a philosopher rather than of a man of affairs. In dealing with this question of prices, let us go back to first principles. The honorable member says -
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 increases of, and more complex organization in connexion with, capital, manufacture, labour, and production in all their forms. But combinations, whether of capitalists, manufacturers, fruitgrowers, dairymen, producers, artisans, or workmen, are all subject to the same possible evils, and require the same kind of regulation.
With those views I am in cordial agreement, and I thank the honorable member for so ably expressing my own views. I said, speaking on the Bill -
I believe. in co-operation. I believe that both in its. principles and its results it is so obviously superior to competition that sensible, civilized men can scarcely hesitate as to which they will accept. Combination, instead of cut-throat competition, is very much better for the people, provided that it exists for the benefit of the people and not for the benefit of the few who control the combination.
– We are not agreed there. The honorable member states that organization excludes competition.
– Let me now state the first principles of this phase of the economic position. The people have determined that every citizen of Australia shall have the opportunity to live under decent conditions. No semblance of serfdom, of absolute and servile dependence on the will of another, is to exist if the people can by any means prevent it. To that policy Australia is committed. The duty of Parliament is to see that every citizen gets a fair show, that the opportunities so bounteously provided by Nature are made available to all. We have adopted the principle that a fair and reasonable return must be given for labour, embodied-; it in our legislation, and have established State and Federal tribunals to regulate wagesand conditions of work. These tribunals say to every man that comes before them, “ Your labour is worth, on the whole, so much, and you must be paid so much.” That is an interference with what is called the natural law of supply and demand. Although, in a condition of free competition, some men might be compelled to sell their labour for 6s. a day, if a Court says that they must be paid 8s. or ros., they must get the larger amount. That is an interference with natural conditions to insure fair and reasonable opportunities to all. Will any one say it is not a proper interference with what is called the natural law of supply and demand? But there is a sphere into which we have barely entered. What does a man work for? Not for *£2 or or £4 a week - so many sovereigns placed in his hand - but for a given quantity of commodities ; he sells his labour for what he requires to eat and wear, and what is necessary for the maintenance, education, and recreation of himself and family. If the prices of these essentials to civilized man are raised by persons who have absolute control of the supply of them, if there is no competition for the sale or supply of such things, what becomes of the policy which has received the benediction of the Opposition, and the approval of every elector, or 99 out of every 100 electors, in the country? If prices are fixed by rings and wages by law, then to raise wages helps very little, for increased prices will always absorb every increase of wages.
We have to lay down the principle that wherever the assurance of a fair and reasonable wage to all men is interfered with by anything which prevents the consumer getting the benefits of free competition, and by means of which the price of the necessary commodities and services are fixed by private individuals for their own : benefit, then this Parliament ought to have the power to remove the restriction and insure either free competition, or, at any rate, fair prices. That is the principle and the position. When we interfere with the law of supply and demand in wages we must necessarily interfere with the law of supply and demand in other directions. Wages are only another side of prices. If I receive £3 a week when prices are 100, and prices increase to 120, my wage is no longer £3. It has been reduced by 20 per cent. So far from confining ourselves to monopolies in this matter, I lay down the broad principle that where there is free competition, there is no necessity to attempt, and we ought not to attempt, to regulate prices which are then naturally brought down to that margin of profit above the cost of production which pays a man to engage in the business. Trusts and combines, as Hobson has put it, are not satisfied with the fair profit received from a fair competitive price, but raise their prices so as to extort an excessive profit. There is just the difference between such exploitation of the public and fair profit, that there is between interest and usury. We do not object to a man receiving a fair return on his capital, any more than we object to a workman receiving a fair return for his labour; but when it is left to private individuals to fix the price of the necessaries of life of every man, woman, and child in the community, is there to be no power to review, to consider, or even to inquire into the circumstances under which they fix those prices? That is an intolerable and impossible state of affairs.
I now turn to the industrial side of the question, only emphasizing in passing, that the position, as laid down by me, has not only been recognised by the Leader of the Opposition but has been put in practice by him, not in the way I propose, but in, at all events, a crude, if not barbaric, fashion. The honorable and learned member even fixed prices by statute, and laid it down that harvesters must be sold at a certain price under penalty. In speaking of that measure, the Leader of the Opposition said -
The intention was that the cash price should be fixed by law -
There is nothing ambiguous about that- and that the credit price would, in consequence, be adjusted more or less accurately in relation thereto…… That does not show that Parliament was deceived or misled, but merely that it did not pass an Act which was as effectual as it might have made it under more favorable conditions. But I am assured that the Act has been efficient, and that the cash prices fixed by law are being charged to-day, also that the credit prices have been affected.
