6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In yesterday’s Age was published a letter addressed to the editor on the subject of the Aspirin trade mark, of which I propose to read a paragraph to correct a misapprehensionwhich might otherwise be created regarding myself. The writer says -
While Mr. Kelly is devotingso much attention to Mr. Hughes and his connexion with Mr. Blau, it may not be out of place to inquire who is behind Mr. Kelly relative to the Aspirin question? Mr. Kelly stated in the House on Monday that - “ Aspirin could be manufactured in England.” Will Mr. Kelly produce his authority for this statement, and enlighten the public as to the name of the person, firm, or corporation who has discovered the process, and whose product answers all the tests of the Bayer genuine German Aspirin ? I do not refer to the impure drug with which the English market has been flooded, and with which an attempt is being made to exploit the Australian public, but pure Aspirin which will conform to the test prescribed by the recognised authority.
Nobody is behind me in this matter; I have merely stated a fact that is well known to all doctors. In the Digest of the New and More Important Features of the British Pharmacopoeia 1914, the British equivalent is given of the trade name of various German proprietary drugs, the synonym for the German production “ Aspirin “ being acidum acetylsalicylicum. This compound is produced under the following trade names : - Aspirin, acetosal, acetysal, salacctin, saletin, and xaxa, and it is also known as empirin. All these are names for the one synthetic chemical. The letter to which I have referred, asking why I have stated this simple fact, is evidence of either the frantic desire of Germans to bolster up “goodwill “ in this trade, or the wish of a local producer to exploit the market.
– It is reported that the Indian Government has prohibited the export; except to Great Britain, of hessian and jute goods. As this will seriously affect many Australian industries, will the Minister of Trade and Customs cause representations to be made to the Indian Government, with a view to securing permission for the exportation of these goods to Australia as well as to Great Britain ?
– I have seen in the newspapers the statement that the Indian Government has prohibited the export of hessian and jute goods to other places than the United Kingdom. On making representations, we have had similar embargoes lifted, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, and I shall certainly ask that the prohibition referred to be removed.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet in a position to inform the House whether he will restore to those in charge of allowance post-offices the allowance which has recently been reduced, particularly in the specific instances for which he asked, and which I have brought under his notice?
– Alterations in the rate of allowance have been stopped until I have an opportunity to review the matter. I am procuring particulars as to what has been done in each case, because some allowances have been raised. Any readjustment must be considered as a whole.
– I have here a letter written by my brother, from Anzac Bay, Gallipoli. He states that all the information they receive as to the doings of the outer world are contained in a small newspaper called the Peninsular Press, a copy of which I hold in my hand, and that the mailservice is extremely bad. The letter was written on the 21st July last. I should like to know if, after months of complaining, anything has been done in Egypt to rectify the mismanagement there ?
– The question should be directed to the Minister for the Navy; my Department has no control of what is done in Egypt. In reply to a question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Corangamite, I maystate that I have been able to arrange that, with regard to newspapers addressed to soldiers at the front, more than one may be enclosed in a wrapper, but a penny postage stamp must be affixed for each newspaper sent, even though the weight of the parcel may be less than 16 ounces.
– I understood that the Postmaster-General had sent officers to Egypt to deal with the mails there. The present system is extremely bad. I ask the Minister for the Navy whether, after so many months have passed, any definite arrangements have been made by his Department to improve matters?
– The Defence Department is doing all that it can do from this end. Everything at the front is under the control of the Imperial authorities, and wo here are not responsible for many things that are happening there. We have practically no control.
– The Commonwealth Defence Department has sole contra] over the Base.
– It has been repeatedly stated in this House that everything that can be done is being done in this matter. I can say no more.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed that an organization, initiated by University professional men, is being formed simultaneously in each capital city in the Commonwealth to advocate compulsory national service, or conscription, in Australia ? As such a movement is disturbing to the public mind, and foreign to the policy of the country, will he take steps to prohibit those connected with the movement from proceeding with their nefarious design?
– Are they willing to give up their own property ?
– They would be the last to go to the front.
– Would not conscription compel all alike to go ?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but I do not think we should interfere with any organization not in contravention of the laws of the land. Every person in the community is free to say what he pleases, and to advocate what he may think right, so long as he does not offend against any law.
– I have received the following telegram: -
W.A. officers in our half, 32nd battalion, being supplanted by officers from east, three out of twelve already superseded. Look upon this as great insult to our officers.
I ask the Minister if he will ascertain what reasons there are, if any, for superseding Western Australian officers by officers from the eastern States?
– I shall have the question brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– By leave of the House, I desire to read the following statement that I have received from the Prime Minister: -
As I had not an opportunity to take part in the debate on the question of establishing the proposed new small arms factory at Canberra, please state in Parliament that I think it is almost a duty cast upon the representatives of the people of the Commonwealth to declare in favour of it being put there. The position of the Government in the matter is to leave undisturbed the present factory at Lithgow during the war, and afterwards, unless Parliament directs otherwise -
– I rise to order. Is not the Attorney-General seeking too much of a privilege in endeavouring to state an argument of the Prime Minister per medium of leave to’ make a statement? I submit that he is committing an abuse of the leave granted by the House for quite another purpose.
– I think it would be much better if this statement by the Prime Minister were read when the matter to which it relates is again before the House. But I should like to point out again that the House is getting into such a loose manner of doing business that it is almost impossible for me or any other Speaker to conduct the proceedings of the Chamber in a proper way. By leave this, that, and the other thing is done, and the result is thatthe Standing Orders are brushed aside in all sorts of ways. The Attorney-General asked for leave to make a statement, and that leave was granted. I did not know the nature of the statement, but as soon as the AttorneyGeneral commenced to read it, exception was taken. If the House were to conduct its business in accordance with the Standing
Orders, difficulties of this kind could not arise. I ask honorable members to consider if it is not possible to carry on the business in a regular way. The statement which the Attorney-General wishes to read is practically an argument in favour of a motion appearing on the notice-paper, and I think the honorable member can put forward the Prime Minister’s views when that motion is before the House.
– In view of the fact that the sentiments expressed in the letter read by the Attorney-General conflict with what has been conveyed to me as to the intentions of the Prime Minister, I wish to ask the honorable gentleman what action the Government propose to take with regard to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow ?
– The intention of the Government is to allow the Small Arms Factory to remain at Lithgow during the war, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise decides, but to proceed with the building at Canberra.
– I understood the Attorney-General to say, in reply to the honorable member for Macquarie, that the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow was to remain until the conclusion of the war, and thereafter as Parliament may decide. Will he state what are the intentions of the Government in the meantime with regard to the building of a new Small Arms Factory at Canberra?
– I have said that we propose in the meantime to proceed with the building at Canberra.
– In view of the fact that a motion relative to the establishment of a Small Arms Factory at Canberra has been on and off the notice-paper, I ask the Attorney-General whether it is the intention of the Government to obtain the consent of the House in accordance with the Public Works Act before they proceed with the erection of the proposed Factory?
– Order ! I point out to the honorable member that there is a motion on the notice-paper, No. 6, dealing with the matter.
– The motion has been on the paper and off the paper. I do not know what the Government intend to do, and we cannot take the motion as any indication.
– It is on the noticepaper.
– As scaffolding has been erected in the Queen’s Hall in connexion with the renovation of that portion of the building, I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it will not be possible to at the same time further ventilate this chamber by making openings’ into the Queen’s Hall.
– As this building is not the property of the Commonwealth we cannot take upon ourselves to alter in any way its structure or architectural features, except by consent of the State authorities. I dare say the suggestion could be brought under the notice of the State authorities, but as to whether the means suggested by the honorable member for South Sydney would be effective, it is difficult to say. For. years endeavours have been made by both the State and Federal authorities to improve the ventilation of this building.
– Why not open the windows?
– If there is the least draught some honorable members com- plain to me. Other honorable members ask whether it would not be wise to keep the windows open, and it is difficult to please all. If the ventilation is too free members complain, and if it is restricted they still complain.
– Has not correspondence passed between you, Mr. Speaker, and myself in regard to the possibility of improving the ventilation of this chamber without interfering with the architectural features of the building ?
– I, and I think the President also, received a letter from the honorable member for East Sydney suggesting the possibility of some alteration, but it is difficult for me to decide a matter of this kind. All the experts available in Victoria have dealt with the question of ventilation. As the building does not belong to the Commonwealth, any alteration must be made through the State authorities, and the State authorities say they have tried everything possible to improve the ventilation.
– In view of the alleged impracticability of ventilating this chamber, I desire to ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you, with the President of the Senate, will take into consideration the advisableness of erecting a large marquee in the Federal Territory, so that when we resume we may meet therein.
– It is not within my power to take the action suggested by the honorable member. It is a matter of policy, which can be decided only by the Government; but if the suggestion were adopted I should be very pleased.
– Is the Minister for the Navy in a position to inform the House whether canteen facilities have been provided for the Australian troops at Gallipoli ?
– In compliance with the promise I made to the honorable member yesterday, I have been in communication with the Minister of Defence, and his answer is : -
At present soldiers on active service are operating under conditions similar to those appertaining in connexion with the British troops, with whom they are associated. Information as to whether canteens have been established at the front, is not available, but the honorable member may prest assured that special attention is being paid to all the’ requirements of our men in the firing line in the nature of food, clothing, and comfort.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that the original information I gave him was that all the forces at Gallipoli, save those from Australia, had canteens. Will the honorable gentleman make immediate inquiries as to whether that condition of affairs still exists, and, il so, instruct the Australian military authorities to establish without delay canteens for our troops at Gallipoli ?
– Dry canteens?
– I shall consult with the Minister of Defence regarding the matter.
– In view of the many deaths and cases of sickness that have occurred at the various camps, will the Minister for the Navy consider the advisableness of relaxing the system of compulsory vaccination in respect of recruits entering the camps?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question before, the Minister of Defence, as the matter is one for him to determine.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral in possession of any information from the Prime Minister as to the result of his communications with the State authorities and the executives of the various war funds to which the public contribute ? If so, what action do the State Governments intend to take in connexion with the administration of such funds ?
– The power of the Commonwealth in this matter is somewhat doubtful, but I think it will be generally accepted as most desirable that there should be some control and supervision over the various war funds. To what extent that supervision should go I am not in a position to say definitely, but the Prime Minister has already given considerable attention to the matter, and I understand that he proposes to approach the various State Governments on the subject. The Premiers will meet in conference either this we’ek or next week, and I shall see that the matter is brought forward in order that some common action may be adopted.
– In reference to the matter raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I desire to ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, before communicating with the States, he will ascertain what communications are passing between the War Committee and the State Councils which are being instituted in connexion with the War Committee’s work as to securing the co-operation of the trustees of these funds in the States, so that some part of them may be applied to carrying out its recommendations as regards disabled soldiers.
– I shall certainly do so. I thought that I made it clear that it was not the intention of the Government to proceed except with the co-operation of the States, and that that could best be secured by approaching the State Premiers. I shall be very glad if the War Committee can supply the Government with its suggestions, so that we may have them before us when we approach the Premiers.
– In reference to the letter which I handed to the Postmaster-General from the St. Peter’s
Council in regard to the exorbitant charges for removing telegraph poles to a new alignment, I ask the honorable gentleman whether he .has investigated the charges for removing these poles with a view to ascertaining whether the excessive charges to the municipalities cannot be modified in some way ?
– I have made inquiries and am obtaining details for submission to the departmental experts at head-quarters in order that they may determine whether the charges are unreasonable. The investigation is almost complete.
– Is the Minister for the Navy in a position to reply to the question that I put to him yesterday regarding the alleged appointment of Colonel Kirkland as Commandant of the Liverpool Camp?
– Yes. The answer is that Colonel G. K. Kirkland has been appointed Camp Commandant, Second Military District, vice Lieutenant-Cornel Humphries, D.S.O., transferred to Victoria. He took up his appointment on 1st June, 1915.
– The Government will have a revolt up there as the result of this military bully’s methods.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs yet in a position to state definitely what conditions are to be laid down in respect of the competition for designs for the parliamentary buildings at Canberra? It was proposed that the competition should be confined to architects in the British Empire, and I should like to know whether finality has yet been arrived at?
– I am not in a position to make a statement this morning, but as soon as we adjourn I shall have an opportunity to look into the whole matter, and to make a recommendation to the Cabinet.
Medical Expenses of Sick Men : Recruits at Lismore : Delay in Payment of Troops.
– Where it can be proved that men in the various camps. have contracted sicknesses, and have been sent away on sick leave, and compelled to secure the services of doctors in their own homes, will the Defence authorities consider the reasonableness of paying the expenses incurred by those men ?
– The question seems to me to be a reasonable one, but I shall bring it under the notice of the Minister of Defence. It is practically a matter for him to decide.
– I have received from the Defence Department a letter, which states that instructions have been issued that recruits enrolling at Lismore recruiting depot are to be permitted to proceed to either Brisbane or Sydney, as they may desire. In view of the fact that constantly representations are made to me that the authorities at Lismore have no instructions on that head, that all recruits have to go to Brisbane, and that passes are only given to that place, will the Minister, replying for the Minister of Defence, see that the instructions are duly transmitted to the authorities at Lismore, and that they are acted upon ?
– In view of complaints which have reached me from the encampment at the Melbourne Show Grounds of considerable delay in the payment of the. troops, and in view of the fact that it has been represented to me that, in some cases, the wives of soldiers there have actually been turned out of their homes through their pay not coming to hand, will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence be good enough to inquire into the matter and see whether the payment cannot be expedited when it becomes due?
– I should like the honorable member to mention a specific case where such treatment has taken place. I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– I gave many specific cases.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that a naturalized enemy subject working on a wharf at Woolloomooloo Bay, in New South Wales, in terms of a permit granted in accordance with the regulations issued by the Defence Department, which allows such persons to be on a wharf, dock, or pier, was responsible for a strike there on the 6th
September, and, if so, will the Minister consider the necessity of refusing to issue such permits in future?
– I know nothing of the matter. I have never heard of such a thing, and I would like the honorable gentleman to give notice of a question.
– In cases where Germans or Austrians have been working on the wharfs, and refused permission to continue to work there, has any Government assistance been granted to the men or to their families?
– Not to my knowledge.
– In view of the persistent rumours and reports as to the clandestine removal of rifles and ammunition into the back-blocks of Australia, does the Minister representing the Minister of Defence think it is wise to disarm the members of our own rifle clubs and leave them unprotected, having regard to the alleged importation of such arms by the enemy ?
-I do not think that there is any need for fear in that regard. The Government have no proof whatever that such a thing is taking place.
– Referring to a recent paragraph in the Melbourne Herald, with regard to the declared policy of the Government and of all sides of the House to make suitable provision for returned soldiers, is it the intention of the Minister of Defence to supplant the present Area Officers, and, if so, will he have regard to the fact that almost all the Area Officers volunteered for the front, but their offers were not accepted, as their services here could not be spared?
– I shall confer with the Minister of Defence with regard to the question.
– Has the
Attorney-General and Acting Prime Minister noticed in the press of this morning a report of a lecture, delivered by Professor Berry last night, in which he declared that of all the countries at war the birth rate in Australia was the highest, and that that fact was directly traceable to the provision of the maternity allowance? Does not the honorable and learned gentleman consider that this declaration is a complete answer to the gloomy forebodings of the Opposition when the Maternity Allowance Bill was introduced here?
– I had not noticed the report to which the honorable gentleman alludes, but a statement coming from such an authority is a most convincing argument in favour of the legislation. I am not aware of being influenced by the Act myself, but I have noticed that the population has increased in a most satisfactory way. I may say that there is no gloom in my own house, but very much the contrary.
– Referring to the question I put some days ago,, about the alleged destruction of large quantities of meat at Mont Park Hospital, is the Minister for the Navy yet in a position to give me a reply?
– Not yet.
– With further reference to our soldiers, I wish to ask the Minister for the Navy a question, without notice, on the subject of the non-payment, not merely of men in thetrenches, but of men in hospitals. A case was brought under my notice only yesterday of a young man who had been in hospital for between three and four months, and had never received1s. of his pay during all that time. I should like to know what is the rule with regard to the payment of soldiers at the front, and when in hospital. Instead of replying to separate questions on this subject, the Minister for the Navy, as representing the Minister of Defence, might make a statement to the House as to the system adopted in dealing with these payments. Are men while in hospitals supposed to receive any pay at all, and, if so, why do they not receive it? The same inquiry has to be made with respect to allotments of pay by men who have gone to the front. Their relatives are not receiving these allotments. Why?
– It appears that the hospitals in Egypt and elsewhere to which wounded soldiers are sent are under the control of the Imperial authorities. I have heard that a regulation has been passed by the Imperial OfficerCommanding that no pay is to be given to soldiers while in hospitals. The regulation is the result of certain things that have transpired. It would appear that some of the wounded soldiers have been using their money for the purchase of things that are detrimental to their health. These have been brought into hospitals without the knowledge of the medical officers or nurses, and injury has followed to the patients. A regulation was issued in consequence, stoppingthe pay of the men while in hospitals. Of course, they receive their pay immediately they leave the hospitals. With regard to the other portion of the right honorable gentleman’s question, I shall see whether a statement dealing generally with the matter cannot be prepared by the Minister of Defence.
– There are some cases of non-payment where soldiers are going out of the hospitals every day.
– I have no doubt that a statement on the subject will be made by the Minister of Defence, which I shall be happy to submit to this House.
– Following up the question asked by the honorable member for Parramatta, is it not a fact that, while men in military hospitals are not given money, they are given dockets, issued by the medical officer in charge, by which they can obtain anything they require that is sanctioned by the doctor?
– I believe that is so.
– As the question I wish to ask is a very important one, I should like, by leave of the House, to be permitted to make an explanation in connexion with it.
– The honorable member may make such an explanation as is necessary to render his question clear.
- Senator Pearce promised me that a certain man who has been fearfully treated in the Base Hospital would not be arrested for breaking the bounds of the hospital. Relying upon that, I told a committee of my constituents to quietly secure the facts of the case for me and I would see whether I could have the matter remedied. In spite of his distinct promise, the Defence Department sent an ambulance last night at 11 o’clock to remove this man from a private hospital. Two doctors had been there from 8 o’clock to 10.30 o’clock, and yet an ambulance was sent round at 11 o’clock to take the manback to that infernal Base Hospital. I now ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, to assure me, on the floor of this House, that this unfortunate man, who has been falsely accused of malingering, will not be arrested and taken back to the Base Hospital?
– I will give the honorable member the assurance, firstly, that Senator Pearce has not broken his promise, and, secondly, that the man has not been arrested.
– I know that. I will take good care of that.
– I give the honorable member the assurance that the man has only been brought before the Medical Board.
Case of Gunner Perry.
– I have received the following notice from the honorable member for Melbourne - “ Dear Mr. Speaker,
I desire to give notice that I intend to move the adjournment of the House in connexion with a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the case of the soldier W. Perry.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
. I have never in the twenty-five years of my political life had to deal with a sadder case than that which I am now bringing before the attention of this House. If the usual meeting of the Caucus had been held I would have brought the matter up there, and if I had not received a more definite answer than that with which the Minister for the Navy has been supplied by his colleague, I would later have brought it before the House. In the last resort, the appeal of the people is to Parliament. The safety of the individual citizen depends to a great extent upon the protection of this Parliament. I pledge my honour to men who have known me for twenty-five years when I say that the doctor who says that this man is malingering is mistaken. This man has been tortured in the Base Hospital, and such treatment would have been justified only if he were a malingerer. I propose to read out a statement which I have here, and which I sent to the Minister of De fence. God only knows what is the matter with the Minister. It may be that swelled head has made him grow so big that if his feet were in hell his head would reach the clouds. I do not know what is the matter, but there must be something wrong with the man when he will not permit his human feelings to influence him, and refuses an inquiry by the best surgeons in Melbourne who have offered their services without fee or reward. Why should he not have asked one of these men to examine this man ?
– Is this man a recruit or a returned soldier?
– He is a man who fought under the British flag throughout the South African war, and also in China. He volunteered here, and was accepted for service. He was kicked in the back by a horse, and was picked up, I think, by the nephew of Sir John Madden. He was taken to a hospital in Egypt, and was under the treatment of Dr. Springthorpe, one of the ablest of our medical men, and of Dr. Fred Bird, a surgeon whose equal has never been in the Base Hospital. He was sent back here and taken into the Base Hospital. Dr. Meade may have thought that he was malingering, and he subjected him to the torture of electricity. The man said he was not a malingerer. Imagine a medical man having a patient court martialled ! Yet that is what was done in the case of this man. Thank God, the officers who constituted the Court were men of common sense. I think that the chairman was Captain Cox Taylor, of whom, I understand, Ministers have a high opinion, and the decision of the Court was that the man was wrongly accused of malingering by the doctor. A number of my constituents asked me to take up the case. They told me that two doctors were prepared to say that the man was not a malingerer, and I said that I was willing to accept their opinion. I then played the game fairly, and went to see Dr. Meade. I told him that the matter had been brought under my notice and that I came to him, not as a medical man, because I had given up practice, and now only supervised a dispensary. I said that this was a serious case, which had been brought under my notice by my constituents, and I was willing that he should see all the cards. I stated the facts as I have detailed them here. I propose to read the statement to which I have re- ferred so that honorable members will be able to see it in Hansard. When I referred to the decision of the court martial, Dr. Meade said that we could not expect soldiers to understand a medical question. The court martial was composed of common-sense men, and they were right ‘and Dr. Meade was wrong. From that time onward Perry’s life was a misery. Then his friend visited the hos- pital and carried him away to his little tome in West Melbourne. Subsequently I asked the Minister of Defence for an assurance that Perry would not be arrested and returned to the hospital for having broken bounds. I told him that if this unfortunate man was arrested I would call a public meeting to protest- against the scandalous treatment meted out to him. Having obtained the Minister’s promise in t the matter, I relied upon it. Honorable members have heard the answer given by the Minister for the Navy this morning to the effect that no promise has been broken - that the man is to be taken before the Medical Board. If that be so, why was he to be removed at 11 o’clock last night ? Do medical boards meet in the night time? I would rather go out of political life than have my views on this matter stifled. I know that honorable members upon both sides of the Chamber are anxious to prevent the perpetration of any infamy. In England, admission to the rank of Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons can be obtained only after passing the most severe examination that is conducted within the confines of the Empire. Nevertheless an average of marks carries a candidate through it. But for admission to the British Army, in the capacity of a surgeon, if there are a hundred vacancies there may be 2,000 applicants at one time, and the examination being a competitive one, a much higher degree of knowledge is necessary to achieve success.
– Did this man Perry leave the Camp?
– No; he left the Base Hospital. I intend to read his own statement in regard to the matter. I may add that this is not the first case of extreme hardship which has been brought under my notice, and which I have attempted to get remedied without first ventilating it on the floor of the House. The following letter from Perry was addressed to me under date 27th May last, although it did not reach me until quite a long time afterwards: - 58 Walsh-street, West Melbourne, 27th May, 1915.
Dr. W. Maloney,
Federal Parliament House,
I beg to complain that I am a patient in the Base Hospital, St. Kilda-road, invalided by the Medical Board in Egypt, with paralysis, caused by a kick in the spine from the doctor’s horse in Egypt.
For the sisters and hospital treatment generally I have the highest feeling of gratitude and praise.
Such medical officers as Dr. Fred Bird, Dr. Springthorpe, and others of like repute, tried every means of getting me to use my legs; all to no avail until the latter end of my time in Egypt, so I was invalided home. This Dr. Meade, at the Base Hospital, from my very first acquaintance with him, told me that I was a malingerer, a schemer, an impostor, a crawler, and all that is base and indecent, though he has never advanced any motives for me being in the state I am in. His arrogant manner was overbearing and cruel in the extreme.
I fought my way, sir, in Africa, with the Naval Brigade through Belmont, Enslign Modder River, Magersfontein, siege of Kimberley, and the storming of Pekin, in China, and I resented this doctor’s imputation. No complaint or entreaty will induce him to give me humane treatment. His antagonism was unbearable, and one morning I respectfully told him so; he there and then determined to have me court martialled for being a schemer; but, in the face of the medical testimony of the medical gentlemen whom I have mentioned, I was found by the court martial not guilty. T was discharged without a stain on my character; but my health in the same wretched state. Where can I go or what can I do for succour? His attitude towards me was worse than ever. He became livid in the face and white with passion, and came to me denouncing the gentlemen of the court martial as a set of blockheads.
I would be better dead, sir, than have to submit to this kind of treatment, so I decided to apply to get out of it to go to my home. My request was refused, so I got a friend with a motor car to get me out in the middle of the night. I expect to be punished for this, but he will heap no more insults on my body until I get better.
When we landed from Egypt we were allowed to bring ashore £10 worth of Egyptian goods. Many men had them stolen nt the hospital, mine included. When I complained to Dr. Meade he only laughed. He said he wanted to hear no complaints or comments, or we would find ourselves in the cells.
In a most flagrant manner our clothing is being sold by some one for small sums to men from Broadmeadows. Now, dear sir, I am not seeking to be vindictive, but I waB induced by the doctor attending me now to write to you.
Hoping that you will see that I get a square deal without unnecessary fuss. I can substantiate all I have said to the hilt.
I am no stranger here in union and political circles. The reasons I advance for complaining arc humane, not political or influence-seeking.
I remain, sir,
Yours respectfully and sincerely,
– If the charges containedin that letter can be substantiated the writer has received scandalous treatment.
– Is there anything on record in Egypt in regard to this man’s case?
– I cannot say. I took a magistrate with me, before whom Perry declared to the truth of his statements.
– Has the honorable member the testimony of the medical men who are now attending this man ?
– Yes. On the 14th June last I wrote to the Minister of Defence as follows: -
My Dear Senator,
Re enclosed letter from Walter Perry (which please return after copying), of 58 Walsh-street,. West Melbourne. ‘ The matter has been brought to my notice by my constituents. He has made a statement before a magistrate.
Two doctors state that there is no malingering. As a representative for Melbourne I have seen Dr. Meade, who was very courteous, and explained his position. The case is a serious one, and I strongly urge you to appoint an honorary committee of laymen (neither surgeon nor physician), one of whom should be a magistrate, and the committee’s duty should be to visit the hospital at any time and investigate any complaint.
The danger of hospitals being under the sole control of medical men is widely known. Kindly order that no arrest be made of this poor injured man for leaving hospital without leave, for, if he is arrested, I greatly fear trouble from the public and the union, and serious results for him.
The reply to that letter is dated 20th July, and reads: -
With reference to your letter of the 14th ult., forwarding enclosure from Mr. Walter Perry, of 58 Walsh-street, West Melbourne, a returned invalided member of the Australian Imperial Force, relative to his treatment at the Base Hospital, Melbourne, I am directed to inform you that the matter has been carefully investigated, and the report received on the matter does not disclose any maltreatment of Perry by the medical officer in charge of that hospital.
In regard to your suggestion concerning the formation of an honorary committee of laymen to visit the hospital and investigate complaints, I am to add that the Minister has considered the matter, and regrets that he cannotsee his way to adopt the suggestion.
Enclosure returned herewith.
On the 28th I wrote to the Department as follows: -
Be Mr. Walter Perry, of 58 Walsh-street, who is an invalid confined to his bed, may I ask what payments are made on his account to his wife? An early answer will oblige. lie your letter 40506, A.I.F., 201/1/327, I am considering its contents before seeing the Minister.
On the 9th August - it took all that time to answer a simple inquiry of the kind - I received the following reply: -
With reference to your letter of the 28th ultimo, relative to the payments being made to the wife of Mr. Walter Perry, of 58 Walshstreet, West Melbourne, I desire to inform you that they are as follows : - 4s. per diem allotment money; 1s. 9½d.separation allowance per diem.
On the 3rd September I wrote again to Senator Pearce, and sent this poor woman with the note to the Defence Department, endorsing the envelope, so that there might be no mistake -
My Dear Senator,
This poor woman, Mrs. Perry, is getting desperate with her injured husband and no allowance whatever.
She is sent from officer to officer without result - and it will be a charity if something definite is decided, for if this poor fellow is to get nothing I must start a public subscription.
I am giving her a letter to the Benevolent Ladies’ Committee, as she absolutely refuses more pecuniary assistance from me.
Kindly act quickly for God’s sake, and let something be done.
With all greetings re your plucky act, and good luck,
This womanhas not received a penny piece since the 30th July; and I ask honorable members to conceive her position, with a husband who can only crawl about a room with assistance.
– It is those who never go to the war who are responsible for this state of affairs.
– Of course it is. There the matter now rests.
– Is that the only answer you have received?
– There was another answer which it is not necessary to read. Nobody asked this poor woman if she had any money to pay for tram fares to the Department. She attended there on the Friday and the Saturday, but Senator Pearce could not see her, and she had to return again on the Monday. I only hope that no woman member of Senator Pearce’s family will ever have the reception that I understand this poor woman got.
– Did she see the Minister?
– I must say that the Minister was kind enough to see her; but she came back and informed me that nothing had been done, beyond some mention of a Board of Inquiry. There was no talk of giving her any assistance - she was not asked whether she had any bread or tea in the house, or whether her rent had been paid.
– A Board would not feed her children !
– I do not think that the poor woman has any children. I made inquiries over the telephone, and, unfortunately for Senator Pearce, I heard a big hearty laugh from him, and the words, “He is a malingerer.” I knew that charge to be false; and if I expressed myself as any man would do under the circumstances, and Senator Pearce feels offended, I can only offer him the chance of what satisfaction he requires. I told Senator Pearce over the telephone that I had acted in this matter purely as a politician, and, further, that if any man said that this soldier was a malingerer that man was a liar. On my sacred honour as a man, I declare that any man who says that this soldier is a malingerer, is a liar and a cowardly liar at that. I do not know whether I have done what is right, but I have sent to have this soldier removed from his place; and I have received a sign since I began to speak that he has been removed. If Senator Pearce dares to take this man away, I am willing to fight on his behalf while I have breath in my body. We have heard about a Board to be appointed, but I ask whether Boards meet at night time ? Why was an ambulance sent at 11 o’clock at night for this man ? I am willing to find medical evidence of the highest in support of what I have said. There are, of course, very few great surgeons left in Melbourne today, most of them having offered their services for the war without fee or reward; and yet such a medical man as I have described is allowed control of this hospital. In this respect, things are managed very differently in England, and in every other part of the world. Would it ever enter the head of any humane person in such circumstances to apply electricity as a test? In such a case, if the patient were not a malingerer, the application of electricity would be absolute torture.
– Did you have this man examined by any other than the military medical authorities?
– He was examined by two doctors, also a magistrate, who said to me, “ Any one who says that he is a malingerer does not know what he is talking about.” One of the highest surgeons in Melbourne - whose name I could mention but do not like to do so without his permission - would not think of taking any fee for examining this man, and he declared him to be not malingering. We have been promised time after time in this House that every wounded or injured soldier sent back would be paid 6s. a day with board and medical attendance if necessary. Has that promise been kept by the Minister? I have, I think, said sufficient to show that there is a case for investigation; and I only wish that it could be submitted to the Committee that has been formed from both sides of the House, with a view to independent surgical examination. It is a matter which I think ought to be taken out of the hands of this Minister, who is only a jelly fish - a rubber stamp - in matters of this kind. Proud as I am of my position here, and glorying in the love of my fellow-men and fellow-women in the city of Melbourne, I would rather be put of political life for the rest of my existence than stand and see this infamy perpetrated. If Senator Pearce believes the doctor who says this man is malingering, and the honorable gentleman has the pluck to resign his position, I also am willing to resign, so as to contest the constituency of Melbourne against him, where the citizens may see the man. I am sorry to have to speak thus of a man with whom I have been friendly - a colleague for whom I have voted - but to see this poor woman, as I have seen her to-day and on other occasions, is enough to make any one take up weapons and fight. I trust that the press will make this case widely known; and I only hope that this House will not adjourn or go into recess just now. We can fight for people on the floor of the House: but what chance would I have had with the Defence Department, under Senator Pearce, if Parliament had not been sitting ?
– The case presented by the honorable member for Melbourne is one which, I am sure, must appeal to the sympathy of every honorable member, no matter on what side of the House he may sit. If the allegations, or even a portion of them, can be substantiated - if anything like such treatment has been meted out to a patient, especially one returned from the front- I am sure there is no one here who will not support the honorable member for Melbourne in demanding the fullest investigation by an impartial tribunal. If, as I say, the statements are substantiated, a case will have been established that will certainly necessitate the removal from the military service of the officer responsible. Personally, I have no knowledge whatever of the medical man referred to ; and up to the present, of course, we have heard only one side. There may be something to be said on the other side which may put a different complexion on the matter, but if the facta are as have been stated there certainly should be an independent inquiry by a small Committee of this House. Further consideration ought to be given to the suggestion that a Committee should be appointed for the purpose of visiting the various military hospitals in each State in order to hear complaints, and see whether proper treatment is meted out to the soldiers. It would be advisable for the Government to request honorable members who are at liberty to do so to place their services at their disposal, and act on such Committees. I do not propose that there should be any fees paid for such services. Honorable members would be only too glad to serve in that capacity voluntarily. I should be willing to act on those terms. We are all anxious to see that justice is meted out, not only to the soldiers who are in our camps prior to going to the front, but also to those who are returning from the front, and especially that every consideration is given to those who return wounded or incapacitated in any way. If it should be thought that when they return from the front they will not be properly treated it will have a disastrous effect on recruiting for reinforcements. For this reason, apart from all other considerations, the Government should certainly take prompt and effective steps in order to preclude the possibility of there being any serious ground for such complaints as we have heard in the House to-day.
.- I support the request of the honorable member for Melbourne that there should be an impartial inquiry into the case brought forward to-day. The honorable member spoke under deep emotion, and those who know him well knew that he would not have brought the matter before the House in such a dramatic manner had he not investigated to the best of hia ability all the facts relating to it. The man to whom he referred had fought on two former occasions under the colours of the King. I do not think that a man who has passed through so many campaigns can be described as a crawler or a malingerer. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will promise an early investigation. I know that it is a delicate matter to interfere with the Defence Department, and I am prepared to accept the judgment of the honorable member as to the procedure that should be followed; but speaking with some knowledge of the hospitals of Victoria, I maintain that Ministers would be adopting a wrong policy in permitting our military hospitals to remain absolutely under the control of military or medical officials. The public would be better satisfied if some civil authority were united with the military and medical control.
