4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct the atten tion of the Postmaster-General to a report in to-day’s Argus of a meeting of telegraphists in Sydney, whereat it is stated that regulations are to be put in force on Monday next, altering the existing conditions of employment. I understand that a case has been referred to the Arbitration Court. If that be so, does not the honorable gentleman think it unfair to alter conditions pending its hearing, and will be issue an instruction that the present conditions shall be maintained until the claims of the men have been determined by the Court ?
– I regret that the PostmasterGeneral is unable to answer the question because of his absence through illness, but knowing him to be unwell, I asked the Secretary to his Department to seeme before the House met, in view of the newspaper report referred to, because I thought it probable that a question would be asked concerning the matter. The positionof the case is this : For some time past the telegraphists ofNew South Wales have been asking that what is called roster duty shall be abolished, and, to provide for that, the scheme which the Department desires to . put in force on Monday next was drawn up. Under the new arrangement, the maximum number of hours that will be worked on any one day by any operator will be six and a half, though in a great many cases . the maximum length of duty will be less. Provision is made for sick leave and for days in lieu. All of the men will not be able to work continuous shifts, because there must be a certain amount of broken time, as there always has been, but under the new arrangement no broken shift will exceed nine hours in length, and the actual time worked in it will not exceed six and a half hours, that is, the men in that shift will work six and a half hours and have two and a half hours off. This affects only thirtysix out of 211 operators. Six men will have two hours off during a shift of eight and a half hours, but the remainder will be on duty for seven hours, working six and a half hours, and having half an hour off for meals. Broken shifts will be worked, on the average, once in five weeks. This scheme does away with roster duty, except when there is an abnormal breakdown of lines. It was drawn up by a committee of telegraph managers to meet the wishes of the telegraphists, and has worked admirably in Adelaide for a considerable time. The Adelaide manager, who introduced it, is going to Sydney to insure its smooth working there.
– Is the arrangement to be made general ?
– Yes. It has nothing to do with the case now before the Arbitration Court.
– If the new regulations have nothing to do with the claims before the Arbitration Court, the position is different; but the telegraphists say that it has to do with those claims.
– Does the honorable member intend to ask another question?
– As it is a principle of arbitration that existing conditions shall continue, unless both sides voluntarily agree to an alteration, pending the settlement of a case, will the Minister postpone the putting into force of these regulations until he has ascertained whether they do or do not affect the matter before the Court?
– No doubt the matter will be fully investigated to-day, but nothing was known of what the honorable member has mentioned until this morning. I am glad that he has asked the question, because it has afforded the Department an opportunity to put before the public exactly what it desires to have done.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Monday next, at 2.30 p.m.
– Has the attention of the Minister of External Affairs been drawn to the statement in the press, last night, and again this morning, that a large number of Chinese manage to evade the Act and enter the Commonwealth ? Is he prepared to make a statement on the subject?
– The fact that Chinese have been coming into the Commonwealth has been known for some time past, as will be seen by the newspaper reports. We have appointed a special officer to look into the matter, but at present I am not in a position to make a statement.
– In view of certain statements that have been made outside the House to the effect that the officers and employes of Parliament have six months’ holiday I should like to know from you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is not a fact that they are here attending to their duties throughout the whole of the year?
– I do not know anything about any statements made outside, but if a statement has been made to the effect that the officers of the House have six months’ holiday it is not true.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs take steps to have French vessels arriving from Colombo closely watched in order to prevent the smuggling of opium, which, I learn, is transhipped at that port to French mail steamers and surreptitiously introduced into the Commonwealth?
– The honorable member kindly brought this matter under my notice a few days ago, and I can now inform him that instructions have been issued to the effect suggested.
– In the event of any elector having conscientious scruples in regard to voting on a Saturday, is there any provision for him to record his vote prior to the day of election?
– I do not know of any provision that will prevent an elector from not voting at all, but there is no provision by which an elector can vote unless he votes on a Saturday.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement that was made last night, and reported in the newspapers of this morning as follows -
The Labour Ministers had done very well for themselves, and very >well for their friends. Wherever there was a bit of place and pay they had gone after it like a shark after a bit of pork.
Will the Prime Minister give the gentleman who made that statement an opportunity to prove it ? Further, will the Prime Minister lay on the table a list of appointments made by this and previous Governments ?
– I saw the statement, but it was one appearing in the press, and we cannot vouch for the accuracy of it. ,
– If it is not contradicted it will do our party a lot of harm. It was made by a gentleman who will probably preach on Sunday.
– Such statements are made, probably, in anticipation of a certain event at no distant date. I shall be very glad to lay on the table of the House before Parliament rises, a list of the appointments made by this Government.
– And by previous Governments.
– And further, to court investigation into Government expenditure of every kind.
– I did make that statement last night.
– If the honorable member made it he is an unmitigated liar !
– What are things coming to in this House?
– Well, the Honorary Minister is only telling the truth !
– The Honorary Minister must see that language of that description should not be used, and I ask him to withdraw and apologize for the words.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw and apologize to the House for using the term.
– I congratulate the honorable member on getting off so easily.
– Is this a question?
– Or is it a personal explanation?
-t-I say that I did make a playful remark of that kind last night.
– Playful ! It is contemptible !
– And I am prepared to substantiate it with details.
– I understood that the honorable member for Parramatta rose to ask a question, and, therefore, I allowed him to proceed. The honorable member has not asked a question, but has deliberately made a statement to honorable members opposite. The honorable member must know that that is out of order; and I cannot permit it to go on.
- Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs-
– May I make a personal explanation?
– Order ! I call on the honorable member for Moreton.
– I desire to take a point of order.
– The honorable member for Moreton.
– Mr. Speaker, when the honorable member for Moreton has resumed his seat, will you allow me to raise a point of order?
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs-
– I desire to raise a point of order, and I ask, Mr. Speaker, that you will take a note of the fact. Am I to be permitted to raise a point of order?
– Order ! The honorable member for Moreton.
– I desire to raise a point of order, which, I understand, always takes precedence.
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– I asked the Prime Minister whether his attention had been drawn to a statement reflecting on Ministers, and then the honorable member, who had’ made the statement, got up and ‘said that he is prepared to substantiate it. I say that that is grossly insulting.
– Is the honorable member asking a question?
– No, I am raising a point of order and asking that the honorable member for Parramatta be compelled to withdraw his statement.
– I took the honorable member for Parramatta to task, not so much for the statement he had made - for that had nothing to do with me at the moment - but for taking a course which is not in accordance with the procedure of the House. Under the circumstances I cannot deal with the honorable member for Parramatta any further; and I call on the honorable member for Moreton.
– I should like to make a personal explanation.
-The honorable member may do that at any time when I call upon him.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Another explanation ?
– Let me say at once that the twist that is now being put on my words-
– The honorable member is not making a personal explanation.
– I am explaining what I did say; and I am entitled to do that much, I think.
– The honorable member is making a charge.
– And I say that it is correct.
– The honorable member must not make a charge of that kind.
– I do not charge the Government with doing anything that is wrong from a personal point of view. Of course, if you will not listen, I shall not go on.
– This is playing it low down !
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has three or four times made insulting references to myself. He has now accused me of “ playing it low down,” and I ask that he be called upon to withdraw the remark.
– I regret very much that these interjections are exchanged across the chamber, because they certainly do not add to the dignity of our proceedings; and I must ask honorable members to discontinue them. I did not hear the remark complained of, but, as the honorable member for Parramatta says it was made, I must call on the honorable member for Maribyrnong to withdraw it.
– To comply with the rules of the House I withdraw the remark, but I believe it all the same.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not know whether you, sir, heard the withdrawal of the honorable member for Maribyrnong. He said, in effect, that, in accordance with the forms of the House, he withdrew the remark to which exception was taken, but that he believed it all the same.
– I did not hear the honorable member for Maribyrnong say that, otherwise I should- have called upon him to withdraw it. If he used the expression which is attributed to him, he had no right to do so.
– 1 wish to ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been directed to some animadversions on the present Government which appear in one of the newspapers this morning, and what he proposes to do in reference to them? Allegations are made that the struggle for office has been marked by more squalid features than in any previous instance. The Government have disappointed their friends-
– The honorable member is now going beyond the mere asking of a question.
– I am about to ask you, sir, a question upon a matter of privilege.
– The honorable member, under cover of a question, is making a statement against the Government. He must know as well as I do that he is not entitled to do that.
– It seems to me that things are very unequal here in the way they work out. You, sir, have allowed an honorable member to ask a question of the Prime Minister. I only want fair play, and fair treatment.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat? It is most difficult for me at times to conduct the business of the House, because, when an honorable member is speaking, other honorable members will persist, in interjecting. It is difficult for me to maintain order, because it is impossible for me to hear what is being said.
– I intend to put this matter as one of privilege.
– Then the honorable member must conclude with a motion.
– A statement is made in one of the newspapers to-day which reflects upon Ministers far more than does the statement to which the honorable member for Capricornia alluded. It declares that the Government have shown themselves
– The honorable member is now endeavouring to evade my ruling.
– I have no desire to evade your ruling.
– I hope the honorable member will not get excited, and that he will recognise thathe must not interrupt Mr. Speaker when he is addressing the House. If the honorable member intends to conclude his remarks with a direct motion concerning the newspaper to which he refers he will be in order. But if he does not propose to do that, he is about to commit a gross breach of parliamentary privilege. If he is raising a question of privilege concerning the action of a newspaper he must conclude with a motion to censure that journal in some way. If he intends to do that I shall not prevent him, but otherwise he will be distinctly out of order.
– May I point out sir, that the honorable member for Capricornia called the attention of the Prime Minister in some detail to a report which appears in a newspaper, and asked him what he was going to do about it. He was not ruled out of order. I am only doing the same thing. Where is the distinction?
– I will tell the honorable member where the distinction lies. The honorable member for Capricornia asked the Prime Minister a question concerning a statement made in a newspaper in connexion with the Government. He asked him whether that statement was true or false, and the Prime Minister replied to it. But the honorable member for Parramatta has risen on a matter of privilege, and desires to deal with statements which appear in a newspaper reflecting on honorable members of this House. The two things are quite distinct. One is a matter of privilege, and theother is a question. Under cover of privilege the honorable member is endeavouring to get in some statement against the Government or against some other members of this House. When a newspaper reflects upon the doings of this Chamber it is competent for any honorable member upon a motion of privilege to take action to protect the House, and any such motion will take precedence of all other business.
– I withdraw the question of privilege, and ask you, Sir, to permit me to address to the Prime Minister exactly the same kind of question as you permitted the honorable member for Capricornia to ask him. Shall I be in order ?
– I do not know. I must first hear the honorable member’s question.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister if it be true, as is stated in a newspaper report this morning, that the appetite of the Government for pelf, place, and power, is voracious.
– In my opinion the statement is not correct.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether it is not a fact that a higher duty is levied on beet sugar than is imposed upon cane sugar, and whether the supply of the former is not equal to, if not larger, than is the latter?
– The duty upon beet sugar is £10 per ton, and that on cane sugar £6 per ton. The world’s production of cane and beet sugar is about the same.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if he can supply the House with -
– I have an idea that the question was answered some time ago, but if it was not I will ask the PostmasterGeneral to get the information which is desired by the honorable member.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 13th December, vide page 7065) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the word “four” and inserting in its stead the word “ six.”
.- We are now on the critical clause of this Bill. The object of the clause is to authorize the appointment of two Judges in addition to the appointment to fill the vacancy now existing on the High Court Bench. During the second-reading debate I pointed out that no case had been made out by the Attorney-General for the appointment of even one Judge, and certainly not for the appointment of two Judges. The referenda, if carried, will involve a change in the whole of the circumstances so far as the enormous number of issues that will be related to the High Court are concerned. Assuming the most important of the referenda proposals to be adopted, a great number of very large questions now at issue will be finally disposed of, since this Parliament will then possess legislative powers covering an immense area which is at present open to wide differences of interpretation. Under those circumstances, the proposal to increase the number of Judges at once appears to be singularly illchosen. Even if it be assumed that the referenda will lead to refusal of the powers which the Government is asking for, and supposing all the present avenues that lead to the High Court remain as at present, there will be ample opportunity in the forthcoming session, if the need arises, to make any necessary provision. But, in the other alternative there will be a situation so changed in all its legal relationships that not one of the arguments which the Minister addressed to us could really carry the weight he placed upon it. I desire to urge briefly, first, that the necessity has not been proved for the appointment of one additional Judge, and certainly not for two Judges; secondly, that the referenda implies the possibility of such important and far-reaching alterations of the Constitution, such an entire transformation of our legal relations under constitutional powers, that no appointment should be made until that issue is determined, even if all the arguments educed are sound and as complete as the Attorney-General supposes. I, therefore, propose to ask honorable members to vote against this clause.
– I also take the view that the AttorneyGeneral, in the lengthy explanation which he made in moving the second reading of this Bill, quite failed to show the necessity for the appointment of an additional Judge at this juncture. He must realize that, whilst it is true that the Court has lately been worked at very high pressure, that was largely due to the absence of a member of the Bench. I want to add my tribute to the magnificent service which is rendered by that Court, to the great capacity which it has shown for work, to the high standard of its judgments, and to the extreme expedition with which it has performed the important and responsible duties that have been cast upon it. In support of the view which has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, that there is no necessity for these two appointments. I may point out that the Attorney-General has introduced a Bill providing for the appointment of an Inter-State Commission, which will be second only in importance to the High Court itself. That Commission could be made largely helpful to the Bench sof ar as the particular duties to be performed by the Arbitration Court are concerned.