That is a clear and undeniable statement by the Leader of the Opposition that it was desirable to fix prices, in a way which I think crude and do not approve. He made Parliament fix the price of harvesters, and Parliament is notoriously the most unfit body to do such work.
My time is almost up. I must hurry along. It is said that the power in relation to labour and employment is too wide ; but that is what is said of every one of the powers proposed. However, the honorable member for Flinders, who is our unfailing source of inspiration - our rock of ages - said in 1910, in reference to the industrial powers -
But whatever legislation we may pass, we cannot, unless we give the Central Parliament the final and super-eminent control, deal effectually with all the cases which may arise. . . . I do not see what we have to be afraid of. We, on this side, should not be afraid to give this Parliament a wider power because the governing political party is strongly opposed to us on these matters.
– What does the honorable member mean by giving this Parliament supereminent control?
– I mean the ultimate legislative power, so that the laws of the State shall be subordinate to its laws, if it makes any.
I refer the Leader of the Opposition to that statement. Let him ponder over it. The honorable member for Flinders pointed out what is undeniably true, namely, that every word of the power as it stands in sub-section xxxv. has been the subject of endless debate, which is even now going on. When the honorable and learned member spoke, we thought that we knew what “ industry and “ dispute “ meant ; but we now find that we were in error. The honorable member said that this Parliament ought to have authority to make super-eminent laws. We are asking for that, and nothing short of it will do. The honorable member for Ballarat said, in the most unambiguous way, that the National Parliament should have power to make laws in reference to industrial matters in every protected industry. He did not then bother about State rights. On the contrary, he said that he was tired of waiting for the States to do something - in his own words, that it was hopeless to expect them to do anything. In the face of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition asked for such powers, that the new Protection policy is founded on fixing fair prices for the consumer and fair and reasonable wages for the workers in all protected industries, and the honorable member for Flinders said that this Parliament should have super-eminent power in this connexion. Why should we not have this power ? Why should this Parliament not have an opportunity to maintain industrial peace? There never was greater need of such a power. According to the newspapers of this very day, we are now confronted with the possibility of a great maritime strike. In two words I shall tell the House the actual position. Some months ago the Arbitration Court made an award in reference to the Merchant Service Guild, which is composed of masters and officers employed on Australian ships. That award covered persons employed in Intra-State boats. An application was quite recently made for an order of prohibition. The application is now before the High Court. The Guild has stated that if the award is held to be ultra vires in regard to Intra-State shipping, they will lay-up all ships ; and there is no power iri Australia that has jurisdiction to prevent that strike. If a strike be averted, it will not be because of the law, but because of the power and influence of organizations which honorable members opposite affect to despise. But this is an anomalous and even dangerous position. There ought to be no dispute outside, the power of the law to deal with. There ought to be power under the law to insure that, when a Court has fairly considered the merits of a case, and laid down conditions, those conditions shall be faithfully carried out by both masters and men. If the High Court declares that the Arbitration Court has no power to deal with Intra-State shipping, the members of the’ Guild will be denied what the Arbitration Court held to be fair and reasonable, and industrial peace will be seriously menaced.