.- The facts disclosed by the honorable member for Melbourne I have heard to-day for the first time. Honorable members cannot expect me to admit that the Minister of Defence has been guilty of anything improper or unfair, but I shall make immediate inquiries in order to ascertain the major facts of the matter, and if the honorable member for Melbourne will take my assurance, he may be quite satisfied that I shall look into it without bias and closely, and shall communicate to him and to the House the results of my inquiry.
.- We should insist on a strict inquiry, not only into the allegation of the honorable member for Melbourne, but also in regard to the whole administration of our Base Hospital. Quite recently I brought under the attention of the Minister of Defence a matter which came under my notice in connexion with this hospital. A friend of mine who had enlisted, and was in the Seymour Camp, was supposed to have contracted meningitis, and was sent to the Base Hospital on a Saturday morning. He had telegraphed to his friends on the Friday evening, and they had communicated with a friend in Melbourne, asking him to go to the hospital and see the lad.
– The honorable member is not confining his remarks to the matter before the Chair. The motion deals with a specific case.
– I am sorry that I arn not allowed to make my statement clear, but I hope that if any inquiry is held it will be into the whole administration of our military hospitals. When we find such disorganization in Australia, it is extraordinary that the head of the Department which is supposed to look after military medical matters should be allowed to proceed to Egypt for the purpose of organizing matters there.
– And now we are told that he has left Egypt and gone to England.
– As I say, it seems to me extraordinary. I have no desire to reflect on the Minister of Defence, but there is something wanting so far as he is concerned in the control of his Department, and in regard to the care that he is bestowing, not only on returned troops, but also on those who are prepared to fight and give their lives for the Empire.
.- I have listened with a certain amount of interest, and also with sympathy and pity, to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, but the Department has yet to learn - at least so I am told by the Minister–
– What does the honorable member mean by “ the Minister “ ? He is supposed to be in the Department equal in all things with the Minister of Defence.
– We were promised it, but that is not the real position. The right honorable gentleman is not fair to the honorable member.
– If the right honorable gentleman will keep cool I shall explain. I am replying for the Minister of Defence. He has not had any proof that Dr. Meade treated this soldier in the manner de- « scribed by the honorable member for Melbourne. If this soldier returned in the state described by the honorable member - if he was injured in the spine as the result of a kick by a horse - there is no doubt in my mind as to the responsibility of the Government concerning him; but it appears that he was discharged at the request of the honorable member for Melbourne.
– The Minister of Defence informs me that the honorable member asked for. this man’s discharge after he had left the hospital.
– If the Minister will produce that in writing I will willingly pay £20 to any hospital. I have no recollection of having done so.
– If he was discharged, it accounts for no payment having been made after the 21st July.
– Why did they send an ambulance for him last night ?
– I am simply telling the House what Senator Pearce told me over the telephone. There are two sides to every case, and if there has been no payment to Mrs. Perry it is because of Mr. Perry being discharged at the request of the honorable member for Melbourne himself.
– I deny it absolutely.
– The honorable member was acting in this instance for Mr. Perry. As regards the ambulance going last night to take Mr. Perry, it appears that he is to go before the Medical Board, and, from what Senator Pearce tells me, it is believed that he is in hospital at the present time.
– He is not; I have taken him away.
- Mrs. Perry has been before the Minister quite recently, and I suppose the Minister has looked into the case; and that, as the man has been lying injured in his own home and cannot earn a living, the Minister and the Medical Board think that he should go before the Board in order that the Minister may be advised by his medical advisers concerning Mr. Perry’s claim.
– Was Perry courtmartialled ?
– I cannot say. I do not know the whole of “the facts of the case.
– He was.
– Would the Minister say that Dr. Mead should be on the Board to inquire into the matter?
-From the statements made by the honorable member for Melbourne, I should hope he would not be. I should think he would rather be a witness than an examiner. The Minister has assured me that as soon as he gets a report from the Medical Board, which he is expecting to receive hourly, the whole matter will be gone into, and that the complaints made by the honorable member for Melbourne this morning will be investigated.
– The wife should get some money at once.
– There is no doubt about that in my mind, but it was because of the honorable member for Melbourne asking for Perry’s discharge-
– I deny it absolutely.
– Senator Pearce says the honorable member did. The question of Perry malingering in the hospital needs to be thoroughly inquired into, and I should say that Senator Pearce ought to have an inquiry by persons not associated with the medical work in the Department at all. That, of course, is a matter for him to decide, but I shall certainly have a consultation with him on the subject. I trust that we shall look at this matter in a quiet and compassionate way, and await further developments. If the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne is correct, the duty devolves on the Government of seeing that this man and his wife and children are not treated as they have been treated.
– The Department ought to make some amends, too.
– He should be treated on the assumption that he is innocent until he is found guilty.
– Yes. I am sure that Senator Pearce would not condone treatment such as has been described here by the honorable member for Melbourne, and that he will do the right thing.
– May I, as a personal explanation, state definitely that I have not applied for Perry to be discharged from the Army, and that Senator Pearce’s statement that the man is in hospital at the present moment is also inaccurate. The man is safely placed and I have been the means of doing it. I was not going to be surprised a second time.
.- I do not think this is by any means a solitary instance of a man invalided back from Egypt being discharged before any arrangements had been made to give him and his wife and’ family a pension. It seems to me a most grave scandal that any one should come back from Egypt ill or invalided from any cause whatever, and that the Defence Department should for any reason discharge him before making, at all events, some effort to see that he was able to earn his own livelihood or to give him means to maintain those dependent on him. That is the principal reason why I spoke a while ago. The Minister has only borne out what I anticipated had been done. If an inquiry is instituted in this case, I hope it will embrace the whole of our Base Hospital organizations first and last, because, although I am not in a position this morning to formulate a series of grave charges against the administration, I have sufficient information in my possession now of a character which I venture to say will be most startling if the investigation bears out the allegations that have reached me from various sources. I trust that if an inquiry is made it will embrace the whole administration of our Base Hospitals, and the whole of the organization of the Army Medical Branch of the Australian Service. If that is done, I think it will satisfy honorable members, and I do not think anything short of it will.
– In the first place I wish to sound a note of complaint against the Minister for the Navy in regard to all matters brought up in this House. We were told distinctly when he was appointed to his position that he was to be the equal of the other Defence Minister in all things, and that “ what one knew the other would know,” but when we ask questions of him regarding Defence matters, we find that the Minister for the Navy knows nothing whatever.
– Do you expect me to go into all the details of the Military Department ?
– The honorable member has not very much todo in the Navy Department in and by itself just now.
– Have I not?
– On a point of order, I wish to ask your ruling as to whether the honorable member is in order in referring to the position of the Minister on a specific motion dealing with a certain case?
– The honorable member is not in order, but I understood .that he was merely making a passing reference to the point. He will not be in order in pursuing the subject.
– I am not going to argue the matter, but I thought I was -entitled to make a reference to the character of the statements made by the Minister. If the honorable member cannot give us some information about this matter, something further will have to be done to get more defence information into this Chamber.
– I have given .you all that Senator Pearce knows about the matter.
– Here is news even more mysterious and relative of what is going on in the Department. The Minister approves of a court martial and does not know anything about it.
– Do you expect the Minister to know of every court martial that takes place?
– I suppose Senator Pearce knows that this court martial -took place. I suppose he authorized it as a matter of fact.
– Did you have a full knowledge of every case that occurred in the Public Service when you were Prime Minister ?
– If a case such as this which has been brought before the House, and which has been brought before Senator Pearce, had come before mo, I would know something about it; that is all I have to say.
– There are thousands of them.
– This matter has been specially brought under Senator Pearce’s notice by the honorable member for Melbourne. The Minister has been written to; he has been spoken, to, and as I have said, the honorable member for Maranoa is not doing much credit to Senator Pearce’s intelligence when he suggests that he knows nothing about it.
– But you said that he knew nothing about it.
– No; the Minister’s colleague said that. It is becoming a positive scandal that we cannot get :information in this House about any of these complaints. No matter how important they may be, or what interests are involved, we can get no information. J have kept my tongue in my teeth all this session about the Defence Department.
– Oh I
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong might think this is a laughing matter. The honorable member is always interjecting, and here he is again. He is a perfect nuisance. Nobody can speak without a constant running fire of comment concerning what is said in the House. There is altogether too much of the honorable member. It would not matter much if what he said were intelligent, but it is not.
– What has this to do with Mr. Perry’s case?
– It has everything to do with it. The Minister ought to know something about it, but he says that he knows nothing.
– I said no such thing.
– If the facts are as alleged, a grave scandal has been perpetrated in connexion with, the administration of the Base Hospital. It is weeks now since the matter was firstintroduced in this House, but even yet we know nothing. The man has been court-martialled, and, so it is alleged, he has been subjected to torture. Ministers have been interrogated, but they know nothing about it. It is time this kind of thing ceased.
– You are misrepresenting the whole case.
– What did we hear from the Minister this morning ? The Acting Prime Minister now tells us that he will inquire into it on his own account. Two Ministers of Defence apparently have made inquiries, and now a third Minister is going to do the same thing. He does not say what he would do, but merely that he would inquire and let the honorable member know.
– What else can he do ?
– This matter ought to have been sifted to the bottom long ago.
– I tell you the Minister is getting a report to-day.
– Order. Honorable members are holding conversations across the chamber first on one side and then on the other while the honorable member for Parramatta is trying to speak. I ask honorable members to cease interruption-
– I am afraid that the real trouble with the Defence
Department is that the Minister, for some inscrutable reason, seems incapable of doing anything outside the ordinary routine of the Department.
– I want to make it clear that I have no power of administration in the Defence Department. I am confined to the Department of the Navy, and it is just as well you should know it.
– Then what did the Minister mean when he said some time ago, referring to the new portfolio, that “ what one knows, the other knows “ ?
– Will the honorable member for Parramatta confine himself to the matter before the Chair?
– As things are, the House knows nothing. Notwithstanding the fact that we have three Ministers administering the Defence Department, no information is obtainable concerning these base hospitals. In all conscience, enough promises have been made. Unless a case like this is sifted to the bottom, and its real merits judged fairly, nothing could be more detrimental to the morale of the Department as a whole, and nothing worse for the recruiting movement in Australia. All we ask is that, since three Ministers are controlling the Department the matter should be investigated with reasonable celerity. I suggest to the Ministers that, if they are overburdened with work, they might refer this matter to the War Committee, and let the members of that body inquire into the merits of the case.I have never heard strongerallegations made concerning any complaintbrought before this House.
– It is the worst case that I havecome across in my twenty-five years of political life.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- If the statements “made are true, somebody ought to be punished severely, and if they are not true, the people making the allegations ought to be dealt with accordingly. If thisman turns out to be a malingerer, nopunishment could be too severe for him, but we ought to be very careful how we treat a man who is merely believed to be malingering. This man fought through one war, and wanted to fight through another, but was sent home, on the advice of two of the finest doctors at the front, as being incapable of performing further duties, and I say it is an infamy to charge him with being a malingerer without the fullest possible proof. The case ought to be inquired into and sifted to the bottom at the earliest possible moment.
.- I rise for the purpose of suggesting that, as the Acting Prime Minister has promised to make an inquiry, it might be possible to supply honorable members with information before the House rises today. The Minister should get into immediate touch with the case, and inquire into the facts.
– The major facts.
– I think the Acting Prime Minister should indicate to the House to-day what his preliminary investigation inclines him to do in this matter. I tell my honorable friend candidly, and without trace of unfriendliness to his colleague - I know that he himself is not personally responsible - that there is a feeling of grave disquiet regarding the Defence Department; that it is thought that if anything has to be set right, an inquiry is instituted by the very persons who are alleged to have set it wrong. If we can be assured that the promised inquiry will be something different, and that it will carry some result, I take it that the House will be perfectly satisfied. We desire results. If you have a crowd of officers working with the absolute knowledge that anything they do will be reported on by themselves, and that no punishment will come upon them in any event, you will have muddle worse confounded as the months go on. If the facts in this case are at all as they have been presented by the honorable member for Melbourne, who, I have no doubt, thoroughly believes what he has told us, one thing is perfectly clear, and that is that the Commonwealth Government should have nothing further to do with the particular officer who has been referred to. I want to be assured, and so do honorable members generally, that something definite and tangible will result from the promised inquiry.
– The Acting Prime Minister has promised that he will inquire from Senator Pearce what has taken place, and a statement will be made before to-morrow regarding the case.
– I would impress upon the Minister the fact that the House is thoroughly in earnest about this business. Honorable members regard the case as a test one. If we had to bring before Parliament every case of complaint, there would be no time for the transaction of the ordinary business of the country. I hope that the promised inquiry will be thorough, that it will be made by an impartial tribunal, and that punishment will be meted out to whomever may be at fault.
– We do not know yet whether an inquiry is “necessary.
– I have been acquainted with the honorable member for Melbourne for many years, and am satisfied that he would not have brought this case forward did he not know that it is a serious one. I remind the Minister that if our opponents were on the Treasury bench, the party would make a howl should such cases be allowed to continue. We would move the adjournment of the House, and would storm until we got a redress of grievances. The trouble comes about because the Defence Department has never been organized. Ministers have not adopted the digest system, which would give them control, and the result is that they are out in the jungle. They have lost track of her; she has got away. I am for the men.
.- The case presented by the honorable member for Melbourne no doubt came as. a shock to most honorable members, but having been closely identified with the Defence Department for some months, I was not so much surprised, because, although the case is exceptional, there are others like it.
– Dozens and dozens.
– There are other cases in which men are not being treated as they should be treated. Officers who are not going to the front show absolutely no sympathy with the men. The biggest difficulty with which those who have come back, or are going to the front, have to contend is that caused by the autocratic attitude of officers who remain in Australia and have no sympathy with them. We have frequently brought matters before the Minister, but the procrastination that has been complained of is quite a common thing.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the particular case mentioned in the motion.
– It is inconceivable that a man with Private Perry’s splendid record should be a malingerer. I hope that the House will take into considera tion the suggestion of the honorable member for Balaclava. Let us have an independent tribunal, which can not only deal with this case, but investigate other cases also. Were a Commission or Committee to be appointed to visit the States, and inquire into what takes place, more would be done to encourage recruiting than is achieved by all the platform speaking that we have had. We are not treating those who return from the front, injured, or wounded in warfare, as they should be treated. This is becoming known, and the public are losing confidence in the Defence Department, because people are of opinion that they will not get a fair deal when they place a good case before the Department.
– Does the honorable member think that is a fair thing to say ?
– Unfortunately it is true. That is the regrettable thing. It is being talked of in the streets. My feelings are being continually harrowed by cases that I would hardly believe to be possible, in which men in authority, who should have at heart the interests of those who are sacrificing so much, have treated them indifferently and callously when they have been waited on with genuine grievances.
– We all get these cases.
– I take the trouble to investigate those brought under my notice, discriminating, of course, between the chronic grumbler and the man with a genuine grievance.
– There are a lot of each.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. One has to use his discrimination. Dr. Meade, unfortunately, represents a class that is growing in numbers rapidly in the Defence Department. He is only one of many. We shall have to take some firm step to stop the Prussian spirit that is creeping into our Defence administration. Some men, immediately they don a gold braid uniform, consider themselves beings from another planet. Those who come back from the front do not put on as much side as those who have no intention of going to the front. It is the man who intends to stay in Australia who does the most strutting and posing. We should inquire into the methods’ of those men,. andstop their proceedings, if we desire to inspire in the people that confidence in our Defence administration which they should have, in view of what it costs.
– I agree with honorable members that the case which has been brought under notice needs investigating to the roots. It seems impossible that, although this case was brought under the notice of the Minister by the honorable member for Melbourne, nothing could be done in regard to.it until he had drawn attention to it here. I do not wish to say much about the Defence Department. We are in a very difficult position, and many officers seem to take it on themselves to dictate to every one. There are many who are not carrying out their duties as they should be carried out. I hope that reorganisation will take place at the Base Hospital. I rose to speak of one particular thing which has been brought under my notice in connexion with that hospital. Is it fair thatmen who have been invalided from Seymour Camp should be required to fall in at Spencer-street and march to the Base Hospital? Surely the Defence Department could meet such men with an ambulance, or provide some other form of transport. I have in mind the case of a man, who certainly is not a grumbler, and who said to me, “ We want only a fair chance; I desire to get to the front. I have two brothers fighting in Gallipoli, and if they stop a Turkish bullet they will have done their duty, but I do not desire to die in camp in Australia.” This man was invalided from Seymour, being unfit for duty. He and sixteen other men in similar condition were met at Spencerstreet by an officer, ordered to fall in and march to the Base Hospital. He and another man refused to march. The other fifteen were obliged to march through the streets to the hospital. That man and his comrade arrived there by tram, and they were not punished. He has since told me that the treatment he received at the hospital was the best he had ever had. He had been discharged from the hospital, had visited his home, and was returning to camp. Invalids from Seymour Camp can hardly be expected to be in a condition after a train journey to march to the Base Hospital. I suggest that they be met with a conveyance of some kind.
.- I very much regret that there should be cases such as those which have been brought under notice. But whilst I deeply deplore that action has not been taken by the Defence Department to remedy these wrongs, we must admit that the duties of the Minister of Defence are growing daily. Some excuse must be allowed for the Defence Department. I believe that the Government should remit to the War Committee control of all camps and hospitals, and also recruiting. The Committee has been appointed by both parties, and the entire Parliament has complete confidence in the men selected. More responsibility should be entrusted to the Committee than it has at the present time. Hospitals, camps, and recruiting are corelated matters, and if the Committee were given control of them, subCommittees could be appointed to visit the various camps and make inquiries. If that were done fewer complaints would be brought into the House. Every member is receiving a large number of complaints. I have received many, but if every member were to bring forward all the complaints he receives, the business of this Chamber would be confined to the registration of grievances. We cannot expect a big war to be conducted without injustice being done to some persons.
– We are anxious to remedy the injustices.
– I am confident that the Minister of Defence is trying to do his best, but he must take the advice of his officers, and if an officer, who has been deputed to inquire into a matter, presents a report to the Minister, the latter must accept the report.
– The Minister does not seem to learn much.
– It is easy to find fault. Those men in and out of Parliament who are criticising the Minister would find, if they were in his position, that they would not be able to give satisfaction to everybody. We should realize that fact. I do urge upon the Government that they should remit the matters to which I have referred to the War Committee. We should have confidence in any investigations made by the Committee; the congestion of the business-paper would be relieved, and we should be free to attend to the duties for which we were returned here - the making of laws in the interests of the country.
Question resolved in the negative.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Supply (Works and Buildings) Bill (No. 2),
Sugar Purchase Bill.
War Census (Postal Matter) Bill.
Wireless Telegraphy Bill.
The follow paper was presented : -
Mr.FINLAYSON (for Mr. Ozanne) asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
When was the contract let for cartage of stores, Laverton Railway Station to Aviation School ?
Were tenders called for, who obtained the contract, and at what rates ?
If tenders were not called for, how was the contract let?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is - 1, 2, and 3. There was not any contract. Quotations were obtained. The quotation of J. George was accepted for - Cartage of material from Laverton Station to Aviation School, 7s. per ton. Conveying men and tools from Laverton Station to Aviation School and vice versa, 3s. each way.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– On behalf of my honorable leader, I beg to answer the honorable member’s questions as follow: -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon, notice -
Why he will not allow a Commonwealth officer to give evidence before the New South Wales Public Works Committee regarding the proposed railway, Bomaderry to Jervis Bay ?
– The Premier of New South Wales and the Secretary of the New South Wales Public Works Committee have been informed that the Commonwealth is not prepared to bear any of the loss in connexion with the proposed line. In view of this, it is not seen what benefit can be served by deputing a Federal officer to give evidence.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the conflicting statements regarding the railway survey between Canberra and Jervis Bay, will he have further particulars furnished as to the proposed deviation from the original surveyed route, especially as regards the town of Braidwood and Shoalhaven River Crossing?
– I shall ask the Engineer-in-Chief of Commonwealth Railways to look into the matter again.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the House all papers connected with the appointment to and continuance in the Federal Service of Andreas Harders, and also of Heinrich Konrad Otto Willgerodt ?
– I have not yet received all the papers, but I know that one of the gentlemen named is an Australian, and has been in the service for 28 years.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 6688), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- This simple little Bill- and there was never a more innocent looking measure presented to the Parliament - raises fundamental questions of the greatest possible importance to the future industrial progress of this country. The words, “ together with such other persons, whether engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits or not,” which appear in clause 2, really initiate a new order of things, unionistic and industrial. It cannot be denied that they strike a blow at the very vitals of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; that they go right into its very core and marrow. The decision that the House has to arrive at in connexion with this small Bill is whether we should keep to the old lines of conciliation and arbitration and industrial unionism or whether we should enter the new path leading to Syndicalism and all that it connotes, so invitingly held out.
– Syndicalism does not believe in arbitration.
– Precisely. May I remind the honorable member that the forces at the back of this Bill do not believe in arbitration except for the present.
– It is very unfair to say that of the Australian Workers’ Union. They have gone in for arbitration every time.
– Certainly, and they are in favour of it at the present time, but they are also in favour of something more. The Australian Workers Union is unlike almost any other union in that its affairs are controlled chiefly by an executive. Nearly every other union holds weekly or fortnightly meetings, at which its affairs are conducted according to old-time notions, and where its officers are subject to criticism, while everything they undertake is open to review.
– Does the right honorable member mean to say that the officers of the Australian Workers Union are not open to criticism? Has he ever been in a sheaving shed?
– The honorable member has just indicated the correctness of my statement that the Australian Workers Union donot meet at settled places at settled times.
– They have meetings in the shearing sheds, where they carry their resolutions.
– And having carried their resolutions, they do nothing except that which they are directed to do by their executive, hundreds of miles away. That is the point I am making. A miners union, for instance, settles its affairs at its regular weekly or fortnightly meetings.
– Would the right honorable member like the members of the Australian Workers Union to “ down tools “ in order to have an aggregate meeting ?
– Order !
– I object to these constant interruptions. My speeches in this House lately are like dialogues.
– And the right honorable member is a leader in that respect.
– I hope that I may be permitted to proceed without these frequent interjections. I desire to discuss this matter calmly, without importing any heat into it. I am justified, I think, in pointing out the difference between the control of the Australian Workers Union and that of the ordinary craft unions. Thecraft unions meet from week to week, but this organization is not so controlled. A member of it obtains his shearer’s ticket, and, in many cases, troubles no more about the control of his organization. Its control is left in the hands of a small executive possessing plenary powers. That is one reason why it has acquired the position of importance that it holds in the community to-day. The executive of the Australian Workers Union, however, are not satisfied with what has already been done. The president of it has time and again affirmed the opinion that there should be one big union of all the workers of Australia.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member subscribes to that doctrine?
– Certainly I do.
– He believes in a union for instance that is as powerful as the State?
– My honorable friend is, therefore, very near being a Syndicalist. That is the very essence of Syndicalism, and it is death to Arbitration Courts and to all other means of settling disputes. It means that the union takes the place of the Government and controls the affairs of the country in any way that seems fit to it in accordance with certain defined industrial groupings. It means, in short, a State run purely and simply on unionistic lines and only for industrial purposes.
– The right honorable member used to believe in that before he changed his coat.
– I never believed in that nonsense; I hope, therefore, that the honorable member will make no more of these insulting interjections.
I have here a statement of the aims and objects of the Australian Workers Union, which has so much power that it is able even now to control this Legislature. I read somewhere that it claims to have twenty-seven members in this chamber more or less under its influence, and more or less here by its vote. One does not grumble, therefore, at the action of Mr. Grayndler, the secretary of the union, or whoever was the gentleman who came up here the other day with one or two of his friends, and said to the Government, “ You must not adjourn your Houses until you have passed this legislation which our union is seeking. If you do, it will be at your peril.” If this gentleman has twenty-seven members of this House under his control and influence, and knows that it was his union that placed them here, one cannot complain much of his action in requiring the Government of the day to do his bidding in this respect.
– The statement is not true. There are other unions in Australia.
– Order !
– I believe that the statement has been made on the best authority. However, the fact remains that the organization has such influence as enables it to prevent this Parliament from adjourning; to prevent the Prime Minister from keeping agreements; and to shape the course of legislation in this National Parliament from time to time in its own interests and as it deems fit. Here is the ideal of this huge organization -
Industrial unionismhas not yet accomplished its highest purpose, and built up a confraternity of all nations. But within the limits of nationalism it has wrought wonders. It has made itself a force to be feared by enthroned despots. Here in Australia it has completed the conquest of political power. The Government of the country is virtually in its hands. Magnificent as its victories have been, the triumphs that lie before it will dim their splendour and make their glory pale. There is room for one union in Australia, and one union only.” We must match in our industrialism the political oneness of the country.
It is aiming at one big union embracing every other union, and dictating the conditions of every other and smaller union within its compass and scope - a union which is to match, to use its own words, the political oneness of the country; that is to say, a union which is to take the place of the Government, and run the whole country according to their unionistic lines. That is the ultimate purpose under- lying the simple provisions of this Bill. That is not a statement standing by itself. The president of the union - the present Postmaster-General - has given utterance to the same sentiments on more than one occasion. In his very last presidential address he said -
I see no reason why the whole of the workers should not he in one big union. What are we in the labour movement for?
I am not quite clear as to whether what follows this is part of the Worker’s statement, or of my honorable friend’s. I think that it is his own statement. However, he will correct me if I am wrong. If it is not his statement, it is the Worker’s -
It stands for such a revolutionary change in the social system that the world as it is would perish utterly, and men would only know it as a gibbering ghost, haunting the gloomy corridors of history.
– That is not mine.
– The PostmasterGeneral has no faith in ghosts.
– I fancy that sometimes he sees ghosts.
– That is good stuff, though it is not mine.
– Good, although the honorable gentleman did not write it-
It means the full and effective control of the instruments of production, distribution, and exchange. That method is unity - perfect unity - unity unqualified by provisoes and exceptions of any kind whatever - the unity of the one big union. Half-a-million of men under one big banner could make things move. They could mould the social fabric like putty in their hands.
Then a motion was moved by Mr. Hollo way - “ That, in rule 3, the following be the first object of the Australian Workers Union : ‘ To advocate one big union of Australian workers.’ “
– Was that done at a meeting ?
– It was done at the annual conference.
– I thought that the members of the union did not do any business except through their executive?
– Really, my honorable friend is so sharp that he will cut himself directly if he is not careful.
– You said that the executive did all their business, and that the men had no say at all.
– I said twice that this union was not conducted like an ordinary union. Did the honorable member hear me? He forgets these things. The point is that a union outside the House is absolutely controlling the condition of affairs inside it. That is the first outstanding feature in connexion with the consideration of this matter. This is not the first time that the Australian Workers Union has said to the national Government of Australia: “You must stop every other business that you are proceeding with and attend to ours.”
– That is not true.
– Order !
– They have not said that on this occasion.
– They have said what is tantamount to it. They have said to the Government :” You are not to go into recess until you have passed this Bill.” They have said to the Prime Minister: “ You must break your agreement with the Leader of the Opposition, and put this Bill through before you adjourn.”
– All electors have the right to try to bring pressure to bear on Parliament in order to get their will carried out, and so has any organization.
– I have yet to learn that 90,000 persons outside ought to control a Parliament which is supposed to represent over 2,000,000 electors of Australia.
Mr.Burns. - The Employers Federation have acted similarly.
– That is the point.
– That is one of the “gibbering ghosts haunting the gloomy corridors of history.”
– It is a new form of initiative.
– I was just about to make the same remark. If we are to have outside bodies initiating legislation here, let us have the initiative in its proper form; let us do the thing above board. Here is an initiative which ought not to be in a free system of government such as ours is supposed to be. When a body of men outside can dictate to this Parliament what it ought to do, stop Parliament from closing its doors until their wants have beenattended to, and get Parliament to open its doors again when they want other business attended to, that is a kind of thing which needs looking after in a free community, and where Democracy is supposed to obtain. Powerful as this organization is, it is still a very small minority of the whole of the voters of Australia.
This is not the first time that the organization has done this kind of thing. It did it away back in 1910, when my honorable friends opposite had to alter the laws to suit the organization. It did it again last year, when it compelled my honorable friends to bring about an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, for the purpose of enabling outside help to be got in connexion with the management of the unions, and here again it is doing it, not merely to get help in the management of the unions, but so that it may swell its ranks in any way which seems fit and proper to it. This is a proposal to depart from the lines of industrial grouping and industrial arbitration such as was the very genius of the Act of 1904 when it was introduced here. It is a clear departure from the principle of conciliation and arbitration as we have known it all these years in connexion with industrial pursuits in Australia. I want to say that I do not approve of this radical departure. I think that the workers themselves will live to regret it bitterly. Let them have their big unions if they like, but it means that an individual group, within the big union, will be subject to the domination of the whole. It means that local disputes will be settled by men who know nothing of the details. It means that miners’ disputes will be settled by shearers, and that shearers’ disputes will be settled by the members of other industrial groups. I say that this is the way to provoke hostility, and promote strife, and not the way to settle disputes, and put an end to strife. Local disputes arise out of local circumstances and conditions, and require, in those who are called upon to settle them, a knowledge of those circumstances and conditions. I do not know how it is to-day, but I know that when I had to do with the Miners Union at Lithgow it was impossible to get the three mining districts of New South Wales alone to agree upon a basis of union.
– They have fixed it up now ; they are agreeing now.
– I think that their agreement is to leave each other alone.
– They have a federation now.
– Yes, but it is a federation to support each other only, and not to settle their separate disputes. The miners represented by the honorable member for Illawarra will not presume to settle disputes in which the Lithgow miners are concerned.
– They are going to do so. They are citing a case now.
– They are not going to do anything of the kind. What the honorable member refers to is going to be done for them by the Arbitration Court. I venture to say that if they try to do what the honorable member suggests they will be entering upon a sea of trouble. No one knows that better than does the honorable member who represents the Newcastle miners. It is impossible to get these three correlated groups of workers into one organization because of the difference of local conditions. For the settlement of a local dispute local sympathy and knowledge are required, and influences which are inconsistent with a big union.
– The unions can assist one another. The Newcastle miners used to assist the Lithgow miners when the honorable gentleman was a member of the Lithgow union.
– I do not know that the Lithgow miners ever got much assistance from the Newcastle miners. I do not know that they ever needed much.
The honorable member for East Sydney may have forgotten the events of the past, but I can tell him that while I had to do with the miners there was never a strike.
– What about the maritime strike?
– I advise the honorable member to let that alone. If he does not do so I may have to tell him something that he will not like to hear.
– The honorable gentleman cannot tell me anything about it.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the matter. Does he know that I kept the Lithgow miners out of that strike until the last two or three weeks. Does he know that I did that in the teeth of the officials of the unions in the other mining districts of New South Wales ?
– I know that the honorable gentleman was on the Defence Committee in Sydney.
– That is another misstatement which shows the honorable member’s absolute ignorance of events. Perhaps that is why he talks so freely about these matters. I advise him to let that ghost lie. He will Pet nothing by raising it. The fact remains that during the time I had to do with the union ‘n Lithgow there were no strikes. I left them when I did leave them with better conditions as to pay and in every other respect than they have ever had since from the Arbitration Court.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean to tell me that he was not in the maritime strike?
– I have said what I mean to tell the honorable member. If he desires information on the subject I advise him to consult Mr. Nicholson, who was in Sydney at the time and on the Defence Committee. I was not on the Committee.
– The honorable gentleman only paid a visit to it.
– I paid a visit to the Committee, as the PostmasterGeneral knows, and tried to induce them to do something reasonable and stop the strike.
– That is so.
– Here is information for the honorable member for Illawarra if he wants it. If he wishes to uncover that matter, I certainly have no objection to his doing so. My only relation with it was to try to stop the madness. I succeeded in the end in doing so after very severe trouble. A madder thing than that strike never took place.
– A lot of good came out of it.
– It put the honorable gentleman into Parliament, anyhow.
– That is the good the honorable member for East Sydney refers to.
– I doubt it. I know that it led to an awful tragedy of much suffering and trouble. I have never seen any good come out of strikes yet. I have never believed in them. I believe that the very best way to preserve industrial peace is not the way of the big unions. The best way to preserve the peace of this community, in my opinion, is for the workers to proceed with their craft groups and local tribunals, which will be on the spot to settle local troubles arising out of local circumstances. I know that from experience. I have seen that system at work. I have also seen the bigger groups and unions at work, and in my opinion the result of their operation will be infinite trouble and numerous strifes. That has been the experience of them wherever they have been tried in every part of the world, and Australia is no exception to the rule. In spite of the proposals on the other side for peace to-day the fact remains that the only way of preserving industrial peace just now is for the Arbitration Court to be continually stepping in at the demand of the unions. The Broken Hill workers only the other day told the Minister plainly to his face, and the Arbitration Court plainly to its face, that if they did not set their wants attended to in a specified time, they proposed to strike.
– Did they get them attended to?
– Oh, yes. Mr. Justice Higgins promptly responded, of course.
The point I want to make is that these big groups threaten to control the Arbitration Courts, and to dictate to them as well as to this Parliament when they shall be heard, and under what conditions they shall be heard. If we get these big unions in full operation, our Arbitration Courts and our Parliament will be gone, so far as their power goes, and we shall be under another kind of government and domination altogether. Syndicalism is what is aimed at. That is what is finally intended. That is made quite manifest by all that they say and all that they do. There is no secret about it. My reading induces me to believe that present day Syndicalism is a synonym for industrial trouble and unrest. In other countries it has brought about revolution. It has brought about the universal strike, and has brought a whole country up standing.
– Because they have no arbitration in those countries.
– My honorable friend should not imagine that every other country in the world is miles below the industrial position we occupy here. In the other countries to which I refer they had to deal with industrial troubles long before he or I came upon the scene. They have gone through the phases of industrial unrest and evolution that we are passing through now. In France the Government have had to put the civil grip on the Syndicalist movement and throttle it.
Sitting suspended from1 to 3.30 p.m.
– When we rose for luncheon, I was referring to what I regard as the crux of this proposal. I pointed out that the Attorney-General had adroitly evaded discussing the merits of the proposal, treating the matter as one relating to a particular union and a particular judgment of the Court. This legislation really raises issues which are bound to affect the future development of trade unionism in a way far beyond the immediate object of the Bill.
– Is this Bill not like altering the rules while the race is being run ?