– Will the honorable member mention one case now on the list that the Inter-State Commission could deal with.
– Section 36 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides - 36. (1) The Court may refer any industrial dispute of which it has cognisance, or any matter arising out of the dispute, to a Local Industrial Board for investigation and report, and may delegate to that Board such of its powers, including all powers of the Court in relation to conciliation and the settlement of the dispute by amicable agreement, as it deems desirable. A Local Industrial Board may be -
A very slight amendment of the present form of the Inter-State Commission Bill would enable that body to be constituted an Industrial Authority for the purpose of doing the very important arbitration work that is referred to in that section. This power of delegation is not sufficiently availed of, because we have in our various States splendid industrial tribunals to which a number of the cases now submitted to the Arbitration Court might readily be referred, and the Arbitration Court would thus be relieved of a great deal of work in that connexion. These increased powers to the Inter- State Commission would relieve the whole situation so far as the Arbitration Court is concerned, and it would have the splendid advantage of, to a large extent, separating the Industrial from the Judicial Department. If I remember rightly, Mr. Justice Higgins has strongly expressed the opinion that it is most desirable that the Industrial Department should, as far as possible, be separated from the Judicial Department. The Attorney-General has not shown that two additional Judges will be necessary to cope with the work under normal conditions. It should be sufficient to appoint one additional Judge at present. I can quite understand that, if the Government referenda proposals are agreed to by the people, it may be necessary to strengthen ‘ the High Court Bench, by appointing half-a-dozen more Judges to cope with the extra- litigation that will inevitably ensue. The High Court has established such a magnificent prestige that the Attorney-General and his colleagues must feel heavy responsibily resting upon them in connexion with the appointment of the new Judges, who should be of the same high character and juristic experience as those now adorning the Bench. In view of all the circumstances of the case, we shall act wisely in restricting ourselves to the appointment of one additional Judge for the present.
.- It is usual, when a change of this kind is proposed, to bring forward reasons in support of the proposal, but the Attorney-General has failed to make out anything approaching a strong case. I think that if the present vacancy on the Bench were filled, all the necessities of the case would be met. A good deal of the recent pressure on the Court was due to the fact that the late Mr. Justice O’Connor was unable, for a considerable period, to attend to his duties, and the congestion of work in the Arbitration Court was brought about by the fact that Mr. Justice Higgins was frequentlycalled away from that Court to attend to the work of the High Court. The Bench is numerically strong enough to cope with the normal business of the country when all the Judges are available. Should the referenda proposals be carried, no doubt the work of both the Arbitration Court and the High Court will be largely increased. If it is the intention of the Government to have all industrial affairs dealt with through the Arbitration Court, I am afraid that neither two, nor twenty, Judges will be able to cope with the rush of .business. I think the honorable member for Ballarat is quite right in testing the feeling of the Committee with regard to these additional appoint ments. It would appear, from the remarks made from time to time by some honorable members opposite, that there is a feeling that Parliament should be superior to the High Court.
– Does not the honorable member think it should be superior?
– Parliament should be supreme in the making of the laws, but the High Court should be left to interpret them. Many honorable members opposite apparently think that .the High Court should be swept out of existence, and 1 cannot understand their desire to strengthen it in the manner now proposed. The High Court is necessary as a sort of umpire to stand between the Federal authority and the States, and prevent encroachments beyond constitutional limits. In view of the possibility of a great change being brought about by the adoption of the referenda proposals, I think we should hold our hands until we know exactly what are the requirements in regard to our Judiciary.
– I have been very much surprised that a suggestion of this sort should emanate from the quarter from which it comes. It has been generally understood that our friends opposite are not every enthusiastic in their appreciation of the High Court Judges, or, at least, of their decisions. It has, therefore, been somewhat surprising to find the Government proposing to make two additional appointments to the High Court BencH. I think that the Attorney-General might very well take notice of what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition, and stay his hand in this matter until, at all events, we see how the Inter- State Commission will work. It has been pointed out very forcibly that a great deal of work which,, in the past, has had to be done by the High Court, will probably, in the future, be handed over to the Inter-State Commission, and it may then be found quite unnecessary to increase the number of the Judges of the High Court. Of course, the vacancy which has occurred on the High Court Bench must be filled up, but it is, I think, quite unnecessary at present to make two fresh appointments as proposed by the Government. If the power to do so is given to the Government it is not likely that it will be resisted for any length of time. Such appointments are always made because the pressure of those requiring them becomes too great to be resisted.
I am afraid that Government appointments and the machinery of government in the Commonwealth is increasing at such a rate that some day we shall wake up and find that we are all Judges, assessors, or government officials of some kind, and that there is nobody left to govern.
– The honorable member can rectify that in one instance.
– I- shall always be on my own, The only official position which I have ever held has been that of a member of Parliament, and I do not think that I am sufficiently paid for the services I render. It was assumed that the establishment of Federation would lead to a considerable reduction in governmental machinery in Australia. It has, instead, led to a great extension of such machinery, and a further extension is proposed by this Bill. I shall consistently oppose every increase in the number of our officials. We are bringing about a top-heavy state of society which cannot be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. The High Court vacation will shortly begin, and there cannot, therefore, be any great hurry for the making of these appointments. I have said that I believe the establishment of the Inter-State Commission will greatly relieve the pressure of work upon the High Court, and it will probably be found that the additional Judges proposed will not be required.
– ^ view °f this matter. is that, instead of increasing the number of the Judges of the High Court, it would be much better to provide that appeals in connexion with constitutional matters should go to the Privy Council. I have always felt that such questions could be much better dealt with by an outside independent body, free from local prejudices and political influences, than by our local Courts. These appointments, in accordance with the usual practice, will probably be made from amongst the politicians, and it must be difficult for such men to free themselves of the influences which have surrounded them in the past. It is possible that the persons appointed to these positions may already have argued very strongly in certain directions upon constitutional questions when they have been discussed in Parliament. No one would question their integrity or honesty of purpose, but they may be unable to free themselves from the influences of the past. When the Constitution was being discussed in the State Parliament of Victoria I took the same stand. There was, however, a feeling amongst politicians that we should deal with everything ourselves. I believe that opinion is turning round on that point, and that to-day many politicians would prefer that constitutional questions should be referred for decision to an outside independent body. With respect generally to the increase of the Judiciary proposed, I believe that the Inter-State Commission will relieve the High Court of a great deal of work.
– By the amendment I have suggested in the Inter-State Commission Bill it might he made- to do so.
– I think it should do so, even without such an amendment of the Inter-State Commission Bill. I should like to say that, with the exception of the Arbitration Court, the work of the High Court is not greater than the present Judges are able to cope with. I do not believe that if we had a dozen Judges of the High Court they would be able to cope with all the work to be done in the Arbitration Court. It might be possible, however, by the appointment of special Commissioners, to provide for the transaction of much of that work, and so avoid the necessity for the appointment of Judges, which are appointments for life.
.- It seems to be somewhat gratuitously assumed that there is a certain lack of respect for the High Court on this side. So far as it is necessary to resent the expression of such an opinion, I do resent it. Whatever the High Court may be, we all recognise that it is precisely what we have made it. So far from being an autocratic institution, it is essentially part of our democratic growth. It is based upon democratic Federal principles, constituted, as it is, by a Parliament elected upon the broadest possible franchise, and having duties delegated to it which are perfectly clear and well-defined. As has often been pointed out, its most important duty is to preserve the balance, not by any legislative power, but merely by definition, between the States and the Commonwealth. I do not hold the view, which I am sorry to say occasionally finds expression in the country, that the High Court arrogates to itself functions which it ought not to perform. We are perfectly safe from any such action on the part of the High Court, which is our creation, and whose functions are so well defined. I desired to make this statement in recording my views upon this clause, as I did not speak on the second reading of the Bill. I do not think that I ever heard the suggestion made by the honorable member for Balaclava so baldly or barely put as he has just now stated it. The honorable member suggests that, as a matter of course, we should carry our appeals out of Australia to the Privy Council.
– The Government have two before the Privy Council at the present time.
– Only after having exhausted the appellate jurisdiction of our own Courts.But my honorable friend suggests it not for that reason, but because he thinks we should have an outside independent body untrammelled by local and party considerations. There is an amazing suggestion contained in those words, which I, for one, should not like to adopt, because it contains a reflection upon the excellence and impartiality of our High Court.
– I think that Senator McGregor said something much stronger than that.
– So did the Prime Minister the other night.
– If I may be permitted to reply to the suggestion as to the remark made in another place, I do not think that anything so strong was said. But it has to be borne in mind, in reference to the appointment of Judges, that the responsibility is vested in certain persons - more particularly in one person - and that it is a responsibility which has to be borne by them alone. The Government have to act according to their conscience and their standard of right; not according to any one else’s standard. If they did that, they would be untrue to their position and unfaithful to their trust. They may be right, or they may be wrong ; but they are entitled to act according to what they conceive to be the best interests of the Commonwealth. I say that because there seems to be a tendency to set up an arbitrary standard in advance, and to insist that those who have this responsibility cast upon them must conform to that standard. All that I ask and with every confidence expect - knowing nothing about the matter personally - is that the Government will act according to what they conceive to be entirely in the best interest of the Commonwealth, as they have hitherto done, and as, it must be admitted, previous Governments have done. Violent attacks in anticipation of what they will do seem to me to be grossly unfair. I should like to refer briefly to what the honorable member for Ballarat said a few moments ago about the possibility of the work of the High Court being reduced - if I understood him aright - as the result of the referenda proposals, if they are adopted. That idea is entirely in contradiction of one of the weightiest arguments which he himself has adduced in this House on these proposals. I merely refer to that in passing; but I remember with what unction he himself and many ofhis followers have quoted Mr. Mitchell, K.C., to show that, so far from having less litigation, we shall have superabundantly more litigation as the result of our policy.
– You are surely not increasing the Bench because you think you are going to carry the referenda proposals?
– The honorable member knows that he has no right to suggest that as being fairly deducible from anything I have said. Of course, I do not share the honorable member’s view, but I do think that the Attorney-General has shown that, to some extent, we are in arrear with our work, and that the natural growth of this community will be in the direction of more extended and extensive litigation. That must be practically so in this complex and most highly interesting period of our national development. We are entering upon a new and highly important era, involved in the working of the Inter-State Commission, with all its unseen and unknown possibilities. We are seeking to amend the Constitution in important directions ; and I do believe, whilst not departing in the least from the strong conviction I have that these proposals of ours ought to be carried, that for some years the natural result of our struggle to assert our national manhood will be that our recourse to the High Court will necessarily be more frequent. The honorable member for Kooyong has suggested that the Inter-State Commission will relieve the Arbitration Court. I agree with the honorable member to some extent. I go a little further, and suggest that even without the amendment for which he asks the InterState Commission will assist the Arbitration Court very much. Because the work of the Inter-State Commission will be largely one of investigation and inquiry ; and the jurisdiction of the Arbitration
Court is such as enables it to make use of inquiries of that sort, to make use of evidence wherever it finds it, and of whatever kind it is, within the discretion of the President. The President of the Arbitration Court has very wide powers, which will enable him to avail himself of the evidence obtained by the Inter-State Commission. Of course, such an amendment as the honorable member for Kooyong suggested might be made; but what I am putting is that, whether it be made or not in the Inter- State Commission Bill, under any circumstances it is inconceivable that the President of the Arbitration Court will not have a superabundance of work if he simply confines himself to his duties as President of that Court. We know that the tendency is to seek the jurisdiction of the Court. It has more than once been stated, with gross unfairness, that disputes have been fomented and engendered for the express purpose of bringing them under the purview of a certain Court.
– Quite true; that has been stated publicly.
– Parties to suits have said so.
-I should like the honorable member to say what parties have said so. I should like him to produce the names of the persons, and to show the extent of their responsibility for their utterances, and the degree to which they represented those for whom they spoke.
– We can produce statements by the secretary of the United Workers’ Union and the Labourers’ Union Statements have been published in the Worker.
– I shall be glad to have the evidence produced. I assert that there can be no logical reason for any persons to foment disputes in order to get them before the Federal Arbitration Court, unless that it is that they believe that the President of that Court is unfairly biased in their favour; and - I say this to the credit of honorable members opposite - no honorable member has ventured to suggest such a thing on the floor of this House, although statements of the kind have been unfairly made elsewhere. That, however, is to some extent outside the question. I hope that, having regard to the fact that our work is already somewhat in arrear, and that our natural growth will be in the direction of an increase in litigation before the High Court; having regard also to the peculiarly complex conditions of our national life at present by reason of the very important avenues into which we are entering, and the far-reaching consequences of what we are doing, I hope the Government will pursue what I conceive to be a wise course in regard to the Judiciary Act, if possible strengthening it and even elevating the high standard of excellence which the High Court has, in my view, and I think in the view of most Australians, attained. I would be very sorry to think that our country, which has produced some of the most brilliant legal luminaries in the world - a country which has sent representatives of the legal profession to the highest Courts of the Empire, where they have been commented on with words of the greatest praise for their acumen and skill - I would be very sorry to thinkthat we could not find men reared in the Australian atmosphere, with Australian ideals and principles, who would not be eminently suited to fairly occupy these high positions, which I trust will be filled in the way suggested by the Government.
