5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether Colonel Merritt, who is going Home in charge of the rifle team that is heing sent to the Old Country, is in the pay of the Commonwealth.
– I do not know.
Survey and Construction Contracts
– I ask the Prime Minister if he has noticed the paragraph in this morning’s newspaper stating that he has received a report from the EngineerinChief of South Australia affecting the Teesdale Smith contract. If he has received such a report, will he lay it on the table, so that honorable members may read it?
– I did not say that I had received a report from the Engineer-in-Chief ; I said that I had a report of the Public Works Department of South Australia, in which a certain statement appears.
– I have a question to ask, my reason for asking being that if I get satisfaction now, there will be no necessity for me to speak on the subject on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he can give full particulars of the cost of the previous surveys made by Messrs. Lawrence and Chalmers, in connexion with the transcontinental railway, and of the portion covered by the Teesdale Smith contract. I wish to know, too, whether trial holes have been sunk and reports made.
– Is there any one over there who can speak for the Opposition? Am I to understand that the censure debate is finished?
– It is not finished. I hope to have a word before it concludes.
– Is there no reply to my question?
– Then I shall have to deal with the matter on the adjournment.
– Deal with it when you like and how you like. It is most disorderly for an honorable member to threaten in this way.
– That is a disorderly statement to make. I used no threat at all.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
Debate resumed from 30th April (vide page 508), on motion by Mr. Kendell -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to by this House: -
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : - “ but regret to have to inform you that your Advisers deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.”
– When the debate was adjourned last night, I was speaking of banking, which is the fundamental essence of finance, and finance is a Government function. For years we have allowed private corporations to possess the instruments of credit and exchange, and those who control those instruments control the world. A Government bank should be an impersonal institution, knowing not the individual, and recognising only security. The foundation of monopolies, their essence and basis, is the private banking corporation. I know that in America we used to finance them. We used to discount their promissory notes and securities, and when they got into us, we had to give more to get out, until, finally, we had sometimes to take a business over. Then we had to expand her share-list “and start her again. I claim that the State Savings Bank ought not to be separate, that the whole of the Government banking of Australia should be one consolidated amalgamated institution.
– A monopoly?
– Yes, but a Government monoply. When a monopoly appears and interferes with the rights of the people, it should be made a public monopoly.
– You would have banking controlled by the Government?
– I would not interfere with the private banks ; I would make the Commonwealth Bank the power behind them.
– Where would you get the money?
– With very little money a lot of credit can be got. The business of the world is run on credit, not on money. Of that business 95 per cent, is done directly on credit, and the remaining 5 per cent, is really credit, because generally when one buys for cash, he buys on trial, and the article if not approved is sent back. There is no payment until trial has been made. The Commonwealth Bank was all right as Ave started it, because one man could keep the thing going better than a lot of men could. You have to argue men around to your own ideas. The foundation of the bank has been laid.
– Not in Sydney yet; they are just scooping the foundations out now.
– At any rate, they have made a start. I am speaking of finance, and the honorable member is speaking of muddling.
– In Sydney they took the foundation out after they had laid the foundation.
– Exactly. The financial foundation of the bank has been laid, and what we ought to do is to make the institution like the Bank of Prance and the Bank of England, to expand it, and to make it the financial centre of Australia, so that every other bank may know that no matter what happens there cannot be a financial crisis, because it is also a re-discount bank, as well as a legitimate level bank.
– Why did you not do it when you had the chance?
– We cannot all see alike. There would be no necessity for this Parliament if we all thought alike. The reason why I am quoting from this document which I put forward in 1908, is that only lately the United States has created eight regional banks - supply banks for the general banks - and, having created them after sending a commission to all parts of the earth to glean information, the authorities have adopted this very principle that I advocated in 1908 in this House. My proposal was- (1) that the board of management of the bank shall consist of a comptrollergeneral representing the Commonwealth, and one representative from each of the subscribing States; (2) that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth shall be entitled to attend all meetings and inspect all proceedings of the board of management.
– How did you define the powers of the board?
– I left that to the intelligence of the men settling the bank. I put forward the framework. The Treasurer of the United States, Mr. McAdoo, attends those bank meetings, and he is a medium of conveying information to Congress. If the Treasurer of the Commonwealth could attend the meetings of the Commonwealth Bank he would take no part in the proceedings, but he would be an instrument for conveying information to the House, and he would not be saying that the governor of the bank is a despot or anything of that sort. I would like honorable members to consider for a moment the Bank of France.
– That bank is largely increasing its gold reserves.
– That is right. The Bank of Prance, with its stupendous resources always at the command of French trade and commerce, is one of the governmental monuments of the world, and when the Germans demanded £200,000,000 as a war settlement, the bank managed the whole payment, and managed it so that in a few years the Germans were in debt to France, instead of France being in debt to the Germans. The same thing obtains with the Bank of England. That bank’s financial operations are so manipulated that to-day England is drawing interest from the rest of the world on money that she owes the world. That is why England is the banker of the world, and yet the capital of all England is not equal to that of the State of New York. Is not that extraordinary? Let me assure honorable members that it is not capital and wealth, but banking organization, that has made England the banker of the world, and if Australia desires to ever become a financial country, or a great exchange country, she must organize her finance. Organized credit is the most potent force in the world, and without organized credit you can have no financial, industrial, or commercial progress. Here, in this im-‘ men se sparsely-settled country of Australia, that can absorb huge funds, that is entering into stupendous enterprises, involving mighty financial risks, interest can never fall so low or remain at such uniform rates as it does with the Bank of France. On the 19th May, 1S92, the interest rate on discount for the Bank of France was 2i per cent. It remained unchanged for nearly three years, when it was reduced on the 14th March, 1895, to 2 per cent. The rate of interest during the South African war rose to 4£ per cent., but on the 25th May, 1900, it was reduced to 3 per cent., and remained unchanged for nearly seven years, until the approach of the great American financial crisis, when it was raised again to 4 per cent., but was immediately reduced to 2£ per cent., at which it remained for some years. During that crisis in America, when hundreds of thousands of people lost all they possessed, when America had more capital than ever in its history, but no method of mobilizing that capital, in France the interest rate remained level. The great financial equilibriator was always there, and there was no trouble.
– Have you the figures for the Bank of England?
– No, but the Bank of England was not very much different from the Bank of France. You can go into the Bank of France and rediscount a bill as low as $S ; you can borrow money on an anchor, or an elephant in Africa, or a bob-cat in the Rocky Mountains, if guaranteed. I mention that as an .illustration of the worldwide ramifications of the Bank of France. I claim that as the Commonwealth Bank has got such a good start the note issue ought to be transferred to the bank. Of course, at first we wanted to see how the bank would move. Are my honorable friends on the Treasury bench aware that for years in Australia we have had an unregistered financial combine, a fact which all our great Australian newspapers completely ignore or politically obscure? This great unregistered illegal boodle combine has no definite position under the law; it is not a trust; there are no elected directors, and there is. no registered list of shareholders; nevertheless it. is here, and lives and breathes; it is an honorable understanding combination. There is a community of selfish financial interests, a chain of secret financial control, which is gradually centralizing in the hands of a few powerful financial manipulators, the instruments of exchange and of Australian credit. We are all in it. There is no list of direct or indirect capital centralized in the boodle combine, but the funds of all the great financial corporations of Australia are always at the service of the favoured few, and can be utilized in financial operations for the benefit of the privileged classes. In othe words, these corporations possess deposits and reserve accounts amounting to many million pounds sterling, and with their interlocking and interlacing financial operations they control the money and credit of all the smaller financial institutions. Thus the accumulated wealth of Australia, to a certain extent, is now centralized in this invisible boodle combine, with its command over such a stupendous amount of liquid funds, and a directing influence over its dependents.
– Who has this stupendous command ?
– My honorable friend has not been a lawyer all these years without knowing the inside operations.
– And he is a bank director.
– The operations are conducted on pure principles of supply and demand of money.
– So they are, but if a man is refused an overdraft at one bank he can go to all the other banks until he gets on ice on the way to Hades; he will get no overdraft. Notwithstanding the declarations of the Attorney General, the operations of this invisible boodle combine in Australia can wield such a financial power as to absolutely kill or advance Australian prosperity, as to interfere with the nation’s, the States’, or municipalities’ operations. In fortyeight hours they could withdraw loans to the extent of £50,000,000.
– They could demand them.
– But immediately you demand you withdraw, because you have the man crippled. Thus they could cause widespread ruin. They could deplete the Australian money funds by shipping gold to foreign countries to lend on call loans. At present there is too much money drawn from Australian activities and. lent on call loans in the capitals of the Old World. They could lock up millions of the funds of the Australian producers and traders by demanding the certification of cheques for every operation. They could make the overdraft rate of interest anything from 5 to 500 per cent. What can a man do when he is in debt ? He must do what he is told to do.
– They would spoil the value of their own assets if they did so.
– They could do what they did in America at the time of the civil war; they could cripple the financial operations of the Commonwealth, the States, and the municipalities by refusing to purchase their debentures or security issues. The war being unpopular, the United States of America had to issue green-backs to finance the war. The bankers of America would not take part in it, and they were backed up by the bankers of Europe. Again, in the war of 1812, between the United States of America and Great Britain, the bankers of New England fed the British soldiers, sending their gold to Canada to do so; they would not lend a penny to their own nation. The gold of the Australian people now on short call on the London Stock Exchange is being utilized by Germany on her short, swift securities in building Dreadnoughts with which to fight Great Britain. The Commonwealth Bank should eventually secure that exclusive financial power which the great banks of Europe have secured, and which will enable it in time to control the foreign exchange, and operate in conjunction with the other strong banks in Australia. It should buy up the weak banks of Australia.
– Have you ever tried to do business with the Commonwealth Bank?
– The bank is now in a crude state. It takes a little time for it to get into the elastic state. It is like the Treasury. We have £4,000,000 locked up in the Treasury, and while we have one law which says that the Treasury shall pay out, we have another law which says that it shall not pay out. The Treasury must keep a certain percentage, and yet it must pay out for redemption, so that we have one law contradicting another. I think the gold now locked up in the Treasury should be in the Commonwealth Bank, to help it in carrying on its operations. Why should there be £37,000,000 of gold lying dead in Australia? We have £37,000,000 of gold, and it is almost all lying useless in the vaults of the banks.
– No one in the country has any, I expect.
– There is £400,000,000 in America and England.
– What does the honorable member mean by saying that gold is useless ?
– I think it is useless if we can get something else to take its place. We in Australia require money; but our plan is to wait until we wish to raise a loan, for which we pay any price in competition with the world. Why does the Treasury not issue Commonwealth debentures down as low as £5, and have them on issue everywhere - in London, at every Australian bank, at the British Consulate in New York, and so on?
– They would not have to be redeemable.
– Make them redeemable in fifty years, or interminable with the option of redemption by the Government.
– The people would not take them just now.
– St. Paul, a little city in the United States, not the size of Melbourne, on the advice of Mr. J. J. Hill, the great railway man, issued its own bonds; and every Saturday the working men may be found purchasing them at as low a figure as $5, or £1. There is no reason why Australia should not have such debentures on sale all over the world, because there is always a market for money here at 3½ per cent, or 4 per cent. ; but we have not the courage to take advantage of the opportunity. The public and private debt of the Commonwealth to-day is about £650,000,000, on which the people are called to pay interest, and, with our small population, and only a small portion of that population producing, the bill is terrific. Our national debt, including municipalities and the States, is £317,000,000, and the private debt £333,000,000, coming up to about the total I have mentioned. I suppose that when we take into consideration the lawyers’ fees, cost of transfer, and so forth, the interest averages from 5 per cent, to 6 per cent., and this means that the people of the Commonwealth are annually paying £39,000,000 for the use of this money. We ought to appoint a Finance Committee from this House to go into the whole question, and see whether it is not possible to come to some business arrangement. As to Australian agriculture, I have no hesitation in saying from my own experience - and experience is the unerring test of all human undertakings - that, if the Commonwealth Bank were properly organized, we could advance overdrafts for five years to the farmers on their securities.
– If we could evolve a scheme by which the cash reserves might be placed at the disposal of the farmers, and not leave them dependent on the good will of private individuals, it would be a good thing.
– That is what I desire. I hold that we could give overdrafts on five years’ rural credits, leaving the farmer to pay off when he chose.
– How much is the present bank charge?
– I am not dealing with that matter. There are other urgent reforms to which we might give our earnest attention. All Governments should help to create a national soil reserve as well as a national bank reserve. There ought to be a soil survey of each State, showing exactly for what agricultural use lands in each section of the State are best fitted, and arrangements made for the publication and distribution amongst all Australian farmers of the truth about fertilizers, so that the stupendous waste and injury, through the patent-medicine method of “ complete fertilizers,” may be prevented.
– Why did the honorable member not carry out these reforms when he was in power.?
– It took all my time to organize the Department of Home Affairs. In each district there ought to be a permanent agricultural demonstrator, an expert whose whole time should be spent in showing producers on their own farms - not at colleges - how to produce better and bigger crops per acre, while increasing the fertility of the soil. Country schools should be turned into institutions to prepare farm boys and girls for systematic work on the farms, and to create in them deeper love for life in the. country. We ought to encourage the study of co-operative and other modern, methods of securing better and more profitable markets, and of distributing agricultural products. We require better and: more liberal methods of rural credits and’ financing. How can we keep a man on the land if, as soon as he has a bad season, he receives a letter telling him that his banker wishes to see him ? Not long ago, when in Tasmania, I met a man riding along on his horse, and I observed that he was bad. I said to him, “ What’s the trouble?” and he replied, “You are no good to me - you are a Labour man. The banker wants my overdraft liquidated.” I said, “I will redeem you.”
– At what rate?
– At 6 per cent. ; he was paying the bank7 per cent.
– That must have been at election time!
– No, it was not, because I then had three years to run. Another most desirable reform would be the improvement of country towns, so as to make them better and more attractive places of residence. I should now like to refer to what is known as the “ costing system.” This is no new thing to me, because I was trained in it in the little city of New York. I had much difficulty in inaugurating the system at the Department of Home Affairs, but, of course, we know that it takes a long time to get a “ move on “ in a Government office. Every
Department ought to have a complete costing system, which is the bedrock basis of modern business efficiency, economy, and intelligence. There is a vast difference between the costing system and an accounting system. The latter analyses records, whereas a costing system examines and analyses the real work of a Department, and reduces every item in the form of a standard unit. In the construction of public works a costing system shows at a glance the cost of material, labour, and supervision. It is only by such a scientific system that the responsible Minister of a Department can guard against losses, and experiment with cost reduction. Another point to be borne in mind is that a costing system is the only basis of comparison between day labour and the contract system. There should also be established in this country an absolutely scientific system of routine interDepartment or inter-bureau business, so that the resources of all Departments could be available for -each without any waste of time or energy. Combined with this there should be a system of inventory, so ‘that all these resources would be known to officers of all the Departments and to the public. It often happens that one Department does not know what another has. When I was Minister of Home Affairs I did not know all that was going on in other Departments, and I do not suppose that Other Ministers knew much about what was going on in my Department.
