4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Ministers laid upon the table the fol lowing papers : -
Naval Defence of the Empire - Memorandum prepared by the Board of Admiralty at the request of the Prime Minister of Canada.
Ordered to be printed.
Census and Statistics Act - Provisional Regulation re TradeUnion Statistics - Statutory Rules1912, No. 227.
Public Service Act - Department of the Trea- sury - Promotion of T. Gillin and Miss J. W. Thompson to new positions of Clerk, 4th Class,Pensions Branch, New South Wales.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until half-past 10 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
Design for City
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if he proposes to adopt the design for the Federal Capital arrived at by his departmental officers, or whether he proposes to obtain expert advice in regard to it ?
– If we ask for expert advice, the danger is that we may never get the Capital started. At the same time I do not like to adopt the design unless it is satisfactory to the members of this Parliament’.
– We cannot judge of its merits.
– What is the Minister doing in the matter ?
– I am waiting to see what the experts in this House will do.
– The Minister seems to cast himself on the mercy of the House as to the procedure to be followed in reference to the adoption of a design for laying-out the Federal Capital. To a perfectly untutored person like myself, a glance at the plans leaves the problem more hopeless than it was before. In view of the Minister’s appeal, let me ask him if he sees any reason why those who were chosen to adjudicate on the original designs, and to award prizes in the order of merit, cannot be asked to give their opinion upon the departmental conglomerate?
- Mr. Cohen, the Chairman of the Board referred to, is absolutely in favour of the departmental design, but, if I were to call all the experts together to advise regarding it, I do not know when we should be able to get to business. However, I am thinking over the matter carefully.
– As one opposed to the whole thing, root and branch, I ask the Minister if, before deciding to adopt any of them, he will obtain from each member of this Parliament his individual opinion upon the several designs that have been submitted.
– I have great, faith in members of Parliament, but that suggestion will have to be considered.
– I would like to impress on the Minister of Home Affairs theimportance of arriving at a decision upon the merits of the various designs for the Federal Capital before the session closes. In order to facilitate that, honorable members should be furnished with the best opinions which can be obtained in regard to the design which the Minister proposes to adopt. For all I know, it may be the best possible design - on the contrary, it may not. We require expert advice.
– Personally, I was inclined to adopt the American design, but the officers tell me that it would’ be so vast that they could not give effect to it. They say it would be very costly. At the same time, they assure me that they have adopted the best features of it.
– Who are those officers?
– Colonel Miller, Colonel Owen, Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Oakshott, and Mr. Scrivener. They saythat the design which they favour is a splendid one, that it incorporates the best features of all the designs, and that, at the same time, it will be much cheaper tocarry out: I am not an expert myself.
– I wish to ask theMinister of Home Affairs whether the whole of the resources of Yass- Canberra are to be utilized to keep the artificial lake which it is proposed to establish there at the height which is represented in the picture of the Federal City, during the summer ?
– There issufficient water there to float the Great Eastern.
– Following on thereply given by the Prime Minister to aquestion asked last week, that, as far as possible, an extended holiday would be given at Christmas time to the members of the Commonwealth Public Service, I ask the right honorable gentleman if the temporary as well as the permanent officers will enjoy this concession?
– My answer was general. I said that what was desired would be done, as far as might be practicable. j did not impose any limitation.
Purchase of Moorak Estate - Harness Factory - Compensation for Injuries
– It is stated in this morning’s Age that the Minister of Home Affairs said, on Saturday, that he had purchased for the Government Moorak homestead at Mount Gambier, South Australia, and, as immediate possession, of the property was not required by the Commonwealth, authority had been given for its being leased at rentals to be determined by him. I wish to know if the statement is correct, and whether it is the policy of this Government to buy properties which it does not need to use? Is it the intention of the Government to enter into the land and estate business?
– No. The Defence Department authorized us to acquire the property in question, and we had to take a little more than was actually needed in order to get the land at a reasonable price.
– On the 4th instant, the honorable member for Wentworth asked the following questions : -
The replies are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
On what dates, and in what newspapers, were applications invited by advertisement or otherwise for the position of Foreman Canvas Worker in the Commonwealth Harness Factory?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is : -
Applications were invited in the principal daily newspapers in the capital cities of the several States in August and September,1911, for canvas workers for the Harness Factory. The position of foreman was not specially mentioned in the advertisement.
– I ask the Honorary Minister, who represents the Minister of Defence, if the latter has noticed that a benighted nation like Austria is making provision for the wives and families of men killed in war, and for men who may be injured in war? Does he not think that we in Australia might make an attempt to do something of the same kind?
– I am not aware whether the Minister of Defence has noticed what the honorable member refers to, but I do not think that he would agree with him in regardingAustria as a “ benighted “ nation. If anything happens to a member of our Defence Force in the carrying out of his special work, compensation is granted.
– You have made no provision for that.
– I ask the Honorary Minister if he can inform the House what right the members of our Defence Force have, under existing legislation, to the compensation of their families in the event of their death, or of themselves in the event of their disability, on active service?
– They have none.
– Yes, they have.
– The honorable member’s energy and powers of research are such that I need but remind him that he can, by looking up the various Defence Acts, ascertain exactly what the provisions of the law are.
– Does the Honorary Minister know of an instance since the inception of Federation in which any member of our Naval or Military Forces has been refused compensation for injury on active service, or in the exercise of his duty while on general service?
– I have no knowledge ‘ of any such instance. When injury results to a man in the course of his occupation as a member of the Naval or Military Forces, he receives compensation.
– What is given is always the result of a special vote.
– I ask the Minister of Defence-
– You had better get Mr. Page to ask the question. Then the Minister may answer it.
– I wish to know if it is not a fact that no member of the Naval or Military Forces has any statutory right, under the Act or regulations, to a pension or allowance for disability caused during active service, or to the compensation of his relatives in the event of his death?
– Before the question is answered, I remind the honorable member for Parramatta that his remark was most insulting to the Honorary Minister. He should withdraw it, and apologize for having uttered it.
– I should like to call attention to the fact that the Honorary Minister insulted the honorable member for Wentworth.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat? I called upon him to withdraw, and apologize for the remark he made, and he must do so.
– He is entitled to state his position.
– I withdraw and apologize. I now desire to make a personal explanation. My remark was prompted by the fact that the Honorary Minister insulted the honorable member for Wentworth in reply to his question.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat? It is not a personal explanation which he is making. If the Honorary Minister insulted the honorable member for Wentworth in replying to his question it was the duty of the honorable member for Wentworth, if he felt aggrieved, to take exception to that reply.
– Or of any other honorable member.
– It was not the duty of the honorable member for Parramatta at all. In any case, that is not the point which I have to decide. The point which
I have to determine is the disorderly nature of the remark which the honorable member made across the chamber. I think he will see that such observations ought not to be made.
– On a point of order, sir, do you rule that an honorablemember may not call attention to any remark made by a Minister in circumstances that he considers insulting to another honorable member ?
– The honorable member knows that 1 have not ruled that.
– That is my point.
– It is not.
– I regard the reply of the Honorary Minister as most insulting.
– The honorable member is now adding to his offence. A question was asked by the honorable member for Wentworth of the Honorary Minister who gave what I presume he thought was a reply to it. The honorable member for Parramatta says that it was ‘insulting. If I had thought so I would have called upon the Honorary Minister to withdraw the words and apologize. The honorable member for Parramatta made an insulting remark across the chamber when it wastotally uncalled for. I must ask honorable members not to indulge in observations of that sort.
– I would like the question which I put to the Honorary Minister to be answered.
– The honorable member ‘is as well aware as I am that there is no pension payable to the members of our Naval or Military Forces.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister if he will extend to the members of our Defence Forces the same right of appealing to a Court for the settlement of their differences as is extended’ to all other employes of the Commonwealth ?
– 1 see no objection. When catch questions of that kind are put to me I say that, off the battle-field, I see no objection whatever. I think that the members of our Defence Forces would’ suffer by the adoption of the course suggested.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government have yet considered the question of granting gratuities to the widows of deserving officers of the Civil Service?
– A number of special cases have been under consideration for a long time. It is really a vexed question, which I think will be got rid of by the Workmen’s Compensation Act, which we have just passed. It is proposed to extend the provisions of that Act to the Defence Forces as far as possible.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the low death rate which obtains amongst the military profession, it is the intention of the Government to give special privileges to the members of our Military Forces ?
– There is one golden policy to adopt, namely, to treat everybody alike. It will be time enough to consider special cases when they arise.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he is yet in a position to say when he will be able to announce thepersonnel of the Royal Commission which it is proposed to appoint to report upon a public works policy for the Northern Territory, and especially a railway policy?
– Several weeks agoI asked the Prime Minister whether it was the intention of the Government to do anything to recognise the conduct of industrial heroes - for example, the heroic conduct of certain miners in connexion with the recent Mount Lyell disaster. Have the Government done anything in that direction, and, if not, what are their intentions ?
– The matterhas received consideration at the hands of the Government, and communications have passed between various quarters. I think that the late King established a very high honour, which is conferred in the Old Country for special work done in mines alone. We do not want to come into conflict with any provision of that kind. If that honour can be conferred in Australia, perhaps that would meet the wish of the honorable member.
– I want something purely Australian.
– The matter has not been lost sight of, but we do not want to duplicate the provision which has been made for the distribution of Humane Society’s medals. The settlement of this question will naturally take a little time.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intend to take any steps to recognise the great services rendered by the late Mr. Justice O’Connor?
– I do not know the extent of thehonorable member’s question. We all appreciate the great services rendered by the late Mr. Justice O’Connor, and also by the distinguished statesmen who have passed away since Federation. That is a bigger question than is the recognition of the services of any individual. I presume that the honorable member does not want to press the matter further than that.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. The electoral administration is alive to the need of making additional provision for electors in view of the number of questions which will be included on the referendum ballotpapers.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 5840), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- In resuming the debate on this Bill, I propose, at the outset of my remarks, to endeavour to make a brief analysis of the effect and significance of the amendment of the Constitution proposed by it. It will be noticed on the face of the proposal that it is not restricted to any undertaking of a Federal, or Australian, or Inter-State character, but is applied to any occupation, or business, or calling, or industry, for producing, manufacturing, or supplying services, regardless altogether of the magnitude or extent of the industry or business affected. It is not, therefore, intended to grapple with far-extending Australian monopolies. No such limitation is included in the proposal. The smallest and most insignificant alleged monopoly may be dealt with as well as services of the widest and most far-reaching character. The next observation is as to the application of the Bill to industries or businesses. It may be applied to an industry producing, manufacturing, or supplying specified services. An “industry,” I apprehend, means something in the nature of production and manufacture. It may; be mechanical production, or it may be production originating from the soil itself. A “ business “ would, I take it, mean some proceeding in which there was buying or selling of goods and products. The -third subdivision of the grant of power regards the supplying of specified services. That probably is intended to cover the taking over of power to deal with, say, private railways, or private tramways, or a carrying business, such as an Inter-State shipping business. It would probably cover all kinds of carrying business. Then the Bill provides that anything of this kind, whether a business or an industry, producing or manufacturing, or supplying services, may be declared a monopoly, on the two Houses of Parliament concurring; and when it is so declared to be a monopoly by the two Houses, Parliament may have power to make laws for the regulation of such industry or business, under the control of the Commonwealth-, and to acquire for such purpose any property used in connexion with it. T merely mention the carrying business as an instance of specified services.
– It is not specified in the Bill ; it may be specified by Parliament.
– There is no limitation in the Bill. I was illustrating in what w.ay the power may be used.
There is no restriction as to what services are intended to be covered. It certainly would include the carrying trade, and anything in which service of any kind was involved. It would be difficult, indeed, to conjecture to what kind of service this “Bill would be limited. It would include and embrace every kind of trade, occupation and calling which might come within the meaning of “service.” .Some may contend that it could be extended to the monopolization of the medical profession, because the pursuit of that profession ‘involves some kind of service; or to the monopolization of the engineering profession; or to any trade or calling in which a service was rendered. “Service” seems to be quite as unlimited in the terms in which it is expressed as “monopoly.” “ Monopoly “ is the most important word in the whole clause; and with respect to monopolies there is no attempt at definition, it being apparently left to the absolute, unrestricted, arbitrary will of Parliament. One may have an idea as to the meaning of “ monopoly “ apart altogether from its historical meaning. One would think that according to our modern ideas it would mean any particular trade, calling, or occupation in which there was a tendency towards, or had been an actual affecting of, a consolidation or cohesion or gathering together of businesses or occupations into the hands and under the control of a limited number of persons. It undoubtedly connotes the idea of restraint of trade of some kind to the prejudice of the public. But here there is no limitation of the word “ monopoly “ either to restraint of trade or to the method of carrying on any business. There are no words of limitation showing whether such monopoly is intended to be such as may be to the detriment of the public, or whether it may include a beneficial monopoly.
– Would the honorable member find the Bill more acceptable if there were a limitation ?
– If there were a limitation the Bill would certainly not be open to the attack which I am now .directing to it.
– It would depend on the limitation.
– Yes. Taking the form and substance of the proposed constitutional amendment, it seems that it may be generally described as an attempt to enable the Commonwealth Government to become producers, traders, manufacturers, carriers) and purveyors of services generally in competition with or to> the exclusion, of private enterprise. That, is my general definition of the meaning of this Bill - that it would enable the Commonwealth Government to operate in competition with private enterprise or to the exclusion of private enterprise. The Government might bring down a Bill to declare one particular calling or business, either producing, manufacturing, or service-rendering, a monopoly. The proposed amendment also gives power to vest such trade, calling, or business, either exclusively in the control or jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, or concurrently, and in competition with, private enterprise. It would probably be much better if we do intervene in such a case, to take over a business altogether, rather than engage in ruinous cutthroat competition. Where there is reserved, as an act of grace, the right to compete with the Government, the probabilities are that the Government will make the pace so hot and strong, and of such a cut-throat and ruinous character, that private enterprise will soon be driven out of the field. So that, even if a concurrent right be reserved to the public, it will be a bare right, which, in all probability, will not long continue to be exercised. I take a preliminary objection to the form of this grant of power as one altogether out of place in a Federal Constitution, because of the absolute declaratory or interpreting authority which is vested in the Parliament. It is proposed to give Parliament, not only authority to exercise the power, but also to act as its own interpreter of the power ; and, in that respect, of course, it violates the fundamental principle of our Constitution, and, indeed, of every other Federal Constitution. It is well known, no doubt, as the result of these debates, that a Federal Constitution contains a distribution of powers - legislative, administrative, and judicial - between the central or Federal Government on the one hand, and the States or provincial Governments on the other. That is the essence of a. federation- a distribution of powers and a dual system of government - and the advantage and utility of this arrangement is that the powers are distributed according to efficiency. A wide,, general national power is given to the Federal Government, because that Government can most efficiently exercise such wide, far- reaching powers:, whereas the local or provincial power is given to the States because they, being in touch with local personal, matters, can more- efficiently and successfully carry out work in respect, thereto But, in order to preserve harmony between, the two working systems of government, the. delimitation of power must be clear and. specific, not vague and conflicting;, and certainly neither of these two sets, of governing agencies should, be made or allowed to be the interpreter of its own jurisdiction, powers, and authority. While general words are used in the Constitution to divide the powers wherever there is a conflict or. difference of opinion, the High. Court, or the Supreme Court of the Federation, is the arbiter or the judge to decide finally where there is an excessive exercise of power or an encroachment of one authority on the other. It is by this means that harmony, co-operation,, and peace are secured in a federation.. Hence; it is highly necessary, in an amendment, of the original instrument, that there should be a clear differentiation or clear definition of the grant of power, without leaving it to the judgment, discretion, or ipse dixit, of a branch of the governing agencies to say whether it is or is not within its powers. In giving the two Houses declaratory or interpreting authority to say what constitutes a monopoly, we violate this federal principle of distribution - we violate the principle of harmony. The effect, whether unintentional or otherwise, will be to grant to the central Government more power than may be deemed necessary even by the advocates of the concession. The power, therefore, will lack certainty and definiteness, because the two Houses may hereafter concur in declaring some business, calling, or occupation connected with production or manufacturing, to be a monopoly, when, in truth and in fact, it may not be a monopoly, either in the commonlaw definition, or the common-sense definition of the term. A . decision may be arrived at to nationalize a certain business on the ground that it is a monopoly, when it is not deserving of being so branded and there are no public reasons or justification for its being brought under the denunciation or suspicion of being a monopoly. And yet, under this Bill, the most innocent, and even beneficial, business or calling might be seized, by reason of the two Houses concurring, branded as a monopoly, and taken from the originators and conductors and transformed into an exclusive Government or national business to the absolute ruin of those concerned. According to the Bill, the only condition on the exercise of this power is that, in taking over the control of a business branded as a monopoly, any property used in connexion therewith may be acquired on “just terms.” I invite the attention of honorable members, and also of the public generally, to the fact that the Commonwealth Government, in so taking over a business or calling from a private individual, firm, or corporation, are under no obligation to give equitable compensation for the loss of the business - for the good-will or the income - for the earning power of the business ; all that the Government have to do is to give compensation for the bare loss of the property used in connexion with the business. But this property may not be the most valuable asset; there may be a large amount of liquid capital used in connexion with the business still available to the company or person, but what the persons interested in the deprivation will suffer most, may be, not merely the loss of the visible property, but the loss of the goodwill, the means of carrying on the trade, or the trade connexion, and, above all, the opportunity to carry on a business which they expected to be able to carry on freely in a free country. This will no longer be a free country if this Bill is carried - no longer a free country in which to carry on a business with the full assurance and guarantee that there will be no such thing as confiscation possible at the hands of the Commonwealth. The most valuable business might be confiscated under the sham or pretence of giving compensation for a property, no compensation whatever being given for the loss of the business itself.