– Every one knows, although the Speaker has no official knowledge of it, that this matter has not been finally decided by the Court, and cannot be decided until judgment is pronounced concerning the attitude of this union to the rules of the Court. What is happening is that, in dealing with a particular case, we shall fundamentally alter the very basis of our Arbitration Courts, and adopt a new line of procedure which, I think, will profoundly affect all future industrial development in Australia. As I understand the principle of arbitration laid down in our Acts from time to time, it is that the Court shall deal only with bodies of men engaged in particular industries. Now we have a proposal to supersede that principle, and for the future to proceed on lines which threaten to make the Arbitration Court of little effect, and may alter the rationale of the whole movement.
Whether that be right or wrong is a question which ought to give us serious pause in this National Parliament. The point I arn trying to stress is that, having regard to industrial relations hitherto in Australia, and to the whole surroundings here, the peaceful evolution of our industrial life would better and more safely proceed on the lines already laid down - along the lines of arbitration, conciliation, and Wages Boards - than on the Syndicalist lines suggested in the’ Bill. I put this point without reference to the particular union, except in so far as that union is a very proper illustration to take as applying to the general principle. Somehow or other it would seem that we cannot get away from the surroundings of these local cases which colour everything, including the Attorney-General’s speech last night, with the result that he touched every point but the real point raised in the Bill. For instance, he began in a very dramatic way by saying that we are at war, and that he threw on the Opposition the responsibility for anything that might happen to the industrial peace of the community unless we helped him to put this Bill through. In other words, while the honorable gentleman was talking industrial peace, he seemed the whole time to be rattling the sabre. A strike in war time, he told us, is a fearful thing to contemplate. “ Overseas yonder,” lie said, “ there are strikes occurring during the war which would not occur if there were Arbitration Courts.” The simple answer to that is that strikes are occurring over there, although means have been furnished for the settlement of disputes by conciliation and arbitration. The very last strike of all was a revolt against the decision of a referee to whom both sides had decided to leave the question. Mr. Runciman gave his decision, and immediately the South Wales miners refused to accept it, and went on strike. I do not know whether that strike has been settled, but I think so.
– Of course you know the reason that those men went on strike? The reason was that the proprietors were getting a rise of 4s. per ton, and gave the miners a rise of only 3d., thus putting £36,000,000 into their own pockets.
– I think the honorable member is altogether overstating the case. I should say that the gentlemen on the spot know all the circumstances. Both miners and proprietors agreed to leave the matter in the hands of Mr. Runciman for final decision ; and yet, after the Government had gone to the trouble to guarantee these men that they should have justice, they went on strike because they did not get as much as they thought they ought to.
– Why should they not? Why should they not share in the huge, profits 1
– Unlike the AttorneyGeneral, the honorable member for East Sydney evidently believes in strikes in war time, unless the men get what they want. Truly the honorable member supplies the answer to the AttorneyGeneral, and repudiates the notion that we should do everything we can to preserve industrial peace in war time. The honorable member tells us that he thinks the men ought to strike if they do not get what they think they are entitled to. I, however, have a different notion. I think that when men agree with the masters to abide by the decision of a referee they ought to abide by it. However, the point is that at Home they have machinery actually in operation to adjust those differences, and that, notwithstanding the fact, this unfortunate strike took place.
– If the men were dissatisfied with the referee’s1 decision, they had no Court of appeal - the only appeal they had was the strike.
– Should there have been any other Court of appeal when once it had been decided that Mr. Runciman should be the Court of appeal ?
– Yes; if the men were dissatisfied. We see the same sort of thing in the ordinary Courts every day.
– It would seem that there is no guarantee that strikes will not occur, even when there isi the best arbitration machinery available.
Let me be not misunderstood. I say, very firmly and clearly, that if proprietors anywhere, either here or over there, are making money out of the war, the men are entitled to a “look in” at the profits.
– That is all the men are asking for.
– And they did not get it in South Wales.
– My honorable friends appear to know all about what is going on over there. I only know that this unfortunate strike occurred in war time, notwithstanding that Mr. Runciman had given a decision by which both sides had agreed to abide; and, therefore, I submit that part of the AttorneyGeneral’s statement means nothing at all. Moreover, there are strikes threatening here every day.
– There is not a Court like Mr. Justice Higgins’ Court in England.
– I know there is not.
– That is what the AttorneyGeneral was talking about, and, had there been such a Court, there would not have been a strike in South Wales.
– The honorable member seems quite unaware that the Broken Hill miners, only the other day, gave Mr. Justice Higgins three weeks to go there and settle their dispute, or otherwise they would go on strike.
– We are now talking about South Wales.
– The AttorneyGeneral, by implication, has told us over the table that unless we put this particular measure through there is likely to be a strike in connexion with the shearers’ organization.
– I do not think he said that.
– For my own part, I should think there never need be a strike anywhere so long as there is a union that can make the Government of a country do what it desires.
– Don’t be downhearted!
– I am nob in the least downhearted. Personally, this matter does not affect me, but as a member of the community, and a member of this National Parliament, I am affected, along with every man in the country, whether he be a workman, proprietor, or a member of the general public. It is of vital importance to us what shall be the future lines of our industrial evolution. The Postmaster-General, and the organization which he controls very ably - we must give him that credit - have done wonders.
– Halloa ! Then there is some good in it?
– My honorable friends opposite seem to be quite disappointed that I am not launching an attack against the unions. I never have attacked trade unionism per se.
– It is “ good in spots “ !
– I think that a wisely ordered trade union is a good thing in any case, “ spots “ or no “ spots.”
– We shall try to have a big organization. Is it that you object to?
– All I wish to say is that, in my judgment, honorable members opposite are proceeding in a way inimical to the real interests of the working men of Australia in trying to develop trade unionism along Syndicalist lines.
– It is not the first time we have taken risks.
– Of course it is not; but may I suggest that everything is not always perfectly right that the honorable member and his friends do? I dare say that the honorable member makes just about the average number of mistakes ; and I hope he will forgive me if I suggest that he is making a big mistake, particularly as concerns the men he represents, in following the lines hinted in the Bill. I would have preferred that this matter should not have arisen in connexion with any particular union, because I am not here to launch any attack against the Shearers- Union or any other union, but I maintain that this proposal constitutes a grave and new departure in that it strikes at the very principle of arbitration and conciliation and Wages Boards, and aims at the building up of a union which later on intends to sweep all these aside, and be really the State itself.
– Is not that a gross exaggeration of possibilities?
– I do not think so. If the aim is one big union which is to match the oneness of the State, that means that it is to take the place of the State - that it is going to control the State. I venture to say that the State is a much bigger union than any trade union, even one big trade union, and if that be the aim of any union, the State must grapple with it just as France, Sweden, and other countries have grappled with attempts to push this matter with the same object in view. Many a time the State has had to take hold of these organizations and put them in their proper place; they must always be in subordination to the State itself. In other words, no union, however powerful or beneficial its objects may be, must attempt to usurp the functions of the State itself.-
– This is an extraordinary stretch of imagination, “unparalleled in all history !
– I am taking precisely the attitude that I have always taken. I have always been opposed to outside control over local matters’. Many times have I fought it just as I am now trying to fight it, in a reasonable way. I think it is wrong. Its lines are wrong. It can only result in injury to the working men themselves in the long run, when it has had time to work itself out.
– In what way?
– With one big union controlling everything, the decision as to what is right and fair in a particular local industry is determined, not by those who know most about the local troubles and peculiarities, but by people entirely outside who are not possessed of local knowledge and know nothing about local circumstances.
– Who says that such would happen ?
– It must happen. It has happened, and has led to some of the biggest disputes we have had in Australia, and which have only been ended when centralized control has been cut off and matters settled locally and in the light of all the local circumstances. It has been a prolific cause of strikes and troubles in our industrial development. Knowledge of detail is the very essence of peace in these matters.
– Where is the outside control that the right honorable gentleman refers to? A moment ago he commended the president of the Australian Workers Union, and now he says that the big union is productive of bad results.
– I said that the president of the Australian Workers Union controlled his organization with a great deal of ability, but there has been a great change, indeed, if the miners are content to allow themselves to be overborne in a central council by some one belonging to the Australian Workers Union, and vice versa
– But suppose the miners become a sectional part of the Australian “Workers Union ?
– Then they become a section of it, and, therefore, a minority, unable to control the final decision. That will be decided by the big union, which knows nothing about the local circumstances of the miners. That is one of my greatest objections to this proposal.
– The right honorable gentleman is anticipating something that will not happen.
– I am speaking of something that has happened in the history of Australia.
– I do not think that it has happened.
– Here is another honorable member who is quite confident about all these matters, though I suppose he has never been in a strike, and knows nothing about them.
– Tell us where it has happened.
– I am endeavouring to discuss a principle. My attitude in brief is - I believe that there is nothing in Australia to-day that promises permanent peace in anything like the same degree as do the Wages Boards operating to-day. These Wages Boards are confined to particular industries, and settle disputes on the spot by representatives from either side talking over matters quietly across a table.
– That is not the opinion of the workers of Australia.
– I am not concerned as to that. I do not know that the workers have always advocated what is best for them. They can go wrong occasionally. I think they are going wrong now, and I know that a great many things that they have done have come back like a boomerang and done them considerable damage. Their opinion on this matter differs at the moment from mine, and, of course, being in the majority, they will have their way.
– Do not the same remarks apply to your friends - the Conservatives^ - also ?
– I do not know what the honorable member means by bis reference to my friends the Conservatives. My duty is to stand for the citizens of Australia in their entirety as far as I am able to do it, and I am here to say that in a young country like this, with all the prospects ahead of it and all the wonderful potentialities - I ask pardon for using the word again - it possesses, nothing could happen which would so injure its prospects and alter its final destiny as will development along Syndicalist lines. The very thing that we ought to strive to avoid, and not develop, is what this Bill appears to encourage. How will it affect Arbitration and Conciliation Courts and Wages Boards? The very principle of compulsory arbitration is that it should be accompanied by penalties which are enforcible. If we have one big union, with every one in it, how is the State to enforce penalties 1 It could not fine all the unions if they are all amalgamated in one big union. The Arbitration Court could not enforce its decrees. As a matter of fact, if we have one big union, the Arbitration Court and the whole of the government will be at the feet of the big union, and our industrial tribunals would not be wanted. But the result in the final settlement will be that the sections who are interested will be profoundly disappointed. Let honorable members do what they can. to settle the local trouble that has arisen, which is the cause of the introduction of this Bill, in any way that seems fit to them, but do not let them put into an Act of Parliament a new principle that runs counter to the lines upon which industrial evolution has proceeded, or the consequences may be very serious in the long run in the working out of this principle.
– The Bill will leave things as they are so far as the Australian Workers Union is concerned.
– But it goes further, and authorizes the filling up of any other union by any other body of persons of whatever kind.
– It makes a farce of trade unionism.
– As I understand the genesis and movement of th9 trade union development, it is that of a body of men in a particular industry.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman know that trade unionists are all looking forward to the amalgamation of sectional unions?
– I am quite aware of that; but I think that they are wrong in doing so, and I am endeavouring to put my opinion as calmly and as temperately as I can on record. I think this development is a wrong one. The unions are looking forward to something that is not going to do them any good in the sequel. They may get some temporary advantage. I believe that they will get some political advantage out of this. We are already realising the influence that this particular union has over the National Parliament. But, beyond that advantage, I do not think they are going to get anything out of it so “far as the industrial efficiency, comfort, and peace of the working men themselves are concerned. However, honorable members are so powerful just now that the Bill is to be placed on the statute-book; but I take leave to make my position quite clear on the matter. I shall look to the future with some confidence that the view I am now putting forward will be found to be the correct one when a few more years have come and gone.
I think that it is about time in Australia our trade unionism began to develop along the . constructive side. Hitherto it has not begun to develop on those lines. There are 525,000 unionists in Australia who contribute annually something like £750,000, but I do not see any new proposals for devoting that money, that energy, and the co-operative principle along constructive lines. The old craft unions believed in looking after their members when they were unemployed. Have any of the unions to-day any proposition for dealing with the unemployed among their members?
– One or two have, I know.
– The Typographical Society are keeping many of their men going at the present time.
– That is one case.
– The Boilermakers Society do the same.
– Has this big union - the Australian Workers Union - a sick fund?
– It has a funeral fund.
– Has it a sick or an unemployed fund ?
– Could they not do better with their £750,000 of annual income?
– The money is used to keep the conditions of employment good.
– I thought that the Arbitration Court was established to do that.
– For the tramway workers we secured an increase of wages amounting to £4,000. That was something substantial. The honorable member knows that trade unionism is all right.
– I know that unionism is all right, but this is a development which will destroy the old beneficial trade unionism. I have already read the announcement of persons in authority in this union as to what they seek. Syndicalism means having one big union or organization on industrial lines taking the place of the State.
– A union of unions?
– The Australian Workers Union is totally opposed to Syndicalism.
– Then what is meant by one big union that will match in importance the oneness of the State?
– The Australian Workers Union opposes political action.
– Would not political action be at an end if you had one big union matching the oneness of the State? Is it not intended that a union shall take the place of the State, or, in other words, become the State? That is the trend of the movement as stated by industrial leaders from time to time.
– Then why should they trouble about this amendment of the law ?
– This is a lever to assist in raising the union to the position which it desires to occupy. By absorbing all industries in one big union, you must ultimately create an overbearing oligarchy, which is fundamentally antagonistic to free government, and will lead to untold mischief.
.- The speech of the Leader of the Opposition was accompanied by so many interjections that it reminded me of the Pilgrims’ Chorus in “Tannhauser.” Section 2 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which was passedto secure the settlement of in- industrial disputes, states that one of its chief objects was -
To facilitate and encourage the organization of representative bodies of employers and of employees, and the submission of industrial disputes to the Court by organizations, and to permit representative bodies of employers and of employees to be declared organizations for the purposes of this Act.
The primary object of Parliament, which has been recognised more or less by deci sions of the Court, was to create organizations within industries having a common interest in matters in dispute. One can understand the enthusiasm with which, in 1904, Parliament hailed the advent of a measure to substitute judicial arbitration for strikes. The meaning of “ industry “ has been widened, perhaps, beyond the expectation of some, but not necessarily beyond what may, on the whole, conduce to the main end in view, although in carrying its interpretation to the length desired, and not yet effected, the Australian Workers Union will, in the opinion of a good many, strike at the chief efficiency of organization for the purposes of the Act. I do no more than adopt the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that, in combining a number of industries within such a breadth of comprehension that you have, in effect, Syndicalism, you destroy the union powers of selfgovernment which have been one of the chief agencies of industrial reform in the United Kingdom. There has been a wide discussion in America as to whether the old principles of trade unionism should be preserved, or whether the large grouping which has been so marked during the last fifteen or twenty years should he continued. The discussions on the subject were republished in the Annals of the American Academy two or three years ago; but I think that the best opinion in America is that - apart from the securing of individual ends - it is better to stick to the old trade union principles. To differentiate unions in accordance with the branches of particular trades is, in the longrun, more efficacious for the settlement of industrial disputes. About twelve months ago applications were made to the Arbitration Court for the cancellation of the registration of, perhaps, the strongest union, numerically, in Australia, and at the end of 1914 a Bill was introduced here to amend the conciliation and arbitration law, so as to give the President of the Arbitration Court the option of saying, in regard to this application, that, unless certain conditions were complied with, cancellation would be ordered. As the law stood, if certain conditions had not been complied with, it was imperative to order the deregistration of the union and the cancellation of its certificate. I very much doubt the wisdom of passing substantial legislation that is retrospective, but the
House, on the assurance of the AttorneyGeneral - which personally I did not accept - that this was a matter of procedure, passed the measure. Thus the union was afforded an opportunity, should the President of the Arbitration Court think fit, to recast its rules so as to get rid of the invalidity which might otherwise he proved against it. The Deputy President, being appealed to, gave the union until the 1st July, afterwards extending the period to the 1st September, to alter its rules to bring them into accordance with the Act. The order of the Court showed that the organization comprised some 90,000 members, and that it was not truly an organization of employees, because it contained, not only employees, but also a number of employers, and persons who were in no sense connected with the pastoral industry. Now we are told by the AttorneyGeneral that the rules of the organization cannot be altered to comply with the order, but we have not been told why compliance is impossible. All that has been communicated to us is that Mr. Starke - whether as counsel for the union or as counsel for the applicants for the cancellation of its registration I do not know - has advised that it cannot comply with the law. Surely he has not advised that it could not get rid of certain of its members, though that might be inconvenient. Last year the AttorneyGeneral said that only 1 per cent, of its members could be regarded as not belonging to the pastoral industry. Surely, then, it is not beyond the power of its officers to recast its membership to comply with the order of the Court and with the law. I do not think it is fair to ask us, without further information, to pass a measure of retrospective application, dealing, not with a mere matter of procedure, but with a matter of substance. If procedure alone were concerned, I should not oppose the measure. _
– The measure is not retrospective. The Attorney-General said that the union had complied with the order of the Court.
– The Court found that the rules allowed persons who were employers, not employees, to be admitted as members of an organization registered as an organization of employees, and that such persons were admitted. The evidence shows that barristers - I am glad that we are at last declared officially to be workers - members of Parliament - also officially recognised as workers - hotelkeepers, storekeepers, dentists, hairdressers, and other employers not engaged in any work connected with the pastoral industry, are members of the Australian, Workers Union. Employers have been admitted as members, and have been allowed to continue as members. They have been allowed to vote for the appointment of the executive and of officers administering the affairs of the organization, although it is this executive which generally decides whether claims are to be enforced against employers, and to what extent, and how. The principle of the arbitration law is that the members, of the union should control the question of whether or not a dispute is to be submitted to the Court.
– In the case referred tocarriers were held not to be members of the union.
– What is the advicegiven by Mr. Starke?
– That under the constitu- tion of the union it cannot be registered.
– The union could be registered only by the sacrifice of such a large number of members that the financial basis of the union would be affected.
– And a number of awards would be destroyed.
– I sympathize with that point of view if it can be shown to be correct. I do not say that we should vote against the Bill if in the light of facts it can be shown that it ought to be passed. The desire of the Opposition is to get more information on this point. The last thing we ought to be asked to do is to bring in a Bill to alter retrospectively the conditions of any industry in relation to which there is a dispute, if that alteration involves a matter of substance. If the alteration involves merely a technical flaw, we are justified in altering retrospectively the provisions of the Act. As regards the provisions of the Bill, I confess that I do not know whether the measure is adequate or not to attain its purpose. The amendment made last year contains, as regards section 55, which deals with the registration of organizations, the provision that a union may be a certain organization of employees in an industry “ together with such other persons, whether employees in the industry or not, as have- been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.” What is the distinction between the Act as it will be amended by this Bill and the Act as it was amended by the Act of 1914 ? The latter referred to such other persons “ whether employees in the industry or not,” and this Bill refers to “ such other persons, whether employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits or not.” That is the only distinction I can see, and I ask the Minister to explain the effect of it. If he will do that he will help us to apprehend what is intended by the Bill, and. will enable me to resolve my uncertainty as to whether I should vote for the Bill or not. If it is clearly pointed out that it is impossible at present to comply with the Judge’s order, we should be reluctant to vote against the Bill, if by so doing we might bring down a whole superstructure of awards and agreements that have been made.
– That is counsel’s opinion.
– That is admitted. As a matter of fact the Judge himself in making his orders has said so. He has paid a compliment to the union on the good work it has done in many lines of activity. In his award in the Killen case he said he would hesitate a good deal before he would grant an application to deregister an organization that has produced in so many cases a settlement of industrial disputes.
– We are trying to register the union, but that cannot be done under the Act.
– Why is that? All that the award asks is that the union shall exclude men who are not engaged in the pastoral industry.
– That would smash up all the agreements the union has made.
– Would it suffice if in Committee an amendment were made declaring that all agreements entered into by the organization on its present basis should stand?
– It would not suffice.
– I hope the Minister will give us more information on the subject. The technical effect of the Bill has not been explained. The words “ industrial pursuit “ have been introduced, whereas at present the words are “in the industry.” That seems to widen, the section indefinitely so as to make the position of the union practically the same as it was at the time of the dispute. The main point we should consider is as to what is best in the interest of the large number of those who are most affected by strikes. In my opinion, in their own interests it would be better if the men did not extend too widely the basis of the union, because it would militate against the settlement of disputes on the ground of community of interest. I hope the Minister will explain on what grounds Mr. Starke advised that the union could not, without an amendment of the Act, comply with the Judges’ order.
.- I should like to say a few words on this Bill largely on account of the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition. His contention is that if the present constitution of the union is allowed to continue so that it may go before the Court and obtain an award, the union will ultimately grow into one great organization that Will dominate the State - that will, in fact, be the State. If that is the opinion of members of the Opposition, and if they believe that such a development is likely to prove fatal to the best interests of the country, surely they should give a promise to the country at the next election that if they are returned to power they will undertake to remove this Act from the statute-book, and so limit the scope of the unions in the future. If honorable members opposite believe that the growth of unionism in that direction will be disastrous to the country, they ought not to rest content until the law which permits such a union to exist is abolished. I look upon the position in quite a different light. Here is a great union bringing under its protective wing sections of workers who are not strong enough to combine together and get decisions in the Arbitration Court, but because those sections do not happen to be directly allied with a particular industry, we are asked to say that the union shall not include those men in its membership. The same trouble arose in connexion with the miners. Their union applied for registration, but because the union included timber-cutters it was not allowed to register, the Court holding that timber-cutters were not connected with the mining industry. Therefore, those timber workers had to be eliminated from the union. Although the Australian Workers Union includes “men of different occupations, it does not necessarily follow when the union appeals to the Court to get an award in, say, the shearing industry, that the Court cannot give a decision affecting that industry alone. Any award given in that industry cannot affect the conditions of men WhO may be publicans, lawyers, members of Parliament, or who follow any other occupation. The Australian Workers Union serves a good purpose in another way, because employees like the bush workers, who are scattered throughout the country districts, have an opportunity of joining such an organization which will protect and aid them, whereas if they were left to themselves they would have no opportunity of taking advantage of the decision of a Wages Board or an Arbitration Court. Therefore I do not anticipate all the dire results which the Leader of the Opposition has predicted. The right honorable gentleman had something to say about the influence of the Australian Workers Union on this Parliament. Is this the first time that any combination of men has approached an Australian Parliament and exercised its influence or made its desires known? Have we never known the members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Mines, or the Chamber of Manufactures to approach Parliament and ask for legislation which they considered just and in their own interests? Then, why is so much said because a bi,g industrial union exercises the same privilege? When a decision of the Court seriously affects the members of a big union, why should they not approach Parliament and ask for consideration ?
– The Victorian Government practically suspended the Factories Act at the dictation of the Employers’ Federation.
– I know of instances of big outside organizations approaching Parliament in their own .interests. The Leader of the Opposition had much to say concerning the merits of Wages Boards, bub there are industries to which these sectional Wages boards cannot apply, and in which they would not operate satisfactorily. The evidence taken by them is given voluntarily, and is not on oath, and the award of the Board applies very often to a limited district. There is a strong objection on the part of the workers to the decisions of sectional Wages Boards. Continual friction arises under them where an endeavour is made to apply an award to an industry in a city, but not to the same industry when carried on in a country district or where, in other words, it is sought to provide for a lower rate of wages and longer hours in a rural district than those applied to the same industry when carried on in- a city. There is yet another objection which has not been raised during this debate, but which is heard chiefly outside Parliament. The Opposition, as their Leader has said to-day, profess to believe in unionism, but not in what they describe as political unionism. They object to a union taking an interest in politics, and using any portion of its funds for political purposes. That is the crux of their objection to any growth or extension of what they speak of as political unionism. It may be arguable whether this Bill is going to be beneficial ; but I do not think it will interfere in any marked degree with well-defined craft unions as they exist today. It will be advantageous, however, to unions which are small and weak, as well as to workers outside any union who cannot band themselves together in a separate organization. To such people the basis on which we desire that the Australian Workers Union shall be able to stand before the Courts will prove of inestimable value. They will be able to march under the banner of that union, and I feel confident that none of the doleful predictions of the Opposition will be realized.
.- The general attitude of this Parliament towards industrial problems has been that of trying to secure a fair and equitable adjustment between the parties to a conflict, in the interests, not merely of the parties themselves, but of the whole community. Towards that end our legislation has from time to time been directed, and this House has never been hostile to any fair and legitimate attempt to bring about an equitable settlement of the differences between two large classes of the community when they are in economic grips. It is to be regretted that the AttorneyGeneral did not explain the exact reason for the introduction of this Bill. After dwelling upon the advantages of industrial peace, and the value of legislation of this character in securing industrial peace, he referred to the case of ex parte Killen, in which the learned Justice made an order with which he said the Australian Workers Union could not comply. We were further informed by him that Mr. Starke had advised that an amendment of the law was necessary, but he did not tell us what the legal difficulty was.
– Is it not a good reason that a great organization like this cannot comply with an order of the Court?
– In what way can it not comply with the order made in the case of exparte Killen? That order was -
I direct the Australian Workers Union - a registered organization of employees - on or before the 1stday of July, 1915 -
That date was extended - to alter its rules so as to bring them into conformity with the requirements of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1914; and in particular to provide by such altered rules -
In this case the organization was attacked on the ground that its rules did not comply with the existing law. Mr. Justice Powers found that in some respects they did not, and he gave the direction I have just read. The view taken by the learned Justice was apparently that the Act was designed to regulate disputes between employers and employees, and that organizations, to be registered, must consist of employers on the one side and of employees on the other.
– The Act does not say so.
– I am merely giving the order of the Justice. He also ordered -
Mr. Justice Powers practically found that the Australian Workers Union was an organization connected with the pastoral industry, and that its constitution dealt particularly with that industry - and he directed that only employees in connexion with that industry should be allowed to be members of the organization unless in the meantime its constitution was altered. Had it the power to alter its constitution? His Honour, it is to be presumed, would not knowingly make an order with which the organization could not comply.
– It did alter its constitution.
– It had power to do so under section 58a of the principal Act as amended by the Act of 1914. The third paragraph in Mr. Justice Powers’ order reads -
What is the legal difficulty in complying with this order? Is it that persons who are not employees may join the organization? Is it to allow of that, that this Bill is being pressed? The AttorneyGeneral says that it is to enable the order of the Court to be complied with. The organization at the present time can comply with it. What, then, is the legal difficulty?
– The legal difficulty isthat persons engaged in several industries are enrolled in the Australian Workers Union, and that the Act does not permit of that. .
– But the learned Justice said distinctly that only employees connected with the pastoral industry should be allowed to become members of such registered organization unless in the meantime its constitution was so altered as to include other industries.
– It has been altered.
– Then what is the necessity for this amending Bill?
– The difficulty is that the organization cannot be registered; that is to say, it cannot defend an application for de-registration. The honorable member does not think we would go to all thistrouble for nothing.
– Quite so; but the legal difficulty has not yet been explained.
– The organization desires to be able to comply with the orderof the Court.
– Section 58a providesthat an organization - may in the prescribed manner, and on compliance with the prescribed conditions, change its name, or chance the constitution of the organization, including the description of the industry in connexion with which it is registered, and the Registrar shall thereupon record the change in the register and upon the certificate of registration.
This union is registered to-day. If it changes its constitution it is not because of that process de-registered.
– It was registered to include persons employed only in the pastoral industry. It now proposes to alter that, and to register as an organization including persons employed in a number of industries.
– That was the order of the Court.
– But when it does that it will cease to be an organization which can defend successfully an application for de-registration, because the Act will not permit of such an organization being registered.
– Then, was the alteration made in section 58a by the Act of 1914 futile? It was expressly intended to enable an organization to be registered as including employees engaged in more than one industry.
– It will not allow that. I am not going to say that the point is not arguable, but it has been carefully considered by myself and by two- other counsel, who have held that, as the law stands, this organization could not successfully resist an application for deregistration.
– I shall be glad if the Attorney-General will give us his reasons in Committee. Mr. Justice Powers found that in several respects the Act had not been complied with. The evidence showed that barristers, members of Parliament, hotelkeepers, storekeepers, dentists, and other employers had been included in the membership of the organization, and, under the order made by him, such persons were excluded from it in future. I take it that the object of this Bill is not to validate the continuance of membership by persons who axe not employees.
– It is not; it is only to enable persons in varied industries to come in.
– I am glad to have that assurance. I wish now to point out the change that has been coming over legislation of this character by the Commonwealth Parliament. Originally the whole of our industrial legislation was based upon the existence of disputes between employers and employees in a particular industry, and provided for the making of awards only with respect to the persons engaged in that particular industry. That was made clear in the judgment given by the High Court on the 27th June, 1911, in the Federated Enginedrivers’ case. It was pointed out distinctly that that was the whole basis of our industrial system in the Commonwealth - the settlement of disputes in a particular industry. A craft guild had been registered, and in the case that went before the Court there were about 117 different defendants, representing all sorts of industries. The Court held that the application could not be entertained, with the result that Parliament was approached, and the whole basis of the Act was altered. At that time we were told of the great value of the craft as the basis of industrial organization; but now it would appear that we are going through a third phase. The idea is not so much the craft basis, but the organization of unions representing all sorts of crafts. If this Bill passes, there may be, in theory, a union practically as wide as the Commonwealth, including painters, carpenters, shearers, shipwrights, and others. Who is to decide the case under such circumstances? We ‘still have the principle of one industrial Judge, and he will be called upon to settle the whole of the industrial conditions of all sorts of trades throughout the Commonwealth.
– But you know that in practice it is not so. What happens is that each group has its own award.
– Each group may have its own award, but we are doing away with the group idea.
– There may be a group, . or bundle of groups, registered as a union consisting of men not necessarily members of one craft. Instead of this Court being one to settle disputes between two organizations in any particular industry, we shall introduce a system of filing a schedule, with a whole series of logs in all sorts of industries, and we shall. have one single mind regulating industrial conditions over the whole of the Commonwealth.
– That, of course, is quite a fanciful picture.
– It is quite possible; and it is fair that we should show what’ the possibilities under this kind of legislation are. I wish to protest against the introduction of a very dangerous practice which appears to be growing in this House. If a union is challenged in Court on any particular ground, one of the parties is entitled, even before the hearing is completed, to bring his influence to bear on the Executive of the day, and have a measure introduced that may alter the judgment.
– That is the price we pay for the refusal to amend the Constitution.
– Let me give a case in point. An application was made to cancel a union’s registration, and the Act made it obligatory on the Judge, if certain conditions were fulfilled, to cancel it. However, a Bill was introduced into this Parliament while the case was before the Court, to take away its obligatory character, and make it discretionary. What had that to do with the amendment of the Constitution?
– The whole question has to do with the amendment of the Constitution; it is because of the technicalities that hedge the Court about.
– I have shown the application of the principle and practice where an amendment of the Constitution was not in issue. It is a principle that ought to be very carefully exercised, or it may undermine the basis of the independent Judiciary. Here the Judge himself says-
– Do you suggest that the Judge desires to de-register the organization?
– I am not saying that, but dealing with the danger of approaching Parliament to ask for amendments of the law that may affect the judgment, after judicial proceedings have been started. There is the extraordinary position that we cannot discuss a case before the Court; and yet, on the occasion to which I have referred, the legislation we passed affected the course of the trial. In that case, the Judge said -
The question was fully argued by counsel for both parties, and I was referred to several eases. I decided that the amending Act applied, and that I could on this application exercise a discretion as to whether the application should or should not be cancelled.
– Read what the Judge said before that.
– I am on a different point, which has to do with interfering in a case during its trial. The Judge said -
Some of the sections of the amending Act are clearly retrospective (amongst others, see section 16), and in my opinion - taking the amending Act as a whole; - it was intended to be retrospective and to apply to pending applications.
After the case had gone to a certain stage, the Judge received a direction from this Parliament in the shape of an alteration of the law, and by this, of course, he had to abide; indeed, he drew attention te the fact that the Act was intended toapply to the case.
– The honorable gentleman might do us the justice to say that that Act was passed because the Judgesaid it was stupid and monstrous that he should be compelled to do this thing.
– Wot in the case to which I am referring.
– It was said in a formercase.
– The Judge was then referring to an entirely different case. Mr. Justice Powers never made that remark; and it is the viciousness of the principle that I am attacking. The honorable member for Bendigo has declared that the workers have the same right asthe members of Chambers of Manufactures, Chambers of Mines, and other associations to come to this House for redress; and with that I entirely agree. The workers have as much right as anybody to present petitions and show the wrongs of existing legislation, and just as much right to obtain redress. But if, during the progress of a trial, the Chamber of Mines or the Chamber of Manufactures were to come to Parliament and ask us to interfere in a matter in which they were particularly interested, I should regard their action as absolutely unjustifiable. As a matter of fact, the analogy set up by the honorable member is entirely misplaced. I may mention that this is not the first, but the third, time there has been interference in the way I strongly deprecate.
– It is a serious reflection on Parliament to suggest that it would, do an act of injustice.
– I am pointing out the dangers of a vicious tendency, which is creating a sort of feeling outside that persons, during the progress of a trial, have the right to come to Parliament and ask that the law shall be altered.
– The order had been given, and it was obeyed.
– As I say, this is the third time ; and we are asked to apply this Bill to a particular body. I should like to make one or two observations on the real value of the plank in the Labour party’s platform relating to conciliation and arbitration. Although there is that plank, further light is thrown on the matter by an official document published at the Worker office in Brisbane, the object of which is to show what it really means. We find from this document that the Labour party outside do not place much value on Arbitration and Conciliation Acts as a means for securing their ends.
– You know that is different from the view of the Australian Workers Union; your own experience tells you that it is different !
– Does the honorable member know to what I am about to refer? We hear honorable members arguing for industrial peace, but the Postmaster-General, addressing his own union at a Conference, said distinctly that there could be no such tiling as industrial peace - that war must continue until the present capitalistic system is overthrown. And that is the view we constantly hear expressed.
– The Postmaster-General is not the only one who holds that view; I am another.
– Quite so. The pamphlet to which I am referring was issued during the recent State elections in Queensland, and in it we find this -
It may be that it is hopeless for Labour to expect justice from a Judge. Trained in the law of a capitalistic State, all the faculties of his mind educated to capitalistic concepts, his judgment guided by capitalistic codes of equity, it is not likely that he will deliver awards calculated to break down the capitalistic system of society.
The conception seems to be that when the Judge gives an award it must be directed to breaking down the capitalistic system of society under which we now live -
Yet it is only by awards of this character that he can render anything approaching justice to the working class. Conciliation and arbitration, therefore, fails of necessity as a method of remedying the root evils of wage slavery.
– Is that published by the Independent Workers Union?