– There was a lot going on in the honorable member’s own Department of which he knew nothing.
– I admit that. I was just getting into my stride, like a Carbine, when I got the royal order of the boot. A Department frequently goes outside for services and information that it may have almost at its own door, and yet not be aware of it. Inefficiency in routine and inventory is mostly responsible for the endless delays that take place. Then, again, there should be efficient publicity in all Departments of government. We ought to have a Department of efficiency and economy, whose business it would be to deal with all matters, and where the mechanism of administration would be standardized. The people of Australia are shareholders in the Commonwealth, and are entitled to know how the enterprise is being operated; but the present yearly balance-sheet is of no use to them. ‘ I hold that we should have a bi-monthly schedule. The Government should have the courage to create an advisory committee of business men to help us to make a study of efficiency and economy in Government administration. Let us have, say, twenty men gathered from all parts of the Commonwealth - men who have made a life study of one or other of the manifold forms of administrative efficiency - to act without pay, as our advisers, on behalf of the people; to help us to run our offices on an efficient basis. Let us have them as experts representing all the broad general divisions of industry, trade, and commerce, and let us have a due proportion of theoretical students as well as men of practical affairs. We should have both. The man of theory evolves ideas, and the practical man puts them into concrete form. Let us have such a Committee to thoroughly overhaul our systems every year - to study their needs and to give us the benefit of their advice in making them more efficient and economical. I am a believer in collective energy, in union work. No man knows all things. No man can do all things, and the mere putting of a man into an official position does not enable him to know everything related to it. No one man has all the brains on earth. Recognising that, the Labour party meets in caucus, and there every member of the party has a say. A man may not always get his way, but he is free there to express his opinions, and out of the views of the many comes that great consolidated power that leads the world.
– After the honorable member for Darwin’s brilliant oration, full of practical wisdom, and brightened by flashes of humour, my effort may fall somewhat flat, but I hope that it will not prove stale and unprofitable. The advice which he has given us is advice which, I think, must strike home to every one. We, as a Parliament, are tired, I venture to say, of the constant stress of party warfare - of the subordination of all the great interests of this country to the petty exigencies of party warfare - and the speech just concluded by the honorable member for Darwin must have some effect in crystallizing that thought which, I am sure, runs through all our minds. In this atmosphere one is apt to come very quickly to conclusions that are generally unflattering to the “fellow on the other side.” One conclusion that I have drawn in my short experience in this House is that political experience is by no means the measure of political wisdom. The subordination of the interests of the country to mere party exigencies is one justification for that conclusion, and we have only to look at those who have sat in Parliament from twenty to thirty years to examine what they have done in the past, and to consider what they promised to do, to feel that that conclusion is amply proved. In the Prime Minister we have one who has, during his career, stood practically for every principle that, might be characterized as politically wise. We might, indeed, regard him as a composite photograph of all the political principles that have ever obtained in Australia - as a composite photograph in which none of the fixed lines of political principle remain, but only the lines of party warfare and the blur of opportunity. The Attorney-General has stigmatized as the illegitimate offspring of a political syndicate certain measures that the Labour party brought forward. I am sure that any magistrate called upon to deal with the Prime Minister would fasten upon him the paternity of every bastard political principle that saw the light in his own State prior to Federation, and which has since seen the light in the Commonwealth Parliament. We on this side admire the ability of the Prime Minister, but we regret him as a lost leader of the people. We apply to him those words of Browning in which he said, with regard to another lost leader -
Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat.
And so we leave the Prime Minister with a name which has become anathema to the people from whom he sprang, and who guided his first steps to political greatness. I wish now to say a few words in regard to the Attorney-General, without forgetting the many words which have already been addressed to him. The honorable gentleman is full, pressed down, and running over, with political wisdom. The unfortunate part of the matter is that he never translates that political wisdom into political action. Perhaps that may be regarded as a merciful intervention of Providence, because, though his. political wisdom may be altogether admirable, his political action in the past has been simply damnable. For that reason, I regard his inability to translate his political wisdom into political action as a dispensation of Providence.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I must ask honorable members to refrain from interjections in concert. The honorable member for Wannon made an interjection which was immediately followed by a chorus of interjections from the opposite side of the Chamber which interfered with the honorable member who was addressing the Chair.
– The honorable member for West Sydney very aptly characterized the actions of the Attorney-General while they were being animadverted upon by the honorable member for Batman. He interjected that the Attorney-General, never changes his opinions, but only his attitude. The attitude of the AttorneyGeneral, in short, is simply one of attitudinizing. It is recognised to-day that there are certain questions the solution of which this country urgently demands Why are not those questions resolved’,why are not those demands satisfied in the direction in which the people have clearly stated them? The AttorneyGeneral has expressed in no unmeasured terms the need for an amendment of the Constitution to meet the requirements of the people. Why is not that work undertaken to-day? Simply because party strategy in this House subordinates everything to itself. That is the main reason, and practically the only reason.
– Will the honorable member-
– The honorable member for Wannon will, I hope, remember the admonition which Mr. Speaker has already administered to him. I am endeavouring to show him how two blades of political grass may grow in his mind where perhaps even one is not growing now. It is this particular problem which, the Attorney-General has so definitely recognised that I desire to deal with to-day. There is no greater question confronting us than that of the need for the liberalization of our Constitution in certain aspects. Almost everybody is in agreement in regard to that particular - all except those men who are absolutely Tory in their sentiment, and who see in any widening of our Constitution an attack upon some particular vested interest. Certainly all are in agreement as to the need for amending our Constitution save those persons whose opposition to it we cannot condemn, however much we may deplore it, as an opposition which is based upon self-interest. But we can blame those persons who see the political light, and yet are engaged all the time in deceiving the people by telling them that there is no need for amending the Constitution, and who, when they have an opportunity to secure an amendment of it, which a large majority of honorable members would support, allow that opportunity to pass. The conditions of this country have altogether changed since our Constitution was adopted. The Constitution itself in 1900 was not in accord with the needs of the people. It was based upon the American Constitution, which was framed late in the eighteenth century to meet the exigencies of a community which was narrow in its outlook, simple in its structure, and altogether destitute of the complexities of modern civilization. All those ramifications, interactions, complexities, and functions which to-day operate in the United States were attempted to be met by a Constitution which was framed to meet the needs of a simple people. Even when framed, that instrument of government was framed not to meet the interests of the simple people of that community, but to meet the interests of its privileged classes. To-day the people of the United States are declaring that it is necessary to get away from that Constitution which is strangling the nation. President Wilson has said of it that the United States Constitution is like a jacket, which, when you attempt to button it in the front, bursts at the back. That is the Constitution which we adopted in its essence to meet the needs of this community. Now the needs of this community have since grown to such an extent that that straitjacket is bursting in every seam, and if we do not adopt some wise amendment of it, the position will become intolerable, and this young Federation will be strangled in the early days of its existence. The position may be summed up in the words used by an American writer, in speaking of the American Constitution, when he said -
Our newer Democracy demands not that the people shall for ever conform to a rigid, hard, unchanging Constitution, but that the Constitution shall change to conform to the needs of the people. The Constitution of the United States is the political wisdom of a dead America.
Our Constitution, I venture to say, is the political wisdom of a dead Australia if it is to be allowed to remain in its present condition. How was that grievous straitened condition modified in the United States? It was modified in a way in which our Constitution is not being modified to-day. If the United States had been destitute of men on its Supreme Court Bench who - as has been said - combined the lawyer’s rigour with the statesman’s breadth of view; if that safety valve had not existed the United Slates Constitution would have been a dead and shattered thing many years before this, but- in the United States men like John Marshall, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and others, saw the need for the letting out, so to speak, of the garment which was constricting and strangling the development of the young nation. Marshall set himself deliberately to breathe into that dead Constitution the breath of life of interpretation. He was the first to lay down lines along which the United States could expand under its Constitution. He broke away from the legal rigour of the Constitution; he informed it with the breadth of view of the statesman, brought statesmanship on to the judicial bench, and made the Constitution a thing which could expand, although, owing to the rigidity of its frame, it could not possibly expand to the extent that was necessary or to the extent that is now regarded as desirable. There are only two methods of achieving this.
– Do you propose to make a comparison with our High Court?
– It can only be done either by interpretation by the Supreme Court, which, as the honorable member suggests, corresponds to our High Court in Australia, or by a direct amendment. I hope to show that the first method, which was, to a large extent, effective in the United States, has failed in Australia, and that the only possible way open to use here is a direct amendment of the Constitution. There has been operative in Australia what is known in the United States as “ the nullifying interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court.” That is the term by which it is well known and generally condemned in America. What is said about any attempt to amend the Constitution? The general argument, if it can be called an argument, is that the sacred ark of the Constitution must not be touched by evil hands, and that we must preserve the Federal principle at all hazards. That was the chief argument during the last campaign against the referenda. The powers of the States, we were told, must not be curtailed. Their privileges must not be checked in any way. But what is the position to-day in that regard so far as concerns the preservation of the rights of the States? When it suits a political party - and that is where I condemn the actions of parties in this particular regard - they do not hesitate to lay the most violent hands upon the sacred ark of the Constitution. Because to-day, owing to the exigencies of party warfare, the Seriate happens to be composed mainly of members belonging to the Labour party, the Constitution, in the eyes of honorable members opposite, is no longer sacred. It can be touched in the most violent manner. Not only the AttorneyGeneral, but many members of the serried phalanx behind him, went round the country on the last occasion urging upon the people the view that this state of things meant Unification - that it meant the destruction of the rights of the States. Yet in his monumental work on the subject, Sir John Quick refers to the States House, which has always been regarded hitherto as the part or work of the States in the Constitution, in these eloquent words, “ By the Senate the Commonwealth is buttressed by the States. By the Senate the States become inwrought into the Constitution.” If that is so, why do we find the Attorney-General and others saying that the Senate must either be destroyed or its operations curtailed and its functions largely nullified?
– The AttorneyGeneral has not said that, I hope.
– The AttorneyGeneral and others have said it, and I propose to quote, not only what he has 3aid, but what the Prime Minister himself has said. T understand that the Prime Minister himself has stated that a step in the direc tion of curtailing the powers of the Senate must be taken by reducing the tenure of office of senators from six to three years.
– I did not commit myself to that view. I quoted it as one of the things that had been put forward.
– I put it that that is what the Prime Minister said as one of the possible means of modifying the influence of the Senate. The attitude of the Attorney-General is even worse in’ the eyes of those who believe in preserving the position of the Senate in the Constitution. He says - and it is marvellous that such a suggestion should come from him - that any measure that is passed twice by this House and rejected twice by the Senate should become law automatically without the Senate’s assent. That is a suggestion based on the lines of the British Parliament Act, recently passed to curtail the power of the House of Lords. This is how the Attorney-General would protect the States House. It would be a violation of the very essence of the Constitution as a Federal instrument. Another “ remedy “ suggested by him is that when the Senate rejects a measure sent up by this House the Senate shall be disregarded, the Bill put to the people voting as a whole, and carried if a simple majority of the people vote in favour of it. By that means he would give the goby altogether to the position of the States in the Constitution. It would be Unification with a vengeance. The term “ Unification “ was used as a bugbear to frighten the people of the States into voting against the referenda recently put before them by the Labor Party. The people were told that we were Unificationists, and that our proposals ought to be rejected in order to preserve the sanctity of the Federal Constitution. But when the people recognise that these suggestions from the present Government to cripple the powers of the Senate constitute a real attack upon the equal representation of the States in this Parliament, they will be able to estimate at their true value the utterances of those honorable members who on the previous occasion put forward the argument that our proposed . amendments of the Constitution should be rejected because they constituted an attack upon the rights of the States. It is not that honorable members opposite think that the States should not be equally represented under the Constitution, because I believe that most of thom, in their hearts, believe that the States should retain their equal representation. Most of them think that there should be no approach to anything in the nature of Unification, but apparently they fail to recognise that the suggestion that the people should be represented in the Senate according to population, and not according to States as States, would be actually a big step towards Unification. They do not realize that if all the matters that come before this Parliament have to ho. decided by a majority of the people, and the States do not have an equal voice in settling them, it will practically mean Unification. Yet even though these are not their political principles, even though they are principles which they all condemn, honorable members opposite are ready to subordinate their principles because at this particular period in the history of the Commonwealth there happens l,o be a Labour majority in the Senate. The exigences of party strategy, and the promptings of party rancour, enable them to swallow their principles and subscribe to doctrines which they have heretofore condemned, for the mere purpose of removing the present block to the operations of the Liberal party of Australia.
– I am glad you recognise that there is a block.
– I do, and it is a most salutary block, which I hope will remain so long as there is on the benches opposite a Government engaged in reactionary legislation.
– Thank you ; that will be very useful !
– No doubt the honorable gentleman will make it very useful, whether it is my utterance or is not.
– That will do very well - no legislation except Labour legislation.