– How can the honorable member say that, when the Bill provides for “just terms “ ?
– No compensation is provided for the good-will, but only for the property. A business may have been built up by years of hard work, industry, and perseverance, or it may have been handed down from one generation to another in a family ; and yet it may be taken away without any compensation for the loss of any trade mark, trade right, or trade interest.
– How does the honorable member define “ just terms “ ?
– Those words are confined to the property used in a business.
– Would they not also include the other valued considerations?
– I am just reminded that this provision for “ just terms ‘ ‘ was inserted at the suggestion of the Opposition when the previous referenda proposals were before Parliament; but, under the Bill, there is no compensation for the deprivation of the good-will or the incomeearning power of a business.
– Would that not be incidental to the application of the provision for “ just terms “ ?
– There is nothing as to their incidental application in the Bill - they merely apply to property used in connexion with a business. If this power were once vested in this Parliament it would be held in terrorem over the whole of the business community of Australia engaged in every calling and occupation, whether producing, manufacturing, or service rendering. Business people would be under continual apprehension that when they had worked up their business to a high pitch of success the Commonwealth Government might pounce upon them at any time and call upon them to stand and deliver in the terms of this Bill.
– A policeman can run in any man whenever he likes, but he does not do so.
– I am dealing with the power proposed to be taken for the Commonwealth Parliament, and I assume that if it is included within the four corners of the Constitution, the object will be that it may be utilized, and that the dominant majority at any time may utilize it for any purpose they think fit consistent with their policy. My next objection to the proposal is that it seeks a grant of power in connexion with trading, manufacturing, and service-rendering concerns, the exercise of which would exceed the true functions of the Federal Government. Governmental interference with private callings and private enterprise should be confined to the regulation and control of private enterprise and industry, and should not be exercised to supersede or destroy them. That is a fair proposition to submit to the House on the present occasion, especially in view of the fact that no strong case has been made out for this wide grant of power to deal, not only with the largest, but with the most microscopic businesses in Australia. It cannot be urged that the State Parliaments have not the power to deal with most of the alleged monopolies.
They have the power to deal with any class of trade or business coming within the meaning of public utilities, and which it might be advisable to convert into Government institutions.
– Have the States used that power?
– The State Parliaments possess that power, and where it is necessary that it should be exercised it may be exercised more judiciously by a State than by the Commonwealth Government.
– Because they could deal with the matter on a limited and judicious scale rather than on the wide, magnificent, gigantic scale on which it is proposed to deal with such matters under this Bill. Why should this Parliament propose to interfere with the operations of any small or insignificant business concern? So far as is necessary for the purpose of carrying out the true objectand purposes of Federation this Parliament already possesses abundance of power under the Constitution as it stands. The whole history of our Federation up to the present time shows that the Parliament has been disposed to freely exercise, not only the direct grant of power conferred upon it under the Constitution, but also the powers incidental to the express and direct powers conferred upon it. If there were any defect or imperfection in the Constitution as it stands, in the matter of the powers conferred on this Parliament, there might be some justification or warrant for an amendment of the Constitution to increase the Federal powers. I notice that in a speech delivered at Newcastle on the 23rd November last the Minister of Defence said -
You will be asked for power to control trusts, and especially ironworks, in connexion with the referenda. If we had had that power we could have established our own Federal ironworks and made rails for the transcontinental railway.
I admit that if our Constitution were as defective as is suggested in that passage from the Minister of Defence, honorable members opposite would have strong grounds for asking for further powers for this Parliament. But I can hardly credit the fact that a Minister of such recognised capacity as Senator Pearce can have fallen into such an error as to say that if we had had that power we could have established our own Federal ironworks and made rails for the transcontinental railway.
I am not aware that any party in this House has ever asserted that the Federal Parliament has not, under the Constitution as it stands, abundant power to carry out all necessary operations incidental to railway construction by the Commonwealth, and for the maintenance of defence.
– The Minister of Defence said more. He said that if we had the power we should be able to supply the States.
– I am not dealing with what more the Minister may have said. He has alleged that the existing Constitution is defective, and that we have not the power to make rails for our railways, or establish ironworks, and construct armaments necessary for our defence.
– That is most unfair.. The honorable gentleman is quoting a condensed newspaper report, and there was an explanation of the matter read in this House.
– I have quoted from a report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and in a number of Victorian newspapers, and I am satisfied that the Minister of Defence must have said something of the kind. He may since have seen fit to qualify what he said. I have quoted what he has been reported in the newspapers to have said, and the point is that these remarks, as printed, are calculated to mislead the public, and induce people to believe that, on the grounds stated, it is necessary that they should vote in favour of these proposals. I say that, under the Constitution as it stands, we have the power to establish and to make rails for our railways.
– The Minister of Defence is not responsible for what appears in the press.
– I hope that the time taken up by these interjections will be allowed for in estimating the duration of my speech.
– I appeal to honorable members to discontinue their interjections.
– I do not wish to ignore interjections, but my time is so limited that if I reply to them I shall be unable to do justice to the subject. There is an express provision of the Constitution granting to this Parliament all the incidental powers necessary to enable it to fully exercise the main and direct powers conferred on it. It is clear that this Parliament, having the power to construct railways, and provide for the defence of the
Commonwealth, has also the necessary incidental power to establish- ironworks for providing the material necessary for railway construction, and for the building, of battleships necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth. There is no lack of power in this Parliament under the Constitution as it stands, so far as these matters are concerned. We have the same power to make provision for the material necessary for railways constructed by the Commonwealth as any State Parliament has to provide the material necessary for railway construction by a State. We have full power, under the Constitution, to establish ironworks and operate coal mines if necessary for Commonwealth purposes. I would point out by way of illustrating the liberal manner in which this incidental power has been exercised what action has been taken in this direction, and taken apparently with the concurrence of both parties. There has already been established in Victoria a Commonwealth Cordite Factory at a cost of ,£99,935 j a Woollen Factory for the purpose of manufacturing piece-goods at a cost of £27,983 ; and a Clothing Factory to provide uniforms for the Defence Forces and postal officials at a cost of ,£26,787. Then, again, a Small Arms Factory - another illustration of the incidental power of Defence - has been provided at Lithgow at a cost of £170,749 ; and a Harness Factory in Melbourne at a cost of ,£10,250, making a total of over .£335,000. That sum has been expended by the Commonwealth up to the present in the exercise of its incidental powers in respect of Defence and the Postmaster-General’s Department. There is therefore a liberal grant of power, and there has been a liberal exercise of that power. Not content with that, however, honorable members opposite desire that we should establish factories to compete with private enterprise. It has been suggested that we should start . Commonwealth woollen factories in order to sell direct to the public, thereby . coming into competition with, and probably working the ruin and destruction of, already existing private woollen- and clothing factories.
– That could not be done unless a monopoly existed.
– A business might be declared to be a monopoly by both Houses of Parliament, and from that decision there could be no appeal. That is one- of my strongest objections to this proposal. Any private factory might be de clared by both Houses of Parliament to be a monopoly, and from that declaration, however outrageous it might be, there could be no appeal.
– The honorable member for Flinders says that an appeal would lie to the High Court.
– No; the honorable member was referring to the proposed amendment of the Constitution in respect to our power to regulate trusts, combines, and monopolies. An appeal might lie to the High Court from the exercise of that power, but there would be no such right in this case. There has been an increase of Commonwealth functions for Commonwealth’ purposes. But there is already abundant power in that respect, and there has been an abundant exercise of that power. Some honorable members, however, not satisfied with that, desire that the Commonwealth should launch upon a scheme to take over private works to compete with, absorb, and, if necessary, wipe out private enterprise in all these fields of industrial and commercial activity. No doubt this is intended to be the first step towards the nationalization or Socialization of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange. It is admitted that this is a march towards that Socialism which many honorable members opposite so strongly advocate.
– That is exactly what some of the old Conservatives said whenwe desired many years ago to nationalize the railways.
– There can be no doubt that in respect of certain forms of activity such as the railways, the post office, and the tramways there is complete and ample justification for governmental action. I think that all those great lines of communication which involve territorial jurisdiction and territorial functions which, when exercised, may affect largely the local or territorial destinies of any part of the country may well be taken over as public utilities. Not that they would be more successfully carried on by the Government than they would be by private enterprise, but because it would not be desirable to allow any big corporation or great aggregation of individuals to exercise even industrial functions that might be utilized in a manner that would determine either the cost of settlement, the cost ‘ of trade communication, or the value and development of propertied interests. The mere fact that we have Government railways, postal services, telegraphs and telephones, justifiable in itself, does not warrant the universal extension of nationalization to all the means of production, distribution, and exchange, or the nationalization of every business which the two Houses may concur in declaring to be a monopoly. Within the last few years there has been a very serious tendency to increased expenditure in connexion with our Commonwealth Service. That increase and -expansion cannot be denied. During the last three years the number of public servants in the employ of the Commonwealth has jumped from about 29,000 to 36,000, and along with that accession of strength there has grown an increase of political influencce. There can be no doubt that political influence is becoming a very serious factor in the government of the Commonwealth, and that attention should be drawn to it in, not only the House, but the country. Of the 36,000 public servants to whom I have just referred, nearly 20,000 are subject to political influence. Their appointment and tenure of office is dependent upon political influence and political government. The remainder are under the guidance and jurisdiction of the Public Service Commissioner, and to that extent there are safeguards in the public interests, as well as in the interests of the public servants themselves. But, so far as the growing volume of appointments is concerned, the public has no protection. Everything depends upon political influence, political representation, and political standards. If to -this ordinary growth, essential to the legitimate expansion of our Constitution, there are to be added .new sources of appointment and new activities - df the control and authority of the Government is to be expanded from purely governmental functions to fields, farms, factories, and workshops all over Australia, and the Commonwealth, which is already the largest employer ‘Of labour in Australia, is to become a still larger employer, with wider limits of authority and patronage, then the position will become alarming for the balance of the taxpayers. I have before me some figures, published in an issue -of the Age, the date of which I have unfortunately forgotten, showing the gradual increase in Public Service patronage in Victoria. It may be taken, I suppose, as typical of the position throughout Australia. The decennial increase in population in Victoria in 191 1, compared with 1901, was 9.53. The increase in the number of public servants during the same period amounted to over 53 per cent., and the increase iti the salaries and wages paid to public servants and other Government employes to 51 per cent. These are striking instances illustrating the expansion of Government functions and Government patronage. In 1901 there was one Government employeto every forty-two persons in Victoria, while in 1911 there was one Government employe to every twenty-nine persons. In 1911 one out of every eighteen adult citizens in Victoria was a Government servant. It will probably be found, says the Age, when- the 1911 census statistics are finally revised, that there is to-day in Victoria one Government servant to every seven or eight adult male workers or producers outside the State and Federal services. So the process has gone on under what may be regarded as normal conditions. But if we have the stimulus which will undoubtedly arise from the proposed amendments of the Constitution, giving power to extend Government work and employment in the direction of nationalizing various trades, callings, occupations, and businesses, no doubt the process of increasing Government servants will go on to such an extent that their number will be in excess of ‘the rest of the .adult males. Whatever justification there may be in many cases for an extension of Government work and function, there is undoubtedly an inherent weakness in Government management and control of public utilities such as is not to be found in the case of trades, callings, and businesses carried on by private enterprise. However useful and indispensable the Governmentconducted posts, telephones, and railways may be, there is no disguising the fact that there has been, and, I suppose, always will be, with Government employment complaints and grievances made by the public about bad management, unsuccessful working, extravagance, failure, and all that kind of thing, and, at the same time, we shall have the officials continuously complaining of being unfairly dealt with and treated, and clamouring for the intervention of Parliament for further concessions and advantages a.t the expense of the public.
– And why not?
–Certainly, if they have a just cause. But the question is : How are we to have reasonable resisting agencies to deal with these matters in the interests of the public? In New South
Wales the Government railways are conducted by Railway Commissioners, with power to deal with the employes, who have, as a last resort, authority to appeal to the State Arbitration Court. That was- undoubtedly a most generous and liberal concession. Yet what do we find in connexion with the memorable never-to-be-forgotten strike of the tramway men in Sydney in July, 1908? Referring to tHat event, the Age of the 29th July, 1908, wrote -
The Sydney tramway strike is certainly one of the strongest arguments that could have been employed against any of that Socialism which tends ‘to extend the area of State employment. If Government servants are going to use their powers to paralyze the great services of the public on such flimsy pretences as those made use of in this case, or any other pretence, there will be an invincible objection against “the nationalization of monopolies.”
The Melbourne Argus of 29th July, 1908, referred to the same event in these words -
The part played by the Sydney Trade and Labour Council in their strike will awaken everywhere a profound mistrust of their whole organization. It makes every extension of State Socialism seem fraught with new dangers. What a prospect does it furnish of a community of State employes ! A band of “ leaders “ sits in secret, determining when it shall order revolt and when counsel obedience ; it denies the workers the right of a secret ballot in pronouncing upon its action ; then, when it has started a fight, it keeps the quarrel “alive by every possible device of oratory and specious promise and false encouragement.
There is a demonstration that the mere nationalization of monopolies, such as the tramways, will not remove industrial complaints or industrial unrest. We shall still have the same old problems to deal with. It will only pass the trouble on in another form. It will only result, should we launch into these big enterprises, in increasing the embarrassment and multiplying the problems of the Federal Government. We have quite enough work, obligations, and responsibilities without entering upon the field of private enterprise, involving the employment of large armies of men in fields, factories, and workshops, and probably bringing the Government of Australia into collision with armies of employes in the same way as the Government in New South Wales was brought into collision with! their tramway employes. Those men revolted against their own Government, although with almost extreme generosity it had provided a peaceful tribunal in the shape of an appeal to the State Arbitration Court for the settlement of their grievances. The same thing is quite obvious under our very eyes here. In Aus- tralia we have a considerable amount of unrest in certain ranks of the Commonwealth Service. The present Government carried what they considered to be a democratic measure, providing for an appeal by postal officials to the Federal Arbitration Court. Yet what have they received for their action? They have got very little thanks, but a great deal of abuse. It shows that we shall not get rid of these problems merely by nationalization, or any system of Socialization such as that proposed. It is only transferring the settlement of disputes from one authority to the other.
– There is far less industrial strife on Government works than there is in private employment.
– So far as this problem is concerned I think that ‘it cannot be said that there is any very urgent demand for a change. If a strong case had been made out for the nationalization of any particular industry or for general powers of nationalization, no doubt there would not be much difficulty in carrying the proposal, but the Government have already had the verdict of the people. At the last referendum no less than 248,624 persons voted “No” against a similar proposal. What evidence is there of any change in the public mind to justify the further submission of the proposal ?
– We have had leave to appeal, and we are going to appeal.
– I have heard it said that probably the people did not understand the purpose of the last referendum, and were misled. I think I may say that whatever misunderstanding there might have been in the minds of some persons about some of the proposals, there was no misunderstanding in the mind of anybody about the nationalization proposal. It was, perhaps, understood the most clearly and the best of the lot. That statement cannot be contradicted. Everybody knew that lt meant Commonwealth Socialization.
– The people carried this proposal in my district, and rejected the trade and commerce proposal.
– No allegation can be sustained that the people did not understand this proposal. Evidently the people were dead against it to the extent I have mentioned, and, therefore, there is no necessity for an appeal from the same Government to the same people on the ground that there was a misunderstanding. In launching this scheme there have been no shocking examples pointed out demanding
Federal intervention. General platitudes have been indulged in, such as are occasionally resorted to in platform orations, referring to the Sugar Combine, the Tobacco Combine, the Coal Vend, and the Shipping Ring. I think that the whole of these alleged monopolies could be counted on- the fingers of one hand. When we have examined and analyzed the thing, what does it come to? I should like to put this proposition to the Government. If they get this power, is it intended to take over and nationalize any branch of the carrying trade of Australia ? Is it intended to acquire the Inter-State carrying trade of the ocean-going vessels on our coast? Is that trade to be bought out? What is proposed to be done? No propositions of a definite character have been put before us, nor have any suggestions been made.
– The honorable member would not expect them in a Bill proposing an alteration of the Constitution?
– Some case should be made out for what is proposed ; we cannot be content with bare generalities. We have heard a great deal about the necessity of nationalizing the sugar industry; indeed, it has been spoken of so much that we have become tired of hearing about it. But, by the report of the Sugar Commission, the cry for the nationalization of the sugar industry has received its death blow. The Government’s own Commissioners have reported directly against it.
