6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister undertake that, in future, the same publicity shall be given by the press to the exoneration of business firms whose premises have been raided by military authorities .without the discovery of inculpating documents as is given to the raiding itself? If he cannot promise this, will he promise to withhold all information regarding raids until the subsequent investigations have been concluded and the facts are fully known?
– I hold the view which underlies the honorable member’s question. Does the honorable member refer to a statement published to-day?
– The occurrence is most unfortunate. The Government is not responsible for what was published, and very much regrets the publication. Every effort will be made to make public the fact that inquiry has resulted in exoneration.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister what has been done towards the establishment in Australia of a testing station for explosives?
– The matter is being considered. It is hoped that a competent authority will be appointed to carry out in Australia experiments similar to those conducted in other countries, which will cover a much wider field than the ‘mere testing of explosives, having to do with the resilience and structure of metals and other matters. We hope that a determination will be come to” very soon.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs considered the applications for. the post of Director of Navigation, and, if so, when can he make an announcement regarding the appointment?
– This morning an order was made by the Executive Council appointing Captain D. Propert Davies, Assistant Harbor Master, Melbourne, to be Director of Navigation.
– Is the Minister yet in possession of the information for which I asked last week respecting the conditions of employment at the Cockburn Sound Works?
– That information has not yet come to hand.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs aware that, since I put my question to him, separate statements regarding conditions of employment at Cockburn Sound have appeared in the newspapers from the secretary of the Trades Hall in Perth? Is there any reason why the Minister should not also be in possession of that information, or are we to understand that the work is being conducted by the Trades Hall Council?
– I regret that the question which the honorable member put to me a few days ago has been overlooked by my Department. Will he kindly put his question on the noticepaper ?
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs received correspondence from passengers who are on board the s.s. Kanowna? Why was it necessary they should be put to so much delay and inconvenience ?
– I have not received any correspondence from the passengers referred to. A case of small-pox was discovered on the Kanowna, and her passengers were brought back to Sydney. Some of them, who had been vaccinated, were released yesterday, and others will be released later, when they have been detained for the necessary periods.
– I wish to know from the Assistant Minister of Defence why two Germans, who were refused permission to land at Vancouver from Australia, were permitted to leave this country f
– I cannot tell the honorable member. Will .he put a question on the notice-paper?
– Has action been taken, or can anything be done, to make use of the German vessels that have been seized for the carriage of perishable produce to the Old Country?
– The question is at least a month old. All these vessels are beingused by the Government through the Defence Department, which, I understand, is the only way we can make use of them.
– One has been lying in Hobart unused since the beginning of the war.
– Has she refrigerated space?
– If the honorable member will give me the names of vessels that are not being used, or will suggest anything that can be done to facilitate the use of these vessels, I shall be pleased to consider it.
– There has been addressed to me from the “ Head-quarters of the New South Wales Alliance for the Suppression of the Liquor Traffic,” 33 Park-street, Sydney, a letter in which it is stated that -
It has been proved, time after time at Liverpool, that, although “wet” canteens are nominally under strict supervision, the men can obtain as much liquor as they can pay for or have charged to their credit.
I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if this statement is correct?
– I am not aware that the facts are as stated.
– I ask the Prime Minister if it is true that Gottlieb Friedrich Heinrich Schuler, the editor of the Age newspaper, who was born in Germany, is still a German subject, and owes allegiance to the German Emperor ?
– I am unable to say.
– Will the honorable member ascertain ?
– If it is of interest to the honorable member, I will.
Loan of £18,000,000
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that the Commonwealth has borrowed £18,000,000, in addition to the £18,000,000 raised by the States 7
– The Commonwealth Government is borrowing through the Imperial Government £18,000,000, and has already loaned, out of its resources, £18,000,000 to the States.
– Arising out of the answer just given by the Prime Minister, I desire to ask him whether the £18,000,000 which he is raising in London is the same £18,000,000 which is being loaned to the States to enable them to carry out their public works policy 1
– I have a further question to put to the Prime Minister. Had there been no war loan in London, would the right honorable gentleman have been able still to advance this £18,000,000 to the States?
– Yes; but we could not have paid our war expenditure here.
Motion (by Mr. Hannan)., by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be -given to the honorable member for Corio.
Motion (by Mr. FISHER). by leave, proposed -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the honorable member for Grampians.
– We shall have to deal with his case separately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for the remainder of the session be given to the honorable member for North Sydney.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General whether he will look into the position occupied by the honorable member for North Sydney, Colonel Ryrie, who has accepted a commission with the Expeditionary Forces, and’ ascertain whether, on the question of the acceptance of an office of profit under the Crown, there is any difference between the position of a member of the Commonwealth Parliament and a member of the House of Commons. Will he look into the matter at an early date, so that we may guarantee the honorable member’s personal position in the House?
– I have not looked into the matter, but shall do so, and will answer the honorable member’s question to-morrow.
Sydney Evening News Report
– About midday on Sunday last the Evening News, of Sydney, published a very sensational placard, in letters 6 inches long, setting out that there had been a great British disaster, and that 15,000 British soldiers had been drowned. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether that message was censored. If it was, will the censor be reprimanded; and if it was not, will the Evening News be called to account for the publication of such a statement, which caused a great sensation iu Sydney ?
– The question, I think, is a very proper one. I do not know whether the message in question was seen by the censor; but if it was, and was passed by him in the form mentioned, then I should view his conduct as does the honorable member for Parkes. With all due respect to the proprietors of the newspaper in question, I consider that their action in publishing such a statement, which I do not think is true, was reprehensible. I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether he considers it patriotic on the part of a Labour Government to purchase a motor lorry manufactured by the enemy, as stated by the Age of 21st instant, and also what is the name of the firm that supplied the motor?
– The Defence Department has been blamed by the Age for purchasing a motor lorry made by the enemy. The allegation, however, is not true. It appears that the motor lorry in question was purchased by the Government of Victoria. The Commonwealth Government has had nothing whatever to do with the transaction.
– Has the attention of the Minister of External Affairs been directed to the Northern Territory Times of 22nd and 29th October last, in which his Department is very severely criticised, special reference being made to the Administrator, Dr. Gilruth ? Has any inquiry been made; and, if not, will inquiries be instituted as to the truth or otherwise of these allegations?
– I have not read the statements to which the honorable member refers. The newspaper in question is printed and published in a building which the Health Department has condemned, several accidents having occurred there, aud I apprehend that there is some connexion between the condemnation of the building and the attack made on Dr. Gilruth. I shall have inquiries made.
– Has the Assistant Minister of External Affairs any objection to stating the term for which Sir George Reid has been re-appointed as High Commissioner of the Commonwealth ?
– No. A cablegram was sent recently to Sir George Reid, intimating that, if acceptable to him, his term of office would be extended for twelve months from the date of the expiration of his original appointment. Sir George Reid replied that he would be very glad to serve the Commonwealth, however short or long the term might be.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether it is a fact that a bugler named, I believe, Walter Reid, was taken from the camp at Broadmeadows to a hospital in Melbourne, and that he died there, and was buried without his relatives being informed of either his illness or death ?
– I have received a communication from the relatives of Walter Reid, who was a bugler at Broadmeadows Camp, complaining that he was placed in hospital in Melbourne, and that, on his there dying, he was Buried, I think, on Cup Day, without their being informed of the fact. I am having the matter inquired into, and have called for a report regarding it.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a paragraph in to-day’s newspapers to the effect that Germany’s principal supplies of petrol are being received from America, and. if so, will he inform the House how much money the Government are expending in connexion with the Panama Exhibition?
– The Government are expending no money on the Panama Exhibition, except that to which they were committed by the previous Government-
– I have received the following communication from the King of the Belgians regarding the grant that was voted by this House to the Belgian people: -
Profoundly touched by the generous donation made by the Australian Government and Parliament to Belgium and by the cordial words of the resolution which both Houses have so kindly passed, I beg your Excellency to convey to the Commonwealth Government my feelings of gratefulness and strong sympathy.
Wheat Crop : Action by New South Wales Government.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Wannon that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The proposed action of the New South Wales Government to acquire by legislation the entire wheat crop in that State, and its effect upon the Inter-State trade and commerce of Australia.
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces,
.- For the benefit of the House I shall read a statement by the Premier of New South Wales in the Legislature of that State, as reported in the newspapers of Tuesday of last week -
In the Legislative Assembly to-day the Premier said he would ask the House to pass an urgency Bill, giving effect to the proposals, through all stages on the following day. Mr. Holman further announced that, from information collected by the Minister of Agriculture, it appeared that the forthcoming wheat harvest would be insufficient by an amount roughly estimated at 1,000,000 bags for consumption in the Commonwealth. Exact information on that point would be available later by the Minister. While there would be a surplus within the area of New South Wales, there would be a shortage in other parts of the Commonwealth. It would therefore become necessary to import a quantity of wheat, presumably from Canada, in order to make up that shortage, and apparently the ruling price throughout the Commonwealth would be determined, not as in former years by the surplus they had for export and by the price then ruling in the London market, but by the price of the 1,000,000 bags which they brought in to supply local markets, and as that would be a high price, probably 6s. or 6s. 3d. per bushel, there was a probability of a heavy increase in the price of flour and bread unless Adequate steps were taken to protect the interests of the people of the State.
What the Government proposed to do, Mr. Holman said, was to protect the situation of the Commonwealth as far as it was able to do. Clearly, any step they might take would leave the situation in other States in the Commonwealth unaffected where there was actual shortage, and where wheat at 6s. 3d. or 6s. 6d. per bushel had to be imported.
Mark the Premier’s use of the word “ urgency.” The Minister of Trade and. Customs long ago relieved this country from any doubt as to there being sufficient protection of the foodstuffs of Australia, by his declaration which has the effect of preventing the export of flour, wheat, and other commodities of the kind ; and, therefore, it is to be hoped that the responsibility of providing the people of New South Wales with a cheap loaf will not be covered up under the cloak of protecting the people of Australia. This Parliament is clothed with ample authority, and the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs has my complete approval. I am not now speaking of an ex-Minister of External Affairs, who reminds me of my “ two blades of grass”; his popularity has vanished, and his persistent remarks make me feel that the effort of his life has been rather to make “ one blade of grass” grow where two grew before. The “ urgency “ referred to by the Premier of New South Wales is based, we are led to understand, on negotiations between Commonwealth Ministers and himself, and I shall, at a later stage, ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to lay on the table the whole of the correspondence that has taken place regarding the wheat question. In both the Age and the Argus of to-day we are told -
The Premier of New South Wales(Mr. Holman) made a suggestion to the Minister of Customs yesterday that collective action should be taken by the Federal and State authorities on the wheat question. Mr. Tudor was not prepared to adopt the suggestion offered, and it was decided to submit it for the consideration of the Premiers’ Conference, which meets in Melbourne on Monday next.
Observe the timorous “ urgency “ of this Premier, who is not prepared to take the responsibility himself for his action, and also observe the sagacity of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who - and I commend him for it - will not touch the question with a 40-foot pole.
– That is just the point to which I am coming. The question assumes two aspects, with both of which I am vitally concerned. The first is the constitutional aspect, and the next is the effect of the action taken on one of the great industries of Australia. I shall not dwell long on the constitutional aspect, because there are others in the House better qualified to speak in that regard than I am myself. I feel it my duty, however, to point out that this Parliament derives its authority in connexion with trade and commerce from section 51 of the Constitution, and that section 92 seems to show the position very clearly, so far as a layman is concerned. Section 92 reads -
On the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among -the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely -free. “We have from the Premier of New South “Wales an absolute declaration that the -estimated wheat supply in that State will be more than adequate for the requirements of the people there. We are. aware that there are certain policing powers, as we may call them, which may be put into operation for the preservation of life, and for the protection and the well-being and health, and so forth, of the citizens, under which a State may operate. With total disregard of the Constitution, Western Australia acted in the restriction of the importation of produce from one State to another. Western Australia, by an over-exercise of these policing powers, attempted to restrain trade in this way. Now we have the first attempt made in the Commonwealth to assert, at any rate the first declaration by any State, that the foodstuffs in that State shall be the property of the State and disposed of by the Government as they may think proper. It matters little to me that the New South Wales Bill may provide that, if there be surplus wheat after New South Wales requirements are met, that surplus will be at the disposal of the other States. If the Federal Parliament has the right to act as the guardian of freedom of trade between the States, in order to insure free and unfettered commercial intercourse, it little matters, I say, that a Government, while temporarily holding up that trade, may promise to ultimately make available the surplus for distribution amongst the other
States. The action of New South Wales seems to be the converse of the action of Western Australia, when that State, by an overcautious system of inspection, prevented Victorian potatoes from finding their natural market under a condition of Inter-State Free Trade. Here we have an avowed declaration by the Premier of New South Wales that it is his intention to prevent the wheat crop of that State, and the surplus of the previous years - and that must be borne in mind, because a surplus did exist - finding its natural market in the other States. Western Australia by its inspection system attempted to prevent foodstuffs getting into the State, and now we have the converse action of an attempt to prevent foodstuffs leaving a State. I can well understand the attempt of the Premier of New South Wales to secure uniform action on the part of the various States. There is a very old and impressive story told of the fox that had ita tail cut off, and that story seems apposite to the present circumstances. I believe that from a constitutional standpoint, and also having regard to the effect which his action will have on the agricultural interests of New South Wales, the Premier of that State has blundered badly. Whatever the constitutional aspect of this matter may be, the question arises as to who is to decide regarding the legality of the action which has been taken. Is New South Wales itself to determine the justice or injustice of an action which we believe to be wrong? Or is the Federal Parliament to be the arbiter? If so, I hope that this House will to-day show itself a jealous custodian of the rights of the whole of the States.
– Do you contend that it is beyond the power of a State to do what the New South Wales Government propose to do?
– Yes. Particularly when the Government make an open declaration that they have more foodstuffs in New South Wales than the people of that State require.
– You will have to support the referendum on the next occasion.
– The referendum is the honorable member’s pet nostrum for everything. If the action of the New South Wales Government in acquiring the entire wheat crop of that State and preventing freedom of trade between the States is correct, how does Australia stand iu respect of its many great natural industries ? Suppose the Queensland Government were to similarly acquire and control the sugar crop, what would become of the true Federal spirit under which the States federated? Apparently we are to have the doctrine laid down that in times of plenty the Federal spirit is to be observed, but in lean years the opponents of the true Federal spirit are going to take the recoil action of asserting State rights in order, as they think, to produce a cheaper loaf for the people within their own particular State. If this action be right in respect of wheat, would it not be permissible in respect of New South Wales coal, Queensland sugar, and Western Australian timber? Let us glance at the position of the Riverina territory. Geographically and otherwise, Melbourne is the market for Riverina, but by the action of the New South Wales Government Riverina will be deprived of its natural market, and its produce will be forced to take a more costly and circuitous route.
– Is not the New South Wales Government building a railway to carry that produce into its own State?
– My honorable friend will be in ashes before that railway is available for the carriage of wheat. Having dealt with the constitutional aspect, let me now refer to the effect of the New South Wales Government’s action on the wheat industry. The total wheat harvest in ‘1913-14 throughout the Commonwealth, including the Federal territories, was 103,517,000 bushels.
– That was a record.
– Yes. The estimate for this year is that the wheat harvest for the entire Commonwealth will be only 30,000,000 bushels. That estimate is not made by the Federal Statistician, but it is based on the best information I was able to get in the time at my disposal. I have also the estimate of the New .South Wales Statistician for his own State, and I shall put that on record. The 1913-14 harvest in that State yielded 38,028,000 bushels, and the estimated yield for this year is 15,000,000 bushels.
– Not a grain more.
– I am satisfied that the figure I have given will be the limit. This further fact has to be borne in mind : that the officials who have collected this information, though they have taken into consideration all the area under wheat, and the possible yield, have not fully appreciated the fact that this year there will be an enormous additional area cut for hay. The farmers will be influenced to this step by the fact that a greater area will be required this year to produce the amount of fodder that must be consumed, and also by the action of the Government of New South Wales in declaring that they propose to acquire the whole of the harvest, which action I can characterize as nothing but a piratical invasion of the rural industry of New South Wales by the State Government.
– Do you say that, on account of the action of the State Government, the farmers will cut their wheat crops for hay?
– I say it most emphatically. Hay at £8 per ton, and wheat at 5s. a bushel ! The honorable member showed very little practical knowledge about a subject he dealt with at considerable length not long since.
– You have not too much yourself.
– I am interested in this matter as a wheat-grower in Victoria, and in New South Wales also. I have been interested in wheat growing in New South Wales during this year.
– Do not take notice of his bovine interjections.
– According to the figures supplied in connexion with a Commission which sat in New South Wales, that State carried over 2,600,000 bushels from the last harvest; and, estimating the crop this year at 13,000,000 bushels, there will be altogether 15,600,000 bushels in New South Wales with which to meet the needs of that State and the rest of Australia. According to the press report of a deputation of Victorian farmers which waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs, it is estimated that this season there will be a shortage in Victoria of 1,500,000 bushels.
– That is what they said.