– It is published by the Worker newspaper, Brisbane, and is an authoritative explanation of the Labour platform -
As a discipline in restraint, however, it has its uses, and as a means of educating the workers themselves in the strength of their ease, and in the unavailing nature of all remedies short of the nationalization of industry, it is of incalculable value.
– What have we to. do with this?
– The pamphlet concludes -
But, under the best circumstances imaginable, it has to be remembered that, in the nature of things, we can hope for no more from it than a palliation of the evils of the wage system, whereas the aim of Labour is to sweep that system right away, put an end to the extortion of rent, interest, and profit, and secure to every wealth producer the full results of his industry.
Though many honorable members opposite advocate arbitration and conciliation, this is evidently regarded as only a temporary expedient, not as a permanent means of solving the great industrial problem of to-day. Beyond arbitration and conciliation lies their other objective, namely, the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. So far as this Bill deals with mere technicalities of a formal character, no objection can be raised.
– That is all it does.
– I submit that it goes a great deal further - that it extends the area of the organization, particularly that of the organization which has been mentioned. I readily admit that good results have followed the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in many instances.
– The decisions have been all one way, and that is why it has not been successful.
– Still, the Act has secured a great many advantages, and, in some respects, it has attained its object of preventing strikes and insuring security in industry. I appeal to the AttorneyGeneral not to force this matter unduly, and particularly to keep in view the fact that this Court is going to work better the more it is dissociated from political matters. If it is confined to the discussion of the problems between employer and employed there will be that freer and fuller co-operation which alone can result in greater industrial peace.
.- The organization to which I have the honour to belong has taken every opportunity to improve whatever industrial legislation has been in operation with a view to increasing the facilities for having disputes between employers and employees settled without the need to resorb to the extreme step of declaring a strike. Prior to the passing of the Commonwealth Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1904, the most militant union in Australia was that now known as the Australian “Workers Union, and that was because they had no other means of obtaining justice from those controlling the pastoral industry. It has to be said, to the credit of the members of this great organization, that immediately this Parliament brought into existence a system of conciliation and arbitration it was one of the first to recognise that it was its duty to submit matters in dispute to the President of the Arbitration Court instead of using the strike weapon, and that from the first occasion on which it applied to the Arbitration Court, the decisions of that Court have been upheld by it.
– The decisions have always been in favour of the union.
– It was an easy mat* tei- for the President of the Arbitration Court to give the members of the Australian Workers Union improved conditions, because the evidence submitted in support of its claims disclosed that its members were poorly paid, and that the pastoralists housed them in sheds or places that could hardly be compared with respectable pigsties. The Court recognised that there was reason and justice behind the men’s claims, and they made alterations in certain directions. Since then a further award has been applied for and given, and there has been industrial peace between employer and employee so far as the pastoral industry is concerned. The members of other organizations have loyally abided by the decisions of the Arbitration Court to which they have applied for improved conditions rather than enforce their demands by strikes. It is the duty of this Parliament to remove any difficulties which may prevent unions from approaching the Arbitration Court rather than place obstacles in the way of their doing so; and an extension of tlie system now in operation will mean much to the community. The honorable member for Darling Downs has said that numbers of men may be admitted into the unions who are not permitted to join them at the present time, but I understand that in this direction the Registrar has always had discretionary power, and the Bill does not take it away. I have been assured that this request has been put forward by the Australian Workers Union, not for the purpose of taking in large numbers of men who are not at present members of the union, but for the purpose of enabling many who are now members, and have been for many years, to retain their membership. In these circumstances, I trust that the House will see its way clear to adopt the Bill. The right honorable member for Parramatta and other honorable members of the Opposition have taken strong exception to the fact that officials of this union have approached honorable members on this side for the purpose of having this amendment brought about. My mind takes me back to an episode in the Victorian State Parliament. The Wages Board system had been in operation for some time in Victoria, and was proving fairly satisfactory to the employees, and conditions which were not creditable to the community were gradually being improved, when the employers waited on the Ministry of the day and brought whatever influence they could to bear on it, with the result that the Act was altered in certain respects. The effect was to practically paralyze the Wages Board system. At that time I did not hear from those officially connected with the party at present in Opposition in this House a great many objections to the action of these employers. In fact, many honorable members now in Opposition in this Chamber were supporters of, or members of, the State Ministry concerned, and they raised not the slightest objection when the Liberals in the State House practically wrecked the industrial legislation in force in Victoria. I have no objection to representatives of recognised organizations approaching members of Parliament, whether in opposition or supporting the Government, in order to bring about any alteration to legislation. It is then a question for the party that is approached to consider whether a just request has been put forward. If honorable members on this side of the chamber have allowed themselves to be approached by members of the Australian Workers Union for the purpose of getting this amending legislation passed, and if the Government have complied with the request put forward, we have only been doing something which is consistent with the attitude of the party towards industrial legislation.
– Are you pleading for the privileges of the Australian Workers Union being showered on the local publican ?
– I have not been officially informed that the only object of the Australian Workers Union in asking for this amendment is toadmit publicans or retain those who are already members of the organization. I believe that their object is a higher one. The Australian Workers Union has a record of which any member of the organization may be proud. Not only has it endeavoured, by every legitimate means, to improve the position of its members, but it has at all times done what it could to improve the condition of every worker in the community, and therefore any request that the officers of the union put before any Parliament, State or Commonwealth, is worthy of the best possible consideration. In this case, the representatives of the Australian Workers Union have done only what ia right. Strong exception has been taken to what the right honorable member for Parramatta has referred to as a breach of confidence on the part of the Prime Minister in regard to this matter.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– If that is your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I have no desire to discuss it.
– I prevented the right honorable member for Parramatta from discussing it.
– I merely wish to say that the right honorable gentleman, in some way or another, has said sufficient to be recorded in Hansard, and possibly in the press, to put the Prime Minister in a false position. I extremely regret it. So long as I remain in this House my vote will be given to remove obstacles in the way of the alteration of the constitution of organizations, to allow them to further better the conditions of those whose interests they serve. This should be the attitude of all honorable members, irrespective of the party to which they may belong. We should do all that we can to enable the unions to approach the Court with the least delay and expense. In many cases, days, and even weeks, have been occupied in the discussion of legal technicalities. In one case, something like five weeks were spent by counsel for the employers and counsel for the employees in arguing questions of law, with the result that the union concerned was put out of court, and had to pay legal expenses amounting to between £2,000 and £3,000, without the President of the Arbitration Court having an opportunity to consider the merits of its application. Such a state of things is not calculated to bring about the industrial peace that we are all preaching. Parliament should assist the unions in going to the Courts to obtain the peaceful and constitutional settlement of disputes. There is,however, a class of politician who, although advocating from the platform industrial peace, shows no practical sympathy with unionism, and, instead of voting to remove the difficulties of unionism, tries to place obstacles in its path.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner was not particularly happy, nor as enthusiastic as ousual, in his defence of this measure. As he justifies the action of a particular organization, simply because it is the action of an industrial organization, I ask him to consider for amoment how a similar action would be viewed if taken by an individual. If an individual litigant had been worsted in an appeal to a Court, and had been informed that, unless he put certain matters right, a decision would be given against him, and if, instead of putting his mistake right, he were to go to his political friends and order them to amend the law so that he could perpetuate his mistake, and thus get past the decision of the Court, what would the honorable gentleman think of his action? The early trade unionists never dreamt of the possibility of the inclusion in unions of persons not belonging to the organized industry. A few years ago no one would have dreamt that innkeepers would be made members of a union of shearers.
– Many of those to whom objection is taken joined the union as shearers, and, as they renew their subscriptions from time to time, cannot be removed from its membership.
– When a man ceases to be a worker in an industry, his connexion with its trade organization should cease automatically.
– In some unions persons who have become employers can remain as honorary members.
– I can understand a person who has ceased to work in an industry by reason of old age, or incapacity of some other kind, remaining a member of a union in that industry; but the position that we are asked to consider is something very different, and was ‘ undreamt of not so many years ago. The honorable member for Fawkner said that the record of the Australian Workers Union was one of which we should feel proud. While that union has a good record in many respects, there is evidence that many of its members now think its organization capable of improvement. When in Sydney not long since, on public business, I read in a newspaper serious complaints of intriguing at the headquarters of the organization to keep new blood out of the Council. If only a small proportion of the statements that were then published were correct, the union is in need of radical reorganization. Apparently it has grown altogether too large, and the control of head-quarters is regarded as irksome in many directions. That is the curse of centralization, and it will ultimately prove the ruin of the present Labour movement. The measure under discussion has been shown by speakers on this side to be a step in the direction of further centralization. I should like to know how the organizations and portions of organizations in the remoter States regard this proposal, and whether they have taken the trouble to find out where it is likely to lead them. If the members of the Australian Workers Union who reside in outlying States, and the members of other trade unions which will shortly be merged in this colossal organization, were alive to their own interests, they would fight tooth and nail against the tendency to centralization. In Western Australia we have great difficulty in bringing matters before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We are so far away that it means considerable expense to get questions dealt with at head-quarters which could very well be dealt with in the State itself. This trouble is likely to develop throughout
Australia. I have always been an ardent believer in the principle of conciliation and arbitration, and the honorable member for Fawkner was scarcely fair in stating that many members on this side had shown themselves hostile to it. When it was first mooted, it was looked upon with great hope. Employers generally anticipated the abolition of strikes, and Liberals were quite as ready as Labour members to indorse the principle.
– When they knew that it had to come.
– I do not think so. We must give Liberalism credit for having, even in the earlier stages, done good work in carrying the principle into effect. The Labour party did most of the hard work, but genuine Liberalism undoubtedly welcomed this movement for arbitration, and whenever any legitimate difficulties stand in -the way of cheapening and making more rapid the operation of the Arbitration Court, I feel sure that Liberalism will be ready to improve the principle as much as possible.
– You know what Liberalism gave us in Queensland in 1891 ?
– I do not know that it was Liberalism to which the honorable member refers. Unfortunately, there is a tail to Liberalism which is very much the colour of Conservatism; and as the tail is said to sometimes wag the dog, I am prepared to admit that the Liberal dog has been wagged in that way more than once. At the same time, I feel sure that wherever the principle of arbitration can be improved, Liberalism can be relied upon to lend a helping hand.
– I hope Liberalism will help on this occasion.
– I do not think the honorable member can expect that assistance on this occasion, because this Bill represents an entirely new development in trade unionism - a development of which I am confident a great many trade unionists will not be proud, and which will undoubtedly wreck the Labour movement in the future. I have, always held strongly the view that the Labour movement ought to decentralize rather than centralize, that if Labour means true democratic government, it means decentralization and not centralization, because centralization is only another word for o autocracy. In my opinion, Labour is making a big mistake in its own interest in endeavouring to create one huge organization, the strings of which will all be in the hands of one clique, who will work the union as they think fit, and over whom there will be very little control by the bulk of the members. I am inclined to think that the proposal before us to-day is not intended for the benefit of industrial trade unionism. Its real meaning is political. Its object is to get that control over the votes of the industrial community which, it is hoped, will enable the Labour party to remain indefinitely in power. There are many trade unionists who are not prepared to follow their leaders through thick and thin in many matters, and this line of action will only increase their numbers.
– You think that this Bill will hurt the Labour party?
– I feel sure that that will be the result in the long run.
– Then I feel inclined to vote for it.
Mr.FOWLER.- I am merely giving a word of warning where I think it will be appreciated. Because I consider this proposal absolutely inequitable, I shall oppose the Bill.
.- The reason why we are all favorable to arbitration is that we recognise that from time to time there have been, and will be, disputes between those who have opposing interests. As I understand the Bill, its purpose is to allow certain men who have become members of a union, in which they have no personal interest, to continue their membership.
– Nothing of the kind. The men object to be put out of the union.
– The first question that suggests itself to my mind is whether the Bill is to serve a political or an industrial purpose, and it appears to me that, no matter what may appear on the face of the measure, its object is political rather than industrial. It aims at giving a certain political faction a larger measure of control, and such a predominating influence as will enable its members to become ultimately the masters of this Parliament and of the country. Why should persons who have no direct personal interest in a dispute be allowed to make themselves a party to it? That is the direct and positive result of this measure.
It allows any persons to become members of a union, and that they will secure such membership for ulterior motives goes without saying. As members of a union they will exercise an influence which, to say the least, will be peculiar. Such is the force and influence of some of the Labour unions that the boycott will be employed in order to force certain men into those organizations.
– That accounts for some storekeepers being members of the union already.
– A very dangerous principle indeed has been established. The boycott is used to force men into the union, and then their influence in the union is to be utilized for a purpose subversive of the best interests of the country.
– Then why not induce a sufficient number of scabs to join to upset the union?
– I do not recognise any of my fellow men as scabs. No matter what opinions they hold, or what organizations they may belong to, they ought not to be designated as scabs by any section of the community.
– If they deprived your wife and family of their livelihood you would call them worse than scabs.
– It ill becomes any person in the community to call another person a scab. I was saying that men will join the particular union, which we know is behind the movement for the enactment of this measure, for political and business reasons. They will then become parties to a dispute.
– If it were not for the Australian Workers Union you would have men shearing your sheep for 12s. 6d. per 100.
– The honorable member judges me by what his own disposition would be, because he owns probably more sheep than any other member in this Chamber.
– For any shearing I have had done I have paid union rates.
– I am prepared to give the honorable member credit for honorable intentions, and he should give me the same credit.
– I do.
– This Bill involves also the dangerous principle of legislating to interfere with cases which axe pending in the Law Courts. It is considered improper to even mention cases which are sub judice, yet the Government not only deal with matters which are hefore the Court, but present a Bill which is to have the effect of interfering with the judgment of the Court. Of all matters that could be dealt with in this Chamber I consider that the most dangerous. It may undoubtedly suit the legal profession to have these things done, tut we are not here to bolster up the legal profession, and I do not think the legal members on this side desire to do that.
– The passage of this Bill will obviate the taking of legal proceedings.
– “Hope springs eternal.’’
– The Australian Workers Union will be representative, not only of the employees, but also of the employers, and that fact will produce discord which will result in litigation. There is nothing to prevent employers being members of ‘ a union.
– Members must be employees.
– The object of the Bill is to admit into the union others than legitimate employees. The effect of the Bill will be to give unionism a political force such as will annihilate the true functions of government, and create dangerous precedents such as never have confronted us previously; and whilst for the time being this legislation may be considered a victory for the Government, the ultimate result will be the undoing of the Labour party.
– In those circumstances I will vote for the Bill.
– I shall not condone a present evil for a future good. The Postmaster-General has stated that only employees can be members of the union, but I understand that a good number of men who are employers have been, up to the present time, included in the union membership.
– That was the cause of the suit.
– Quite so.
– But the rules of the union were amended to exclude them.
– This Bill has been brought in to allow their membership to continue.
– The order of the Court has been complied with.
– I desire, in conclusion, to enter my emphatic protest against any form of legislation that will allow trade unions to develop a power and influence superior to and dominating that of the Parliament which is representative of the whole of the people. Such a position is dangerous and unwise, and will ultimately make for the undoing rather than the upbuilding of the people.
.- It seems to me that the Opposition are altogether too fearful of this measure, and that they are conjuring up in connexion with it a bogy that does not exist. If any loss is to be suffered by the so-called rehabilitation of the Australian Workers Union, it will be suffered by the union itself; the organization, and not the country, is talcing the risk. I see in this proposal but a furtherance of that regimentation of the industrial community, more particularly, which marks the degree of progress we are making as a civilized people. It was well pointed out this morning by the Attorney-General that, in the absence of extensive organizations, there is always a tendency for friction to occu’r here, there, and everywhere, and from petty misunderstandings great troubles may spring. Under such a system, no branch or section may please sion of the ranks of the Australian Workers Union, one can easily foresee how debatable questions, whatever they may be, will be removed from the heat of the industrial battle-field to the serenity of the council chamber. That, surely, will be a step in advance. Under such a system, no branch or section may please itself as to what it shall do in the way of going out on strike. It is in connexion with strikes that the most wealth has been lost, and most misery caused in relation to industrial matters, and anything that will tend to minimize the risk of strikes should be welcomed by the community and approved by this House. While there may be an element of risk associated with this change, 1 am quite satisfied that it will be taken by the union itself. While 1 realize, as the Opposition fear, that the central control of a vast organization might be directed in some way against the body politic, 1 think too much of the independence of the average man, whether he be a unionist or not, to believe that he will submit to too much dictation. The functions of the organization having been discharged, and those in control of it having attended to their special duties, any attempt to coerce the big body of men into a channel of which they do not entirely approve, will assuredly fail. There is a greater danger of an organization being diverted from its proper channels when it is divided into sections than there is where men picked from the ranks of a union 100,000 strong are handling the levers, and know that those for whom they are acting will keep them up to the mark, and will resent any undue interference. Taking into account, as I do, the standard of intelligence that prevails in this country, I cannot for one moment subscribe to the dangers foreseen by the Opposition as likely to arise from the passing of this Bill, and the consequent substantiation - if I may so describe it - of the existing position. This Bill, after all, is not to create any new order of things. It is merely to ratify that which already exists. The Australian Workers Union has already in its ranks men of many callings, and, in the majority of cases, those belonging to it, who follow other avocations, are members of it only because they are graduates of it. I think we can safely pay a tribute to the Australian Workers Union. Travelling in the west country of New South Wales, I have developed a profound respect for the average members of the Australian Workers Union. Wherever I have gone, I have found them intelligent, enthusiastic, and kind-hearted. There are, of course, exceptions, and upon these my honorable friends opposite can dwell. For the most part, however, members of the Australian Workers Union have demonstrated that they are the aristocrats of Labour in Australia. Owing to the far-seeing policy which has guided their destiny, under the direction of those whom they have nominated to responsible positions, they practically blazed the track to Federation in this country. It was the first organization to be Australia-wide in its scope. Its members saw the advantages to be derived from federating or unifying, and, fostered no doubt by the very nature of their organization, have done more to bring the ends of Australia in touch with each other than has any other body of men. The amalgamation of the different units has been practically the forerunner of Federation in Australia. I hope that the results flowing from the passing of this Bill will effectively disprove all that has been predicted by the Opposition as to the motives actuating the proposed amendment of the principal Act. The honorable member for Perth endeavoured to draw an analogy between the action of the organization and that of an individual who was not getting all he wanted outside, and who appealed to Parliament to set his case in order. The analogy is too remote ; .in fact, it does not exist. The honorable member knows aswell as I do that quantitative changes make qualitative differences, and if ever there was a difference in quantity which made a difference in quality it is in this case. Already so far-flung are the interests concerned, so wide are the ramifications of the organization, that it behoves the National Parliament to do all that it can to facilitate its peaceful legal working.
– I should not have spoken but for the fact that neither the Attorney-General nor any member of his party has attempted to justify the inclusion in the Australian Workers Union of persons who are altogether outside the great industry to which it chiefly relates. In the grouping of those engaged in industry, in order that they may be called before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, it is undoubtedly necessary -that the members of an organization shall be partners in the industry to which it relates. Although a man may be in the lowest ranks of employees he takes an important part in an industry, and becomes, for the time being, a partner in it. When a dispute arises regarding the conditions of his labour, or the divisions of the spoil of industry, the partners are brought before a judicial tribunal in the shape of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and only those who are legitimate partners to the suit should come before the Judge to advance their claims. If those who have no interest whatsoever in the industry to which an organization relates are allowed to be members of it - if, in connexion with the primary industries, we may have a great conglomerate of this description - then members who are not connected with those industries may throw their influence into the balance to outweigh that of legitimate members, and we may be brought face to face, very often, with fictitious suits.
– That is not done.
– The object of this Bill is to permit of the inclusion in the Australian Workers Union of those who are not associated with a primary industry.
– Only those associated with an industry in connexion with which a dispute has arisen can decide what shall be put before the Court.
– The honorable member cannot discount the fact that great influence may be exercised by outside members.
– But it is not.
– In the ordinary administration of the Labour movement membership of a union is not sufficient to entitle an applicant for employment in another industry to membership of another union relating to that particular industry. In these troublous times of unemployment a worker is now compelled, even if he is a member of a union, to register afresh before he can secure employment. In this case the position is reversed. It is proposed to group in one union, for legislative and other purposes, as many persons as can be induced to join it. The Court found that the Australian Workers Union had in its ranks many whom it directed should be cast aside, since, although their influence was very great, they had no interest whatsoever in the industry to which it particularly related. Take the case of the innkeeper to whom the honorable member for Perth has referred. I do not think any honorable member will have anything to say against legitimate members of the Australian Workers Union. They have fought the battles of the past under adverse conditions; but in country districts such men often congregate at an inn, and the influence of the innkeeper who is a member of their union may be used very often to upset their judgment. Let me tell of my own experience. A hotelkeeper who was an official in a Liberal organization, and at the same time a member of the Australian Workers Union, on one occasion took the chair at one of my political meetings. Was he doing justice to the Australian Workers Union ?
– In what respect did he do wrong ?
– I think he did a very despicable thing. While leaning to the legitimate members of the Australian Workers Union for the purpose of securing their “trade and patronage, he took a position in connexion with another section of the community.
– The honorable member will not get his vote next time.
– He has left my constituency.
– Does the honorable member think it out of place for a man to take the chair for a political opponent ?
– No ; but this man was also an official of a political union on the opposite side. He attempted for trade and other purposes to exercise influence on both sides; and this might have the result of warping the judgment of many bond fide members.
– Not much ! You cannot warp their judgment.
– I think the honorable gentleman himself has had some fights in order to get his own way, and doubtless has been of opinion that there was some warping of the judgment of those who did not agree with him.
– He once talked of compositors being “ bushrangers.”
– I do not know that that mood has altogether left him, because the other day we saw a stinging article from his pen; and I fancy that even now he is not averse to the political sandbag as a means of bringing people to his way of thinking. A serious stage has been reached - a stage which no honorable member can afford to discountwhen we find parties to a suit influencing the Executive to amend the law in their interests. As a justification, the AttorneyGeneral has said that in a former case a hint was given by a Judge; b 11 no matter whence the hint comes, the country would be well advised in putting its heel down on this sort of thing. It is a development in the public life of this country that the House ought to scotch. If any influence of the kind were attempted I should feel very much inclined to vote against any consequent proposal, even though I might otherwise be favorable to it.
– I have been a member of the Australian Workers Union since 1886, and I was the first treasurer when the present PostmasterGeneral was president. From that time until now I have been a” financial member, having once been employed as a shearer, though I am not now connected with the industry. I understand that under the ruling that has been given, I can no longer be associated with the organization, although it is one that I helped to build up.
– Could you be a party to any industrial dispute unless you were a shearer?
– I understand that I cannot now even be a member. I have not taken any active part in the management for some time, though, as I say, I am still a member, or was until this Court decision.
– If the honorable member is not an officer of the organization this Bill will not help him.
– I am not an officer, and I understand that it is the ruling of the Judge that prevents my remaining a member.
– No; it is the ruling of Parliament - the Act passed by this House.
– I understand that I cannot remain a member because I am not actively engaged in the industry. Several names were objected to, including those of members of this House, and also members of the State Parliament of South Australia, together with people in various branches of business.
– The decision of the Court only determined what Parliament decided in 1904.
– That may be the interpretation by the Court, but I do not think it was the intention of Parliament. However, while I support the Bill, I am not altogether in favour of the industrial trend of to-day. This,, of course, is the concern of the organization itself; and if it means its undoing, as anticipated by honorable members opposite, the organization must put up with the result. One big industrial union, covering many industries, and embracing the whole continent, would, I think, result in a certain lack of interest in individual branches, an interest that was possible under the older methods of trade unionism.
– That would be the unions’ loss.
– Well, that is my ^opinion, although, of course, I may be wrong. The honorable member for East Sydney is, I understand, connected with the plumbers’ union; and if that body were to throw in its lot with the larger organizations contemplated, I doubt whether it would receive the same amount of attention that it does under the present arrangement.
– Unions will be left local autonomy, and will, therefore, be able to manage ‘their own affairs.
– There has already been some friction on this point amongst those employed on the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway. Of course, if there were to be sub-divisions of industry under one head, I can see some advantage to trade unionists, though, as I say, I doubt whether there would be the same amount of local interest. One of the complaints to-day is that, although a man may be a financial member of one union, he has to pay another fee before he is permitted to work under another union ; and if there were only one fee, covering the whole, there would, of course, be a distinct saving to members. I have always held that this payment of further fees is very unfair. One great organization would, I fancy, have a tendency to prevent a number of individual disputes in the various States. I may say that under the Commonwealth arbitration law there has not yet been one actual strike. Every award has been carried out, and all the hundreds of strikes quoted by honorable members opposite have been outside the purview of the Commonwealth law.
– Have not all the decisions of the Court been in one direction - to the satisfaction of the union t
– They have pot. I do not suppose any of us will live to see all people get everything they want, whether as members of unions or as individuals. I suppose that there are now from 120,000 to 130,000 trade unionists working under awards of the Commonwealth Court.
– But there have been several strikes in regard to agreements under the Commonwealth arbitration law.
– Before Mr. Justice Higgins left on his well-earned holiday, he stated that there had not been one, and I presume his remark covered all agreements that had been registered.
– I detailed some the last time I spoke on the question in the House.
– To what cases did the honorable member refer ?
– I cannot recall them, but my remarks are reported in Hansard.
– Personally, I know of no case in which the men have gone back on an award or an agreement; and surely this must be of considerable advantage to the community ? We recognise that, once industry stops, so does the production of wealth; and any machinery which has the effect of preventing the cessation of labour pending the settlement of a dispute, is in the interests, not only of the public generally, but of the men themselves. Altogether, I think that our arbitration law has been singularly successful in this respect. I must again express my regret if this Bill prevents me from continuing my membership of the Australian Workers Union.
– It is the Act itself that does that.
– Then I am very sorry to learn the fact, considering that my connexion with the organization dates from its earliest inception, and covers times when the work was much harder in connexion with unionism.
– Will the position of the president of the organization be affected ?
– I understand that, as an officer, the president may retain his membership. I was one of those who, in order to remain a member, had to sign a declaration showing that I had been connected with the shearing industry both in Victoria and New South. Wales. . In any case, I can look back with a great amount of pleasure on the good work that has been done by this organization; and that good work is testified to by the pastoralists themselves. I cannot think of any pastoralist who would go back to the conditions of the early eighties. At that time, all sorts of agreements were in force, and an employer had the rightto deduct 5s. a 100, not only on account of sheep in regard to which fault had been found, but in regard to the whole of the sheep shorn. I may point also to the conditions under which the men had to live. There has been an improvement.
– And also the charges for “ tucker. “
– I remember one occasion when I had to ride 100 miles from Port Augusta to Oakden Hills Station.
I rode the stretch on one horse, with only one stop of two hours.
– You rode a good horse.
– Yes, it was supplied by Mr. N. A. Richardson, the mail contractor, who can confirm my statement. The matter I had to deal with was the dispute over the amount the men were charged for requisites, and on comparing the store prices with the prices of Young and Gordon at Port Augusta, I found that there was a difference in some items of at least 300 per cent. Such conditions obtained under the old order of things.
– They were unusual.
– In many cases the charges were very stiff. The men have much better conditions to-day, and the position is much more satisfactory to the employer. I may say that in the instance that I have mentioned the owners, Messrs. Main, Sells, and Company, had nothing to do with the store. The manager was running it himself, and getting all these extras out of the men. It is better for the employer to know that there is not likely to be any trouble at shearing time, and that he can get on with the work. He can well afford to pay the additional rates, because of the great improvement in recent years in the breed of sheep. Compared with the early eighties, the sheep of to-day have wool of high class right to the very nose, and the owners get a very much better result from the clip. The sheep are very much harder to shear.
– They are not as hard to shear to-day as they were ten years ago. The pastoralists are not breeding heavy -wrinkled sheep.
– I have shorn some sheep which had wrinkles from bead to tail.
– Wrinkles do not pay to-day.
– To the credit of breeders it must be said that the sheep are carrying considerably more wool than they did in earlier years. If a vote was taken among pastoralists they would not revert to the old order of things.
– No one suggests that.
– Then why is such a fuss made about this Bill ?
– About what? About having tobacconists in the union t
– This is not the first occasion on which there has been an appeal to Parliament against a decision of a Court affecting an organization or an industry. In the British Parliament appeals against judgments of the Court have been taken in hand by the Liberals.
– There was the TaffVale decision.
– And the Osborne case created quite a sensation at the time. How were those matters remedied ? The unions approached the House of Commons, in which there is only a sprinkling of Labour men. In the case before us an organization considers that a decision of a Court affects it very materially, in fact, so as to practically dismember it. As far as I can see, nothing has justified the very severe criticism that has been offered to the Bill.
– I do not know that I would have spoken had it not been for some observations made by the honorable member for Grey in part of the speech that he has just delivered, dealing with what have always seemed to me to be the fundamental difficulties in connexion with the whole question of industrial peace, or attempts to arrive at it; but before saying a few words upon those principles, I cannot help remarking that the Bill comes before us with a sinister mark upon it. lt is a Bill of a kind which is fortunately very rare, if not unheard of, in the parliamentary annals of any community governed under our laws. It is one which has been brought in at the instance of an unsuccessful litigant in our Courts, in order to eli able that unsuccessful litigant to evade the effect of a judgment which has been declared against it.
– The Australian Workers Union were not unsuccessful. It was the other side that was unsuccessful.
– In this particular case the litigant was unsuccessful. The decree which was made was against the union, and is one which the organization now declines to obey. It is useless attempting to conceal the plain facts of the case with which we are dealing, because they stand out apparent to any one who looks at the forefront of the Bill and compares it with the judgment of Mr. Justice Powers. An attempt by an unsuccessful litigant to move Parliament to pass legislation which will enable him to evade the consequences of a judgment given against him is none the less serious because the litigant in question happens to be one of the most powerful unions iu the community. That the danger is all the greater is a fact which must be apparent to every one on both sides of the chamber. One point which was completely ignored by the Attorney-General when introducing the Bill was that the Australian Workers Union itself selected the tribunal before which it appeared. It chose to enter the door opened to it by Parliament under the Arbitration Act of 1904. A body consisting not only of employees, but also of others besides employees, became registered subject to all the conditions then prevailing, knowing, as it must have known, that the door - for reasons which I shall point out later, and which I think I can convince honorable members, are to-day as valid and as essential and fundamental to the principle of the Arbitration Act as they were when they were imposed in 1904 - was only open to an association consisting solely of employees. The whole position of this association was that it made a deliberate choice”. There is nothing to prevent any association admitting any number of persons, employers or employees, into its ranks. That is for the union itself to decide. It must always be remembered that associations may choose to adopt forms of organization which may include employers and employees. But when this association first became registered - I do not know whether it contained any employers - it became registered subject to the conditions which it knew, and must have known, were laid down by the Act. It must have known that if the conditions laid down by the Act in regard to membership were not then in existence, or did not continue to exist, in the union, its registration must be cancelled.
– Why say that it must have known ? The President of the Arbitration Court found exactly the opposite. He said that he was satisfied on the evidence that the rules were not framed with any intention of evading the conditions of the Act.
– Possibly they were not. I do not know when the regulations allowing employers to become members of the union were framed, whether it was before or after the time when the union applied for and obtained registration.
– The other industries were admitted after the amendment of the Act, which provided for groups.
– That was the Act of 1909, but it does not matter one jot to me whether they knew or did not know. If they did not know, they could not have read the very plain terms of a very plain section of an Act of Parliament; because section 55 states distinctly that two classes of associations only are to be registered, one of employers and one of employees. There can be no doubt that they knew this; but whether they did or did not, they went before the Court saying, “We want to come under the law as it stands. We want to claim the benefits of the machinery which Parliament has created, subject to the conditions that Parliament has imposed.” But when it subsequently admitted a number of persons who were not employees, it must have known that it did so at the risk of being deprived of the advantages which Parliament had given to associations of employees as long as their rules prevented persons who were not employees from becoming members. Therefore, when this union asks Parliament to override a decision of Mr. Justice Powers on this point, it does so as a defeated litigant that has chosen its own tribunal.
– That is not the point in question. The point in question is that of allowing persons engaged in diversified industries to become members of the Australian Workers Union.
– The Bill covers the two points, and I propose to deal with them separately. It covers both points, because it is carefully worded and, from the point of view of the association and the Government, properly worded, so as to cover” such other persons, whether employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits or not.”
– Paragraph b of subsect ion 1 of section 55 of the principal Act covers that particular point.
– It does not touch the point with which I am now dealing. The Australian Workers Union, finding itself in breach of the law, and pending litigation, asks this Parliament to alter the law so that the result of that litigation may be different from what it might otherwise be. We are asked to take a dangerous step, and it is the more dangerous because the Australian Workers Union, as the Attorney-General has said, is one of the most powerful and influential bodies in Australia. That fact constitutes the seriousness of the position.
– Paragraph b of subsection 1 of section 55 of the principal Act says - together with such other persons, whether employees in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.
– The Bill says “ whether employees in any industry,” and covers employees in any industry and those who are not employees.
– They must have been appointed officers.
– Any number of persons could be appointed officers. The lawsays that employees in more than one industry may be members of an association, but the Bill provides that persons who are employees in any industry, and those who are not employees, may be members, provided they have been appointed officers.
– Section 55 of the principal Act says -
Any of the following associations or persons may, on compliance with the prescribed conditions, be registered in the manner prescribed as an organization. . . .
– The last amendment of the law merely extended the right to register an association containing employees in any industry other than that in regard to which the registration was made.
– This is the first attempt to legalize a conglomerate union.
– The distinction at first sight seems merely verbal, but it is really fundamental. The Bill says, in effect, that if you make a person an officer - which can be done to an unlimited extent - he can be a member of an organization, whether an employee or not.
– Does the honorable member suggest that any number of persons could be appointed officers?
– Yes. They need not be paid officers.
– Mr. Justice Powers found that the rules of the Australian Workers Union allowed persons who were employers to be admitted as members, although the organization was registered as an organization of employees, and that it had admitted such members. He said -
The evidence shows that barristers, members of Parliament, hotelkeepers, storekeepers, dentists, hairdressers, and many other employers not engaged in any work in connexion with the pastoral industry, while employers - and not employees - have been admitted as members, and have been allowed to continue as members of the “ registered organization of employees.” They have been allowed to vote for the appointment of the executive, and officers of the registered organization who administer the affairs of the organization ; and this executive generally decides whether claims are to be enforced against employers, and to what extent, and how.
– The persons referred to have all been put out of the union.
– We took the Judge’s advice, and have refused to accept their subscriptions.
– But I presume that the organization continues to have on its list of members persons- who are not employees.