– Surely the honorable member does not lay stress upon that report? The members of his party have declared that the Commission was a packed one.
– It was the Government’s own Commission, the Government’s jury, and it has reported directly against nationalization.
– Notwithstanding that, as they say opposite, it was a packed Commission.
– Whether packed or. not, a casual perusal of its report shows that the Commissioners are decidedly against the nationalization of the sugar refining industry. They point out that the cost would involve a capital outlay of some millions, and that to secure fair interest on the capital without penalizing consumers would be difficult, if not impossible. The Commissioners say that they; cannot avoid the conclusion that the Commonwealth Treasury would be involved in heavy financial loss unless higher demands were made on consumers .than are necessary under the present arrangement. The Commissioners are not in favour of the Commonwealth entering into competition with existing concerns with a view to keeping down the price of refined and raising the price of rawsugar, pointing out that the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are due to items other than refining, a large part of them coming from oversea trade and business and dealings in the market. They say that if a Commonwealth refinery were established on a large scale there would be a duplication of refining plant inconsistent with the national resources. Those remarks condense the arguments against the nationalization of any alleged monopoly. Were the Commonwealth to take over and control the business of sugar refining to the exclusion of private enterprise, the properties and plant of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would have to be bought, and laws would have to be passed to prevent any private person from engaging in the business of refining sugar. The purchasing of the property and plant of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would mean an enormous outlay, and probably the enterprise would result in financial loss and disaster. If, instead of spending some millions on buying out the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Commonwealth started in competition with it, there would be a duplication of capital, properties, plant, working staffs, and distributing agencies, and competition would probably be so keen that it would ruin both projects, while no one would gain by it. According to the Commissioners, who, having been appointed by the present Government, which notoriously favours nationalistic aims, must sympathize with the views of Ministers, and would therefore have made a recommendation favouring those views if they could have seen their way to do so, neither exclusive nor concurrent nationalization of the industry is desirable. The Commissioners say, however, what the Opposition has declared all along, that the industry can be subjected to Federal regulation and control, and that that is preferable to nationalization or competition. They suggest that there might be a regulation of prices by providing for the automatic alteration of the import duties as prices rose or fell abnormally. The question is, however, too large to enter upon on the present occasion ; it will receive more consideration when we come to deal with the report. The point to be remembered now is that the report completely vindicates the policy of the Opposition in resisting schemes for the nationalization of alleged’ monopolies. If it be unwise to nationalize an industry like the sugar industry, which is centralized in one company, it would be impossible- to nationalize other industries. For some years past we have heard about a Brick Combine in Victoria, but it is by no means clear that there is a monopoly in the brick industry here. Recently the Victorian Government appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, but the ChiefSecretary, in granting the- request for a Commission, said that, although a great deal had been spoken about the operations of the combine, the Government was not compelled to take bricks from any one, but could get them where it liked. The proposal before us is open to attack and criticism on the ground that it is anti- Federal in form.. It is asked that the Federal Parliament shall have the right to interpret the grants of power made to it. Again, this proposal is not made in response to any public demand or public necessity. Further, if we had the power asked for, there would be an increase of public patronage; an increase in the number of public servants, an increase in public expenditure, and probably an increase in the cost of production, without substantial benefit to the country. On the whole, it is better to leave these questions to be dealt with in the narrower but more efficient sphere of State legislation and action.
’.- We are very much indebted to the honorable and learned; member for. Bendigo for his thorough analysis of this proposal. After some examination of its. general aim he brought it tor the test of practical applicability,, so far as experience furnishes illustrations. Those who wish to be well and thoroughly informed upon this momentous issue will do well to make themselves acquainted with his arguments. It being useless to- repeat, and unnecessary to attempt to strengthen, what’ he has said, I find myself cast- upon other considerations rather general in scope.
We are now confronted with a proposition which-, on- the last occasion, stood by itself, its- four comrades being, grouped in one measure when it and they were dealt with by the electors. On the present occasion the lines of connexion between five of the proposals submitted’ are visible, each overlapping the other to some extent, while there is a marked relation between both subjects and their treatment. But this proposition is of a different order. It stood, and stands, by itself. That being the first point worthy of recollection, a second arises out of the fact that not only is there no necessary connexion between the other measures grouped together last year, but in this particular Bill we have a proposal most difficult to define or. to discuss. Alf will depend in this instance on the changing necessities or views of the Government of the day. In actual practice the scope of this Bill may be made either relatively narrow or extremely wide. We must deal with it in both aspects.
The other factor is that, although this measure was formerly separate and single, it now stands one among six. If the preceding Bills are accepted by the electors, there will be practically very little for it to accomplish in the way of breaking new ground. What have been in the minds of honorable members, and what have been mainly in the minds of the people, axe the combines and monopolies of- which we may become proprietors under this Bill. Now, four out of the previous five measures already passed have dealt with combines and monopolies. Take the two chief : the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill conveys- powers to the Government in relation, to trade and commerce, and covering monopolies that are too- wide for definition. The Constitution. Alteration (Industrial Matters) Bill conveys many other powers equally effective. Hence, if no word in this particular proposal related to combines and monopolies, we should still be admirably equipped for dealing with them under either of those two great measures, as well as under the Bill relating to corporations, and the Bill dealing directly with combinations and. monopolies. What the electors should be reminded of is that no matter what may be the fate of the Bill before us, combines, and monopolies a-re already- dealt with in four out of the five preceding measures in such, a fashion as will enable them to be brought under the surveillance, and both directly and indirectly under the control’, of the authorities. That’ is to say, assuming these various propositions, to be accepted by the people of this country, they will find in them a means, not only of clipping the wings of every trust; combination, and monopoly in Australia, but ample reservoirs of power for controlling them, so as to Bring them into line with the ordinary industries of tine country.
In these circumstances the fact is extremely remarkable that we are now faced with a fifth measure - I am omitting the sixth, which relates to railway servants, as having no relation to this matter - dealing with the problembefore us. Of course, the new departure in this particular proposal is that authorizing the Government, under some very debatable phraseology, with which the honorable member for Bendigo has already dealt-
– The honorable member means that it does not sound legal?
– It sounds as if partially, but confusedly, legal. I can understand the satisfaction with which members of the legal profession will reflect upon the possibilities it will open up to them. The new departure is the proposal to enable the Federal Government to put its money into industrial enterprises if any one of them may be deemed a “monopoly.” What may be deemed a monopoly is not a topic which the time at my disposal will permit me to discuss even in a limited way. But assuming that some day we may come to know what we mean by “monopoly,” or what the High Court will hold we mean, then this Bill, if sanctioned by the people, will bring the Commonwealth Government into the field of commercial competition in all the States if a majority of both Houses of this Parliament consider that such a “monopoly” exists. That is the practical gist of this Bill which distinguishes it from all the preceding Bills. It will enable the Government to enter into competition with what are supposed to be monopolies, and to acquire them upon terms singularly favorable to itself - in many instances without any payment for what is termed the “ good-will “ of the undertakings, although these often have a higher value than the properties. It is the properties alone with which this Bill deals. If honorable members are seized of the fact that this is the one distinctive feature of this particular Bill, they may well ask whether it is likely to accomplish the purpose of the present Government and their supporters. Obviously, it is to the other measures that we have to turn for the powerful control which any succeeding Government will obtain when the first four measures are accepted by the people of this country. The one Bill which directly preceded this - that dealing with trusts, combines, and monopolies - if it stood alone, gives a most absolute and effective control over them. We need look no further. Under that measure, if it be accepted by the electors, the Commonwealth Government will be able in the most drastic manner to deal with any trust, combine, or monopoly that may be established in Australia. It can do that without any reference to this sixth Bill. The electors must be asked to remember that under the previous Bills upon which they will have an opportunity of voting, they are invited to take to themselves power to bring any monopoly in Australia completely under their thumb. They will be able to clip its wings; to deprive it of all possibility of injury, and to make it absolutely innocuous.
It is under these circumstances that the introduction of this proposal tacked on at the very tail end of the group seems the more extraordinary the more it is examined. In other words, this Bill is not necessary to give Parliament complete control of all monopolies within its borders. It is not necessary to enable the Commonwealth to exercise that control effectively and without question. Therefore it is a pure excrescence - an unjustifiable addition. The mystery is that with full and complete authority conferred upon this Parliament to deal with every monopoly, and with everything which even looks like a monopoly, this measure has been introduced to bring up the rear. Nothing can be accomplished by the Bill which cannot be accomplished under previous measures, except the introduction of Commonwealth industrial employes. The previous measures seek power to fix the prices and profits of every trust and monopoly in Australia. What more is needed? If the prices are fair to thepublic, if the profits are no more than is reasonable, what has this community to gain by starting a rival factory of its own ? Nothing, except possibly as a means of finding employment for people who would be otherwise employed elsewhere. No other gain, as far as I can see, can even be suggested. In the Bills with which we have previously dealt every trust and combine is brought under the whip. Every one of them can be brought under supervision. By means of that supervision, and of the other powers we possess, they can be brought under control. It is true that we differ from Ministers on a point of significance, if not of great importance. That is to say, we desire that no so-called “ monopoly “ should be liable to be assailed as long as it does not operate in restraint of trade. If it does not unfairly interfere with the businesses or interests of the people of this country, why should it be prosecuted? We say that the harmless, the innocuous organizations, which may be “monopolies “ in a technical sense, as long as they do no injury to anybody, may well be left alone. Some injury to the public ought to be proved prior to any attempt to interfere with them.
On this point we, unfortunately, differ from the majority in this House, who have now twice declined to except even those combinations or trusts which are perfectly harmless. But remember that is a small point of difference. It is a trifling point compared with the magnitude of the whole proposition we have indorsed, which is to bring trusts, monopolies, and combines absolutely under the authority of the Commonwealth. There could not be wider terms used than - trusts, combinations, and monopolies in relation to the production, manufacture, or supply of goods or the supply of services.
That embraces every possible kind of combination. Those words give this Parliament practically absolute power - speaking in colloquial fashion - over every one of those bodies. Every member of the Opposition favours that control as much as members of the Ministerial party. As I have said, our difference is comparatively upon a matter of detail. On the main principle - the protection of Australia against the levies, Injuries, and trespasses which have been witnessed elsewhere when trusts have got out of control - we were unanimous. Had our trifling and reasonable qualification of the Bill as to the restraint of trade been accepted, the measure dealing with that subject would have been passed, not only by a majority, but by an unanimous vote. That Bill so amended would be approved by all. We have, therefore, nothing to gain, as far as trusts, combines, and monopolies are concerned, from this last measure. We get no further. We gain no fresh endowment of necessary power over trusts and combinations. We only get the right to spend Federal money - or, rather, to spend the people’s money - on ventures of a peculiar kind. There is no promise of profit. To take over the existing monopolies, or to enter into competition with them, means nothing when we have the control just described. What object is there in taking over industries when you have them already fully under control, capable of being dealt with and brought into conformity with the ordinary, conditions of honest and straightforward business ? That result will have deprived, their critics of all ground of complaints Consequently, on every side we are already, as far as these propositions go - if approved by the people - perfectly well equipped. Some judgment has. been displayed in placing this measure last. If the electors vote for any of the othermeasures - if they approve of either thefirst, the third, or the fourth - leaving the second out of consideration - even that will render this one perfectly unnecessary.
We have heard from leading members of the Ministerial party - from the AttorneyGeneral himself, from the honorable member for Hunter, the honorable member for Newcastle, Mr. Watson, and others - defences of the Coal Vend that existed in: New South Wales, considered apart from the Shipping Combine, which was a different matter. The Vend itself has been praised by all these leading exponents and’ supporters of the drastic proposals of the: Government.
– That was in 1896, before: the evidence came out as to what the Coal. Vend was doing.
– Exactly ; the statements were made on the conditionsknown then. It was alleged - and theAttorney ^General himself -confirmed it - that the Coal Vend’s operations resulted in. better wages for the miners and in fairer conditions. On the various points which, honorable members opposite emphasized,, they had nothing but praise for the Vend. My point is that when the Vend, if not in whole, at all events as far as we know it,, was doing its work fairly and faithfully, there was no ground for interference. Thatpoint was strongly and emphatically put. It was said that the arrangements madebetween the employers and the employed, the owners and the miners, had been improved, until they were advantageous, reasonable, and proper. My point is that, by the control of trusts and monopolies, which we can obtain by one or other of thepreceding measures, we can bring every trust and combination, and every monopoly - whatever that term may mean - into thesame condition as the Vend. We can take care that it operates on such termsthat, instead of doing injury to the public,. it will be doing the work of the public by manufacturing or distributing on fair terms; and as long as it does these things, subject to liability to an examination - which is the essential element - we have effective control.
Upon that I dwelt at some length when dealing with a preceding measure. Without examination - without an intimate and searching examination - by competent independent persons, no trust, monopoly, or combination ought to be permitted to carry on its operations in Australia. But with a complete and full scrutiny of its workings, when we are satisfied that a trust contains no element of injustice to the public, but simply represents a piece of machinery accomplishing social service in an efficient way, those who control it are entitled to a fair reward for their ability, to fair interest on their capital, and to a fair recognition of their status. What they are not entitled to is to make illegitimate claims to industrial or commercial supremacy whether exercising them at the expense of the public as a whole, or still less of those employed’.
But, satisfied upon those points, as we can be and ought to be, what can be said for the necessity of adding this measure, so to speak, at the tail of the hunt, after a series of drastic Bills requiring owners to justify their combination. The alarm of the Attorney-General was expressed as to the absence of competition by which we may be placed at the mercy of some great corporation. “ A state of things in which no competition exists “ suggests that the word “competition,” as used by him, still requires definition. If this implies that no effective competition existed, that is a legitimate mark of danger.
– In the American cases, a monopoly is said to exist if there is a restraint upon effective competition.
– Yes; in itself the- absence of effective’ competition is quite sufficient to make an examination of the trust concerned a peremptory necessity ; nothing but an examination, searching and sincere, can and ought to suffice. But if such an examination satisfies the Government that the work of the trust is being well done, on reasonable terms, both to sellers and purchasers, what motive can there be for the initiation of a Government enterprise of the same character?
– At present we have no machinery for effective inquiry.
– No; I agree. The feeling of this side of the House was unanimously with the proposition in regard to trusts and combinations. In the Minister’s absence I dwelt on the amendment which we moved - important, regarded as a matter of principle, but a comparatively small matter in. relation to the whole of the vast proposition which we approved.
– Effective inquiry is clearly the foundation of all action.
– Certainly; and effective inquiry can be obtained under the preceding measure, which deals specifically with trusts, combinations, and monopolies. We do not need anything further in order to exercise the power of complete examination.
– But the honorable member opposed the other measure.
– No, we accepted it, only contending that where there is no restraint of trade it is unnecessary to prosecute; with that qualification we accepted the whole proposition, as I myself said, speaking for the Opposition. That being the case, and having the power and the authority of examination-
– That does not extend to manufacture, but only to the supply of services.
– I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon. That Bill deals with combinations and monopolies in relation to the production, manufacture, or the supply of goods and services.
– I thought the honorable member was speaking of the suggestion of the honorable member for Angas.
– Our proposal was to omit those undertakings and businesses which were not acting in restraint of trade ; with that qualification we were prepared to accept the proposal, of the Government.
– Even the amendment of the honorable member for Angas covered manufacture and production.
– That and more; but, in the short time at my disposal now, I do not wish to argue that point. What I contend is that the Bill with which we are now dealing is absolutely unnecessary. We have the requisite power and control under the .preceding measure. Nothing, was challenged in that Bill except attacks on trusts and combines which make reasonable charges, pay fair wages, and observe honest conditions. That we regard as impracticable, unwise, and unnecessary.
– Theintroduction of the words “ in restraint of trade “ would be fatal.
– I beg to differ.
– The, Supreme Court of the United States of America has so decided, and I do not see how we can evade the judgment.
– I do not read its judgment in the same light as the honorable member, and if time permitted would press my point of view.
– According to the judgment, the restraint of trade has to be unreasonable.
– That may be, but if the proposed amendment is not acceptable on that ground, it is a great pity the AttorneyGeneral does not suggest some amendment to make the position clear. All that we asked then and ask now is that where a challenged industry is able to show that it is proceeding on ordinary business lines, and in no sense operating in restraint of tirade, it ought not to be interfered with. If its competition is not unfair, it ought not to be penalized underthis measure.
– No such proposition was ever submitted.
– Again I must beg the honorable member’s pardon. Just that proposition was submitted last year, and was again repeated this year. I called special attention to the relatively small importance of the amendment in itself measured with the great importance of the grant of power we were prepared to support. I also explained that it could not operate to protect from legal proceedings any business which was doing any injury in the smallest way to the smallest person. I further expressed my amazement that there was any hesitation on the part of the Government in accepting it.
– No amendment was moved.
– The proposal was rejected last year in spite of our explanation, and it was rejected again this year ; as I stated, it would have been simply taking up time to vote again.
– If the honorable member believed in the proposal he ought to have moved an amendment.