– I dare say that they have underestimated the shortage. In the matter of yields, there is an inclination to overestimate rather than to underestimate. My point is that Australia will undoubtedly be short by several million bushels. Mr. Holman anticipated that the shortage would be 3,000,000 bushels, and that .it would be necessary to go to other countries in order to make it up. The average wheat yield in Australia is from 11 to 12 bushels per acre; last year the average in New South Wales was 11.86 ; we may call it 12 bushels. That return, at the price of 3s. 4d. per bushel prevailing when the harvest was declared, would have yielded a gross return of £2 per acre. Now, cost of production must always bear a certain relationship to the fixation of prices’ doctrines; and I have estimates of the cost of production in various States which show that the cost of producing a wheat crop runs from 30s. to £2 per acre. In some parts of Victoria it is fully £2. In the more settled districts, where the land is heavier, and where the methods are better than in other districts, the cost is higher than it is in the Mallee, where there is light, free soil, and where the methods employed are not so good as in the other districts. According to the estimate of the New South Wales Statistician, the average yield of the State this season will be 4 or 4$ bushels per acre, which, at the fixed price of 5s. per bushel, will mean a return of fi 2s. 6d. per acre, or 7s. 6d. per acre less than the cost of production on the lowest basis I allow for the cost of growing an acre of wheat. Thus, assuming that the wheat yield of New South Wales is 15,000,000 bushels, the State Government propose to levy upon the drought-stricken farmers of the State, on Mr. Holman’s figures, a direct tax of £1,125,000; and if he is successful in bringing about uniformity of action, and a fixed price of 5s. per bushel throughout the various States, affecting a total Commonwealth yield of 30,000,000 bushels, there will be a levy of £2,250,000 on the drought-stricken farmers of the Commonwealth in order to provide a cheap loaf for the people of Mr. Holman, and for every legislator whose affairs are not affected by the action of fixing the price of wheat.
– What would be a fair price ?
– Undoubtedly, on the admission of the Premier of New South Wales, 6s.. 6d. per bushel would be about the price. The gentlemen who waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs to-day said that 7s. per bushel would be about the import price.
The drought-stricken farmer who is unable to provide for the necessities of himself and family, and unable to prevent his stock from starving, is to be the person of all others at this period who is to be called on for a direct levy of £1,125,000 by the Government of New South Wales, very nearly double the Federal land tax paid in that State. The Federal land tax paid by New South Wales landowners is £771,000. Surely the action of the Federal Government is not to connive at such a levy ! Do our Government propose to assist the Government of New South Wales by financing the purchase of the wheat crop of the State, which, even at Mr. Holman’s figures, will mean an expenditure of £3,750,000?
– Was not the price fixed by a Royal Commission?
– The price is fixed by the N”ew South Wales BilL However, as I have only a few more minutes, I shall not answer any further questions from honorable members. Apparently, the position is, that the Federal Government are financing another Labour Government which has for its avowed object the purchase of the wheat crop of its State at a cost of £3,750,000. The State Government has, by its appeal to the Federal Government, proved its utter inability to conduct its own financial arrangements, and place at the disposal of the people the ordinary facilities of government, enabling public works to be proceeded with. Yet here is a monstrous proposal on the part of the Federal Government to lend money to a State Government in order that it may exact an enforced levy of £1,125,000 from its drought-stricken farmers. I am very much mistaken if the country will stand such an action. Public conscience must be stirred up. Industry would not be safe under such conditions. We have the Premier of the State appealing to the farmers to spread out their areas and fallow more land, and telling them that if they do so they will get 4s. per bushel for their wheat. Is it the proper thing for the trustees of the money of the people of New South Wales to buy in advance the whole of next year’s wheat crop for 4s. a bushel? Let there be no more talk in this House against the speculator when the Premier of New South Wales is permitted to do a thing like that. The proposition of the New South Wales
Government is not a practical one. It requires two years’ cultivation to make land ready for wheat growing. On “the one hand, the Premier of New South Wales levies the sum of £1,125,000 from droughtstricken farmers, and, on the other, he tries to encourage the cultivation of an area double that now cultivated.
– How long is it since the farmers got a price like that which they are now offered ?
– Honorable members fail to appreciate the difference between the position of the farmer in the year when the harvest is good and his position in the year of drought, when the yield will not average 3 bushels an acre throughout the Commonwealth. The question reveals a lack of practical knowledge.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– There was one other point to which I wished to refer, but there are, no doubt, many other members to speak who will deal with the matters that I have omitted to mention.
.- I support the motion. The matter which it has been moved to discuss may be considered from two stand-points, from that of the consumer, or bread-eater, and from that of the producer or farmer. The Government must have regard to the interests of both classes, and in the discussion of this subject there should be no intrusion of ironical interjections, or of party feeling. On both sides there are honorable members who represent farming constituencies. New South Wales is the only State which this year will have a surplus of wheat; the other States will harvest enough grain to provide seed only for next season, certainly not enough to provide their people with bread. Therefore, it is the duty of this -Government to see that no action is taken by the Government of New South Wales which will injure the rest of the Commonwealth. If it were an individual, or a company, or a syndicate, that proposed to corner the New South Wales wheat crop, the howls of indignation would prevent us from hearing one another speak. Many of those who interjected during the speech of the honorable member for Wannon would be the loudest in their complaint.
– Do the New South Wales Government propose to make anything out of the transaction ?
– I think so. A price has been arbitrarily fixed, and, though a Bill has not yet been passed through the State Parliament, no dealer in wheat dare offer any other price, and no farmer dare expect more than 5s. a bushel at the nearest railway station.
– The honorable member’s complaint is that the farmers cannot get more for their wheat.
– I am sorry that the honorable member has not practical experience of wheat growing. If he had, he would be less hypercritical. Even in New South Wales there are many places where, during the last three or four years, farmers have been growing wheat at a loss. Remembering these losses, it it not too much for them to expect to be recouped by higher prices this season. Even 5s. a bushel is not a paying price. As a practical wheatgrower, I say that, if every item is taken into consideration, from 5s. 6d. to 6s. a bushel would be only a paying price, even in the most favoured districts. For what other than speculative purposes has the New South Wales Government arbitrarily fixed the price of wheat? What is it going to do with the surplus ? Is it going to act as a philanthropist, and say to the people of the other States, ‘ ‘ You can have wheat at the price that we gave for it “ ? That is the last thing that should be expected of that Government. Yet it speaks of encouraging wheat-growing by the fixing of a minimum price for next year ! The action of the New South Wales Government, if this Government does not intervene, will be to retard production. Inasmuch as the other States have not sufficient wheat to meet their requirements, this Government should declare that the action of the Government of New South Wales in cornering the wheat crop of that State is prejudicial to the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. The consideration of this matter by the State Parliament has been postponed.
– Is it not to be considered by a Conference next Monday ?
– I believe that it is to be brought before the Conference of Premiers which is to meet .next week. I was in the Legislative Assembly chamber in Sydney yesterday afternoon, when in reply to a question by the Leader of the Opposition it was stated that action was to be deferred pending some arrange” ment. Before that statement was made it was thought that the Standing Orders would be suspended to enable a Bill authorizing the Government’s action to be passed through in one sitting. I hope that before anything definite is done the Minister of Trade and Customs will strongly protest against the proposed cornering of wheat by the Government of New South Wales.
– The honorable member for Wannon has done a distinct public service in bringing this matter forward for discussion at the present time. Nothing more serious can occupy the attention of the Legislature than the prices of primary commodities which are the source of life to us all. Like many other honorable members, I represent consumers, and my chief and primary interest is to see that the staple of life is made as cheap as possible consistently with the interests of the producers. No one desires a dear loaf in Australia, nor a condition of things which would make bread dear to those who toil. Therefore, we are not wasting the time of Parliament in discussing these matters affecting our daily bread. I do not quite see what function the Commonwealth Government has in the regulation of these things. It may, of course, interpose to preserve that freedom of intercourse which is a fundamental principle of the Constitution, and one of the chief purposes of Federation, but whether the time has arrived when it can intervene I do not pretend to say. I understand that a Conference with the Premiers is to be held next Monday, at which this matter, among others, will be dealt with. Members of the Government have spoken of these Conferences as an excrescence on the Constitution, but the present Ministers have multiplied their number. I am glad that they show such good sense, and I am pleased that this most serious question is to be considered by a Conference.
What are the facts? This year New South Wales, alone of all the States, has a small surplus of wheat. But let it not be thought that therefore the farmers of the State are doing well. Nothing could be further from the truth. The official statistics are eloquent testi- mony to their hardships. Last year, 3,205,000 acres were under wheat in New South Wales, and this year nearly 3,500,000 acres will be put under wheat. The estimated yield is 15,000,000 bushels - a high estimate - or about 4 bushels an acre.
– That is a great deal more than many farmers are getting in this State.
– Exactly. I am considering the position of a farmer in what at the present time is the best situated of all the States.
– The honorable gentleman does not take into account the quantity of wheat cut for hay.
– The honorable member for Wannon said that a great deal had been cut for hay.
– That, I think, must be so ; otherwise, the cost would be very shocking. But take the case of wheat alone. It is that which I wish to impress on honorable members. I read in a country newspaper a few days ago a detailed estimate, supplied by a farmer in New South Wales, of what it cost to put in his crop and to take it out. His estimate amounted to about 32s. per acre.
– He must have had very hard ground to work. I can do it for £1 an acre, and pay good wages.
– I congratulate the honorable member. He must be very expert.
– He is a practical farmer.
– But he is not in this respect a typical farmer. I defy him, practical farmer that he is, to show that it is costing only £1 an acre over all Australia to put in a wheat crop and take it out. Is he allowing for interest on the cost of his land ?
– I am allowing for everything except seed and manure.
– Seed and manure represent nearly a third of £1. In the detailed estimate to which I have referred, interest is put down at 6s. per acre, while ploughing is set down at 7s. per acre - the exact cost given altogether being £1 lis. lid. per acre. I should like to know if the honorable member allowed for interest in his calculation?
– The right honorable member was talking about the cost of putting in a crop and taking it out.
– I was speaking of an estimate supplied by a farmer in New South Wales of the total cost of farming his land per acre. He showed that it cost him £1 lis. lid. per acre, allowing for seed wheat, manure, and interest. With a yield of only 4 bushels per acre, that man would want 8s. per bushel to pay him.
– Is that what the right honorable member says should be the price of wheat to-day ?
– No; I do not say what it ought to be. But, taking these broad figures, I say that they ought to make men like the Attorney-General and myself careful how we interfere in this matter.
– The honorable member for Werriwa is, so far as I am aware, the only practical farmer in the House. There are other honorable members who started to grow wheat, but came out of the industry because they could not make a success of it. The honorable member for Werriwa, however, continues to grow wheat. The Leader of the Opposition commenced wheat cultivation, but gave it up because he could not grow any wheat.
– Order ! If these constant interjections take place, I shall be compelled to ask that the right honorable member be allowed an extension of time.
– Let me put this matter in another way. At page 27 of the Commonwealth Statistical Bulletin, it is stated that, in 1904, in New South Wales, the total production of crops amounted to £12,372,000. These figures include hay, sugar-cane, vines, and winemaking, potatoes, and all other highly profitable crops, and that represents what was gained from 4,568,000 acres. We have, therefore, an average return of about £2 14s. per acre. The farmers clearly have not been having a good time for many years past-
– They have been having during the last few years the best times they have ever experienced, and the right honorable member knows it.
– I do not think so, in one State.
– The official figures prove my statement.
– These returns do not. If, as the honorable member says, the farmers have been having a good time, it is a pity that that fact cannot be expressed in figures. The returns I have been quoting have been prepared by the Government Statistician from figures supplied by farmers.
– Where does the unfortunate consumer come in ? Is he noc to be considered?
– I desire Lim to obtain his produce at the lowest possible price, and I think that he would get it for less if people would meddle with these matters a little less than they do.
– Especially the middlemen.
– A gentleman who buys and sells wheat on commission - who does a large business, but does not speculate, and never has done so - tells me that since the Government began to fix the price of wheat speculators have been doing a roaring business. They have been going into the country and “ scooping the pools,” with the result that those who sell on commission - selling honestly and doing what they can for the farmers - find themselves without an occupation. These speculators are reaping rich harvests, and making fortunes out of the fixing of prices.
– And some of them get inside knowledge, too.
– It is alleged that some of them get inside information and make use of it to their own advantage. All that I suggest to the Government is that they should discuss this matter very seriously with the Government of New South Wales. If they can bring any moderating influence to bear I hope it will be in the direction of preventing interference except where wrong is being done. There is no justification for the Government interfering with these matters except where a wrong is being perpetrated upon the people of this country.
To put the matter in its best aspect, what is happening in New South Wales is that, in order to prevent the man who has a bountiful crop getting a little more, the Government are running the risk of jeopardizing the very income of the man who has only a small crop, and whom the drought has hit very heavily. I do not say that the Government have no right to interfere in time of war; but it is not the war - it is the drought that is causing the present trouble. The war has nothing to do .Avith this time of pinching poverty through which some people are passing; the drought alone is responsible, and honorable members opposite should be very chary how they step in to prevent the primary industries taking advantage of a little higher prices in order to recoup them for a tremendously lower production. I do not know what lie Commonwealth Government can do, but they should consider whether they ought not to do something.
– What are we to do?
– I understand that the Government propose to consider this matter with the Premiers of the States.
– But what are we to do here and now ?
– I suggest that the Government should try to persuade the State Premiers to let these things alone for the present.
– And abolish the Prices Boards ?
– I am talking, not of Prices Boards, but of the action of State Governments which are their own Prices Boards, so to speak, and are passing Bills to regulate the prices of these commodities.
– The fixation of prices is within the power of the States.
– I am not clear as to that. I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should act if they find the States going beyond the mark in this respect. We read, for instance, today that the South Australian Government are prohibiting their own people from sanding to Tasmania corn which has been purchased there. That, surely, is an interference with Inter-State Free Trade. I am not quite clear as to whether this action on the part of the New South Wales Government is not a direct interference with the principle of InterState Free Trade. What is their action in commandeering all the produce of their own State and declining to allow it to be sent into any other State, except upon certain terms and conditions, but the placing of a restriction - the placing of a bar sinister - upon trade between the States? I hope the Commonwealth Government will step in, if need be, to prevent injustice being done to the consumer, on the one hand, and the producer on the other.
Both are entitled to consideration in these times, and one is just as much entitled to consideration as is the other.
.- Whilst I hold that the honorable member who has submitted this motion and those who support his action are wholly mistaken, and that their energy and talent are being misdirected, I feel that the fact that they express concern for the poor farmer who is being robbed to-day give3 us some little reason to hope that eventually they may turn their attention to the point at which the great robbery is being perpetrated, and which lies at the beginning of the work of production itself. I have followed wheat-growing for twentyfive years. I started in a very small way, and, like every one else, I follow my personal interests very keenly. In New South Wales, the bulk of the wheat produced in the big wheat-growing districts is raised by very poor men under the share-farming system. We have, it is true, a large number of very small holders cultivating their own land, but, except for the middle-class holder, in very few instances are men of considerable means operating under a wages system. It has become a common practice, especially among share-farmers and very small holders - the poor and the needy - to make advance sales of their wheat; but I have not heard on the part of the Opposition any expression of solicitation for the welfare of these men. I have not heard the Opposition express any desire that they should be relieved of the absurd contracts - absurd because of the war which subsequently broke out - entered into by them to sell their new season’s wheat at 3s. and 3s. 3d. a bushel.
– Would you relieve the wheat-growers by such an action as that taken by the New South Wales Government ?
– I would relieve the wheat-growers by some such means as I sketched the other night, when I said that if the State would guarantee a price, not only in time of war, but at all times, it would result in making the industry permanent, instead of a sort of gamble in which one or two bad years may beggar a man. We find no relief foreshadowed for those people who have made contracts, and are really suffering. But the question arises whether we, as a farming class in New South Wales, should raise a dust over what has been described as the “ robbery “ of the producer, and make accusations against the powers that be, when they are called upon to pass extraordinary legislation, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but throughout the Empire. I have been twenty-five years a wheat-grower, and I never yet received 5s. a bushel ; and are we to permit the statement to go forth to the world that, when the Empire is in danger, and there is dearth of employment in every direction, those in the wheat industry are determined to take advantage of their more needy fellow-creatures? Are the wheatgrowers going to allow it to be known that they insist on their ‘ ‘ pound of flesh “ - that they insist on a price they have never been able to exact before? The bulk of us who are engaged in the wheat industry have, in the past, sold our produce for a trifle, and, though we were staggering under debt, no one came forward specially to assist us. As one who is more solicitous for the development of the wheat industry than of any other, it seems to me that the opportunity is being taken to nip in the bud what might turn out to be a very dangerous thing to those large numbers of people who are able to live as expensive idlers under our present system of production. It will no doubt, in the opinion of some, furnish a most dangerous precedent if we allow any Government to calmly fix the distribution price in the hour of trial, because this fixing is, in its results, satisfactory to the community as a whole; then, when the socialistic agitators come forward with a proposal to regulate the monstrous robbery in the form of rents and shares that are being exacted from the blood and toil of those actively engaged in the industry, there may be a danger of the conclusion that, as the system has worked so well in the case of distribution, it may work quite as well in the case of production. I have some wheat, though not a great deal, to sell this year, and I am pleased to say that I could, as a member of this House, face every farming centre in my constituency without, I think, losing a single vote, except, perhaps, in the case of a few interested commission agents and others, who may be afraid of finding their occupation gone.
– Does the honorable member approve of the action of the New South Wales Government?
– Certainly I do; and if the New South Wales Government will follow up their present step with others they have already adumbrated in connexion with a supertax and the fixing of rentals, there will be given to the wheatgrowing industry an impetus that could not be attained by any other means. I have heard it. said that the price of 5s. a bushel at the railway siding will so affront wheat farmers that they will put in less wheat; indeed, it lias been said that some of them are cutting for hay some crop that might be turned to grain.
– There is no doubt about that.
– All I can say is that, if there are such farmers, they do not live in the huge wheat-growing area that I represent. Practical men must recognise that, in view of the drought, the hay this year is, at best, of inferior quality. We know that, as a rule, a drought such as we experienced in 1902 and are experiencing now is very apt to break up in November or December, and that, with what may be found in the stubble paddocks, the quantity of hay used on the farms this year may be reduced to, perhaps, one-half; at any rate, the chances are that growth will take place, and a small quantity of hay will 3ee us through. The class of hay which we harvest in such a bad year is of inferior quality, and, of course, it brings inferior prices. The cost of bagging and handling hay is so high, unless the land is close to a railway station, that the majority of farmers would prefer to fill their bags with anything else, and very few cut more hay than they require for their own consumption.