– I assume that the Prime Minister will make some use of what I have said, and he is welcome to any use he can make of it. If he honestly puts the matter as he knows I am putting it, I shall be satisfied. I was saying that through this principle of interpretation there seems to be very little hope for the widening of the Constitution, and apparently no hope when we regard the decisions of the High Court in the past. There is still less hope - and this is the point I wish chiefly to make in my address to-day - when we regard the latest decision of the Privy Council in the Colo nial Sugar Refining Company’s case. T should like to have heard the AttorneyGeneral deal with that particular matter in his address. The honorable gentleman might have informed the House in a most emphatic way, as, in fact, he did inform a meeting of the Liberal Speakers’ Union, as to the effect of the decision of the Privy Council in that case upon the interpretation of the Constitution of Australia. In a very instructive address he said that it not only did not widen the scope of the Constitution, but involved an intolerable narrowing and restriction of it. The honorable gentleman said that he particularly disagreed with the decision of the Privy Council in that regard, but, unfortunately, his disagreement does not affect the matter. I am sure that honorable members would have welcomed a statement from the Attorney-General as to the serious effects upon the Constitutional law of Australia which he recognises must follow from that particular decision. If the honorable gentleman had done so, he would have been obliged to again assert the absolute and immediate necessity of introducing those amendments of the Constitution which he has so often and so eloquently advocated, but has done nothing to carry out. I wish briefly to direct the attention of the House to what the High Court has done in the direction of narrowing the interpretation of the Constitution. I wish to show the narrowness of the principle of interpretation which has been laid down by the majority of the High Court Bench, but which was dissented from by certain members of the Bench, and that the Privy Council, OUtHeroding Herod in this respect, have still further narrowed the principles of interpretation which should govern us. In this particular respect the AttorneyGeneral will be able to agree with me that it not only affects previous decisions, but strikes at the very root of the interpretation of the Constitution. This principle of interpretation, if adopted, makes our Constitution much narrower than that of the United States, and it affects in a most serious way the whole area of the Constitution. I wish to draw the attention of the House briefly to some of the decisions - and this is the main point I wish to make - and the principle which lies at the root of those decisions. There are three matters upon which we may lay particular stress. We may leave out of account the controversial amendments qf the Constitution submitted to the people at the last referenda. We may leave out the amendments proposed for dealing with monopolies, the control of State railways, and matters of that kind. I take the three main proposed amendments, which the Attorney-General, more than any one else, has insisted are necessary - the trade and commerce amendment, the trusts and combines amendment, and the industrial powers amendment. Amendments of the Constitution in these directions would be of immense value to Australia. The Attorney-General says that they are necessary, are of vital importance, and must be carried out. Yet the honorable gentleman will not propose them. We agree as to their necessity, and would welcome such an alleviation of the conditions in Australia, even though we could not get all that we desire in respect of the other proposed amendments. This is an opportunity which the party on the other side should not miss. They have a practically unanimous House to appeal to; they admit that the people of Australia want these amendments, and yet these great questions are kept back by the Bill prohibiting preference to unionists in Government employ and the Bill for the restoration of the postal vote. The Government refuse to go on with these important measures, the necessity for which they recognise, because they desire to secure the particular party advantage, if it should be a party advantage, for which they hope from pressing the other measures to whichI have referred. That is the position of the party opposite, as we gather it from the speeches of the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral - “ Not now, O Lord, not now.” With regard to these decisions and the principles underlying them we have, first of all, the decision in respect of trade and commerce in the railway servants case in New South Wales. The High Court laid down in that case, and in following cases, the principle that in the interpretation of the Constitution we must have regard to the rights of the States. The Court has said that when we read all the powers set out in section 51 of the Constitution we have to interpret them in the light of the principle that regard must be had for the rights of the States. By that decision the High Court has seriously cut down what the people of Australia thought was the plain effect of the plain words they introduced into that section of the Constitution. One may investigate these matters, as there is no secret about them, and there is a plain line of demarcation on the High Court Bench because of that decision. The majority on the Bench has said, “ We must cut down these powers by considering the rights of the States, by having regard to what we assume that the people of Australia meant as to the powers which the States should have.” Even though the words of the section are clear that is the interpretation which has been adopted.
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by ‘ ‘ the majority of the Bench? “
– The effective majority of the High Court Bench.
– As at present constituted, or in the past?
– In the past. I am referring to that Bench which laid down these principles and decisions, which are still law.
– Do you think that the new Bench can upset them ?
– I am not going to enter into that matter, but the minority of the Bench laid down this principle, which, in my opinion, was the right principle to have followed, and which in the future may be followed, as expressed by Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Higgins in dealing with the Harvester Excise case -
The powers substantively granted to the Commonwealth by the Constitution may be exercised to their utmost extent, and in as plenary a manner as if the Commonwealth were a unitary State, subject only to the express limitations found in the Constitution itself. Commonwealth powers are not to be limited by first assuming the extent of State powers. The reserved powers of the States are those which remain after full effect is given to the powers granted to the Commonwealth, and cannot control the extent of those constitutional grants. What that means, if I may venture to express the meaning of so plain words to the House, is that in the Constitution certain definite powers were granted to the Commonwealth in definite words. The assumption was that anything outside these powers should remain with the States, but when the High Court got to work they said, “ We will look first at what was meant to be given to the States, and then we will interpret the words of the grant to the Commonwealth,” putting the thing the other way round. The minority of the Court said, “ No, we must look first at the express words of the grant to the Commonwealth, and then the States have all that is left. That is the principle to be followed.” Where a man makes a will giving £1,000 to his son and the rest to his widow, the principle of interpretation is that the son must get the £1,000, because it is specific, and the widow must get what remains. But the principle which has been adopted means this: “We have to see what the man’s duty to his wife was. He could not have intended to leave so little as turns out in the event to his wife; therefore, we will cut down the specific grant to the son and give him something less to make up for the small amount left to the wife. That is the principle to be observed.” I want to impress on the House that that is the root of the demarcation line which exists between the majority of the High Court, who gave this decision, and the minority at that time. That is the line which affected the decision in the State Railway case, in which the State railway servants were not allowed to come within the Commonwealth Act, although the Act said they could, because that would be an interference with the trade of the States, which was assumed to have been left to the Commonwealth. That was the reason of the decision in the Harvester Excise case. An Excise was placed on harvesters manufactured in a certain way, and it was not to be paid if proof were given that certain conditions of manufacture obtained. The reason why that Act was thrown out was because of the principle I have indicated, namely, that it must have been intended to leave these matters of internal management to the States, and, therefore, you must read down the power as to Excise and other matters, so as to prevent it from interfering with the internal trade of the States. The same principle was adopted in dealing with the Seamen’s case. It was thought that power was given to the Commonwealth to deal with navigation, and the Seamen’s Compensation Act was ruled out by the High Court, and restricted to Inter-State trade only, because another interpretation would mean an interference with the internal trade of the States, and it was assumed that -that was to be in the power of the Commonwealth. Almost every decision of the High Court has that for its basis. The statement was made by the honorable member for Werriwa the other day. in his assumption of all Wls dom, that paragraph xx. of section 51 of the Constitution, dealing with foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, enabled the Commonwealth to deal with trusts and combines, and that there was no necessity for an amendment in respect to trusts and combines. But the High? Court, in that case, applied the principle which I have already mentioned. The Court said that that power did not, and could not, relate to the regulation of the business of corporations, that it could not forbid them to enter into contracts, that once a corporation was’ lawfully started the Court could not forbid them from entering into business relations of any kind whatever. The Court held that the Commonwealth could not make laws to create these corporations, that it could only make laws to regulate them as corporations in the nature of bringing them into existence or as in the ordinary company law ; but that it could not affect them in any respect with regard to the contracts they might enter into with other people. That was the express ‘ground of the Court’s decision in the case of Huddart Parker v. Moorehead, which ruled out the particular sections of the Australian Industries Preservation Act with regard to corporations carrying on business in one State only. The honorable member for Werriwa, apparently in his knowledge of so many other things, left that particular field of knowledge uncovered. It is not necessary, I think, for me to go through all these cases to indicate that principle. The principle is clear and unmistakable, and, so far from the principle of interpretation adopted in Australia widening the Constitution, as it did in the United States of America, it has succeeded in narrowing the Constitution in many respects indeed. I have no need to dwell long on another provision of the Constitution in respect of which that principle of interpretation has had, perhaps, fuller sway than it has had in respect of any other provision, and that is paragraph xxxv. of section 51, dealing with industrial matters. That is a provision which is of greater import to thi.0 community than, I think, any other, and I will show honorable members how that is so. The paragraph reads -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State..
The attention of honorable members has been drawn to that power ad nauseam, and I, perhaps, should apologise for bringing it before them again, but I want to use it to point the moral of my address. The principle of non-interference with the States which is read into the Constitution by the High Court, is that which has done all the mischief. This principle of industrial unrest is one which is going, if it is not dealt with in some effective way, to disrupt this country, as it will disrupt every other country in the world. The principle of industrial discontent is simply a manifestation that the people of the world are not going to stand the conditions which keep them down. I am not an anarchist or a red revolutionist, but one cannot misread the signs of the times in this respect. Those who think that this state of affairs will go on for ever as it is, who are content to sit on the Constitution as it is, and to resist every attempt of the people to gain better conditions through political action, are sitting upon a keg of gunpowder, which will soon elevate them into regions where political problems will trouble them no more. We must take hold of this position of industrial unrest,’ and in Australia we have done so to a great extent, perhaps more than any other country has done. If we do not remedy that, it will destroy us. The framers of the Constitution saw that there was unrest in other parts of the world besides Australia, and that industrial trouble could not always be confined to one State. It is in very few cases that it is so confined. They saw that the industrial organizations were federating all over the Continent. Acknowledging that the State Legislatures could not deal effectively with disputes extending beyond the borders of a State, they determined to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to deal with such disputes. It has been said that the High Court has gone much too far in interpreting the provision of the Constitution which deals with this matter. It certainly has gone further than many expected it to go, but its interpretation is one for which we should he glad, and not sorry. I do not say that it has widened the meaning of the provision, but it has given it an interpretation wider than the conception which many persons entertained of that meaning. It was argued that the provision was meant to apply only to in dustrial troubles, such as a shipping dispute, extending beyond the borders of one State, and it is to the eternal credit of the late Mr. Justice O’Connor that he refused to be bound by the narrow views presented to him, and that the majority of the High Court gave the wider interpretation that has been adopted. But what happens when industrial disputes are brought forward for hearing? After a case has been fought for months, and, in one instance for a year, before the Arbitration Court, the employers go to the High Court, and say that there is no industrial dispute for the Arbitration Court to deal with; that the Arbitration Court has interfered in connexion with a dispute with which the Constitution does not empower the Commonwealth to deal. The Tramways case, with which the honorable member for Batman is well acquainted, has occupied the attention of the Arbitration Court for a very long period, blocking business, and thus increasing industrial discontent by preventing workers not concerned in the case from obtaining an immediate peaceable settlement of the troubles which they desire to be adjudicated upon. After that case had been before the Arbitration Court for a year, and an award had been given, two of the companies concerned took out a writ of Prohibition. The attempt to get the case before the Court began towards the end of 1911, and in South Australia and in Queensland, where the unrest was most acute, no settlement has yet been arrived at, questions still being before the High Court. It is argued that the control of tramways is a purely local matter, and that any dispute between tramway employes and their employers cannot come before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, because it cannot be a dispute extending beyond the borders of a State. But Australia might be thrown into confusion by such a dispute, and her citizens affected most seriously by the industrial warfare whir it caused. Take a case affecting the building industry. It is said that the builders of the various States have no communication, competition, or interaction, and that a dispute in the building industry cannot be a dispute extending beyond the borders of a State. That is the narrow interpretation that is sought to be placed on the constitutional provision bv those who would confine Commonwealth action to dispute like a shipping dispute. In the Boot case, the Arbitration Court sought to make a common rule, but the High Court decided that the function of the Court was to arbitrate, not to legislate, and that the fixing of the common rule was legislation, interfering unconstitutionally with the powers of the States. As a result, employers are now harassed who need not be harassed. Instead of representative employers being brought before the Arbitration Court in any case, all the employers affected are brought before it, at great trouble and expense. In New Zealand, in one case, 1,700 employers were cited, and I believe that some 800 employers have been cited here in connexion with a mining dispute. The decision of the High Court makes our arbitration law unworkable. If the widest interpretation is not given to the term “ dispute,” we shall have large bodies of men unregulated and uncontrolled, and, if we do not take them into our care, our ugly brother, Syndicalism, will do so. If those engaged in the industries of this country are prevented by a narrow interpretation from bringing their disputes into the Arbitration Court, they must be a law unto themselves, and endeavour to gain by Syndical action what they cannot gain otherwise. The great majority of workers are desirous, as was the Prime Minister when a worker, to improve their conditions by political action. There is no restriction of the franchise here as in other countries, and our workers are clear-headed, and, despite the opinion of the honorable member for Werriwa, have clear-headed leaders. They wish to use the political weapon ; but our opponents are trying hard to keep it away from them. If the peaceful brother is not allowed to help them, the ugly brother must be called in. He will be called in if Parliament does not take in hand this important matter of constitutional amendment, so that the Commonwealth may have fuller control of industrial matters. I do not speak in this matter only as a member of that party which, according to some of those opposite, has a monopoly of political ignorance; I speak in the words of the Attorney-General, who says that it is vital and necessary that the Commonwealth should have super-eminent control in industrial matters. I invite him, therefore, and his Government, if they have the pluck, to bring forward their proposed Constitutional measures. We cannot but support them, because Constitutional amendment is on our platform. But this measure for the relief of Australia is being blocked by a Bill to prohibit preference to unionists in Government employment ! The great and serious measure which stands in the way of reform is one saying that preference shall not be given to 2,000 men who are strong enough, and sufficiently well organized, to insist on it ! That is the important question which the present Government put in the forefront of their programme, and which they use to prevent this great reform, which the most considerable* members of the Government, as well as the AttorneyGeneral, insist upon as being necessary, and the absence of which is ruinous to Australia. The High Court has gone a certain length in this regard, but the Privy Council has gone much further. I wish members to understand the importance of the Privy Council’s decision, because it is vital to this whole question. If amendments were necessary before, as we thought, and the Attorney-General thought, they are ten times more necessary since the Privy Council has spoken in that way. A great point of interpretation in the Supreme Court of the United States of America, and a principle which has been adopted to a lesser extent in the High Court of Australia, is what is called “the doctrine of implied powers.” That is to say, we will imply powers which are necessary to the carrying out of other powers. That has been wholly, cut away by the decision of the Privy Council, and I wish to point out to members some important respects in which that decision curtails the powers of this Parliament. In that judgment of the Privy Council we have both the method of interpretation and the decision itself given. The method of interpretation is the more important part, because it bind« our own High Court. The principle of interpretation is that, in the view of the Privy Council, the Constitution of Australia and the powers of this Parliament under that Constitution are merely gifts from the States, merely so many benefit.!! which the States have conferred upon the Parliament of Australia, merely delegated powers. The Attorney-General stated to the Liberal union that he totally disagreed from the view of the Privy Council, and I am glad the honorable member has the courage to disagree. That decision means that not only is the prin- ciple which the High Court laid down affirmed, but it is strengthened and made ten times more strict. Its effect is that wo have to interpret the Constitution with the States in view all the time. We have not to take the gifts as we have received them, but must assume what was intended when those gifts were handed over by the States. When we are interpreting the powers of this Parliament, we must always be thinking of what is implied, and what the States meant to give us. That is the principle which the minority of the High Court has constantly set its face against, but which the Privy Council has adopted. One cannot propose to alter the principle of interpretation. The principle of interpretation, as a method of alleviating the rigidity of the Constitution, is destroyed now, and the only other method is that of amendment of the Constitution. That is the whole point of my remarks.
– It may be a blessing in disguise.
– I agree with the honorable member that all these restrictive interpretations are blessings in disguise.
– Should not the basis of interpretation be that adopted by the High Court?