– If the AttorneyGeneral refers to Hansard he will find my statement correct. Besides, let me remind him that he has still an abundant opportunity in the Senate, where such an amendment can easily be inserted by his majority. It will doubtless be presented there in due course. This would then enable us to present a united front on the allimportant question of trusts, combines, and monopolies. In regard to their control by Parliament, I think there are no two opinions in Australia that would count on an appeal to the people.
– We ought to take all the power we can,
– The Government may take all the power it can, and there is nothing urged on this side to minimize that proposal ; all we urge is that where there is no public detriment there should be no official interference. Only those undertakings which are not guilty in any way of acting to the detriment of the public should be- allowed to continue operations that are obviously unchallengeable.
– What, in point of fact, do the words “detriment to the public” connote ?
– They connote either prices that are too high, wages that are too low, or inefficient services; in short, the absence of what is recognised as constituting a “fair and square deal.” When there is an allowance for reasonable interest on capital, fair wages, and fair prices, therecan be no detriment tothe public.
– But how are we to find all that out?
– How do we fmd out anything? We can find out by means of an official examination of the whole of the operations of the challenged firm or company. This is essential ; this power we possess under the Bill relating to trusts, combines, and monopolies.
The general purpose of this Bill was illustrated by the Attorney -Genera] when speaking of the manner in which monopolies have to be brought to heel. He referred with satisfaction to the fact that there was a proposition for the various municipalities around Melbourne to take over the cable tramways. What struck me in those remarks was that he spoke of this transfer as “ nationalization,” though if ‘he wished to be absolutely and technically correct, one would call it “ municipalization.”
– I admit that.
– I take it, however, that what the Attorney-General meant was that the taking over by the citizens of the city of any such enterprise was all the nationalization needed and looked for in that particular case.
– Quite so.
– Then in the same way the railways, which are now the property of the people of each State, through their Governments, may be said to represent “ Statization,’ ‘ leaving the third and last term “nationalization” to apply to enterprises taken over by the Commonwealth, and covering its area sufficiently to become Inter-State. The word” nationalization,” as used by the Attorney-General, was capable of being interpreted as neither excluding municipalization, nor what I have ventured to describe by the somewhat barbarous word “ Statization,” since the honorable gentleman looked on all these as efficient means of nationalization. It is in that light, it seems to me, that we should review the whole of this situation, recognising that every one of these enterprises which can be dealt with under municipalization, and that everything which a State, as a unit, can’ deal with, such as its railways, by “ Statization,” may be included within the word “nationalization.” Yet, while the word covers, in. a general way, all these activities, it specially implies the carrying on of some business, industry, or undertaking extending beyond one State. Under these conditions, we recognise three stages of what may be termed “ nationalization.” As reported on page 5840 of Hansard, the Attorney-General said -
At the present time in Victoria a proposal to nationalize the Melbourne cable tramways receives considerable support.
Then, a few sentences lower down, he said -
Nationalization is a power which, under the proposed new section, is to be exercised in certain definite ways.
My argument is that what can be done by the municipalities and the States in this connexion ought to be left to them, while the Commonwealth confines itself to those undertakings and enterprises which extend beyond individual States.
The proposal in the Bill, limiting ourselves to nationalization in its broadest sense, is to give to the Commonwealth a monopoly of all the monopolies, at all events of those which are Inter-State or go beyond a single State.
– “ Monopoly of monopolies “ sounds all right !
– Yes, and that is just what is proposed. Any monopoly, however innocent, whether in restraint of trade or not, is now to be capable of being nationalized. I have repeated and dwelt, perhaps, ad nauseam on the fact that the preceding Bills allow monopolies to be deprived of their teeth and claws, and to be drilled and driven as desired ; but we Have to realize that this Bill gives the Commonwealth a monopoly of all monopolies.
– Hear, hear !
– But what are we going to gain by undertaking these monopolies which we already have power to control, to. humanize, and upon which we can impose fair conditions of labour? When we can bring them into line with our standards, what motive have we, or what advance do we make by this additional proposal ? When a constant examination of their operations satisfies us that they are carrying on their business on fair terms, they need not be interfered with. In other words, if monopolies are deprived of all dangerous characteristics, why should they not continue to exist?
– Supposing we have that control, and it fails?
– If I could, I might agree that another scheme would be necessary. If it is found, upon a complete examination by an independent authority appointed by the Commonwealth, that a business is legitimate, what reason have we for interference, and what should we gain by it? Should we not overload our parliamentary ‘and administrative responsibilities? What is more, would we not divert public attention from the great political issues of the day by the intrusion of the more intimate and immediate demands of a business character? The politics and general legislation of this country are at present sufficiently complex. In view of the burdens which Parliament already has, to carry, the increasing burdens which must arise from the multiplication of our population, and of the responsibilities which the increasing influence of Australia abroad must impose, there is surely nothing to be gained by adding the conduct of huge enterprises lacking the stimulus so essential to successful trade.
– No State undertaking should be subject to political influence.
– I quite agree..
– Therefore, Ministers; would have nothing to do with this business. They would be in the same position as a State Minister of Railways.
– He has often more than enough to do.
We shall have gained nothing by the fact that we have placed, more or less apart from Government control, a. series of industrial operations conducted by Government money or on Government credit by Government employes with little hope of much promotion. These are certain to provoke perpetual criticism, and also constantly invoke complaints from persons affected by their operation, who may believe that they are not obtaining ail that they ought from their business transactions. We cannot ignore the personal elements of special qualifications and the dominant feature of modern industrial enterprises owing to new discoveries, inventions, tastes, and influences. Ability is already eagerly sought by those who have a personal interest in the returns from invested capital. They have hopes of gain held out to them which we cannot expect to be rivalled, supported with the same energy, or with the same confidence, by a Government charged with the wellbeing and general control of the whole of Australia, with all its innumerable internal and external problems. The Caucus are proposing to overload Government action, and overweight the parliamentary machine. Having in our power the means to effectively control trusts, combinations, and monopolies, jio reason has been, or can be, shown why we should not be content with that, instead of endeavouring to so materially extend undertakings which already require a great deal more attention then they receive from this House, and which in. the future without these additions will certainly require more attention than they at present receive. I invite honorable members to consider our Public Service, without reflecting upon it. To enter into any criticism of it one would need to take into account the special classes of work to which it is confined, the fact that it is State work, that it is rarely productive work in the ordinary sense, and also many other influences. We should take into account, further, the various conditions and qualifications with which it has been found necessary to surround the Public Service. One would require a knowledge of all these before criticising the Service. But under this proposal we shall have to recognise new kinds of Public Service officers engaged in various industrial enterprises, which will have to justify their existence from year to year, their adaptation of new methods and machinery demanding an entirely different character of management, and must inevitably involve in additional responsibilities an already overburdened Government. We are now, and have been for a long time, the recipients of numberless . complaints ,’from (those already engaged in their service under conditions much more simple and capable of being dealt with in a wholesale way than those characterizing industrial monopolies when taken over and nationalized. This is a subject which one might develop at great length. It is intensely practical, and full of significance, but I merely mention it as indicating the large number of new and serious burdens we should require to carry in addition to those we are already bearing. The stereotyped routine which ordinarily obtains in Government institutions, however innocuous it may be in many instances there, would be in the highest degree costly and vexatious if permitted, not to say encouraged, in connexion with State ventures of a business character. If we want an. illustration of the effects of Government management when substituted for private management, it is offered in the French Tobacco Monopoly. Its experience is not by any means encouraging. It points to distinct dangers requiring to be taken into account very seriously in this regard.
But more serious still is the fact that the ownership of State monopolies presents an irresistible temptation to employ them as engines of taxation whenever the needs of the country press hard on the Treasurer of the day. We should see in these various enterprises, as the French have seen in the Tobacco Monopoly, a means of adding to our income without having to face the acrimony aroused by the open imposition of new taxation. In connexion with the control of any business of which we should have the sole mastery, any increase of prices beyond what is necessary for the carrying on of the monopoly upon business lines, would be new taxation. Prosperous as we are at the present time, and increasing as our revenue is, we have the gravest reason to apprehend times of trial when it will be necessary to impose fresh taxation. In ‘such circumstances nothing would be more ready to hand, or easy to use, than businesses monopolized bv the Commonwealth. It would be a simple matter to raise the price of the products of local industries, competing imports being easily shut out of the country by an increase of Tariff duties. By compelling the public to purchase these products at an increased price we shall be incidentally taxing every purchaser.
– Would not that be as fair as a revenue Tariff?
– A revenue Tariff bears its brand upon its face. It is a levy upon the public without offering or pretending to offer any direct return.
– Would not this be the same?
– No; this would be a levy upon the sale of some article, product, or service rendered by the Commonwealth, and for which we should be charging more than a fair price, more than an ordinary trader would be permitted to charge by the Commonwealth without rendering himself liable.
– That applies to State railways.
– It has been applied to railways. There have been great complaints in more than one of the States that the railways have been so abused, and that in bad times the rates charged have been higher than they should have been.It will be a very serious matter if we place in the hands of Governments, often submitted to immense pressure, such a method of levying taxes without calling them taxes, although they are taxes in every sense of the word. That is another consideration to which I can only make the barest allusion. The fettering of Parliament I have already alluded to, and there are many other consequences of such legislation which other honorable members will perceive.
Though I feel hardly justified in repeating the statement, I must again say that under the measure dealing with trusts, combines, and monopolies which has already received the sanction of this House, and which, with a minor qualification exempting innocent industries that are not operating in any way in restraint of trade, has the support of honorable members on this side, we have a means by which we can gain all that is possible by this measure, but without its risks and complications. Trusts, combinations, and monopolies might be rendered healthy and normal in their operations under the Bill to which I refer. But in. the circumstances it is highly undesirable to add a proposition of this sort with all the risks to which it exposes us, not only of the levying of taxation, but of the creation of employment otherwise unneces sary and umemunerative for bodies of men in times of stress and hardship. We must then face works which our Federal Government will be ill-qualified to supervise, and difficulties, of which we have a sufficient illustration in our existing and comparatively narrow Public Service, multiplied immensely, will surround us. While by our proposal the Commonwealth Government stands aloof, placing all on the same footing who enter into competition for supplying the needs of the people, by this new plan it would become suspect as interested in particular industries and callings to the detriment of other sections and classes, thus dividing our community instead of uniting it, as I believe we should and could do without the adoption of any such expedient as that projected here, without a precedent from any civilized country under a Federal Constitution.
.- We seldom hear to-day of Individualism, although some twenty years ago it was a common cry with those sections of the community which declare themselves to be Liberal and Conservative. In those days we heard a great deal as to “ Competition being the soul of trade.” It was declared that the public obtained the very best results from competition, while the nation secured the best return from Individualism, and that for the community to attempt to interfere with the individual in the free exercise of his rights as a citizen would be to destroy the fibre of the nation and that independence which is a characteristic of the Britisher. To-day no one takes that stand. Even the Opposition will agree that it is right that the State should interfere to protect the weak against the strong. While most men are prepared to say that it is right that the fittest should survive, no one is prepared to assert that the physically strong should tyrannize over the physically weak. And since the Opposition have been asking for definitions of various words, I would like them to give us the definition of the word “fittest.” Is the “fittest” the generously disposed man who is willing to live and let live, or is it Mr. Knox, the general manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who says, “ If the farmers are not prepared to take for their cane the price that we offer them, let them put their land to some other use, and find a different occupation.”
Most public men nowadays believe in evolution, and there are a good many people outside Parliament, if we may pay any attention to the disturbances that occur from time to time in France, and even in the United Kingdom, who believe in revolution. The Australian Labour party, however, believe in evolution by parliamentary and municipal methods. There are a number of people who think that parliamentary methods are too slow, and that it. is useless to look to Parliament to remedy existing evils. Amongst those we include the Syndicalist who believes in the general strike, the stoppage of work by all wage-earners engaged inthe production and distribution of wealth, and the taking over of the workshops and the factories by the wage-earners themselves. Our honorable friends opposite may consider themselves responsible if the Syndicalist movement grows in Australia. In a very interesting article the Sydney Bulletin a fortnight ago pointed out that the Tories and Liberals of Australia, by their opposition to the reforms suggested by the Australian Labour party, and by the contempt which they heap upon members of this party, are not attracting voters to their own ranks, but are really driving them from the ranks of the Labour party into the ranks of the Syndicalists and others who believe that there is nothing to be gained from sending members of the Labour party to Parliament; that Syndicalism is the panacea for all the evils under which many of the wage-earners are labouring to-day:
I often wonder whether honorable members opposite realize that fact. They may think that by casting odium upon this partyi. and by ridiculing its members, they are gaining supporters for the Tory and the Liberal party. We very often hear a Labour member held up to ridicule, for example because he saves a portion of his Parliamentary allowance. If that member puts his Parliamentary allowance “ on his back,” so to speak, he is caricatured by honorable members opposite as imitating the aristocracy. If he invests his savings in a residence for himself honorable members opposite will photograph the house and distribute copies of the photograph all over the country with the heading, “A Labour member’s mansion.” If he buys a house and lets it, then he is described all over Australia as a “ rackrenting landlord.” If, again, he is dissolute, and wastes his money, he meets with very general and well-merited condemnation.
– Is the honorable member going to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I am, sir.I have referred only by way of illustration to the way in which members of our party are held up to ridicule. I often wonder what a member of the Labour party should do with any money that he may happen to save. The only answer to the question that I have been able to get is that supplied by a witty honorable member who suggests that he could not do better than lend it to him.
– That would be a very safe investment.
– It would at least save him from the ridicule of honorable members opposite. I wish to emphasize the point that honorable members of the Opposition oppose every Bill that we bring forward with the object of establishing something like peace, order, and good government within the Commonwealth, and that in the course of their condemnation they do not fail to heap ridicule and contempt upon members of our party. If not in this chamber, at least outside, they have suggested that our efforts in the direction of Government ownership and control would have the effect of reducing the people of Australia to a state of savagery. They have said that we wish to re-establish that communism which was practised by the early tribes. It seems to me unthinkable that our modern civilization will ever revert to the habits and customs of primitive man.
When primitive man lived in a cave by the sea, or in a- wigwam or a hut in the forest, and clothed himself in skins and furs, he had no standard of comfort such as we have to-day, and it is unbelievable that we shall ever revert to that condition of affairs. I read recently an article by Camille Flammarion, in which he stated that so recently as fifty years ago, it was believed that the history of man dated back only 6,000 years. Then some fossil remains were discovered which led to the belief that our history went back a hundred thousand years, but quite recently other fossil remains were discovered that indicatedthat man. had been on this planet for at least 400,000 years. Going back only 2,000 years ago, we know on very good authority that our British ancestors then clothed themselves in skins and furs, and painted themselves like the savages they were. Our ancestors had a painful and laborious march up the hill of progress, falling back sometimes two steps for every one they took forward, but the whole history of our race in modern times, at least, has been in the direction of the organization of society. At one time it was no man’s special business to defend the nation, because there was no nation to defend. We all know that the chief of the tribes took upon himself the organizing of troops with which to fight other tribes, and, judging by their determined cast of countenance, I think that if the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Bendigo had lived in those days, each would have been a chief sallying forth to meet in mortal combat the chiefs of other tribes. They would, no doubt,- have done their best to defend their own people.
As I have said, at one time there was no organization to defend the nation, because there was then no nation to defend. But in course of time the tribes became organized, ,and through the centuries the nation has existed as we have it to-day. We have in the matter of defence one of the very first acts of Government interference, and it has been followed by many others. No one to-day would think of handing over the defence of the country to private enterprise in order that a profit might be made out of it, and to suggest, as the Opposition do to the people, that because we desire to carry an amendment of the Constitution that will enable us to nationalize an industry which we believe to be a monopoly, we propose to take a step in the direction of reverting to the customs and habits of the savage tribes of old, is in these days of education and enlightenment most absurd.
In savage times primitive man had no macadamized roads, asphalted footpaths, wood-blocked streets, gas, electric light, railways, steam-boats, wharfs, piers, national banks, postal, telegraphic, and telephone services, schools, or public libraries. To-day, education is a Government matter in almost every country. It is true that private individuals are allowed to establish schools, but it was found that, in the interests of the nation, it was better for the Government to establish a national system of education. No one would dream to-day of handing over our system of education to private individuals, some of whom would treat scholars much as Mr. Squeers did in Dotheboys Hall.
To-day we have Government agricultural bureaux, art galleries, museums, newspapers, primary, secondary, and normal schools, colleges, universities, theatres in some parts of the world, agricultural farms, vineyards, and coal mines. These are institutions which did not find a place in the conditions of primitive man, to which out honorable friends, when outside the House, say it is our desire to revert. Banking was at one -time given over entirely to private enterprise, but it was found necessary, in the interests of civilization and progress, that the State should intervene, and to-day we have State Savings Banks in Argentina, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Canada, Ceylon, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hawaii, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New South Wales, New- Zealand, Norway, Queensland, South Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad, United Kingdom, Victoria, and Western Australia.