– Are there not hay districts and wheat districts ? “Mr. LYNCH.- Exactly; but mostly hay-growing districts are oat-growing ones, and I am speaking of what I know. Farmers have lived through past years without getting the price now offered; and, in 1902, they saw a worse drought than the present, as the figures show. A few good years, however, relieved most of us, on our own holdings, from debt; and why should we ask for special exemption from a system of fixing prices that is now universal all over the world ? We have heard no howl from the wool-growers, although it has been stated in the newspapers that it is the intention’ of the British Government to buy up the Argentine and other foreign wools to prevent the enemy getting supplies, thus leaving Australian wool locked up. I should be sorry to think that the patriotism of the pastoralists is of a higher quality than that of the farmers; indeed, I am sure that that is not so. As I said before, when State interference will guarantee us 3s. 4d. or 3s. 6d. a bushel, the industry will become permanent, and it may become desirable to regulate, not only the terms of distribution, but also the terms under which men engage in production. Nothing is so productive of a number of worthless idlers than the attaining of a permanent title to large areas of fertile land; and it is those idlers that the farming community is called upon to support to-day. I know what it is to start from nothing on the land; and what little headway I have made has been by means of wheat farming. It has been said by some honorable gentleman that it costs from 32s. to £2 an acre to put in a crop and take it out again; but in the Riverina district any number of men could be found to plough new ground at 6s. an acre, while old ground can be profitably dealt with for 4s. Any man knows that it is cheaper to harvest a poor crop than a good one.
– What would the honorable member pay a ploughman?
– Most ploughmen get from 25s. to 30s. a week and keep. If it is old ground, and the ploughing is consecutive, it can be done profitably from 4s. to 4s. 6d., and the land can be ploughed once and harrowed twice for 10s. an acre by good capable men with an up-to-date plant. I have harvested with an harvester, on an average, 10 acres per day of about ten hours, over a term of six weeks. Of course, if one is harvesting a 10-bag crop he naturally cannot do more than, perhaps, two-thirds of what he would if it were a poor crop; and to-day many producers are not hiring men at all. Only to-day I have received a letter from men engaged in the industry who tell me that they are not employing any hands, because the harvest is so small that they can do the work themselves; and in the farming industry, as in other industries, we do not pay men when they are not wanted.
– The honorable member for Werriwa speaks as the practical farmer on his side - as the hope of his party.
– And you are the “ practical farmer” on that side, I suppose? ‘
– I have yet to learn that the honorable member for Illawarra is a practical man at anything. I, of course, accept the figures given by the honorable member for Werriwa as to the part of the country in which he is particularly interested, but I can imagine no greater fallacy than to lay down a rule that shall apply to land generally. Everything depends on the nature of the land; some lands cost twice as much as others to crop, and some produce twice as much as others. Owing to the excitement of the war, the conditions at present prevailing in Australia have not received that consideration they would have secured under ordinary- circumstances. I solemnly believe that the four southern States, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, are in a worse condition to-day than in any previous year since they have been settled and cultivated. I know that in the State of Tasmania there have never been conditions equal in severity to those which prevail to-day. Tasmania is, as a rule, immune from droughts; but to-day that State is drought stricken from one end to the other, with the exception of a small portion on the north-west coast. Who can say what price will pay a farmer who is getting practically no yield at all?_ I do say that the attempt which is being made by the New South Wales Government to commandeer, or buccaneer, the whole wheat surplus of that State is a direct infringement of the Constitution. If there is one section of the Constitution which is clearer than another, it is section 92-
On the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
The Government of Tasmania applied to the Governments of some of the other States for wheat, pointing out thai there was a shortage in the harvest there, and that a further supply was necessary, in order that the people might be’ fed. Those States replied that they had no wheat surplus. Is it in accordance with the Constitution that the Government of New South Wales may say, “Although we have a surplus in our State, the other States may starve for bread “ ?
– They have not said that.
– That is exactly what they are doing to-day ; and it is time that the Federal Government considered whether the action of the New South Wales Government is not a direct and open violation of the Constitution. Is it not a prevention of free trade, interchange, and intercourse between the States when a Government deliberately lock up the surplus of any product, and say to other States, which are in need of that surplus, “ You shall not have it “ ? When Western Australia, by means of prohibitive inspection fees, placed a high protective duty on imports from Tasmania and Victoria, I held that it was the duty of the Federal Government to intervene, and they did intervene. In the United States, from the Constitution of which section 92 is taken, the Federal Government adhere to that section so strongly that when a strike has occurred which has interfered with Inter-State trade they have intervened, and said, “You may fight these squabbles out among yourselves in your States; but the moment you infringe the Constitution by preventing free intercourse between the States, we, as the custodian of the rights and privileges of the people, must intervene.” In New South Wales, however, an open violation of the Constitution has taken place, and the State Government glory in throwing the gauntlet in the face of the Federal Government, and saying, “ No matter what your Constitution provides, we admit that we have more wheat than we require, but the other States may starve.”
– They have not said that.
– They have said so. I am under the impression, but am not sure, that the Government of Tasmania have applied to the Government of New South Wales for wheat.
– Have they been refused ?
– I believe they have.
– Do you say that the New South Wales Government refused to supply Tasmania with wheat?
– I think they have. I cannot speak with absolute certainty, but I know that the Tasmanian Government applied to other States, and they were unable to get supplies. As I have said, the four southern States are more drought stricken this year than they have been at any time since they have been settled. The coming year is going to be the worst time that the farmer and the farm labourer have ever experienced. The farmer may get credit for his fertilizers, and the Government may supply him with seed wheat, but wages have to be paid in cash, and I know that there are scores and scores of farmers all over the southern States who are not able to pay cash to their labourers. Therefore, the hardship will rest particularly on the small farmer in those States, and on the farm labourers, whom I regard as one of the most deserving classes in Australia, and I believe that in the coming season hundreds of these men will be thrown out of employment through no fault of either themselves or their employers. The thanks of the House are due to the honorable member for Wannon for having brought this matter under our attention. I know that honorable members from New South Wales do not realize the extent of the drought prevailing in the other States. In Victoria one may travel for miles and miles without seeing any wheat:
– We are not so badly off as we were in 1902.
– I believe that in many places in Victoria the conditions are worse than they were in 1902. I know on good authority that South Australia is in an infinitely worse condition than it has ever been in.
– South Australia has sufficient, wheat to supply its own requirements.
– I know that South Australia has not sufficient for its own requirements. When the Tasmanian Government applied to the South Australian Government for wheat, they were refused on the ground that South Australia had not enough for its own people.
– They will not say that today. They have about enough wheat to keep them going.
– I am informed that this is the worst year that Western Australia has ever experienced. No price we can fix for wheat will give the man in a drought-stricken area an adequate return for the labour he has put in.I know men who are getting practically nothing for their crops. I know of others who, instead of having £700 or £800 worth of chaff, will not have more than enough to feed their own horses through the year. So far as Tasmania is concerned, the harvest is practically nil.
– It has the best average of any of the States so far.
– I have pointed out that, whilst in ordinary years the yield in Tasmania may be very much larger than that in other States, the cost of ploughing, sowing, and garnering is infinitely greater, because the farmers there never use the harvester at all. I believe that the fixing of the price of wheat this year is going to have the effect of enormously reducing the area planted next year.
– Do you refer to the fixing of prices by the Boards?
– Whether the price is fixed by a Government or by a Board, the result is the same. I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa that there is a considerable element of gambling in wheat growing. Unless the farmer knows that at certain times he is going to get a very considerable price for his wheat he will cease wheat growing altogether.
Mr.Rodgers. - He is gambling with the weather largely.
– Exactly. Unless we can regulate the elements we cannot regulate the prices to be paid to the farmer for his wheat. Are we going to say to the farmer, as the Governments of nearly all the States are saying, “ Put in all the wheat you can for the sake of the Empire “ - at the same time we will not allow one bushel of wheat to be sent away to help the Empire - “ and if you get a bountiful harvest you must face the competition of the world, and take what you can get for your grain, but if the country is drought-stricken, and your yield is so small that no price will repay you, we will fix a price which cannot possibly repay you.”
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra- Minister of that many honorable members are trying to make political capital out of the fact (hat the Government of New South Wales propose to take certain action with regard to the wheat crop in that State. I feel confident that if the persons who are engaged in wheat-growing in Australia could be guaranteed anything like 5s. per bushel for the next couple of seasons the number of acres under wheat would probably be doubled or trebled.
– Hear, hear! You mean 5s. as a minimum?
– I take it that honorable members are objecting to the actionof the Boards who have fixed the prices of wheat, but I would point out that in at least two States those Boards were appointed by anti-Labour Governments. What is the true position in regard to the wheat supply to-day, and what has been the experience in past years? The average price of wheat in Australia during the last fifteen or twenty years has been less than 3s. 8d. per bushel.
– But what has been the average yield?
– Honorable members opposite are anxious to know why Mr. Holman saw me, what he said to me, andI to him. Let me say at once that the statement published in the newspapers to-day was nob based on any information given by me. Mr. Holman did see me, as many Premiers visiting Melbourne do sea Federal Ministers on various matters, but’ no communication has gone from the Federal Government to any other Government on the wheat question.
– Hear, hear !
– I feel confident that any State Government may please themselves as to what they do in regard to this question, without reference to any other Government in Australia. The Victorian Government could buy up any product in Australia, absolutely the whole of it, and decide afterwards what to do with it: they could please themselves whether they sold it again or gave it away.
– Are you sure about that? I hope you have been advised on the point.
– I notice that all the able, constitutional lawyers opposite-
– I mean that as a Minister you ought not to give a final pronouncement on a matter of that sort unless you have been so advised.
– I am informed that the New South Wales Government can do as they please on this question, and that the Duly bearing any action on the part of the Commonwealth Government could have would be if afterwards we seized the wheat the State has secured.
– Subject to the Constitution, of course.
– Of course, the Federal Government have no power to buy and sell things.
– I agree with the Minister, except that the State Governments are subject to the Australian Constitution.
– The Government of New South Wales will have to answer to the people of the State for their action in taking the wheat. While estimates have been given as to the probable harvest this season very few people can say how much has been held over from last season by speculators. Speaking from memory, I believe that one gentleman informed the Commission in Melbourne, when an inquiry was being held, that he held 900,000 bushels of wheat.
– Did not the States pass measures in order to get the information ?
– Some States passed Bills, but others did not. South Australia did not.
– South Australia got a return from every individual in the State.
– But the State did not appoint a Board to deal with the matter. The Government, by their action, practically said, “ We shall get the information, but allow those who have the produce to do what they like with it.” I suppose that the 1914-15 crop can be fairly accurately estimated ; at any rate, we are all unanimous on the point that it will be a very small crop, but apparently some honorable members think that in these circumstances it is their duty to get the highest possible price for the producer and let the consumer “ go hang.”
– The producer is drought-stricken.
– And many consumers are poverty-stricken. Owing to the drought and unfortunate circumstances existing throughout the world to-day, many consumers have not the opportunity of working, as they would like to do, and there fore, even though the loaf be dearer, they will have less with which to pay for it.
– Why should not the consumer be taxed as well as the producer ?
– The consumer is being taxed, even with the price of wheat at 5s. a bushel, which is much higher than tha price obtained last year, or the year before. In Australia, for a number of years, the price of wheat has been less than 4s. per bushel, and that figure has governed the price of the loaf of bread.
– That was on an average of 12 bushels, whereas the average is only 3 bushels to-day.
– Does the honorable member contend that the purchaser should now pay four times the price that was paid for wheat when the yield was four times as great as the present; because that is where the honorable member’s argument will lead him. Apparently the honorable member’s attitude is that the producer must get the best possible price so that the honorable member may go to the farmers and say, “I argued in Parliament for you to get the highest possible price for your wheat produced in this year of drought.”
– I want to see that the consumer is affected as well as the farmer.
– Independently of any action taken by a State Government, the consumers will have to pay fairly highly. I understand that the proposal of the New South Wales Government is to buy the wheat crop of New South Wales at a fixed price, and, if there is any surplus over the State’s requirements, to sell that surplus to the other States at that fixed price. Honorable members have contended that if the action taken had been taken by a syndicate, or by speculators, or a ring, it would be denounced by honorable members on the Government side. That would be the case if the Government of New South Wales proposed to do what a ring or speculators would do; but what would any ring or speculator who cornered the wheat supply, or the supply of any other foodstuff, do? Put up the price of the article to the highest possible point, and compel the consumers to pay it. As I understand it, the proposal of the New South Wales Government is to purchase the whole of the wheat at the fixed price of 5s., and, in the event of any other State being so short as to necessitate its purchasing outside the State, if not outside Australia, they are willing to sell to that State at cost price.
– Where does the Minister get that information?
– From the press.
– I did not gather it from the utterances that have been published.
– It was in an article published in the Age, which time will not permit me to read.
– If it appeared in the Age that would account for my missing it.
– In the event of New South Wales having a surplus, it is the intention of the Government of that State to hand over that surplus to the other States at the price paid by the State of New South Wales for the wheat - I cannot see that any other State has any room for complaint on that score - and I believe that they intend to go further. The suggestion, I gather from the press, is that, in the event of a shortage of wheat, they are willing to co-operate with the other Governments, and do exactly as the New Zealand Government have done, namely, import from overseas, thereby saving commission and the expenses of the middlemen, which ordinarily have to be paid by the consumer and the producer. I think that is the attitude the State Government have taken up on this question.
– What is the price of wheat in America to-day?
– In Chicago two days ago the price of wheat was 1 dollar 12 cents to 1 dollar 15 cents, or 4s. 8d. to 4s. 9½d
– What would be the cost of landing that wheat in Australia?
– About ls. a bushel, which is, roughly, the cost of sending wheat from Australia to Great Britain.
– That figure includes selling charges and everything.
– Yes. I understand that everything is included.
– There is also a duty of ls. per bushel.
– If the honorable member had asked the cost of landing wheat here and paying all the charges, plus the duty, I would, of course, have added lid., which is roughly the duty. The Tariff is ls. 6d. per cental, which is about lid. or 11-Jd. per bushel. Of course, in the case of importation, that duty would need to be considered. The honorable member f6r Wannon spoke of a deputation which waited on me. I gave the paragraph to the press. The deputation asked that the duty be waived, and that they should be informed of it, so that they might be prepared to import ; but I told them that any alteration to the duty must first be announced in Parliament, so that every one would be on the same footing, and so that no one could get inside information, which some honorable members, apparently, consider they have in regard to this matter.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
It appears that approval was given by the Administrator for the services of certain German officials of the late German administration to be retained in an advisory capacity for a period not exceeding three months. The Administrator has been informed that the services of such officials should not be extended unless it is impossible to replace them, and then that the extension should only be for such a period as will enable their replacement. The Administrator has been requested to telegraph a report in the matter, and such report is now awaited.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Further action to be taken will be dis- closed in the Budget statement.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
As the Government has informed this House that it does not intend to proceed with the erection of the lighthouses at Eclipse Island, near King George’s Sound, and at Port D’Entrecasteaux, during the current financial year, will he state when the erection of these two important lighthouses will be commenced and carried out?
– The construction of the lighthouses in question will be undertaken as soon as more urgent work on. other parts of the Australian coast shall, have been completed.
asked the PrimeMinister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
In addition to answering the question, I ask leave to make the following statement as to the facts. I have submitted the matter to the Leader of the Opposition, and he has agreed to this course.
– In reference to the statements that have been madein connexion with the naval and military assistance rendered by Australia . in the present war, in comparison with that given by other Dominions, it has first to be remembered that Australia has provided a Fleet Unit, which has already played an effective part in the protection of British commerce and shipping in these seas, thereby relieving the Admiralty of the necessity of detaching ships from the North Sea for this purpose, and in assisting in the combined naval and military operations at Samoa and New Guinea. On the military side, 39,416 troops have been raised for service in Europe; 1,764 Naval Reservists and Infantry have taken part in operations in the Pacific; totalling 41,180. In addition to this, 56,298 of the Citizen Forces are armed and equipped, and the bulk of these have, in turn, been mobilized under active-service conditions for the defence of various parts of the Commonwealth. There are, in addition, 51,153 members of rifle clubs, and 16,000 recruits who have passed from the Senior Cadets; making a total of 67,153 reservists available for war; the grand total being 164,631 under arms. Of the above, the present Government have offered to the British Empire, and have raised, the following units -
They have raised the first, second, and third reinforcements of the Australian Infantry Forces, totalling 9,000, and have completed the units previously offered to and accepted by the British Government, totalling 28,258, and are, further, enrolling all men coming forward for service.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Belgium, Grant to - Cablegram from His
Majesty the King of Belgium acknowledging the Grant and the Resolution passed by the Commonwealth Parliament.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1914, No. 161.
Military Forces - StatutoryRules 1914, Nos. 158, 159, 160.
.I move -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 3, 10, and 13.
I desire to raise two issues; the question of the application of legislation to actions pending at the time in the Courts, and the inclusion in industrial organizations of employees of persons not employees. Clauses 3 and 13 deal with registration. Section 19 of the principal Act gives the Court cognisance, for the prevention and settlement of disputes, of certain specific industrial disputes. They are these: - A dispute certified to by the Registrar; all industrial disputes submitted to the Court by an organization by plaint; all industrial disputes which any State industrial authority refers to the Court; and all industrial disputes in regard to which the President has held a compulsory conference. Clause 3 amends section 19 by inserting . after the word “ organization “ the words “or by an association registered for the time being as an organization.” According to the definition section of the Act, an organization means any organization registered pursuant to the Act. Clause 13 provides, however, that -
Every association which at the commencement of this Act is registered as an association, shall be deemed to have been duly registered.