– Let us take the written word as it is, and the States have all that is left. We must not always be thinking of what was in the minds of the States when they gave us these powers. If we take the view that the States have allotted us so much and no more, and we are bound by the interpretation to consider what is impliedly meant by the States, we have those powers cut down as the High Court has already cut them, and as the Privy Council has further reduced them. The decision in that particular case was that the Royal Commissions Acts of this Parliament were ultra vires, and of no effect, and, when we know the reason for which those Acts are ruled out, we see that there is established a principle which we shall have to abolish by amendment. The Royal Commissions Acts were passed in order to enable this Parliament to inquire into various matters in regard to which information was necessary so that wise legislation could be enacted. That principle should not be cut away, but rather should be extended. With the honorable member for Darwin and others I agree that an extension of that principle would be the best way of managing the business of this House. Our methods undoubtedly are unbusinesslike and antiquated, and to divide the House into Committees,which would have power to inquire what we might do and what we ought to do, and submit a report to the whole House, would be the most effective manner of conducting our affairs. If we should want to introduce a reform of that kind, this decision of the Privy Council may have the effect of saying that we cannot. Committees would not have power to make compulsory inquiries, answers to which could be enforced by imprisonment or fine, because of the principles laid down by the decision in this particular case. Suppose this House wished to legislate on a particular matter upon which no legislation had yet been passed, and appointed a Committee to inquire, with powers to enforce attendance at its meetings, and enforce answers to questions - the interpretations of the Privy Council make it doubtful whether that could be done. There is no doubt that inquiry is at the root of legislation. We cannot legislate wisely unless we know, and yet the Privy Council has laid down the principle that the compulsory powers of the Royal Commissions Acts are invalid unless the inquiry is in regard to the exercise of some power we have already exercised. We are not to have Royal Commissions with compulsory powers to examine into what we should do, as, for instance, into the Agricultural Bureau. In order to discover how best to legislate so as to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before, it is necessary that we should have inquiries as to the best means of proceeding, and yet this decision would prevent a Royal Commission with compulsory powers inquiring into such a matter, and it throws a very dubious light on the validity of the Agricultural Bureau itself. The decision of the Privy Council renders invalid the powers an Agricultural Bureau would need to enforce answers to its inquiries. The projected bureau could inquire as to the effect of existing legislation, but it could not inquire as to the effectany legislation would, be likely to have. The Inter-State Commission Act is also seriously affected by the decision. Section 10.1 of the Constitution provides -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission with 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.
That does not give to Parliament the authority to bestow .on the Inter-State Commission powers of inquiry. The Commission is given “ powers of adjudication and administration “ ; but they relate only to existing laws. Apart altogether from the Constitution, the InterState Commission might be regarded as a Royal Commission, and might have the powers of a Royal Commission, that is, powers of inquiry; but seeing that by reason of the decision of the Privy Council we cannot bestow on any Commission, Royal or Inter-State, powers of inquiry as to the propriety of exercising legislative powers, we can only give to it powers of inquiry as to the effect of legislative powers when once exercised. The Commonwealth Act constituting the Inter-State Commission, contains provisions which go far beyond adjudication as to existing laws or the administration of existing laws, and purport to bestow on the Inter-State Commission powers of inquiry of the widest character; but it is extremely doubtful whether, under the decision of the Privy Council, such powers are valid. Section 16 of the Inter-State Commission Act charges the Commission with the “ duty of investigating from time to time all matters which, in the ‘ opinion of the Commission, ought, in the public interest, to be investigated “ ; and one of the matters included is “ Other matters referred to the Commission by either House of the Parliament, by resolution, for investigation.” This, duty is most materially affected by the decision of the Privy Council. If the Parliament of the Commonwealth has no authority to direct the Inter-State Commission to make inquiry with compulsory powers except as to matters of legislation which Parliament has already exercised, then it had no authority to pass that section or give to the Inter-State Commission the duty of investigating “ all matters which, in the opinion of the Commission, ought, in the public interest, to . be investigated.” When that provision was passed it was thought that Parliament could refer to the Inter-State Commission any inquiry as to the propriety or advantage of the Commonwealth exer cising any particular power, but the Privy Council’s decision now says that the Inter-State Commission may not make any inquiry until Parliament has first exercised the power, and then it may only inquire as to whether the exercise of that power was wise or otherwise.
– If Parliament passed a resolution submitting to the Inter-State Commission, for investigation, certain questions relating to the cost of living could they proceed with them?
– By the Act the Commission is supposed to be able to investigate certain matters - and “ prices of commodities “ is one of them - but though the Commission may make inquiries, it has no power to enforce answers. The penal sections in the Act have no effect with regard to inquiries by the InterState Commission as to the propriety or advantage of any proposed Act of Parliament. Those who count on the other side of the chamber are irrevocably committed to the necessity for an amendment of the Constitution with respect to trusts and combines, industrial matters, and trade and commerce. “One would no more think,” says the Attorney-General, “ of giving to one medical man the control over a patient’s arms and to another the control over his legs than he would of dividing trade - and commerce powers between two competing authorities.” The truth of this is clear to the AttorneyGeneral, but he will not do anything. Though full of political wisdom he will not translate one particle of it to political action. For a man who stands above party in his utterances, he is as strong a party man as any one in his actions. As trusts and combines and industrial matters fit in with the greatest of accuracy, I shall deal with the two together. Industrial unrest and the operation of trusts and combines work together - and do not work together for good - they act and react on one another, and one largely brings about the other. I shall take industrial unrest first. The combination of large bodies of men acting for the betterment of their conditions, and trying to wrest from the employing classes better conditions, has to some extent driven the employers into combination. There is no” question about that. The effect of industrial unrest and the operation of it has driven the other side into an armed camp. The effect in England has been to create an enormous organization of employers, with a fund of £50,000,000, for the purpose of fighting the employes. They had no need, perhaps, to learn from us in the matter; they probably learnt it from other examples; but they have learned the value of combination. The result is that employers, manufacturers, and dealers of all kinds, having combined, exercise preference to unionists as applied to themselves and their fellows, though they condemn it in other people. Preference to unionists applies to them, and it equally applies to the workers. It must necessarily doso; because without it there can be no effective organization. The non-unionist,whether employer or employe, is the disruptive factor which breaks up, or tends to break up, organizations, and render them weak and ineffective. Every organization, therefore, whether of employers or employes, must, somehow, have the principle of preference applied to it in order to insure success. As I have said, organizations amongst the men have created or strengthened organizations amongst the employers. Organization is used by the employers, not only to fight the men, but also to fight the general community as well ; and that is how we get the trusts. In one sense, I do not for one moment blame the employers, for their organizations are intended to benefit them, just as organizations are intended to benefit the employes. We cannot blame the employers for fighting for their own interests, or for forming trusts and combines, which, in themselves, are not to be unreservedly condemned. The employers’ organizations apply the same principle as do labour organizations and lawyers’ organizations.
– Up to a certain point. But the lawyers do not ask the law to protect them.
– The organizations of the men are based on the same principle as those of the employers, namely, selfinterest. They must defend themselves, and to that end they must organize themselves in order to be effective, just as the Attorney-General and myself are organized for the protection of our professional interests. The legal organization is one of which I approve. Of contrary opinion to the honorable member for Melbourne, I do not regard it as illegal or unlawful. but just as well within the law as any organization of working men. The trust or combine, which is the expression of the effective organization of employers and great traders, is based on preference to unionists.
– But not legal pre- ference.
– I am talking about the practical principle of preference to unionists; there will be plenty of time to talk about the other aspect of the question when that wretched Bill to prohibit preference is before us.
– Then the honorable member is talking on general philosophic principles?
– I am saying that the principle of preference is vital and necessary, and that it. is only when the trust or combine has grown so great and powerful, with the aid of preference, as to be able to exploit the people that it ought to be condemned. That is why the AttorneyGeneral thought it was necessary to amend the Constitution ; so that we might be able to deal with predatory trusts and combines.
– The AttorneyGeneral says he is going to deal with trusts and combines so as to knock away the only prop under the platform of the Labour party.
– Is that the only reason that the Attorney-General has? Does he propose to take the step in the interests of Australia, or merely as a party move in support of a Prime Minister who always subordinates public to party considerations ?
– The Labour party would not have a prop to stand on if this were taken away.
– So far from that being the case, we invite the Government now to bring their proposals forward, and promise that we shall support them; the Government are welcome to knock all such proposals away if. they regard them as necessary to the party warfare. As to legal preference, it may be pointed out that the organizations of the men and the combines of the employers are related and inter-act. The operation of the restrictive trust increases the cost of living, and this in turn increases the industrial unrest: and the two act and re-act one on the other. It is, therefore, necessary to regulate both, and to regulate them by law. I do not claim one privilege for the organizations of the employes which I do not assert for the combines of the employers; I do not claim one restriction for the combines of the employers that I should not apply to the employes.
– Yes; you ask the Court to give preference, and to thus maintain the monopoly.
– I shall reach that point in due time. The two methods of organization are parallel and one; and we require the regulation of the trust, just as we require the regulation of the organizations of the employes.
– Hear, hear!
– Those who opposed the referenda on the last occasion did not desire the regulation of the employers’ combine, but they did desire much regulation and prohibition for the organizations of the employes.
– Quite the contrary !
– We desire to regulate the organizations of the employes, and to that end, to have their methods subject to law. That is why we ask for legal preference to unionists. We cannot hope to get men to enter industrial organizations if others, who hold aloof and do not contribute, are to obtain the benefits. Men will not organize and pay for benefits which are enjoyed by skulkers; and, therefore, there must be legal preference or open warfare. The non-unionist question has been the cause of more strikes than any other; and are we to leave this matter unregulated - leave the men to fight it out like rats in a pit - or are we goingto regulate it by law ?
– There has been more unrest since the regulation started than there was before.
– The honorable member has made that statement previously, and it does not require an answer. But something more than legal preference is necessary. As I havepointed out, there are, ‘ unfortunately, numbers of men who are willing to enjoy benefits without paying for them ; and I hold that there ought to be Government preference. The Government believes in regulation by law, and in preference to unionists for the purpose of bringing men into organizations and encouraging them to resort to the law rather than to force. Why, therefore, should the Government not adopt the same course which it enforces through its Courts on the ordinary employer 1 We have heard much about ‘ ‘ spoils to the victors ‘ ‘ and “Tammany Hall”; but the AttorneyGeneral ought to be ashamed of himself for making such a statement as he did in this connexion.
– I am not. It is the truth of the statement that has irritated the honorable member so much.
– It is not the statement that has irritated me, but the fact that a man like the AttorneyGeneral, placed high on the icy pinnacles of political principle, should make such a statement about honest men. If combines are to be regulated, if they are willing to obey the law and not to fight against it, then they should have the same privilege as the employes who submit to regulation, and should also be given preference to unionists by law. I propose, in conclusion, to deal with the question of the double dissolution. Applying the words used by the Chief Justice in another matter, I have no hesitation in saying that the use of the section of the Constitution in question, as proposed by the Government, would be nothing less than a fraud upon the Constitution. It was never intended that it should be put to such a use. Plainly, not only on general principles, but on the construction of the section itself, it was not intended. To say that a provision introduced to enable deadlocks to be overcome is to be used as an instrument of party warfare - and members of the Government have said that it is to be so used - is a fraud upon the Constitution.
– On a point of order, I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that you drew the attention of another honorable member to the fact that it is contrary to the practice of the House of Commons, and of every British Legislature, for the name of the King or the Governor-General to be introduced for party purposes.
– I did not mention the name of the Governor-General.
– Order !
– You recollect, sir, that I was condemned for doing something which I never did-
– This is a trick to take up the time of the honorable member for Bendigo .
– Order !
– To cite a passage
– The honorable member is taking up the time of the honorable member for Bendigo.
– There will be no objection to any necessary extension of the honorable member’s time because of the raising of this point of order.
– How mealy-mouthed-
– Order !
– I venture to submit that for an honorable member to say that the exercise by the GovernorGeneral
– I never said that.
– But the honorable member’s words must mean that.
– To say that it would be a fraud upon the Constitution
– I rise to a point of order.
– I can take only one point of order at a time.
– I say that the AttorneyGeneral is exceeding his rights.
– An honorable member may rise to a point of order at any stage, but there can be only one point of order at a time. If a point of order is to be allowed on a point of order, and successive points of order are to be taken on each other, confusion must inevitably arise. I must hear the AttorneyGeneral’s point of order, and I ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting while he states it.
– But my point of order is that the Attorney-General is not discussing the question that he has raised.
– Order ! It is for me to decide that.
– This is only a trick.
– Order ! I shall name the next honorable member who interjects. It is not conformable to the dignity of the House and the position of the Speaker that he should have to rise to call for order every few moments, and it is most disorderly for honorable members to interject immediately after a call for order has been made from the Chair.
– The honorable member for Bendigo has said that to ask for a double dissolution on the ground of the rejection of the measures to be put before the House would be a fraud on the Constitution. That necessarily means that to grant a double dissolution on that ground would be a fraud on the Constitution. The honorable member for Bendigo, in putting the position as he has done, is attempting to get round the ruling which you gave the other day, Mr. Speaker, that it is contrary to all practice to anticipate a decision by the GovernorGeneral upon a point which rests entirely within his own discretion.
– On the point of order, you are now asked, Mr. Speaker, to rule, not that certain words used by the honorable member for Bendigo are out of order, but that, on the interpretation placed upon them by the AttorneyGeneral, they are out of order. The AttorneyGeneral endeavoured, first of all, to make the House believe that the honorable member had used certain words, and then tried to influeuce you in the decision you were to give.
Mr.W. H. Irvine.- Chair !
– Will honorable members cease interjecting ? It is for the Speaker to maintain, order, and honorable members are not entitled, by a chorus of interjections, to prevent the Speaker from hearing any honorable member who is addressing the Chair. So far, I do not think that the honorable member for Kennedy has exceeded his rights in expressing his view on the point of order raised.
– He has imputed motives to me.
– I had no desire to reflect on you, Mr. Speaker. I have the fullest confidence in your judgment, but I object to the Attorney-General asking for your decision, not upon the words used by the honorable member for Bendigo, but on the Attorney-General’s interpretation of the words used by him. He attributed a certain meaning to the statement, and on that meaning asked you to give a ruling.
– Hear, hear! The Speaker must interpret the honorable member’s language. May I not ask him to interpret it in a particular way?
– The Speaker, and not the Attorney-General, must interpret the language complained of.
– Order ! Will honorable members maintain silence?
– The AttorneyGeneral has inquired, “ May I not ask Mr. Speaker to interpret the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo in a certain way?” I submit that he has no right to do so. The honorable member for Bendigo has used certain words which I believe are in order, and I imagine that the Attorney-General in his heart shares that opinion. The honorable member for Bendigo has not transgressed in any way. He has merely stated that he regards an endeavour to obtain a double dissolution in a certain way as a fraud on the Constitution.