Take, now, the case of the railways. The first prac’tical steam-engine was not invented until just prior to 1800. The first railways were in the hands of private enterprise. A good many persons consider George Stephenson to ‘have been the first inventor of the steam-engine ; but that was not so. The first railway locomotive was tried on the Merthyr line in 1804, but the experiment was not successful. A locomotive was patented in 1813 by William Hedley, who commenced working at the Wylam colliery, near Newcastle-on-Tyne, in that year, and it was in constant use until 1872, when it was purchased by the British Government, and now finds a place in the museum of the Patents Office. To show how we are advancing in these modern times, it was only quite recently that the trustees of the British Museum purchased a hansom cab, to be placed there as an exhibit, because the hansom cab is so fast disappearing from the streets of London before the motor car.
The first railways were in the hands of private enterprise, ‘but to-day there are at least fifty-four countries which own their railroads wholly or in part. These countries are Algeria, Argentina (1862), Austria-Hungary (1840), Belgium (1833), Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape of Good Hope (1862), Ceylon, Chili (1865), Cochin China, Colombo, Congo Independent State, Denmark (1880), Ecuador, Egypt (1856), Finland, France, Germany (1843), Greece,
British Guiana, India (1852), Italy (i860), Jamaica, Japan (1883), Massowah, Mauritius, Mozambique, Natal (i860), Netherlands, Newfoundland, New South Wales (1855), New Zealand (1863), Nicaragua, Norway (1845), Orange Free State, Paraguay, Peru, Porto Rico, Portugal (1863), Queensland (1865), Roumania Russia, Salvador, Santo Domingo, Servia, South African Union, South Australia (1856), Sweden, Switzerland, Tasmania (1870), Trinidad, Tunis, Turkey, Victoria (1854), and Western Australia (1873).
The only countries in which the Government do not own the railways wholly or in part are Barbadoes, Basutoland, Bolivia, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Hawaii, Honduras Republic, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Persia, Siam, Spain, United States of America, United Kingdom, Venezuela, and Zululand.
If honorable members opposite may be believed, the private railways of Australia ought to be in the hands of private companies. If they object to Government ownership, why should we not follow the example of America, and have the railways in the hands of private companies, who could levy toll on the farmers and the passengers? We have more than one or two private lines in Australia. If any one wants to know the difference in travelling between a State railway and a private line he can go to Queensland, where he will find that he has to pay 50 per cent, more to travel on the Chillagoe Company’s railway than on a State line.
– Is this a Bill to nationalize State railway services?
– My honorable friend is never happier than when he is endeavouring to insert an interjection in another member’s speech. The object, ot this Bill is not to nationalize the State railways. My honorable friend will, I know, endeavour to get every possible argument to try to prove that the Labour party is out to abolish the State Parliaments, and all civil servants in the States, but he will obtain no support from me in that proposition.
– If it is not a Bill to nationalize the railways, why talk about railways ?
– I deem it my duty to endeavour to show honorable members that we are in for a period of evolution; in fact, we are in a period of evolution; our whole civilization is evolution. I want to show that society, organized through its
Governments in the various nationalities, has found it necessary to take over public services like railways and nationalize them - services which previously were in the hands of private individuals.
I now come to tramways. The year 1877 was the year in which the first tramway was nailed to wooden sleepers, in a colliery belonging to the Duke of Norfolk, near Sheffield, and fearing a reduction in wages the labourers did there, as others have done in other places during the last century - created a riot. They tore up the rails, and the inventor had to flee for his life. The tramways were left to private enterprise in many places for many years. We have examples of them here. I ask honorable members who have travelled in Australia to contrast the privately-owned tramways in Melbourne with the Stateowned tramways in Sydney. A tramway passenger has to pay 50 per cent, more in Melbourne than in Sydney. A penny will carry a person for a mile in a Sydney street. If a passenger does not happen to possess a ticket in Melbourne the Tramway Company charges him a 3d. fare for a quarter of a mile trip. At holiday time in Sydney the public may travel on the State-owned tramways at the ordinary price, but in Mel-, bourne the Tramway Company takes advantage of the people being on holiday tocharge them an extra fare in the tramcars. Take the privately-owned tram ^service in Brisbane. Does any one believe^ for a moment that we would have had the disastrous strike which took place there a few months ago if the tramways had been owned by the municipality?
– We had a strike on the Government tramways in Sydney.
– That was very soon settled ; I do not think that it lasted for more than three or four days.
– Speaking from memory, I think that the tramways were held up longer in Sydney than in Brisbane.
– Coal gas was first used industrially about 1800. It was then given over to private enterprise. It is to-day mostly in the hands of private enterprise, but in the Old Country hundreds of municipalities have their own gas and electric plants. In Australia we have one or two municipalities which own a gas supply. I think that the Bathurst municipality has had a gas plant for more than twenty years, and it used to charge half of what was charged by the private gas company in Sydney.
The year 1837 is recognised as the date of the birth of the first telegraph. The first public telegraph company in England - the Electric and International - was founded in 1846, and, as stated in Chambers’ Encyclopaedia, this was followed by the British and Irish, Magnetic, the United Kingdom, and many others, besides which the various railway companies transmitted messages upon their own systems, and acted as agents to the various companies. This arrangement continued, greatly to the public inconvenience, until the 1st February, 1870, when, by the powers of an Act passed during the previous year, the property of the companies was transferred to the State at a cost of .£10,880,571, and a monopoly of telegraph business was vested in the Post Office Department.
To-day at least sixty-eight Governments own their telegraphs. Private or companyowned telegraphs exist only in Bolivia, Cyprus, the Honduras Republic, Cuba, Hawaii, and the United States of America. According to the Statesman’s Y ear-Book for 1909, page 696 -
The Imperial Chinese telegraphs are being rapidly extended all over the Empire. They now connect with the principal cities of the Empire, and there are lines to all the neighbouring countries. The telegraph lines (1907) have a length of 25,913 miles, with 39,196 miles of wire ; there are 490 telegraph offices. They have hitherto been a commercial enterprise, but are now being nationalized.
I mention these facts to show “the progress which is being made in the way of State ownership and control.
Again, take the telephone. It was not until 1.876 that the telephone was .invented, and the telephone service was left free to private enterprise. On 31st December last the Government of Great Britain took over the monopoly of the National Telephone Company, and there is at present a dispute under arbitration, or before the Law Courts, regarding the sum to be paid for its property, the amount in question being, I believe, some ^3,000,000. In mentioning these facts, my purpose is to inform honorable members and the public through Hansard that there is no occasion to be alarmed because, if the Bill is sanctioned by referendum, this Parliament will have power to nationalize industries.
Silk culture is a Government monopoly in Hungary, and, in 1907, 73,716 families were employed in the work it afforded, whereas in 1879 only 1,059 were so employed. Since 1779 the porcelain factory at Copenhagen has been in the hands of the State. The Dresden china factory has, for 200 years, been the property of the Government of Saxony ; it employs 800 hands, and is the largest porcelain factory in the world. In the Dutch East Indies the tin mines are under State ownership, and employed in 1892 18,040 men. Tobacco manufacture is a State monopoly in Hungary. In 1907 the number of tobacco factories there was twenty-one; they employed 19,415 persons, and produced 572,000,000 cigars and 1,862,000,000 cigarettes. The Japanese Government, in 1891, owned one coal mine, two copper mines, three gold mines, one iron mine, two silver mines, and one sulphate of copper mine. Local revenues are derived by the Government of the Dutch Indies from the State monopolies of salt and opium. In France, gunpowder and tobacco are State monopolies, and it is said that they and the Post and Telegraphs yield 20 per cent, of the total State revenue. The Government of France has also a match factory.
– We know what has happend with French gunpowder.
– There was an explosion, with very sad consequences, some time ago.
– And again the other day.
– The honorable member can place those disasters in the scale against the dreadful evils that have happened at various times by reason of the poor quality of the materials supplied by private contractors in furnishing munitions of war for various Governments. The Government of Great Britain, after its experience of private contractors in the Crimean War, felt compelled to establish a clothing factory.
– Napoleon said that thearmy contractors were the enemies of thenation.
– In New South Wales, some years ago a fort, which should have been soundly constructed, was found to be- “ jerry built “-the foundations were composed of dirt, or rubbish, instead of concrete. The famous Sevres chinafactory has been French Government property for nearly 200 years. There are several private establishments of this kind in France, but the Government factory isthe most important. The Gobelin tapestries have for 200 years been made .in Government factories in France.
– The honorable member does not suggest that these factories have belonged to the people for 200 years ?
– I state that they have been Government property for that time, and are so to-day. During the next .six months, honorable members opposite will strive to make the public think that great harm may result if the proposed amendments of the Constitution are sanctioned, and I regard it as my duty to place these facts before those who may not have the time and opportunity to collect them. Civilization is progressing at an extraordinarily rapid rate. The schoolmaster has been abroad for a long time. The people are being educated, and decline to put up with the conditions under which their forefathers laboured in the mines and in the workshops. They want to live fuller lives. They decline - and I admire them for it - to be .the mere slaves of any machine or of any monopoly. Australians decline to be slaves in the sugar fields, and the farmers who own their farms in name only decline to be the slaves of a Sugar Combine. Slavery was not abolished when the British nation paid so many million pounds for the emancipation of slaves. Let us be candid. This is not a Bill to nationalize the match industry, the carpet-making industry, or, as suggested by the Melbourne Argus recently - the grocery and drapery trades; it is aimed at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Which your own Commission says should not be nationalized.
– The less the honorable member says about the Commission the better. He was grossly insulting to its members, declaring that the Commission was a “packed” one; but the report shows that it was not packed. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has obtained a position which has enabled it practically to eliminate competition. Honorable members have asked what is a monopoly. I say that a monopoly is a business from which competition has been practically eliminated. It is useless for honorable members opposite to fill the air with oratorical dust, a good deal of which has been raised by the honorable member for Ballarat. We give credit to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for what it has done, but we cannot forget that it has been well paid for its enterprise. It is true that in many instances farmers have been able to make a living where, without the help of the company, they could not have done so. But the company has gained by what it has done. To-day, the public pays some £6,000,000 for its sugar, and, according to the Commissioners, that is about ,£1,000,000 more than it would have to pay if it bought sugar outside Australia. We say that there is a monopoly in the sugar industry, and we prove that by reference to the Commission’s report. In paragraph 4, on page 38, honorable members will find this statement -
The Commission was appointed to inquire into the sugar industry, more particularly as it affected the growers of sugar-cane and beet, manufacturers of raw and refined sugar, workers employed in the industry, producers and consumers of sugar, costs, prices, wages, and profits, trade and commerce in sugar with other countries, and into the operation of the laws affecting the sugar industry, and any Commonwealth legislation concerning it which the Commission might think expedient. According to the Commissioners, neither the millers nor the refiners have cause for serious complaint regarding the equitable distribution of profits. That is not to be wondered at, inasmuch as the refiners, according to the Commissioners,, dictate prices to the millers, and the millers dictate prices to the growers. In clause 19 it is stated-
Unfortunately, when- we come to the growers we find a very different story. While the millers and refiners make handsome profits, the profits of the growers, as a. class, are quite inadequate.
proportion of the growers as growers did well, but the growers as a class did not, in our opinion, receive their fair share of the profits of the industry as a whole.
Now I come to the wage-earners. How did they fare ? The Commissioners- say -
If white labour is to continue to be obtainable in anything like satisfactory quality, it must be more adequately rewarded than it. has hitherto been. In the past, and up to 5th August last, when the Minister of Customs raised the minimum rate for field labour, wages in all branches of the industry were undoubtedly too low.. They are still too low in the sugar mills of both Queensland and New South Wales. . . The rate of wages makes the standard of living ; and your Commissioners believe that it is now the accepted policy of Australia that there shall be, if possible, in every industry a minimum wage sufficient to enable such a standard of living to be maintained as will meet the needs of Australian citizenship for the ordinary comforts and decencies of civilized life.
As regards the consumers, the Commissioners say- -
Consumers are proverbially long suffering.
That is the report of the Commission as to the profits derived by the millers and refiners; as to the remuneration that the growers receive, and as to the wages which are paid to- employes. The Commissioners dismiss the public with the statement that they are long-suffering. They are longsuffering mainly, because they do not know what is the real position. But in regard to the sugar industry I think we may claim - it was claimed by us when we advocated the abolition of black labour in connexion with it - that the public of Australia do not object to pay an. increase of Jd. per lb. for their sugar, provided the industry be carried on by white labour. Prior to Federation, many consumers obtained their sugar for Jd. per lb. less than they can obtain it to-day. Some even imagined that they got it for nothing, because it was the custom, amongst grocers to sell a pound of tea; and. so much sugar for 2 s. The consumer was thus made to believe that he was paying only for trie tea. But that kind of business is like the business which is done by tailors who advertise that they supply two pairs of trousers for. the price of one.
When we gave effect to our policy of a White Australia, I believe that the general’ public were quite willing tx> pay an extra hd. per lb. for their sugar. At the present time they are paying 3d. per lb. retail for it, or .£28 per ton. It is estimated by the Customs officers that they pay .£6,000,000 a year for the sugar which they- use, and the Labour party urge that that .£6,000,000 is not being equitably, divided amongst the millers, the refiners, the growers, and the wage-earners. I sympathize with the growers, many of whom get very little, more than, if- as much as, some of the wage-earners. That may be because, in some instances, they have purchased their lands at veryhigh prices - as high as £25 or £50 per acre. Not having the capital with which to pay for their lands, they have had to mortgage them, with the result that, after having paid heavy interest charges, they find, at the end of the year, that their profit has not averaged probably more than £2 per week.
In my opinion, this Bill embodies the only method of affording the growers and the workers ultimate relief. We may pass antitrust laws by the score, but unless they empower us to say, “ We shall either nationalize this industry and make a Government monopoly of it, or we shall enter into competition with those persons who have established a ring, ‘ ‘” we can hope for very little from such legislation. That is why I regard it as extremely important that the people of Australia at the next election should vote “Yes” to this Bill. I am aware that the Sugar Commission have expressed the view that the nationalization of the sugar industry would be a mistake. They go so far as to say that competition with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would not be advisable. I disagree with them. I think that we shall have to enter into competition with this ring at some time or. other. But it is quite possible that, if. the Colonial Sugar Refining Company see that we are likely to make the industry a Government monopoly, they may offer ‘better terms to the farmers.I believe that the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the industry, coupled with the fact that we have talked about nationalizing it, has had some effect upon the company and the millers during the past twelve months. At any rate, it is significant that, during- that period the- growers have obtained better terms-. No doubt the company will view the matter’ just as the Eastern. Extension Cable Company viewed another matter of a somewhat similar character. That company were charging gs. per word for cablegrams. They refused to make any reduction in that rate. All the appeals to them by business persons went for naught. They declined to reduce the price of cables a single copper until there was an agitation for a nationalization scheme. Then they reduced their charge to 4s. ad. per word, and later on, when we entered into competition with them by means of the Pacific Cable Company the .All Red line, which is owned by the Commonwealth, Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand - the price of messages was still further reduced to 3s. per word. If the electors vote “ Yes “ to this Bill at the coming referenda it is very likely that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will” say, “Don’t shoot j we will come down.” They will probably make better terms with the growers, thus enabling the latter to pay better wages to their employes. If they do that, and the public suffer no harm, this Bill will not be brought into operation. But we want the power which it will confer upon us. The honorable member for Ballarat and the honorable member for Bendigo have suggested that it would be a mistake to vest that power in this Parliament.
– Our point is that the power is contained in the Bills with which we have already dealt.
– Not the power to nationalize.
– The power to make the Colonial Sugar Refining Company reduce their charges.
– We thought there was a Coal Vend in this. country to raise prices, but the High Court decided otherwise. However, we must not forget that there are such things as “honorable understandings.” In the future it will not be necessary for business people who are parties to these undertakings to enter into any arrangement by means of written documents. Their word of honour will be sufficient, and it will be almost impossible for the law in such circumstances to overtake them. I am sure the honorable member will admit that if a combine were treating either the public or its employes badly, the greatest weapon which could be employed against it would be the knowledge that the Commonwealth could enter into competition with it if it chose to do so. The Leader of the Opposition and his sup porters will shortly go to the constituencies advising the people not to accept a single one of our referenda proposals. Two years ago he issued a manifesto dealing with the referenda projects then submitted to the people. I remember reading it with great interest. He said that he objected to our proposals as a whole, but that public opinion was ripe for the passing of two of them dealing with trusts and combines, and with monopolies. But the party whip and party discipline have changed his attitude. Even the Argus, which is continually talking about freedom of thought and liberty of action, says that its readers, in order to oppose the Labour party, must impose a rigid party discipline. They seem to have arrived at the conclusion that this is necessary in order to consolidate their forces. The honorable member for Flinders, in company with the Leader of the Opposition, was willing two years ago to give the Commonwealth power in regard to monopolies. Now they stand solidly, like the Tories of old, and say, “Do not give the people anything.”
– No, look at our amendment.