I desire the recommittal of these provisions, because we require from the AttorneyGeneral an assurance that they are not intended to affect any proceedings that may now be taking place in any Court of justice.
– Why ?
– Under the civil law all sorts of safeguards are provided to prevent interference with the hearing of a case by a properly constituted tribunal. No person dare tamper with a witness nor with a jury. The general rule is that, while a case is pending, there shall be no interference with the tribunal which is to deal with it. It is highly dangerous for Parliament to interfere with the rights of parties in cases being heard by the Judiciary. I wish to know, therefore, whether the provisions to which I have referred will, if passed into law, interfere with any litigation now pending. It would be exceedingly dangerous for the Legislature to interfere in such a way. I do not suggest that anything personally improper is intended, but what is a right principle may be infringed. I suggest the insertion of a provision to this effect -
Nothing in this Act contained shall affect any proceedings pending whereby the matter of the registration of any organization is questioned.
We ought not, and may not, discuss the pros and cons in any case that is pending, but we are entitled to know whether the Bill, if passed as it stands, would or would not affect existing rights, lt would not be just to pass it without the usual saving clause.
– Why was not this proposal made last week t
– The Government would not permit it to be done. Ministers tried to force the Bill through.
– It could have been moved last week.
– Even so, does that affect the justness of the proposal 1 If a wrong is being done, we can deal with it now. The Bill is still in the possession of the House and can be amended at this stage.
– We are entitled to bring forward these matters for discussion when honorable members are present.
– I do not wish to discuss in any way the merits of any case; but we know from the public press that a . case is pending, and I want the House to definitely assert the principle that legislation shall not apply to any pending litigation. Had the Bill been intended to apply to pending litigation, I presume that the Attorney-General would have told us so. My knowledge of him leads me to think that he would not wilfully have kept us in ignorance of the fact. The Bill as it stands may be open to the interpretation that it excludes from the consideration of the Court in the determination of a case now pending the question of the cancellation of the registration of an organization, because it declares that an association which is registered shall be deemed to have been duly registered. As regards the second issue I desire to raise, clause 10 strikes at the foundation of industrial organization. The object of our arbitration law is to provide for the settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. An industrial dispute is a dispute between employers and employes in an industry or industries with respect to remuneration and conditions of employment. Clause 10 permits the enrolment in an organization of persons who are neither employers nor employes in the industry with which that organization is connected.
– What about the officers of an organization who have been connected with an industry?
– An officer who is a bond fide worker in an industry is properly a member of an organization connected with that, industry, but a railway engineer cannot properly be a member of the Wharf Labourers Union.
– Does the honorable member know of a case of that kind?
– I know of a case in which a lawyer who practises his profession, and who is not a wharf labourer, is a member of a wharf labourers union, and I say that it is not a sound principle to permit the enrolment in an organization of persons who are not employers or employes in the industry with which it is connected. To permit such enrolment ia contrary to the principle of our law. It would enable disputes to be created in an industry by persons in no way connected with that industry. All these matters that I have mentioned affect vital principles, and honorable members should have an opportunity to discuss them in detail in Committee.
– I make no apology for occupying time in the discussion of the motion to recommit the Bill for the reconsideration of certain cl.au ses in it. When I spoke on the motion for the second reading I was not fully aware of the immense reach and extraordinary effect of these clauses in regard to, not merely pending litigation, but also the whole operation of the arbitration law. We were told by the AttorneyGeneral that the particular urgency on account of which the Bill was pressed forward last week had nothing to do with a case then pending, and now partly heard, in which the Australian Workers Union is concerned; that the urgency arose out of some conferences which were being held, or were about to be held, the members of which desired to know where they stood.
– I said that the urgency arose from the position in which the
Court found itself, including that under section 60.
– If language means anything, I venture to say that honorable members on both sides of the House understood the Attorney-General to say, in answer to a question put by me at the time, that this Bill was not introduced for the purpose of affecting litigation now pending before Mr. Justice Powers.
– -I did nothing of the sort.
– If the AttorneyGeneral says that this Bill was introduced for that purpose, so much the better.
– -I was asked to insert a clause declaring that the Bill did not refer to that litigation, and I refused.
– I ask the Attorney-General to say whether the purpose of the Government in introducing this Bill, and pressing it forward as a matter of urgency, is or is not to affect the merits of the case before Mr. Justice Powers.
– Affect the merits ? No.
– To affect, the decision ?
– Affect the decision on the merits? No.
– I an. obliged to accept the Attorney-General’s statement.
– Do not say that.
– I an. obliged by parliamentary etiquette to accept it, but I am not obliged to refrain from commenting on an extraordinary coincidence, and I shall do so. This is a matter concerning which it does not do for any of us to be mealy-mouthed. We must conform to the usages of Parliament, but we are not bound to cove. up facts which seem to me, at all events, to be very shocking. One of these facts is that, whilst a certain case is pending in the Courts, we have introduced into this House a Bill, the effect of certain clauses of which is to deal directly with the merits and the decision of that dispute. As the honorable member for Darling Downs has put it, this is the adoption of a principle which not only this Parliament, but, I believe, every British Parliament, has entirely refrained from following - the principle of interference, by amending legislation, with actions brought by citizens to test their rights before the Court? of the country.
– Are we always to stick to precedent?
– No; but I should have hoped that the honorable member would adhere to precedents that are based upon principles of honesty and public honour.
– The honorable member wishes to create industrial warfare.
– I am nob. concerned with the honorable member.. His interjections are as unimportant as; he himself is. On the motion to recommit, these particular clauses, I am going to show what we are asked to do. There ia a powerful association or combine - I venture to say that it is .the most active and powerful combine at present existing in Australia - which is known as the Australian Workers Union. That combine is powerful, not only in the immense number of its members, but in the enormous political influence that it wields both inside and outside this Parliament. I do not exaggerate the facts one iota when I say that the political lives of quite a number of honorable members opposite lie. so to speak, in the hollow of the hands of this union. That being so, let us look at what is happening. This association - the Australian Workers Union - about the constitution of which I am going to speak in a moment, has registered itself under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I need hardly do more than remind honorable members of the principles under which that Act permits the registration of associations. Those principles were fought out before the High Court many years ago in what is known as the Jumbunna case. I hope the reference does not awaken any painful recollections in the mind of the honorable member for Henty.
– Not at all.
– The whole question was then threshed out. It waa disputed by those opposed to the Jumbunna branch of the association that there was any constitutional power in thi. Parliament to enable the organizations to be created and registered under the Act. That argument was not accepted. The Court unanimously came to the conclusion that associations consisting exclusively of employes on the one side, or of employers on the other, could be registered. It held that, although there is no power directly given under the Constitution to create or register a corporation of that kind, yet the power given to the Parliament to legislate for the settlement of industrial disputes necessarily implied the power to enable associations of employers on the one hand, and of employes on the other, to meet together, to come to collective agreements, or to appear jointly instead of separately before the Courts which had to settle their disputes. That power was declared by the united decision of the Court to be confined to the creation or registration of associations limited strictly to the employes of an industry on the one side, and to the employers of an industry on the other. But what has taken place ? As is well known , the Australian Workers Union has, for a long time, purported to be a very wide one. No one will question that, if it chooses to embrace a very large number of correlated industries, it has a right to do so, provided that it brings in the employes only for the legitimate purpose of arbitration. But what has it done ? Either by persuasion or force - by that kind of persuasion which is exercised, as we all know, by these powerful associations - it has compelled hundreds of persons, who not only are not employes in the particular industries with which it is connected, but who are not employes in any industry, to join its ranks. Instead, of being a legitimate association for the purpose of obtaining industrial peace, or to enter into industrial agreements, it has become a huge political, octopus-like organization.
– That is the trouble.
– The trouble is that such an association should claim registration under the Act. That is the particular claim, which in the Courts of this country, and under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, is being challenged by people who have a right to challenge it. I am going to point out what sort of an association this is which claims to be registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as representative of employe’s. In the Australian Worker of 19th September, 1904, there appeared, on the inside of the red page, an advertisement containing a list of local agents. They are all members - under the rules of the association, they must be members - of the Australian Workers Union.
– Not necessarily.
– There is no doubt about that.
– There can be no doubt that the rules require it. I will show honorable members the sort of people whom it includes within its ranks as independent employes in the industry. There are storekeepers, publicans, cycle agents-
– I dare say there are; but they would be a very poor class of lawyers who would be forced into it.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not wish to prevent the honorable member discussing the general question, but, as he well knows, it is neither usual nor proper to deal in the House with matters that are awaiting decision by a Court after the evidence has been heard. . The honorable member proposes, however, to do that. He proposes to go into a question that is awaiting decision by a Judge to-morrow. That is not only improper, but indecent.
– On the point of order I am perfectly aware that it is contrary to the practice of Parliament to debate the merits of any matters pending before a Court. That is the general rule; but when a Bill is introduced the immediate effect of which is to affect the decision of such matters it is not only allowable, but becomes the duty of honorable members to discuss them.
– The Bill invites us to discuss them.
– That is so. The Government can get rid of that invitation only by withdrawing the Bill until the matter has been decided.
– You are making a law unto yourselves whether the Standing Orders are with you or not.
– One of the clauses which it is proposed to recommit is clause 13, which says that every association which at the commencement of this Act is registered as an association shall be deemed to have been duly registered. I have referred to the Australian Workers Union by way of illustration, and I contend that this Bill is exactly the same, for the purpose of testing the measure of debate in this House, as if it had said “ the Australian Workers Union,” which is included in the words “every organization,” “shall be deemed to have been duly registered.” Is there any rule of practice which prevents us from bringing forward arguments why that provision should not pass?
– The case is pending.
– That is a very strong reason why this legislation should not be brought in.
– Discuss the general principles, but do not deal with a particular organization.
– We should not have introduced, by the Government or any private member, a Bill the full and fair discussion of which necessitates dealing with matters that are before the Court.
– The Attorney-General has raised in addition to a point of order a question of decency. He contends that it is not the practice to deal in Parliament with questions before the Courts, and which are still sub judice. But how can we discuss any of the features of this Bill, and particularly two or three of its outstanding features, without dealing with such questions, and who, sir, is responsible for the introduction of disorderly matter - if this be disorderly - but the Attorney-General himself? I moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill with the object of ventilating one of these important questions which the honorable member for Darling Downs has introduced.
– That was perfectly legitimate.
– The Attorney-General acknowledges that. Now the honorable gentleman objects to the “ tactics “ of the honorable member for Flinders in discussing certain features of an organization which has a case before the Court.
– Because the honorable member is discussing one of the points that have to be decided to-morrow.
– Then let us hold the Bill over until after to-morrow, so that we may discuss it.
– That is all nonsense.
– However, I wish to avoid discussing the merits of the Bill, and to confine myself closely to the point of order. How is it possible for us to discuss clause 13 without inquiring what associations are to be affected, whether or not they have cases before the Court? I am not particularly interested in blocking the operations of the Arbitration Court. It is true that I do not believe in the Court as it at present works; but, while the Court exists, we should recog nise it as an Australian institution, and let it perform its functions as well as possible. In my opinion, the time will come when the Court will disappear.
– Why suggest a postponement at this stage?
– Because the AttorneyGeneral suggests that we cannot properly discuss this question without reflecting on the functions of the Court, or rendering it difficult for the Judges to do their duty.
– The question may be discussed on the third reading to-morrow, when the honorable member may vote against the Bill, or do what he likes.
– There may be provisions in the Bill, apart from that now under discussion, which honorable members may desire to pass.
– By that time the Judge may have given his decision, and the honorable member can then say what he likes.
– Then the AttorneyGeneral is not serious in pressing the urgency of the Bill? He has not given us the assurance which would render its passage comparatively easy, namely, that it will not affect the case before the Court. With great respect, I submit that the AttorneyGeneral has made a mistake in raising the point of order. I notice that Mr. Speaker has resumed the chair, and I should like permission to lay the point before him, in order that he may understand what has gone before. The honorable member for Flinders was criticising the Bill in relation to an amendment moved by the honorable member for Darling Downs to recommit certain clauses. When the honorable member for Flinders proceeded to analyze the constitution of the Australian Workers Union as one of the organizations to be dealt with under clause 13 - an association the registration of which will be validated if the Bill pass - the Attorney-General objected that’ it is an organization with a case before the Court, and that, therefore, it is neither decent nor proper to discuss it.
– That waa because the honorable member mentioned certain names.
– It was because he mentioned the name of an organization, and proceeded to discuss its constitution in detail. The honorable member for Flinders and several others join issue with the Attorney-General on the question of -order; and that is what I am now dealing with. Perhaps it would be better if the honorable member for Flinders, in view of Mr. Speaker having returned to the -chair, were to repeat his arguments against the point of order.
– I was about to suggest that the honorable member for Flinders should proceed with his remarks on the clause, so that I might be able to judge.
– One of the clauses which it is proposed to recommit is clause 13, which, in effect, provides that every association which has been registered under the Act - no matter how faulty or how illegal that registration may have been, or how far the rules of the association may be contrary to every canon of the Arbitration Act, and no matter what wrongs it may have committed - will have its registration validated at once. I wish to deal with one of these associations - the Australian Workers Union - which I believe to be the most important. My desire was to point out that this clause will validate, not only the rules, but the whole registration of the association.
– The honorable member is now dealing with something that is before the Court, and I have to ask him not to do so.
– Then, Mr. Speaker, will you hear me on my point of order - the point that we were discussing when you re-entered the chamber?
– The honorable member must not follow the line of argument to which I have taken exception.
– I hope, Mr. Speaker, you will allow me an opportunity to point out why I should follow that line of argument on the Bill. The general rule is perfectly clear.
– If the honorable member wishes to dissent from my ruling, there is a proper course for him to adopt.
– Before you give your ruling, may I ask for the ordinary courtesy of being allowed to speak to the point of order which I placed before Mr. Deputy Speaker? I make that request as a matter affecting the privileges of honorable members of this House. Of course, we all admit fully the well-known rule laid down in May, that debates with regard to the merits of matters before the Courts ought not to be permitted. But where a Bill is introduced which directly affects the merits of a particular case before a Court–
– Is intended to do so.
– I do not say whether the Bill is so intended or not; I accept the statement of the AttorneyGeneral that there is no motive behind it.
– Therefore, the honorable member ought not to discuss it.
– But I cannot discuss the Bill without discussing that other matter. If the Attorney-General thinks that it is necessary to pass this clause at this moment, while the case is pending, he invites the House to discuss it. The AttorneyGeneral cannot bring in a Bill the effect of which - never mind about a motive - is to direct the Court what to do in a particular case, and say to the House, “ You are gagged from discussing the very effect of the Bill “ - from discussing, not the decision in the case, but the position of this and other associations.
– The honorable member must not discuss the particular case that is now before the Court.
– I do not propose to do so. I shall say nothing whatever about the case, but I do desire to say-
– I do not care what the honorable member says providing he does not bring in the particular case.
– I propose to deal with the history and constitution of one of the associations, the registration of which will be validated by this Bill. The clause, in words that are as plain as possible, says that the Australian Workers Union, and every such association, shall be deemed to have been duly registered ; and, therefore. I claim the right to deal with every association, if time and the rules of the House permit, that has been registered under the Act, and to show why the registration should not be validated. I begin with the Australian Workers Union.
– The clause also provides that the Pastoralists Association shall be deemed to have been duly registered.
– It is open to any honorable member to show why the Pastoralists Association should not be registered. Why should we come here and validate something which may be rotten to the core?
– Have we not the right to amend defects in the law ?
– If this case had not been before the Court, it would not affect the question. I suppose there are thirty or more associations involved, and, no matter what defect or irregularity there may have been in their registration, they are by this clause deemed to have been duly registered ; and I say that this particular association, the Australian Workers Union, is one which, in its registration, does not comply with the principles of the Act.
– The honorable member is now dealing with something beyond what he stated, and I ask him not to follow that course.
– I submit I am not dealing with anything beyond what I stated. I have as much right to deal with this association as I have with any other association affected by the clause, which, just as if it enumerated each of them in a schedule, says that all the registrations are valid. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule whether I am not entitled to deal with each of these associations, and to show reasons why each should not have its registration validated.
– The honorable member knows better than, perhaps, any other honorable member that I am not called upon to rule in hypothetical cases. The case the honorable member mentions is one before the Court, and I rule that he cannot discuss it. If the honorable member persists in discussing it, I shall have to take a certain course.
– Then all I can say is that the ruling which you have just given involves another, which I now ask you. in your place as Speaker, to give, namely, that this Bill is not properly before the House.
– The honorable member, as a point of order, asks me whether the Bil] is properly before the House, and I say that it is.
– If so, how is it possible that I cannot discuss it?
– Not the particular case of the Australian Workers Union.
– I am not discussing any particular case before the Court.
– I have given the rulings according to my judgment. If the honorable member thinks I am wrong, there is a proper course for him to pursue namely, to move that my ruling be disagreed to. It will then be for the House to decide whether I am right or wrong. I ask the honorable member to take that course, and not attempt to go behind my ruling.
– Then I am obliged to take that course. The matter is one of principle that cannot be overruled.
– What is the use of disagreeing to a ruling when there is such a majority on the Government side?
– Interjections are at all times disorderly; but when they distinctly reflect on the House they are especially so. I call on the honorable member to withdraw the interjection and to apologize to the House for having made it.
– I withdraw the interjection, and apologize to the House.
-I have received the following motion from the honorable member for Flinders : -
That the ruling of the Honorable the Speaker that a member of this House, in speaking on a motion to recommit clause 13 of a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1011, and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1914, is not in order in discussing the constitution and the registration of the Australian Workers Union, on the ground that a case relating to the constitution and registration of that association is pending before the Court, be disagreed with.
– I second the motion.
– The motion will be taken to-morrow.