– It is quite evident that there is a great amount of interest attaching to this question, judging from the state of the benches on the other side. This beggarly array of empty benches is most inspiring to any honorable member who may happen to rise to address himself to this supremely important question, and indicates, as has been often remarked, that high questions of constitutional procedure and legislation are settled elsewhere than within the House. One is glad, of course, to have at the table the Minister in charge of the Bill, although he is listening very devoutly, as every one knows, and paying the greatest possible attention to everything that is being said.
– The honorable member is doing what he has been doing all the session, he is indulging in electioneering claptrap.
– I ask you, sir, to call upon this insulting Minister to withdraw that observation?
– The honorable member must withdraw the words “ electioneering clap-trap.”
– What I am wondering at is that he does not get named for it. One man calls another an unmitigatedliar in the House and he is only asked to withdraw the words ; that is all.
– The honorable member is now reflecting upon the Speaker, which I cannot allow. He must confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– Yes, sir, and I ask you to stop this insulting Minister.
– I have already stopped him. He has withdrawn the remark.
– I shall not put up with it much longer; I tell him so, plainly.
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the question ?
– I shall say a little more, for which you will be sorry, if you insult me in the way you are doing.
– Order !
– The honorable member has done nothing but insult me since I came into the chamber this morning.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question ?
– Certainly; but before I proceed I think that we might have a quorum ; let them come in. [Quorum formed.]
– I wish to remind honorable members that when attention is called to the absence of a quorum, no honorable member has the right to leave the chamber until a quorum is formed. The honorable member for Newcastle went out deliberately after my attention was drawn to the state of the Committee.
– I did it inadvertently, sir.
– I was very much amused at hearing the words of reproof given utterance to by the honorable member for Batman.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section twenty-three of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 23. - (1.) A Full Court consisting of less than all the Justices shall not give a decision on a question affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, unless a majority of all the Justices concur in the decision. (2.) Subject to the last preceding sub-section, when the Justices sitting as a Full Court are divided in opinion as to the decision to be given on any question, the question shall be decided according to the decision of the majority, if there is a majority; but if the Court is equally divided in opinion, -
– As I pointed out on the second reading, one of the chief functions of the High Court is peculiar to the Judiciary of countries under a Federal form of government ; not only is the Court the final Court of Appeal from all the other Courts of the country - the Supreme Court of America is only an appeal Court on questions affecting the Constitution and on Federal matters, as, for example, when the litigants are residents of different States - but its decisions are of the greatest importance to every citizen in regard to both his private and public rights as affecting the government of the country. The Court is, as it were, the guardian of the Constitution. Legislation is passed by this Parliament and by the ^Parliaments of the States, but it is lor the High Court to say whether it shall take effect. My views on the matter are well known, and are briefly these : Democracy, which involves government by the people, is incompatible with the existence of an institution, no matter by what name we call it, which is clothed with the power of preventing the people’s will from taking effect. When under the Federal form of government such an institution as the High Court is created - I do not say unnecessarily - it should have power to declare unconstitutional only such measures as are obviously so. Where there is a doubt it should be resolved in favour of the agents of the people. It cannot be said that a law is obviously unconstitutional when, of a Bench of four, two Justices of the High Court are of one opinion concerning its constitutionality and two others of an opposite opinion. It frequently happens, moreover, that decisions are given by the High Court on appeal from a lower Court, and from the decision of the lower Court. The opinion of the Chief Justice of the High Court is sufficient to set aside an equal number of High Court Justices and a Full Bench of the Supreme Court of any State. Surely this is wrong ! A law ought to be declared unconstitutional only when it is obviously so. This can be clearly indicated only when a majority of the Justices of the High Court are of opinion that it is unconstitutional. Then nothing further can be said. But the people and Parliament have a right to complain when .their deliberate enactments are set on one side, although a majority of the Justices of the High Court is not of opinion that it is unconstitutional. The reason for the clause as it applies to decisions on other than constitutional matters is based on common sense, law being, not divorced from, but rooted in it.
– It is sublimated common sense.
– Law is sometimes pet rifled common sense, right at the time it was given, but no longer so. Every decision, except some based on case law or worn-out doctrines, is at the time of its delivery founded on common-sense. When an inferior Court has decided in a certain way, and the Justices of the High Court, sitting on appeal from that decision, are equally divided in” opinion, the decision should stand, not being obviously wrong.
.- The Attorney-General, in the greater part of his short speech, dealt with the necessity, in his opinion, of the will of the Democracy prevailing through Courts of Law. According to him, many of the principal obstacles which have had to be overcome are due to the fact that the Democracy has not had its way. But surely the honorable member is leaving out of account the fact that in a democratic country one of its most priceless, though not its most peculiar, possessions and privileges, is that when Democracy changes its mind it also changes our laws.
– I am not objecting to that.
– But what position are we placed in if the law is to be changed with every change of Government ?
– What Democracy says is that the Court must keep within the four corners of the instrument ; and I say that that cannot be done when the Court is divided in opinion.
– While we realize the wisdom and advantage of the highest tribunals in the land being in close touch with the community of which they form a part, and, as far as possible, in sympathy with it, we yet look to those tribunals to give us what may be termed the permanent law of the land. This, until it is definitely, deliberately, and finally changed by the will of the people, ought to remain intact. That is the value of the High Court. It may be called upon to take or maintain an attitude independent of or contrary to the prevailing current of political opinion. If the Court were to act on the opinion of a Labour Government when in power, and on the opinion of a Liberal Government when it is in power, we should have a most unjudicial and injurious condition of affairs.
– All we wish to get is the real opinion of the Court as to the constitutionality of the law.
– And all we wish to see is that the law and its interpretation are not swayed by currents of party feeling. The law should be maintained independently of all currents, so as to represent and safeguard the permanent aims and character of the people.
– It has no relation to party ; the document is before them,’ that is all.
– This clause, I understand, provides for a concurrence of a majority of the Justices in any decision which declares the invalidity of a Commonwealth law or power ; and it is probable that it has been so framed as to extend to other cases. The clause provides that a Full Court consisting of less than all the Justices shall not give a decision on a question ‘ ‘ affecting ‘ ‘ the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth unless a majority of all the Justices concur. The constitutional power might be attacked, and the Court might be willing to affirm the power, though not by a full majority ; but, as the clause is drafted, the Court would not be able to do so, because there was involved an issue “ affecting “ the constitutional powers. If the Attorney-General means to confine this clause to cases where the invalidity of a law or power is to be declared, he ought to use the word “ denying “ instead of the word “ affecting.” Although a quorum of the Court might be willing to affirm the validity of a Federal law, it would not be able to do so, because there was not an absolute majority of all the Justices present. Then, a constitutional- question might be raised by counsel on one side or the other, and the Judges might be divided in opinion as to whether there was really a constitutional issue involved. Under such circumstances, although there might be equality of voting on the Bench, no decision could be given, which would result in the Constitution remaining unassailed. The Attorney-General might, perhaps, reconsider this question, if he does not desire to involve the Court in a deadlock, and prevent it from giving decisions in a number of cases. This is a point to which 1 think attention was drawn by the honorable member for Flinders; and if the AttorneyGeneral intends to limit the clause to decisions denying the constitutional power, he ought to say so clearly. For my part, I see no reason why we should not provide for a substantial majority in regard to constitutional questions, although, of course, through sickness or other causes, there might at times be difficulty in getting all the Justices to attend.
– In the Court, as at present constituted, the majority will be three out of five, and in the Court as it will be constituted it will be four out of seven.
– The question is one of drafting more than anything, and it ought to be cleared up.
– Section 74 of the Constitution shows what a constitutional matter, so far as the Judiciary is concerned, really means ; and it can only mean something affecting the limits of the powers of the Commonwealth and the States inter se. Everything affects the Constitution distantly ; but by the clause the Constitution must be affected in a definite and immediate manner. The -only possible effect that a decision of the Court, in relation to the Constitution, can have, within the meaning of clause 3 of this Bill and section 74 of the Constitution, is to declare a Federal or a State Statute or a section to be invalid or valid. A great number of the decisions of the Court may affect the Constitution-, because they may relate to it. But such relation is not referred to in this clause. The relation must be definite, and of a certain kind. The honorable member for Bendigo knows that it is the practice of the English Courts not to decide constitutional cases as suchbut to determine the rights of litigants who appear before it. It may be that, in granting relief to a litigant, the Court may declare that a certain portion of an Act is ultra vires of the Constitution. In the case of Osborne v. McKay - the land tax case - the point at issue was whether it was within the competence of this Parliament to enact a law under which the litigant was taxed. Obviously the legislative power must rest somewhere. If it does not rest with the Commonwealth, it must rest with the States. Therefore, nearly every constitutional question must be a question affecting- constitutional rights inter se. So that these words “ affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth “ only put in a general way what is contained in section 74 of the Constitution dealing with appeals. That section reads -
No appeal shall be permitted to the Queen in Council from a decision of the High Court upon any question, howsoever arising, as to the limits inter se of the Constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of any State or States, or as to the limits inter se of the Con st itutional powers of any two or more States.
That covers all possible questions relating to the Constitution so, far as any decision can impair the right of this Parliament, or of the State Parliaments, to make a law.
– The word “ affecting “ is not used there.
– We are driven to use such a word, or to repeat practically the wording of section 74 of the Constitution. The Judiciary will have to interpret this Bill. If a difference of opinion exists it can be resolved only in one way. If some of the Justices say, “ This case comes within section 74 of the Constitution,” and other Justices say, “ It does not,” what will happen ? If a majority say that it does come, within the scope of that section, and if, in consequence, it appears that Parliament has enacted a law which” it has no power to enact, that law will be declared ultra vires. If, on the other hand, a majority declare in favour of that law, it will stand. In practice there cannot arise any difficulty such as the honorable member for Bendigo has described. The verbiage of the clause, I admit, differs from that of section 74 of the Constitution,’ but it is more suited to this Bill than would be a repetition of the language of that section.
.- I do think that a difficulty will arise from the use of the word “ affecting “ in this clause. If the Attorney-General can cite some authority which will make it clear that “ affecting “ the Constitution has some precise meaning, my objection will go by the board. It is perfectly clear that if the Constitution is directly challenged, the question will be determined by a full Bench of the High Court. Although it is not really necessary to have a full Bench, it is necessary to have the decision of an absolute majority of the Justices before their decision can be effective. I apprehend that the Court will not undertake the task of determining a constitutional question and incur the risk of disagreement between the Justices without’ a full’ Bench.
– Then we shall take the President of the Arbitration Court away from his duties.
– Matters come before the Full Court in a number of ways. They may be referred to it by the President of the Arbitration Court. I recollect a case in which the President of that Court referred a series of questions - about ten of them - to the Full Court for its determination. I presume that the answers to those questions constituted one decision. It seems to me that upon all questions affecting the Constitution referred to the High Court by the President of the Arbitration Court, it will be necessary to have, a full Bench. The Justices cannot tell how the Constitution will be affected until a case is actually before them. Constitutional questions often arise, not beforehand, but during the hearing of a case. As the honorable member for F’linders pointed out the other night, Court procedure is usually in the nature of a contest between parties. All kinds of objections are raised, some of which may have an important constitutional bearing. It seems to me that the Attorney-General might well consider the wisdom of making more definite the meaning of the term “ affecting the Constitution “ than he has done. I take it that the words mean affecting the Constitution even remotely. It may be that they affect it to a less extent than to either affirm or deny it. Consequently very great difficulties may be raised in the minds of the Justices as to whether, after hearing the evidence, they will be competent to give a decision.
– I would suggest to the Attorney-General that this matter cannot be lightly dismissed, because, to my mind, it is of very serious import. I agree largely with the view which has been expressed by the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Bendigo. If it were possible that the question of constitutionality was limited to what, appears in section 74 of the Constitution, then I could understand the position of the Attorney-General. Under those circumstances the AttorneyGeneral’s contention would be very sound, but I do not think that it is so confined.. The section reads -
No appeal shall be permitted to the Queenin Council from a decision of the High Court upon any question, howsoever arising, as to the limits inter se of the Constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of any State or States -
That does not involve the mere question as to what the powers of the Commonwealth are. It is a question as to the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth as against the adverse interests of the States. So far as the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth are concerned it may be a question as to what they are. It is not necessarily a question as to whether those powers adversely affect State interests, but it is a question as to the immediate powers of the Commonwealth, such, for instance, as arose in the Excise Harvester case, where the question was as to the validity of an ostensible taxation Act, and this position may arise : A decision is given by the Court, and not by a majority, and afterwards that decision is subject to attack, because it may be proved that a constitutional question was involved. In those cases where there is not a decision by a majority you really do not know whether that decision is sound and reliable, because, directly or indirectly, a constitutional question may be involved.
– What is a constitutional question other than a question under section 74?
– It may be a question under the Navigation Act.
– Yes, as to the Imperial powers and our powers.
– That is a definite point. I say that, in that case, there ought to be a majority. Now let us have another one.
– That is not the question. The Attorney- General says that all constitutional questions are comprehended within section 74, but here is a case under the Navigation Act which is not covered by that section.