– They would not give an inch, because, if that is conceded, the people will want a yard. That has been the attitude of the Tory regarding every reform. The Tories even objected to the people being educated, because they said they would get to know too much, would want improved conditions, and would abuse their privileges. The Tory has been the same throughout the ages; and although some of the former Tories Have disappeared from the Opposition benches, and other men have taken their places, still honorable members opposite are taking up the familiar Tory attitude. The Leader of the Opposition and other Liberals who are with him cannot break away from the Tories, from whom they will receive support during the coming campaign.
– That support is worth very little in Victoria.
– It has seemed so lately. The attitude of the Tories in this State will do more than anything else to carry our referenda proposals. I sincerely trust that the people of Australia will disregard all the eloquence and persuasion of the Tories opposite, and pay more attention to such solid facts as I have given this afternoon. If they do that, they will . certainly carry our proposals.
.- I had not had the advantage of hearing what was said from this side of the House in connexion with the Bill before us, but I did hear some of the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia. What strikes one first in connexion with the measure is its consistency with the other amending Bills that have been introduced by the Government in its essentially . antiFederal character. The Constitution was enacted for the purpose of conferring upon a central body certain enumerated national powers, and, as has been demonstrated beyond all doubt, the States reserved all those powers which were not surrendered to the central Government. The idea was that national powers in the interests of Australia were to be conferred upon the Federal Government, and that all other powers were to be retained by the States. It is now proposed to depart altogether from that Federal principle, to depart from the scheme and spirit of the Constitution itself, and to undertake not national powers, but trading, manufacturing, and business powers. That is a distinct, unwarranted, and wanton departure, and one for which there is no justification whatever. As a matter of fact, it” is well known that the Federal Parliament has certain powers incidental to the enumerated powers. If, for instance, it became necessary for the purpose of the construction of the transcontinental railway to nationalize, say, for instance, the iron industry, we have the most complete power to do so. If it were necessary for the purpose of effectively carrying out the enumerated powers to undertake any form of production or manufacture, we could do so.
– That is to say, we could manufacture iron, but we could not sell it.
– Anything that is ancillary to the more effective carrying out of the enumerated powers we can undertake. We have established a Saddlery Factory for the purpose of aiding in the supply of material for the Defence Force. We have established a Cordite Factory with a similar object. We have manufacturing and producing powers, as far as they may be necessary for the effective carrying out of the enumerated powers.
– High legal authorities say that the Commonwealth could run steamers to Tasmania to carry our mails, but that we could not carry passengers.
– It is possible that for the carrying of mails the Commonwealth could run steamers, but it certainly was never intended when the Constitution was framed that power should be granted to the Commonwealth to enter into competition with private concerns. Otherwise, those wider powers would have been specifically stated. A leading principle of the Constitution is that we are a national body, and have full power and control over Inter-State and foreign trade, and over Inter-State disputes. One would conclude, following out that general principle as far as trusts and monopolies are concerned, that they would be governed by a similar consideration. But not so. It is intended by the terms of this Bill, not only to deal with those industries or businesses which extend- from one State to another - to nationalize such industries - but it is also intended, even as to those industries which strictly confine their operations within the limits of a State, to ask for full and complete power to be granted to the Federal Parliament. I say that that is unwarranted. Not only is there no justification for it, but there has never been any public demand for it. The contrary is the case. The people have by a large vote declared that .they would have none of a policy which they recognised to be naked Socialism. On the occasion of the last referendum a specific proposal to amend the Constitution was put before the people. It provided that when -
The industry, or business, of producing, manufacturing, or supplying any specified goods, or of supplying any specified service, is the subject of a monopoly, the Parliament shall have power to make laws for carrying on the industry or business by or under the control of the Commonwealth, and securing for that purpose on just terms any property used in connexion with the industry or business.
That question was submitted on the 26th April, 191 1, and was rejected by a vast majority. Those voting “ Yes “ were 488,668; those voting “No” were 736,392. That is to say, there was a negative majority of something like a quarter of a million. Therefore, I urge that no justification exists for re-submitting the question to the people, who have already decided that they would have none of such a proposition.
– Would the honorable member say the same thing of Protection if it were defeated at a general election?
– Approval of the policy of Protection has been iterated and reiterated in Victoria whenever the question has been raised. The point about this proposition is, however, that only eighteen months ago it was directly submitted to the people, who declared that they would have none of it. I mention this as a reason why this House is not warranted in passing this measure. The House has already passed by considerable majorities two Bills, one of which deals with corporations, providing for their creation, regulation, control, and dissolution by the Federal Parliament, and enabling us to legislate fully in regard to all these -matters. More important still, there is the other Bill that was submitted giving full power to the Federal Parliament to rigidly and completely regulate and control . trusts, monopolies, and combines, without any qualification, except so far as the State railways are concerned. It was unjust and unfair on the part of the honorable member for Capricornia to urge that the Opposition are not prepared to grant any relief so far as dealing with trusts and combines are concerned. As a matter of fact, it has at all times .been the policy of this side to give the .most complete control over any combination in restraint of trade, which constitutes a source of injury to the people. It has been urged on both sides that there are beneficial trusts and combines ; but, as I say, it has always been the policy of honorable members on this side to regulate and control those which are injurious. The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Angas last year indicated clearly the policy of the Opposition, and provided for an amendment of the Constitution to secure full and complete control over combines and monopolies in restraint of trade, commerce, or manufacture in any part of a State of the Commonwealth ; and on the public platform and in this ‘Chamber I have never hesitated to state in the most unqualified terms the views that I am now reiterating. If the amendment that we proposed had been accepted by the other side we could, with them, strongly urge the acceptance of an amendment of the Constitution in this direction.
– But the honorable member would stop at nationalization?
– Yes. In my opinion, the Government is not sincere in its proposals to regulate and control trusts, combines, and monopolies. I say, moreover, that the support of that Bill is a mere pretence on the part of honorable members opposite. They are using the Bill to secure nationalization as an instalment of Socialism.
– The honorable member is not in order in saying that any legislation is introduced as a “ mere pretence.”
– I do not think my honorable friends opposite are so sensitive as to object to the word, but I shall use the phrase “political pretence” if it is more fitted to their tender susceptibilities. The Bill to which I refer is ostensibly directed to the control of monopolies and combines, but it is to be used for the purpose of making headway towards nationalization. It is very useful for platform purposes for my honorable friends opposite to be able to refer to the tyrannous and nefarious practices of the monopolies and combines in America ; and these are the sort of arguments they intend to advance in favour of the position that nationalization is the true remedy. That is the aim and object of honorable members opposite - that is their Socialistic fad which they hope to carry into effect in this particular way. Early in the session the Attorney-General said that by the “ process of evolution the Labour party must come to their own,” ‘and that the regulation of profits and prices was the only way to obtain a solution of the industrial problem. The reintroduction of this particular measure is doubtless the process of evolution to which he referred and by which the Labour party are to come to their own - the process of taking over people’s businesses and industries in a free, easy, and accessible manner. The honorable member for Capricornia was very anxious to dissociate Syndicalism from the aims and objects of his party, but he knows that the aggressive Socialist does not hesitate to avow Syndicalism to be part and parcel of their policy. In fact, one great Socialist authority has said that “the day is not far distant when the best definition of Socialism will be the general strike.”
– Who said that ?
– Sorel is the authority, and I saw the quotation in the Argus of the 3rd August last. However, we need not quote high authorities to satisfy ourselves as to the true position ; we know that the aim of the more aggressive section of the party is what I have prescribed.
– Is the honorable member a single-taxer because some honorable members on his side are single-taxers ?
– Certainly not; but here the true position is obvious to the meanest understanding. It is a sign of the times that we discover at representative Labour meetings, and in various institutions of the Labour party ; indeed, the honorable member for Maranoa has himself declared that the right to strike is part and parcel of the policy of the Labour party.
– Hear, hear !
– And the strike is the policy of the very people who are determined to secure Syndicalism.
– The honorable member must not discuss the question of Syndicalism.
– I do not suppose that I should have mentioned it had the honorable member for Capricornia not delivered a dissertation on the subject. However, it is quite clear that, by a process of Socialism, the more extreme members of the Labour party desire to bring all industries under the control of the Commonwealth. I am not prepared to say that there is any deliberate intention, but I do not fear any successful contradiction when I say that the proposed amendment of the Constitution, in its present form, means confiscation.
– That yarn is played out.
– The Bill provides for the taking over of monopolies, and for acquiring for that purpose “ on justterms, any property used in connexion with the industry or business.” But property used in connexion with the business may be the least valuable part ; the more valuable portion of any business may consist in the connexion of the proprietor. Hence it is not proposed to take over a business or industry as it stands, but to take over property used in connexion with it. This means taking over only what has a distinct marketable value as property, and what, in all probability, is entirely apart from or severable from the infinitely more valuable portion of the business, namely, the company’s, or the man’s, connexion, as the case may be. If it is desired by my friends opposite to be fair and just, the proposed amendment should provide for acquiring on just terms “ such industry or business, and any property used in. connexion therewith.”
– The Government could take the business without paying anything if they chose.
– That is the policy of the burglar and the highwayman.
– It is the policy of the trusts all the time.
– Let us rigidly and completely regulate trusts which are in restraint of trade. I have always been the strongest of advocates for this, and introduced in the Senate the anti-trust laws, which is our best answer.
– What will the property consist of ?
– It will consist of the proprietor’s assets, such as plant, stock in trade, and buildings.
– Not the good- will.
– No. The honorable member is a fair and just man, and, if he means good-will to be included, the proper form of the amendment would be what I have suggested. I do not permit myself to believe that confiscation is intended by honorable members opposite. If a man has carried on a business for a number of years, and has gradually built up a profitable connexion, and the National Parliament decides to take over that business, it should take it over as it finds it, and should pay the owner reasonable compensation to be ascertained by an independent tribunal.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that any Parliament would act unjustly?
– The honorable member must see that this Bill proposes that compensation shall be given the owner of a business taken over only for the property used in connexion with his business. I challenge the Attorney-General to say that the words of this Bill cover compensation for the good- will of a business taken over by the Commonwealth.
– If a business is built up by robbing the people, should that be compensated for?
– The other Bill to which I have referred provides for the regulation of combines to prevent that contingency. If. the honorable member by the exercise of zeal, ability, and determination succeeded in establishing a business, the most valuable part of which was the connexion he had acquired, would he regard it as fair and just that this Parliament should compulsorily ‘ acquire his business without compensating him for the valuable connexion he had built up? Honorable members opposite must make up their minds one way or the other. I have said what the Bill provides for, and whatI suggest that it should provide for in connexion with the compulsory acquisition by the Commonwealth of any business, and I submit my suggestion for the consideration of the Attorney-General.
– Will the honorable gentleman support the Bill if the words which he suggests are included?
– No; because I am opposed to nationalization. I am giving my honorable friends credit that they do not intend confiscation.
– The High Court will interpret the provision referred to.
– No; the High Court cannot interpret that provision to include compensation for the good-will of a business.
– Does the honorable gentleman propose to dictate to the High Court? It is a frightful state of affairs that the honorable gentleman should browbeat the High Court in this way. There would appear to be another word which we do not know the meaning of.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral say that this provision will cover compensation for the good-will of a business taken over by the Commonwealth ?
– I say nothing ; I am waiting to hear what the honorable gentleman has to say.
– The honorable gentleman knows very well that the goodwill of a business is not included.
– I object to the honorable gentleman putting that statement into my mouth.
– I shall not do so, but I say that as a lawyer the honorable gentleman must know that the goodwill is not included under this provision.
– I know that I am going to trust the High Court.
– I am glad to hear so substantial an indication of reform on the part of my honorable friend. If at this stage there is any doubt on the question, why should we not make the provision clear? If we intend that a busi ness when taken over by the Commonwealth shall be taken over as we find it, and its proprietor reasonably and fairly compensated for the good-will of the business, as well as the property connected with it, we should say so. If, on the other hand, it is intended to deprive the owner of all compensation for his business connexion, then it is another matter, and at least not creditable to Parliament. I urge also that this Parliament is the most unsuitable of all tribunals for determining the question whether a business is a monopoly or not. Under this Bill, Parliament is to be given the power to declare a certain business or industry to be a monopoly. In every case in which compulsion is exercised, whether in connexion with the power of eminent domain or in our Acts for the acquisition of property for public purposes, arbitration is provided for the purpose of dealing, with the question and assessing compensation. Under this Bill, what will take place will be that the Government of the day will submit a motion that a certain industry is a monopoly.
Mr.Fenton. - After investigation.
– There is no provision in this Bill for investigation, and, if there were, the investigation would be of an exparte character. I submit that where it is proposed to compulsorily acquire a man’s business and property, he should at least have the right to be heard; but it is not proposed under this Bill to give him the privilege of being heard.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong.
– I am not wrong. I am stating what is an absolute fact.I could better understand the proposal if the question of deciding whether a particular business is or is not a monopoly were left in the hands of an impartial tribunal such as the High Court or the Inter-State Commission. In those circumstances, both sides would be heard. The man whose business it was proposed to take over would have the right to be heard before the tribunal and to prove, perhaps, that his business was not a monopoly, and that it was not of such a character that it should be undertaken by the Government of the country at all.
– What is the honorable gentleman building upon?
– The honorable member must be aware that I have to take this Bill as I find it. If the Government desire to take over a man’s business, all that it will be necessary for them to do under this Bill is to induce this House and another place to pass a resolution declaring that the business is a monopoly. It will then be taken over without any provision being made for inquiry, or to enable the owner to be heard, and there is a further provision - as I have already pointed out - declaring that he shall be compensated, not for the good-will of his business, but only for any property used in connexion with it. I say that this proposal transgresses the rudimentary elements of British justice. It is so unfair and unreasonable that it does the AttorneyGeneral, who introduced it, no credit. I again urge that this Parliament is the most unsuitable body to deal with a question of this kind. The proprietor of a business has the right to demand that the question of fact as to whether his business is a monopoly shall, preliminary to its nationalization, be submitted for the determination of such a tribunal as the High Court or the InterState Commission. After he has been heard before such a tribunal, he should., of course, be bound by its decision. In the determination of such a question by Parliament, party feeling will be bound to assert itself. The proposed amendments, if carried, will be carried upon ‘party lines, quite irrespective of the merits of the question. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to suggest that such a question should be submitted to an impartial tribunal.
– The honorable member is insulting all future Parliaments.
– Of what use is it foi the honorable member to say that? We know how such matters are dealt with. We know that these proposals for the amendment of the Constitution are being dealt with upon party lines.
– Can the honorable gentleman give an instance in which Parliament has acted unjustly?
– Parliament is dealing unjustly in the passing of the measures now under our consideration.
– That is for the people to say.
– Parliament is recommending them to the people. I have pointed out how in two important respects those who will be affected by the provisions of this Bill may suffer gross injustice.’ First of all, because there is no provision for compensation for the good-will of a business taken over by the Commonwealth, and, second, because the determination of the question whether the industry is one which should be taken over is to be left to the most unsuitable tribunal that could be suggested.
– Why is Parliament unsuitable for this duty?
– Because Parliament is conducted on party lines.
– Are not the honorable gentleman’s remarks dictated by party?
– The introduction and passing of these proposals for the amendment of the Constitution have proceeded on party lines, although, above all” things, such proposals should be considered without reference to party considerations. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that every proposal for the amendment of the Constitution submitted to this Parliament has been dealt with on party lines.
– The Prime Minister said this was to be a party question.
– And the honorable member for Wimmera is going to vote against the proposals on party lines.
– Because the Prime Minter has made it a party question.
– I venture again to assert that this Parliament is the most unsuitable tribunal which could be appealed to to settle such a question. I urge the Attorney-General to sever the judicial and the political tribunals, and substitute the High Court or the Inter-State Commission as an infinitely superior tribunal for the purpose of dealing with a matter so grave as to involve the compulsory deprivation of a man of his business and property. I would further say that there is no urgency whatever for this measure. We have a right to consider what will be the effect of the national control of industries should the other proposed amendment of the Constitution be carried. Those industries which are injurious to the public must be controlled, but we should at least have the benefit of the experience of their control by Parliament before we resort to a departure such as this, which is anti-Federal in its terms, does violence to the Federal scheme, and was never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, and particularly by the States themselves in handing over to this Parliament national powers. The States already have power to deal with all industries or businesses that lie within their own ambit, and the fact that they have not attempted to exercise that power at least goes to demonstrate that within the States there have not been any injurious monopolies.
– Victoria did attempt nationalization in connexion with the coal industry.
– There are quite -a number of State-owned enterprises.
– Undoubtedly there are. I am with the honorable member all the time in nationalizing or municipalizing public utilities. I am a firm believer in our present system of State-owned railways, postal services, and telephones.
– What about gasworks?
– And, if necessary, in municipalizing or nationalizing gas works or any other public utility. But, at the same time, I urge that our experience in the actual management of public concerns does not justify an extension of the national power, such as is now proposed, to the management or control of commercial, business, and trading concerns. The cumbrous management associated with the public ownership of utilities has been endured by the people only because of the paramount importance of those utilities being dealt with by a national or public body- But, in proposing to enter into competition in respect of manufactures and production generally, we are courting danger and failure and making a grievous mistake.