The objection that the powers asked for are too wide is the bogey which is continually being ‘conjured up by honorable members opposite - it is the. bogey that the honorable member for Ballarat denounced when he was confronted with an Opposition led by the honorable member for Parramatta, who talked of new Protection and many other things with which the honorable member for Ballarat was at that time doing something more than coquetting. We are told of the many dangers of granting these wide powers, and yet only two years ago we were assured by the man on whom chief reliance is placed now for stating the constitutional position for the Opposition that Parliament ought to be intrusted with such powers. How are we to maintain industrial peace when there is not uniformity of laws - no power to make super-eminent, laws - when before a case can be settled by the Arbitration Court 500 respondents have to be cited? As a matter of fact, in the Builders and Labourers case there are close on 500 respondents, each of whom has the right to be heard. The Tramways cases are being protracted simply because practically the same facts are being heard five or six times over. In my opinion, industrial peace is more precious to this country than even the opportunity of honorable members opposite to get into office. Most emphatically, the proper and most straightforward course for honorable members opposite would be to declare that these powers are necessary, but that Labour men ought not to be allowed to exercise them; they should straightout declare that the powers should be intrusted to themselves, and not to a Labour Government. That would be an honorable and statesmanlike policy to place before the people. The honorable member for Flinders, two years ago, made a speech to that effect - why does he not do so now? We on this side have not changed our policy in this matter. We have always advocated certain principles; we advocate them now. We demand a fair and reasonable wage for all workers, and fair and reasonable prices for consumers. We ask that every person in the community shall be protected, and that there shall be fair laws for all men, rich and poor, whether they be corporations or individuals. In commercial trading or manufacturing pursuits, we ask that there shall be vested in this Parliament power to secure industrial peace, and to stimulate the commercial and industrial life of the country - power to insure to all fair and equal opportunities to a fair share of that abundance that God intended for all.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2 p.m.
Question - That this Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes), by leave, put-
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5th Decem ber (vide page 6506) of motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5th December (vide page 6527), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by omitting from paragraph (xxxv.) the words “ Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State,” and inserting in their stead 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.”
– I move -
That after the word “Labour” the word “ and “ be inserted.
I move the amendment so that the words “Labour,” “employment,” and “unemployment “ shall be taken as standing each by itself. As it stands, “employment” and “ unemployment “ may be regarded as qualifying “ Labour.”
– Is the amendment intended to make the scope of the clause wider ?
– Possibly. I think that the amendment is desirable in view of what has been said by the Chief Justice of the High Court. We wish to have power to make laws in respect to labour, and employment, and unemployment. I do not know what “Labour” means, though I know . what “employment” means, and what “ unemployment “ means.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That after the word “ industry,” line11, the word “ occupation “ be inserted.
I make the amendment for what it is worth, having read the remarks of the -Chief Justice in the Merchant Service Guild case with very great care, interest, and some perturbation of spirit. I have searched the dictionary, and it is the best word that I can find for the purpose.
.- It is difficult for the Opposition to know what the Attorney-General means if he is not conscious of his own meaning. I remember vaising the question whether the leading words “ Labour, employment and unemployment “ were of equal weight, or whether the Latin phrase ejusdem generis would apply. I take it that the title of the Bill will govern the meaning of the word “occupation,” otherwise it may be taken to cover other than industrial matters. That has been the rule adopted by the High Court, which has looked at the title of a Bill to get a general idea as to its scope. It is not intended to widen the scope of the Bill to cover every possible occupation or calling.
– The Chief Justice said, in the Merchant Service Guild case, that “ industry “ is a most subtle and elusive word. It may be held not to include “occupation.” Possibly “calling” does not include “occupation.” “Occupation “ may include those who are not included in “ industry.” The late Mr. Justice O’Connor held that marine engineers were doubtfully included within the operation of the Act. Theirs is not a profession in the ordinary sense of the term as applied to the practice of law or medicine, nor can it be said to be a calling in relation to labour. If the word “ labour “ governed the remaining parts of the clause, it is doubtful whether they would be included, and we are desirous of including them.
.- One wants to know what to tell the people is the meaning of this measure; if we do not know what it means, we had best ask them to reject the proposal it contains. I ask for information with a view to helping the Government. I do not think that the meaning of the word “ industry “ in general was discussed in the Merchant Service Guild case heard last week in Sydney, at which I was present all the time. There were a few casual observations as to the meaning of the word “ industry,” but the point raised in the case was whether a voyage between two ports within a State could be said to be the same, or part of the same industry as a voyage between ports in different States.
– The Chief Justice said, “ Tell us what you mean by ‘ industry.’ “
– I think that the meaning of the word was discussed in the Jumbunna case and in the Engineers’ case, but it was held by the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Isaacs that the difficulty arose rather under the” terms of the Act than under the terms of the Constitution, the definition of the Act being more restricted than the scope of the Constitution. I am afraid that it may not be clear that the calling or occupation referred to is an industrial calling or occupation.
– “ Calling “ is a word of the same kind as “occupation,” and if the scope of the Bill does not go beyond calling in relation to industrial matters, it will nob go beyond occupation in relation to industrial matters.