– The honorable member has said that half-a-dozen times already.
– I have not previously mentioned it, so that that is another of the misstatements of the Prime Minister which I have nailed down.
– In regard to” the point of order which has been raised by the honorable the Attorney-General, I did not understand that the honorable member for Bendigo had brought into this debate the name of His Majesty’s representative. I was not closely following his remarks just at the moment, but I understood him to be criticising the Government. Yesterday, I asked honorable members to refrain from expressing any views which might be interpreted as an attempt to influence His Excellency the Governor-General in arriving at a decision upon the question of whether or not a double dissolution should be granted. I do not suggest the honorable, member for Bendigo intended to do that, because I did not catch the exact words that he used. I think, however, that the honorable member’s own sense of propriety is sufficient to restrain him from intentionally adopting that course. I would also call attention to the fact that the honorable member’s time has now expired, and, if he is to be allowed to continue his speech, it will first be necessary for him to obtain the leave of the House.
– I rise to a point of order. T submit that, under standing order 257a, -an honorable member is entitled to speak for one hour and thirty-five minutes.
Now, the honorable member for Bendigo has not spoken for that period.
– It is proposed to grant him leave to continue his remarks.
– I submit that it is not necessary to obtain the permission of the House to enable him to do so.
– That was the argument which we advanced in a previous Parliament, and the ex-Speaker decided against us.
– The ex-Speaker was wrong, in my opinion. The standing order distinctly states that an honorable member shall be entitled to speak for one hour and thirty-five minutes. It does not say that, if he commences his remarks at 11 o’clock, he must conclude them at 25 minutes to 1 o’clock. If another honorable member raises’ a point of order in the decision of which a quarter of an hour is occupied, I hold that that time ought not to be deducted from the one hour and thirty-five minutes, to which the honorable member addressing the House is entitled. It is the duty of Mr. Speaker to see that he gets his one hour and thirty-five minutes. The discharge of that duty may add to your responsibilities, sir, but we cannot help that. We have passed a certain standing order, and, even if it be necessary for you to be supplied with a stopwatch, so as to check the time occupied by honorable members, effect must be given to that standing order.
– If the leave of the House be necessary, a popular man might be granted an extension of time, and an unpopular man refused it.
– Exactly. This may be a new view of the standing order, but I submit that it is the correct one.
– I would draw attention to the fact that standing order 257a does not say that an honorable member shall speak for one hour and thirty-five minutes, but that no honorable member shall speak for more than one hour and thirty-five minutes. Altogether apart from that consideration, however, this very question was raised in the last Parliament. I myself raised it on a memorable occasion, which, perhaps, honorable members may recall, and I took the very ground of objection that the honorable member for Capricornia has now taken. Some debate ensued upon it, and it was then decided by the Chairman that no time consumed in interruptions or points of order could be allowed to an honorable member in excess of the time limit imposed by the standing order, unless by leave of the House. That has been the practice whichwe have followed ever since. The matter was decided in a previous Parliament, and we are bound by that decision.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That an extension of fifteen minutes be granted to the honorable member for Bendigo.
Sitting suspended from 12.56 to 2.15 p.m.
– In the first place, I wish to thank the Prime Minister for securing me an extension of time. When the point of order arose, I was dealing with the question of a double dissolution, but I did not, as the AttorneyGeneral suggested, make any attempt to influence in any way what the GovernorGeneral might do. I was simply construing the Constitution as I apprehended it, and showing that the means which the Government have put forward in order to secure a double dissolution amount really to a fraud upon the Constitution. I appreciate your reliance, Mr. Speaker, upon my good taste in the matter of references to the GovernorGeneral. According to my reading of section 57 of the Constitution, the apparent intention of the Government to put forward two Bills of very little importance, with the admitted object of securing a double dissolution by these insignificant means, and afterwards to put their real policy to the country, amounts to using that section in a way which the framers of the Constitution never contemplated. The object of the section is to clear away a dead-lock. From the history of the matter, it is apparent that when the people’s will has been declared by the election of members to the House of Representatives, and this, the people’s House, has deliberately passed a measure expressing the people’s will, and the people’s will so declared has been persistently blocked by a Chamber not elected upon a population basis, these provisions are intended to come into force. Those are the circumstances with which action 57 of the Constitution is really intended to deal. When a measure for which the people have asked is passed by this House, and improperly blocked by the Chamber of review - the House which is not the popular House, but the States’
House - the object is to give the people another opportunity of saying which House is ‘to prevail.
– Does the honorable member say that there is to be a dissolution between the first passing and the second passing of the Bill?
– No. Where you have the will of the people declared in one House and blocked in the other, this provision of the Constitution is intended to operate so as to remove the dead-lock. That is the whole history and scope of provisions of this kind. The disagreement has to be on a particular measure, yet here the Government are pushing forward two measures which are confessedly unimportant. This House has to pass them, and if the other House rejects them again, that is to bring about a double dissolution, although the Government have confessed that these are not the measures upon which they are going to the country if a dissolution is obtained. They say they have a policy which apparently is still somewhere in the air. It has not yet materialized, and it is that policy upon which they propose to appeal -to the people under the provisions of this section. Their procedure, therefore, is utterly wrong. It is a complete misuse of the dead-lock sections of the Constitution. The Government are not using these provisions to remove a deadlock that has occurred on some vital question; they are rather using them. to create a dead-lock for party purposes of their own. That is why I say they are committing a fraud upon the Constitution and upon the people. That this is so is plain from the so-called test Bills themselves. Supposing one of them is again rejected by the Senate - and according to my honorable friends opposite one is quite sufficient to bring the dead-lock provisions of the Constitution into operation - and supposing also that the Senate comes back very little altered, these provisions, so far as the double dissolution is concerned, will not have brought about the unlocking of the dead-lock. What then happens? As soon as that state of affairs arises, and it might well arise, the two Houses sit together. For what purpose? Not to determine whether the general policy of the Liberal party is or is not to prevail, but to determine whether the Govern . ment Preference Prohibition Bill, or the
Postal Voting Restoration Bill, whichever it may be, shall become law or not. That indicates most clearly that the dead-lock provisions are embodied in the Constitution only to solve a dead-lock upon some particular proposed law. What the Government, however, are attempting to do is confessedly not to use section 57 in order to get a particular proposed law ultimately passed, but to use it as a party weapon in party warfare, in order to get what they call their Liberal policy accepted by the people. That is why I say that the criticisms that have been passed upon this attempted use of the Constitution to gain party ends are entirely justified and justifiable. When one looks at the Government Preference Prohibition Bill, one cannot but be amazed at the hardihood, of a Government which attempts to put it forward as an excuse for a double dissolution. It means absolutely nothing except a declaration of principle on one point. How, then, can the Government use it as a declaration of Liberal principles generally? Are the dead-lock provisions of the Constitution, which were put into that historic Statute after painful and arduous consideration and labour, to be used for the mere declaration of party principles? That was never the intention. They are intended to be used to unlock a condition of dead-lock, and for nothing else. ‘I do not want to tear in pieces what has already been torn to tatters, but let me point out the practical effect of the Preference Bill. The Court to-day has no power to grant preference to unionists in Government employ. The Public Service Arbitration Act does not give that power. What, then, does the Bill amount to? The Government have already, by administrative act, undone what the previous Government did.
– What your Government could not do by means of the Court, they did themselves by administrative act.
– Exactly ; and the present Government have undone it by administrative act, leaving things practically and legally exactly where they were before. The only persons who can possibly be affected by the Bill are some 2,000 or 3,000 men, and practically even they cannot be affected, because they belong to organizations which themselves insist on preference. I do not believe that by any manner of argument or misrepresentation, or even by any means of misrepresentation, the people can be convinced that there is any real substance in the measure. It is a mere party placard, a mere party cry, a declaration of what the Government are pleased to call the great Liberal principle of freedom., and the abolition of the “ spoils-to-the-victors “ system. The Government want the people to believe that this is the great issue over which this big fight is taking place. It is not taking place upon that issue at all. The real issue is whether the Government shall retain office, or be superseded by a Government of quite another colour. I want again to emphasize the fact that the use to which the Government are putting section 57 amounts to a fraud upon the Constitution.
– Your calling it a fraud does not make it a fraud, although it is a strong statement to make.
– The honorable gentleman says that my mere statement that it is a fraud upon the Constitution does not make it so. I want to tell him that his mere statement, that the test Bill embodies a great Liberal principle, will not make it so in the eyes of the people. If we can convince the people that this is a mere fraud on the Constitution, and nothing else, they will be influenced by that statement of the case. The Attorney-General knows, perhaps, better than any other man, because he is an accomplished phrasemaker, how phrases affect the people. The Government of which he is a member largely live upon them. The phrase I have ventured to introduce into this debate may be as effective, and more properly effective, than the phrases with which the Attorney-General and others on his side do influence the minds of the people.
– It goes out with the honorable member’s own blessing anyway.
– The honorable gentleman has been rather restive in the last few minutes. I give him credit for a great amount of political wisdom, but I wish also to place upon him the discredit of not translating his political wisdom into action. Though he may be truly Liberal in many respects, in some of the expressions of his opinion, in his actions, the honorable gentleman has been demonstrably and incorrigibly Tory. The honorable gentleman will not think me unflattering if I compare him to that great jurist Lord Halsbury. I shall conclude by reading a characterization of that great jurist, and by applying it to the Attorney-General. It was said of Lord Halsbury in a recent English utterance -
Ho is one of the few indisputable Tories that are left to remind us of that incredible breed. He stands for everything that is hi possession, and is the enemy of every one who is dispossessed. Sir Frederick Banbury himself is not a more uncompromising foe of Democracy. He would not even let them have trams across the bridges in order to get to their work lest such concessions should breed in them a perilous hunger for more luxuries and liberties. When lie led the Die-Hards he talked of his “ solemn duty to God and his country,” and no one doubted the sincerity of his utterance, for he is not given to talking humbug. He does really believe that God and his country bolong to his own class, and that Parliament is a sacred institution only so long as it is in possession of that class, and makes laws to preserve its privileges against the heathen without.
.- It will be admitted by most persons that so far as work from a national point of view is concerned this Parliament will be barren. There is no one responsible for the position in which the Parliament of the Commonwealth has been placed but the Prime Minister and his colleagues. When in the course of events it was decided that the honorable gentleman should have a majority in this House, and the right to form a Government, he readily accepted the task, knowing at the time that he would meet his opponents on equal terms in this House. He knew that if he intended to carry any legislation in the interests of the Commonwealth he must select measures which were not of a party character. I am asked by interjection, “ Why did not the last Government do so?” My answer is, “Because they received the mandate of an overwhelming majority of the electors to carry out their platform, whilst the overwhelming majority of the votes of the people at the last election were cast against the party supporting the present Government.” That being so, I say that, if the Government were desirous of doing anything in the interests of the country, they would have selected measures which would meet with the approval of both sides in this House. But what position did the Prime Minister take up? Immediately he formed his Ministry he decided to cut right across the principles of the party on this side. He decided to introduce legislation which had for its object, not the welfare of the Commonwealth, but the welfare of the political party with which he is associated. At the last election no preference to unionists was one of his battle cries, and he also said that his party, if returned, would put an end to day labour in the construction of public works. The Government introduced .measures, one of which was intended to take away from the Conciliation and Arbitration Court the. option to grant preference to unionists. Another measure was intended to provide for electoral reform. Honorable members opposite said that they were pledged to electoral reform. They had talked so much about the Labour party depriving the people of their votes by the abolition of the postalvoting provisions of the Electoral Act that, having accepted a commission to form a Government, the Prime ‘ Minister felt bound to introduce these measures, whatever might be his chance of passing them. In the circumstances the responsibility for the delays that have taken place, and the unnecessary expense which has been entailed upon the Commonwealth by this Parliament sitting month after month, and, possibly, for many months more, unable to do anything at all, rests upon the other side alone, because they failed to realize that they should have introduced measures which they would have some chance of passing, instead of measures in which they threw down the gauntlet to this side, hoping that, when we took up the fight, they would have something on which they might appeal to the country. The Prime Minister, during the recent recess, declared from time to time that the Government were going to the people at the earliest possible moment. It is strange that if the Government intended to deal with any legislation at all they should have relegated to the scrap heap, the measures submitted to this Parliament last session. They say that it is of no use to bring on these measures, since they have no hope of passing them, and they claim that the only remedy for the present condition is an immediate appeal to the electors. Let me put the position as stated in the words of the Prim«
Minister himself. Speaking on the 16th March of this year, the honorable gentleman is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald to have said -
We could, I dare say, keep doing as we did last session, when, by means of some stratagem* to which we had to resort, by means of searching the Standing Orders, and finding an application for them em not usual before, we managed to keep afloat. But there is no honour or usefulness in a position like that, and I have made up my mind that I cannot retain the responsible position 1 hold w-day unless the people give us an accession of strength.
Who has ever heard before of a case where the head of a Government coolly admitted that he carried on business in the previous session by resorting to a stratagem, by practically the straining of the Standing Orders, by placing the Standing Orders in operation in such a way as to bar the right of honorable members on this side to deal with a censure motion ? That is a thing which has never before been heard of in the history of a Parliament. The Prime Minister confesses that he had to resort to a stratagem which, amongst other things, resulted in a member on this side being excluded from the Chamber. If he confesses that that is the position he was placed in last session, I think it is high time that the Government, instead of bringing in more legislation which will occupy this Parliament, not for a month or two, but till Christmas, or perhaps a little later, should, if they intend to give effect to their programme, appeal to the people. The honorable gentleman, who admits to the public that he is trying to get to the country, says that it is of no use to introduce legislation here. Yet, in the opening speech, he causes to be outlined many measures of considerable importance to be dealt with before he thinks of going to the people at all. It plainly shows that he is not so anxious to get to the public as he would make them believe. He realizes now that he took a wrong step at the initiation of his Government. He knows that he endeavoured to cut across the principles of a party which stands on an equal footing with his own party in this House, and which has an overwhelming majority against him in the other House. He found that, in these circumstances, it was impossible for him to carry on the government of the country, and when he realized the position in which he had landed himself, he resorted to a stratagem, as he called it, for the purpose of retaining his place on the Treasury bench, and then he tells the people that he wants a double dissolution, in order to get away from a difficult position. My firm belief is that the cry of a double dissolution is a cloak to cover up the action of the Government in remaining on the Treasury bench, when they know that they are practically unable to do any work in the interests of the country. They know there is no substance in their claim for a double dissolution. They do not really believe that they will get a double dissolution, but they do know that, as long as the Prime Minister can dangle this cry before the eyes of the people, doing nothing all the while, he can justify his action. The honorable gentleman justified his retention of office in another way in the same speech. He went on to say that although the Ministry had been unable to do anything by way of legislation, it had done something by regulation, one of which was the appointment of permanent electoral officers who would give all their time to the work. He thought that the expense would be little more . than under the former system. If this Government came in to restore sound and economical administration, I fail to understand why they should plunge the country into additional expenditure by appointing seventy Divisional Returning Officers. I fail to understand why the Government appointed a Commission to inquire into certain electoral matters, with a view to advising this House as to what is best to be done in the interests of the country, and, while the Commission was sitting, decided upon making certain alterations without the advantage of a report. I go further, and begin to question whether there is any utility in appointing Commissions at all. In a speech yesterday, an honorable member said that the Government made certain charges in regard to the administration of the Electoral Department which had not been proved, and the honorable member for Wakefield, who is a member of the Electoral Commission, interjected to this effect : “ You are talking too soon. Wait a while until you see the report that is going to be sent in with regard to these matters.”