– The point which the honorable member raises cannot in practice arise, and, if it did arise, it would always be heard before the full Bench. All constitutional cases are heard before the full Bench now. This does not affect the number of Judges who will hear a case ; it only provides that where they are evenly divided the majority shall prevail.
– If a question as to the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, in regard to the Navigation Act, comes before the Court it is then a question, not as between the Commonwealth and the States, but as between the Commonwealth and Imperial powers, and under those circumstances if there was an equal division of opinion-
– There would be no decision.
– There would be a decision in that case by the Puisne Judge, or by the Chief Justice, as the case might be. Subsequently it might be contended that there was a constitutional question involved, and that, therefore, the decision, which had been carried by the casting vote of the Chief Justice, was wrong. I do not know what the remedy would be under those circumstances - whether or not it would be a question of going to the Privy Council in order to attack that particular judgment. Still the judgment would stand apparently as a judgment of the High Court, and yet no one could say, with any degree of certainty, that it was a sound judgment.
– The practice then would become general to give a decision by a majority. Every effort is made to do that now.
– I suggest to the Attorney-General that he might think the matter over with a view to inserting certain words which would place the matter beyond doubt.
.- I would not have risen had it not been for some remarks that were made by the honorable member for Batman regarding the Judge of the Arbitration Court. The honorable member stated that this side had not questioned the decisions of that Judge. I certainly do challenge the decisions of that Judge.
– If the honorable member wishes to challenge any decision of the Judge, he should do so by motion.
– I contend that I have a perfect Tight to reply to the statement made by the honorable member for Batman.
– Thehonorable member is not in order in replying to the honorable member for Batman if he is going to question what the Judge has done.
– I contend that I have a right to reply to a statement that has been made respecting members of the Opposition.
– The honorable member cannot make a statement which reflects on a decision of a Judge.
– The honorable member for Batman said he was very glad to be able to state that, although certain adverse comments had been made regarding the decisions of the Judge of the Arbitration Court, no such reflection had been made upon the Judge by members of the Opposition.
– The honorable member for Batman was quite in order in making that statement.
– I contend that I am in order in stating that I do not share that opinion. As one member of the Opposition, I challenge the decisions of that
Judge. I say that he is a Judge-
– Order. The honorable member is evading my ruling. The honorable member must not discuss or reflect upon a decision of the Judge.
– The statement made by the honorable member for Batman is one which I, as a member of the Opposition, challenge.
– There is one course for the honorable member to pursue, and that is by motion.
– In that case, statements can be made by one side which the1 other side are not entitled to reply to.
– Order. The honorable member is reflecting on the Chair.
– I am reluctantly compelled to do so under the circumstances.
– The honorable member will withdraw that.
– I withdraw that, but I claim my right to reply to a statement made by the other side of the House, which binds members on this side to a certain course, that they have not taken at all.
– Order. The honorable member must see that the statement made by the honorable member for Batman was not a reflection on the House, nor was it a reflection on the Judge. The honorable member for Wimmera, in trying to get in a reply to the honorable member for Batman, is distinctly and deliberately casting a reflection on or disputing the decision of the Judge. That is distinctly out of order.
– I rise to a point of order. The practice has grown up in this House for honorable members opposite to make statements regarding Mr. Justice Higgins of a distinctly flattering character, and to say that members of the Opposition have never dared to say anything in this House contrary to -that.” That statement practically ties the Opposition down to a certain line of action, and you, sir, I believe, perfectly correctly, rule that we may not con tradict that statement by reflecting on the Judge in any way. My point is that if we may not combat the statements of honorable members opposite they have no right to make such statements, referring to Mr. Justice Higgins in flattering or any other terms. Under the circumstances honorable members on this side are placed in a most invidious position. Reference was made to a statement by Mr. Justice Higgins that no award of his had been broken, and the moment we began to point out that that statement was not correct we were pulled up.
– I have not ruled that a reference to breaches of awards would be out of order, but I laid it down that the honorable member for Wimmera was about to reflect on a decision of the Judge, and that he was out of order.
– The honorable member for Batman referred in complimentary terms to the fairness of the Judge, and said he .was glad to know that no member of the Opposition had questioned the decisions or fairness of Mr. Justice Higgins. I claim that if that statement goes abroad it will convey a false impression as to the attitude of the whole of the Opposition, or at least one member of it, namely, myself.
– Order. I have already ruled that if the honorable member wishes to make any reference to the Judge by way of censure there is a proper course to pursue. This discussion must not continue.
– I am entitled tb state my own position.
– The honorable member must respect the Chair.
– I wish to respect the Chair, but I claim my right to reply to a statement which reflects on me and binds me.
– Order. Will the honorable member resume his seat? The honorable member by his own statement indicates that what was said was not a reflection on the Opposition.
– It was binding on the Opposition.
– I have already pointed out that if the honorable member wishes to question the fairness of what the Judge has done, he must bring forward a definite motion.
– I do not wish to launch a direct motion of censure against the Judge. All I wish to do is to make my own position plain in respect of the statement made by the honorable member for Batman.
– Order ! What I distinctly intend to do is to prevent the honorable member from making a reflection on the Judge without pursuing the proper course. The honorable member must discuss the clause.
– So far as I am individually concerned, the statement made by the honorable member for Batman that no decisions of the Judge had been questioned by members of the Opposition is not in accordance with fact. I, for one, have already questioned the decisions of the Judge.
– Order ! Will the honorable member resume his seat ? I have repeatedly told him he must not deal with any past acts of the Judge. There is a distinct course for him to pursue.
– There seems to be some misunderstanding as to what the honorable member wishes to do.
– There is no misunderstanding so far asI am concerned. I know exactly what he wants.
– Do I understand that you rule that a very definite statement about the,Opposition must go unquestioned ?
– The whole question is as to whether honorable members are to be allowed to reflect on any act or decision of the Judge. There is a proper course to pursue in that matter. If any honorable member wishes to challenge the decisions of the Judge he must proceed by way of motion. The honorable member for Wimmera is trying to discuss the decisions of the Judge by way of reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Batman, and I will not allow that.
– I contradict flatly the statement of the honorable member for Batman that honorable members of the Opposition do not challenge the fairness of the Judge. I do, because I consider him to be more of a counsel than a Judge.
– Order ! The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I had intended to make some observations in Committee, but I refrained from doing so, because I understood that honorable members desired to come to a division. I have not spoken on this Bill, except to the extent of making one or two remarks a few days ago. The more I think over this proposal, the more it appears to me that the Government are occupying an utterly illogical position. In the first place it is proposed to create an Inter- State Commission, and, in the second place, the public are to have submitted to them a series of referenda proposals which honorable members opposite say will sweep away limitations, and so do away with the necessity for limiting the spheres of action of the States and the Commonwealth.
– You say that the proposals will greatly increase the necessity.
– It does not matter what we say. I take it that the Government are proceeding on their own convictions as expressed in their speeches, and more particularly in the speeches recently delivered by the Attorney- General. After having told the country that there will be less litigation, it is very illogical to create a stronger Court with more Judges for the purpose of providing for that litigation. As has been pointed out, another instrumentality of government is being set up in the Inter-State Commission, which will have large powers, and will be in a position to materially relieve the Arbitration Court. The more I consider the matter and listen to what honorable members opposite say, the more it is borne in upon my mind that one of their motives is that they may have more Judges upon the High Court Bench who will interpret the Constitution “in a broad Australian spirit.” The members of the party opposite and Ministers have said that they want these additional Judges in order that they may secure a wider and more Australian interpretation of our Statutes than we are getting at the present time. One Minister, for instance, said that he wanted an interpretation that would be broad and Australian, and not narrow and in the interests of the States. Upon that, an honorable member, in a very disorderly way, told him that he meant an interpretation that would suit his party, and the Minister replied -
Yes, certainly; why should I not whenI believe my party to be right?
– Is there any possible answer to that ? What more could the honorable gentleman suggest?
– I say that has a bearing upon this Bill.. The implication is that the Constitution is not now being interpreted in a broad Australian spirit.
– There is nothing wrong in that. What is there to object to in a broad Australian view of the Constitution ?
– I say that the Minister who made that statement said that it is necessary to correct the present narrow interpretation of the Constitution. That is the point, and that is why the introduction of this measure assumes a sinister aspect.
– I entirely disagree with any such statement. I think that the Judges should be appointed to the High Court irrespective of party considerations, and solely for the one reason that they are eminent men well qualified to interpret the law.
– I am very glad to have that repudiation of the statements of the honorable gentleman’s own colleagues in connexion with this matter. It relieves me of the necessity to make any further reference to it.
– I do not know whether the Minister referred to said what has been attributed to him, but I know what I am saying myself.
– He did say it, and much more. I should like in this connexion to call attention to some remarks made by the Prime Minister during this debate. He used words which again seem to convey a very sinister suggestion.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of debate on the third reading of the Bill.
– I am discussing the reasons why these Judges should be appointed.
– No; the honorable member stated that he was going to reply to some statement made in another debate.
– No, in this debate.
– The honorable member will probably recollect that we discussed this matter a little time ago. I have always held that the motion for the third reading of a Bill narrows debate to the discussion of the Bill and what it contains, and does not permit of references to speeches made in the previous consideration of the measure. The proper time for such refer ences is on the second reading of the Bill. Then there is debate in Committee, and it may be at the report stage. But when the third reading of a Bill is reached, I hold that the purpose of the debate is to deal with any matter contained in the Bill, the full consideration of which might justify a recommittal, and not to enable a reply to be offered to statements made in the debate on the second reading. To take that course would, in my opinion, be to go beyond the scope of debate on the third reading.
– Surely I am in order in pointing out reasons why I propose to vote against the third reading of the Bill?
– The honorable member will be in order in doing that.
– Therefore, the object and intention of the Bill must necessarily be brought into question.
– But the honorable member proposed to reply to statements made by other honorable members on the second reading of the Bill.
– Only as illustrating what is the intention of the Government in passing this Bill. My contention is that the Bill is not necessary, that these additional Judges are not needed, because, amongst other reasons, Ministers themselves say that they propose to relieve the Court of a lot of litigation which at present arises in connexion with constitutional questions. I am pointing out that Ministers have also said that what they want is a different interpretation of the Constitution from that which they are getting at the present time ; and I propose to quote their statements to that effect.
– The honorable member will not be in order in following that course. He must confine himself to the Bill, and. to his reasons for disagreeing with the motion for the third reading.
– My main reason is the expressed intention of the Government with regard to the Bill. I am against it because of what they have said they wish to do. I object altogether to the swamping of the High Court Bench in such a way as is proposed in this Bill, having in view the declaration of Ministers as to why this proposition is made.
We have had no statement made throughout the debate on this Bill that the work could not be done by the Court as at present constituted, assuming that all the Judges continued to enjoy good health. I understand that the reason the business of the Court has got behind is because of the long illness of the Judge who, unfortunately, died recently. There is no statement that, if the vacancy caused by his death were filled and the Judges of the High Court worked their full time in the ordinary way, there would be any arrears of litigation. If there are arrears, there is the other statement repeatedly made during this debate, and, amongst others, by the Attorney-General, that the Government propose to relieve the High Court of a great deal of the work of deciding constitutional questions, which it is now called upon to do. In view of that statement, one naturally looks for a reason for the appointment of two additional Judges to overtake less work, according to the dictum of the Attorney-General. No one has suggested that the present Judges are overworked. I asked the AttorneyGeneral the other night whether the Chief Justice had asked for any additional help, and the honorable gentleman said “ No.” Clearly, therefore, we are going to force two more Judges upon a Bench that has made no complaint that it is overworked.
What, then, is the motive of this measure if it is not to relieve the Judges of the High Court, and if they have not asked for it? Why is it proposed to appoint two additional Judges, who, presumably, are not wanted, because they have not been asked for? These facts are significant in the light of statements made by Ministers. Take, for instance, the statement of the Prime Minister himself that the occupants of the High Court Bench are influenced by unconscious prejudice. I do not know what the Prime Minister is shaking his head about. Those statements were made in this House the other day. I should have thought that he meant them, as he said them. If not, why did he make them ?
– Read the statement.
– I should very much like to oblige my right honorable friend, but Mr. Speaker has ruled that I cannot. One of the reasons for the introduction of this Bill, or the Prime Minister’s words have no meaning, is that our High Court has differed from the Privy Council.
– I know what I said.
– I do not knowwhy I should not read the Prime Minister’s statement.
– The honorable member should withdraw his statement about unconscious bias.
– Does the Prime Minister deny that he said that? Then I shall have to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member can read the passage.
– This is what the right honorable gentleman said -
The High Court is constituted of eminent gentlemen, each of whom has had experience in the field of politics. In addition to being, members of the legal profession, they have been politicians fighting on the floor of Parliament with as much vim and, shall me say, party prejudice as does any member of this House. We regard them as great jurists, free from, party political bias in the discharge of duties; and we must assume that they do their best according to their high intellectuality in spite of the unconscious prejudice and bias which, as human beings, they must carry with them.