– Only as any other organization may have such members.
– The AttorneyGeneral cannot blame us if we regard with a good deal of suspicion a Bill brought in to enable a powerful organization which has selected its own Court to evade the judgment of that Court. It is all very well for him to say that the Bill was brought in to enable this organization to give effect to the judgment of the Court; but, with all respect to him, I say that that is absolute moonshine. If that is the object of the Bill, the measure is unnecessary.
– Why did Mr. Justice Powers deliberately refuse to de-register the organization?
– He made it a condition that the regulations of the organization should be altered in certain particulars, and unquestionably the organization has power to do as the Judge directed : but, it says, “ We shall not alter our regulations. There is another way of arriving at our object. We have such influence in Parliament that we shall compel the Government to introduce a Bill to alter the law, so that it will do unnecessary to comply with the order of the Court.”
– The object of the Bill is to allow the organization to comply with the order of the Court, and still retain its registration.
– It is to enable the organization to retain its registration. Mr. Justice Powers has required it to make certain alterations in its regulations.
– It has obeyed the order of the Court.
– Not in regard to the exclusion of employers from, its membership.
– Then, what is the object of the Bill ?
– To enable the organization to retain in its ranks persons who are in other than the pastoral industry.
– The further we get, the greater the difficulties iri the path of the Attorney-General. We are told now that the purpose of the Bill is not to enable persons who are not employees in any industry to retain their membership of this organization, but to enable persons who are employees in an industry not associated with the pastoral industry to do go. A few moments ago he told us that the law now permits that.
– No; I said that the law permits persons who are not employees in any industry, but have been appointed officers, to be members of a registered organization.
– I asked the Attorney-General to intimate the precisealteration of the law provided for byclause 2, and he referred me to paragraph b of sub-section 1 of section 55 of the principal Act, which enumerates amongthe associations which may be registered -
Any association of not less than 100 employees in or in connexion with any industry, together with such other persons, whether employees in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association, and admitted as members thereof.
I pointed out that that provision merely enlarged the classes of employees that could be admitted, and that it did not allow those who were not employees to beadmitted, and the honorable gentleman agreed with me. Now, when I say thatthe object of the Bill is to allow persons. who are not employees to be admitted, the honorable gentleman says that the Bill is necessary to enable the Australian Workers Union to comply with the order of the Arbitration Court.
– And to still retain its members.
– The object of the Bill, as I read it, is to make an alteration of the law which will enable the Australian Workers Union, and any other organization of employees, to include within its ranks, not merely employees in a number of industries, but also employers, provided that they are made officers.
– The object of the amendment is to extend the power of organization beyond the limits imposed bv craft organization.
-I have given the House a statement of what I respectfully submit to be the meaning of the Bill. I shall now proceed to deal with the merits of the measure. Knowing the circumstances, I cannot blame too much the Government, who have been practically forced to bring this Bill forward at this time. This measure is a sort of legislative foundling laid on the doorstep of the Government by those whose dictates the Government are bound to follow. I have a good deal of sympathy, too, with the honorable member for Maranoa, the Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Grey, and others who in their younger days were associated with a movement which, like almost all these movements in their initiation and throughout a considerable part of their history, aimed at the elevation of the people and the obtaining of fair terms for workers who were to some extent oppressed. I expended the large sum of1s. a few days ago on a book called The History of the Australian Workers Union, by W. G. Spence. It , is not such an interesting book as I had expected it to be, but it narrates a large series of facts, and the later history, especially since the passing of the Arbitration Act, as derailed by Mr. Spence, gives a good deal of food for reflection. He points out that the Australian Workers Union was instrumental in bringing about the settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration. We know that that was so. But we find in the whole history of industrial arbitration, as related in this book, that when ever any decision was given in favour of the union it is treated as merely the union’s just due, but whenever its views were not entirely agreed with, or whenever an order or injunction was made against the wish of the union, the language used is extremely severe. We find Mr. Spence saying of one decision by Mr. Registrar Addison that “he gave a rambling decision, in which he dragged in irrelevant matter which had nothing to do with the case.”
– The honorable and learned member would have agreed with that remark.
– I know nothing of the matterin dispute, but I am remarking that whenever the Court gave a decision favorable to the Australian Workers Union it is simply recorded as the ordinary process of justice. But when the decision was of an opposite character it is referred to as having been secured by false affidavits, or as illustrating the power of Judge-made law in a new form.
– The Australian Workers Union, like every other litigant, is not satisfied unless it gets a decision in its favour.
– That is so; but one expects something more than that from an impartial historian, who now occupies the dual position of His Majesty’s Postmaster-General and nominal leader of the Australian Workers Union. He was at one time an active, energetic, and useful member of that organization, and in its initial stages did excellent work, but he is now as servile a member of that association as any other member on the Government side, distinguished from the rest only by the more complete humility with which he submits to its dictation.
– Do you call this a nonparty speech?
– I do not, but I remind the Attorney-General that this is not a non-party Bill. It is a measure which is in the highest degree controversial. For months past, ever since I made a personal appeal to the Prime Minister to put aside these controversial matters in the great crisis through which we are passing, I have refrained from anything of the nature of party discussion in this House.
– Why abandon that attitude now?
– Because this Bill comes before us in the sinister aspect of a measure introduced at the dictates of an all-powerful association to enable it to avoid a judgment uuder the law. And was that judgment a very unfavorable one? The attitude of Mr. Justice Powers was as favorable towards the union as anybody could rationally expect. I am informed that very many charges were made of gross boycotting and other offences against the Act on the part of the union. The Judge said that the charges had not been proved, but he would not permit the whole proof to be goue into, because he said that if those charges could be proved they would be matters for criminal prosecution. He took the view which, to my mind, seems extremely favorable to the organization, viz., that even though the offences or the reasons which would in ordinary circumstances be sufficient to enable the other side to have the registration of the union cancelled, were so very serious as to amount to a criminal act, they themselves afforded safety to the organization attacked.
– I do not think you should say that.
– The judgment could not be considered unfavorable. I will not dispute the claims of those associated with the union as to the very powerful and useful work it did during many years.
– It was opposed at every stage in the past.
– I have no doubt that the union had to fight its way as every such organization does. But what we are concerned with in connexion with a Bill of this kind is the position and power of the union to-day. I do not know whether I am saying too much of matters not generally known to members on both sides of the House when I state that the means whereby it obtained the enormous power it now wields have been the simple and efficacious ones of utilizing the great and powerful influence of the boycott, thereby forcing storekeepers, carriers, and all classes of people into its ranks on pain of losing their businesses or occupations.
– We never courted any of that class to come into the union. We did not want them.
– If I accepted everything contained in this pub lished history of the Australian Workers Union, with a pair of shears on the cover, and if I did not use the shears to cut down some of the statements, I should imagine this to be a history of a number of intelligent and well-meaning shearers with haloes on their brows. But I am not prepared to do that.
– Many of these people came into the union for the sake of getting business.
– I do not profess to have accurate knowledge of the use of the boycott, but I know that 400 or 500 affidavits have been filed, alleging against this association acts of actual boycotting. Nodoubt the Postmaster-General would dismiss them at once, probably without reading them, as containing falsehoods from beginning to end. It is common-place knowledge that the association wields an enormous and overwhelming political power in Australia at the present time, and if such an association can come forward and dictate the course of business in Parliament, direct the Prime Minister to abandon the course which directly or indirectly he had marked out for himself for the conduct of the affairs of this House, and compel Parliament to pass a Bill the immediate effect and purpose of which is to defeat a judgment in a case which is in course of trial, we must be filled with apprehension as to what the future of this Parliament is to be.
– That is absolutely wrong.
-If my statement is wrong, no doubt it can be proved to be so. I pass no judgment on the association. All I say is that it is accused of these offences, and that the matter has never been decided. Abundant evidence lias been brought forward in support of the allegations, and as ordinary reasonable men we have to act on the basis of the material put before us.
– I think you might say that the Judge said the charges had not been proved.
– Quite true; but he pointed out that these were matters to which he, not sitting in a Court of criminal jurisdiction, could not give final consideration.
– What do you mean by criminal jurisdiction ?
– That is the phrase which the Judge used.
– Do you refer to offences against the Act?
– Yes; to offences which the Judge said would be the subject of criminal jurisdiction.
– From the way in which the honorable gentleman is dwelling upon the words one would imagine that the union has been doing something serious.
– I arn using the language of the Judge, who said that he, as an Arbitration Judge, could, not deal with matters which must properly be left to a Court having jurisdiction to deal with criminal offences. I do not, nor did the Judge, mean that the union or any member of it, had been guilty of an ordinary crime such as theft or burglary, but that they had been guilty of offences against the Act which were only punishable in that branch of jurisdiction which is not civil. Turning now to the particulars related by the honorable member for Grey in connexion with this great organization, let me say that I find on this occasion, as I have found on every occasion when amendments of the Arbitration Act were being dealt with in this House, a persistent misapprehension as to what the object of arbitration is. It must be remembered that it is not the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that maintains any association, union, or body of men. The Act was passed merely to say to the men in any industry, “You may form an organization of employees if, as employees, you think you will have a dispute with the employers.” Why was that permitted? The whole matter was argued out at length at an early stage in the judicial history of this legislation. In the Jumbunna case, it was argued on the one side that this was not constitutional; that the power of the Parliament under the Constitution was merely to make laws for the settlement and prevention of industrial disputes, and that there was no power to have organizations. The Court held that there was, for the reason that a dispute under the Constitution must be one between employees on the one side and employers on the other. That is the root of the matter. Such a dispute cannot be effectively heard and determined before any Court unless there is an association to represent the employers on the one side, and an association to represent the employees on the other. That was the whole purpose of the Act. We may now have any number of associations and unions that may or may not be capable of performing the functions of such associations or organizations under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Apart from this Bill altogether I desire to warn honorable members opposite that if they wish to carry out the principles, of the Act they cannot adopt a more dangerous course than that of so enlarging these organizations as to include within them persons who are not employees. Even although an Act may be passed enabling such an organization to remain on the register, that organization is deprived, by its very constitution, of the power of effectively representing employees who are in dispute with their employers. This particular provision, however, is not an exceedingly important one. It merely says to the Australian Workers Union, or any other body, “If you choose to have employers in your ranks, you may do so and still secure registration, but you must remember that even if you do obtain registration, you will, by the admission of these outsiders, defeat the very purpose for which you sought registration, because you cannot effectively carry out in the Court the purpose for which your association is registered.” I am not, and never have been, a very great believer in the principle of judicial arbitration. I claim to be as eager as is the AttorneyGeneral in the pursuit of industrial peace by any means that can be effectively adopted, but I have always maintained that the methods of judicial tribunals applied to industrial disputes are out of place, costly, cumbersome-
– And useless?
– I shall not say that they are useless; but the actual tangible gain is not equal to the enormous expenditure of money and labour and the organization involved in bringing a dispute before the Court and having it heard. I believe that we shall never attain industrial peace in Australia until we recast the whole foundation of the machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes - until we attack a matter before it is turned into a real, active dispute; until we create bodies of a representative character, which will not be Courts before whom lawyers may or may not appear, but before whom persons may give evidence–
– Has not the compulsory conference provision met the difficulty?
– To some extent it has. To my mind the provision in regard to compulsory conferences is the one bright spot in the arbitration law. I admit that it has brought people together, but, after all, it provides for nothing more than a compulsory conference; the conference carries no power with it. There is not sufficient time, and even if there were, I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you would not permit me to go into the whole principles of arbitration law at this stage; I was led to make these observations by a remark that fell from the lips of the honorable member for Grey. I venture to say that no matter what form of organization you may have, if your object is industrial peace, you can permanently obtain it only by having bodies representing both sides, which shall possess, not a judicial power, but a subordinate legislative authority over the conditions prevailing in the particular industries with which they deal. While I do not agree with the principle of judicial arbitration, many honorable members do, and Parliament has already placed that principle on the statute-book. All that I desire now to say is that if the House embodies in the conciliation and arbitration law the principle of including in a registered organization a number of persons who are not, and cannot be, parties to any industrial dispute to be heard before the Court, then a blow will be struck at the very foundation of the machinery of industrial legislation. While holding this view, let me say that I do not object to extended organization. I have always maintained, and still maintain, that organization must go on, not only in particular, but in allied trades. But any organization, whether it be amongst shearers or ship-owners or manufacturers, which claims to possess the protection and security of the law, must cut itself absolutely loose from certain methods that have been too prevalent amongst associations of capitalists as well as of labour. A boycott or conspiracy to injure a man must not be permitted. That, however, does not involve the right of every man in every occupation to choose with whom he will work side by side. That is a right which I claim in my profession, just as every other man is entitled to claim it in connexion with his trade or occupation. It is an undoubted privilege pos sessed by every man. But where an association goes beyond it, where it says, “There is a man who has injured us;, he is a black sheep, and we are going to use not merely the ordinary means of selecting with whom we shall work, but all our powers to injure that man directly and indirectly, and to crush him “ - such a principle, whether it be adopted by a ring of ship-owners or a union of shearers, is absolutely wrong.
– The medical profession do that.
– I am not going to deal with any particular profession; but any profession that does adopt such a practice comes within the condemnation that I am now applying. If a firm of ship-owners said to a particular merchant, “ We are not going to carry any of your goods as long as you give any freight to such-and-such a ship-owner who is outside our ring,” honorable membersopposite would say that that was a most improper thing to do. I have never beenable, however, to distinguish such conduct from that of a shearers union whichsays to a squatter, “ We will not shear your sheep if you employ at any time a man who is not a member of our union.’’ These principles must apply all round. I do not think there is so verymuch, oneway or the other, in this Bill when it is carefully scrutinized, except the difficulty about the appearance before the Court to* which I have referred. But it is one stepin that march towards a wider and fuller organization of industry in all its branches; and if it is coupled with those restrictions which, I submit, should alwaysatfiach to it, it will be beneficial. If it is not, it will have a deleterious effect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from Sth September (vide page 6690), on motion by Mr. Archibald -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I endeavoured to show last night, in the fewscattered remarks I was permitted to make, thatI object to the main principle of this Bill, and to many of its machinery provisions. I agree with, some honorable members opposite that the Bill, if it is not to become more humorous than effective, ought to be subjected to drastic amendment. No defence has come from the lips of Ministers as to the main principle of compulsion in voting, and I think that before the Bill is finally passed we are entitled to expect from them some justification of that principle. The machinery of the Bill, it strikes me, is rather crude. The Deputy Returning Officer of a division in which a vote takes place is expected, in accordance with the provisions of the measure, to return a list of those who have not voted, of those who have sent reasons good or insufficient for not voting, and of those who have not replied to the Chief Electoral Officer of the State. There is no clear direction as to how this officer is to deal with the complaints - whether he has to send them to the central office or place them in the hands of those who are to take summary or other judicial proceedings. I assume that the Chief Electoral Officer, either State or central, will not be the sole judge of whether a reason is sufficient or valid. I do not know whether that is what the Minister intends, or whether the idea, is to try the offenders by judicial proceeding, and strike them off the roll.
– There will be no striking off the roll in connexion with this offence. Any striking off the roll will be only in the ordinary course; for instance, when a person is not entitled to be there or has moved.
– I know there is to be a limitation of the eliminating provisions; that is to say, a certain time has to elapse, and then certain things are done. An electoral officer may object to the name of a man against whom a complaint is made, but that is done in a departmental way.
– In the ordinary way.
– -If, without ‘trial at a Court of Petty Sessions or elsewhere, the electoral officer is to exercise his judgment, we shall have one tribunal inflicting one part of the dual penalty, and, presumably, another tribunal inflicting the other.
– The difference between this Bill and the New Zealand Act is that under the former a man who does not vote is struck off the roll. Under the
Bill no man will be struck off for that reason.
– But a man is struck off if he does certain things.
– That is, as I say, in the ordinary way.
– If that be so, there is no need for paragraph 14 of clause 4, which provides -
The name of any elector who, on receipt of a notice under sub-section 4 of this section, fails to forward to the Divisional Returning Officer within the time allowed under subsection 5 of this section a form properly filled up and signed, may be objected to by the Divisional Returning Officer by objection in writing…..
The paragraph then goes on to say that such an elector may be removed from the roll unless certain things happen. This is a new offence under the electoral law. If a person receives a notice from the Returning Officer, and does not reply, and explain why he has not voted, the officer may strike him off the roll; and this is the second part of the penalty which it is sought to inflict.
– The honorable mem ber is entirely wrong. Paragraph U provides for the ordinary method adopted y a Returning Officer to keep his roll clean. For instance, a man may not have made a return, and the Returning Officer is satisfied that he is not entitled to be on the roll.
– The Minister suggests that this is the ordinary procedure for cleansing the roll; but I submit that it makes a new offence. In other words, we have never before given an electoral officer power to strike a man off the roll who has not voted.
– I shall explain that to the satisfaction of the honorable member.
– I shall be glad to hear the explanation, because the provision appears to me now to be rather extraordinary. If the Minister contemplates, with regard to the pecuniary penalty, trial before the Court of summary jurisdiction, as I think he does, judging by clause 5, and proposes to give the departmental officer the right to inflict the other part of the penalty, there is an incongruity.
– The Chief Electoral Officer has told me that what I have said is the meaning of the paragraph.
– According to clause 5, we propose that there shall be trial by regulation. Never before, even in this Parliament, has an attempt been made to give the Governor-General in Council power to prescribe modes of trial without any stipulation as to the personnel of the Court, the procedure as to notice or summons, or anything of the kind. I think that, instead of clause 5 providing for’ regulations, a number of clauses should be embodied in the Bill, prescribing the way in which an alleged offender shall be tried. Then, I take leave to Say that it will be necessary to allow a longer period for the trial. Unless we are very careful we shall bring to the ordinary Courts of the States hundreds of thousands of people probably in a very short time, and this will mean that the usual business concerning buyer and seller, landlord and tenant, and so forth, will have to be put aside. Otherwise there will be a glut of work all over Australia, causing a vast amount of irritation both to the judiciary officers and the persons who are summoned. Therefore, I think there should be some procedure suggested which would ‘ spread the trials for these offences over, probably, six months, so as to give a chance for their adequate hearing. If this is not done, there will be a series of complaints in the newspapers and to the Department which will destroy whatever other virtue there may be in the proposals of the Government for compulsory voting. I have been called upon unexpectedly to finish my remarks, and I do not propose to detain the House any longer. I ask the Minister to believe honorable members on his side who have pointed out with considerable force that there is a lot of raw haste shown in the preparation of this measure, and raw haste, as the honorable gentleman knows, is the sister of delay, as well as the sister of disaster on some occasions. However much we may object to the measure, I hope that the Minister will consent to alterations which will render it more smooth of operation. If the Chamber agrees to .the second reading which I shall feel compelled to vote against, I shall suggest amendments which I think will facilitate the operation of the Bill.
.- I understood the” honorable member for Balaclava yesterday to express himself as opposed to compulsion of any sort. At one time, however, the honorable member, when in the State sphere, was so much in favour of compulsion that, when he got a voter into the polling booth, he compelled him to exercise his vote in reference to all the candidates offering.
– That was not compulsion, but a prescribed form of “referential voting.
– Now, when it is proposed to say to a voter outside the booth that he must exercise the franchise, the honorable member is utterly opposed to the idea. Apparently he is not in favour of compulsion except when it suits his particular views.
– Under any system of voting the form is prescribed.
– The honorable member for Balaclava, along with others on his side, is very much concerned because there are something like 100,000 soldiers at the front who will not be able to exercise a vote upon the referenda. We never hear a word, however, about the half million people in Victoria who have no vote at all, owing to the’ Legislative Council, which had the last say in the matter. It has been said that we on this side have our tongues in our cheeks when advocating measures of this sort; and yet we hear honorable members opposite urging that, because our soldiers in Gallipoli and in Egypt will not be able to vote, this Bill should not be proceeded with. They never urge that this half million people in Victoria should be given the franchise. Then again, I suppose there are thousands of our soldiers who are only about eighteen years of age; and I should like to know whether honorable members opposite would reduce the voting age from twenty-one years in order to meet their case, and also allow them to exercise the franchise for the Legislative Council and other bodies of the kind.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– I do not know why honorable members opposite should be so concerned about the fact that there will be 100,000 soldiers unable to cast votes on the referenda, because that will be the misfortune of the Labour party. I believe that the bulk of the men who are away would vote the Labour ticket, and I think it is an underestimate to say that 75 per cent, of them would vote ‘ ‘ yes ‘ ‘ upon the referenda. It is not in the interest of the party in power that these questions should be submitted while all these men are away from Australia.
– Then why do it?
– Because we are keeping faith with the people of Australia.
– What proof has the honorable member that 75 per cent, of the soldiers would vote in favour of the proposals ?
– I can produce no further proof than the fact that a large proportion of those who have gone away are of the artisan class, the majority of whom vote the Labour ticket.
– The absent vote at the Broadmeadows Camp at the last election proved it.
– When the first vote was taken on the referenda there were expressions of regret from all sides at the smallness of the vote. The impression was that in the absence of the personal element there was no inducement to the people to vote. This Bill will remove that defect. Two days after the last election the Argus, the Conservative journal which consistently supports the Liberal party opposite, said -
The indifference to the fortunes of Liberalism, and, incidentally, to the welfare of Australia, displayed by scores of persons who affect to bc bored by politics, has been distressing. Were it not that the country would suffer, wo would heartily wish them a sharp punishment for their failure to stand up to their responsibilities as citizens.
The Bill will entail an obligation on those “superior” persons deserving of this sharp punishment. They will be compelled to vote one way or the other on the questions submitted to them, or they will have the privilege of paying fines for neglecting their duties as responsible citizens.
– Which way do you expect these “superior” persons to vote?
– I quite understand what this journal means by its reference to these “superior” persons. Tt goes on to say -
Probably many voters were caught by the specious nonsense written and spoken about a truce.
We have heard from honorable members opposite a good deal of talk about submitting these proposals to the people at a time when their minds and thoughts are concentrated on different matters and honorable members have claimed that we should not introduce legislation compelling the people to exercise the franchise during a time of war. The Argus says that this is “ specious nonsense which originated on the Liberal side, and was eagerly seized on by Labour leaders though it was the merest clap-trap.” Honorable members claim that it is party politics to introduce a measure such as this. When they make this claim they remind me of many discussions I have heard at meetings of the Australian Natives Association as to what is the real meaning of party politics. That body has found that when a matter is first mooted, and is not exceedingly popular, it is generally regarded as party politics, but when it becomes popular, and both sides of the community are in favour of it, it is considered to be a national question. To a certain extent, this is experimental legislation, but honorable members opposite have said that we are not going far enough by not applying it also to general elections. First, they blame the Government for introducing compulsory voting. Then they say that they do not believe in compulsion, and that it should not be introduced at a time when 100,000 men are out of the country, and then they say that we should go further, and extend the principle to election of members of Parliament. To satisfy honorable members opposite is impossible. They approach a matter from all points of the compass. They say, “ You should not do it “ ; and when we do it, they say, “ You are not going far enough.” Of course, there will be cases such as those cited by the honorable member for Gippsland, who asks whether we are going to compel a person who lives 20 miles from a polling booth to go over mountain roads to cast his vote, and fine him if he does not do ro. In my opinion, such a measure as this will be administered with common sense, and there will be no harassing or fining or dragging before a Court if persons can urge reasonable excuses for not having cast their votes; but where thousands of people in cities or towns do not exercise the privilege which it has cost so much to gain, they should be compelled to pay fines. While the Melbourne Age blames the party on this side of the House for submitting these proposals at the present time, and for advocating compulsory voting, we would not hear anything from that quarter if the Government would only include the Initiative and Referendum among the questions to be submitted to the people. The Age takes the attitude assumed by honorable members opposite. It blames us for doing something at such a time as this, and then stands on the other foot, and says that we are not doing sufficient, and should do more. The duty of the Government is to go straight ahead. The whole operation of politics and government cannot cease simply because the war has overshadowed everything else. It is to the disadvantage of honorable members on this side of the chamber that the referenda should be submitted at such a time. It certainly is not to the disadvantage of the party opposite.
.- I should like honorable members opposite to give us some reason why the Bill is brought before the House at this time. If the Government stated that they were in favour of compulsory voting, I could understand a proposal to amend the electoral law, and institute it in connexion with all elections and polls; but it seems strange that we are to have it only in connexion with the referenda.
– “ Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
– That is the second occasion on which the honorable member has admitted that there is a great deal of evil in connexion with the referenda. That is what we complain of; also the greater evil in the discussion of these questions at the present time. The Bill deals specifically with the referenda in 1915. I am surprised that some effort was not made by the Government to have the referenda taken at a later date. After reading in the papers this morning the enormous list of casualties sustained at Gallipoli, leaving so many houses in mourning, we can realize the feeling of the people when they are told that, in a few months hence, they will be compelled to go to the poll, and make themselves conversant with every matter submitted to them at the referenda. It is astounding that the Government should insist on these issues being placed before the people at such a time. Over 100,000 Australian citizens who are absent from the country performing the highest service for the Empire are to be disfranchised deliberately. Some time ago, in reply to a question asked by me, the Minister said that an effort would be made to enable these men to vote; but there is no clause in the Bill which gives effect to that promise, and it is, in fact, impossible to make such provision.
– The loss of their votes will go more against the Labour party than against the Opposition.
– I deny that. The honorable member for Bendigo has stated that 75 per cent. of those who have gone to the front are trade unionists.
– He said that 75 per cent, would vote for the referenda.
– I merely wish to point out that the information given by Mr. Knibbs was supplied to him by trade union secretaries, and must be taken for what it is worth.
– The biggest union did not supply any.
– I have on several occasions drawn attention to the fact that the honorable member, in his public work, seems to have little concern for the war. I believe that trade unionists have joined the colours as freely as members of other sections of the community, though there is at the Trades Hall, to their everlasting discredit and disgrace, a large number of responsible persons antagonistic to the action that the Government has taken in connexion with the war. I am sure that honorable members opposite do not agree with them. I protest strongly against the disfranchisement of over 100,000 citizens in connexion with an alteration of the Constitution under which we live.
– The honorable member would oppose the referendum even if these men could vote.
– I have opposed the referendum, and I strongly object to a vote being taken when 100,000 of our best citizens will be absent from Australia.
– How many are absent in normal times when elections are held?
– I have not that information at hand, but their disfranchisement is unavoidable.
– What about those who are “ sacked “ just before a State election, to drive them out of the State?
– The interjection shows the absurdities to which honorable members are driven in the search for arguments in support of the Bill.
– Why this sudden interest in the extension of the. franchise ?
– I am asking, not for an extension of the franchise, but that persons “who have the right to vote should be given the opportunity to do so. Adult suffrage was provided for by this Parliament long before there was a Labour Administration. Labour members cannot take credit for any extension of the franchise.
– Would the honorable member support manhood suffrage for the Legislative Council?
– No; it would be preposterous. Another objection that I have to the referendum is that it is to be held in December. That arrangement will strike a second blow at those opposed to the referenda. I believe that a large majority of those absent on active service would vote against it, and that a large majority of the farmers would do so. But in December the latter will be -busy getting in the harvest, and it will be difficult for them to get to the polling booths. The vote could be taken early in November or in January. That would suit the primary producers better, and they have more at stake than any one else has. If honorable members opposite desire that those who live in the country shall exercise the franchise, they will provide for something in the nature of postal voting. In the constituency which I represent, many persons have to travel from 50 to 100 miles to record their vote, the constituency being a place of enormous distances, as is that represented by you, Mr. Speaker, and it is impossible to provide a sufficient number of polling booths to convenience all the electors. During the last election some persons travelled 200 miles to record their votes, and many persons travelled distances varying from 30 to 70 miles. It is unjust to disfranchise the dwellers in the country, and I hope that in Committee provision will be made for some kind of postal voting. I do not like the provisions which deal with excuses for notvoting. Apparently the Divisional Returning Officers will be able to accept excuses from any person who does not vote. If electors do nob vote, and do not give good reasons for not voting, I think that their names might very well be removed from the rolls, only to be replaced on a second application for enrolment. But if we are going to have compulsory voting, the Divisional Returning Officers should not be allowed to accept any excuses that may be made for not voting.
I do not believe in compulsory voting, but certainly if it is provided for we should give the people opportunities for voting, and as the measure stands many persons in the back country, who have big interests in Australia, will be disfranchised.
.- The Bill, like the curate’s egg, is good in parts. I have always been in favour of compulsory voting, but have maintained that it should go hand in hand with compulsory registration. Many members of the Opposition have announced the same opinion, but when compulsory registration was being considered, three-fourths of them voted against it, as being useless without compulsory voting, and now they are condemning compulsory voting. The electors, however, must have every opportunity for recording their votes, and it appears to me that considering that we are making voting compulsory, we are not providing sufficient facilities for voting. I propose to vote for the Bill only on the understanding that in Committee some amendment will be made fixing a distance limit. I would suggest that all persons within a limit of 7 miles of a polling booth should be compelled to record their votes, but persons residing outside that limit should not come under the compulsory clauses.
– Surely you would give the people outside that limit an opportunity to vote by post.
– As a result of past experience there is a taint attached to postal voting which makes its re-introduction almost unthinkable. When postal voting was in operation the abuses of it were endless, and in the electorate of Wannon there was a number of prosecutions, notably at Coleraine, where a J. P. was fined about £40 for the abuses in connexion with postal voting1 practised under his observation and control. What happened there was only typical of a great number of abuses that took place throughout the Commonwealth. The postal voting provisions were inserted in the Act for the benefit of the people in the back country, but I believe that more postal votes were recorded in the electorate of Kooyong at one election than in the whole State of Queensland, a fact which shows that the facility was availed of in places where it was not required. But, whilst I say that a return to postal voting is unthinkable, I quite agree with the honorable member for Corangamite that in his electorate, my own electorate, and a number of other electorates, there will be endless trouble in consequence of these compulsory voting provisions. In fact, there are electors who cannot possibly comply with the requirements of this Bill, and in Committee I shall propose an amendment to insert some such limitation as I have suggested.
– I think we can meet the honorable member’s views in an easier way.
– In regard to the cases mentioned by the honorable member for Corangamite, I believe that a discretion will be allowed the Returning Officers which would protect the electors in those instances.
– You must assume that the .officers will have common sense.
– I do not think that any prosecution would be allowed in any civilized country in such cases as those quoted by the honorable member for Corangamite. I was struck by the remark of the honorable member for Balaclava, that while he was opposed to the principle of compulsory voting, he had always favoured the principle of compulsory registration. I would remind the honorable member that he represented the electorate of Essendon in the State Parliament for 10 years, and that during the greater portion of that period there were over 2,000 electors off the roll who should have been on the roll. During the short period of Labour Government in Victoria, Mr. Prendergast ordered a police canvass, which showed that over 2,000 names had been intentionally, or otherwise, kept off the rolls of the electorate of Essendon alone, and the fact that those names were subsequently added may have had something to do with the presence of the honorable member for Balaclava in this Chamber. A contradictory attitude was adopted by the honorable member for Dampier when he pleaded for consideration for the 100,000 men at the front, and in the next breath told the House that he believed in the property qualification in connexion with the Upper Houses of the State Parliaments. The honorable member must know that State legislation cannot reach the statute-books until it passes the Upper Houses, and thousands of men and women are deprived of voting for the return of members to those Chambers. The honorable member made a plausible plea for the men serving at the front, knowing that as State electors they have never been entitled to a vote for the Legislative Councils of their respective States. To a large extent he was speaking with his tongue in his cheek, because he has always supported the action of State Parliaments which denied those men a vote for “the Upper House. I am glad to have the assurance of the Minister of Home Affairs that in Committee an amendment will be made to give a greater facility to the people in the country districts to record their votes. As they are to be compelled to vote it is only right that they should have full opportunity to do so.
. - There is in this Bill a very serious defect. The object of universal franchise was to insure that any vote taken would be truly expressive of the will of the whole of the people. Every adult was given the franchise in the hope and expectation that every one would exercise it, so that Australia would speak clearly and distinctly for or against any candidate or measure. The franchise has been given to every adult in the community, but we find that the means of exercising it are not as wide as the franchise itself. Therefore, we are not enabled to get from the people their truly expressed will, because honorable members opposite have taken away the convenience which would have enabled that to be done, and to that extent the true principle of Democracy has been violated. Already there is on the statute-book the principle of compulsory registration, so that every adult is compelled to have his or her name placed on the rolls ; but though we have not yet provided the complement of that in the form of means of exercising the franchise, we are about to place upon the people a legal obligation to vote. The honorable member for Indi, who represents a country constituency, knows how seriously this provision will affect the people in the rural districts. His conscience very properly tells him that the Bill is defective, but the amendment he suggests is not a remedy at all. His idea is that those people who reside in the settled areas within 7 miles of a polling booth shall be compelled to vote, but that people residing outside those areas shall have no compulsion placed upon them. A vote taken in those circumstances would not necessarily be a vote representative of the will of the whole of the people of Australia, but only of the populous districts in the immediate neighbourhood of cities and towns. Such a proposal would make this measure a compulsory exclusion Bill instead of a Compulsory Voting Bill. Honorable members opposite say, “ Of course, we should like to give you the postal vote, and it grieves us sorely to see old pioneers and sick people deprived of the opportunity of voting, but we cannot restore the postal vote because the system is tainted.” The system has not been tainted. Postal voting was investigated by a Select Committee of this House in 1904, and the law, which was originally framed on the assumption that it would be exercised honestly, was found to be defective on account of the weakness of human nature. In the year 1905 or 1906 a new Bill was introduced to provide for postal voting under safeguards which were accepted by members on both sides in this House. Since the insertion of those safeguards there has been no general complaints against the postalvoting system. There have been complaints in isolated cases, but consider the number of cases of personation. Would honorable members abolish voting at the ballot-box because a certain number of persons were guilty of personation ?
– How many were convicted ?
– I cannot remember a single prosecution under the postal-voting provisions.
– You could not find any instances.