– Is not the supply of sugar a public utility?
– If it were demonstrated that sugar could not be produced by private enterprise, except in a manner injurious to the public, we should have a right to consider the desirableness of dealing with it in another way. But where we have complete and rigid control over the sugar industry, and the other industries to which I referred, there can be no necessity for their nationalization. It is for these reasons that I urge that this Bill is premature, and it certainly has not been justified by any statement from the Government side of the House. But since, no matter what we may say in regard to nationalization, honorable members opposite are determined to push on with the proposal, I suggest, for their calm consideration, that, if they are going to resort to this naked piece of Socialism, it should be conducted on fair and reasonable lines. It should not extend to the perpetration of such an act of injustice as taking over the good-will of a business without compensation, and Parliament should not be the tribunal to deal with the question of whether or not an industry should be nationalized, without permitting the person concerned to be heard.
– That is nonsense. Those concerned will be heard through their representatives in the Parliament.
– Then I urge -the honorable member to see that there is embodied in this Bill such a provision as will insure that every business nationalized will be taken over on the basis of fair play, because the Bill, in its present form, does not insure that justice in that respect will be done.
– The honorable member for Kooyong, who has just resumed his seat, has apparently a great contempt for future Parliaments. There seems to be some very strong, inborn reason for his contempt, and the only conclusion to which I can come is that he is afraid that the Opposition are going to remain where they are for many years hence. I think that the honorable member was most unfair in suggesting that injustices would occur under this Bill. There is’ nothing in the Bill as it stands which declares that this Parliament may not investigate to the fullest degree any business that it proposes to take over. We had the right before we passed the Tariff Bill to investigate the possibilities of various industries in Australia, and there is nothing in this measure which provides that the Parliament shall not investigate any industry before it proceeds to nationalize it. I would warn all public bodies, whether they be legislatures, municipal councils, co-operative societies, or public companies, not to propose .to give compensation to any industry which they are about to take over until they have investigated it. Good-will, after all, belongs to the public. All. business is carried on by permission of the Commonwealth or States, and the people of the Commonwealth should have full right, through their Parliament, to prohibit the carrying on of any business in a way that it believes to be detrimental to the people. I welcome this fight. This is a fight between the co-operative people of the Commonwealth on the one side, and the trusts, with a few private enterprises behind them, on the other. If there is any one of these measures for the amendment of the Constitution which I thought honorable members of the Opposition with democratic tendencies would support, it is this which provides for the nationalization of monopolies. What does the nationalization of monopolies mean? It means the formation of a co-operative society consisting of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth to take over a business. The Opposition told us only a few months ago that they were in favour of co-operation and co-partnership. Now, when we come down with the best scheme of co-operation that has ever been put before the people, they forsakeall their-co-operative ideas and inveigh against us.
– Did the Opposition say they desired Socialism?
– Honorable members may call this proposal what they will. I do not care what they call it. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. We all know what this proposal is. Ever since Sir George Reid threw his javelins at us and raised the cry of anti- Socialism, we have progressed and grown. The honorable member may call this a scheme for co-operative Socialism if he pleases. In connexion with trade and commerce we have many voluntary co-operative societies. Such societies have done immense good in England, and in some cases their businesses have reached enormous proportions. Voluntary co-operation is good ; State cooperation is better, and national or Commonwealth co-operation is best of all. If co-operation in a small way is good, as every one admits it to be, then when carried on upon a large scale it must be better, because it means even less waste. I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members opposite, if they wish to solve the problem of the future in regard to the high cost of living. Combinations and trusts have shown us how to conserve energy, to reduce waste, to work on a big scale, and to control sufficient finance to carry on colossal undertakings the like of which the world never saw before. The solution of the difficulty is to have one great monopoly - the monopoly of the whole of the people to carry on any industry for the benefit of the whole of the people. I am prepared to face both the producers and the consumers of my constituency on that basis. It is absurd for any man to tell the public that by means of tricky legislation trusts can be controlled and prices regulated. Those who suggest such “ tiddly winking “ things will be turned down by the public, because they have seen and heard too much of Yankee trusts and Yankee legislation.
– That argument will apply equally to any industry.
– The honorable member is right, and I am prepared to support the co-operative Commonwealth - the whole of the people - taking over any industry that can be carried on in that way better than by private enterprise and more in the interestsof the people.
– What about the sugar industry ?
-I refer to any industry. The honorable member evidently thinks that I should be afraid because of the report of the Sugar Commission to propose the nationalization of that industry. If so, he makes a grievous error. The report certainly advises the Government not to buy out the machinery used in that industry, because it might become scrap iron. Does any one think that if the Government nationalized the industry of sugar refining they would be so foolish as to buy mere scrap iron? If there are new processes the Government can avail themselves of them just as can private individuals.
– The Sugar Commission says something more than that. It says that the Government could not conduct the industry as well as private enterprise has done.
– Since they have admitted that there is a margin of millions of profit to work upon, their contention, falls to the ground. I am not permitted in connexion with this measure to deal at length with the Sugar Trust, but I may say that where it can be shown that there is a margin of millions in respect of dividends and profits to work upon, I am prepared to support the Government taking over the industry, believing that we could give better prices to the growers and lower prices to the consumers, while still retaining a very big margin to work upon. If the Commissioners who investigated the sugar industry had not shown that there was an enormous margin of profit to work upon, I should perhaps have nothing to go upon. But they have shown that there is a margin of millions to work upon. The honorable member who says that a small society can reach a certain efficiency, and, therefore, a big society could not be as efficient, turns down the lessons of the trusts, and the lessons of economics and common sense. He says, “This is anfi- Federal ; this is against the Constitution which was made twelve years ago.” Would he like his twelve-year-old boy to wear the same clothes in the streets as he wore when he was a year old? The stupidity of having a rigid Constitution is that, as we progress, what suited us twelve years ago does not suit us to-day, what suits us to-day will not suit us to-morrow. The Constitution should be one which can be amended to suit the hour, to suit progress.
– So it can.
– Why does the honorable member object to the people having the right to amend the Constitution. Does he trust the people ?
– Let it be remembered that this proposal asks us to give the people of Australia a right.
– The people told you twelve months ago that they did not want it.
– Nearly three years ago my honorable friends opposite appealed as a Government from the platform, and the people turned them down. Yet my honorable friends are going out at the next election as bravely as ever to ask if they are wanted. What is the use of this absurd proceeding? If honorable members wish to be fair, let them say to the people, “Now, at the last election, you returned the Labour party, you turned us down, and, therefore, we have no right to ask you to return us this time.” Let them be fair and logical.
– What we did was to submit to their will; and we have given you a fair run for nearlv three years.
– Let my honorable friends keep on submitting to the will of the people. Let them tell the people that they still submit, and, therefore, do not want to get on the Treasury bench.
– We obeyed the will of the people, but you decline to do that. That is the distinction ; and the people are very sorry for what they did.
– Honorable members must surely know that in Switzerland it has become the practice to submit referenda proposals about three times before they are carried. The referendum is a most conservative weapon ; it is very much more conservative than is Parliament. Much of the legislation which Parliament passes would not be passed on a referendum.
– Can you give an instance where in Switzerland they have submitted a matter three times in the same form, or the same substance.
– The honorable member knows that these are not submitted in the same form.
– The same sub- stance.
– The honorable member’s argument against the proposals last time was, “ I cannot vote for them because they are all submitted as one question. If it was separated into parts I would vote for some of them. ‘ ‘
– This was submitted as one question.
– I was referring to the whole of the referenda, not to this particular one. My honorable friends onthe other side put me in mind of gentlemen who want the class of roads we had in the days of the bullock-dray to be used for motor cars and in place of railways. They seem to be taking a stride back instead of being progressive. I sat behind some of them a few years ago on this side of the House, believing that they were Democrats instead of Retrogressives, and it is astonishing to me to-day to find them so Conservative. It shows what the whirligig of time will do. The honorable member for Kooyong, who put up a very gallant, though perhaps suicidal, fight for his friends, is greatly aggrieved because there will be no payment for good-will. The public, if they take over an industry, may pay for good-will if they wish. There is nothing in these proposals to say that they shall not pay for good-will. If my honorable friend will agree to put in a clause that these corporations, trusts and pools shall be fined£1 for every£1 of which they have robbed the people during the time they have carried on operations, I am willing that that money shall be put into a fund to recompense those whose methods are to some extent legitimate. That is, I think, fair.
– Is that a sporting offer?
– What about the people whom they crushed out before they secured a monopoly?
– I am also willing to be more fair with them if they will pay to every man whom they have displaced a reasonable compensation, if they will find employment for every man who was working on a wage, and was crushed out by the establishment of their monopoly. Do honorable members think that we have a record in the establishment of trusts? Wherever they are established they displace labour and traders. From the talk of honorable members, one would think that the conditions under private enterprise to.-day are absolutely ideal. According to the statistical register of Great Britain, there were over 7,000 bankruptcies there during 1 909. Every day there are bankruptcies here, and many, of them are caused by the accumulation’ of business in the hands of trusts. We know that any Government that dared to displace people from an industry must find other avenues of employment for them. I could not support any proposal that would monopolize any industry or business, and as trusts in America do, turn persons adrift to, as it were, scratch for themselves.
– No man has been severer on injurious trusts than I have, as the honorable member must know.
– Yet the honorable member refuses to give the people an opportunity to say that this Parliament shall regulate or nationalize them.
– That is not the reason. ^
– How is the honorable member going to face the people and tell them that he does not trust them? Regarding the regulation of prices, we cannot forget that the one object of trusts is to regulate prices. That is their one method of getting their money back. First, they regulate the prices down to kill competition, and then they raise the prices to get back all that they lost, and an enormous profit as well. That would not occur if the Commonwealth had control. Take one great monopoly which the Commonwealth Parliament controls - the Post Office. Have we raised the charges? No, we have reduced the cost of transmitting a letter from 2d. to id., and the cost “of sending a telegram from is. to 6d. We are making the services as good as we possibly can for the whole public. In regard to any other monopoly which we might take ever, all that we would need to make would be a reasonable interest on the money invested - say 3J, or perhaps 4, per cent.- - and a sinking fundi which would gradually extinguish the whole indebtedness. Let me point out now what a trust wants. It wants ‘not only a sinking found, but, above all, a big dividend ; and that is where we part company from honorable members opposite. They may go on the platforms throughout Australia, and say to the people, ‘ ‘ Do not have a monopoly of your own ; do not form a co-operative company of the whole people ; do not run any business that will need to pay a dividend, but only a business that will pay working expenses, interest on capital, and .a sinking fund, and a big dividend to private people.
– Do not forget that this year we shall have to make a grant of j£i, 500,000 in aid of the Post Office.
– That is because the Opposition party neglected that Department for years and years, and handed back to the States money which ought to have been employed in developing various postal services. We found that the telephone and telegraphic facilities were inadequate; that post-offices had to be built and that better contracts had to be extended to mailmen, and wages of postal employes had to be raised. My honorable friend says that we are not endeavouring to run the Post Office for a profit. We have never attemptd to do that.
– You run it at a big loss.
– When honorable members opposite inveigh against the Post Office, they must know that they are doing wrong, because the desire is that the Post Office shall be a service for the good of the people, and not a profit-making concern. t That is the real distinction. If we nationalize an industry we immediately make it a service, and if id. in is. is a sufficient profit, why should we take 2d. ? A trust, however, is never satisfied. If id. in is. is sufficient profit for interest and sinking fund, the trust wants another 3d: to pay a dividend. That is the history of private enterprise. I challenge my honorable friend; or any one else, to say that it is not.
– - If you ran them all on the same basis as the Post Office you would soon be in “ Queer Street.”
– I am not prepared to say that the Post Office is under the best business management, but I am desirous of effecting improvements until it is. Surely the blame for the bad management should rest with those who had control of the Department for nine years, instead of with those who have been in control for only a little over two years ! Give us the control for nine years, and I warrant that the Post Office will be on a much better business footing than it is now. Of course, I can quite understand a certain element in the community opposing any straight-out method which will do away with litigation. I notice that amongst the legal fraternity there is a trend to fight for legislation on lines which will cause litigation, and secure plenty of fees ; it is a habit which they have. If the last speaker could only have his way in regulating the trusts, of what a lovely sum the lawyers would be able to mulct the people in their efforts to get justice ! He wants a game of “ catchascatchcan,” so that the legal fraternity may go on their way rejoicing. That is one reason why I shall urge the people to vote for giving full powers. The Leader of the Opposition says, “ We are not in favour of letting the trusts have full sway. We will clip their wings; we will clip, and clip, and clip till they have no wings.” Whoever heard of a trust wanting to fly when it had no wings? Who would expect a corporation of financiers to remain in a country that had clipped its surplus profits. That argument is too funny. As soon as trusts find that a country will not allow them to exploit its people, they go elsewhere. If there were universal Free Trade, they would fly to Japan and China and other cheap labour countries, where they would have to pay their operatives only a. few pence a day in order to make all the profit they could. I do not blame them. Those whom I blame are the free people of Australia, who have one adult, one vote, and a Government in power that offers the one definite method of protecting them against trusts and pools. The Bill does not go far enough for me. It is limited to monopolies. I would like full power’ of controlling exports and imports to be given to the people, so that they could control the whole of our trade and commerce, and nationalize trade which is not a. monopoly. How are we to deal with monopolies that send their goods into Australia? Certainly there is the Tariff and the Anti-Trusts Acts, but before we can thoroughly deal with trusts oversea it will benecessary to obtain greater control of commerce.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that he would nationalize all the trade of the country ?
– The export and import trade. The Government should have absolute control of it, especially the import trade, so as to deal with the foreign trusts and combines which send their products here. I come now to the real danger of the situation. The honorable member for Ballarat put forward a childish supposition. He asked why, after clipping the wings of the trusts, and taking from them their power to do damage, should we nationalize them? Because they will desire to get away from the country quickly, and will be prepared to sell out at a very low price. Suppose they did not sell out, and chose to remain, there is this point, of which I do not wish honorable members to lose sight. If we had a hundred trusts and combines controlling the main avenues of our commerce, they could dictate to the public how they should conduct their lives. They could say into what channels financial enterprise should go. That is the curse we have to fear. It is the curse that besets America, Great Britain, and the whole world. These huge accumulations of money and financial power in the hands of a few enable them to dictate how the world’s commerce shall go. If you examine the result, you will find that they dictate that it shall go in those directions which will tenable them to obtain the biggest profits, and to revel in wealth. I am opposed to any small collection of persons in our Australian community having power of life and death over the public, because of their control of finance. We have dealt the first and vital blow at the monopoly of finance by establishing our Commonwealth Bank which, on the1st January next, will open its doors for general business all over Australia. That is a commencement in the direction of the control by the people themselves of the finance of Australia, and of the avenues into which financial investments shall go.
– There will be a loss in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank, for a time at any rate.
– There is scarcely a trust or monopoly that has not lost money for a time. But honorable members have heard about throwing “a sprat to catch a mackerel.” If, while we are establishing our banking premises in the various towns of Australia we lose is. 6d., we shall gain 21s. 6d. after we get going. I can forgive any man who has locked his brain cells with the key of private enterprise opposing the establishment of the National Bank ; but I would remind the honorable member that, in his constituency, there is a splendid illustration of what cooperation can do. He, no doubt, will say to the people of Byron Bay, “ Gentlemen, you see what you have done by uniting in the production of butter, but do not let your enterprises grow any bigger. Do not unite to carry on the trade and commerce of Australia, because that would be bad.”
– It would be bad.
– I like to see co-operation, and desire more of it, particularly among the producers, but I am a stickler for the nationalization, of monopolies, to give the Commonwealth absolute control of distribution, so that the producers may get a better price for their products. Waste is the giant that sits on the shoulders of the people today. To “ tiddly wink “ with legislation against trusts and pools, and to allow the waste of our present system to continue, is to fool the people. Waste must be abolished. That is why I say, “Accept the lessons of the trusts; they have shown how waste may be abolished by concentration and unification.” The honorable member for Ballarat, when saying that we have gone behind the Federal spirit by proposing to deal with InterState .commerce, forgets that commerce is not only State, but Inter-State, national, and international. He does not want to make that clear. I was in court once, fighting my own case, and I made this slip of the tongue : I said, ‘ ‘ You must admit. ‘ ‘ The lawyer said, “ I admit nothing.” The honorable member for Ballarat has followed this time-honoured practice. He has not admitted that trade is international, that the trusts of America take toll at our breakfast tables, that when we light an oil lamp we are helping the Oil Trust, and that when we buy a tomahawk we are supporting the Steel Trust. If you go into our boot factories, you will see machines on which are dials registering every stroke made. The trusts that own those machines draw dividends from the operatives ‘who are in charge of them. The operations of trusts reach out through the civilized and uncivilized world to-day. The trusts are exploiting the public in every way. Even the honorable member for Angas admitted that there are thirty-three of them operating in Australia. Yet members of the Opposition say to the people of this country, “ Don’t take to yourselves the power to deal with these trusts. Let them rob you, let them sweat you, let them do what they choose, but for God’s sake don’t take to yourselves the power to fight’ them.” What are the electors likely to reply on polling day? If there be one proposal in the six Bills relating to constitutional alterations which will be carried by an overwhelming majority, it is that which is contained in the measure under consideration.