That was the statement. So that the Prime Minister wants this Bill, permitting additional Judges to be appointed, for the reason he gave, and that was that the decisions given by the High Court are permanent. He pointed out the difference between the High Court and the Privy Council. In England, he said, a decision may be altered by the Imperial Parliament, whilst here no such thing can occur. What has that to do with the appointment of additional Judges, unless the Prime Minister is anxious to get more Judges to make these final and unalterable decisions On a different basis from those given _ now ? Otherwise his language has no meaning as applied to a Bill of this kind. The Prime Minister elaborated the point with a great deal of detail. He wants these additional Judges because the decisions of the High Court are of a more or less final character.
– That is entirely in line with what Senator McGregor said.
– Exactly ; but the Attorney-General just now has very properly repudiated the statement of one of his colleagues as to the narrow views which the present Judges have been acting upon.
– People on the honorable member’s own side have continually been reflecting on opinions of Judges which did not suit them.
– That, unfortunately, is one of those statements to which we are not allowed to reply.
– Because you cannot.
– That is a sample of what is frequently happening in this House. These statements are hurled across the Chamber, and when we reply to them we are pulled up and told that we must not reflect on a Judge or any thing of the sort.
– That is what happened a few moments ago.
– Either honorable members opposite ought to be prevented from saying these things, or we ought to be allowed to reply to them.
– Order. The honorable member is now alluding to something which took place at another stage of the Bill.
– I am calling attention to the statement of the honorable member for Indi, who charges us with making allegations about the Judges, and it seems to me that it is quite as much in order for us to reply to them as it is for the honorable member to make them.
– Interjections are disorderly.
– I hope that you will prevent them, because they gointo Hansard, and we cannot reply to them.
– If an interjection is not replied to it does not go into Hansard. If honorable members, when addressing the Chair, would take less notice of interjections they would not appear in Hansard, and they would assist me very much in preventing disorder.
– The Prime Minister also said -
At the same time we must not forget that they are men who have been elevated from the political arena that we now occupy, and who possess all the weaknesses and virtues that a political career involves.
There is a distinct reference to the present Judges of the High Court -
We hope and believe that they will be added to, not only in numbers, but in intellectual strength, and that they will help to guide to a successful issue the constitutional governmen of Australia for the benefit of the whole of the people.
Here is a statement of the Prime Minister that the present Judges of the High Court are influenced by bias and prejudice, and that they cannot get rid of the political taint which affected them before they were elevated to the Bench. I say that these statements, taken with other facts that I have quoted, let a flood of light into what is lying behind the introduction of this Bill. They seem to indicate to us plainly what is in the mind of the Government. Apparently they want the complexion of the present Court changed, so that we may get different interpretations than those obtained at present. If that is not the purpose, this language of the Prime Minister is all foolish and silly rhodomontade. In view of the facts, first of all, that we are setting up another tribunal in the shape of the Inter-State Commission with such powers as will relieve the High Court of many of the functions now pertaining to it, creating thereby a new department ; and, on the other hand, in view of the statement of the Attorney-General himself, that the referenda proposals will relieve the High Court of many of its duties ; and in view also of the fact that no request has been made from the High Court itself that additional help is needed - it does not seem to be a reasonable thing to appoint two additional Judges at the present time. There will be less work for the Court to do, and it will be relieved of some of its functions by the Inter-State Commission. There has been no request from the Chief Justice himself that he wanted help of the kind. Those three reasons seem to me to tell against the Bill which we are now asked to reada third time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from13th December (vide page 7084), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition and other members on this side who have intimated their intention to support the creation of an Inter-State Commission, as contemplated by the Constitution, and as to some extent outlined by this Bill. I am, however, anxious that the Commission, which may be regarded as one of the fundamental and basic institutions of the
Federal system, should be endowed with such powers and functions, and authorised to do such work of a useful character, as will justify its existence. The main object of my observations will be rather directed to show what good work it can dc, and to point out provisions which might have been inserted in the Bill to enlarge its sphere of usefulness as a Commonwealth institution. There can be no doubt that the Constitution regards the creation of the Inter-State Commission as to some extent necessary, because the words in section 101 are, “ There shall be an Inter-State Commission.” These words are, apparently, mandatory, and are intended to enforce upon Parliament the necessity of calling the Inter- State Commission into existence with reasonable speed and opportunity. With reference to itf- powers and its utility in the Federal scheme, section 101 of the Constitution indicates that the Commission shall have - such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth,, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
It appears that under that provision the Commission is to have not merely Ministerial powers, which are indicated, but also powers of a judicial character. To some extent a branch- or a share of the judicial power of the Commonwealth is intended to be invested in the Commission. Under the section it will have powers of adjudication, that is powers of a judicial character, and powers of administration, that is powers of a Ministerial or administrative character ; and these powers are to be such as are necessary - for what purpose? - for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and the laws passed by the Federal Parliament thereunder relating to trade and commerce. Fundamentally it is intended to be a tribunal to carry out the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and also the Federal laws on those subjects. It is, of course, understood that the words “ trade and commerce “ relate to and cover what is shortly called “ Inter- State trade and commerce” - “trade and commerce between the States and with other countries.” I have always believed, and I still believe, that this grant of power to the Inter-State Commission is a very important grant of power. and that there is in these apparently simple words relating to trade and commerce an enormous grant of power, a reserve force of power, the magnitude and importance of which probably even the framers of the Constitution in launching it hardly realized. But these grants of power, when analyzed from the juridical stand-point, are pregnant with meaning and potentiality. If properly exercised, the powers may be made great instruments and agents in carrying out the designs and the desires of Parliament with reference to the maintenance and promotion of trade and commerce and commercial relations between the States and with other countries. It may be asked, what are the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce. Of course, the most important of all these provisions is section 92, which reads -
On the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of interna) carriage or ocean navigation, shall tie absolutely free.
At the outset, therefore, it is obvious that the intention was to create a body semijudicial and semi-administrative for the purpose of establishing and maintaining Inter-State Free Trade, to be the guardian of that trade, and the guardian also of commercial intercourse between the States and with other countries. It was one of the basic conditions of our Federation, that we should have Inter-State Free Trade - that is trade and intercourse - not only the buying and selling of goods between persons resident in two or more States, but also the transfer of goods between the States. It was intended that no person, no group of persons, no combinations of persons, should be allowed to resort to any tricks or artifices, to any agreements or arrangements, which would interfere with or obstruct a free flow of trade and commerce between the States; and the main object of the Inter-State Commission will be to watch over all possible intrusions upon the sanctity and the integrity of the principle of Inter-State Free Trade, free exchange of commodities between the States. I remember that, when the subject of the creation of an Inter- State Commission was brought before the Federal Convention, one of the main considerations which led to a provision for the purpose being made, was the undoubted fact that at the time there were numerous obstacles and artificial expedients resorted to by and between the various States to prevent anything like InterState Free Trade; and amongst the most prominent of these methods and expedients resorted to, not only by private carriers, but also by State railway authorities, was the authorization of preferential or differential railway rates, sometimes called cut-throat railway rates. One of the main arguments for Australian Federation was the desirability of establishing a system of free trade and commerce between the Australian communities, and the abolition of those miserable, wretched, cut-throat railway rates. There grew up a system of warfare between the railway authorities of the States, which, in endeavouring to grab the trade which they thought legitimately belonged to them, came into conflict with each other. To understand the intention of the Convention in regard to the Inter- State Commission, we must ascertain what the circumstances were at the time of the framing of the Constitution, and we should consider whether the Commission will have the same work to do now as it would have had to do had it been created immediately after Federation. All the States were to blame, more or less, for the cut-throat competition between their railways by means of differential, preferential, and blocking rates. By way of illustration, let me refer to what was done by Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales. Victoria, when she had established railway communication between Melbourne and the Murray River, endeavoured to capture or retain that part of the trade of Riverina which she claimed should naturally gravitate to Melbourne, and to prevent it from going to Sydney or to Adelaide. With that end the railway authorities imposed specially low rates for the carriage of wool from Riverina intended for Melbourne. Low rates for wool prevailed between the Murray River at Echuca and Melbourne, and low back-loading rates were also given for merchandise conveyed from Melbourne to the other side of the Murray. The arrangement may have been a good business one from the Victorian stand-point, but it led to curious anomalies, because, in course of time, Victoria was sending goods to Hay at lower rates than to Echuca. South Australia followed the example of Victoria, and began to carry wool on her railways from Morgan and Murray Bridge to Adelaide, at extremely low rates, with a view to capturing or retaining the Darling River trade, and she, too, gave concessions for back-loading. In 1881, on the completion of the railway from Junee te Hay, New South Wales allowed very low rates for the carriage of wool from Riverina to Sydney, and for back-loading. This was done to meet the competition of Victoria and South Australia. Blocking rates were also resorted to. Victoria, for instance, upon establishing communication between Melbourne and Serviceton imposed rates intended to prevent goods from travelling from Dimboola through Serviceton to Adelaide, or from Adelaide to Dimboola. New South Wales imposed similar rates between Albury and Wagga, to compel the people of the Riverina to trade with Sydney instead of Victoria. This state of things led the Convention to provide for an Inter- State Commission, one of whose principal functions was to adjudicate and administer in cases of preference or discrimination which was undue and unreasonable. Section 102 of the Constitution provides -
The Parliament may by any law with respect to trade or commerce forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State, or by any authority constituted under a State, if such preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State.
Parliament has «to forbid these preferences and discriminations, which is proposed to be done in the Bill, but it is the function of the Inter- State Commission to declare: whether the preferences or discriminations which are forbidden are unjust or unreasonable, no preference being declared illegal unless found unjust. Some preferences may be held to be innocent, and not therefore forbidden. The provision ‘ authorizing the Inter- State Commission to decide whether preferences and discriminations are reasonable or unreasonable arose from the necessity of putting an end to the cut-throat competition of the railways of the States, and to establish absolute freedom of trade, allowing trade and commerce to flow along its natural lines of communication by road, river, or railway, and by waggons, coaches, steamers, or trains. The Inter- State Commission was to execute and maintain the laws in reference to Inter-State Free Trade, and particularly in relation to railway carriage. The Bill introduced by the honorable member for Hume in 1901 provided for the putting down of preferences by common carriers, including the Railway Commissioners of the States. At that time, according to information submitted by myself and others, Inter-State competitive railway rates were in full force, and no attempt had been made to abate them between the drafting of the Constitution and the meeting of the Federal Parliament. Since1901, however, quite a transformation has taken place. The various Railways Commissioners, influenced, it may be, by the debates and by the Bill of1901, together with the certainty of Federal intervention, decided to confer together, and to arrive at what may be called a modus vivendi, or common agreement, on the subject, abolishing anomalies and fighting railway rates, and allowing trade and commerce to have free flow. At the present time nearly the whole of those cut-throat railway rates have been abolished ; and, therefore, the conditions that obtained when the Convention authorized the creation of an Inter-State Commission, and gave it this special class of duties, no longer exist On the introduction of this Bill I communicated with the Railways Commissioners of Victoria, and yesterday received the following reply, dated the13th: -
Dear Sir John,
Adverting to your inquiries and to our conversation per telephone this afternoon in regard to the question of competitive railway rates in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, I beg to say that at present the only existing competitive rates asaffecting these three States are those dealing with the traffic to Euston, Mildura, and Darling River district, and these rates are in existence under an express agreement, which was executed in1905, between the Railways Commissioners of the three States, and their main object is to secure trade to the railways as against the river routes.
With this exception, however, all the then existing competitive rates as affecting Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia were abolished some years ago.
It is just as well to understand what will be the effect of the power granted to deal with competitive rates, and with preferences and discriminations forbidden by the Constitution. According to the letter I have just read, there is now no longer the same necessity for Federal intervention, or for work to be done by the Inter- State Commission of the kind there was when the Constitution was adopted, and the Bill of1901 introduced. It is a matter for congratulation and satisfaction that the various railway authorities have at last entered into an agreement of the kind, and that there is no longer a miserable system of cut-throat rates to interfere with the flow of trade and commerce along the various railway routes - that the various. Commissioners are no longer forced to resort to low, ruinous rates in order to grab traffic from one another. Under these circumstances the work of the Inter-State Commission, with regard to railway rates, will be light and trifling, if there be any at all.
– May the competitive rates not be resumed?