– All the documents and sworn declarations were in the Department. The taint of the postal-voting system was not in any defect in it as an instrument of electoral expression, but because it was found by honorable members opposite to be an inconvenient instrument which was used against them. The system of compulsory voting did operate in Queensland at the last State general election, but there were two provisions which made the principle acceptable to the people, namely, voting by post Wit.- the safeguards which had formerly existed in the Commonwealth Act, and voting facilities for the men about to leave for the front. The application of the prin ciple in Queensland has been effective in securing a higher percentage of voting. In 1;>03 the voting for the House of Representatives was 50.27 per cent., which is undoubtedly a very low standard. At the next general election, in 1906, it increased to 51.48 per cent.; in 1910, it was 62.80 per cent. ; in 1913, 73.49 per cent. ; and in 1914, 73.53 per cent. At the general election for the Queensland Legislative Assembly in 1902 the voting in those electorates where a contest took place represented 7S.SS per cent, of the electors on the roll. That was a very high percentage considering there was no compulsion. At the election for the same House in 1904 the voting was 74.16 per cent.; in 1907, 71.61 per cent.; in 1908, 67.39 per cent.; in .1909, 72.57 per cent.; and in 1912, 75.52 per cent. At the last State election, under compulsory voting, the percentage increased from 75.52 in 1912 to 88.14. In some constituencies there were no contests.
– Does not the honorable member think those figures show that the application of compulsory voting in Queensland was effective ?
– They certainly show that it brought more people to the polls. It has to be remembered that, included in these figures, were 12,741 electors who were sick, or had other reasons for voting by post.
– What was the total vote cast?
– There were 266,240 votes polled. The number who voted by post was very considerable. Twelve thousand seven hundred and forty-one votes cast into certain electorates in Australia at the last Federal general election would have meant that the Labour party would not be in a majority in this House to-day. These 12,741 electors were entitled to exercise the franchise, and they did so. The Commonwealth Government, however, will deprive such electors who are sick, or who, for some other reason, cannot go to the poll, from recording their votes. To provide for compulsory voting, and to give all facilities for the exercise of the franchise in our cities, while neglecting to provide any facilities for people living in scattered districts, and those who are sick, to record their votes, is but to intensify the existing disparity as between town and country. This should be a non-party question, . and I have certainly delivered a non-party speech, as will be recognised by the fact that the honorable member for Indi has agreed with me that the Bill will operate injuriously on the rural districts of Australia. I come now to the question of excuses that may be offered for failure to vote. Here are some of the excuses that were made at the last State election in Queensland : - “ Sudden illness,” a very valid excuse; “Ignorance in regard to postal voting, and thinking absentee voting in force.” That arose from the fact that the Commonwealth and the States have two different systems. Another excuse was, “ Inability to have postal votes witnessed owing to absence of eligible witnesses.” That trouble could be easily remedied. Still another excuse was “ Religious convictions.” Is there to be a conscience clause applying to those who have religious convictions ?
– I am not going to worry about it.
– Surely the honorable gentleman will have some regard for a man’s religious convictions. Other excuses offered were, “ Confusing hours of polling with Federal hours “ ; “ Being out of electorate more than one month prior to election.”
– This is not an amending Electoral Bill.
– I am not suggesting that it is. The Minister’s excuse for failing to remedy grievances arising under the Electoral Act is that this is not an amending Electoral Bill.
– It is a Bill for a specific purpose.
– Surely the electors could not be called upon to vote upon anything more important than a proposed amendment of the Constitution. A Ministry may be elected to-day and deposed to-morrow; but an amendment of the Constitution, once having been made, cannot easily be repealed. It is, therefore, most necessary that we should take care that the vote cast on these referenda proposals is a fair and proper one. Still further excuses offered for failure to vote at the last Queensland State elections were “absence from the State, and inability to have postal vote witnessed outside State,” “inability to receive postal votes while travelling,” and “being unable to write, could not get postal vote.”
These excuses, I presume, are bound to be repeated in connexion with the application of compulsory voting to the referenda on the Constitution Alteration Bills.
– They are all valid excuses.
– More or less valid. If we had voting by post much of the trouble would be remedied. What is to be the position of old people who are too ill to attend the polling booth ? We are dealing with the Electoral Act, and with the constituencies as they exist to-day, and it is unjust to provide for compulsory voting unless, at the same time,we provide facilities for the exercise of the franchise as it should be exercised.
.- In proposing to hold a referenda at this juncture, the Government are offering sufficient hostages to fortune, without providing for compulsory voting in connexion with it; and as one who is interested in their career I feel that, in submitting a proposition of this kind, they are taking, from their own point of view, risks which are not warranted. It has been contended that the present Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, objected to postpone the last general elections, as was suggested, because of the outbreak of war. That, however, is a two-sided argument. We then desired that the election should be postponed, though the war was not at its height; whereas to-day, although the situation is more serious, we are not only voluntarily entering the political arena to hold a party fight, but are taking steps to compel the people to record their votes. The most serious objection is that we are intruding, to a great extent, upon the sanctity of the people’s grief By the time that this vote is taken, at least 25 per cent, of the homes of Australia will be houses of sorrow, and we shall be almost guilty of sacrilege in intruding upon the people in their time of mourning, and compelling them, under penalty of a fine, to participate in a party struggle. If I had my way, compulsory voting would not be introduced at this particular juncture. It is more or less of an experiment, and it might be tried with advantage at other times. But if it is to be applied now, we should, as far as possible, smooth the way for those who will suffer considerable distress of mind in being dragged to the polls, and some provision in the nature of postal voting, or something to ease the situation, should be introduced. Discussing this Bill on its merits, it seems to me that, instead of any benefit accruing from the application of this principle at the present time, the Government, in compelling the electors to vote, under pains and penalties, are going to be rended by the people. Wherever the principle has been applied, the Government responsible for its introduction has suffered. The fate of the late Queensland Government is a case in point. I believe that those who vote against their will will vote against the Government which compels them to vote. That, after all, is one of the first principles of human nature, and is likely to operate more particularly in view of the fact that many people have so much justification for resenting this compulsion at the present time. Instead of benefiting us, as is thought, this Bill will tend, in my opinion, to prevent the carrying of the Constitution Alteration Bills, which we ure all anxious shall be accepted.
– If the Opposition thought that, they would support this Bill.
– My concern is not as to what the Opposition may do, but as to the success of the referenda and the credit of the Government. The Ministry are acting unwisely in compelling the people, particularly at the present time, to record their votes. The excuses for which provision will have to be made will provide many an avenue for escape from the obligation. The Bill, indeed, is likely in this way to fail in its object, since owing to the situation many excuses will be availed of. If special leniency is not displayed in dealing with those who find it impossible or inadvisable to vote, then the trouble of sheeting home breaches of the law will be such that the Bill will fail from its own weight.
.- I confess to a feeling of disappointment with the Bill as placed before us. The Government have had the advantage of having before them the report of the Electoral Commission, bub they have fallen far short of what they might have done in a matter of this kind. I object to the application of compulsory voting to only <me particular form of election. I am » believer in compulsory voting, consider ing it to be the natural corollary of compulsory enrolment; but in limiting this measure to the forthcoming referenda, and making no provision whatever for the large number of persons who, because of sickness on the one hand, or patriotic efforts on the other, will be unable to record their votes, the measure falls far short of what might reasonably be expected from the National Parliament. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie that it is very unreasonable on the part of the Government to intrude a proposal of this sort when there is so much trouble and grief in the households of Australia. I quite believe with the honorable member that the results of this measure will be exactly the contrary of those anticipated by the Government. Why should we have referenda on alterations of the Constitution, of vital importance to the whole community, when there are over 100,000 voters away from our shores? Then, again, why should we take such referenda without any provision for 77,000 sick and infirm people, who, according to the Statistician, are too ill to attend a polling booth on any day during the year ? Thus we have nearly 200,000 citizens who will not be able to exercise the franchise. I quite sympathize with the opinions expressed in regard to the desirability of equality of voting. Is the vote of a man who lives within a quarter of a mile of a polling booth of any greater value than that of a man who lives 25 miles away? Is the latter not just as much entitled to facilities for voting as is the man who lives next door to a booth ? I take it that the object of the measure is to have compulsory voting, and not to obtain a record of excuses made by people who do not vote. What is the good of thousands of excuses when the idea is to make every person vote under a penalty ? The whole thing on the face of it seems inconsistent. I am not wedded to any particular method of insuring that every person on the rolls shall record a vote, and if there is any objection to postal voting let us try something else. I confess that after eighteen months’ experience on the Electoral Commission, and after taking evidence in every State, and asking for suggestions to overcome the difficulty, I have not heard of any better plan than postal voting under proper safeguards. We heard many assertions during our travels as to abuses of postal voting, but in spite of the legal penalties provided there is no record, as the honorable member for Darling Downs pointed out, of one prosecution. I can only conclude that, as I say, we have but mere assertions as to abuses. Then does the Minister realize the enormous amount of extra work and the difficulties this Bill will impose on his prominent officials? The Divisional Returning Officers, according to clause 4, are compelled to supply information that will really be found impossible. For instance, is any record kept of the men who have gone to the front, and of their old addresses? Will each Divisional Returning Officer be supplied with the names and addresses of all the men at the front in order that he may comply with the law, and, within the prescribed period after the close of the referenda,
Bend by post to each elector whose name appears on the list at the address mentioned in that list a notice that he appears to have failed to vote ? How will he be able to discriminate between the individual who is shirking his duty and the man who has gone to the front? What will be the position when he finds that he cannot return this information in accordance with the Act ? How is it going to be proved that any man is not in Australia? I should rather welcome a measure for compulsory voting if it were on reasonable lines, because I believe it would assist greatly in the cleansing of the rolls. Of course, the idea of taking the vote in the trenches is ridiculous; but if we could devise a plan whereby we could get a fair and reasonable return of the voters, it would in a short time make our rolls much cleaner than they are to-day, and settle for ever any suspicion of names being wrongly there. I hope that when we get into Committee someremedies may be suggested for the difficulties that I have indicated, and the Bill made a little more workable. I should prefer that, even at this late hour, the Government should reconsider the position, and show that they have come to their senses by declaring that they will not impose referenda on the suffering public at this time. If, however, they insist on carrying out their declared intention, I hope that every facility will be afforded for recording the vote of every elector in the Commonwealth.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
.- I move-
That the words “ residing within five miles of a polling place” be inserted after the word “ elector,” line 1.
Now that we are making it compulsory for people to vote, greater facilities should be afforded for the recording of votes, but in the absence of those facilities there should be some guarantee that people who are unable to visit polling booths will not come within the penal clauses of this Bill.
– I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment, because it is against the whole spirit of the measure. We are not amending the Electoral Act. We propose to allow the existing electoral machinery, whether it is good, bad, or indifferent, to stand, with the exception that we are applying to it the principle of compulsory voting. I propose to meet the difficulty raised by honorable members by an amendment to sub-clause 6, which deals with prescribed persons who may witness the excuses advanced by electors for not voting. If I define “prescribed person “ as an elector or person qualified to be an elector, it should meet the case. The Government do not wish to make this measure a vindictive Bill, inflicting hardships on hundreds of people, whose difficulties have been so strongly urged by honorable members representing scattered electorates. The measure would certainly be intolerable without some amendment, but as the principle underlying it is that every one must vote or give a reasonable excuse for not doing so, the better course to adopt is not to make a boundary, as suggested by the amendment, but to provide for enlarging the number of persons who -may witness excuses, i Any person may witness a claim for enrolment, but he must vouch for the truth of the statements upon the claim. Honorable members have signed hundreds of these claims. I propose to have the same simple machinery in regard to excuses for not voting. Some people say that all sorts of excuses will be put up. I do not believe it. To enlarge on the virtues and honesty of the people of Australia in electoral matters is of no use. If we can trust the people in regard to one portion of electoral business, why should we not do it in re gard to this matter, and thus remove the disability that the Bill imposes on country people ? The Government have no intention of using their position for the purpose of inflicting hardship on persons who reside in country districts. I ask the honorable member for Indi to withdraw his amendment.
.- I do not wish to see an amendment adopted which wall practically nullify the intention of the Bill. I admit that when we demand that people shall do something which they have not hitherto done there is responsibility on the Government to make it possible for the people to do it. But we have no need to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Indi, or even that which the Leader of the Opposition has forecasted. It can easily be done by increasing the number of polling places, and making it possible for every elector to reach a polling place within a reasonable distance.
– Even if there be none within 50 miles of an elector.
– The honorable member is drawing upon his imagination.
– There are cases of that kind.
– We cannot pas3 laws to meet hard cases, or they would be worth nothing. I have a wide-spread electorate.
– Hear, hear! And the honorable member should be talking in a different way.
– I take the responsibility of what I do in my own electorate, and I do not require any guidance from the honorable member. The remedy lies in the extension of polling places. We know that Divisional Returning Officers have sent out tents to establish booths at saw-mills and such places. It may cost a little more, but it will prevent our making a laughing-stock of this Bill, and, at the same time, will enable us to carry into effect the object it has in view. I believe in compulsory voting, though some people have told me that I shall regret adopting it. I think that, in a democratic community, every elector should exercise his responsibility to vote, but under reasonable conditions.
– I hope that the honorable member for
Indi will press his amendment. The honorable member for Gwydir seems to think that polling booths can be established within a reasonable distance of every home; but it is the experience of most country members that there are many places in which that is impossible. On one occasion I travelled over very bad roads to the top of a steep hill; to visit a place where there were, only four persons, and they were many miles from any one else. I would sooner pay £1 than travel 5 miles over such a road to record a vote. I do not believe in the provision of travelling polling booths; but something might be done to convenience country electors by opening a booth at one place for a certain number of hours, and then transferring it to another place. At the present time the poll officials and scrutineers have to remain all day in a polling booth, although it may be situated at a place where only half-a-dozen votes will be recorded, and they cannot close the poll even when they know that all the voting that can take place has been done. In my opinion, the best way to get over the difficulty would be to reintroduce postal voting. In city constituencies I would allow only those who were too unwell to visit polling booths to vote by post, perhaps requiring a doctor’s certificate to prove inability to go to the poll; but in sparsely populated country districts I would make the provision more liberal. The supporters of the present Government, because of abuses that occurred many years ago, do not believe in postal voting, and we are not likely to have it provided for now; consequently, I shall support the amendment. I am glad that the honorable member for Indi did not fix the distance at 7 miles.
.- I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment, or will make some other provision to meet the case. His statement was not sufficient. He would allow an elector to send to the Returning Officer a statement of his reasons for failing to record his vote.
– I understood him to say that when he comes to that provision he will propose an amendment which will give relief.
– Then he should inform the Committee of the nature of the amendment.
– I understood him to say that he would extend the definition of prescribed persons to allow any elector to witness certain returns.
– That does not get over the difficulty. Provision is not made to excuse an elector for not voting if he resides more than a certain distance from a polling booth, and there should be some such provision. At the present time an elector may vote or not if he chooses, and we have no right to say to persons living perhaps 10 or 20 miles from a polling booth, “ If you do not vote, it will rest with some electoral official to say whether you shall be prosecuted or not.” We should state definitely that electors shall not be prosecuted for non-voting if no adequate facilities are provided for them. The electors should not be left in doubt as to their position. If we make voting compulsory we should provide polling facilities within reasonable distance of the electors.
.- The honorable member for Gwydir says truly that he represents’ a large electorate, in which the population is scattered, and it might be thought from his attitude that there is no need for providing better facilities for voting in the back country. I have known the Gwydir electorate since I was a mere boy. In travelling in it I have taken ten days to go 100 miles with the best horses procurable. I have known it to take the coach a day and a half to get from Collarenebri, the few miles to the railway station, and I have known times when you could travel 60 miles in the electorate without seeing a house or a drop of water. People in such districts need every facility that we can give them for the recording of their votes. Personally, I believe in postal voting, and my knowledge of the conditions of the Gwydir electorate confirms my belief in that system. There are dry times and wet times in that dis- &trict, when it is impossible for a great many of the electors there to go to the poll. I am afraid that the Minister has such a prejudice against postal voting that there is no chance of its being adopted, and, therefore, I shall support the amendment.
– I hope the amendment will be accepted. In my district many persons reside more than 5 miles from a polling booth. The Minister tried to make it appear that the difficulty could be got over by making it as easy as possible to get a witness to give an excuse for not voting. But the Chief Electoral Officer may not accept any proffered excuse, and the elector is to be dealt with, not by a Court, but by that official. In my opinion, those living more than 5 miles from a polling booth should not be prosecuted if they do not vote.
.- When the last Government was in office a Commission was appointed to inquire into the subject of electoral reform, and after taking voluminous evidence in every State, it unanimously recommended that -
Contingent upon adequate provision being made for the exercise of postal voting(vide clause 13) we recommend compulsory voting as a natural corollary of compulsory enrolment.
Clause 13 of the report says -
The electoral law should not be forged as n party weapon, but should aim at making it possible for every elector to record his vote. Apparently about 77,000 electors were unable to vote at the elections in consequence of the abolition of postal-voting facilities, many of whom would be the mothers of our people, fulfilling the noblest duties of life, and would have a keener personal interest in the government of the country than many who recorded votes. We, therefore, suggest the amendment of the. Act to provide for postal voting prior to the day of election, with sufficient statutory safeguards.
– What safeguards would the honorable member propose ?
– Some provision similar to that adopted by the Senate during last Parliament. An official connected with the Electoral Department should go round and look into this matter.
– What about electors living out-back?
– They could be visited by accredited men, who would be answerable for seeing that the postalvoting system was properly carried out. No member of any Parliament has suffered as I suffered through the abuse of the postal-voting system in Victoria, but I fought my case in the High Court, and won it. I had 150 sworn declarations. In the small Gipps division, no elector in which was more than half-a-mile from a polling booth, more postal votes were recorded than in the whole State of Western Australia on one occasion, of Queensland on another occasion, and of Tasmania on two occasions. The repetition of such infamy must be prevented. But if we have proper statutory regulations, I see no objection to a system of postal voting. The adoption of that system will remove any complaint that certain persons are deprived of the opportunity of voting, and unless a. clause for that purpose is introduced I will vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi .
Amendment agreed to.
– This is no longer a Compulsory Voting Bill, but only a Compulsory Voting Bill for some voters in some places. The amendment only accentuates the disabilities of those who live in far-back districts. While the Government regiment the whole of the people in the city, and compel them, under pains and penalties, to record their votes, are they going to provide no facilities for the people far back, who suffer under such disabilities? Are they to be allowed to vote or not, as they please ? It seems that the more sectional an Act of Parliament can be made the more it commends itself to honorable members opposite. The Electoral Commission made a unanimous recommendation in favour of the incorporation of the postal vote in the electoral machinery. I was not aware until this moment that there were two or three honorable members on the Government side who were in favour of postal voting, and I hope that we shall secure their aid in putting into the electoral law the principles they as members of the Commission recommended after travelling the whole of Australia and taking exhaustive evidence upon the subject. I do not propose to argue the question at length, because it has been threshed out until it is threadbare, but I move -
That after the word “vote,” in line 2, the words “ either at a polling place or by means of a postal vote” be inserted.
– This is not a Bill for the purpose of altering the electoral law. It is merely for the purpose of applying compulsory voting inconnexion with the referenda. An inroad may have been made by the amendment that has just been carried, but that is not my fault. I ask honorable members to consider the scope of this Bill. When the electoral law comes forward for revision, as no doubt it will in due time, we shall be able to deal with the question of the incorporation of the postal vote in the electoral machinery. I am anxious to have the Bill passed, and I ask honorable members to acquit me of any desire to be disrespectful if I do not enter into a lengthy argument on this amendment. I ask the Committee to reject the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I am disappointed with the reply of the Minister. After the ready way in which he accepted the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Indi, I thought he would at least have done the honorable members on this side the compliment of accepting any amendment we moved, particularly when such an amendment is the inevitable corollary of the amendment to which the Committee has just agreed. I do not believe in the Bill, and I desire, if possible, to make it useless and ridiculous; I think the amendment . moved by the honorable member for Indi does that. The effect of the Bill, as amended, is that at the forthcoming referenda, roughly, two-thirds of the people are to be compelled to vote, and about one-third will be beyond the reach of compulsion. I represent a constituency every elector of which will be theoretically compelled to vote; and I now say to honorable members who represent far-distant parts of the Commonwealth that, as metropolitan members have helped them to gain freedom for the more distant parts of their constituencies, they ought now to help us to provide facilities for the rest of the people to vote if they are under disabilities in regard to voting at an ordinary polling booth. I feel obliged to vote for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and I hope the Minister will reconsider the matter and accept the recommendation unanimously arrived at by the Electoral Commission for the restoration of the postal vote.
– That is a question to be considered when Ave are dealing with an amendment of the electoral law.
– The fact that this Bill does not propose a permanent amendment of the electoral law does not affect my argument. If it is a good thing to have compulsion in connexion with the first big referendum, we ought to apply the same principle to electoral contests; and the mere fact that the Minister does not deem it advisable to adopt that course at this stage is no reply to my argument. The Minister proposes to insert what he regards as a remedial provision in subclauses 5 and 6 by making “ prescribed persons “ to mean any elector. The effect of that is only to make it easier for the elector who receives a communication from the Department asking why he did not vote to supply an answer, but it does not relieve him of liability to the penalty. When he has provided the answer, what happens ? The Divisional Returning Officer writes the answer on the margin of his roll, and gives his opinion of it. But the Chief Electoral Officer may take no notice of that opinion, and proceed to prosecute the elector. It will not be much comfort to him then to recollect that he had been able to return to the Divisional Returning Officer, with comparatively little inconvenience, a reply to his inquiry. I suggest that the Minister should reconsider the matter.
– Is there no way to the callous heart of the Minister?
– The principle we seem to be following to-night is that of accepting every alternate amendment.
– No. The principle which the Government are following is that of accepting every amendment moved from their own side, and of ignoring every amendment submitted by the Opposition. If the statement made by the Minister is all that can be said against postal voting, then he is proceeding in the most arbitrary way to disfranchise thousands of people without paying them the compliment of telling them the reason for his action. Why will the referenda differ from any other exercise of the electoral machinery ? The people will have to vote just as they would at a general election under our electoral machinery. They will suffer the same disabilities, and will be subject to the same penalties in addition to the new ones now being enacted. Their vote will be even more important than when cast at a general election.
– The point is that this Bill will apply only to the referenda, whereas the honorable member is regarding it as if it were permanent legislation.
– What we have to keep in view is the object of our legislation. The object of this Bill is to secure a big vote. We should therefore give the people every facility for voting. Instead of doing so, the Government are providing the fullest facilities for, and applying the principle of compulsion to, two-thirds of the electors of Australia, leaving the rest to vote, or not, as they please. My honorable friends opposite have called themselves Democrats, and Democrats are supposed to provide equal opportunities for all. That is supposed to be their lodestar, but in this case they are throwing the principle overboard. They are legislating for sections of the people while ignoring other sections, troubling nothing whatever about their vote or their facilities for voting. The whole matter is now becoming a screaming farce.
– Does the honorable member know of any other country-
– I shall tell the honorable member what is the matter, and I hope he will forgive me for speaking plainly. The supporters of the Labour, party live in crowded centres of population, and the Government are going to take care that they vote, while at the same time they seem to care little whether the people in the back parts of Australia vote or not. They are going to make perfectly sure of their own vote in the centres where it preponderates. It is neither more nor less than a party movement for a party end, and for party purposes. Honorable members opposite cannot escape from that imputation unless they consent to give the people in the back parts of Australia facilities for exercising the franchise equal to those afforded city residents. The fiat, however, has gone forth; the Czar has issued his ukase ! This is not a joking matter. It is of serious import to the electors of Australia that one section should be penalized and compelled to vote, while other sections are completely ignored by the Government.
– Does the right honorable member object to the 5-mile radius exclusion ?
– I object to any radius being fixed. An elector, wherever he may be, should be given the fullest facilities for exercising his vote. We should take the facilities to the people, whether they be close at hand or far off. We should try to remove some of the disabilities under which people living in the back country labour; but the Government decline to give them any relief. It is useless, however, to argue with them. They are going to round up their own vote in the cities, where it preponderates for the most part, and to ignore entirely the voters in the interior of the Commonwealth.
.- I certainly think that this facility should be given. The object of the Bill is to secure as large a vote as possible, and the Government would be well advised in displaying this consistency in the matter of voting. I have already given expression to my view as to the wisdom of passing a Bill of this kind at the present juncture, but seeing that it is to become law, we should endeavour to make it as effective as possible. We have eliminated one objectionable feature, the retention of which would have penalized those who could not get to a booth. That is good, and to complete the good work I see no alternative to the amendment now before us. I am not afraid of the postal vote; it has always been as much in my favour as in favour of my opponent. That people who cannot go to the poll - particularly when their inability fs” due to illness - should be deprived of the franchise is quite at variance with the democratic sentiment of- the day, and I cannot understand the Government standing for such a principle, since it is both illogical and unjust.
– I appeal to the Minister to agree to the amendment to provide for voting by post. I do not care how strongly the principle is safeguarded ; my sole desire is that those living outside a certain radius of a polling booth shall still have an opportunity to record their votes. In the more sparsely populated districts the Deputy Returning Officers or poll clerks could be authorized to receive postal ballot-papers some days before the date of the poll. Surely they are to be trusted. I do not know that it would be possible for them to travel all over the country and to call on all who would be unable to attend a polling booth; but surely they might be permitted to receive and witness postal ballotpapers. Deputy Returning Officers, poll clerks and police magistrates might be made authorized witnesses. As my honorable friends opposite seem to have a strong grudge against justices of the peace, I shall not ask that they be made authorized witnesses. This Bill will press very harshly on many people, unless they have an opportunity to vote by post. If the Minister will not accept the amendment, then he might agree to have movable polling booths shifting from place to place on referenda day. Arrangements could be made to have tents, covered waggons, or motor lorries, such as are used by creameries, at certain points on certain roads, at a given hour, at which people could record their votes. This is a practical suggestion. The people would know that from, say, 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. they could vote at a certain point on a certain road, and that if they did not vote within that time, they would have to drive to a point further up the road in order to do so. Even if the Minister is opposed to the application of postal voting to a general election, surely he might very well consider the advisableness of applying the principle to the forthcoming referenda.
– Such an amendment would be out of place in a provisional Bill such as this.
– A proposal is always out of place when a Minister does not wish to accept it. The amendment could be adopted quite easily, and I hope it will be accepted.
.-! also appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment. The country districts are altogether differently circumstanced from the city and suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney. There is nothing in the argument that the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition means an amendment of the electoral law, because the restoration of postal voting would be only for the referenda to be taken in the year 1915, and could not be grafted on to the electoral law unless that law were amended. Compulsory voting is now proposed, and it is incumbent upon us to provide the very best facilities for voting. I am afraid that the amendment of the honorable member for Indi will result in a tangle, because if we adopt the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition it would, in view of the former, apply only to people within 5 miles of a polling booth.
– Another clause would be introduced to put that right.
– That, of course, gets rid of one objection. My own opinion, however, is that the amendment of the honorable member for Indi is only a bit of fireworks, and that care will be taken to have it eliminated in another place.
.- I hope that the Minister will listen to the pleading of the Opposition and the honor able member for Macquarie, and extend the right of postal voting to 100,000 electors who otherwise will be disfranchised. The Minister has said that this is not the proper place for the amendment, which practically means an alteration of the Electoral Act, but the sub-clause under discussion, if it means anything, also means a temporary amendment of that Act, providing, as it does, that, if an elector does not respond to the invitation given, his name shall be struck off the roll. Compulsory voting is a temporary measure which will expire after the referenda, and the same may be said of postal voting if it be adopted. There are thousands of electors who take a deep interest in constitutional questions, which affect them more than they dothe nomadic population, and the postal vote ought certainly to be extended to them, and also to the sick and infirm. Personally, I feel grieved to think that the Government are showing such despotism as to force a referendum on the people at this time, but, in any case all facilities for voting are a necessary corollary to compulsory enrolment.
.- It seems strange that the Minister should hold that this is not the proper place for an amendment of the sort, seeing that compulsory voting for those within 5 miles of a polling booth is certainly an innovation in the face of which facilities for those at a distance ought not to be refused. It would appear as if the keen desire of the Government was only to get the votes of a large majority of one section of the community, and that they are careless whether others vote or not. In 1912 there were 133,000 births in Australia, and if even only one-sixth of these women were not able to attend at the polling booth it means 23,000 and over will be disfranchised. In addition, we have to remember that, according to the latest returns, there are some 77,000 sick and incapacitated persons who ought to be afforded an opportunity to record their votes by post. Further, the referendum is to be taken in December, when the farmers are particularly busy, and they, together with the enormous number of other people who live in the back country, are worthy of more consideration than those who live about the cities. It is the former who are developing the country, and upon whom we depend for our future welfare, and tens of thousands of them will be dis franchisee! unless proper facilities are afforded. In Western Australia, with a Labour Government for four or five years, the Electoral Act allows postal voting by those who have reason to believe they will be more than 7 miles away from a polling booth, for women who are in ill health, and others who are prevented from attending owing to illness or serious infirmity. Special- application forms are issued, and special officers appointed to see that the Jaw is properly observed. There is no doubt that sufficient safeguards could be devised, and I can only come to the conclusion that the Government have no desire that proper facilities shall be afforded. They have only one object, and that is to disfranchise a great number of people who, they think, will vote against the referenda proposals.
– Order 1
– What other reasons can there be for the Minister refusing justice and fair play to such a large section of the community ?
.- Had I been in the chamber when the amendment of the honorable member for Indi was agreed to, I should certainly have called for a division. If there be any merit in the principle of compulsory voting it ought to apply to all, for the only object can be to enable all the Australian people to determine legislation. I never heard of such a “shandy-gaff” proposal as that laid before us by the Minister. I do not impute motives to the honorable gentleman, but it is well known that supporters of the Labour party are generally to be found within 5 miles of a polling booth. If we are to have constitutional changes they ought to be determined by the whole of the people of the country.
– The honorable member must not discuss the amendment of the honorable member for Indi, which has already been decided.
– It is my intention at the proper time to move for a recommittal of the clause, so that the question may be again tested. The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition gives the Minister an opportunity to grant facilities for postal voting, and we can only hope that he will abandon the antiquated arguments that he has advanced hitherto. If ever there was a time when the concession of postal voting would be taken as a gracious act on the part of the
Government, providing for people who do not wish to parade their mourning at the polling booth, it is the present. If the Government are anxious to know the views of these bereaved people, they should afford the reasonable facility for voting which would be granted by the amendment put forward by the Leader of the Opposition.
. - We can discuss this matter in a nonpartisan spirit. In accepting the amendment by the honorable member for Indi the Minister admitted the principle of giving facilities to country people to vote, because the honorable member said that he moved his amendment in order to give facilities to these people, though the manner in which he proposed to do it was the extraordinary method of compelling all persons within a radius of 5 miles to exercise the franchise.
– I proposed to do it by preventing people outside that radius from being fined.
– The Minister does not object to the principle of postal voting. Ali he says is that he does not wish to see an amendment establishing postal voting inserted in this Bill, because it will alter the principle of the Electoral Act. Surely he is not serious ?
– Yes, I am. This is a provisional Bill, and the amendment has no place in it.
– Then let the postal vote also be a provisional matter as applied to a provisional Bill. The Minister should know the conditions in his own State. The honorable member for Grey has advocated the postal vote, and pointed out the difficulties of getting the people in his electorate to vote.
– He knows how the postal vote has been abused.
– He also knows how the abuses have been remedied. If the Minister would submit the matter to the Chief Electoral Officer I am confident that Mr. Oldham could submit a proposition which would properly safeguard the postal vote. A Royal Commission which represented both sides of the House, sitting judicially, and without any party spirit, has recommended that postal voting should be established as the natural corollary of compulsory enrolment. Let the Minister; adjourn this matter until he can consult with the members of that Royal Commission.
– I arn willing to adjourn the matter until we are discussing the Electoral Act.
– The amendment which has been agreed to will compel people in certain areas to vote, and we know the way the vote in those areas generally goes. It probably accounts for this opposition to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. As the Bill now stands it will be a laughing stock.
– Do not worry.
– No, not so long as the Bill gives the honorable member the vote he wants. Honorable members opposite can always look after the main chance. As one honorable member has said about the present electoral system, “ All I know about the system is that it has sent me here, and if it was good enough to send me here, it is good enough for the country.” The honorable member for
Bendigo will probably say, “ If this amendment is good enough to carry the referenda it is good enough for me.”-
– I did not say that.
– I say that the honorable member would probably say it. The Minister said that the amendment of the honorable member for Indi would strike at the foundation of the whole of the Bill. What an absurdity it is for him to to go on with a Bill out of which the foundation has gone ! If he is such a strong supporter of the principle of the Bill as he claims to be, he should have reported progress upon the Committee agreeing to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Indi, and we should have heard the last of the Bill. In any event, T am confident it will not see the statutebook in its present form.
.- I appeal to the Minister to promise to recommit the clause.
– There will be no recommittal.
– Then I am bound to remind the honorable member for Indi that, at the last general election, the highest percentage of voting took place in his electorate. Ballarat was second, and Wannon third. In my scattered electorate, which runs from the thirty-sixth parallel to the sea coast, and is about 100 miles wide, with a poor train service, nearly 86 per cent, of the people enrolled voted, whereas in the cities the percentage was about 60 or 70. How does the honorable member for Indi justify his pro posal to exempt those who have cast an exceptionally high percentage of votes? T am also bound to say that the Government, by accepting the amendment of the honorable member for Indi, are attempting to muster supporters in industrial centres, while allowing a go-as-you-please in rural constituencies. If the Bill goes to the Senate in its present form, and becomes law, it will be a laughing stock. The Minister will stand as the champion of a Bill which compels people in one constituency to vote, and exempts people in another constituency from voting. The proportion of electors within 5 miles of polling booths in the country constituencies is very small. In regard to the administration of the measure, who is to decide as to what persons live within 5 miles of a polling booth?
– That matter has already been decided.
– Well, it has been very badly decided, and needs more ventilation.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, but I believe it.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark unconditionally, and apologize for his reflection on the Chair.
– I do so. I hope that the Minister will not be adamant in the matter, and that he will have some consideration for what people outside will think of his passing a Bill in this form. He told the Committee a little while ago that he was opposed to the amendment of the honorable member for Indi. Surely, therefore, he can agree with me that the Bill should be recommitted, so that a blunder of this description should not be permitted.
– I think that an olive branch should be held out, and I would commend to honorable members a proposal relating to postal voting which was agreed to by the Senate last Parliament, but was not accepted by the Government of the day. There were some grains of gold in that proposal, and it is worthy of consideration.
– We are now only testing the principle.
– Yes, but some means to attain an end are more acceptable than others.
– What the honorable member suggests could be considered in connexion with an amendment of the Electoral Act.
– In that case it should be considered now. I think that if the Senate’s proposal were agreed to, it would be found that something of the kind could be adopted.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- As a consequential amendment, necessitated by that already agreed to, I move -
That after the word “ Division,” sub-clause 2, the words “ residing within five miles of a polling place “ be inserted.