– Being precluded by Mr. Speaker’s ruling from dealing with the registration and constitution of one of the associations, I propose to take a hypothetical case. The present law says that certain associations of employers and employes only are entitled to be registered in certain circumstances, and a clause in this Bill says that, no matter how such organizations may register, whether they have complied with the law or broken it ; whether they are under the Arbitration Act or apart from it, when they are registered under the Act their registration is valid.
– It does not say that the registration shall not be cancelled.
– If their registration is validated, the rules which are part of the registration, and must have been placed before the Registrar, are also validated. Will the AttorneyGeneral deny that the effect of the clause is to validate not only the registration, but also the rules?
– I do deny that.
– Then I say that the Attorney-General does not understand his own Bill. Clause 13 says - “ Every association which, at the commencement of this Act, is registered as an organization, shall be deemed to have been duly registered.” Looking at the Arbitration Act, we find that one of the conditions of registration, and part, of the registration, is the submission of the rules of the organization to the Registrar, who has to be satisfied that those rules comply with the Act. Now, when the honorable member subsequently comes down with a Bill, and says, “ No matter what those rules. may have complied with, or may not have complied with, whether they are legal or lawless, whether they are right or wrong, the registration shall be deemed to be valid,” he not only validates the formal act of registration, but he completely sets up rules which had no foundation in right.
– That might occur in certain cases.
– It occurs in every case where the objection to the registration is that the rules were wrong and unfair; that they allowed boycotting, and that they allowed the admission into the organization of persons who were not employes at all–
– But the Registrar may not register such an organization.
– But suppose he has registered it.
– Then the organization ought not to suffer.
– Suppose you have an organization that contains within its rules not only a moral right for persons who are not employes at all to join, but also an. invitation to carriers, hotelkeepers, hairdressers, and all sorts of people, to join, and, therefore, is doing wrong; suppose that organization has been registered, and wrongly registered, then my contention is that this clause not merely validates the formal act of registration by the Registrar, but validates those wrong and unlawful rules. I do not think the Attorney-General will dispute that.
– This does not validate the rules.
– In my humble opinion, it does validate them. I refer the Attorney-General to the suctions in the Arbitration Act which require, as part of the registration, that the rules shall be submitted to the Registrar and approved by him. Section 55 is the most important part of the Act ; it is, in fact, the very essence of the Act. It provides that any association of employers in or in connexion with any industry, who have, in the aggregate, employed on an average not less than 100 employes in that industry, or, any association of not less than 100 employes in or in connexion with any industry, may be registered. Those are the persons entitled to be registered, but the rules must be submitted to the Registrar, and Schedule B, which has been altered from time to time, contains conditions intended to secure that. These are homogeneous unions of employers and employes respectively, and if they had not been unions of that kind, the High Court would never have held that they were entitled to registration at all. It is not because they are industrial or political associations, but because they are associations of employes for the purpose of meeting the employers before the Court that they are permitted to be registered.
– Will the honorable gentleman look at section 57?
– Section 57 reads -
The Registrar shall issue to each organization registered under this Act a certificate of registration in the prescribed form, which certificate shall, until proof of cancellation be conclusive evidence of the registration of the organization therein mentioned, and that it has complied with the prescribed conditions to entitle it to be registered.
I emphasize the words “until proof of cancellation.”
– That is in order to see that the rules are not oppressive.
– That is conclusive evidence until you cancel the registration, and the Act says that you may cancel it. The High Court also says that.
– The certificate of the Registrar is conclusive evidence that the rules comply with Schedule b.
– Until the Court says that they do not comply.
– Clause 13 of the Bill does not affect cancellation or the right to repeal cancellation.
– It does.
– No, it does not.
– I think the Attorney-General ought to consult the Prime Minister again as to the law on the question. It seems to me that when you pass an Act of Parliament saying that every association which has been registered shall be deemed to have been validly registered every Court must obey that; even in pending cases as well as in future cases every decision of the Court must comply with that Act.
– Does it repeal the cancellation?
– It repeals the cancellation for any ground depending on registration. I desire to make it clear that in passing this clause we are saying to the Court, “ So far as any particular association which may have been registered under this Act is concerned, and so far as its rules, which were registered, are concerned, no matter how wrong they are, no matter how oppressive, tyrannous, and unjust they may be, no matter how they may restrict the rights of other persons to enter the organization, no matter how they may go against every rule of the Act and every principle of justice, your hands are tied; that registration and those rules are validated.” That is what the Bill is doing.
– That is not so. The Bill only validates the registration, and it is open for the Court to hear any objection.
– I do not wish to put my point again. I have always thought that it was a general rule in the interpretation of Acts that, where a provision validates a particular transaction, every condition to that transaction is also validated.
– It validates the registration only.
– Registration could not be validated if one of the conditions of the registration could not be validated. The action of validating the registration also validates the conditions.
– The invalidity of a registration might turn on something within the rules of the organization.
– Of course; but the validation would include the rules. Validating the registration validates the rules, no matter how rotten they may be.
– They are already validated under section 57.
– With all respect to the Attorney-General,’ I cannot accept him as an authority. I cannot say that it is conclusive evidence until the power of the Court to cancel a registration has been exercised, and that clause 13 will not affect the power of the Court to cancel upon any ground whatever. Mr. Speaker has ruled that I am not permitted to enter into the discussion of the Australian Workers Union and its history. I simply conclude what I rose to say by putting this: First of all, by bringing in a clause which directs the Court as to what course it must take in regard to a disputed issue in a pending case, the Government are pursuing a course which, so far as I know, has never been followed by this Parliament or by any British Parliament. We are not allowed to discuss the effect of this provision on that particular case; but, in any event, the Government are validating all kinds of defective rules, and adopting a new principle which, in the future, if followed, will be mischievous in the highest degree to the proceedings of this Parliament.
– I thought that the Attorney-General would have said something upon the point raised. I have no desire to add anything to what has been so well put by those who have spoken from this side of the Chamber; but I wish to ask the Attorney-General to endeavour to explain the effect of clause 13. When I was perusing the Bill I did not make a note of this clause; but if I was absolutely convinced that the provision hass a retrospective effect upon pending litigation, I would not say that it should find its way into any Bill.
– Does it do more than give to any union that has been registered the opportunity of having the real facts of a dispute reached by the Court?
– There “is sufficient doubt on the point to justify this claus* being sent back to Committee. One of the chief reasons why this step should be taken is hinted at by the AttorneyGeneral. He is relying on section 57 of the Act as indicating that this does not retrospectively and finally validate the registration of an organization, but that what is done is still subject to the power of the Court, which, in future, will be discretionary rather than compulsory. I confess that, on first looking at the provisions, I thought that this might be the effect, but the balance of my judgment now leans the other way. If the AttorneyGeneral means something that may not be accomplished by the Bill, it’ is incumbent on the Government to send this clause back to Committee. If the impression of the Attorney-General as to the effect of this legislation is correct, that is, that it gives the Court the discretion, which is now obligatory upon it, to order that a registration may be cancelled for the causes mentioned in section 60 of the Act, if the Attorney-General thinks that the purport of the Bill is that the Court will still have the power, notwithstanding clause 13, to cancel the registration of a union that is already registered - seeing that this view has been assailed from this side of the House, we ought to have the clause sent back -to Committee, so that we may see whether the Government have attained their object. There is very grave doubt as to what the Bill does. Section 60, sub-section b, says that, on an application for a cancellation of a registration, the Court shall cancel the registration if it finds that the organization has been registered erroneously, or by mistake. The Bill, by clause 12, renders this power discretionary for the future. But in respect of paragraph b of section 60 - erroneous registration - clause 33 may take the power away. If we arc passing clause 13 in order to say that all organizations registered so far are to be deemed to be duly registered, the Court will want to know what is meant by this provision, and may say that it is intended to validate erroneous registration under section 60, sub-section b. When we put a new provision into an Act, the Court must find some definite meaning for it which was not expressed by the original provisions of the measure. The AttorneyGeneral says that by this clause we are not doing more than is done by section 57.
– I did not say that.
– That section declares that when a certificate is given by the Registrar that registration has been effected, it shall be deemed evidence of registration of the organization, and of the fact that the association has complied with the prescribed conditions entitling it to be registered - in other words, that it has filed rules in accordance with schedule b which have to be registered. It seems to me we cannot go beyond that. The proper rules have been submitted, and the Registrar has accepted them as in accordance with those required to be submitted under schedule b; all conditions have been complied with, but, nevertheless, that is not the final step. An application may still be made under section 60 on the ground that there has been erroneous registration. Now clause 13 says, in effect, that, on an application for the cancellation of registration on the ground that there has been an erroneous registration, the Court is compelled to hold that the registration has been duly done.
– Then what does clause 13 mean? I confess that I have considerable doubt upon the point.
– You are probably right in regard to subsection b - that an organization has been registered erroneously or by mistake. Clause 13 is a sufficient answer in regard to sub-section b, but not in regard to sub-sections a, c, d, c, and /.
– They do not matter.
– They do matter.
– Take sub-section a. It means that if for any reasons the registration of an. organization ought to bc cancelled, the Court may order the cancellation. If the Attorney-General tells me that clause 13 is an answer to that subsection, he must admit that there is no power to get the registration cancelled under section’60. He is in a dilemma.
– I am in a dilemma if I allow you to put the case for me.
– The Attorney-General still contends that, notwithstanding clause 13, an application may still be made to the Court to cancel the registration of an existing organization.
– Upon sufficient cause being shown.
– The honorable member for Flinders says that it cannot be done, so here we have two opinions upon the point, and, as discussion is limited at present, let us get into Committee and thresh the whole matter out. If the At- tor ney -General is mistaken, he is doing something that is open to the greatest condemnation on the grounds of policy, seeing that he is giving complete validity to a registration which affects a case pending in the Court. Does he wish to go to that length ?
– No. Do you mean that the protection under section 60 might be pleaded ?
– Well, that is not so. That is not desired, nor does the Bill give that.
– The honorable member for Flinders says that the Bill does give it, and I think that the honorable member for Darling Downs has said the same thing. There is very grave doubt, at least as regards paragraph 6 of section 60, which deals with cancellation for erroneous or mistaken registration.
– How are you going to resolve it? By numbers?
– We should halt before putting it on the statute-book. Assume that the Attorney-General does not wish to go as far as the honorable member for Flinders said he is going bv the wording of the Bill, we arrive at the position that we shall be doing a thing that should not be done.
– If you mean that clause 13 is a complete defence for the case now proceeding, I say that such is not desired, and ought not to be done.
– It is open to doubt At first, the clause did not strike me as having the complete retrospective aspect that some lawyers outside the House think it has. The Attorney-General may be wrong. He may be going much further in restrospective legislation than he intends, according to his own contention. Can we risk the Court holding that the view put forward by the honorable member for Flinders is right, and that we have passed legislation which, from the point of view of policy, both sides of the House would condemn? We should get into Committee to consider what we are doing. It is a. serious matter. When Courts are giving a meaning to a new provision of an Act the intent of which mav seem to be covered by a previous and still existent, section of the measure, such as section 57 in this case, they must hold that it. is intended to do something more than the previous section has done. Therefore, they will hold that the new provision practically validates any erroneous registration there may have been under section 60.
– Section 57 validates the approval of the Registrar. Clause 13 does something quite different.
– According to the arguments put up by some members on this side of the House clause 13 does much more than is intended, and validates for all parties registrations affected. I could point out other considerations that raise serious doubts as to whether this provision will not be final against any application for the cancellation of the registration of existing organizations on one of the grounds mentioned in section 60 of the Act.
– Is the Attorney-General going to speak?
– I should like to hear you first.
– I’ should like to know if the Attorney-General can explain clause 3. He is quite prepared to allow the Bill to go through without any explanation. I am afraid he proposes to 7’esolve difficulties by numbers rather than reasons.
– No. I admit that an important point has been raised.
– I do not understand what is meant by clause 3. The clause proposes to amend the principal Act by inserting in paragraph b of section 19 the words “ or by an association registered for the time being as an organization.” What on earth is the meaning of that addition? Does it deal with an association that has no right to exist as such, but is temporarily registered for the purpose of taking the place of an organization ?
– Suppose that it turns out that in fact the organization had not been registered; suppose that the Registrar did not put his stamp on it or do something that the Act requires him to do ; in those circumstances the organization is not. properly registered, and is incapable of taking proceedings.
– Is that all that the clause is intended to do?
– That is all it pretends to do.
– This is a very extraordinary state of affairs.
– That is what the clause says.
– Is that all that the clause says or means?
– I am afraid that there is a great deal more in this that honorable members do not tell us. Has the Attorney-General known of a case where there has been trouble about the putting on of a stamp by the Registrar ?
– There was a case where a man put on a wrong date, and the organization had to be de-registered.
– What happened by the de-registration ?
– The organization was put to much loss. It applied for reimbursement of all expenses, and had it been a powerful organization it would he v© struck *
– If Commonwealth officials make mistakes of that kind, they ought not to cost the union a penny. The Commonwealth should pay the cost of its own blundering.
– Clearly the organization ought not to be the sufferer.
– The organization ought not to be the sufferer.
– That is what this provides.
– Is that all it provides?
– I think so.
– Is the honorable member sure?
– We live in an atmosphere of doubt - grave and reverend pundits tell us so many things - but I think so.
– The honorable member would do well to allow these clauses to be reconsidered in Committee. The Attorney-General is not certain about the Bill. He does not know what he can do with it. He has told us that he is trying to put a patch on a leaky, lumbering vessel until he can get it into harbor for repair, but he is not sure of the effect of what he is proposing.
– Nor is any one else.
– Had not. the honorable member better let the legal ability of the House assist him?
– I have had two or three days of their help, and where am I now?
– The AttorneyGeneral will not take notice of what members on this side say. He has the numbers behind him, and will go ahead in spite of all their criticism.
– Beware of gifts from the Greeks.
– My honorable friend does not desire help in these matters. He is more frank than his leaders, and if he had had his will the Bill would have been on the statute-book long ago. As there are all these doubts concerning the effect of the Bill, we ought to take it back into Committee for reconsideration.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.-45 p.m.
– I have been asked by a number of honorable members of the Opposition to explain the meaning and effect of clauses 3, i0, and 13, and to explain in particular the extent to which these clauses, or any of them, will impair the rights of parties in cases now pending, or will violate any fundamental principle of justice. I have been asked, also, to give the reasons that have actuated us in introducing them. Let me deal first of all with clause 3, which provides that -
Section nineteen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in paragraph !), after the word “ organization,” the words, “, or by an association registered for the time being as an organization.”
Section 19 of the Act defines the ambit of the Court’s powers so far as its cognisance of disputes is concerned. As amended by this clause, paragraph b will provide that the Court shall have cognisance of -
All industrial disputes which are submitted to the Court by an organization or by an association registered for the time being as an organization.
I have been asked what those words mean, and to what extent they will enlarge the powers of the Court.
– If it be an association registered as an organization, wherein does it differ from an organization?
– I shall try to explain what the amendment really means. We have, first of all, to remember that the Act rests upon the principle, now generally accepted wherever civilized industry has manifested itself, that there are combinations of employes and combinations of employers. It is disputes between these combinations with which the Act deals.
It recognises those combinations of employes usually called unions. In order that a union may come within the purview of this Act, it is necessary that it should comply with its requirements. The first of these is that it must register. The requirements of the Act relating to registration are set out principally in Schedule b, with which I shall deal more particularly when I come to the consideration of clause 13 of the Bill. The position, shortly put, is that no organization can have any benefit, nor can the Act operate in respect of any organization of persons, except they are registered as an organization, or are proclaimed as such. Under section 19, the Court’s jurisdiction is limited, so far as industrial disputes are concerned, to the classes that are set out in that section, and all that the amendment does is to say that disputes under paragraph b, which are submitted by plaint, shall not be outside the jurisdiction of the Court merely because some flaw or invalidity is subsequently found in the registration. This amendment is to give the Court cognisance of a dispute, notwithstanding that the registration of the organization concerned may subsequently bc found to be invalid, c.r/., has been made by mistake, as under paragraph 6 of section 60. It does no more than that. It does not in any way, so far as I can see, affect any pending case. The necessity for the amendment has arisen from the fact that plaints have been filed by organizations whose registrations have been subsequently cancelled, with the result that their plaints have had to be withdrawn from the file, although the deregistration has not been the outcome of any fault on their part. In such a case an organization loses its place on the list. It has to file a new plaint, and takes its place at the bottom of the list of cases to be heard. This amendment is to enable the organization in such cases to retain its place - to give the Court cognisance of the dispute in so far as the invalidity or the informality of the act of registration would withdraw it from the cognisance of the Court.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral say that there is any intention of trying to apply this provision to the case now going on before the Court?
– It cannot possibly apply to that case. It can apply only to an organization that has a plaint. In the case in question there is no plaint. The organization has an award. Clearly, whatever may be said of the other two clauses, this is not applicable to that case.
I come now to clauses 10 and 13. I shall deal, first of all, with clause 13, because the honorable and learned member for Flinders has, in particular, attacked it. I shall endeavour to explain what I conceive to be its meaning and its effect, both on pending cases and generally. Clause 13 cannot be looked at by itself. We must have regard to the whole Act, and in particular to sections 55, 57, and 60. Schedule b must also be looked at. Clause 13 of the Bill provides that - livery association which at the commencement of this Act is registered as an association shall be deemed to have been duly registered.