– They may, of course, but it is not likely, in the face of the agreement and this Bill, which no doubt will become law. I draw attention to these facts, not for the purpose of contending that this Bill is unnecessary; because I think there is plenty of other work relating to trade and commerce between the States which may be done by the Commission. My main object is to impress on the Attorney-General the necessity, in creating this Commission, which will, no doubt, cost a substantial sum to maintain, of giving it useful and valuable work within the limits of the Constitution. If that be done the Inter-State Commission will justify its existence, and will not prove merely an ornamental institution. One of the duties of the Inter-State Commission, in addition to the special duty of dealing with preferences and discriminations, will be to generally maintain the freedom of trade among the States. In so doing it will have authority, not only to prevent railway preferences and discriminations, but also to prevent anybody, or any combination of persons, resorting to methods or expedients that may amount to restraint or obstruction of trade. The Commission will have absolute power to enter on investigations and inquiries to ascertain, not merely whether railway authorities, but any private individuals or corporations, have entered into any agreement in restraint of trade, or are resorting to methods by which they may monopolize or unlawfully interfere with trade. I certainly think that the Inter-State Commission, now to be called into existence to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth, ought to be specially charged to enter into such investigations. There is no doubt that the declaration of the freedom of trade, which is one of the mandates of the Constitution, covers power to interfere with any of those. restraints, conspiracies, or combinations, that may interfere with the freedom of trade; and I apprehend that it was that section of the Constitution on which our anti-trust legislation has been based ; and not only that section, but the general power and authority to deal with Interestate trade and commerce. There is on the statutebook the measure known as the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which prohibits combinations or conspiracies in restraint of trade that may be unjust, unreasonable, or detrimental to the public. The same Act prohibits all monopolies that may tend to the injury of the public, and also injurious rebates. As the law stands at present, the administration of this branch of Commonwealth legislation is vested in the Minister of Trade and Customs, and special powers are vested in the ComptrollerGeneral. Section 15 (b) of the Australian Industries Preservation Act of 1906 gives authority to the ComptrollerGeneral, if he believes that any offence has been committed against the Act in regard to monopolies or combinations in restraint of trade, to require, in writing, any person, whom he deems to be capable of giving information, to answer questions and produce documents to him, or to some other persons named by him, in relation to the alleged offence. Then section 15 («) provides -
Whenever a complaint on oath has been made in writing to the Comptroller-General that any person, or any foreign corporation, or any trading or financial corporation formed within the Commonwealth has been guilty’ of any offence against this part of this Act, the ComptrollerGeneral, if he believes the complaint to be well founded, may, by writing, require any such person, or foreign corporation, or trading or financial corporation, or any member, officer, or agent of any such corporation, to produce and hand over to him, or to some person appointed by him in writing, all books and documents relating to the subject-matter of the complaint, and all books and documents of any kind whatsoever wherein any entry or memorandum appears in any way relating to the subject-matter of the complaint.
Penalties are provided for refusal to answer questions, or to produce books or documents. I submit that this Bill ought to provide that these powers - evidently admitted to be within the competence of the Constitution - should be taken from the Comptroller-General and vested in the Inter-State Commission. If that course were followed, we should give the Commission some really useful work to do by way of investigation, interrogation, and the ascertainment of whether any combinations exist in restraint of ti ade or any monopolies which are injurious to Inter-State trade. Here we have a whole vista of useful work which the Commission might perform. But at the present time the power of inquiring into these matters is vested in the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs. We have heard numerous complaints recently of the existence of alleged trusts, combines and monopolies, and of the necessity, for letting the light of day fall upon all the agreements which are alleged to have been entered into by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Coal Vend and the Inter-State railway ring. If there are any interferences with Inter-State trade, injurious to the public, here is an opportunity to investigate them. The reason why I heartily support this Bill is that I desire the Government to have full authority to investigate all these complaints, and to apply the searchlight of interrogation and inquiry to the inner workings of these alleged trusts and combines. The AttorneyGeneral said that the Government desire power- to ascertain the real position of the various associations which are engaged in Inter-State trade. If that be so, all we need do is to vest in this Commission the power to inquire into complaints, and to collect any evidence that may be forthcoming to enable a prosecution to be launched in the High Court.
– The High Court decided in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company that a Royal Commission cannot ask questions relating to matters outside the Constitution.
– The High Court compelled the manager of Messrs. Huddart, Parker to answer questions. The provisions of the Constitution relating to Inter-State or external trade cover the whole of the gigantic trusts and combines of which we have heard so much. In the prosecution which was launched against the Coal Vend and the shipping ring, which were admittedly engaged in Inter-State trade, there was evidence which led Mr. Justice Isaacs to convict the Vend. The Vend acquiesced in that conviction, and did not appeal against it. It paid the penalty, and the money is in the Treasury. Of course, it might not be possible for the Inter-State Commission to compel witnesses to answer questions relating to purely domestic trade, the ramifications of which do not extend beyond the limits of one State. In the case which was dealt with by
Mr. Justice Isaacs, in his masterly judgment, which may yet be sustained, it was quite obvious that he considered that he had ample authority to deal with the Vend, and with the shipping companies which were alleged to be co-operating with it in restraint of Inter-State trade. The Inter-State Commission which it is proposed to create under this Bill, and to arm with all the authority which can be vested in it under the Constitution, should be given this work to do if we are to justify its existence, and to remove a number of complaints of which we have heard. As regards such a great trust as the Beef Trust, there can be no doubt that the Commission will have abundant authority to deal with it. It will be able to examine its commercial transactions and its relationswith persons in Australia as well as with persons across the seas. There is no doubt that that trust must be within the competence . of the Federal jurisdiction, because it is engaged in the export and in the Inter- State trade. If we wish to fight that trust, all we have to do is to vest in the Commission full authority to exercise this investigating jurisdiction, to collect evidence and information, and to provide that when evidence has been so collected it may be utilized in a prosecution in the High Court for the vindication of the law and the enforcement of penalties. I notice that one important provision which is included in the Bill of1901 is absent from this Bill. Section 44 of that Bill authorizes the Commission to require reports from allcommon carriers engaged in external or Inter- State commerce. It authorizes the Commission to fix the time when, and to prescribe the manner in which, these reports shall be made. It authorizes the Commission to demand any detailed information relating to the earnings and the receipts from each branch of business, the working and other expenses, the balances of profit and loss, and the financial operations of carriers each year. It provides -
The reports shall show in detail such information as the Commission may require in relation to -
the earnings and receipts from each branch of business, and from all sources, the working and other expenses, the balance of profit and loss, and the financial operations of the carrier each year;
rates or regulations concerning fares or freights, or agreements, arrangements, or contracts with other common carriers or with any person ;
the amount of capital invested in the business, the dividends paid, the surplus fund, if any, the funded or other debts and the interest paid thereon, the cost and value of the carrier’s property, franchise and equipment, the number and salaries of employed, and any other matter pertaining to the business.
That clause is limited to carriers, but the same power of investigation might with equal propriety and legality be extended to all persons engaged in the Inter-State trade. I would suggest to the Attorney-General that he should insert a clause, not similar, but a little wider, extending the power to the Commission to deal with all persons engaged in the Inter- State trade. There is no doubt that this Parliament is the guardian of Inter-State Free Trade, is also the sole legislator with regard to trade and commerce between the States, and can pass laws regulating the terms and conditions upon which any person or corporation can engage in trade and commerce between the States and with other countries. One of the conditions which this Parliament can impose, not merely upon carriers, but all persons engaged in Inter-State and external trade, is that they shall file annual returns, giving particulars of their earnings and receipts, of their profits and losses, of the capital invested, of dividends, and of salaries of employes ; in fact, all particulars of their transactions in connexion with Inter- State trade. This clause, and other considerations arising from a study of the Constitution, and of those powers over trade and commerce to which I have invited attention, show that it is not necessary to have an amendment of the Constitution to give this Parliament absolute control over the flow of trade between the States and over every person and corporation engaged in that trade. Parliament can prohibit people from engaging in that trade who are doing anything in restraint of trade - interfering with, obstructing, or monopolizing trade, or in any way violating the mandates of the Constitution. This power is the fullest and most magnificent grant of power within the whole of the grants of the Constitution. In the United States of America they are just beginning to discover the amplitude of the possibilities of Federal authority and legislation in the exercise of power over Inter-State trade. In that country the Inter- State Commission deals with railways principally, but it has been suggested that there should be a bureau of corporations created to investigate the doings of corporations, to see whether they do anything contrary to the Federal law or detrimental to the interests of the public, and to suggest terms and conditions under which licences should be granted to those engaged in the Inter-State trade. In Canada, also, they have provision for the investigation of complaints made against people who are engaged in the Inter- State trade. A lot of the work under the heading of preferences and discriminations between railway authorities which was expected to fall upon the Inter- State Commission will not now devolve upon that Commission, because of the settlement of these controversies amicably by the railway authorities. But another class of work of equal importance, uncontemplated by the framers of the Constitution, may devolve upon the Commission. It is work which has arisen from the extraordinary development of trade and commerce in this country, and particularly the development of those trusts, combines, and monopolies whose influence was not so pronounced at the time the Constitution was drafted. But we have the fullest power now in the Constitution to deal with all these new manifestations of commercial activity of which complaints have been made.
– Only Inter-State, of course.
– Yes. Showing that this is a new phase in our commercial life and activity I do not remember, during the whole of the Federal Convention debates in Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne, any reference being made to any grievance on the part of the people respecting Inter-State trusts, combines and monopolies. Probably, if there had been such loud complaints then as there are now about these undesirable organizations, special provision might have been made in the Constitution for dealing with them. But I do not think there is any necessity for amending the Constitution to give greater power over trade and commerce between the States than exists at present. Why? Because the very words “trusts, combines, and monopolies,” are included in the words “ commerce and trade.” The greater includes the less. Suppose you have a new grant of power under the heading of trusts, combines, and monopolies, you will have no greater power than is contained in the words “trade and commerce between the States.” The Consti tution provides for full control over InterState matters, and so far as this Commission is concerned, it can deal with everything Inter- State if it is armed with the power authorized by the Constitution.
– It has to be other than relating to manufactures.
– I admit that, but it would even have control of manufactures so far as the restriction of manufactures within a State affects the flow of Inter-State trade.
– Manufactures, whether Inter-State or not, are not in our control.
– It has been shown in America that there is Federal authority over restrictions of manufactures which affect the free flow of Inter- State trade. The other night the honorable member for Angas quoted the case of Pennslyvania v. The American Sugar Company, in which it was distinctly held that there was Federal authority where restriction upon manufactures affected the flow and volume of Inter-State trade.
– That is because there was restraint of trade and commerce.
– There was restraint arising from that restriction of manufactures. I have indicated that the Commission will be useful if it is armed with proper authority. It will be of no use to launch it on its career unless we give it authority to exercise the full powers granted by the Constitution. The question is whether we are prepared to give the Commission the full authority to do the good work it can accomplish if it is armed with proper powers, or whether we are going to merely authorize it to do work which has, apparently, been completed by the settlement of the preferential railway rates question. I am not aware whether the AttorneyGeneral laid any great stress upon the work that would have to be done by the Commission in connexion with preferential or discriminating railway rates. If he based the creation of the Commission on that class of work, he used a false foundation, and he had better look round and find other work which could be provided for the Commission under other provisions of the Constitution. I agree with the contention that the Commission might be authorized to deal with industrial matters within the limits of the Constitution. It might do good work in the direction of ascertaining what trades, callings, and manufactures are of an Australian character - what may be truly described as Australian industries.
– We have an Arbitration Court to deal with industrial matters.
– Yes; but the Commission might act as a body supplementary to the present Court. The Commission might be used to relieve the congestion of the work in the Arbitration Court to a very large extent; but, as a preliminary, it might well ascertain what trades, callings, and manufactures are truly Australian and Inter- Stale in their operations, competition, and influences. If such information were collected and classified, and placed before Parliament, and the people, it would go a long way towards determining what should be the real jurisdiction of our Federal Arbitration Court. I am prepared to give our Federal Arbitration Court full jurisdiction in all cases of an Inter-State character. I would be prepared to give it full jurisdiction, not merely where there are disputes arising in and extending over more than one State, but also in cases where -a dispute arises in an industry in which there is competition between two or more States. The shearers’ industry is an example. The shipping industry is another, and several others stand out prominently. But I would like information to be obtained by the Commission that would enable us to draw the line between trade and commerce, and industry of a purely domestic and internal character, as against trade, commerce, and industry of an Inter-State character.
– The Commission could not exercise any power whatever over industry.
– It could exercise investigating power over all matters contained in the Constitution.
– It could inquire into matters relating to industry, but it could not administer or adjudicate.
– I know that. I am not suggesting that it should adjudicate except within the lines of the Constitution. But it might prepare the way for amendments of the Constitution by ascertaining what are Inter-State industries in respect to which control might be given to a Federal tribunal. I am quite prepared to give control over industries of an Australian character to a Federal tribunal, but I object to anything beyond that as being antiFederal. I hope the Commission will start on its career under good auspices, and that it will expand with the growth of trade, commerce, and industry. Although by this Bill its functions are somewhat narrowed, time will, no doubt, prove the utility of the Commission, and justify the expenditure that is now about to be entered upon.
– The honorable member for Bendigo said he hoped the Commission would be clothed with full powers, so far as the Constitution would allow. I suppose that it is almost unnecessary for me to say that this Parliament could hardly create anything that would have greater powers than itself. And we find that our powers are exceedingly limited, especially in the direction of control over industrial matters. It may be assumed that the Commission will be composed of able men, but something .besides ability is essential. The Commissioners should be men of the right sort - men of Australian ideas, imbued with a strong idea that Australian interests should be their principal consideration. I do not see that the Commission can do very much beyond the work of investigation, and it would almost seem that we are about to bring about a duplication of machinery to discharge functions which might be efficiently carried out by our well-equipped Departments, presided over by Cabinet Ministers. I know 6T nothing in respect to which the Commission could inquire that has not already been fully investigated by either the Customs Department or the Statistician’s Department. If these Departments have not exercised their functions to the full, they ought to have been made to do so.
– The Commission will have power over Inter-State freights and fares, which no other body can exercise.
– I have my doubts as to whether the Commission will be able to exercise the powers contemplated by the AttorneyGeneral. Neither he nor any one else can say what the High Court will determine with regard to any power that we may desire to confer on the Commission. It is evident from some of the decisions of the High Court that our powers are limited in regard to trade and commerce.