– Is that a threat?
– The inference is that, whatever the Government may do in this respect, the Electoral Commission will back it up in its report. But why should a Royal Commission be appointed if the Government intend to act before a report is presented?
– If that is so, is not the converse true, too ?
– W e know the position taken up by the Prime Minister in regard to electoral matters immediately after the elections. Important statements were made regarding a couple of electorates where there was a close contest. The Government made an inquiry, only to find that the charges they had been levelling were without foundation. One charge related to additional enrolment and double voting.
– So far as I know, the only result has beena failure to sheet home to individuals the wrong-doing that has taken place.
– As far as we know, there is no absolute proof of any wrongdoing having taken place.
– That is not so at all.
– We have had an inquiry to find out whether any wrongdoing did take place. I venture to assert, and I think the honorable gentleman will agree with me too, that none took place.
– The investigation has already shown plenty of wrong-doing, but the difficulty is to sheet it home.
– I am surprised at the Government appointing a Commission at all if the wrong-doing is already proved. Evidently, the Commission will bring in a report on the lines the honorable gentleman desires.
– I am merely taking the evidence which is published in the newspapers every day.
– The honorable gentleman may find exceptional cases where there has been double voting. That has been so right through the piece, and will probably continue to be so, no matter how careful we are.
– You are coming round then?
– I say that there are, perhaps, exceptional cases.
– Not one has- been found yet.
– There may be no exceptional cases. Probably the Prime Minister’s mind is running back to the early days in New South Wales, when a good deal of that sort of electioneering went on.
– I am referring to the last Federal elections.
– It is the duty of the Electoral Commission to find out what has taken place, and then report to the House. Why should the Government put the country to the expense of appointing Divisional Returning Officers and clerical assistants, and providing offices in which to conduct their business? What work is there in an electorate to constantly occupy the attention of a Divisional Returning Officer and a clerical assistant? As a rule, the Commonwealth elections occur every three years.
– Perhaps you do not know that the Chief Electoral Officer has estimated that the increased cost will be next to nothing.
– I do not know what the increased cost is estimated at by that officer, but I do know how the cost works out. Considering that the Prime Minister came into office to restore sound and economical administration, it is worth while to look into this phase of the question. He has appointed seventy Divisional Returning Officers at a salary of £310 each, which amounts to £21,700. He is also going to appoint seven clerks at salaries varying from £60 to £200. That would average £150 per annum, or £10,500 altogether. These officers will look for offices in the centres of the divisions, where rents will be fairly dear, probably averaging about 30s. a week, making altogether another £5,460 per annum for rent. Therefore these appointments will cost the country altogether £37,660 per annum. Under the old system, the Returning Officers got about £26 per annum, and there being seventy of them, cost the country £1,820. This Government has therefore increased the expenditure on Returning Officers by £35,840, and, as we have an election every three years, it has made the cost £107,520.
– The honorable member takes no account of savings.
– They have yet to be made known. In most cases, if not in all, the vacancies caused by appointing to the new positions men already in the service will be filled by the appointment of others, and there will be no saving.
– If the new arrangement would cost twice as much, I would adopt it. It will mean a clean roll.
– Efficiency is whatwe are after.
– The objection has been raised that there is duplication of enrolment.
– Does not the honorable member know that there is duplication ?
– There will stillbe duplication after the new officers have been at work for twelve months. Duplication is unavoidable, and cannot be prevented. The law requires every elector to enroll. Those who have failed to enroll are liable to be prosecuted. Moreover, an elector who moves from one division to another must, after he has resided for a month in the new division, apply for a transfer. This provision means that a large number of names are always on two rolls. Then there are the names of those who have died, which must remain on the rolls until revision takes place.
– The new Returning Officers will have nothing else to do but to look after the purifying of the rolls.
– How can the hundreds of applications for transfer which may be received in a day be dealt with immediately?
– Names should go on and off the rolls automatically. No man’s name should be on two rolls.
– That is better, because it is unavoidable, than it would be to have persons deprived of the franchise. No harm is done if those who are enrolled more than once vote only once. We want a clean roll, but we want a full roll, so that as many as possible may exercise the franchise. At no election has there been a better enrolment than at the last Federal election. A comparison has been made between the Victorian State rolls and the Commonwealth rolls for Victoria, to the advantage of the former, but I read yesterday in the local newspapers that the Government of this State has had a canvass made, which shows that 100,000 persons entitled to enrolment were not on the rolls.
– That canvass was ordered by a Labour Administration.
– Yes, and the facts show that the statements regarding the swollen condition of the Commonwealth rolls are not correct. ,
– More names were on the Commonwealth rolls than there are adults in Australia.
– I have shown that there must be always more names on the rolls than there are electors qualified to vote. The names of persons who die cannot be struck off immediately.
– Deaths would not account for 10 per cent, of the duplications.
– At any rate, the appointment of these new officials will not make the position better. The Government came into power to practise economy, and I fail to see any justification for increasing the expenditure of the country on elections by over £100,000, to provide salaries for men who will not have enough work to keep them going. Ministers, however, have come to the conclusion that, as they cannot get any legislation passed, they must justify their existtence by their administrative acts. They have launched out in several directions. They had talked so much about the “ man on the job “ that they found that it would never do for them to continue the day-labour system.
– Does the honorable member know that, in connexion with “ the man on the job,” there is not a Minister’s signature on any of the papers?
Colonel Ryrie. - What does that mean ?
– It means that you cannot trace anything.
– So far as the “man on the job” is concerned, day labour has proved itself much cheaper than contract work. Mr. Paget, a member of the present Queensland Liberal Administration, has confessed himself a convert to the day-labour system, because he says that it has saved his State £1,000 a mile in railway construction. We have similar evidence from Victoria, and in regard to New South Wales, let me put on record this statement which appeared in the Newcastle Morning Herald on the 26th July last-
When asked for particulars with regard to the statement by Mr. Holman, the State Premier, during his speech on the AddressinReply, to the effect that the railway works carried out up to date by day labour were much less costly per mile than those constructed under the contract system, Mr. Griffith, the Minister for Works, to-day supplied the following figures, compiled by the Chief Engineer for Railway Construction.
Taking the whole of the railways constructed from 1897 (when the day-labour system was first initiated) up to the 30th June of the present year, the following figures show the mileage and the total cost of the lines actually completed and handed over to the Commissioner. (As the North Coast line from Dungog to Tarce was constructed partly by day labour and partly by contract, it could not, of course, be included in this comparison.) The books of the Department show that, within the period named, there have been constructed under the contract system 404¾ miles of railwayat a cost of £1,744,460, or an average per mile of £4,809. Under the day-labour system there have been constructed 765 miles of line at an aggregate cost of £2,540,897, or an average of £3,321 per mile.In the case of the contract lines the total cost exceeded the estimates by the sum of £229,880 (equal to 15 per cent.), whereas on the day-labour lines the total cost worked out at £282 less than the total estimates.
It will be seen that in New South Wales day labour meant a saving of £1,500 per mile.
ColonelRyrie. - Where did you get the figures from?
– They were supplied by Mr. Griffith.
ColonelRyrie. - A good source, I should think.
– There is no justification for imputing any motives.
ColonelRyrie. - Except that it would be to his interest, to show day labour in the best light.
– The present Government shelter themselves behind their officers on every occasion when they are attacked, and yet, in this case, the honorable member suggests that the figures may not be reliable because they come from Mr. Griffith. The point of that quotation is that the present Government were going to abolish day labour and introduce the contract system.
– Where it was reasonable and prudent to do it.
– The honorable member is to be the judge of where it is reasonable and prudent to do it.
– Who else should be?
– The question has been debated here at some length lately as to whether it was reasonable and prudent to do it in connexion with one contract, with which I will deal later on. Day labour was in operation at Yass-Canberra, and I remember well that when we were on the Ministerial benches the then Opposition members were constantly taunting us for not carrying out the work with sufficient expedition. I remember hearing the voice of the present Assistant Minister of Home Affairs raised in denunciation of the Labour Government for not pushing . forward the work ; I heard the Prime Minister occasionally; I heard the honorable member for Eden-Monaro; and if I may say so, sir, I heard you condemning the Government for not pushing on the works in the Federal Territory: Yet I venture to say that at the end of the year, after our first year’s experience of the present Government, we shall find that there has been no more rapid progress by them than by their predecessors, which plainly shows that the change of system has not assisted to expedite the preparatory work in connexion with the Capital. So far havethe Government been carried away by their infatuation with the contract system that, they have actually decided that some work in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway shall be carried out by that system. In this connexion, I noticed that the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs felt very much hurt that any one should comment on his administration. He even went so far as to say that honorable members on this side were imputing dishonest motives. I know of no one who was imputing dishonest motives to the Assistant Minister, but, as representatives of the people, it is our duty to probe things to the bottom, and see that public work is carried out to the best advantage. If we can show that the administration in connexion with this Department has not been to the best advantage of the people, we are perfectly justified in doing so. I propose to endeavour to show that the Assistant Minister has not taken the House into his confidence. I am not attacking his honesty. I do not think he or any other member would do anything dishonest, but I am of opinion that certain action of his was nothing less than a blunder, and that he has proved himself to be incompetent.
– Perhaps you will show us exactly where the blunder is.
– Yes, I will; and I will also show where the House has not been taken into the Minister’s confidence. I say to the honorable member who is so concerned about his own honour that I know of no man who, during the time I have been in the House, has been so prone to attack his opponents and to impute motives as he. Does the honorable member forget how, in June, 1912, when speaking on the Address-ih-Reply, he was trying to make it appear that there was some relationship between the then Government and the Tobacco Trust? The honorable member came to the House, not with any departmental evidence, but putting together link after link to complete a chain of evidence in order to condemn the Government in regard to so-and-so being connected with wireless, and certain people being also interested in the tobacco industry, and remarking that, in consequence, nothing was heard from the Government about the Tobacco Trust. Here is one of the honorable member’s remarks on that occasion -
I make no charges, but I say, merely, that it is a curious thing that my honorable friends opposite and tobacco should seem to be so oddly interwoven.
No one is suggesting that there is anything odd in the contract the honorable member entered into with Mr. Teesdale Smith, but on that occasion the honorable member made the statement that the party on the Ministerial benches and the Tobacco Trust were oddly interwoven. A man who makes that sort of charge should not be so touchy in regard to criticisms of his own conduct. Let me go further, and quote another passage from the honorable member’s speech. He was finding fault with Ministers who had been manly enough to acknowledge having drawn travelling allowances, and he said -
They have gone out to see Australia at Australia’s expense; and, if I am any judge, they are prepared to go out and see Australia at any time for any purpose - as long as Australia makes it worth their while to do so.
Those remarks were made by a gentleman who feels so keenly any criticism that may be aimed against himself. I say that a man who is prepared to hit in that fashion ought to be prepared to be hit back. But we are not hitting him in the fashion that he hit us. We are relying on evidence in the Departments for the position we take up, and our contention is that the Assistant Minister has made a departmental blunder by letting a contract which was in the interests of the contractor, and not in the interests of the Commonwealth. That contract provides that 4s. 6d. per yard shall be paid for cuttings and 2s. 6d. for banks, which is practically 7s. per yard.
– For two distinct operations.
– The two distinct operations are these: First of all you break the earth in the cutting, and then you have to take it out of the cutting in order to get it out of your way ; and when you so take it a chain and a half you get an additional 2s. 6d. per yard.
– Not for that alone. The contractor has to form and make the track.
– If the contractor has to cut through the side of the hill, he must take the dirt somewhere. In the simple act of tipping it he makes the track. Yet he gets 4s. 6d. for taking the dirt out of the side of the hill, and 2s. 6d. for tipping it, which means 7s. for the one operation.
– But he has to make and form the track.
– It really amounts to more than 7s., because a cubic yard of solid earth makes at least a third more of loose earth, so it really means 7s. lOd. per cubic yard so far as this contract is concerned.
– And all the engineers are fools ?
– I do not say that the engineers are fools. Mr. Deane was not a fool when he went into the Chinn case. When it was a question of contending that Mr. Chinn should never have been appointed Mr. Deane was a smart man, but when Ministers get into their present position they shelter themselves behind Mr. Deane. He was all right in one case when they wished to get rid of a man, but he is all wrong in another case when they fall into a hole through their own faulty administration.
– If Mr. Deane is wrong, Mr. Moncrieff and all the engineers are wrong.
– This was not very difficult country to work according to some gentlemen who have just made a close investigation of this portion of line. They walked right through the section.
– They did not.
– Yes, they did; and they took specimens of the material in this particular cutting. The Prime Minister says that this contract is a good thing for the Commonwealth, but I am very doubtful about it. I consider that it is a good thing for the contractor.
– The contractor does not think so.
– The only regret that the contractor has is that he did not get more of the work at the same price. Of the section 3,950 yards is pure sand.
– And I think the total quantity is 85,000 cubic yards.
– Would the honorable member read the whole of the measurements ?
– The Department describes the country as follows : -
Cutting 102 miles; quantity, 1,370 cubic yards; cutting 103 miles; quantity 8,900 cubic yards; though fair material on top have hard cores and reefs of disjointed silicated sandstone, which is hard to plough, awkward to bore, and is bad shooting.
The first 5 feet of that, I am informed, is soft country, and can be taken out without the slightest trouble;but there are disjointed bands of sandstone running through, which are not very difficult to work.
– All the authorities say that that class of country is very difficult to work.
– The departmental description proceeds -
Cutting 113 miles; quantity, 3,950 cubic yards; pure sand. Cutting 114 miles; quantity, 4,650 cubic yards; hard, consisting of silicated sandstone mixed with stiff white clay.
White clay can be easily removed. Any one would be glad to take on the job of removing it at 7s. per cubic yard.
– Is it not the mixture that makes it so difficult. You cannot shoot it?