There is no ambiguity about the words, but I am asked to apply my mind to their meaning. It is asserted that this amendment of the principal Act is improperly introduced at this stage if it applies to a pending case. That is one criticism. The other is an objection to its application to any case. I shall deal with both. It is said, first of all, that this provision ought not to be introduced now, because it applies to a pending case. It is urged that, if in any case before the Court, an organization has not been duly registered, and application is made to the Court in respect of that defect, the parties seeking redress will be treated unjustly by this amendment. I have been invited to insert in this Bill a proviso that this clause shall not apply to pending cases. Obviously, then, the gravamen of the criticism is directed against what is thought to be the retroactive effect of clause 13 on pending cases. It is alleged that such retrospective effect would be improper, unjust, and most unusual. Let us see, first of all, what effect clause 13 will have. As I have already said, the Court will not hear individuals; it will hear only associations or organizations. It will hear an association when it applies to be registered ; it will hear an organization where it files a plaint or applies for some relief that the Court can give. Section 57 lays down the conditions with which an organization applying for registration must comply. It says that -
The Registrar shall issue to each organization registered under this Act a certificate of registration in the prescribed form, which certificate shall, until proof of cancellation, be conclusive evidence of the registration of the organization therein mentioned, and that it has complied with the prescribed conditions to entitle it to be registered.
The certificate of the Registrar is conclusive evidence upon two points - (1) that the registration itself has been effected, and (2) that the prescribed conditions have been complied with. The “ prescribed conditions “ are “those set out in Schedule b to the Act. I invite honorable members to look at that schedule. A perusal of it will dispel a number of illusions or delusions - I shall use whichever is the less offensive term - which have arisen in connexion with this matter. One of the conditions of Schedule b is that every organization, before it is registered, must make rules satisfactory to the Registrar, and setting out, amongst other things, the powers and duties of the Committee and officers, removal of members and officers, control of Committee by members either of the whole or in district meetings, the mode in which industrial agreements shall be made, and so forth. Those conditions must be complied with before the Registrar will issue his certificate. His certificate is now conclusive evidence so far as compliance with these requirements is concerned, and of the fact of registration itself.
I wish honorable members now to look at section 60. That section compels the Court to cancel the registration of any organization if it be shown to the Court that the organization has done, or failed to do, anything set forth in that section. The cancellation of registration has the effect of taking from an organization all the benefit of any award granted by the Court in respect of the industry with which it is connected. That is to say, if an award has given an organization improved conditions, and its registration is cancelled, then ipso facto the benefits under the award cease. Cancellation is the extreme penalty provided by this Act against an organization; it is, so to speak, the capital punishment of the industrial code. A Court, under section 60, as at present framed, has no discretion, but must cancel registration if it appears that for any of the reasons set out in the section it ought to be cancelled. If honorable members look at section 60, they will see that it sets out a number of reasons which compel the Court to order cancellation. Some of these reasons are good and weighty, while others are trivial, relating to forms and technicalities rather than to substance. Some of these disclose no real offence on the part of the organization; some, indeed, suggest, as is borne out by an examination of the cases, that the reason for cancellation may arise from the neglect, error, or act of the Registrar, or of the Court itself. For instance, if, under sub-section b, an organization has been registered erroneously the Court must order the registration to be cancelled - there is no option. As I before pointed out when addressing the House at an earlier stage, the Court in the Actors case was compelled to do what it called a stupid act of injustice in cancelling the registration.
– Will the passage of the new clause amount to an estoppel of rights under section 60 1
– No ! What I have stated is the present position. Under section 57, the certificate of the Registrar is conclusive evidence of two things - one that the organization has been registered, and the other that there has been compliance with the provisions of sub-sectionb ; but if, on an application by any party under section 60, the Court is satisfied that any one of the counts in that section has been made out, the registration is cancelled accordingly - there is no option. If clause 13 of the Bill would amount to an estoppel, then section 57 of the Act would act similarly. But it does not do so. The effect of clause 13 has now to be considered. In my opinion, it is very simple. This clause, first of all, does not impair or lessen in any way the powers of the Court under section 60; every one of the causes for which registration can now be cancelled will apply under the clause.
– Where it has been erroneously registered under sub-section b?
– Let me first elaborate my argument. The effect of clause 13 is not, in any way, to impair the powers of the Court under section 60; all it does is to amplify the position under section 57. Whereas, under section 57, the certificate of registration only amounts to conclusive evidence that the conditions in sub-section b have been complied with, under clause 13 other things necessary to effectively register the organization also will be deemed to have been done. Under section 57 the certificate of the Registrar is conclusive evidence of two things - of the fact of registration and of compliance with sub-section b. Clause 13 is not conclusive evidence, but is prima facie evidence, which may be rebutted in a proper case. In any event, the clause only goes to the point of saying that the act itself of registration has been effectual, and the clause aims at that and nothing else. Now I come to the effect of clause 13 on section 60 of the Act, and, in particular, on sub-section 6. It is contended oy the honorable member for Angas, and admitted by me, that if the clause affects any part of clause 60, it affects subsection 6, clearly the weakest of the clause. Upon a fair review of section 60, and in fair interpretation of its meaning, the contention that the effect of clause 13 is to limit the power of the Court in this respect is not upheld. Clause 13 merely says that the act of registration is effectual. Although an organization has been registered, it may have been registered erroneously; and it is the mere act and fact of registration that clause 13 validates, and not the consequences of erroneous registration.
– Under this clause could registration be questioned on the ground that persons who are not employes are included in the registration? Would that question be precluded under the clause ?
– No. The certificate of registration under section 57 does not cover the whole field. Both section 57 and clause 13 have relation only to the fact of registration, and would not, in any sense of the word, serve as a defence on any of the counts under section 60; because if clause 13 will apply, then section 57 will apply, and section 57 i3 a sufficient answer to an application under sub-section h.
– I have been trying to find out to what extent the honorable gentleman is right, and I tentatively put the point before the House. My objection, however, is as to the conclusion in regard to sub-section b. Why does the Attorney-General put the word “duly” in clause 13 ? Does not that carry us further than does section 57 ? Until
I saw that word, I was inclined to take the same view as the Attorney-General.
– I say that the power under clause 13 is exhausted by the mere validation of the act of registration, and it does not in any way act as a defence in an application for cancellation under section 60.
I now come to clause 10, which deals with the amendment of section 55 of the principal Act. This clause enables persons not employed in the industry to become members of an association. It has been said that this clause violates the basic principle of arbitration; and in support of this the Jumbunna case was quoted. It is true that in the Jumbunna case it was laid down as the opinion of the Court that a dispute within the meaning of the Act and Constitution could only arise between employer and employe, the dispute being one in respect to contractual relations between employer and employed. That, I admit, was the decision of the Court, but it iswrong to infer that there is any constitutional sanction for such a limitation of the powers of this Parliament. When we desire to know the meaning of the words “ arbitration and conciliation “ we have to consider what that meaning was in 1900, when the Constitution received the sanction of the British Parliament, What was the practice of trade unionsin England at that time? I am absolutely amazed at the contention raised here, apparently in good faith, that thisprovision is a violation of the basic principle of arbitration, and that persons not actively engaged in an industry should not be admitted as members of an organization. Do honorable members not know that the fight of trade unions in Great Britain, from the time that those unions toddled from their cradles up to the present, has been to escape the consequences of the influence and power exerted by the employers to crush the efforts of working men to combine ? Every one knows that the steps of infant organizations arefollowed persistently and relentlessly by many employers, and every man who takes office in such an organization iaeither dismissed or suffers in pocket or status. No fact is better established than that trade unions have for very many years had for officials men who were not actively engaged in the industry. As an instance, let me take the case of Thomas
Burt, who was a representative of the Northumbrian coal miners, and a member of the British Parliament long before 1900. Perhaps, however, I can settle this question in a far simpler way by leaving it to the honorable member for Parramatta to say whether it was not the practice in his time for the secretaries of organizations - perhaps of his own organization, but certainly generally - to be men who had to be withdrawn from active employment in the industry. In no other way can a great organization be carried on. There are two reasons, both of them sufficient, why this should be so. A man working in a mine for eight hours is in no condition when he comes to the surface again to address himself to the labour of his secretarial office. The working man following his usual avocation has neither sufficient time nor energy to manage the business of an organization with, perhaps, 5,000, or even 10,000 members. The right honorable member for Parramatta has been secretary of an organization, just as I have.
– But I never received any pay for the position.
– Neither did I. I never received a penny in my life from any organization of which I have been secretary ; but that has nothing to do with the argument. I say deliberately, and the honorable member knows it perfectly well, that there are two reasons, both of them sufficient, why this practice must necessarily be the woof and warp of the industrial fabric. Both those reasons arise out of the circumstances of the case. One is that a great organization demands the whole time and energy of an officer; the second is that, if we did not adopt the principle of having as secretary one who was not an employe in the industry, the organization would be in great danger of being beheaded every time an official act was committed. Mark you, the purpose of an organization’s existence is to demand something from the employers which they would not otherwise readily grant. It is the interests of the employers to penalize the officers of the workers’ organization, and they do it by marking them down and watching their opportunity of dismissing or disrating them. When the Constitution came into force, the principle had been well established, for half a century in Great Britain, that the officers of the organiza tions were not persons then actively engaged in the industry. I say, therefore, that if the Court of Arbitration stands by the letter of the bond, and says that no organization can be registered which includes any person not actively engaged in the industry, there is not one organization from Dan to Beersheba, .not one throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, that can register under the Act. To say, therefore, that the Court will, by its interpretation of the Constitution and this Act, deliberately frustrate the purpose for which the Court was established is monstrous. Such a contention is against the well-settled doctrines that underlie the interpretation of Statutes. The Court will not do it, because I say, deliberately, there can be no arbitration, and no room for the exercise of the Court’s powers, if it be held that no one shall become a member of -an organization unless he is actively engaged in the industry. If that be the law, then let us say good-bye to arbitration. The one essential thing for arbitration and the conduct of modern industrial organizations of workers is that they shall be free to engage as officers such persons as they please, men who will be absolutely free from the influence of the employers. So that, instead of clause 10 being opposed to the well-settled principles of arbitration, it is entirely compatible with them, and neither the Constitution nor the Act can in any way conflict with those principles.
Just a few words now regarding the criticism directed against the retrospective effect of these clauses. We were told by the honorable member for Darling Downs, and more particularly by the honorable member for Flinders, that we proposed to do a thing which is grossly improper. The honorable member for Flinders was so stirred up that he said this was no time to be mealy mouthed : that we had done a thing that ought to cover us with shame and ignominy. The honorable member knows perfectly well that the principle underlying the interpretation of Statutes and the extent to which legislation has a retrospective effect, is well settled. We are being led to believe that this Bill will do an injustice to parties in pending cases. It will do no injustice to any party in any pending case.
– Order ! I will ask the honorable member not to discuss any question now before the Court.
– I am not dealing with any particular case, I am balking about pending cases in general. Let me quote from Maxwell 011, the Interpretation of Statutes, 5th edition, page 348 -
Upon the presumption that the Legislature does not intend what is unjust rests the leaning against giving certain statutes a retrospective operation.
The keynote of that is that, where there is an injustice done to anybody, it is presumed that it was not intended by the Legislature that the law should have a retrospective effect. That is sound nrac.tice, and it is one which the English Courts have almost invariably followed. But the whole thing turns on the application of that principle, and particularly its application to what is known as procedure as opposed to substantive law. On page 366, Maxwell points out the distinction to be drawn between procedure and substantive law in this regard -
The presumption against a retrospective construction has no application to enactments’ which affect only the procedure and practice of the Courts, even where the alteration which the statute makes has been disadvantageous to one of the parties. Although to make a law for punishing that which, at the time when it was done, was not punishable, is contrary to sound principle: a law which merely alters the procedure may, with perfect propriety, be made applicable to past as well as future transactions; and no secondary meaning is to be sought for an enactment of_such a kind. No person has a vested right in any course of procedure. He has only the right of prosecution or defence in the manner prescribed for the time being, by or for the Court in which he sues; and if an Act of Parliament alters that mode of procedure, he has no other right than to proceed according to the altered mode. The remedy does not alter the contract or the tort; it takes away no vested right, for the defaulter can have no vested right in a state of the law which left the injured party without, or with only a defective, remedy. If the time for pleading were shortened, or new powers of amending were given, it would not be open to the parties to gainsay such a change; the only right thus interfered with being that of delaying or defeating justice; a right little worthy of respect.
In the case of Kemp v. Wright, Chancery Division, 1895, vol. 1, page 1271, an alteration of the bankruptcy law applied to a society in regard to which an order for dissolution had been given, and it was held that a subsequent amendment after the decision of the lower Court had been given enabled the Court above to upset that decision. A. L. Smith, Lord Justice, said -
Mr. Justice Kekewick arrived at his conclusion in this case by holding that a deed of dissolution was equivalent to a winding-up order of this Court. There is no authority to suggest that view; but be this as it may, the matter is not worth discussing, for the point under section 10 of the Building Societies Act of 1894 is conclusive. I read that section as enacting that after the 25th of August, 1894, no matter what any Court may have said about dissolution or winding-up - from and after that day, when any society is being dissolved or wound up, no advanced member shall be called upon to pay his debt otherwise than according to his contract.
Here an amending Statute took away a right existing before the Act. In the case of The King v. Chandra Dhrama page 335, King’s Bench Division, 1905, vol. 2-
The prisoner was convicted under s. 5, sub-s. (1) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1S85, of an offence committed on July 15, 1904. The prosecution was not commenced until December 27, more than three months, but less than six months, after the commission of the offence. On October 1, the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904 came into operation, by s. 27 of which the time for commencing a prosecution for an offence under s. 5, sub-s. (1) of the earlier Act was extended from three months to six months.
It was held that the legislation applied, and the prisoner was tried under the amended law, and was convicted. Then, in Commonwealth Law Reports, Vol. 14, 1912, in the King and the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth against the Associated Northern Collieries, it was held that evidence then before the Court, but not available under the law as it stood when the proceedings were instituted, would apply to that case, and it was so applied. That, briefly, is my answer to the criticism directed against the measure. The alterations of the law proposed are alterations in procedure : they do not take away any rights, they do not prevent the Court from doing justice: they do not limit the penalties of any party in any case now proceeding.
I see no reason why the Bill should be recommitted. An attempt has been made to show that these amendments have been introduced for the purpose of interfering with the course of justice, and that they have application to pending cases. All I have to say is that no attempt has been made to show, or if an attempt has been made it has failed, that these amendments are not in themselves desirable. No one has ventured to say for a moment that it is right that the discretion of the Court shall be taken away, so that the Court shall be compelled to do a stupid act of injustice, or that registration shall not be cancelled on good cause. No one has attempted to deal with the position that will be created if the point be sustained that no organization ought to contain any person who is nob actually employed in the industry. That position would be frankly a state of industrial chaos. We have heard, times out of number, reasons why any attempt to increase the ambit of the Arbitration Court should be opposed. We have heard that the Act should not extend to the rural industry, and that the Court should not have power to make a common rule ; but no man has yet dared to rise in this chamber and say that the Act should not apply to shearers. We have had every destructive argument that can be brought against the Bill bolstered up by the excuse that what was intended by the Convention was to apply arbitration to shearers and maritime organizations; yet now they propose to prevent these organizations coming under the Act! As for the maritime ‘ organizations, I may speak with freedom, and I say that an application lodged against them must succeed if section 55 bc not amended, because my own organization contains not twenty, or thirty, but literally thousands of persons who do not follow the occupation of the majority of the members of the organization; they are nomads; they are wharf labourers in the summer; they are elsewhere in the winter. Yet, if the contention of honorable and learned members can be sustained, all these men are improperly members of the organization. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs maintains that there is objection to lawyers becoming members of unions. I know of no objection to a lawyer becoming a member of a union, any more than to a wharf labourer being admitted as a member of the Bar. What we have to consider is the welfare of the public, and the maintenance of industrial peace ; and I invite honorable members to say how either is impaired or threatened by any of the amendments in the Bill. On the other hand, I ask them to tell me how either is to be maintained if the law be not amended. We have heard very much about rumour; let us hear a little about great principles, so far as they affect the community. Let us hear how the Court is to carry on, and how organizations are to register when they are denied the very means by which they live, and without which they could not exist for twenty-four hours. The Bill is necessary ; it impairs no right; it inflicts injustice upon no man. It is introduced for the purpose of amending obvious inconsistencies and insufficiencies of the law.
– Could you get over the difficulty by declaring that officers who are not employes are not to be bound by awards? You generally go too far in drafting, and kill the effects of success.
– But we must look at the matter broadly. There are members of organizations who are not engaged in the industries connected with those organizations. The Australian Workers Union has about 60,000 members, and perhaps 1 per cent, of those members are not following the industry; while I suppose that the Wharf Labourers Union has about 10 per cent., the wharf labourer’s work being irregular. The officers of an organization are as necessary as are staff officers to an army : the business could not be run without them. If it can be shown that any of these persons can use their powers to the detriment of the public, a position will be established that must be considered. That they happen to be not engaged in the industry is nothing, for the basie principle of industrial organization depends upon these officers being free from the influence of employers. I see no reason why the Bill should be recommitted.