– Our powers are those conferred by the Constitution - whatever they may be worth. We may start from the central fact that we are here - beyond that, everything is doubtful.
– 1 am certain that we cannot create a body that will have more powers than we possess. The matter in which 1 am most materially concerned is the industrial investigations which it is desired the Commission shall undertake. I am surprised and disappointed that it should be considered necessary to give a Commission of this kind power to investigate industrial affairs. Certainly in connexion with these matters the Commission will have only the power of investigation, but I am unable to conceive that they will be able to find out anything that might assist us in the passing of useful legislation of which the Departments are not already aware. It is provided that amongst the duties of the Commission will be the making of inquiries with the object of encouraging and extending Australian industries and manufactures, and with respect to wages and social and industrial conditions. They are also to have the power to conduct investigations in connexion with questions affecting the Tariff. I have always understood that the true purpose of the Inter-State Commission was to perform functions connected with the regulation of Inter-State carrying, and the exercise of riparian rights, by the State authorities. I know that the Opposition have had in mind the appointment of what has been called a Tariff Board, and the Government have embodied in this Bill, so far as I can see, the Tariff Board so much desired by the Opposition. Had honorable members opposite continued in office, they could not have given the Tariff Board which they desired to establish any more powers in connexion with Tariff revision than are given to the Inter-State Commission under this Bill, though they might possibly have provided for a more extensive body.
– In that connexion the powers of the Inter-State Commission will be purely those of inquiry.
– I have already said so. They will investigate matters affected by the Tariff, and their reports will possibly be presented in a form which will enable honorable members to decide what will be the effect upon the conditions of industries in Australia of Tariff revision in certain directions. I am against this Bill, because of the provision which it makes for the establishment of a Tariff Board. I am satisfied that any work which the InterState Commission may do in that connexion will be merely a waste of time. In my view, we already possess the means of supplying all the data necessary, if we have not got it at the present time, to assist us in framing legislation on this subject. I point out that should the Inter-State Commission present a report dealing with such a matter, it will be considered by every member of this Parliament from the point of view suggested by his own fiscal opinions.
– The peculiar powers of the Inter-State Commission are those covered by the Constitution. They have nothing to do with the Tariff, or such investigations as the honorable member speaks of. But they will exercise powers which cannot be exercised by any other body.
– It is evident that the Opposition have taken this legislative infant to their arms. I have not heard any condemnation of it from them, though, of course, they suggest certain alterations in the measure. If honorable members opposite are sincere in their professed desire to have the Inter-State Commission created and endowed with the powers which they claim it should have, why are they unwilling to support amendments of the Constitution to extend the powers of this Parliament in such a way as to enable it to deal with great industrial questions which can only be fiddled with by an InterState Commission? The Opposition know perfectly well that, so far as the proper regulation of the industries of Australia is concerned, we shall be able to do nothing under this Bill. I do not know that the Inter-State Commission could even make a recommendation on the subject, and, if they could, and did, it would rest with this Parliament to say whether any notice should be taken of it or not. I hope that if the Commission is created it will be of the right fiscal colour.
– What does the honorable member call the right fiscal colour?
– The honorable member for Lang may be assured that he is not of the right fiscal colour.
– No Free Traders need apply.
– I will not say that there should not be one Free Trader on the Commission, but I sincerely trust that two of the three Commissioners will be strongly convinced that the industries of Australia require to be safeguarded, and the workers in those industries protected.
. - I recognise in this Bill an old friend. It has unfortunately been sadly mutilated by the excision of that portion of the old Inter-State Commission Bill, which referred to industrial matters, and suffers an abnormal growth due to the introduction of more or less tyrannous provisions which have found a place in other legislation passed this year. I am glad to welcome the measure, becauseI believe that the Inter-State Commission will prove a valuable aid to the Federal Parliament. I cannot help contrasting the generous reception . which the Opposition have given to this Bill with the reception given by the Labour party to practically the same Bill when I had the honour to introduce it on a previous occasion.
– That was on account of the provisions with respect to industrial matters which have been left out of this Bill.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs may take it from me that I know more of what actually took place than he can possibly know. The Labour party was, of course, strongly opposed to Part V., dealing with industrial matters, but apart from that, practically the same Bill as that now under consideration was previously opposed by those who have introduced this measure as a wanton and wicked effort to squander public money. It was urged most strenuously, and not too scrupulously, that such a measure was not necessary. It was stated that, with the exception of Part V. of the Bill, it was unnecessary for two reasons; the first, because, in Australia, the States own the railways ; and, in the second place, because it was asserted that a settlement, with respect to preferential rates, had been arrived at in1904 or1905. We were assailed and charged with all sorts of extraordinary and unworthy motives. It was stated that the object of the Bill was to placate certain political persons in our ranks who were somewhat in the way. Every improper insinuation that couldbe launched against a Government was launched against us for the introduction of what was practically this same Bill. Ridicule and scorn were poured upon it. The old Bill empowered the Commission to investigate matters concerning -
The production of and trade in commodities; the encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures; markets outside of Australia; and the opening up of external trade generally.
One of the things said against the Government for having the effrontery to propose anything of the kind, was that these provisions represented so much “flapdoodle.”
I want to know whether the same provisions, word for word, appearing in the Bill as now introduced by the Government, and fathered by the speaker who referred to our Bill in such scornful terms, represent “so much flapdoodle”?
– Whom is the honorable member quoting ?
– I am referring to the opposition of Senator Pearce and others on the occasion of the introduction of practically the same measure. In regard to the provisions as to unemployed insurance, we were scornfully asked what our Parliamentary Library was for, and whether the information to be obtained by the Commission could not be gathered there? Why, it was asked, should a body of three expert persons, at a cost in salaries of £6,500 a year, and a total expense of between £20,000 and £30,000 a year, be created for the purpose of investigating unemployment and the question of insurance as regards the unemployed.
– There is nothing about insurance in this Bill, is there?
– There is a provision as to unemployment.
– The honorable member said insurance.
– Unemployment is one of the subjects to be dealt with by the Commission.
– But not insurance.
– Do I understand that if unemployed insurance had been provided for in the Bill that would be “so much flapdoodle “? It was provided for in the original Bill, and unemployment is provided for in this. We have power under the Constitution to deal with insurance, but the word has been eliminated. Are we to understand that it has been struck out because the Government have no intention of dealing with unemployment insurance? If so, I can understand the interjection. Perhaps “ imitation is the sincerest flattery,” and if those who so strongly opposed the Bill on the previous occasion now realize that it is a measure of very great value, and that the Inter-State Commission is capable of aiding in the development of the Federal system and the carrying on of our constitutional powers more effectively, it is welcome from that stand-point. It is quite true that the railways of Australia are owned by the various States. From that point of view there is not the same necessity for establishing an Inter-State Commis sion as exists in America, where, of course, the railways are privately owned. In that country efforts are made by preferential and discriminatory Tariffs to interfere with the ordinary course of trade. In Australia we have some 15,000 miles of railway, constructed at a cost of something like ^160,000,000 of the people’s money. We cannot ignore the fact that at one time we had in this country all the evils of discrimination and preference in respect of railway rates. We had a regular war of tariffs. This state of things existed at the time the Constitution was framed. The very object of providing for an Inter- State Commission in the Constitution was to afford a guarantee against the continuance of those rates which so seriously and alarmingly interfered with freedom of intercourse between the States. But the effect of the embodiment of that provision in the Constitution, and the introduction of an Inter-State Commission Bill in 1901, had a very salutary effect upon the discriminatory and preferential rates existing on our railways. It was realized that if these rates were continued, it was inevitable that the Federal Parliament must take steps to put them down, and prevent their reimposition. Under these circumstances a conference of the Railways Commissioners of the various States took place, with the result that in 1905 a working arrangement was made between three States. Subsequently, Queensland came in, and ultimately the arrangement was accepted practically by all the States. The arrangement provided for the maintenance of traffic that had already been secured, but at the same time it prevented any further discrimination or preference taking place. The working arrangement was originally intended to last for twelve months, but ft has been continued from one year to another, and I do not think there is any reasonable prospect or possibility of the old conditions ever obtaining again. The introduction of this Bill to constitute the Inter-State Commission is a guarantee that the old state of things will not recur. It is a guarantee of the basic principle of Federation in regard to freedom of trade and intercourse between the States. It is quite true that section 92 of the Constitution declares for freedom of trade and intercourse, and, as far as Customs duties are concerned, there is no longer a possibility of differential treatment or discrimination between States, because those duties are all collected at the ports. But if there is a possibility of differential or discriminatory rates being imposed on State railways or by common carriers, the aim and object of the Constitution is that they shall be prevented. Under these circumstances, the measure is complementary to the Constitution. The creation of this Commission is made more or less mandatory under section 101. It will create for us a body capable of performing some of the duties which may at present be performed by the High Court itself. While the Bill is somewhat novel in regard to the provisions relating to common carriers, equality of trading, undue preference, discriminatory or preferential tariffs, while it is declaratory that these conditions shall not obtain, it is simply following out the. leading and fundamental principles of British and United States legislation. It embodies practically some of the leading powers exercised by the Board of Trade in the Mother Country. The Board of Trade. I may mention, controls the railways, the canals, and any shipping used in connexion with railways or canals. In America the Inter-State Commerce Commission has control of the railways and the water, so far as that water is used on a continuous journey, and in ‘connexion with transport overland.
– Do you think that the Inter-State Commission will have power to deal with wharfage rates ?
– So far as wharfage rates are in any way discriminatory or preferential, I think that it will. Of course I do not say that it will have power to interfere with charges or dues for services performed, but as regards anything in the way of rates of a discriminatory or preferential character no doubt the Commission will have power to interfere. The object of this body is the more effective regulation of Inter-State trade and commerce, and of course foreign commerce. So far as America is concerned we have, as a foundation to go on, the fundamental principles of the Inter -State Commerce Commission, and this Bill embodies some of the provisions which create various bureaux of commerce and manufacture. The whole experience of railway- history there conclusively affirms the wisdom of the Australian States owning their railways. The history of railroads in the United States and the Mother Country shows that it is practically impossible by legislative means to effectively control powerful railway interests. Even a great authority like Acworth, has acknowledged at once that if one consulted nine out of ten persons in the Mother Country, it would be discovered that they favour the public ownership of railways from that particular stand-point, recognising that legislative control becomes ineffective for several reasons. If a shilling were knocked off freights or rates they reduced the facilities by 2s. If a merchant or a farmer attempts to fight them, he fights against unequal odds, because these experts know every feature of their business, and are able to ultimately defeat the unfortunate merchant or farmer who ventures into conflict with them. And it by any chance the Railway Companies were defeated, so powerful are their interests that they are capable cf withdrawing privileges which previously obtained. So that by a process of retaliation they get completely back on the merchant or the farmer. In Australia, fortunately, we have not those serious difficulties to contend with, and the importance of the work of the InterState Commission in that direction will not be equal to that of various other Commissions on whose basis it is founded.
It will act, however, as a guarantee for the absence of differential or discriminatory rates. That part of the Bill which deals with investigation is an exceedingly important one. Part V-. of the former Bill provided for the creation of a Federal tribunal, and the scheme was to rely upon the network of industrial authorities and the creation of an Inter-State Commission for the purpose of -linking up the various industrial tribunals and preventing, so far as was necessary, by the creation of that Federal tribunal, any unfair competition as between the several States. This was to be done by a reference of power and jurisdiction to the Federal body. It is very regrettable that a provision of the kind has not been embodied in this Bill. I observe that there is a full power of inquiry and report so far as many branches of industry are concerned. A complaint has been made that the business of our Arbitration Court is congested, and that the amount -of work there is really too much for one Judge to do. The creation of the Inter- State Commission will largely relieve that Judge and that Court of some of the present work. The other Bill contained an- important provision, which I regret has not found a. place in this Bill, and which reads as follows : -
The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration may refer any dispute of which it has cognizance, or any matter arising out of the dispute, to the Commission for investigation and report, and may delegate to the Commission such of its powers, including all powers of the Court in relation to conciliation and the settlement of the dispute by amicable agreement as it deems desirable. On the report of the Commission the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration may, with or without hearing further evidence or arguments or both, decide the dispute and make its award.
I regret the absence from this Bill of a provision of that kind.
– Would not the High Court have declared that illegal?
– Not under the arrangement under which it was inserted in the Bill. The States had offered and agreed to grant the necessary jurisdiction to the Court.
– “ Trade and commerce “ is not industry, you know.
– The Constitution Act empowers the States to grant to the Federal Parliament jurisdiction in regard to certain questions. The States had already agreed to grant the’ necessary jurisdiction, and under that grant it was competent to pass a provision such as that to which I have referred. But if my honorable friend is afraid of a constitutional objection, that difficulty can be overcame in another direction,, because the same principle is embodied in the Commonwealth Conciliation) and Arbitration Act -
The Court may refer any industrial dispute of which it has cognizance, or any matter arising out of the dispute, to a local Industrial Board for investigation and report, and may delegateto that Board such of its powers, including all powers of the Court in relation to conciliation! and the settlement of the dispute by amicableagreement, as it deems desirable.
It goes on to define what a local industrial! power may be.
– That is not InterState.trade, though.