– I say without any “if” that this is one proposal which the electors will carry. I am delighted to find that the honorable member for Richmond takes up the attitude that he does. He is the awful example of how not to do it. I think that an Opposition of troglodytes is the most useful Opposition we can have. Honorable members opposite are putting up such a weak fight that they are convincing the people every day of the wisdom of the course which we are taking. The people will explode all their flapdoodle for themselves, because in the furthest corner of the honorable member’s electorate there are public schools.
– What is a troglodyte?
– The honorable member has shown us what is a political troglodyte. The character of mind which is exhibited by some honorable members opposite is something which I would like to see materialized and preserved in a glass case for the benefit of future ages. They were obsessed with the idea that the Labour party could not carry on. the government of this country until they took office. But I venture to say that our legislative record is a greater and a more creditable one than is that of any of our predecessors. I am satisfied that honorable members opposite will experience great difficulty in persuading the people to vote against the nationalization of monopolies.
.- The Bills which are designed to effect certain alterations in our Constitution were made a party question before the Prime Minister brought them forward in this House. This is a measure which only requires to be dealt with on its merits to demonstrate that it ought to be rejected by this Parliament and by the electors. I agree with President Lincoln, who said -
I bold that while man exists it is his duty to improve, not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind. Labour is prior to, and independent of, capital ; capital is only the fruit of labour, and could never have existed but for labour. Labour is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor should this lead to a war upon the owners of property. Property is the fruit of labour; property is desirable ; is a positive good in the world. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus, by example, showing that his own shall be safe from violence when built.
These are words of wisdom which should be taken to heart by every member of the community, and especially by honorable members upon whom is cast the duty of enacting laws which can so seriously affect, prejudically or otherwise, not only the health, but also the prosperity, of the community. The proposal embodied in the Bill which is before us sets out that -
When each House of the Parliament in the same session has by resolution, passed by an absolute majority of its members, declared that the industry or business of producing, manufacturing, or supplying any specified services, is the subject of a monopoly^ the Parliament shall have power to make laws for carrying on the industry or business by or under the control of the Commonwealth, and acquiring for that purpose on just terms any property used in connexion with the industry or business.
That proposal should be read in conjunction with one of the principal planks in the platform of the Labour party, namely, the “ Nationalization of Monopolies.” When the two are associated the real object of this Bill is revealed.
– Marvellous !
– The honorable member never rises in the House to express his opinion, but he expresses it constantly by interjection in the most inane manner. We have to turn to the organization which frames the Labour party’s policy to understand why this measure has been submitted by the Government.
– Who framed the policy of the honorable member’s party?
– Fortunately, the Liberal party has sufficient initiative to frame its own policy, with the result that it has given to Australia most of our legislation that is worth having. This measure will bring into the arena of party politics the issue of Socialism. Monopolies will have to be denned, and the definition will be given by a majority in this Parliament. That means that the definition will be formulated by the organizations outside which control the Ministerial party. Consequently, if we pass this Bill, we break down that protective barrier which lies between the driving power of the outside Caucus and the party occupying the Treasury benches. In this sense the nationalization of monopolies, carried to its natural sequence, means the nationalization of every private interest in the community. An interpretation of the policy of the nationalization of monopolies has been presented to us by the leaders of the Labour party ever since it became a powerful political force. Responsible leaders like the Prime Minister, Mr. Watson, Senator Pearce, the Minister of External Affairs, the editor of the Brisbane Worker, and others who might be quoted, have frequently interpreted this plank of the Labour party’s policy, and have shown that its direction is that of Socialism.
– This has been a plank in our platform ever since we have been a Labour party.
– But “ nationalization of monopolies “ has been regarded as a milder way of putting the real object of the Labour party, which is straight-out Socialism. What is really meant is the nationalization of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange. That is the real aim of the party opposite.
– It is not.
– It all depends upon the way the policy of the nationalization of monopolies is interpreted, and we know that the interpretation will depend upon the driving force of the political bodies which control the Ministerial party, and who have already gripped the administration of the Government.
– Each party has to pay for its own political sins. The honorable member’s party has had to pay for the Fusion.
– I am showing how far this nationalization of monopolies policy is going to carry the Labour party. I have pointed out that it means bringing into the arena of party politics the defining of a monopoly, and that if the definition is to be formulated by the driving force of the Labour organizations outside, it simply means that under cover of this policy a system of straight-out Socialism is to be introduced.
– I think that the policy of the honorable member’s party is made outside, also.
– As I have said before, we are a party of freedom.
– What about Mrs. Berry, then?
– I think that that lady “ got one home “ on the honorable member when she declared that something like £45,000 was paid into the fighting fund of the Labour party. That statement was contained in one of the Labour journals-
– Poor old girl ! Give her a show !
– I do not think that the honorable member should speak disrespectfully of any lady. It is taking a liberty to speak of a lady in such terms.
One has only to search the pages of history to learn that attempts at Socialism have always failed dismally and absolutely.
– Will the honorable member give a definition of Socialism?
– I shall not, but I may give a definition by a German philosopher that seems to me to be as near the truth as we can get. He says that “ Socialism is a phenomenon that includes tendencies which demand a greater regard for the common weal than exists in. human nature.” The experience of the world, wherever Socialism has been tried, has proved the truth of that definition. The tendency of Socialism is not to bring those at the bottom side by side with those at the top, but to reduce the efficient to the level of the inefficient, simply because all stimulus to progress and efficiency is destroyed. When we go back to the stage of the boomerang, the bludgeon, and the tomahawk, we find signs of equality; and the aboriginal state presents the only example in history of anything like successful or continuous Socialism.
– Read Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Peru.
– I happen to have glanced into that work, and into several other works dealing with the history of all countries, and I have failed to find one successful illustration of that kind of Socialism- or communism that was probably first promulgated away back in the old Grecian days, and through the succeeding centuries in European nations. Socialism has been tried in a co-operative spirit, and I admit that there have been certain, successes. Perhaps the greatest the world ever saw was the experiment of Robert Owen, at New Lanark, which was purely co-operative, because there was room for personal stimulus ; but when the operations were transferred to Pennsylvania, in the United States of America, and it became a purely socialistic community, it failed. Experiments have been tried in France, Germany, and in most countries, but in every instance there has been failure, one of the latest being that of New Australia in Paraguay.
– That was bad management.
– No doubt, but the Minister himself is an example of what some stimulus will do, for he seems to have in some respects forged ahead of the average man. He is now a Minister of the Crown, and, in other directions, has been successful. Would it have been possible for him to make headway if there had not been room provided for him by that individuality in the community which will not prevent people from making progress if they wish? If we crush out all individuality, how can there be any stimulus or progress? However, I do not wish to discuss the academic side of Socialism. The previous speaker talked of the success of co-operative effort ; and, in my opinion, co-operation will prove largely a solution of the industrial troubles of the future, and lead to the betterment of the human family.
– What is cooperation but Socialism?
– Co-operation is not Socialism. Socialism crushes out all individuality and destroys stimulus, whereas co-operation is a banding together of people for mutual assistance in the conduct of a particular line of business - the participating in the success of a business according to the efficiency and ability put into it. Under a system of co-operation, especially in the management of large businesses, we can have competition just as fierce a3 in the case of large businesses controlled by single individuals. Co-operative effort has been very successful in Great Britain and also in France, while in. Germany and in Italy the people’s banks afford perhaps, the most successful illustration. All that, however, is quite distinct from Socialism. A little while ago Mr. John Burns, was pressed by the Labour party to introduce a Right-to- Work Bill in the House of Commons, under which the Crown would have been compelled to find employment for every man who desired it. Mr. Burns made some investigation into the matter, and his experience was what we may expect if the State is called upon to provide work for all and sundry. Lamdon is a country workhouse, with 100 acres allotted to it, on which 140 men are regularly employed. Like all other public works of that character, it makes no attempt to be self-supporting, and, up to the present, it has cost the State £20,000 for maintenance. On a farm adjoining, Mr. Burns saw at work an agricultural labourer, aged between sixty, and sixtyfive, who said it took him two weeks to dig an acre of land. Mr. Burns then went over the way, and found able-bodied men engaged on public work, under conditions approximating to right-to-work conditions, and there sixty-seven men had taken ten days to dig an acre of land. In another instance it had cost £7 a ton to break stones, as against 4s. under ordinary circumstances. Mr. Burns’ own investigation sounded the death-knell of the Right-to- Work Bill, andthe illustration he affords could be multiplied if necessary.
– Surely Mr. Burns did not content himself with that narrow experience?
– He made further inquiries.
– I should think he did !
– And he decided that he would not be doing justice to the British taxpayer if he expended the public money in such a direction.
– Any amount of work could be provided by the London County Council .
– The London County Council has its work carried out under very drastic supervision ; indeed, it is one of the best-managed corporations in the world. In Australia many municipalities carry out their own work by day labour, and under proper supervision this gives satisfaction. Municipalities have specific work to carry out generally of a simple character; and their case is. very different from that of a State engaged in all sorts of trading enterprises, and, by turning every member of the community into a public servant, removing all possibility of supervision.
– Who wishes to do that?
– That is the tendency of this proposal. I claim that under cover of the nationalization of monopolies, which are to be denned by a majority in this Parliament, it will be possible for the dominant party, under the driving force of the unions outside, to nationalize any business they please. We know that this is only a part of the general scheme of nationalization. Most of the State Labour parties are in favour of the nationalization of the land. This is the first step towards the raising of a superstructure of Socialism, which will make every man in the country a Government employe. We know what was the result of a previous debate, and that we have had a declaration from the AttorneyGeneral that he is going to fix prices. We have yet to learn that the fixing of prices is not also a part of a general schemeof nationalization. . What is to be the method employed for fixing the prices of agricultural products. They can only be fixed by bringing them below the world’s prices, and an export duty will probably be the means employed for that purpose. We shall have the sweating down of the prices of agricultural products combined with land taxation to sweat down the values of land, and when these are sufficiently low it will be an easy matter for the Government to carry out the nationalization of the land.
– We shall have to buy it.
– The question may arise, when the values will have been sweated down, whether it will be necessary to buy it at all.
– Who owns the land now ?
– The people own the land in separate estates.
– No, the banks and money-lenders own it.
– I should be very sorry to think they did. I can say from my own experience, and from the experience of thousands of people I represent in a large agricultural constituency, that where people have gone to the banks and other moneylenders it has been for the purpose of improving their properties.
– Does the honorable member contend that the nationalization of land will reduce its productivity?
– No, but I say that landis the same as any other commodity. There is a false idea prevalent amongst theoretical land nationalizers that all that it is necessary to do is to nationalize the land, and it will bring forth abundantly. As a matter of fact, we know that it is only productive because of the industry and intelligence applied to its cultivation. If we are to have in Australia a yeomanry capable of competing with the holders of land in the rest of the world, we must have people to settle on our land who .will have an interest in it, and will be induced to get all that is possible out of it by putting their best efforts into its cultivation.
– Only this week a farmer told me that he has been for ten years in the hands of a bank, and although he has a gilt-edged security, they have now called upon him to reduce his overdraft.
– I admit that there are instances in which people are called upon to pay up what they owe. If we were not sometimes called upon to pay up we should become very careless. We know that some people settled on the land make a failure of the business.
– The man to whom I refer is not a failure.
– I cannot profess to explain every case brought forward, but the case referred to by the honorable member does not prove the rule. I represent the largest wheat-growing constituency in Victoria, and I say that it would have been impossible to have established such a thriving, well-to-do settlement as we have in the northern districts of Victoria if the people had not been able to secure financial assistance when they required it.
– What rate of interest do they pay?
– The market rate, from 4 per cent, upwards, according to the value of their security. I know a great many settlers in the north-western and northern districts of Victoria who have obtained money at 4 and 5 per cent.
– How long is it since they obtained money at 4 per cent.?
– During the last ten or twelve years.
– Not during the last twelve months.
– That may be so. We know that in spite of the fact that the Commonwealth Bank has been established money is getting scarcer, and the interest rate is going up. “We heard so much of what the Commonwealth Bank was going to do that we were led to expect it would create such confidence in the people that new life would be given to existing institutions, and we should secure the benefit of cheap money. However, money appears to have ceased to be cheap since the Commonwealth Bank was established.
– Will the honorable member deal with the question?
– Honorable members have led me away from the question by their interjections. This proposal will place in the hands of the dominant majority in this Parliament the power to say what business or industry is a monopoly, and as one of the chief planks in the policy of honorable members opposite is the nationalization of monopolies, they will under this proposal be able to nationalize any form of industry. The yeomanry of Australia will- tinder this measure be placed in a position of jeopardy. Should the proposed amendment of the Constitution be given effect to, they will be faced with the prospect of having the prices of agricultural products fixed by an Act of Parliament.
– -The Bill before the House deals with the question of the nationalization of monopolies.
– I am dealing with it from the stand-point of the agriculturist. I say that there is a connexion between the fixing of the price of agricultural products and the nationalization of the land.: But I shall not contest your ruling sir. The next thing that will follow, so far as the agricultural community are concerned, will be an attempt to nationalize the land. We have made i start by the imposition of land taxation. We are invited to believe by honorable members opposite that land is monopolized. If the proposed amendment of the Constitution is agreed to “ monopoly “ will cease to have the meaning ordinarily attributed to it, and will mean whatever the dominant majority in this Parliament decides. Our honorable friends are constantly fulminating , against land monopoly in Australia, and the holding of land may under this proposal be readily declared to be a monopoly. As the honorable member for Kooyong has said, we should like to know what the Government will regard as “just terms “ in compensating persons for the nationalization of the businesses which they have carried on. Will they regard the goodwill of a business as a part of it for which compensation should be paid? The honorable member for New England supplied an answer to the question by declaring that the goodwill of a business belongs to the community. If it does, it is important that we should know whether the work of a man in successfully building up a business will be taken into consideration should it be proposed to nationalize that business, or whether the plant and machinery will alone be regarded as of any value.
Here is another point. There cannot be any doubt that the patent rights granted by this Government and their predecessors in respect of various inventions are constantly creating monopolies in different forms of business. If the dominant majority in this Parliament declares that some great business that has been built up in connexion with the operation of one of those patents is a monopoly, and that it shall be nationalized, is no compensation to be paid to the man whose inventive genius has brought that patent into existence? Are the Government going to deal in that way with monopolies which they themselves have created by granting patent rights for various inventions? If the increment secured to the individual by the operations of the whole of the people is declared by honorable members opposite to be the property of the people, how are we to get away from the fact that patent rights are also the pro perty of the people, since they are granted to individuals by the Government, acting on behalf of the people? Probably the first of the monopolies with which the Government would have to deal if this proposed power weresecured would be a monopoly obtained as the result of the granting of a patent, and to take over a patent right without granting compensation would be to indulge in flagrant repudiation.
– Is the honorable member in favour of granting a patent right for all time?
– I am in favour of giving my policy when called upon to do so. I see in this proposed amendment of the Constitution the conclusion of a general policy, tending wholly in one direction. I do not think that any one should be scared in regard to the nationalization of any public utility which can be better managed by the State than by private enterprise. The Government have already ‘ passed through this House a measure which, if accepted by the people, would give them the right to deal with trusts and combines. Ever since the Government have been in office they have had the right under the present law to take action against trusts and combines, but have failed to do so. A plank in their platform provides for the nationalization of monopolies, and if this Bill be carried, the definition of what is a monopoly that ought to be nationalized will rest with the dominant majority in Parliament. We have a right, therefore, to ask the Government whether they have not been protecting by their indifference and inaction the trusts and combines which they say exist in Australia in order that they may carry into effect their policy of nationalization in respect of those large business enterprises which can be taken over as a whole much easier than would have been possible if by the operation of the existing law they had been disintegrated and divided into small businesses.
– That suggestion is unworthy of the honorable member.
– I think that we need an answer to that question.
– Yet the honorable member desires to nationalize the Atlantic Cable.
– I wish that the Minister would try to think of some other subject, otherwise he will justly earn the reputation of being a man with only one idea. In conclusion, I desire to repeat a quotation made by the honorable member for Parramatta some years ago, when dealing with the question of Socialism. It is a quotation from a speech made by Mr. Winston Churchill, and has always struck me as being most pertinent to the subject. Mr. Winston Churchill said -
Socialism wants to bring down the rich man at the top. Liberalism seeks to raise those who are at the bottom. Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve them and reconcile them with public rights. Socialism would kill enterprise ; Liberalism would free it from privilege and preference. Socialism attacks capital ; Liberalism attacks and regulates monopoly. There is a great gulf between the two - difference in principle, in aim, in public philosophy. Socialistic professions are not sustained by practices. They preach universal brotherhood and self-sacrifice; they practise spite, envy, hatred, and uncharitableness. They hate each other as well as us. They try to reconstruct society, but leave out human nature.
Debate (on motion by Mr. W. Elliot Johnson) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121209_reps_4_69/>.