– As I know nothing of any pending law-suit, I am quite unable, even if I were permitted, or had the desire, to discuss the merits of any such action. The desire from this side of the House has been to discuss the principle involved in certain clauses of the Bill, a principle which is of a grave and serious character. That retrospective legislation is intended by the Bill is admitted, and whether that legislation is to seriously affect any suits, or whether its effect in that respect will be of a more or less trifling character, is of little moment at the pre-sent time. The object of honorable mem- hers is not to assess the value of the legislation in that regard; their object is to discuss the serious principle involved, because, although possibly the effect may for the moment be only of a trifling character, once the principle of retrospective legislation is admitted, it may be of grave and serious moment in another case. I approach the matter from that stand-point. Clause 13 is, on the face of it, retrospective, and I strongly urge that the Attorney-General does not answer our contentions when he suggests that it will only bring about a trifling advantage to existing organizations which are irregularly registered. The words “ shall be deemed to have been duly registered “ have a clear and conclusive meaning. The Court must take for granted that everything required by the law in connexion with the registration has been actually done, therefore making the registration valid. The AttorneyGeneral unwittingly misled the House when he said that all that the clause means is that a union has been prima facie registered. If the AttorneyGeneral would insert words saying that an organization shall be held by the Court to have been ,, ……:- / facie registered” he would get rid of a large amount of the criticism that has been launched against clause 13, because it does not say that the Court shall simply regard an organization as having been “ prima facie registered “ ; on the contrary, it means that the association has absolutely and completely been validly registered. When retrospective legislation is attempted, it is usual and proper to expressly exempt litigation which has been honestly started under the existing law. When a man starts proceedings upon advice given under the existing law, he may go to large expense in preparing his case and presenting it to the Court. All that expense is involved under the existing law by a man who is engaged in endeavouring to enforce his rights as they exist under the law. His lawyers advise him, not as to prospective legislation, but as to the existing law. He goes to large expense in order to enforce his rights under the existing law, and if it should be held to be proper and usual for Parliament to introduce legislation altering those rights under the existing law, a very grave injustice would be done to him. Let me deal with the matter from a strictly parliamentary point of view. If it is possible for a Government to take advantage of its majority to pass retrospective legislation of this kind, the most serious abuses may occur. I do not suggest that anything of that nature is occurring now; but if, for example, a Liberal Administration were to attempt to validate the registration of an employers’ organization which was obviously defective, it would be guilty of a gross misuse of power, and I can fancy what my honorable friends opposite would have to say about the matter. Any Government so short-sighted as to take a course of that kind would make a grave mistake. A seat in Parliament might be more or less shaky because of some irregularity, but if the principle now contended for by the Government were recognised, it would be possible for the Administration of the day to introduce a Bill to validate the position of a supporter, thus doing an injustice to the opposing candidate and his party. These considerations are not to be ignored. The Attorney-General quoted from Maxwell On the Interpretation of Statutes, a recognised authority, but he could not find in that work any passage justifying interference with existing litigation. Parliament has the right to alter procedure at any time; but it must not inflict grave injustice by interfering with the vested interests of those who have honestly entered into litigation for the protection of their rights under the existing law. Maxwell does not suggest that there can be any justification for interference with pending law suits, or with vested rights created by them. On the contrary, he says that a law must be made specifically applicable to such rights if it is intended to affect them. This passage is to be found on page 360 -
In general, when the law is altered pending an action, the rights of the parties are decided according to the law as it existed when the action was begun, unless the new Statute shows a clear intention to vary such rights.
The Bill shows a clear intention “ to vary such rights.” It is admitted that its effect will be to validate the registration of an organization which is now invalid. The Attorney-General, in referring to section 57 of the principal Act, omitted to emphasize its vital feature. The section provides that the Registrar shall issue to each organization registered under the
Act a certificate of registration in the prescribed form, which certificate shall, until proof of cancellation, be conclusive evidence of the registration of the organization and of its compliance with the prescribed conditions entitling it to be registered. It is specifically provided that the certificate is to be evidence of registration only until proof of cancellation. Section 60, which provides for cancellation, is being deliberately amended. Under that section, as it stands, if it appears to the Court, on the application of any organization, or person interested, or of the Registrar, that, for any reasons, the registration of an organization ought to be cancelled, or that an organization has been registered erroneously,or by mistake, the registration may be cancelled. Clause 13 would be a complete answer to proceedings for cancellation under section 60(6) contemplated under section 57. The Bill, therefore, amends that provision. I believe there are cases in which organizations have been erroneously registered. An organization may be composed of persons who have no right to belong to it, and may be registered erroneously. Although at present such registration could be cancelled, yet from the moment of passing this Bill, cancellation is to be impossible. This will affect existing registrations. To suggest that the amendment is only supplemental to section 57 is to put a wrong construction upon it, because the registration under the principal Act is valid only until proof of cancellation, and the Bill prevents cancellation by providing that an organization which has been registered, although improperly registered, shall be deemed to be properly registered. An organization which attempts to assert rights given to it by the existing law should not be interfered with in its litigation ; its rights should not be affected by legislation of a retrospective character introduced in the midst of legal proceedings.
– Should we not amend defects in the law?
– Yes; but we should be careful not to affect existing or pending legislation. If we are careful in that regard no such injustice as I have referred to can accrue from the alteration of the law, because all who are not litigants will be on the same footing. I am arguing, not against any pro posal to simplify or to facilitate registration, but against retrospective legislation affecting persons engaged in litigation for the protection of their rights under the existing law.
– Has not the Judiciary asked for the amendments?
– I do not know; that may be so. Nevertheless, we should not affect existing litigation. If we do not recognise the rights of litigants, we shall do a grave injustice, and our action may have serious effects in the future. The Attorney-General tells us that what is meant by the Bill is that the registration is to be regarded only as prima facie evidence of due registration. I say, without hesitation, that it does not mean that. If honorable members read the Bill, they will see that it means that the registration shall be absolutely valid and incapable of being attacked under section 60 (6). The Bill, being capable of a far graver and more serious construction, the Attorney-General should pay heed to the representations that are being made regarding it, and remove any possible ambiguity. With regard to clause 10, section 55 of the principal Act is amended by it to permit the enrolment in organizations of persons who are not employers or employes in the industries with which those organizations are connected. It has been contended from this side of the House that that amendment completely violates the fundamental principles of our arbitration law. Under section 55 any of the following associations or persons may, on compliance with the prescribed conditions, be registered -
– Is not an organizer connected with an industry?
– The law is one for the settlement of industrial disputes, and contemplates organizations of employers and employes in our various industries. If publicans, hairdressers, and others not connected with an industry are allowed to be members of an organization, they may come to dominate that organization, and a gross injustice may thus be done to bona fide members of that industry. The Act is for the settlement of industrial disputes in an industry, and was not passed to affect persons outside the industries concerned. Therefore, clause 10 violates the fundamental principle of the Act and its spirit and intention. Good and substantial reasons have been given for the recommittal of the Bill for the reconsideration of all these clauses.
Question - That the Bill be now recommitted for the reconsideration of clauses 3, 10, and 13 - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– May I ask the Leader of the Opposition, as a matter of urgency, to allow the third reading of the Bill to be taken ? I think that on the last day of sitting we were promised the third reading to-night.
– We were promised by the Opposition that the Bill would be allowed to pass before the adjournment for dinner this evening.
– I know of no such promise.
– I move -
That this Bill he now read a second time.
This is a small measure, the necessity for which has arisen out of the war, and I do not think that it will call for much discussion. Those who were members of the first Parliament will recollect that the original Customs Bill was introduced by Mr. C. C. Kingston, then Minister of Trade and Customs, and was generally regarded as a model of what Customs legislation should be. Under section 112 of that Act it was provided that certain articles, namely, all arms, explosives, military and naval stores, the export of which was prohibited by proclamation, should be prohibited exports. In 1910, when I was dealing with the question of prohibited exports, I found it necessary to add to that section by providing that the Governor-General should have power by proclamation to prohibit the exportation of any goods -
It is upon that provision that we are taking action to-day. Under it we have prohibited the export of certain articles which it is considered necessary to keep within Australia, or the exportation of which it is thought, in the interests of the Empire, of which we form a part, should be prohibited, while in other cases “we have declared that exports shall be subject to the consent of the Minister. This Bill consists really of one clause, and is designed to widen the powers conferred by section 112 of the principal Act.It provides that -
In time of war the Governor-General may, by proclamation, prohibit the exportation of any goods.
This, I think, is a necessary provision to make. So far as I am aware, no exception has been taken in Parliament, and very little exception has been taken outside, to what has been done under section 112 of the principal Act.
– Are there any amendments to be submitted?
– The honorable member for Brisbane has given notice of an amendment which the Government do not propose to accept. I hope this Bill will be passed to-night. It is a purely nonparty measure, and the power for which it provides is one which the Executive ought to have in a time like the present.
– -I think that the Minister is quite right in proposing to take this power. It is one that is absolutely necessary. No one can find fault with the way in which section 112 has been administered, and the power conferred by this Bill is to be operative only in time of war.
– The goods to which a proclamation issued, under this Bill, related, would have to be named.
– Proclamations will be issued from time to time specifying in detail the particular goods the export of which is prohibited. It is inconceivable that the Executive of the day would exercise this power except in the common interests of Australia and the Empire as a whole.
– I have been waiting to hear from the Minister some reason for the introduction of this Bill. There appears to be none except the statement by him that this is a desirable provision to make.
– It gives greater power than is conferred by paragraph i of section 112 of the principal Act.
– Why is this greater power necessary?
– I am informed by the Law authorities that it is advisable to have it.
– I should have thought that in war time the Minister could do practically anything he pleased in this direction. I do not wish to limit him with respect to any power that he thinks necessary for the defence and wellbeing of the Empire; but I think it is a sound and salutary rule that when an Executive asks for further powers it should justify the granting of those powers. Surely the powers of the Minister are large enough under the Act as it stands. I thought that the Act made him a sort of administrative Czar, if I may use that word without being misunderstood.
– The Law authorities say this power is necessary; if it were not, I should not ask for it.
– Have the Government been hampered or hindered in any way? I do not object to give the Minister any power that is necessary for the proper discharge of his functions, but he ought to show some justification for such plenary and sweeping authority. I often think it is good for Australia that we have honest Ministers, because we are aggregating and centralizing their powers more and more every day: and I can conceive of nothing that so paves the way for a future bureaucracy than the Bills we are passing time after time. At the rate we are going on, there would scarcely be any powers left for independent exercise by this Parliament.
– This is only to apply during the war.
– That is quite true; and I hope it will prove to be so. I should like to see Bills of this description automatically to operate when war is over, making them emergency measures pure and simple. However, the Law officers have persuaded the Minister that the Bill is necessary; and I suppose there is nothing left but to pass it. I hope, however, that when Ministers ask for extraordinary powers of the kind they will at least show some necessity in actual fact. I shall offer no objection to the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 112 of the Customs Act 1901-1910 is amended -
– I think the Minister ought to consider the wording of this clause. It is provided that, in time of war, the Governor-General may issue a proclamation, but it is not set forth that the proclamation shall cease to operate at the termination of the war. However, it is merely a matter of drafting.
[9.191- The intention is that the Bill shall onerate only in time of war, as is the case with other “proclamations now in force. Those latter proclamations set forth that, in the opinion of the Governor-General, the exportation of certain commodities mentioned would be harmful to the Commonwealth.
– There is that power at any time.
– There is no doubt these proclamations could operate longer than the war; but the intention is that they shall cease as soon as the necessity is removed. There is certainly no desire to hamper trade by continuing them longer than is absolutely imperative. The prohibitions of exportation contemplated by the Bill are necessary, and it is considered by the Law authorities that there is not sufficient power to enforce them under the law as it stands. Honorable members may rest assured that, as soon as the war is over, the prohibitions will be removed. At present the exportation of wheat is prohibited, and every one will agree that that is absolutely necessary, even, perhaps, independently of the war. Then, for similar reasons, the export of flour is stopped, because it would be absurd to prohibit one without the other. The exportation of meat is absolutely prohibited to certain places, and to all places without the consent of the Minister. The exportation of sugar is prohibited altogether, except with the consent of the Minister, and only some very small shipments, in some cases under a hundredweight, are being allowed, some of them to the islands. The exportation of mares is stopped, because, otherwise, it might be difficult to obtain remounts for the troops. The exportation of coal to certain places is prohibited, because it is considered that it might fall into undesirable hands. Then again, we have stopped ‘the exportation of sheepskins, hides, graphite, and rubber.
– Are the prohibitions notified by Gazette notice?
– Yes. They are authorized by the Executive, and a Gazette notice follows immediately.
– Are the prohibitions reported to Parliament?
– There has been no report to Parliament; but the facts are widely known, and the people in the trades affected recognize the necessity for the step taken, and each proclamation must be laid on the table of the House within seven days of issue. The fact that so little friction has been caused shows that the powers, which, as has been said, place the Minister in a position of almost a bureaucrat, have not by any means been used harshly.
– It is very desirable that some such powers should be exercised by the Government in cases of emergency, considering that Parliament may not be sitting at the time when immediate action is necessary. During war time the Executive have the whole responsibility, and must, therefore, have ample powers. I do not know, however, that the Minister quite appreciates the objection raised by the honorable member for Angas, who suggests that the Bill should show on its face that a proclamation shall be operative only during the continuance of the war. The provision is that a proclamation may be issued during war time, but there is nothing to prevent it continuing after the war is over. This is a matter which the Minister might take into consideration.
– I shall consult the Law Department about it.
– Ordinary proclamations under the Act, if Parliament is in session, have to be laid upon the table of the House within seven days, or, if the House is not in session, within seven days after its meeting. I suggest that the proclamations contemplated by this Bill should also be laid on the tabic of the House.
.- I suggest that an amendment be made in the clause providing that all proclamations made under it shall be notified to the House in the same way as ordinary proclamations. This could be done by inserting the words “ and sub-section 1a “ after paragraph 6 in section 112 of the Act.
.- I move -
That after the word “ goods,” line 8, the following words he inserted: - “and suspend or remit Customs duty on raw materials required to maintain industries and prevent unemployment and on goods required as necessities of life.”
The grounds for this amendment are the same as those urged for the power to prohibit the exportation of certain goods during the time of war. In the early stages of the European conflict, particularly, we were faced in Australia with serious interruption to our industries, and consequent unemployment. For instance, the honorable member for Darling Downs, when Minister of Customs, had to deal with the question of the importation of cement, a very serious shortage of which was threatened. The main supplies had been previously obtained from Germany and Belgium ; but those supplies were suddenly stopped owing to the war, and unemployment was threatened in every direction because building operations had been brought to a stand-still. Cement supplies could be obtained from New Zealand; but, although the ex-Minister, and the present Minister of Trade and Customs, were requested to allow New Zealand cement to be imported on the same basis as British cement, both had to confess inability to do so, owing to the stiff conditions of the Customs Act. The Australian cement factories were quite unable to meet the demands made upon them, and all that was asked was that, temporarily, the duties on New Zealand cement should be suspended so as to allow employment to continue. The fact that the Minister had no power to act in connexion with this one item, threw hundreds of men out of employment; and to-day, building operations, if not entirely suspended, are largely curtailed and interrupted. The power I seek to give in this amendment is not unusual. In the early stages of the war, the Imperial Government decided to suspend certain duties, and other European countries, and the United State of America did likewise. In the Customs Act. the Minister is given a considerable amount of discretionary power to admit machine tools, machinery that cannot be produced in the Commonwealth, tools of trade for the use of artisans, models of invention, scientific instruments, theatrical costumes, trophies, &c. Australia is now faced with the possibility of a shortage of wheat for home consumption during the coming season, and I say that the Minister or the Government ought to have, and a courageous Government would take, power to suspend or remit duties where the necessities of life are concerned. In normal times the necessity to operate that power would not arise, but in these abnormal times we are faced with shortages in several articles that are urgently required to maintain our industries, as well as in certain foodstuffs of the people. Yet, no Minister has power to suspend or remit duties in order to allow our industries to be carried on, or the food supplies of the people to be maintained.
– Timber may be introduced as raw material for a house.
– The honorable member overlooks the qualification in my amendment, “ required to maintain industries and prevent unemployment.” The Minister would have to be satisfied that certain items were necessary in order to keep industries going and to prevent unemployment.
– If a Free Trader were in power, he might take the duties off everything.
– In time of war, there should be no limit to the power possessed by the Minister and the Government, especially with respect of those things which are necessary for the employment and food supply of the people. But, while the Minister may have unlimited power, his discretion is expected to operate. There is a world of difference between the possession of a power and the operation of it. Our experience during the last few months should be sufficient to convince honorable members of the necessity of some law which would allow the Minister or the Government to admit, under an arrangement of the Customs duties, either by suspension or remission, articles necessary to continue employment and secure the food supplies of the people. I notice that it is estimated that the wheat harvest will be 2,000,000 bushels short of Australia’s requirements for her own people.
– I have been told that, but I doubt if it is correct. I should think the shortage would be more.
-Under the existing law the Minister is powerless. We must have a special Act passed to amend any Customs duties.
– Quite right.
– It is quite right in normal times, but special circumstances demand special arrangements. We may have to import wheat before long, and why should we load the people with a Customs duty on food supplies which we are unable to produce in Australia?
– I am with you. Free Trade all the time.
– I am not a Free Trader. Honorable members are overlooking the qualifying words in the amendment. In normal times, when there is no state of war, my argument would fail, and the Bill would not operate.
– Do I understand from you that Protection fails in times of difficulty and stress?
– The question of Free Trade and Protection does not operate under this Bill.
– You had better take this matter to the Caucus.
– I am prepared to challenge it here; and, if honorable members who believe in this principle will see the necessity as it appears to me, we shall carry the amendment. However, if I cannot have it inserted here, I am willing to have it put elsewhere, so long as discretionary power is given to the Minister to, in special circumstances, provide that assistance to the people which is so necessary.
– No honorable member will doubt the sincerity of the honorable member for Brisbane in moving this amendment, but provisions like this lead to transgressions of every kind, and such a temptation ought not to be put in the way of any Minister, no matter whom. The amendment refers to the doing of certain things in time of war. What war - a little war or a big war? Wars are always taking place,- and they may be large or small. A small war in one place might only affect us in a minor degree, but the opportunity would be presented for interested parties to say that certain protected articles were affected, and that the Minister ought to take a certain course of action. The place to determine alterations of the Tariff is on the floor of the House, where everybody can be heard, and the evidence for and against determined. There will be anomalies under every law we pass, and this is not the way to amend them. I suggest to the honorable member that he should withdraw his amendment. In all probability, he will have an early opportunity of dealing with the matter when the Tariff is before the House.