– Bars running through the cutting are altogether different to work from a solid body of stone.
– They are much worse.
– No, you work round the bars, and get them loose, or break them out with boring and dynamite. The departmental description also says -
Cutting 119 miles; quantity 23,930 cubic yards. Not bad material on top, but indications point to it being hard core similar to 103. “ Indications !” They have not proved it. They let the contract even without proving it.
– It has turned out exceedingly bad country, so I am informed by. a gentleman who arrived in Melbourne to-day.
– It is just the opposite. I have seen two men who came from there, and they say that the contractor has a nice job on.
– You are referring to two Labour senators.
– I am not giving my own figures. I am giving the figures of the Department in which it is said in regard to the last section that the country is soft on top, and that they do not know what it is like below. But I have been informed that it is nearly all soft with the exception of boulders which can be worked out without shooting.
– That is absolutely wrong.
– Your men went over there to trump up a case.
– They had a perfect right to examine the country, and they can show the samples they took from the cuttings. They will be able to make out a case for themselves. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs evidently did not take the House into his confidence, because the whole of the papers are not on the file.
– Has Chinn told you that?
– I have had no talk with him.
– No, but some one else has. We know what is going on.
– The Prime Ministei admits that there are papers taken from the file.
– I admit nothing of the kind.
– I come now to the 16th March.
– You are beating the air.
– If I show from departmental papers that we have not been given the full confidence of the Minister, it will not be beating the air.
– I am almost sorry that the honorable member cannot make out a case of some sort.
– The Prime Minister had better wait a while. On 16th March the Engineer-in-Chief was written to by the Honorary Minister as follows: -
Please let me have latest results of cost under Mr. Saunders’ management for five milesof similar country. In the meantime, failing transport, so exercise your powers under contract that culverts, &c, may be put in later by Department, Teesdale Smith being required to 80 order his embankments as to readily permit of this being done.
Where are the papers that the Honorary Minister called for? Are they on the file placed on the table of the House?
– They are not.
– Why are they not there ?
– What has become of them ?
– All I have to say is that, if the papers are not there, honorable members shall have them.
– Is it not strange that, at a time when the administrative capacity of the Government is at stake, we should have to get such information piecemeal ?
– My own impression is that honorable members have had the papers placed before them.
– If so, then the particular report to which I refer can be produced.
– It is not on the file.
– So far as I can gather, the actual cost of this work by day labour does not appear in any report placed on the table of the House, and it has not seen the light of day up to the present time.
– Mr. Saunders said he could not do it as well.
– No matter what Mr. Saunders said.
– That is shown in the papers. Why does the honorable member not read them ?
– I do not want to know what Mr. Saunders said about the contract, but what he said when the Minister asked him to report as to the actual cost of carrying out similar- work by day labour. The Prime Minister is dealing with another point.
– It is not another, but the same, point.
– How are we, as representatives of the people, to form our conclusions if we are not placed in possession of the whole of the papers ?
– I say that honorable members are in possession of the papers.
– Then produce them.
– If the papers are here, I ask the Prime Minister to show them to us, and particularly the report to which I refer.
– What do I understand the honorable member to suggest ?
– He suggests that the Honorary Minister is keeping some papers back.
– That is not so.
Mr. McDonald. - The Honorary Minister has not been in the chamber during the delivery of the honorable member’s speech, and, therefore, he ought not now to start interjecting.
– Does the honorable member not desire to hear the truth ? A nice sort of attitude for an ex-Speaker!
– What I say is that the Honorary Minister, on the 16th March, asked Mr. Saunders to supply him with a report as to the cost of 5 miles of similar work done by day labour.
– I never received that costing.
– Does the honorable member, as head of a great Department, tell us that, on an important question like this, when it had been determined to give a contract without tenders, he sought for advice to guide him as to the cost, and that he has never seen the papers referring thereto?
– The honorable’ member is surely misleading the House. The note I sent to Mr. Saunders was with reference to a further work that was not given to Mr. Teesdale Smith; and I say that the costing of it has not been provided. If the honorable member will look at the date of the note, he will see that it was about three weeks after Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract was let.
– Thin air again!
– There is no “ thin air “ about it. My point is that, when a charge of incompetency in theadministration was made, the whole of the papers ought to have been placed on the table.
– I say that that paper was never given to me, and, so far as I know, it is not in existence. If the honorable member wishes to know further of the matter, I may say that the present Engineer-in-Chief has reported that the costing initiated under the late Administration was all wrong. I dare say that is the reason the cost in the instance referred to has not been provided.
– I will put up “ a hundred “ on that !
– That is another charge made against the late Government without any foundation of fact beyond the statement of the Honorary Minister.
– Except expert opinion.
– When a Minister asks for expert opinion in regard to the cost of day labour, and he has to answer a charge such as is now made against the Government, why is not the reply of the expert produced? When the Minister says that he does not know of any such paper being in existence, does he mean that the work was carried out without any regard to cost?
– Does not the honorable member accept the statement of the Honorary Minister?
– I will say this–
– Does the honorable member not accept the statement of the Honorary Minister as to the fact?
– I shall accept the Honorary Minister’s statement, and say that it shows further incompetence in his administration.
– Does the honorable member not think that he ought to withdraw his charge of suppressing papers ?
– I am sorry the Honorary Minister was not in the chamber when I commenced my speech.
– I do not mind letting the honorable member know that what I have told him now in regard to the paper, I told his leader about the beginning of last week.
– Then the suppression is not on this side, but over there.
– Evidently honorable members on the Government side do not like this discussion.
– The honorable member is not fair. He has made a charge of suppression.
– I have said before that I do not intend to strain my throat unduly in repeated cries for order. I expect that when I call for order the House will immediately obey the call. It is grossly disorderly for honorable members to interject immediately after being called to order. I ask the honorable member for Hunter not to address his remarks to Ministers or honorable members personally, for such a practice must give rise to a good deal of interruption. Honorable members are required, under the Standing Orders, to address the Chair.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Hunter is addressing a series of questions with a view to eliciting information from Ministers who are responsible for the Teesdale Smith contract. Is it not permissible for Ministers to reply to the honorable member? If not, then I submit, Mr.. Speaker, that you should not permit the honorable member to address questions to us personally. We are only trying to give him information that he is anxious to obtain.
– I have, just a moment since, and on several previous occasions pointed out that in the course of a debate it is not only out of order for an honorable member to put questions with a view to elicit answers, but that it is contrary to established parliamentary practice. An honorable member who adopts the interrogatory method of speaking certainly does provoke interjections, and I suggest to honorable members that, if they desire to be heard in reasonable silence, they should refrain from adopting that method. At the same time, I cannot direct an honorable member how he shall make his own speech.
– In reply to the Attorney-General, I may say that my endeavour is always to be absolutely fair in debate; and I submit that I am exercising my right as a member of this House when I take exception to this contract, and submit that the Honorary Minister has not taken honorable members fully into his confidence. I was pointing out that certain documentary evidence has not been produced.
– Does the honorable member admit that the document to which he refers has nothing to do with the Teesdale Smith contract?
– It has everything to do with the question of day labour, which is a prominent feature of this debate. ,
– Does the honorable member admit that that document has not. been presented yet to the Minister.
– I do not admit anything. I know nothing; and I have to take the Minister’s assurance that he never received the document. It is strange, however, that the Minister should ask an officer for certain information, and not be suppliedwith it. The Honorary Minister will have an opportunity to reply, and, if he shows me to be wrong, I shall, of course, admit the fact. I come now to another matter which is even stronger, and to which, therefore, I desire the Honorary Minister to give special attention. The honorable gentleman stated that, up to the date of the commencing of this debate, he knew nothing about another offer having been made.
– That is right.
– In order that there may be no mistake I had better quote the exact words used. While the Honorary Minister was speaking the honorable member for Grey asked him “ Was there any other offer in,” and received the reply, “ There was no other offer before me.” Later on the honorable member for Grey said, according to Hansard -
The plea, of course, for having this . work done without tenders was want of time. I may say that I am credibly informed that there was another tender, and I should like to know whether the Prime Minister knows anything of the matter
– It is not so.
– A contractor says that it is so. I am told that Mr. Timms made an offer to do this work; and I ask the honorable gentleman to find out whether that is a fact. It is said that Mr. Timms put in an offer, and was prepared to enter into negotiations. I do not say that the matter went to the Minister, but 1 venture to say that support of my statement will be found in the Department.
We have it, therefore, that the first intimation which this House received of a second offer having been made was that given by the honorable member for Grey, who brought it under the notice of the Honorary Minister. The Minister then made further inquiry, found that there was an additional offer, and wrote to Mr. Deane to ascertain the facts. The Age, of 23rd ultimo, states that -
As a result of these inquiries Mr. Kelly has ascertained that on 24th January the then engineer-in-chief (Mr. Deane) received the following telegram fromMr. Joseph Timms: - “ Understand you contemplate letting earth work on heavier portion East-West railway. If correct, would be glad to submit offer, as I have a very large plant available, complete in every detail, including locos., steam navvies, waggons and horses, value nearly £60,000. Could have equipment on road to Port Augusta with in 24 hours’ notice. We undertake to complete dam 50-mile peg within eight weeks of acceptance. Would be pleased to hear from you.”
A following letter, written on the same date and to the same effect, was received.
Mr. Deane replied on 28th January, acknowledging receipt of the telegram and letter, and adding that it was probable that tenders would shortly be called.
On Tuesday last Mr. Kelly wrote the following memorandum to Mr. Deane: - “You will remember that at the time my approval was sought on your recommendation of 5th February last for the allotment of work between 92 and 106 miles from Port Augusta to Mr. Teesdale Smith, I was informed by you that Mr. Teesdale Smith had the requisite plant immediately available to carry out his contract, and was therefore in a better position than any other contractor to do the work. Since the meeting of the House -
I ask honorable members to note that -
I have become aware of Mr. Joseph Timms’ letter and telegram to you, both dated 24th January last, and your reply to him of 28th idem. I would be glad if you would explain (1) How it is that the above offers were not submitted to me when Mr. Teesdale Smith’s offer was recommended to me for acceptance; and (2) why the correspondence in question, which had a material bearing upon the issues, was never sent to the head office for Ministerial consideration.”
Mr. Deane, in his reply to the Minister, said -
The fact that Mr. Timms had made an offer on 24th January entirely slipped my memory, and I did not identify it with any particular section of the work. I was very much engaged with other matters at this time, and when Mr. Teesdale Smith’s offer arrived. . . . Had I remembered the fact of Mr. Timms having communicated, the papers would certainly have been called for, but I should not have considered it possible that those two men, who were frequently calling one another partners, and actually did so at the powellising inquiry, would be acting independently of one another, and not . to say antagonistically. I do not know why the. Timms correspondence was not produced to be considered with the Teesdale Smith offer. The actual practice of the office is to send papers connected with the works and contracts after dealing therewith (if not done before) to Mr. Hobler. Mr. Hobler was away on leave, and they should have gone to Mr. Gwynneth in his absence. . When Mr. Teesdale Smith and Captain Saunders came over on 6th February, I sent for Mr. Gwynneth, and we discussed the matter with Messrs. Smith and Saunders in my conference room, and it might be supposed that Mr. Gwynneth would have been posted up with everything bearing on the subject. With regard to (2) :
The reference is to the second question put by the Minister, namely,
Why the correspondence in question, which had a material bearing upon the issues, was never sent to the head office for Ministerial consideration.
Mr. Deane, in answer to that question, wrote -
When Timms’ offer came in it was dealt with in the usual manner. The matter did not come up again till Mr. Timms came to see the Minister on 28th February.
Mr. Timms came to see the Minister on the 26th February.
– Mr. Timms, the contractor, was in Sydney on 26th February. His brother was here.
– The report continues -
On this occasion the latter sent for Mr. Hobler. I understood from Mr. Hobler, when he came back to my office, that the Minister wanted certain information, and I know that Mr. Hobler looked up the papers. I do not know what happened afterwards, as I thought that Mr. Hobler was carrying out the Minister’s wishes.
If the Minister knew nothing about this until the House met - until he learned that the honorable member for Grey knew something about it - how is it that Mr. Deane says that, on 26th February, Mr. Timms interviewed the Minister, that the Minister sent Mr. Hobler to him for these particular papers, that the papers were taken away, and that he, Mr. Deane, does not know what happened afterwards.
– Does he say that these papers were taken away?
– He says that the papers were taken away, and that he does not know what Mr. Hobler did with them afterwards. The Minister said that he had no knowledge of any other offer.
– Hear, hear !
– I admit that this contract was signed on 6th February. But the Minister said that he knew nothing at all about any further offer and so did his chief.
– Hear, hear !
– The Honorary Minister and his chief say that they knew nothing at all of any further offer or of any further correspondence.
– That is quite right.
– If it is right, has the House been taken fully into the confidence of the Honorary Minister? If the Honorary Minister knew of such an offer, why did he not disclose it when he was making his statement in the House?
– I did not know of an offer.
- Mr. Deane says that the Minister did.
– He does not.
- Mr. Deane says that Mr. Timms had an interview with the Minister on the 26th February. In these circumstances, how can it be urged that the Minister had no knowledge of Mr. Timms’ offer ? It seems to me that I am perfectly justified in coming to the conclusion at which I have arrived, that we have not been taken fully into the confidence of the Minister in regard to this question. That is a fair position for me to take up, and it is one which is borne out by the evidence. Of course, if the Minister can show that Mr. Deane’s story is a faked one, my conclusion will be voided, but, at present, there does seem prima facie evidence that the Minister had an interview with Mr. Timms upon the date mentioned. Yet we have been told that the Minister had no knowledge of any offer having been made by that gentleman. I charge the Minister with not having stated the full facts of the case. If he can clear himself of that charge, nobody will be more pleased than myself. I do not accuse him of having done anything wrong, but I do say that he has shown that he has not the requisite administrative ability to control the Home Affairs Department. In connexion with big undertakings involving an expenditure of £41,000, I am surprised that an Honorary Minister should have had the right to enter into a contract without his chief knowing anything whatever about it. Such an offer as that by Mr. Teesdale Smith, should have been submitted for Cabinet consideration. It seems to me that the Ministry have gone back upon all their professed principles of giving preference to none and extending fair play to all. They have abandoned that doctrine by giving preference to a private contractor. The Minister’s justification for his action in failing to call for tenders was that this work was urgent. Yet I find that, on the intervening section, between the point to which the rails have been laid - a distance of 76 miles from Port Augusta - and the point where Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract commences - a distance of 11½ miles - no work has been done, except to clear the timber off the track.
– When was that the position ?