– It relates to all industrial disputes spreading from one State to another. The creation of an Inter-State Commission will afford a means of relieving the Arbitration Court of a large amount of its work, and whatever powers have been given to the Court in regard to the disputes which have occupied its attention can be granted to the Commission. That would afford the great and substantial advantage of largely severing the- judicial from the industrial, a very desirable aim and object, which was recognised in the Bill originally introduced, and should obtain in this one. I am glad that full power of investigation is granted in regard to the effect and operation of any Tariff Act, or other legislation of the Commonwealth in regard to revenue, Australian manufacture, industry, and trade generally. It is true that a more direct provision appeared in the original Bill, to the effect that when so required by the Minister, the Commissioners should consider any additions to or any modifications or simplifications of any Tariff, Customs, or Excise Act expedient to remove anomalies and develop trade with the United Kingdom or British Possessions, and should make such recommendations with regard to them as it might think fit. Practically, the same powers are given to the Commission by this Bill, so far as investigation and report are concerned. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports was alarmed at this provision, and felt that the Government was seriously slipping. He seems to fear investigation and the supplying of information to Parliament. The end and aim of honorable members on this side in proposing the creation of a Tariff Board has not been to relieve Parliament of the duty of deciding questions of policy, or to delegate the powers of Parliament to a Board, but to secure for “it facts and information, which will enable it more capably and systematically to deal with questions of vital importance to our production and manufacture. At present, our Tariff considerations are conducted in a haphazard manner, though from time to time we have had the advantage of the reports of various Commissions which have made investigations and supplied information to Parliament. These reports have proved exceedingly useful, and, on the last occasion, 85 or 90 per cent, of the recommendations of the Tariff Commission were adopted by Parliament. No reasonable man can object to Parliament referring important matters affecting the Tariff to the Inter- State Commission for investigation, so that we may be able to frame a Tariff which will suit our conditions and answer our purposes. The honorable member for” Melbourne Ports, in protesting against this proposal, has not done himself justice, and, if he had his way, would deprive Parliament of a great advantage. Bodies constituted for similar purposes are to be found in other parts of the world. They have a most elaborate system of inquiry and investigation in France, and in Germany, and the highest encomiums were recently passed by President Taft on the splendid work done by the American Board. In Canada, it is part and parcel of the system of Government to investigate matters and supply information to Parliament, so that that body may legislate in the light of facts, instead of haphazard. Nothing is more dislocating to trade, commerce, and industry than wholesale revisions of the Tariff, but had we a Bureau of Information dealing with practically every item, we could make amendments from year to year, and thus evolve a Tariff system which would at all times meet our requirements. But at this period of the session I do not feel justified in dealing with the subject at length. I congratulate the Government on having introduced the Bill. The InterState Commission is capable of doing excellent work, and its operations will be supplementary to other provisions of the Constitution. The results of its investigations will enable us to legislate with a knowledge that we could not otherwise acquire, and its existence will guarantee that freedom of intercourse between the States which is a basic principle of the Constitution.
.- I do not propose to occupy much time in discussing this measure, though I cannot allow the occasion to pass without briefly stating my views regarding what is one of the most important Bills that this Parliament has been called upon to deal with. I regret that it has been introduced at a stage of the session when honorable members are anxious to get away to their homes, and for physical reasons are hardly able to give to it the full consideration that its importance merits. I should be in a better position to address myself to this question had the honorable member for Hindmarsh given us the benefit of his learning, though, no doubt, when the Commission has been appointed he will, from time to time, inform it regarding some of the matters into which he has made research.
– I know more about the subject than does the honorable member.
– I am prepared to say that that is so. I have yet hopes that, before the debate is concluded, the honorable member will -express his views. There are two points that the House should carefully consider before finally passing this Bill. One is the scope, and the other is the work, of the Commission. As to the latter, a very great deal of the usefulness of the Commission will depend on the confidence which the public have in it. If, from the inception, the Commission is to be a sort of Star-Chamber, tearing secrets out of all sorts of people on all sorts of subjects, whether for the benefit of the people or not, its usefulness will be rendered practically of a nugatory character. Instead of being a source of information to which Parliment can turn from time to time on a vast number of subjects, which the Commission and which Parliament, from the nature of its composition is quite incompetent to obtain, it will prove a storm-centre for all sorts of political ideas. If the idea once gets into the public mind that this is simply a political Commission appointed for political purposes, its usefulness will have passed away for ever. It will be necessary for the Government to appoint to this body men of wide experience, mature judgment, and impartial or judicial disposition. In view of the very wide powers with which the Commission is clothed to ascertain facts in regard to trade and commerce, manufacture, the possible extension of our trade in other countries, the operation of the Tariff within our own borders, labour and employment or unemployment, and so forth, it is essential that this information shall be reviewed, the evidence weighed, and the facts set forth free from any political bias. I conclude that the Commission is desired to furnish just the bare unvarnished facts, set out in such a way that Parliament may be able to legislate in regard to them, with the knowledge that the facts as set forth are untinged by any political bias. It is, and I think rightly, proposed to ask the Inter- State Commission to consider the operation of the Tariff ; and what we wish to know in this regard is simply whether the Tariff is accomplishing the purpose for which it was framed, namely, the building up of Australian industries. The report of the Commission might tell us, for example, that the Tariff in regard to jam is quite unnecessarily high, and that the jam manufacturers could, if they so desired, increase the price by £14 per ton, and still compete with outside manufacturers. All I am suggesting is that the Commission should be able to place the facts before Parliament in such a way that we may be able to- arrive at right decisions. My short experience of parliamentary life shows me that our great difficulty is to ascertain the real facts ; and it is essential that the members of this Commission should not be, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggested, of any particular political faith. The members of the Inter-State Commission should be in a position to give us the result of perfectly impartial investigation, clear of political bias. Further, it is most essential that the Commission should not be overloaded with work; and my own opinion is that, for .the start at all events, its proposed scope is too wide. It would be much better, in the first instance, to limit the work of the Commission to its constitutional obligations, and one or two other matters of great importance at the present time, such as trusts and combines and their operations. The overweighting of the Commission with too wide a field of operations will lead to the creation of a number of Departments or semi-Departments at largely increased cost to the Commonwealth, with the ultimate result of prejudicing the value of the Commission itself. I think the Inter-State Commission might be made most useful to our producers in regard to finding oversea markets of which, perhaps, we know very little at the present time. If the Commission appoints correspondents in close touch with commercial activities in, it may _ be; little known parts of the world, we may, through the Commission, be supplied from time to time with information of the greatest value to our producers, enabling them to open up fresh markets. In many ways, from a social, industrial, and economic point of “view, I believe the work of the Commission will be of great benefit to the people of Australia, and I welcome the introduction of this Bill, particularly because it is, to all intents and purposes, a Liberal measure, and one with which the party to which I belong has been closely associated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 15 agreed to.
Clauses 16 and 1.7 postponed.
Clauses 18 to 22 agreed to.
Clauses 23 and 24 postponed.
Clauses 25 to 31 agreed to.
Clause 32 postponed.
Clauses 33 to 52 agreed to.
Clauses 53 and 54 postponed.
Clauses 55 to ‘78 agreed to.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following paper : -
Public Service Act - Department of Home Affairs - Promotion of C. H. Auty to new position of 4th Class Clerk.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– This morning, the honorable member for Hunter asked me a question in regard to telegraphists in New South Wales. I was unable at the time to give him the information which he desired. Since then I have ascertained that the Postmaster-General’s Department knows nothing of any plaint by the telegraphists of that State being before the Arbitration Court. Neither does the Public Service Commissioner. I endeavoured to learn from Mr. Stewart, the Registrar, whether any such case has been brought before the Court, and, as the result of my inquiry, I may say that there is no knowledge in Melbourne of any plaint by the telegraphists of New South Wales being before that tribunal.
.- I desire to say a few words in reference to a letter which has been received from the Department of the Minister of Trade and Customs. The other day I brought forward a complaint from Mr. Patrick McMahon, of the Tweed River, <>New South Wales, that his bounty had been stopped. He writes, on 6th December, as follows -
Enclosed you will find a letter which I received the other day from’ the Collector of Customs, Sydney, informing me that my bounty, amounting to £300, was stopped. I think the papers in connexion with the matter are in Melbourne, as the report was made to the Minister in the first place. The facts are that I engaged these men with others to cut my cane at is. an hour, and at the end of the season, or when all the cane was gathered in, I was to collect all the accounts and calculate it and charge the bare cost of the tucker, together with the cook’s wages, to each man. These men left before I was finished, and, as is the custom here, of every road contractor who pays similar wages, I deducted the amounts mentioned in the letter from their wages as we were living on a liberal scale, including potatoes, 15s. a cwt., beef, butter, cheese, jam, pickles, and other delicacies. The allegation seems to be that I was making a profit out of this department. Of course, you can find men for 12s. a week and also for £1 a week. It depends on what you give them, but I have no hesitation in saying that you cannot feed them on bread and beef for 12s. a week. I am prepared to swear an affidavit that I made no profit, and that the amount in dispute was placed by me to the credit of a trust account.
This is only one of the many instances in which the growers of cane have been annoyed in connexion with the. payment of the bounty and Excise. I have not the slightest doubt that Mr. McMahon’s statement is true.
– We do not impute dishonesty to him.
– I know him well, and I would accept his word as soon as I would that of any man. He came to an arrangement with these men to pay their storekeeper’s bill until such time as their wages were due. It was an arrangement which enabled them to get what tucker they pleased. When he came to settle with them the men said, “ There are the regulations. You cannot deduct more than 12s. a week for our keep. We are going to lodge a complaint with the Minister, so that you will not get the bounty.” They knew perfectly well that the Minister would say to the grower, “ Here are the regulations. You may only charge 12s. a week for the men’s keep.” The result is that this grower has had to put his hand in his pocket and pay for all the additional tucker which the men consumed. This case is an example of the position which obtains under the existing law. I do think that the Minister might have accepted the word of the grower and allowed the full cost of the actual tucker consumed by the men to be deducted from their earnings.
.- In discussing an amendment in the Navigation Bill on Wednesday evening, the honorable member for South Sydney made a statement to which I propose to refer. I regret that he is not present. At the time, I did not clearly hear the honorable member’s remark, or I should have corrected it at once. Referring to the petition which I presented to the House in July last, the honorable member is reported to have said, according to Hansard, that the signatories -
Are only recruiters and agents of the people who wish to bleed the natives of the Territory.
Since then, I have taken the trouble to analyze the signatures which are attached to the four or five petitions which I presented to this House. I have not had time to go through the whole of them, but I take as a sample the petitions presented from Woodlark Island and Port Moresby. The signatories to the Woodlark Island petition consist of fourteen mining leaseholders, sixteen working miners, three storekeepers, one engine-driver, one carpenter, and five persons who do not give their occupation. The petition from Port Moresby was signed by seventeen carpenters and shipwrights, five master mariners, thirtyeight persons employed as clerks, accountants, and managers of stores, five planters, two plantation managers, two engineers, four miners, three traders, two painters, five labourers, one sailmaker, one cook, four contractors, one blacksmith, two butchers, two painters, four printers, three publicans, two bakers, one assayer, one saddler, one recruiter, one bank manager, one boardinghousekeeper, and ten persons whose occupations are not given. In addition to that it was signed by the Government Printer, the Assistant Resident Magistrate, an entomologist, the postmaster, two surveyors, and the Government gaoler. In the circumstances, the honorable member was obviously incorrect in stating that these petitions have been signed by those who exploit black labour.
– In reply to the honorable member for Richmond I may say that the Department does not impugn the honesty of Mr. McMahon, and it will not stop payment of the whole of the bounty. If we allowed the cane-growers to charge more than12 s. for the keep of their employes, the purpose of the Department in fixing a standard wage would be defeated. It is a very difficult matter to administer, and I would not express any regret if it were taken out of the hands of the Customs Department.
– This is the most wearying week that I have experienced in Parliament during the last ten years, and it is with a great deal of trepidation that I venture to trespass on the patience of the House for five minutes at this stage. But I regard it as necessary to say a few words, because there are certain people going about the country slandering this great Australian Labour party, and I want to remind them of the fate of Ananias. You, sir, will remember reading in the Acts of the Apostles that Ananias told a lie, and Peter chided him, and you, sir, will also remember these two verses -
The people who are libelling this party in the press and defaming us on the public platform ought to take warning by that awful fate. I cannot connect the honorable member for Parramatta with what I have just said, because he told us this morning that what I thought was misrepresentation, to say the least of it, was only a jocular remark. But while drawing the attention of those people outside this House, who are slandering this party, I also wish to draw the attention of the honorable member to this fact : that this morning he rather misled you and this House. The honorable member raised a question of privilege, and said that a certain newspaper made this statement regarding the Government -
The Government kept itself in office by the use of public moneys in placating friends and defeating enemies.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Parramatta.
– Oh, no!
– The honorable member for Parramatta read some statements from the Age, which I thought had reference to the Federal Labour Ministry. On looking up the Age I find that the statement referred to one of. the State” Ministries. I notice in this morning’s Argus an advertisement which reads -
Central Mission, Wesley Church - P.S.A., 3. Hon. Joseph Cook, M.P. Subject, “Keep your eyes open.” Soloist, Mr. R. Hamblett. C.M.M. Orchestra.
In view of the honorable member’s conduct it would be well for us to keep our eyes open for the honorable member for Parramatta.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121214_reps_4_69/>.