.- Nothing can more clearly illustrate the absurdity of the former amendment than that now proposed. How is it possible for a Returning Officer, who has ascertained from his list the names of the electors who did not vote, to find out which of them live more than 5 miles from a polling place ? He cannot of his own knowledge be aware of the position of every home in the electorate. The honorable member for Gippsland desires that electors living more than 5 miles from a polling place shall not be bothered with a request for reasons; but it is practically impossible to do what he proposes. An elector may not know exactly how far he lives from a polling place; certainly the Returning Officer would not know which of the electors who had not voted lived beyond the prescribed distance from a polling place.
.- I suggest the addition of the words “ as the crow flies.” In the amendment hastily made at the instance of the Government by the honorable member for Indi-
– Then, with the permission of the Government by the honorable member-
– No. Did not the Minister of Home Affairs strenuously oppose the amendment?
– He yawned, and that was taken as an expression of dissent, and a division was not called for. In our haste to make this curious piece of legislation testable by the flight of time and experience, we have not decided how the 5 miles is to be measured; but I think the expression “as the crow flies” is known to the law, and as we cannot get any better system than the radial, I suggest that we do not bother the Returning Officer with consideration of the roads along which the electors have to travel, but that the words I have mentioned be added.
– - I appeal to the Committee not to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland. I decline to have the Bill turned inside out, and if the Leader of the Opposition and his followers are out for an evening’s comedy I will not be a party to it.
– I ask that the Minister of Home Affairs be required to withdraw the statement that I have taken part in a comedy.
– If the Leader of the Opposition takes exception to the remark, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– I should like the honorable member for Gippsland to indicate how his amendment is to be given effect to. The carrying out of his proposal will cost more than the whole of the balance of the referenda operations. If the 5-mile limit is to be measured radially and exactly the first thing to do will be to supply the Returning Officer with a sextant. Then he will be required to be examined educationally to ascertain whether he knows anything about trigonometry. The Acts Interpretation Act provides that in the measurement of any distance for the purpose of any Act that distance shall, unless a contrary intention appears, be measured in “ a straight line on a horizontal plane.” Joking apart, what I desire to know is whether an effort is to be made in connexion with this Bill to carry out the unanimous recommendation of the Electoral Commission? The whole purpose of that inquiry was to discover the best way of administering the electoral laws of the country and to frame such proposals as would provide facilities for gathering the votes of the people at general elections or in connexion with voting of any other kind.
– I rise to a point of order. The Committee is dealing, not with the report of the Royal Commission, but with clause 4 of the Bill.
– We are discussing the machinery proposals of this measure.
– The honorable member is not in order. The question before the Chair is the insertion of certain words proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland.
.- The Committee has already decided that this Bill shall apply only to those who reside within 5 miles of a polling booth. The clause under consideration provides for the preparation of a list of those who did not vote, and every person whose name appears on that list is to be required by the Returning Officer to send an explanation within a certain time on one of the prescribed forms, signed before one of the prescribed witnesses. Why should a person who did not reside within 5 miles of a polling booth be put to the trouble of making a return ?
– How is the Returning Officer to ascertain whether he lives beyond that limit?
– The Returning Officer will be able to ascertain that information easily, because he will act on the evidence of the Presiding Officers in the various districts. In nearly all cases those officers are local men, and have an excellent knowledge of the distances at which people reside. By the amendment I have proposed the Returning Officer will be saved the trouble of making out a list of a great number of those electors who have not voted, and those persons in turn will be saved the responsibility of sending in a statement of the reasons for their not having voted. The amendment is absolutely necessary in consequence of the alteration already made.
– In connexion with the 5-mile limitation, the greatest possible trouble will arise. Trouble occurs with distances very much less, as I know from experience. The honorable member for Gippsland could not, within a month, ascertain all the electors in his own district who are outside the 5-mile radius.
– If I were living in a particular locality I would know of those who were living within 5 miles of a polling booth.
– How could a man judge with certainty to within a few hundred yards, a distance of 5 miles? Either the Returning Officer will have to exempt everybody within a certain distance of the 5-mile radius or he will take all sorts of risks in sending out notices to those who did not vote. Absolute accuracy cannot be obtained from maps. The Committee has already made it impossible to work this measure, and the further they go the further anomalies and difficulties they are creating. This proposal will not lessen the difficulties, but will multiply them, increase the costliness of the system, and make it impossible to work the Bill in an equitable way.
– Section 109 of the principal Act - before the provision for voting by postwas repealed - provided that -
Any elector -
.- I would strongly recommend the Committee to strike out the provision as regards the 5-mile radius. When we are asking the people under the Constitution to approve or reject a proposed law the position is altogether different from any provision we may make in relation to a purely electoral matter, dealing with elections generally.
– We have already agreed to that provision.
– We should retrace our steps, since the implied sense of the people of Australia, in accepting the Federal Constitution, was that there should be no differentiation between the opportunities to be afforded the electors in voting on any amendment of the Constitution.
– No difference is made in this case.
– I do not say that there is any constitutional difference; but I shall not say that the point may not be raised. We certainly cannot place any obstacle in the way of electors recording their votes.
– The Bill does not do that.
– We are dealing not with a matter created by ourselves, but with a provision of the Constitution regulating voting on the adoption or rejection of a constitutional amendment. We must submit that to the people, and I submit that we should not afford an inducement to one set of electors, by compulsion, to vote at the referenda on this most sacred matter.
– The honorable member is now commenting on a question that has already been decided.
– I dare say that I am ; but I have said all that I desire to say on the subject.
.- I am opposed to this amendment, and desire to express my concurrence with the remarks made by the honorable member for Richmond. It seems to me that the quotation made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong from the Electoral
Act has no application. It would be absurd to require Returning Officers to see that all who failed to vote lived within or without the prescribed radius. It is unreasonable to imagine that the electoral officer at every polling booth will be able to determine the distance at which every elector on the roll resides from that booth. The number living outside the proposed radius may be infinitesimal as compared with the total number of electors in the Commonwealth. Thousands of circulars would have to be sent out to electors inquiring why they had failed to vote, and it would be sufficient for any elector to reply that he was living more than 5 miles from a polling booth.
– I should say that the honorable member represents a city constituency.
– I do ; but I am viewing this matter from the stand-point of the interests of the general community. I was five years on the roads as a traveller, so that I am familiar with many of the disabilities of country life. In this case the people are to be asked to vote on proposed alterations of the Constitution, and it seems to me that even if it should be necessary for an elector on this one occasion to drive 30 miles in order to record his vote on a question affecting the nation, he should be prepared to do so.
– Why not make the limitation five minutes instead of 5 miles from a polling booth?
– That would suit my constituents very well, for I do not think any of them are more than five minutes’ distance from a polling booth. The proposed amendment is likely to give rise to increased difficulties. In the light of presentday experience we think it the duty of the electors to vote on the constitutional questions to be submitted to them, and I do not think the Bill will be rendered more effective by such an amendment as the honorable member for Gippsland has proposed.
– There is a great deal of force in the contention that an Act to provide for compulsory voting of the electors on proposed amendments of the Constitution should apply without respect of person or locality. I think, however, that a good deal of the trouble arises from the place in which the amendment as to the 5-mile radius has been inserted. If we make the law applicable to all the electors, and then make the fact that on the day of election an elector is more than 5 miles from a polling booth a valid excuse for failing to vote under sub-clause 12, the objection to the amendment taken by the honorable member for Gippsland will be overcome. The trouble has arisen from confusing two entirely different things. The fact that counts is not where a man resides, but where he is on the day of, election. He may be in his own home on the day of election. If so, well and good; but he may be 50 miles away, and 10 miles from a booth, although his home may be within 100 yards of a polling booth.
– I must remind the Attorney-General that the Committee has already decided the amendment he is now discussing.
– I am pointing out reasons why that amendment should not remain where it is.
– That can be dealt with only by recommitting the clause.
– I am pointing out whv the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland should not be accepted. His object would be better met bv striking out the amendment where inserted on the motion of the honorable member for Indi, and inserting it in subclause 12. There is a good deal in what the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Angas have said, but this will not put any elector in a position different from that of any other elector. It will only declare that any elector has a valid excuse if he is 5 miles from a booth on the day of election.If the honorable member for Gippsland will withdraw his amendment, we shall recommit the clause.
– If the Government are prepared to make the alteration which the Attorney-General has suggested, I am quite prepared to withdraw my amendment. I ask leave to do so.
.- I object to the withdrawal of the amendment. With the consent of the Government, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi, to impose a geographical limitation, was accepted by the Committee. It is an absurd thing to have done, but I think that the whole Bill is absurd, and the more ridiculous the amendments that are proposed the more inclined I shall feel to vote for them. It is because of this that I desire a vote to be taken on the amendment now before us. I disagree with the view expressed by the AttorneyGeneral that the amendment should be embodied in sub-clause 12, since that provision relates to electors who are guilty of an offence, and provides for a penalty. It might be inserted as a separate subclause 11a, but I think that the proper place at which to insert it is sub-clause 4, where we have the first reference in the Bill to a “ valid, truthful, and sufficient “ excuse.
– No, it could follow on sub-clause 12.
– It could be inserted after that sub-clause, but I think we should keep to the lines which the Committee unanimously adopted.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Is the clause as amended a very respectable proposition to go to the country? We have carried an amendment relating to the 5-mile limit, and now the Committee, by rejecting a consequential amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland, has refused to ratify that limit. We have got into a very illogical position. The desire of country members, voiced by the honorable member for Indi, was unanimously accepted by the Committee and the Minister.
– It was not.
– At any rate, I desire to show that the 5-mile limit, which apparently was unanimously accepted by tlie Committee, has been refused at a later stage. The clause now is an object of ridicule or contempt to students of Act building. If the Government do not feel inclined to vary the suggestion made by the Attorney-General, it is no good honorable members on this side urging the necessity for. further amendment, particularly as they seem to be violently opposed to one another. I think that the penalty which hangs at the end of the clause like a sword of Damocles is not sufficient. Let us make the penalty £10, with a month’s imprisonment. If we are to do the thing in really Draconian fashion, for the first time in the history of the Australian nation, let the medicine be hot and strong, so that the people will appreciate it. I urge this suggestion for the consideration of the Attorney-General.
.- Some provision should be made to enable electors to pay the penalty without having to go before a police magistrate. It is hardly fair to drag electors into a Police Court. Many women have never been in such places, but if they fail to record their votes the Bill will compel them to appear before magistrates, and they will not take to it very kindly. They would rather pay their fines to Returning Officers, and escape the ordeal of appearing in a Police Court. I shall move an amendment to sub-clause 13.
– I have an amendment to add a new sub-clause after sub-clause 11.
– Before that is done I wish to appeal to honorable members to provide some machinery to enable voters in the back districts to vote without having disabilities imposed on them. Two honorable members on the Ministerial side sat on the Postal Commission, which agreed to the following recommendation
– What does the right honorable gentleman propose?
– I am proposing nothing. I am making an appeal to those honorable members who say that they are in favour of postal voting under certain conditions and sufficient statutory safeguards.
– Hear, hear!
– The opportunity to apply those safeguards is now presented.
– The Committee has already decided that question on the honorable member’s amendment.
– We have only decided generally whether there should be a postal vote.
– I shall vote against it every time when it is brought forward generally.
– I am now asking the honorable member to apply it particularly.
– Draft a clause, and I shall vote with you.
– I am not under an obligation to draft a clause. The honorable member has the AttorneyGeneral and all his party with him. He says that with certain safeguards he would like to see the postal vote applied. Now is his opportunity to apply it.
– The question before the Chair is the clause as amended, and discussion must be confined to anything relevant to the clause. The right honorable gentleman knows that once the Committee has decided any particular matter it cannot again be referred to at that stage of the Bill. The Committee having decided upon the question of postal voting, further discussion on that matter is not in order.
– I wish to know if the Government have any proposal to enable people who are under disabilities at every poll to vote, and so apply the principle of compulsion equally and fairly. The provisions of the Bill can be amended in order to do so. I do not know what the Royal Commission cost the Commonwealth, but one of the things into which they had to specially inquire was what facilities could be furnished to the voters of Australia, yet not one honorable member opposite who sat on that Commission is making any practical proposal. We cannot do anything on this side of the chamber because we are in a minority; but the honorable member for Denison, who was an enthusiast beyond all others, has all the power of the Commonwealth behind him to buttress him in any suggestion for machinery in regard to granting these facilities. I want to know what these Commissioners, who have the power and the opportunity, propose to do in this matter.
– This clause makes no reference to the Postal, or any other, Commission.
– I am talking about machinery.
– I ask the light honorable gentleman to deal with the clause as amended, or submit some specific amendment.
– Since honorable members have declined to insert a provision for postal voting, the obligation is on them to provide some other machinery, and here is the opportunity for inserting that machinery. Have the members of the Royal Commission, after all their trouble, nothing to suggest in the way of amendment? On what did we spend the money the Commission cost, and. why was so much trouble taken, if the results of their inquiries are not to be applied to a matter of this kind - the greatest question we can ever vote on in Australia ? Honorable members have only to make the proposal to have it accepted by their party.
– Who appointed the Commission?
– I did.
– That is where the mistake was made.
– Is the honorable member trying to insult honorable members of his own party by saying that I made a mistake in appointing them ? He is talking nonsense. I merely wish to know from those Commissioners what is the result of their inquiries, and what they have to propose in the way of facilities to vote, now that honorable members have turned down a matter which was unanimously agreed upon by the Royal Commission. In order to make the principle of compulsion just in its application, provision should be made so that every man will have an equal opportunity at the ballot-box.
-Is the honorable member in order in referring to the matter of postal voting?
– I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman is referring to postal voting.
– I am merely remarking that in the absence of the postal vote it is a fair thing that honorable members should furnish some alternative machinery. Having turned down the only machinery that I can suggest, the obligation rests upon them to find something to take its place, and now is the time to do so.But do honorable members care how the far-back people are situated or treated ? They have already insertea an amendment which gives them a distinct advantage in the populous centres, and they care nothing about the man in the back country. However, I am endeavouring to say a word for that man who is under all these disabilities, who should be considered above all others, and has a special claim upon our parliamentary attention. Now is the time to give him that consideration ; but men who are constantly mouthing their Democracy from the housetops neglect the opportunity to do so.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister in charge of the Bill the fact that, although we have exempted a large proportion of the electors of the Commonwealth from the obligation to vote, they are still under the obligation of giving reasons for not voting, and the penaltv for failure to do so is applicable to them. The honorable member for Hunter has rightly pointed out that many persons who cannot read or write may thus be punished.
– To exempt from the operation of the Act all persons serving with the Forces, I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ 11a. Non-compliance with the requisitions contained in a notice under subsection 4 of this section shall not have any effect where the elector is serving outside Australia with the Forces of any part of the British Dominions, or of an allied country.”
– Is there any need for this provision? Persons outside Australia are more than 5 miles from a polling place.
– But all who do not vote are under the obligation of furnishing reasons why they did not vote.
– My amendment was moved to remove that obligation.
– The amendment puts our soldiers who are serving abroad outside the operation of the Act.
– Then the Government are not going to send ballotboxes to them?
– Are you going to provide them with any facilities for voting; or is the amendment an intimation to them that they must not vote?
– The amendment does not affect their opportunities to vote. If circumstances remove that opportunity, it is another matter; the Bill does not.
– But if the Government do what they suggested they would do, and send ballot-boxes to the trenches, why remove the obligation to vote?
– It has been found impracticable to provide for the voting of the soldiers at the front.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that the Canadians have done so.
– I said that Canada had passed an Act to provide for it, and that is so.
– The AttorneyGeneral is not going to give our soldiers facilities for voting on the referendum, and proposes to relieve them of all obligations imposed by this measure?
– The soldier is to be left entirely alone so far as the Government are concerned.
– That is so.
– The amendment does not go far enough. It should include those who reside more than 5 miles from a polling place; otherwise such persons will be required to furnish reasons why they have not voted.
– Where there is no obligation to vote, there can be no penalty for not voting.
– The return of the Returning Officer will be taken as primâ facie evidence against the elector, and, although a man has been exempted from the obligation of voting, he may be punished for not giving reasons why ho did not vote.
– It is a proper thing to exempt from the operation of the Bill those on active service, though it will be difficult for Returning Officers to know who are on active service. Are the nurses who are at the front or in Great Britain provided for? Can they be said to be serving with the Military Forces?
– I think so.
– Including those attached to the British Nursing Staff?
-Yes. What is material is the interpretation that the Department will put on the provisions of the measure.
– It seems to me that notices will be served on all who do not vote, and no explanation being returned, summonses will be issued.
– It is not proposed to bring any one before the Court.
– Under clause 4 the Divisional Returning Officer has to send a notice to every person who has not voted. How can he discover from his list whether the elector who has not voted was serving at the front or is a person living within the 5-mile limit?
– We must assume that in the overwhelming majority of cases he can, and will, discover the facts.
-I admit that the Returning Officer could ascertain what men have gone to the front from a particular district, but it must be remembered that the Divisional Returning Officer is responsible for the whole of a division.
– Then he must get his information from his subordinates.
– Some of the divisions, such as Dampier, are bigger than the whole State of Victoria, and I suggest to the Attorney-General that he might provide some assistance to the Divisional Returning Officers. They will require all the assistance that can be given them if this Bill is to operate effectively. The persons residing outside the 5-mile limit are also entitled to consideration. Whilst the compulsory voting provisions no longer apply to them, they are still compelled to submit an excuse for not having voted. That appears to be an anomaly.
– The anomaly arises because there has been engrafted upon the body of the Bill a foreign principle. The Government did not intend to exempt anybody. Those persons outside the 5- mile limit are no longer compelled to vote.
– But they are compelled to give an excuse.
– If they are so compelled, the excuse that they are beyond the 5-mile limit is sufficient.
– But that does not relieve the Divisional Returning Officer of the obligation of obtaining such an excuse from every person who has not voted.
– That position could be met by inserting words which would exempt those who reside beyond the 5-mile limit from the operation of sub-clause 4.
– An amendment of that character would be satisfactory.
Amendment agreed to.
– I desire to move an amendment so that anybody guilty of an offence under the Act shall have the option of paying the penalty to the Returning Officer or of going before a Police Court. My object is to prevent many persons, especially women, being dragged before a Court. The fact that a woman who has always led an exemplary life has been taken before a Police Court worries her considerably, and she would much rather pay a fine and escape the Court proceedings. If the excuse of the elector was not sufficient the person administering the Act should be able to say that he or she could either pay a fine, or test the case in a Police Court. I move -
That the following words be added to subclause 13 : - “ Provided that an elector who commits a breach of this Act shall have the option of forwarding the amount of penalty to the Divisional Returning Officer, or to appear before a police magistrate.”
– I quite appreciate the position taken up by the honorable member for Hunter, but the amendment he proposes is not suitable, and I would suggest that he withdraw his amendment, and permit me to move an amendment in the next clause which will give effect to his wishes.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The Governor-General may make regulations . . . and in particular for prescribing the procedure on the prosecution and trial of offences against this Act.
– I move -
That the words “ on the prosecution and trial of” be omitted, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ in relation to the recovery of penalties for.”
That amendment will enable the Government to make regulations by which the Chief Electoral Officer may deal with the whole of the cases, andno person need go to the Court unless he or she objects to the fine levied. If the Chief Electoral Officer thinks that a fine of 2s. 6d. or 5s. will be a sufficient penalty for the offence, he will notify the elector to that effect, and the elector need not go to the Court unless he or she thinks that the fine so fixed is unjust. In any case the fine cannot exceed £1.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, and recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 4.
Clause 4 -
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the word “ sub-section “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ sub-sections (1) and.”
– Is it not the intention of the AttorneyGeneral to strike out of this clause words which have already been inserted?
– No; this amendment will deal with the whole question in a much more effective way.
– I, unfortunately, did not hear the AttorneyGeneral’s explanation of what he proposes to do in regard to the question of a 5-mile radius.
– Sub-clause 1 of clause 4, as amended, exempts persons residing 5 miles from a polling booth from the provision as to compulsion. By the amendment I have now moved it is proposed to exempt them from the notices that are to be served on all electors who have not voted and from all consequent penalties.
– That appears to be quite satisfactory.
– It seems to me that all that it is proposed to do is to perpetuate the absurdity that has already been introduced in the Bill. This Bill imposes on the Returning Officers the duty of preparing a list of all voters who have not voted, but it tells them that every voter whose place of resideuce is more than 5 miles from a. polling booth need not be included in that list. How is a Returning Officer to ascertain from the rolls before him who does and who does not live within 5 miles of a booth?
– The honorable member apparently does not know the Returning Officers of this country. They have been able to tell the living from the dead, and that is more than some people can do.
– At any rate, this amendment will relieve those whom we desire to relieve.
– If that is the only desire of the Committee, then the amendment will be effective; but for this Parliament to incorporate in the Bill what is neither more nor less than a gross absurdity, and which will reduce it to an impossible working proposition, is one of the most insane things of which I have ever heard.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with a further amendment.
Standing Orders suspended; reports adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with the following amendments: -
No. 1. - Page 4, clause 11, paragraph (c), lino 13, after” union “ insert “or of an association of employers or employees registered under any Act of the Commonwealth or a State relating to the settlement of industrial disputes.”
No. 2. - Page 6, clause 17, line 32, leave out “ calendar,” insert “ financial.”
No. 3. - Page 6, clause 17, line 38, leave out “ year,” insert “ financial year beginning the first day of July.”
No. 4. - Page 7, clause 18, line 34, leave out “ of,” insert” by.”
No. 5. - Page 8, clause 18, paragraph (h), line 21, insert before “contributions” the words “gifts exceeding twenty pounds each to public charitable institutions in Australia and.”
No. 6. - Page 8, clause 18, paragraph (i), line 32, leave out “ and.”
No. 7. - Page 8, clause 18, after paragraph (i) insert the following proviso : - “ Provided that the total amount of calls paid in the year in which the income is derived shall be deducted in the case of calls on shares in a mining company; and.”
No. 8. - Page 8, clause 18, at end of clause add the following new proviso: - “Provided also that if the Commissioner is satisfied that a sum has been so set aside or paid by any person to provide individual personal benefits, pensions, or retiring allowances to employees in any business, the person setting aside or paying the sum shall be entitled to deduct it.”
No. 9. - Page 12, clause 27, line 25, after “ company “ and within the bracket insert “ or a trustee.”
No. 10.- Page 12, clause 27, after sub-clause
That the Senate’s amendments be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I move -
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
I promised to have certain amendments made when the Bill was before this Chamber, but was unable to carry out that promise. These amendments have been made in another place. In the first place, I promised the right honorable member for Swan that amongst those classes exempted from income tax shouldbe unions of employers as well as of employees. That exemption is made in the first of these amendments. In the second amendment, the “ financial “ year is substituted for the “calendar” year, and the third of these amendments is consequential upon that alteration. Amendment No. 5 has been made in accordance with a promise that I gave the honorable member for Corangamite. Amendment No. 7 allows a deduction to be made in the case of calls on shares in a mining company paid in the year in which the income is derived. Amendment No. 5 enables employers to get the benefit of any sum set aside in the interests of their employees. I have had made amendment No. 10 relating to the assessment of trustees as the result of representations made by the Leader of the Opposition in anothe r place this afternoon. As the clause now stands a trustee will pay, not upon the total income for the whole trust estate, but only on his share of it.
.At this late hour we have to accept the Attorney-General’s interpretation of the amendments. As far as my recollection of the discussion here goes, they bear out the promise that the Minister made here, and the amendment dealing with the assessment of trustees is a fair proposal.
– I understood the Attorney-General made a promise to the honorable member for Grey and to myself, that the position of partners would also be reviewed. As the Bill stands the partnership will pay, and the individual partners will also pay. on the same returns.
– No; not on the same returns.
– I should like to be quite clear about the last amendment. As an illustration, let us assume that a sum of £10,000 is divided between five beneficiaries. Although each would have only £2,000 interest in the trust, they would have to pay on the £10,000 as the Bill left this Chamber.
– The proposal now is to enable them to pay according to the beneficiary’s interest in the estate.
– I do not like to be persistent about the matter, but I am quite certain that as the Bill stands now the partnership will be taxed and the individual partners will again pay the tax on the same income.
– I have looked into the matter very carefully and I cannot agree to any further amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 -
Section 21 of the principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section 2 thereof the words “ One hundred and ten pounds per annum,” and inserting in their stead the words “ One hundred and twenty-six pounds per annum.”
Sectionproposed to be amended: - “… Every such officer shall be entitled, upon attaining the age of twenty-one years, to a salary of One hundred and ten pounds per annum. . . . “
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “ One hundred and twenty-six pounds per annum.”
– Two amendments havebeen made in this Bill by the Senate, one of which I propose to accept while rejecting the other. The first amendment, which I shall propose be disagreed with, is in clause 4, which provides for a minimum wage, and the amendment of the Senate is to strike out £126, with a view to inserting £138. The amendment creates a blank, and the Government propose to omit the whole clause, leaving matters exactly as they are now, subject to regulation. The second amendment, which we propose to accept, is in clause. 13, which provides for an extension of eligibility for appointment, and is a purely verbal and formal one. I move -
That amendment No. 1 be disagreed to, and that clause 4 be left out.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “was, on the fourth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and fourteen,” insert “ is at the commencement of this Act.”
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That amendment No. 2 be agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 26th August (vide page 6153) on motion by Mr. Spence -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee
Act 1913-1914, the following works be referred to tlie Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report, viz.: -
Provision of Automatic Telephone Exchange, Sydney.
Provision of Automatic Telephone Exchange, Malvern, Victoria.
Provision of Automatic Telephone Exchange, Collingwood, Victoria.
– I now lay on the table the necessary plans and specifications for these works, and submit the motion without further comment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The object of this Bill is to amend the War Precautions Act in such a way as to make the regulations thereunder effective. A recent decision of the Supreme Court of the State of Victoria, in the matter of Franz Wallach, declared the regulations under which the Minister has power to arrest any person whom he has reason to believe is acting in any manner prejudicial to the safety of the Commonwealth to be ultra vires. This Bill is intended to cure this defect. I do not propose at this hour of the morning to say more than that it is not intended to use this measure for any purpose other than that for which we are using the Act as it stands. We are not seeking any new power, but merely the power which it was imagined we had, and which we still believe we had, under the Act. It is absolutely necessary, in the interests of the Commonwealth, that power should be vested in the Minister to intern persons who are suspected of having designs against the peace and safety of the Commonwealth. This measure will not operate in a pending case. This Bill is one properly within the province of the Minister for the Navy, and I shall do no more than, on his behalf, move that the Bill be read a second time.
– This is a terrific grant of power to give a Minister in any country in the world. I do not know that in any country, governed according to the principles of responsible government, and with our western modes of thought, anything like this power has been sought in connexion withthe prosecution of the war.
It may be that such power has been granted elsewhere, but I am not aware ot the fact. I do not think that the British House of Commons has conferred any such power on the Imperial Government; if so, the fact has escaped my recollection. The Attorney-General, as the law. adviser of the Government, tells us that this power is necessary for the purpose of dealing with certain aspects of the war, and I only desire to be clear about one or two points. The attitude that we on this side have taken all through the war has been that, where the Government say they require legislative power to enable them to deal with the situation, we have conceded that power without let or hindrance. But this is a power of quite an unusual character. It not only seeks to make the Government for the time being the repository of this absolute and unqualified power, but it also seeks to make any delegated body the repository of that power. That is what I take exception to.
– That is the real objection to the Bill.
– I desire the Minister so to arrange the terms of the measure that nobody shall be able to put this power into execution save on the direction of the Government.
– That is so under the Bill. Only the Attorney-General can do it.
– It is not so. Under clause 2 the Governor-General is empowered to make regulations -
I strongly object to giving to any public servant the right to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act.
– If the honorable member will read paragraph 3a of clause 3 he will see that -
An offence against this Act shall not be prosecuted summarily without the written consent of the Attorney-General or the Minister of Defence, or a person authorized in writing by the Attorney-General or the Minister of Defence, and an offence against this Act shall not be prosecuted upon indictment except in the name of the Attorney-General.
– That is all right. But, first of all, it is proposed to give power to seize theperson who is suspected-
– That particular power is conferred only on the Minister.
– The clause does not confine it to the Minister. Its very phraseology indicates that after other persons have seized a suspect the Minister may detain him for such time as he thinks fit. If the Minister alone can act in these cases, where is the necessity for paragraphii of the clause?
– That relates to general powers.
– I am anxious that the Government should make it clear that none of these powers shall be exercised unless the Minister directly sanctions it.
– That is the intention. I have here a statement from the Minister in regard to what is prescribed in the Bill.
– I shall be very glad to hear any statement of thatkind. We ought to be extremely careful about conferring these plenary powers upon any individual other than the Minister.
– Those who have watched the course of recent eveuts will thoroughly understand why the Minister desires to be invested with further power. In common with many others, I confess that I was rather surprised at the decision of the Supreme Court of this State in the Wallach case. But whilst I feel that an enemy in our midst should be prevented from doing anything which may be detrimental to the Empire, I have a perfect horror of conferring upon any individual the powers which are contained in this Bill. I well remember that in Victoria many years ago the authorities had a happy knack of suspending the Habeas Corpus Act. They used to bring a great many persons before the Court every Monday morning, and those persons were almost invariably remanded until the following Monday. Whilst I am quite willing to confer upon the Ministry power in regard to the internment of any alien enemy in the interests of the safety of the Empire, I will not support any measure which will confer such a power upon the military authorities. I admit that paragraph 3a of clause 3 to some extent provides a safeguard.
– But under clause 2 the authorities may detain a man on suspicion for three months.
– They may detain him for three months or three years. I do not wish to draw any distinctions between the Minister of Defence and the Attorney-General; but while we hear much said against lawyers, from a legal stand-point, I would be more inclined to trust them than the military community, because they do keep within the law, whereas the military people may not do so. I feel that anything done by the Defence Department will be done off their own bat, irrespective of the AttorneyGeneral, once they have the power. Very strong medicine may be required to deal with the case that the Government are now handling; but Ministers are endeavouring to secure powers so drastic that people outside the Military Forces can have no idea of their extent until they see them brought into operation. I have always been one of those who have endeavoured to preserve the dominance of thecivil over the military law. We have lately had evidence that the civil law has determined that personal liberty should be given to those who deserve it, but wewould never get it from the military authorities. Justice may be obtained if the suspension of the Habeas Corpus powers is controlled by civilians, but one is not likely to get it from the militarysection of the community. Quite recently, in a case against the Herald newspaper, the military authorities refused to placeevidence before the Court as to why they had taken a certain action, but the Courtmade them produce it. I do not wish to see that power taken away from the civil Courts. Therefore, I suggest that the proposed new paragraph da be amended byinserting after the word “ persons “ wordssuch as “of enemy origin.”
– One of our ownorigin might be a traitor.
– I admit it, but he is not likely to do as much harm as the other. All of the cases that have been dealt with have had relation to trading, and not espionage. We are so isolated from the seat of war that it is not possible for people to secure information here that will do harm to the Forces of the Empire at the front.
– Hear, hear! The Habeas
Corpus Act has only been suspended three times in the history of the British nation.
– The only harm that an individual could do would be to blow up bridges or burn buildings, which acts the ordinary law already sufficiently covers; and the extraordinary powers asked for in this Bill are only sought in order to deal with matters of trading. Therefore, we need only concern ourselves with persons of enemy origin. My desire is to preserve to every British citizen the right to appeal to the civil law against the military Courts; and unless the amendment that i suggest is adopted i shall object to a law being enacted which will leave the well-being of the people in the hands of the military section of the community.
– The Leader of the Opposition has placed before the House the view that honorable members on this side have taken all through the session, that is. whenever a Minister has stated that any measure is necessary for the conduct of the war, we are prepared to accept it and let the Government take the responsibility for it. Therefore, i am quite prepared to give the Minister the whole of the powers he seeks in this Bill. Certain matters have transpired since the outbreak of the war which have shown the necessity for giving the Government more powers than they have at present; but the objection i have to this Bill is that it is extending enormously the delegated powers which the Government are seeking to obtain - for instance, in proposed paragraph 2, in which powers are to be imposed upon the Minister, and upon the Naval Board, and the Military Board, and the members of the Naval and Military Forces of the Commonwealth, “ and other persons.”
– The only alteration is the addition of “ Minister.”
Mr.Mcwilliams.- No doubt, if honorable members were considering that matter again, they would not agree to it as it stands. i differ from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. i care not whether the traitor to the Empire be an alien or a British or Australian-born citizen. In my opinion, the traitor who is of British or Australian origin is more dangerous to the community. i am prepared to give the Minister all the powers he asks for under this Bill, but
I say that such powers should be centred in the Minister alone, and should not be delegated, as is here proposed, to the Naval and Military Boards, the members of the Naval and Military Forces, or to such other persons as the Minister may think fit. The Bill provides that an offence against the Act shall not be prosecuted summarily without the written consent of the Attorney-General, or Minister of Defence, or a person authorized by them.
– That is a new precaution.
– That is quite right, but as I read the Bill there is nothing in it to prevent the delegation to the wide circle of persons to whom I have referred of the powers for which the Minister asks under this measure.
– Suppose it is necessary to arrest some one at Rabaul - does the honorable member not see that it would be necessary for the Minister to delegate his power in such a case?
– That is an entirely different matter. No one supposes that the Minister will personally arrest suspected persons. That will be done by a servant of the Minister, acting under his authority. I object to the wholesale power of delegation provided for in the Bill, but I am willing to give the Minister all the power he considers necessary for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth.
– Even the power to imprison any one at pleasure?
– In time of war the Minister must be vested with some discretion. He will always be responsible to Parliament. If we have an enemy within our gates some one must be given the power to deal with him. I prefer that the power should rest with the Minister, and I am not prepared to agree to the wholesale delegation of that power provided for under this Bill.
– The attitude of the Opposition in regard to these measures may be considered consistent and somewhat complimentary to themselves, but I wish to protest in the most emphatic manner against the continuation or extension of these extraordinary powers. The war seems already to have distorted our ideas of right and wrong. We seem to have become so impressed by German methods that right has become wrong and wrong has become right with us.
– Let the honorable member speak for himself.