– It wasthe position this week. Surely the Government could have proceeded with the work of constructing that 11½ miles of the line, and, by the time that had been completed, they would have been in a position to continue the work on the section which has been allocated to Mr. Smith. I repeat that there are 11½ miles of country between the point to which the rails have been laid and that at which Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract commences, upon which we have only just begun to clear the timber. What, then, becomes of the Minister’s plea of the urgency of this contract? We were naturally under the impression that the work had been completed up to this section. Yet, on the testimony of two men who have visited the spot, the work of clearing the timber on that 11½ miles of country has only just been commenced.
– Is that the portion of the line which intervenes between Port Augusta and Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract ?
– Yes. Where, then, was the urgency for entering into the Teesdale Smith contract?
– Time is the essence of that contract.
– Yes, and that contract is likely to be completed before the rails on that 11½ miles of country have been laid. The justification, therefore, which was pleaded by the Minister - that of urgency - falls to the ground. I come now to the question of survey. I do not know why the Government should let a survey by contract. To do so merely means that the surveyor, who is getting so much per mile, has an inducement to get over his work as quickly as possible. He wants to earn his money. I do not think that that is a good thing.
– We had to take £1,000 off the contract let by the exMinister of External Affairs.
– Why does not the Prime Minister tell the truth ? Let him ask the Minister of External Affairs.
– In that way the Commonwealth is liable to suffer. It may be found, when the departmental engineer afterwards inspects the route followed in the survey, that the grade adopted is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth, and deviations may be necessary. All this goes to show that it is not the best policy in the matter of railway construction to resort to the contract system.
– Where we can avoid it, that is so. There is no doubt about that.
– I do not see why that system cannot be avoided in every instance. I fail to understand why a departmental surveyor cannot do the work just as well as a contractor.
– But when we have not a departmental surveyor, we have to get another surveyor.
– These are the remarks which I desired to make in regard, to this particular contract. The Minister knows the views which I hold, and will, I hope, be in a position to explain the facts which I have adduced. It appears to me that there is something wanting in connexion with the correspondence which has been tabled regarding the Teesdale Smith contract. We have not had it all, because, according to Mr. Deane, there was an interview between the Minister and Mr. Timms on the 26th February. I come now to the sleeper contract. That was a contract which was entered into with the Western Australian Government. It does seem passing strange that, while the Government are so anxious to enter into contracts with private individuals, they appear to have been equally anxious to cancel that contract, probably because it had been entered into by a Labour Government. The reason advanced by the Prime Minister for this drastic action was that the delivery of the sleepers by the contracting State would have been delayed two months.
– Does not the honorable member know that the Premier of Western Australia stated by letter that he would not catch up the contract requirements that began in November of last year until July, 1915? That is eighteen months late.
– I am not going to argue that he would. The Prime Minister said that the Western Australian Government were behind with their contract, but was that a justification for cancelling the contract? Would the Government cancel Teesdale Smith’s contract if he was not up to time in his work ?
– The Western Australian Government now admit that they cannot supply more than one-third of the sleepers in the time.
– Can the Prime Minister tell me of any contracts with private contractors that have been cancelled because the contractors were behind their time?
– It was expressly stipulated by the Western Australian Government that if they did not keep up to time the contract should be cancelled.
– There was also a stipulation that if the Western Australian Government were behind with the supply of sleepers, the Commonwealth could purchase from other sources at the expense of the State Government.
– The Western Australian Government stopped all licences for sleeper-getters.
– Everybody knows that the powellising contract is quite a separate question. I want to know whether the Government should have cancelled this contract, taking into consideration the very wet winter, the difficulty of getting into the forests, and of getting things ready, and whether, at the time the contract was cancelled, there were not two or three month’s’ supply of sleepers on hand? The railway had not been stopped because of the delay in the contract. There were plenty of sleepers to go on with. If it was a good thing to cancel that contract, why does the Prime Minister now want to enter into an agreement with the Western Australian Government to supply 500,000 sleepers at the same price?
– I will tell the honorable member in a word - because I feel that the substantial moralities of that contract must be honoured.
– The Prime Minister now admits that in cancelling the contract he did something wrong, and now wants to make some reparation for the wrong he did to Western Australia.
– Why do you twist what I say like that? I tell the honor-‘ able member I would not give them an order for a sleeper if that contract had not been cancelled.
– The Prime Minister now admits that he is prepared to take 500,000 sleepers at the same price from the same Government, and the only thing standing in the road at the present time, so far as we know, is that he has not been able to come to terms with the Premier of Western Australia. In the meantime, whilst he is endeavouring to make a new contract, he is prepared to accept ‘70,000 sleepers for that railway to go on with, showing that it was not a question of expense; it was not because the late Government were paying too much for the sleepers so much as a question of breaking off a contract with the Labour Government in Western Australia. It is only now, when the Government find the hornet’s nest they have brought about their ears in the shape of popular feeling in Western Australia and other States, that they are trying to make some reparation by taking 500,000 sleepers from Western Australia. What position would the Commonwealth be in if the Western Australian Government refused to come to terms, having sufficient orders for their sleepers elsewhere? What would become of the transcontinental railway then ? It would come to a stand-still for want of sleepers, and all through the blunder made by the Government in cancelling the contract. Ministers are such honorable men that they cancel a contract because it iswith a Government who represent the people of a whole State, and at the same time they let a contract to a privileged individual without inviting tenders.
– We are going to save this country some hundreds of thousands of pounds over it.
– I am waiting till we get the Treasurer’s financial statement to see how much truth there is in statements of that kind. I believe that we shall then have a practical demonstration of how the Prime Minister’s policy of sound and economic government has worked out in ‘actual practice. We shall know exactly how we stand. I will give the Government this and all the other contracts in, and still predict that when the financial statement is made this country will be found to be in a much worse position than it was ever in before. One really pleasing feature of this debate lies in the fact that not one member on the Government side of the House has justified the letting of a contract without inviting tenders. I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes, who is a man of considerable independence of thought and action. He does not belong to the Labour party, but has been a staunch Liberal all his life, and he says that what was done in the case of the Teesdale Smith contract was against every principle of Liberalism. The honorable member for Werriwa, another Government supporter, said it was without doubt a mistake on the part of the Ministry. There can be no doubt that the Government must answer to the people of Australia for letting contracts without inviting tenders, and also answer to the people of Western Australia in particular, and to the people of the Commonwealth generally, for cancelling the powellised sleeper contract. I venture to predict that they will have quite sufficient on their hands in those two questions to keep them busy when they face the electors. During this debate the Beef Trust has been frequently referred to, and some honorable members have gone so far as to say that it already exists in Australia. Those statements have not come only from this side of the House, because the honorable member for Hew England stated positively yesterday that he believed the trust existed in Australia, although he claimed that it did not work any injury to the people. I do not know whether the Beef Trust is responsible or not, but the fact remains that the price of meat has gone up considerably during the last few years, and particularly during the last few weeks. The honorable member for Werriwa stated the other day that the reason for this was the decline in the number of stock iu the Commonwealth. What could we expect but a falling off in the number of our stock in view of the statement made by the honorable member for New England yesterday that our exports of beef had doubled themselves during the last year or two ? How can we expect to maintain the size of our herds? They must be depleted, and that is where the people are going to suffer, because the Beef Trust are in a position to pay a much higher rate for stock by going around to the pastoralists individually than the latter could get for it in the open market. The result is that they are buying stock and exporting meat, and it is becoming scarce. The law of supply and demand regulates the prices of this commodity, as it does the prices of all other commodities. If the supply is considerably less than the demand, prices must become in- flated. But, by the manner in which the inflation of prices in this commodity has been brought about, the benefit is accruing only to certain individuals. The honorable member for Oxley did good service to Australia by placing on record many facts in relation to this question, which it must have given him considerable trouble to collect.
– So did the honorable member for New England, in connexion with the price of beef.
– Yes, I am going to say something about that. The honorable member for New England did good service to the consumers of meat in this country by showing that the pastoralists are becoming wealthy men because of the high prices they are obtaining for stock; whilst the poorer people, who have to work hard for a daily wage to keep their homes together, are called upon to pay considerably more for meat than they previously had to pay. If that be a fact, it establishes everything that was said by honorable members on this side during the referenda campaign. It goes to show that the Beef Trust is already in operation in Australia, and making inroads upon the earnings of the poorer people.
– Are we to understand that every time prices go up it is the effect of the operations of a trust?
– I am mentioning a fact, which was stated by an honorable member on the Government side of the House.
– Is not the rise in price brought about through shortness of supply and increased export?
– I have just said so.
– What have the trusts to do with that?
– If I had another hour and a half, I might deal fully with this matter. I have just agreed with the Prime Minister to conclude in ten minutes, but, to do myself justice on the subject of the necessary amendment of the Constitution to deal with the Beef Trust, I should require to spend an hour on that question alone. The honorable member for New England, in quoting prices of meat yesterday, made it appear that in Western Australia, where a Labour Government have entered into the business of retailing meat, the people are called upon to pay more for meat than in any other State.
-It is absolutely true, too.
– Let the honorable member wait just a moment.
– I have asked honorable members to refrain from interjecting.
– I point out that Western Australia is in a different position from any of the other States, so far as the meat supply is concerned. Meat cannot be got so readily to the market in Perth as to markets in the other States. I know something about the matter, because I lived for some time in Western Australia, and we had to pay high prices for meat there then.
– And the quality was horrible.
– Order ! I have only this moment asked honorable members to refrain from interjecting.
– The honorable member for New England quoted prices from Mr. Knibbs, and said that the people in Western Australia were paying 11d. and11¼d. per lb. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that, since the State Government commenced their operations in connexion with the meat business in Western Australia, those operations have had a steadying effect upon the increase of prices. The result is that the prices charged by the Government are - For mutton, 7d. and 8d. per lb. ; sirloin, 8d. ; rump steak,1s. 3d.-
– I ask the honorable member not to go into the details of prices.
– I am rather surprised, sir, that you should ask that when you allowed it to be done yesterday.
– I stopped the honorable member for New England when quoting details of prices.
– I have not the time to complete my speech as I should like, and let me say that every attempt has been made by honorable members opposite to prevent me having a clear run, because the matters I have desired to bring before the House are not palatable to them. In view of your decision, sir, I will merely say that, so far as the Western Australian market is concerned, the action of the State Government has had the effect of steadying matters, and of reducing the price previously prevailing by 2d. per lb. all round. The
State Government prices are1d. per lb. at least below those ruling in private shops. If the honorable member for New England would look up the prices ruling in the Sydney market in his own State he will find that they are going up every day, and that they are so high that many people in Sydney and its suburbs have to deny themselves the luxury of meat. The butchers of Sydney will tell the honorable member that there is not now the same sale for meat as there was previously because of the high prices obtaining. I am able to say, further, that when I was in the country a few months ago, during the last State elections, I met a pastoralist who was good enough to have a chat with me. He told me that that very day one of Mr. Kidman’s agents had waited upon him, and that he was in the district prepared to buy all pastoralists’ stock for £9 5s. per head, and they were asking the right, by paying£ 1, to purchase every calf that might be born, at the age of four years. That should show the people of Australia that Kidman, Armour, and Swift and Company are prepared to buy from the pastoralists all the meat they raise, to export as much as they can, and leave the people here to suffer. I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say that the difficulty could be dealt with, and to say something about putting an export duty on meat. I ask honorable members on the other side how many of them are prepared to follow the Attorney-General’s lead, and put an export duty on meat?
– I am not.
– If honorable members are not prepared to do so, I ask the Attorney-General to say how the Beef Trust is to be dealt with unless we have additional powers given to this Parliament under the Constitution. All this goes to show that the Government and the Attorney-General are playing with this question. They know that this Parliament does not possess the power to deal with these trusts, and that we require additional powers under the Constitution. The Attorney-General, during a recent discussion of the matter, and in reply to an interjection by the right honorable member for Swan, said that the States could not deal with these matters. Whilst the Government and the AttorneyGeneral know these things, they are not prepared to submit to this Parliament the amendments of the Constitution which they believe to be necessary in order that they may be put before the people. They will allow the trusts to continue their trading in Australia and increase prices to such an exorbitant extent that the poorer people will be unable to procure meat. When we have reached that position, when the horse has been stolen from the stable, the Government will try to lock the door. They will go to the people and say, “ What the Labour party told you years ago is correct. This Parliament has not the power to deal with these vital questions. It cannot protect you from the grip of these monopolists.” The Government will then ask for amendments of the Constitution. It would be far better for the Government if, instead of trying to justify their existence on the Treasury bench, not by passing legislation for the benefit of the people, but by denying preference by an administrative act, letting contracts to privileged contractors without inviting tenders; cancelling sleeper contracts because they did not approve of them when in opposition; and” taking certain action in connexion with elections, they brought forward measures of real value, and allowed the people to decide upon them at as early a date as possible.
Debate (on motion by Colonel Ryrie) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. - In order that honorable members may be able to catch their trains, I do not propose to-day to answer at length the statements of the honorable member for Hunter.
– The Minister is not entitled to do so.
– I am entitled to do so. The ex-Speaker should know that.
– I rise to order, sir. Last session when I desired, on a motion to adjourn the House, to refer to some matters that had been under discussion during the day, you ruled that nothing of that kind could be referred to. No fewer than eight points of order were taken while I was submitting the objec tion. I ask whether the Assistant Minister is entitled on this motion to refer to anything which has taken place here during this sitting?
– It certainly would not be in order for the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, after a debate is adjourned, to re-open it by traversing anything that transpired during the sitting; but he had not an opportunity to state definitely for what he rose when the honorable member for Yarra took the point of order.
– I propose on Tuesday to lay on the table of the House a letter which I have received from Mr. Joseph Timms, andto make a statement in regard to it.
– I ask the attention of the Honorary Minister, the Attorney-General, if he is here, and the Prime Minister to a question which has arisen. Has the Honorary Minister observed that Mr. T. D. Chataway has stated before a Rovai Commission that, as a candidate for the Senate, he went into fourteen polling booths? I want to know how. the candidate got permission to enter these booths? Has the Honorary Minister observed that Mr. T. D. Chataway has admitted that he voted in one polling booth for the House of Representatives, in another polling booth for the Senate, and in another polling booth for the referenda, and also that he received several official sets of ballot-papers which he took to his own office? I have purposely refrained from discussing this matter with a member of the Royal Commission. I desire to know what course the Government propose to take in regard to the action of the selfconfessed law-breaker, because it is quite against the Electoral Act for any person to take ballot-papers out of a polling booth. An elector ought, as soon as he receives his ballot-papers, to retire to a compartment, mark the papers, and then put them in the ballot-box.
– I call your attention, sir, to the state of the House.
– I was just going to put the motion for adjournment.
– All right, sir.
– Nobody was speaking.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 May 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140501_reps_5_73/>.