– I should think that the moving appeal of the Prime Minister ought to have some effect upon the honorable member for Brisbane; but if I were in his place, I should certainly resent the condescension of the right honorable gentle- man, who has practically told the mover of the amendment that he does not know what he is about, although he is sincere. In fact, the Prime Minister says that, in regard to fiscal matters, the honorable member is a simpleton. I can see a great many difficulties raised by the honorable member’s amendment. One that is outstanding is the meaning of the words “ raw material.” The raw material of one industry is the finished product of another industry. For instance, it has been suggested that bananas should be free in order to assist pastrycooks and restaurants.
– There at once we see trouble in the “Amen” corner. The honorable member for Maranoa was always a good Free Trader t except in regard to bananas. Another honorable member might quote sugar as the raw material for confectionery.
– Or as a necessity of life.
– Sugar comes under two headings. It is the raw material for a great many industries, preserved milk, for instance. We debated very seriously what should be the countervailing duty on the raw material in that case, because of the quantity of sugar that has to be paid for. Iron is the raw material for all sorts of iron manufactures. Does the honorable member propose to let iron come in free ?
– Pig-iron is free.
– There is a duty of 12£ per cent, to 15 per cent, on steel rails, which are the raw material for railways. Are they to come in free ? Mr. Hoskins makes all sorts of angle-iron. Iron is the raw material for many industries. Timber is the raw material for the building of houses. We know that the building trade all over Australia is terribly depressed. Are we to allow timber to come in free for the purpose of stimulating house building and giving employment in the building trade, where unemployment is very keen at the present time ? I understand that tailors are not very busy. Are we to take the duty off woollen goods in order to stimulate the tailoring trade ? Are we to take the duty off flour in order to stimulate bread making?
What is raw material ? I do not know what the honorable member for Brisbane has in his mind. I wish he would tell us, because I am anxious to free the raw material of any industry, as far as it can possibly be freed, but the advice that the Prime Minister gave to the honorable member a little while ago, that he had better leave the matter until we can deal with the Tariff, was wise. We cannot take off or put on duties in regard to raw material without affecting many items in the Tariff. We can never tell when a product, the application of brains and the ingenuity of man, is the raw material or the finished product. As iron leaves Mr. Hoskins’ works, it is a finished product, but when Mr. Walker buys it to build his engines at Maryborough, it is his’ raw material. And so the whole thing goes on right through the ramifications of the industrial world. The plough is the raw material of the farmer. Would the honorable member free all ploughs? I cannot vote for an amendment such as this. I must know what it means.
.- Because this is one of the most dangerous amendments that I have ever had the pleasure of reading since I have been in this Parliament, and because of the freedom it allows to the Minister of Trade and Customs, I propose to help the honorable member for Brisbane in having it accepted. It would be one of the best provisions ever invented or circumvented and put in a Bill, because it would open the back door to some of the best trickery possible under any Customs Act.
– Is that the reason why you are supporting the amendment ?
– I support the honorable member for Brisbane, because, as long as we can get rid of the present Minister of Customs, and bring enough pressure to bear on a weak-kneed or weak-backed Minister, we can have duties removed when there is particular stress in war time, drought time, at night time, day time, or any other time.
– You have not read the Bill. It specifies “ in time of war.”
– The British Empire is always in a state of war.
– There is always industrial war.
– Yes; as the honorable member has said, we are always at war. If there is no war among the nations, we have industrial war.
– Then ask the Government what they mean by the words.
– I do not intend to ask the Government. I am telling the honorable member what his amendment means and why I am supporting it. The honorable member poses as a real red-hot Protectionist, and yet he brings in the very best Free Trade provision that could be put into any Tariff Bill or any Bill relating to Customs. We, as members of this Parliament, must guard more than anything else against allowing any one man to play tricks with the Excise or Customs Tariff. At present the Minister has no power to remit or increase duties.
– I read specific cases from the Customs Act where the provision would apply.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has shown numerous commodities that would be brought under the amendment, particularly sugar. No industry in Australia needs protecting more than the sugar industry. The effect of a provision must not be taken from what an honorable member means, but from what the provision says as interpreted by the High Court. According to our Justices of the High Court, Acts do not mean what we meant them to mean when we passed them; after they have been reviewed by the High Court they bear quite a different complexion. The honorable member would not like the idea of the duty being removed from sugar.
– How do you know !
– I think that the honorable member is honest enough not to wish to wreck any industry in Australia, but his amendment would wreck the whole of the Tariff. The honorable member for Parramatta has shown in a very clear way how rails could be brought in as the raw material for railways.
– You are making a “ Yes-No “ speech.
– I support the amendment because it will be such a good thing for the Tariff.
– Where is the honorable member for Capricornia when the sugar industry is being crushed ?
– It is not being crushed with a very heavy hammer. It will have a long way to go before it is crushed. If ever there was a drag-net clause this is one. Were the late C. C. Kingston still Minister of Trade and Customs he would give the proposal a short shrift. I am sure that the honorable member for Brisbane does not want to open the door to trickery, but that is the effect of his proposal.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the following words be added to the clause “ ‘ and (c) ‘ by inserting the words and sub-section 1a ‘ after the words ‘ paragraph (b)’.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report, by leave, adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Mr. SPENCE (Darling- Postmaster-
General) [10.5]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
As honorable members are aware, a considerable number of private telephone lines have been resumed by the Department, but many of them have not yet been paid for. The Act which was passed in 1911 to permit of their resumption provided that when an arrangement could not be come to between the Department and the owners of a line, the amount of compensation was to be settled by arbitration under the laws of the State in which the line was situated. That system has been found so unsatisfactory that we wish to alter it. A case was submitted to arbitration, Mr. Shand, K.C., acting as arbitrator, and a barrister appearing for each party. The arbitrator awarded the sum of £60, but he gave no reasons for his decision, so that there was no basis on which to build future settlements, and the costs which the Department had to pay amounted to about £300, or five times the amount of the award. Arbitration has therefore not proved a cheap method, and, as there is about £15,000 worth of property to be resumed, the Department feel justified in asking Parliament to sanction a more efficient method. The proposal is that when an agreement cannot be arrived at a Justice of the High Court shall decide the matter. By this method we shall obtain, in the reasons supporting a decision, a basis on which to found other settlements, and thus, perhaps, avoid litigation. At any rate, we shall have some statement of principle to guide us.
– They are worth very little, but having taken them over we must pay for them. We must, however, have some cheaper method of arriving at a settlement.
– The method of settlement provided in the Bill resembles the application of a steam hammer to crack a nut. The legislation of 1911, which it is now proposed to amend, was brought in by the party now in power, which provided for the settlement of disputes by arbitration, in accordance with the laws of the State in which each particular line happened to be situated. The method has not proved successful, it having cost £300, the Minister tells us, to obtain a settlement of a case in which only £60 was awarded. The Minister complains that no statement of principles was obtained from the arbitrator which would serve for guidance in other cases; but that was to be expected, because the laws of the States differ, and the arbitration provided for was to be in accordance with six different laws. Many persons are disposed to pass by Courts of justice which are presided over by men who are trained for the work of deciding questions at issue, and to employ arbitrators who are not so trained, and who often try to satisfy both parties by splitting the difference between the amount claimed and the amount offered, thus pleasing no one. By using the Courts we save arbitrators fees and obtain the services of skilled adjudicators - of men trained to seek and apply settled and definite principles. But why should the disputes which may arise in connexion with the purchase of private telephone lines be referred to the Justices of the High Court, whose time is already so fully occupied ? The Lands Acquisition Act lays down certain definite principles of valuation. No doubt it would be more difficult to do that in regard to the resumption of personalty all over Australia. Many of the private lines that are being purchased may be merely bush telephones. Certainly great latitude must be allowed. In many cases the disputes could be settled locally by a police magistrate or a County Court Judge.
– We are not asking that every case shall be settled by a reference to a Justice of the High Court.
– Most of these are country cases, are they not ?
– I do not think so.
– If the question of compensation is to he decided by a Justice of the High Court, it seems to me that claimants will have to ask themselves whether it is worth while fighting the Department. A claimant at Geraldton would have to take his witnesses to Perth, which is visited only twice a year by a Justice of the High Court, and would incur great expense in securing the settlement of his case, which might be readily dealt with by a County Court Judge or resident magistrate sitting in the district concerned. J do not think that the Minister will get any satisfaction from this measure. Where the amount involved is comparatively small there should be power to have the question settled by reference to a police magistrate or County Court Judge. That would be a more expeditious and satisfactory means of settlement for both parties than will be possible under the Bill as it stands. We have no guarantee that in any one case any clear lines can be laid down by the High Court which will be applicable to every other case.
– Why not leave the settlement of these questions to a justice of the peace?
– Or a member of Parliament.
– I have every admiration and respect for the commission of the peace, but I should prefer to have any case with which I was connected definitely decided by a trained mind, accustomed to sift evidence. At the same time I recognise that we are deeply indebted to the justices of the peace throughout Australia for the vast amount of honorary work they do, and I believe that the administration of justice could not be carried on satisfactorily without them. The Land Tax Assessment Act originally provided for a reference to Justices of the High Court, but it was found necessary to amend it so as to provide for certain cases being dealt with by County Court Judges. I think that the Postmaster-General will find it advisable to adopt a similar course in this instance.
– I cannot conceive of a clumsier piece of machinery being set up for a purpose of this kind than that for which this Bill provides. I am amazed to find the Postmaster-General unable to look at this matter from the point of view of the man outside. If I had a telephone I would give it up without any compensation rather than submit myself to the possibilities under this Bill. Costs and compensations are at the discretion of the Justices, and a Justice may, if he thinks fit, submit a case in writing for the opinion of the High Court. Where these proceedings are to end I do not know.
– Why not provide for a. reference to the Privy Council?
– If a matter be of sufficient importance to warrant its going to the Full Court, it is of sufficient importance to send on to the Privy Council. This Bill, therefore, involves such a possibility as the honorable member suggests. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral, in view of all his experience in the settlement of disputes, will make some other proposal. Whatever may be said of arbitration, the matter dealt with by this Bill is in its very essence one for compromise and mutual arrangement. I marvel at my honorable friend’s readiness to rush into litigation with such facility as this Bill suggests. If he desires these questions to be settled, he had better keep away from the High Court, and confine himself to some simpler tribunal, which there ought to be no difficulty in setting up, to deal with these cases. I should prefer to see lawyers excluded from all matters of this kind. A simple arbitration, without the assistance of any one requiring fees, should be all that is necessary. If the Postmaster-Generalwill not agree to that, then I hope he will adopt the suggestion that a police magistrate be allowed to settle any question of compensation.
– The right honorable member will wreck his party if he excludes the lawyers in this way.
– In these timesthere are no parties, and there ought not to be any necessity to employ lawyers in cases of this kind. I suggest to the PostmasterGeneral that he withdraw the Bill, and re-draft it, making the procedure under it simpler and less costly.
– Does not the right honorable member think that the effect of these proposed proceedings will be that a claimant will go to the ground?
– He will probably give in.
– Then the Bill will accomplish its purpose. It will settle the whole problem.
– Is that what my honorable friend is after? Is this a little of his “ moral suasion “ ? I hope that he will take the suggestion I have offered in all good faith. I wish to see this matter settled. It is a long-standing one, but the honorable gentleman will create more trouble than he will cure by passing the Bill in its present form.
– I hope that the Postmaster-General will give further consideration to this measure. To my mind it should be entitled “A Bill to enable the Department to take over telephones at the Department’s own valuation.” Any person whose telephone service the Department may desire to take over will have to accept the valuation of the departmental officers, unless he is prepared to go to the expense of an appeal to the High Court. Claimants might reside hundreds of miles from the places at which the Court sits, and their going there would involve very great cost. It should be an easy matter for the Minister to submit a fairer and more reasonable proposal than is this Bill for the determination of these questions of compensation.
– Honorable members, in their criticism of this Bill, have overlooked a number of facts. It is not anticipated that every claimant will be required to take his case into Court. As the law stands at present, however, if people find that they can obtain from an arbitrator, without incurring any cost, considerably more than their service is worth, then they all desire to go to arbitration. What we wish is to obtain a test case, the decision of which will serve as a guide.
– How can there be any test case in these matters?
– There is no such dissimilarity in these cases as the right honorable member suggests. We are confident that the decision given by a Justice of the High Court in one of these cases would give us a basis upon which all other cases could be determined.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title arid citation).
.- This Bill will have to be entirely recast before it can be permitted to go through. It is a Bill, setting up the costliest and most dilatory procedure, for the purpose of dealing with small local matters. It will by no means get the Government out of their trouble, but will, on the other hand, provoke more litigation than it will prevent. It is absurd to drag such cases to the High Court, and to suggest that a Judge should himself state a case for that Court.
– It will prove cheaper than arbitration.
– I have heard endless complaints about the cost to trade unions of getting before the High Court, and now I am told that the Court is a cheap place to resort to. It is true that the Court is resorted to only in case of disagreement; but the departmental method will be to send a notification of what they are prepared to give, and to tell the other side that, if they do not approve of it, they must go to the High Court.
– Up to now the other side have had it all their own way; but this will make them “ stand up.” They have been the winners; but under this Bill we shall be the winners, because they will come to terms.
– Then, after all, the desire is not to satisfy the other side, but to coerce and compel them to come to the High Court. Is it that the other side have been doing too well?
– They have had it all their own way.
– Do I understand that the Government have been giving them what is not fair?
– No; but the arbitrator has, and we have paid all the costs, while the other side have run no risks.
– Then the arbitrator must have been incompetent, and unfit for his position. Evidently the Postmaster-General thinks that the arbitrator has been too fair to the other side.
– No; but the costs were always against us.
– Of course, one admits that the public have no rights in such matters.
– Does the honorable member think that the telephone lines in question are of- any value at all?
– If the telephones are of no value, why all this elaborate machinery? The whole proposal is absurd. The Postmaster-General “lets the cat out of the bag” when he says that the other side have been doing too well, and that he will force them to the other process before the High Court unless they take what is offered. That is not arbitration, but pure unadulterated coercion, because he knows they will not go to the High Court, on account of the cost. This is the condition of affairs that arises when a “boss” with “boss” instincts has control of the Department; and no doubt the High Court would be followed by the Full Court, and, possibly by the Privy Council. I am surprised to see a Bill like this before the Chamber, and, at any rate, this is not the time of night to commence the work of amending it.
– The speech of the Leader of the Opposition should not, I think, go without reply. There is no intention on the part of the Minister or the Government to embarrass or interfere with the rights of those who have telephones to be acquired by the Government; but there is abundant experience of the difficulty of settling what is an equitable compensation, and arbitration has been discovered to be the most expensive of all means. The Government always have to pay, and there is no evidence that an appeal to the High Court would be expensive to either party. In any case, there need be no appeal to a Judge unless there is a dispute.
– Why not provide for an appeal to a magistrate in certain cases?
– Because that would settle nothing, whereas possibly one or two cases before a Judge would settle the whole or a greater part of the claims. This is the advice of those who know something about such matters, and who think that a Judge would lay down principles which would provide a ground for settlement.
– He could not possibly do that.
– Those who know something of the matter say that that is just what a Judge could do.
– Who are they?
– The lawyers who drafted this proposal.
– What do they, any more than the layman, know about telephones at a house?
– It is a matter of laying down a principle of payment according to value; and no one will allege that, in dealing with people who have property to be taken over, the Government are in any way harsh. It would be wrong to let the impression go abroad that this is a measure intended to coerce or injure people in regard to rights that we all recognise.
.- I hope, the Government ihave all the information that can be gathered regarding this matter. Two or three years ago important questions arose in England in connexion with the purchase of telephones, and there was one arbitration which lasted about two years, and which resulted in an award of about £21,000 on a claim for £23,000, while the costs were very severe. There, I think, an Act of Parliament distinctly laid down grounds which have to guide arbitrators in the exercise of their discretion; but, in the present instance, it is proposed to ask a Judge to frame the law, and lay down a policy of compensation. I grant it is a great advantage to have rules to guide an arbitrator; but still a High Court Judge may express a wish that Parliament had given some idea as to what its intentions were. This was done in the case of the Lands Acquisition Act, which prescribed three categories. These, by the way, are not adequate, and great hardship is done, because people do not know whether they can claim compensation under the terms of the Act, and dare not go to Court in case they are crushed by the costs and loss of time, possibly of interest. I do not accuse the Department of any wrong: but, without guidance as to the basis of claim, a man going to Court may be mulct in heavy costs. I suggest that we find out what principles have been adopted in much bigger cases in the United Kingdom, and, having laid down in the Bill a basis of valuation, we might, in cases involving £500 or under, debute the task of finding out what is fair compensation to a County Court, a District Court, of, it might be, a magistrates’ Court.
.- It seems to me that it would be a very simple matter to appoint two arbitrators, who, in turn, could appoint an umpire, and to provide that the decision of that umpire shall be final. With such a plan, we would be more likely to get a business judgment.
Mr.Fisher.- The costs might be £60 in a case involving £14.
– In a case before the High Court it might cost £100 to settle a case involving £5 or £10.
Mr.Fisher. - But that case would settle the whole of the claims.
– It seems to me like using steam-hammer to crack a nut. The. position reminds me of the constable who, when asked if he had had much trouble in bringing a drunken man to Court, said, “No, your worship; I brought him along voluntarily.” The proposal is one to force people against their will to acoept what the Department offers.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The honorable member for Henty asked me earlier in the sitting if I had any information as to whether Mr. Schuler was naturalized. I have been able to discover that Mr. Schuler arrived in Australia at the age of five years, and has not left the country since. He was naturalized about thirty years ago. For thirty-five years he has been connected with the Age newspaper, during fifteen years of which he has occupied the editorial chair.
– Is he not married to an Australian native ?
– I do not know, but all his associations and interests are Australian.
– Where was he naturalized - in Victoria!
– In Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 November 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141125_reps_6_75/>.