– It would, I think, be correct to say that this is a Bill to give us power to deal with industrial labour and industrial occupation, but does it not go beyond that?
– A person must be employed.
– He must be an operative, a person capable of being employed. The relation of employer and employe must now exist, mere qualification for employment not being enough, but the last amendment of the law provided that a man may be an employe by being usually or ordinarily engaged in certain pursuits. I think that “ labour “ will cover dealings with industrial labour whether employed or not, and that the character of the labour, occupation, service and calling dealt with is indicated in the preamble.
– The insertion of this word does not alter the nature of the Bill.
– This is a Bill to deal with industrial matters. The difficulty of ascertaining the meaning of calling or occupation, in the High Court’s decisions, was in relation to what Parliament meant, not in relation to the power of Parliament. I believe that this is a Bill to deal with calling, occupation, employment, and labour in industrial matters, but not in other matters.
– I seems to me that the AttorneyGeneral does not know where he is, but we should know where we are. We have been told repeatedly by honorable members opposite that they have no wish to interfere with the employment of school teachers, professors, and callings of that kind. As the honorable member does not seem to know what “ labour “ means exactly, we should try to define and limit its meaning as much as possible. In that view I propose to move an amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Joseph Cook) put -
That after the word “ unemployment “ the words “in industries” be inserted.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That after the word “industry,” line 11, the word “ occupation “ be inserted.
– I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted : - “ (ba) Strikes and lockouts.” 1 submit this amendment because it has been stated that “ dispute “ does not, or possibly does not include “strike” or “ lock out.”
– In the midst of all these legal gentlemen, it is somewhat difficult to find out exactly how we stand. The AttorneyGeneral tells us calmly, in spite of the fact that this is a Bill for the maintenance of industrial peace, and the settlement of industrial disputes, that there is a doubt as to whether strikes and locks-out come within its provision.
– There is no doubt at all - apparently, strikes and locks-out are not included.
.- It has been stated that a “ strike “is not a “ dispute “ within the meaning of sub-section
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4th December (vide page 6384) of motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a’ second time.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 15
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) by leave put -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– The business that we might possibly transact between now and the hour at which we usually adjourn would be so immaterial that I think that, after the ordeal through which we have just passed, it is well that we should now adjourn. We propose to conclude the consideration of the last of the Bills providing for an alteration of the Constitution before any other business is seriously taken. That being so, the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill will be the first business when the House meets on Monday, and we shall continue its consideration until the vote upon it is taken. That, I anticipate, will be at any time between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Tuesday, but not later.
– If honorable members opposite help us by keeping quiet, but not before 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.
– The next business to be taken will be the scheme for the redistribution of the electoral boundaries ofNew South Wales, and we shall dispose of that business before we adjourn for the night. In view of the stage of the session which we have reached, I think that is only fair.
– Hear, hear.
– If that business is disposed of at an early hour we shall proceed with other matters in the order in which they appear on the notice-paper. I appeal to honorable members on both sides of the House to present as concisely as possible their views on the several questions yet to “be dealt with, in order that we may bring the session to an early and happy conclusion. I ask for the co-operation of the Opposition so that we may all spend a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I understand from inquiries that have been instituted that no special provision is being made to cope with the large volume of mail matter that will have to be delivered in the metropolitan area of Sydney during the Christmas season. Representations have been made to me by the municipal council of Erskineville that last year the letter-carriers in that suburb of Sydney were entirely unable to cope with the work, and that, from inquiries made by the council, the Department does not appear to appreciate thoroughly the necessity of making suitable and adequate provision for the approaching season. I therefore ask the Postmaster-General whether he will cause special inquiries to be made, with a view of providing in the metropolitan area sufficient additional assistance to enable mail matter to be delivered, with despatch. I do not think that parcels consisting of Christmas presents, as well as important letters intended for delivery by Christmas, should be delivered two or three days later. That has happened in previous years, and I ask the Postmaster-General to take precautions to obviate the recurrence of the difficulty.
– The question of providing the assistance necessary to deal expeditiously with the Christmas business has engaged the attention of the Department for a considerable time. 1 may inform the honorable member that we intend to be guided by. the experience of previous years, and I hope that he will find existing in the locality mentioned by him during the approaching Christmas season a better condition of affairs than he says prevailed last year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121206_reps_4_69/>.