– With perhaps less reason than could be advanced by the people of any other country, we seem to have suffered from a fit of hysterics because of the war. Our people appear to be far more anxious to come under a military tyranny than are the people of any other country in the world. The people of the Mother Land, though much more directly associated with the war, and risking more than we risk, have already taken fright at the continual efforts made for the extension of the military power. The history of the world proves the tendency of the military power in all ages to defy and dominate the civil power. The civil authority has had to fight for its very existence in peace times, and in war times has had to stand on the defensive against the military power, often with very poor results. It is not necessary to elaborate the point that we are faced here with a critical position. We shall escape from that position, not by casting ourselves into the arms of the military power, but by preserving our civil liberties and preventing the military forces securing control of the civil forces. There is no tyranny in the world, not even excepting the religious tyranny, that is more detrimental to the welfare of the people than is the military tyranny. If this Bill is passed as it stands there will be nothing in the Prussian system of militarism to compare with what is going to be established in Australia.
– If tlie honorable member will look at the court martial sections of the principal Act, which are not amended by this Bill, he must admit that they are not to be compared with any of the Continental systems.
– Is there any democratic community in the world in which the military are given power to arrest a person and detain him at will for as long as they choose without bringing him to trial ?
– If we were under martial law the position would be quite different.
– We could not be worse off under martial law than we shall be under this Bill if it is passed.
– Could we not?
– The honorable member for Franklin has said that he is willing to give the Minister as much power as he thinks necessary. The honor able member forgets that the Minister cannot possibly deal personally with every case. He must rely upon his responsible advisers. In the last resort the Minister may take the final action, but the recommendation upon which he will act will come from other sources. As the war goes on, events, instead of increasing our confidence in the fairness and reasonableness of the two branches of our Defence Force, increase our suspicion and dread of both. I am more in fear of the military authorities to-day than I was at the beginning of the war, and less inclined to intrust them with power. The Bill allows the Governor-General in Council to delegate to the Military Board, the Naval Board, and persons of the Military and Naval Forces the power to ignore every civil right, and I shall oppose its provisions to the fullest extent. Were the proposal to give to the AttorneyGeneral the powers conferred on the Minister of Defence, my objection to the measure would vanish, because he is the legal representative of the Government, and it is his business to uphold the law and to respect all civil rights. The Minister of Defence has no such responsibility. His concern is not the upholding of the laws of the Commonwealth, but the interests of the military.
– The Attorney-General is the legal adviser of the Minister of Defence.
– He does not come in until it is decided that action shall be taken. Before action is taken in the Courts, the Minister of Defence, or some one appointed by him, may arrest any person and detain him in custody for any length of time. The Attorney-General told me to-day, in reply to a question, that this was a free country, in which citizens could do as they liked, but under the Bill, if a man expressed in public sympathy with naturalized Germans, he might, at the caprice of the Minister of Defence, or of some member of the Military or Naval Board, be arrested and kept in prison for any length of time. There are persons in the community who are not entitled to the protection of the law; but they are entitled to justice, and should be tried before being imprisoned. Every citizen of the Commonwealth, wherever born, is entitled to the protection of our laws. Let me read a part of a letter signed by Mr. J. E. Vance, of Cheapsidestreet, Maryborough, Queensland -
My son was accepted when seventeen years of age, and without my consent. I have written to the military authorities in Brisbane, placing the facts before them, and more than this, the recruiting officer, knowing that I objected, gave him a pass to camp at Enoggera, at the same time telling him that if I made trouble in Brisbane that there were other camps in Australia, and that he could easily secure a pass to one of them, and enlist under an assumed name. It has been stated freely here for some time that recruiting officers have been advising men under age how to get away without their parents’ consent.
– I know of a similar case.
– It shows to what despicable lengths military officers will go to gain their ends.
– If the boy’s father denounced what was done, the military authorities might, under the Bill, put him into gaol.
– They could do that under the law as it stands.
– But they would have to give him a trial. At the beginning of the war hysteria prevailed in the Old Country, and a Defence of the Realm Bill was rushed through the House of Commons in one night; but when a Tory peer discovered that it swept away the Habeas Corpus Act, the Bill of Rights, Magna Charta, and all civil rights gained during centuries of agitation and suffering, another measure had to be introduced. We are trying to outdo the Imperial Government in this matter, and I am opposed to it. So far from the war developing the abilities and capacity of the military authorities, each week shows how feeble the administration of the Defence Department is. Complaints about its management are made every day, and we know that they are based on good grounds, and could be multiplied over and over again. I am out to take from the military authorities as much power as it is possible to drag from them. I have already expressed my opposition to their having, the power to deal with supplies. It is evident that they ought not to have even thepower to deal with the care of the wounded andsick soldiers, for that is one of the saddest features in connexion with the whole war. I have no complaint to make about the fighting qualifies of the military people, but let them stay at their own particular business. When they put in their noses and try their inexperienced hands at doing work which can only be properly done by business men, it is about time to curtail their authority. The military people in this community are already getting very saucy and impertinent. As one goes down the street he notices that already the fact that a recruit is wearing the King’s uniform seems to give him the idea that he has the right to the footpath, and that an ordinary man in civilian clothes ought to take off his hat and step into the gutter to allow him to go by. That Prussian military feeling gets into the men as soon as they get the King’s uniform on. We shall have enough trouble after the war is over with some of the officers in the Defence Department. I advise honorable members as the guardians of the civil liberties of the people not to allow the military authorities to dominate us, and to acquire such power as to rob us of every right that we possess under the Constitution.
– I cannot help feeling that the powers asked for in the Bill, though very wide indeed - perhaps wider powers than were ever asked for previously to this war in any British Parliament - are less than the powers granted in the principal Act.
– Not at all.
– In two distinct respects the Bill is a distinct limitation on the powers which theMinistry already possess. If the Bill were not passed, or were rejected, the Government would still have, in my opinion, all the powers which are asked for therein.
– That is a good argument for rejecting the Bill.
– And a good deal more besides.
– Why do we want the Bill then?
– To make it distinctly clear that the Minister has the powers. That position is now challenged in the Court.
– If honorable members will compare the Bill with the principal Act they will see that the first part of clause 2 is simply a re-arrangement of the wording of section 4. It shows that the power is clearly conferred on the Minister, but it does not extend in the slightest degree the powers already conferred on the military and naval authorities and the other persons.
– That is so.
– Except in paragraphb of the clause.
– I intend to refer to that provision directly.
– It will if we strike out those words.
– The clause limits the powers conferred by the Act, particularly in regard to depriving subjects of their liberty. It takes those powers away from the military and naval authorities and other persons and confers them on the Minister, and on the Minister alone. The clause amends section 4 of the Act -
I do not know whether it would help matters to omit the word “ military “ and to say “ in custody.” It might remove some of the difficulties - for such time as he thinks fit, if he is satisfied that such detention is desirable for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth.
In the principal Act that power was conferred on, and has been exercised by, the military authorities independently of the Minister, or in conjunction with him.
– That can only be done now by the order of the Minister.
– That is doubtful.
– No; under the regulations.
– The power given in the principal Act is, I take it, very much wider than the power granted in this Bill, for the latter distinctly provides that the internment can only be done by order of the Minister.
– It goes beyond those persons specified in the Act.
– The power of depriving a subject of his liberty is by this Bill conferred on the Minister alone, and nobody else can do that thing. I admit frankly that it is an immense power to put in the hands of the Minister; but I submit to honorable members, and especially to the honorable member for Brisbane, that if they are going to insist that there shall be a trial there must be proof. The only way in which it can be proved that a man ought to be interned is by making public to the Court and to the country the evidence which the Minister has that he should be convicted. The probability is that if that evidence were made public it would destroy altogether the powers given in the Act, because it is not likely that the Minister would receive any information of that sort. I do not like the idea of a man being deprived of his liberty in this country without his case being submitted to the determination of a Court of justice. But in a time of war we have to leave a great deal to the discretion of those who, in the wisdom of the country, have been put in charge of its affairs. Something has been said by honorable members opposite about not trusting the Minister of Defence, and trusting the Attorney-General. If honorable members opposite cannot trust the Minister of Defence, the best thing they can do is to put in office a Minister whom they can trust. I do not see why the AttorneyGeneral can administer this Act better than the Minister of Defence. If the Attorney-General is sufficiently trustworthy to be given thispower, the Minister of Defence should be equally trusted to carry it out. If honorable members cannot trust the Minister of Defence, the sooner they get a new Minister the better.
– The question is not one of Defence, but of law.
– I say that in a time of war these cases cannot be taken to a Court of justice, and argued out, without making public the information upon which the Minister has come to his conclusions. The result of such publicity would probably be that the Minister would get no further information. Information of this character must be private and confidential.
– The mere making of it public might be fatal to the interests of the country.
– That is the point. Great as the power is, and opposed as it is to all ideas of British liberty, we must throw the responsibility on the Administration that says such power is necessary, and, whilst asking Ministers to carry out the power with due regard to the desire expressed in this House, request that it shall never be exercised except in cases of the greatest emergency and urgency.
– I intend to oppose the granting of this additional power to the Minister of Defence. Clause 15, sub-clause 2, says that “ if the Minister is satisfied “ he may do certain things, and there is no alternative before any man whom the Minister chooses to intern. There is no provision that after a certain time the interned person may ask for a trial. The war may last for two years, and if the Minister is satisfied that the man has committed an offence against the Commonwealth there is no alternative before that person but to remain interned. Our whole idea of British justice revolts against any such powers being given to one man. It is such a power as we used to say was exercised by the Czar of Russia.
– The Bill does not give the Minister of Defence any more power than he has now.
– Then he has too much power now. But if the Minister has all this power, why is the Bill introduced ?
– Because we do not propose to liberate any alien enemies whom we have interned.
– I have not yet seen any reason for the introduction of a Bill giving this great power to the Minister.
– Because a German was able to buy his way to the gateway of freedom, we are compelled to bring in this Bill. We do not propose to allow any man free to prey upon the country. If Wallach could get out, every interned man in the country could do likewise, if he had the money.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral say that the Courts of the country will allow any enemy of the country to escape from internment?
– One Court said that it was a monstrous thing to intern this man at all. I say it was a monstrous thing for the Court to make that statement.
– I do not know whether the Court was right or wrong, but I say that we have no right to give any Minister or Board the power to intern any man without a trial. If the Minister is satisfied that a person has committed an offence, or is a menace to the country, he can send that man before a Court where he can get a fair trial. But there is no obligation on the Minister to do that.
– The crime such a person has committed is that of being an enemy of this country.
– He may be an enemy of the country so far as trade is concerned, but he may not be much of an enemy after all. All the prosecutions so far have related to trading with the enemy. If there were cases of men trying to convey information to the enemy, or to blow up a bridge, I could understand the Minister requiring this power, but no case of that sort has been brought before the Court.
– Why should we bring such a case before the Court? We should never catch any more such offenders, and we should be telling Germany and the whole world what we were doing.
– If these offences were made public through the Courts the trial would be a warning to others against the commission of such offences. For the sake of a deterrent to other people the Government should let the public know how they were dealing with these cases. It is a nice state of things when the Government allow the military authorities to put persons in prison without telling them the offences they have committed and without giving them a trial. This Bill deals, not only with Austrians and Germans, but with any ‘ person who does anything to injure the Commonwealth.
– No, with any person whom the Minister suspects of doing anything to injure the Commonwealth.
– Is the honorable member for Henty, too, one of Wallach’s friends ?
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– I did not hear the Attorney-General’s interjection, but if it was offensive I am sure the honorable gentleman will withdraw it. I would remind honorable members that by their interjections they bring upon themselves many of these remarks. Members interject towards one another, and a retort is made, and some member immediately rises to his feet to ask for a withdrawal.
– I withdraw the remark.
– My objection is to the words “ if the Minister is satisfied.”
– That means he will make inquiries, and then intern any man whom he regards as an offender or a menace to the country.
– Order ! If the debate is to terminate at all, the honorable member for South Sydney must make his speech without addressing remarks to Ministers. It is not right for Ministers to continually interject.
– We have nine Ministers, and each of them may differ, hut if the Minister of Defence is satisfied he has the final say as to whether a man shall be interned. I want every man to have the right of trial after being interned. It is not fair to give such a great power to one man. We shall not be doing justice to the people if we pass everything that comes before us simply because the military authorities want more power.
– They do not want more power.
– Then the Minister does,
– No; he has all the power necessary if the law is interpreted as originally intended.
.The tone of the debate indicates that it is, perhaps, injudicious to pursue the subject to finality at this hour, because some honorable members are not seeing quite so clearly as they saw in the earlier part of the evening much simpler problems. It is also dangerous to discuss questions of law with most of the prominent lawyers of the House absent. We on this side are deprived of the assistance of three eminent members of the profession belonging to our party, and we laymen are left to decide for ourselves how the Bill stands in relation to the present law. I am entirely with the Government, so far as I have examined the Bill, in their desire to pass it, but not because I am not apprehensive of the rise of military tyranny in Australia, for I share to some extent the feeling of the honorable member for Brisbane and others, and believe we have to set our face resolutely against the upsettal of civil rule by military rule in this country. While we philosophize in that way in time of peace, I am prepared to throw all the civil powers deemed necessary by the authorities into their hands in time of war when they ask for them. That is a pretty large order, but I shall go the full length of redeeming that promise in any Bill in relation to the war submitted by this or any other Government during the war. It is a question of some doubt as to what the Bill really does. It is divisible into three parts. The first part of clause 2 is purely a rearrangement qf the latest amendment of the principal Act. It puts in slightly more legal form what this House deliberately intended to do at the request of the present Government, and may set at rest any doubts with regard to the power of the Governor-General in Council in relation to certain specified matters. The second part is the centre of the whole. Bill, and has been referred to as the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. All we have to do to judge of its necessity or wisdom is to read the Acts we have passed. They show that the powers asked for have already been granted to the Minister. That is the opinion of the chief law officer of the Crown, and only one particular phase of that interpretation has been tested before the Victorian Pull Court. The case, so far, has gone adversely to the advice tendered to the Crown, but the matter is not finalized.
– And it was only a majority decision in the Victorian Court.
– Precisely. I see in this Bill no such great enlargement of powers as has been referred to by two honorable members opposite. I see rather a distinct simplification and curtailment of them in some specified and desirable directions. The first section of the most’ recent Act dealing with offences leaves the matter as we passed it before, in a very indefinite and uncertain state. It provides that offences against the Act may be prosecuted summarily, or by indictment, or, if the regulations so provide, by court martial. The punishments are set out, and other details defined, but right through the subsections following all these powers have been committed to the Government without any specified obligation resting on the Minister or the Attorney-General to exercise them. It is true that, broadly speaking, the Military or Naval Board, or the military authorities, or the police, could operate the Act without special Ministerial direction, but this Bill cancels that possibility. It practically says, “ These are very far-reaching powers, wider than any exercised in any British Dominion in recent centuries, and must be hedged round with precautions. Only two people, the Attorney-General and, alternatively, the Minister of Defence, shall have the power of summary prosecution, while the still more serious form of prosecution by indictment shall be left expressly to the Attorney-General.” These are severe restrictions of those wide powers which both Houses, after elaborate discussion, agreed a few months ago to give the Government. I can quite imagine that the honorable member for Brisbane desires to still further curtail the power handed over in paragraph b of clause 2 of this Bill. For the purposes of this argument I ask him to look at the clause again. It may be desirable that we should give the power of indefinite detention without control only with respect to alien subjects, just as we have done in regard to courts martial. Honorable members will recollect that under the Bill as originally introduced every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth was subject, under certain conditions, to be court martialled. The House, however, persuaded the Government to apply that form of control only to enemy subjects, naturalized or unnaturalized. It may be advisable, if this House thinks fit, although I shall not move any such amendment, to insert after the word “ person “ in paragraph da some words which would qualify or limit the power of indefinite detention without trial in respect of persons who are not born in a British Dominion, and are not subjects of the King. I would recommend that to the Attorney-General as a basis of compromise if it appeals to his judgment, in view of secrets known to him as to the processes of the Crown and its needs.
– The British Government, after an experience of four or five months following the outbreak of war, during which they were hampered by that very restriction, abandoned it. The power of internment now rests without restriction of any kind.
– Internment without control?
– I am profoundly influenced by the information which the Government possess, although it may not be thought prudent to fully disclose it, as to the necessity felt by the Imperial authorities for such a power, and I shall therefore yield to the request of the Ministry for the fullest power in this respect. Let us now look at the question from its broadest aspect, apart from the interpretations to which I have referred. We must remember that we are passing through the most extraordinary times that we have ever faced or of which we have ever read. There have been occasions in British history when what is known as martial law operated in many parts where the British flag flew, and where other great Continental nations had their life. The Bosition was not then nearly so critical as it is to-day; yet martial law was proclaimed without murmur, and apparently without injury to the subsequent progress of the community. I fully expected long before this that in . Britain and the Dominions the necessity for martial law would arise. I would be prepared to accept all that that means - and it means the surrender immediately of al] our privileges. Every protection that we ordinarily enjoy in times of peace has to go, because we are really struggling for existence against the foe. I should be prepared to yield up that the moment the Government declared it to be necessary in the interests of the nation.
– It would mean the suspension of all civil law.
– Yes, every human being - all life and property - would be at the disposal of the men holding the power of government - civil, military or naval. That is surely the widest request that could be made, and if things do not run better for our nation it may be necessary to acquire that power in the Homeland, and in some, if not all, of the Dominions. This, therefore, is a small request when compared to so wide an authority. Without criticism of the Minister, who has been severely under the lash during the last two months, or of the Ministry - with whom I am not particularly friendly, and from whom I am divorced by wide differences of opinion - we ought to say to the Government, without further question, “You must take the full responsibility for the exercise of these powers. If you are prepared to do so, then we, quite irrespective of party, will grant them to you.” That is my personal view, and it is the view I hope to take whenever any such measure comes up until the termination of the present struggle.
– The Government have considered it advisable to amend the War Precautions Act because of certain recent happenings. We thought that we possessed certain power, but the Supreme Court of Victoria has held that there has not been conferred on the Ministry the power which Parliament believed it had invested in it.
– So that this is an attack on the Courts.
– Not at all.It is simply designed to avoid any risks and to do that which we thought we did under the principal Act. There was recently before the Supreme Court of Victoria a case in which one Frank Wallach, who had been interned on a warrant issued by the Minister of Defence under the War Precautions Act, appealed for his release. The Court held that the regulation under which that Minister purported to act was ultra vires, and gave an order for the release of Wallach. The Government have appealed against that decision. If the High Court were to uphold what the Supreme Court of this State has laid down the decision would have a very serious effect in hampering the power of the Commonwealth Government to deal with interned aliens, especially naturalized aliens. Assuming the judgment of the Supreme Court to be a correct interpretation of the law, an amendment of it is necessary to give the Government the power which the Parliament thought it had given to it.’ It was stated by the Chief Justice of Victoria, for instance, in regard to the exercise of the power by the Minister, that the Minister was not included in the term “other persons.” That term was used to indicate certain specified persons who were to exercise power under the War Precautions Act, but the Chief Justice of Victoria decided that the Minister did not come within it. It was on that ground that the decision was given which led to Wallach’s release. The Court laid it down that if Parliament had intended to give the Minister this power it would have mentioned him, because the Act having sanctioned others, such as the Military Board and the Naval Board, it was not conceivable that Parliament intended to include the Minister controlling the Department amongst “ other persons.” We have met that objection by this amendment of the principal Act, which specifically names the Minister. Then the question arose as to whether Parliament intended to give the power, and whether the Act expressed such intention. The Chief Justice held that it did not express it clearly, and said that if Par,liament intended to give such a wide power, in view of its conflict with the Act of Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights, it would have expressed that intention quite clearly. Iu our judgment, Parliament did express it clearly, but that was not She opinion of the learned Chief Justice of Victoria, and the majority of the Court. We are therefore clearly ex- pressing the intention in this amending Bill.
– Was there any evidence against the man 1
– The point is, that we need power to deal with certain persons ‘ if we find that they are not such as should be at liberty.
– Did not the Court hear the evidence against the man in this case?
– It heard evidence only concerning the power of the Minister. There is one other feature of this Bill to which reference might be made. We propose to amend sub-section 6 of the principal Act, which deals with trials of offences, by providing that summary prosecutions shall not be instituted without the consent of the Minister or of the Attorney-General. This action, we think, is necessary, because there have been cases instituted by other persons - in some cases the police authorities; in other cases the State Governments - and we think that as the Act deals with offences arising out of the war, the instigation of prosecutions under it should be in the hands of Commonwealth Ministers. If not, there will be a want of uniformity, and probably we should have a prosecution in some States, instituted by the State law authorities, for one class of offence, whereas across the border there would be no prosecution for the same class of offence. It does not follow that if this Bill is carried there will not be prosecutions for this class of offence; but it will provide that if a prosecution is instituted in one State for an offence, there will be prosecutions in all States for similar offences. I have here a measure passed by the Imperial Parliament last year, and conferring extraordinary power? upon the Imperial Government. It is entitled -
An Act to confer on His Majesty in Council power to make regulations during the present War for the Defence of the Realm. (8th August, 1914.) and reads -
Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament Assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows : - .
His Majesty in Council has power during the continuance of the present war to issue regulations as to the powers and duties of the Admiralty and the Army Council and of the members” of His Majesty’s forces and other persons acting in His behalf, for securing the public safety and the defence of the Realm; and may, by such regulations, authorize the trial by courts martial and punishment of persons contravening any of the provisions of such regulations designed -
to prevent persons communicating with the enemy or obtaining information for that purpose or any purpose calculated to jeopardize the success of the operations of any of His Majesty’s forces or to assist the enemy; or
to secure the safety of any means of communication, or of railways, docks or harbours; in like manner as if such persons were subject to military law and had on active service committed an offence under section 5 of the Army Act.
This Act mav be cited as the Defence of the Realm Act 1914.
That is an extraordinary power handed over to the military and naval authorities and “ other persons.” And yet we have had complaints about this measure.
– The Imperial law provides for trial.
– Any man in Australia who desires a trial will not have that right withheld from him.
– He will, undoubtedly; that is the objection to the Bill. You leave law to the lawyers.
– In my opinion, we should have the powers that we are asking for in this amending Bill. Does any honorable member in this House think that the Minister of Defence would have any man arrested unless he was absolutely satisfied that that person was a menace to the Commonwealth t
– Do not ask me; 1 might say “ Yes.”
– Let any honorable member read the letters that appear in the daily press attacking the Minister because he is too lenient with regard to enemy subjects. We are attacked right and left because we do not intern more people, and do not deal more severely with enemy subjects.
– We do not object to giving the Ministry power.
– I am aware of that, but one or two members object.
– I do.
– The Minister will surely be satisfied before he takes action to intern any citizen. I have every confidence in Senator Pearce and the AttorneyGeneral, and I am satisfied that no action will be taken unless sufficient reason has been advanced to justify the internment of any person. I hope, there fore, that the Bill will pass without any amendment.
.Notwithstanding the bland compliance on the part of certain members of the Opposition, I feel that it is my duty strenuously to oppose this measure, for I find that it virtually suspends the operation of the writ of Habeas Corpus.
– Who can claim a trial under the Bill ?
– Nobody can; that is my objection. And this right of trial is the privilege of every British citizen. I find, according to the records, that the Habeas Corpus Act has not been suspended in Great Britain on more than three or four occasions at the outside ever since it was passed. It was suspended in 1677, and from 1694 till 1801, and not suspended again till 1866, during the Fenian riots. If, then, during this war, it has not been necessary to suspend the Act in Great Britain, which is so much nearer the storm centre, and where naturally the greatest alertness is necessary to insure the safety of the Empire, the situation is not serious enough in Australia to justify its suspension here. In Great Britain the offences for the most part have been in regard to trading; and, notwithstanding what the Minister has told us, the Act has not been suspended in the Mother Country, so there is nothing to warrant the drastic measures now proposed by the AttorneyGeneral. Under this Bill, the Minister will arrogate to himself the right to say who shall be suspected and who shall be incarcerated. This takes us back almost to the Middle Ages. It suggests the lettres-de-cachet of France in the times of the Louis, under which any person could be put in gaol and left there to rot - it is reversion to medievalism. Incarceration is bad at any time, and, without trial, it is intolerable in any British community, unless we have reached the stage when martial law is essential, and when, of course, we cannot help ourselves. However, we are not likely to reach that stage in Australia, and it has not yet been reached even in England.
– Tens of thousands of people have been interned in England without trial.
– I doubt that. I think trial is to be had by any one who desires it; and even under martial law there is trial according to that law. To incarcerate people without a hearing is against the most treasured principles of British statesmanship; and I cannot believe that any such extreme steps are necessary in this country, which is so far from the storm centre, and where most of the offences are connected with trade. I was surprised to notice the other day that in matters of this sort at Home, the greatest leniency has been exercised, and that the Privy Council allowed the Continental Tyre Company, although owned entirely by Germans, with the exception of one share held in England, to continue trading, though, of course, we may take it for granted that none of the profits are going to Germany. Such, however, is the attitude of British jurisprudence to-day. And yet we are told that, in order to sustain the Empire, and prevent disaster overtaking our armies on the Continent or at Gallipoli, we must invest one man with the right to say who shall be interned. So far as I can see, the whisperings of the Minister’s subordinates have more to do with his actions than his own cool, collected judgment. I know a little of what I am talking about, because I have had some unfortunate experience; and so long as I occupy a position in this House I shall protest vehemently against adding one jot or tittle to the power of the military, who control the whole situation, and merely manipulate the civil element, which is supposed to be in authority. Whatever the military people advise is done, and whom they suspect the Minister suspects, and that suspected person may be imprisoned. This, as I say, is against all our most cherished principles; and I hope that the measure will not pass as at present drafted.
– I do not often trouble the House, but on a question of this kind I feel it my duty to say a few words. I am amazed to think that any one in Australia, particularly a representative of the people, in the greatest crisis the country has ever known, should prefer, practically, to leave the direction of all steps for the public safety in the hands of untrained civil authority. That is what the words of the honorable member mean.
– They do.
– If the honorable member looks at this morning’s newspaper he will see what has been the conduct of a member of this community, whose words might lead to our destruction. Does the honorable member think for one moment that there are no enemies in Australia?
– I never said so.
– I know that there is quite a number; and my complaint against the Defence Department is, not that people have been interned, but that many who ought to have been are permitted to go free.
– Let the honorable member read the case in this morning’s newspaper of a Post Office official.
– That is the case I have just alluded to; and events have happened in Australia of which notice ought to be taken. Whether the Minister of Defence be chosen from one side of the House or the other, or from outside, he, or some one else, must be in supreme authority. Does the honorable member for Macquarie think that the Minister will act on his own initiative, or without evidence or good reason, in his efforts to insure the safety of the realm? I was one who was astonished to gather from newspaper reports that an attempt has been made here by a civil Court to take the direction of warlike proceedings, not only out of the hands of the Minister, but out of the hands of Parliament, which gives the Minister his authority. We were approaching a . position in which a civil Court could compel, and, in fact, did try to compel, the Minister appointed by the representatives of the people to declare, not only to Australians, but to the enemies of Australia, the reasons why he interned certain persons. It amazed me, I say, to think that there was a Judge in any Court who, under the circumstances, could take such a step. The Government could not leave the position as it was; and if they had not taken action to enable this House to express its opinion, they would have been recreant to their duty and traitors to the national cause. Now the Government come down and tell us that, owing to the action of this civil Court, it is found that sufficient power has not been given, and they ask us to inform the Court, clearly and definitely, that we intend to extend the power, and make assurance doubly sure. I have reported, and given evidence in, cases in which our avowed and open enemies, Germans, not only in my own electorate, but in others, have gone so far as to hold services in this country and sing their Hymn of Hate. Yet they are free to-day. Every one of them should have been interned.
– Can the honorable member prove his statement?
– Then they should have been interned.
– But the honorable member’s argument just now was that not one of them should be interned until after they had been taken before the Court and the whole proceedings had been made public.
– In such circumstances it would have been impossible to get the required information.
– Exactly. There was one case at West Wyalong, and another in the Albury district. Ministers are being heckled day by day by irresponsible, and I might almost say ignorant, persons outside of this House. But when they are heckled by the representatives of the people, the position becomes an entirely different one. Does the honorable member for Macquarie think that any Minister will deprive a man of his liberty unless he has reasonable grounds for so doing?
– The one-man principle was tried centuries ago.
– The honorable member harps upon the question of one man. Does he think that the Minister acts entirely upon his own initiative and upon his own judgment?
– Then where does the principle of one man comein ?
– He decides.
– I take it that in a properly constituted Government no one man has the decision of matters of this kind. The Ministry decide upon evidence which they cannot disclose even to members of Parliament.
– Let us make provision for that in the Bill.
– It is impossible to do so. This is a time when, whatever our individual feelings may be, we must trust the Government. We know that this
House has already endeavoured to provide assistance for the Government by the appointment of a War Committee. That body recognises that a dire necessity exists for men and more men offering their services if the war is to be brought to an early and successful conclusion. That body is inviting honorable members to go out into the highways and byways for the purpose of appealing to all able-bodied Australians to rally to the colours. What results will our efforts produce if this carping criticism of the Ministry is to continue? Personally, I regard it as a waste of time to enjoin young men to offer their services at the front if these tactics are to be pursued. As an Australian, in this time of crisis I would be prepared to trust any Government feeling that its members would regard it as their paramount duty to do their best in the interests of Australia. We ought to trust Ministers in the knowledge that they will not abuse their authority, and that if they do so, this Parliament has power to punish them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 4 of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section 1 thereof the words “The Governor-General may make regulations for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth, and in particular with a view - “, and inserting in their stead the words “The Governor-General may make regulations -
for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth, and
for conferring such powers and imposing such duties as he thinks fit, for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth, upon the Minister and upon the Naval Board and the Military Board, and the members of the Naval and Military Forces of the Commonwealth, and other persons. and in particular with a view - “;
by inserting in sub-section 1 thereof, after paragraph (d), the following paragraph : - “(da) to confer on the Minister power, by warrant under his hand, to detain any person in military custody for such time as he thinks fit, if he is satisfied that such detention is desirable for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth ; or “ ; and
by omitting from sub-section 1 thereof the words “ and for conferring such powers and imposing such duties as he thinks fit, with reference thereto, upon the Naval Board and the Military Board, and the members of the Naval and Military Forces of the Commonwealth, and other persons.”
– I move -
That all the words after “ Minister,” in paragraph (ii), be left out.
I have no desire to repeat what I have already said. I am prepared to give the Minister all the power that he thinks necessary at this critical time in the Empire’s history, but I am not prepared to vest that power in such a wide delegation as is set out in the paragraph.
– I hope that the Committee will not agree to the amendment. It is not in accord with the spirit and intention of the proposed paragraph. It does not give any person mentioned in it power of arrest. The Minister alone has that power. This sub-section creates the machinery to give effect to the Act. Does the honorable member suggest that an Act for the safety of the realm can be put in force by one individual with no one to help him ? The paragraph gives power to the Governor-General to make regulations to appoint persons to carry out the provisions of the Act. It does not give to any of those persons the power of arrest. That power is given in the following paragraph, which confers on the Minister the power by warrant under bis hand to detain any person in military custody. That is the only poAver that is given to arrest on warrant without trial. In every other case an assurance was given by the Government when the measure was before Parliament previously that every person other than an alien enemy should have a civil trial, and that every case should come before the Attorney-General, as the representative of the civil power. The power to arrest by warrant under the Minister’s baud is given for the purpose of interning the enemies of the country, whether they are aliens or masquerade under the disguise of naturalization, or are traitors of our own race. The safety of the country if infinitely more precious than empty talk about the Habeas Corpus, or the Bill of Rights, or Magna Charta. All these things will crumble to dust unless we are successful in this struggle. This is no time for academic talk about the liberty of the subject when the very foundations of real liberty are in danger of complete destruction. Honorable members seem to think that Germans in Australia are going about in a peaceful, lawabiding spirit, seeking how they can help us. One would imagine we were in no danger from traitors and spies - that this is the only country in the world in which no danger from our enemy is to be apprehended. That is not true. There are spies and traitors here, and they are as active as the law allows them to bo. Wherever they are found they will be interned. We shall not hesitate, and shall pay no respect to persons. If the Government are not given the power that they ask in this respect, how can they carry on ? Are we to be governed by a State Civil Court, which has no power and no responsibility in regard to the war, which could not vote a penny in regard to it? Is this Court to determine how the war is to be carried on ? It is this Parliament which has to carry on the war, and there is power in the hands of this Parliament to punish any Minister of the Crown who does wrong. but there is no power to right a wrong done by any Court which dictates the war policy of the country. If Ministers do wrong, punish them. Do honorable members suppose that it is possible to publish to the world the reasons for interning any person? If so, they completely misunderstand the nature of our enemies, and the means through which they work. In fact, they do them a grievous wrong. They wrong their cunning, their determination, and the tenacity with which they pursue their purpose. I have known a man twenty years, whom I would have trusted as I would trust the Leader of the Opposition, and yet he has turned out as pro-German as the Kaiser. No German can be trusted during this war. So far as I know, no one of British race has been interned. I rose to point out that the power to arrest is given to the Minister in the following paragraph, while the power granted in this paragraph can only be exercised in regard to offences under the Act, and in regard to those offences every person other than an alien is entitled to a civil trial. In these circumstances I ask the honorable member to withdraw his amendment.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) member will not, press his proposition. 1 am inclined to think that he misapprehends the real intention of the paragraph. I understand the Attorney-General to say that he would rather rely on Parliament to prevent any wrong-doing. I am afraid I cannot follow him there.
– I said that Parliament could punish a Minister quicker than any Court outside.
– But this Parliament will not punish the AttorneyGeneral, though he has been doing some seriously wrong things,
– The honorable member must secure a majority of the jury.
– The trouble is that the jury is packed. I take it that the real intention of the paragraph is to confer power on the individuals mentioned. It seems to me that this provision was intended to give the power to arrest.
– No, not the power to arrest.
– Does the Minister mean to tell me that if the military people saw a man doing something wrong about military premises they would not arrest him ?
– In that case he would be tried for an offence against the Act.
– I am not talking about his trial.
– That is the whole point at issue. If the honorable gentleman will allow me I will explain it.
– I understand it. I agree that this power should be given. It need be feared only by wrongdoers caught in the act, and the provision should be applied to such people as speedily as possible. I hope that the honorable member for Franklin will not press his amendment to a division.
– I move -
That in paragraph (da) after the word “ any,” the words “ enemy alien “ be inserted. I have said that we are so far removed from the seat of war that only questions affecting trading with the enemy have had to he dealt with. I think it will be admitted that under existing conditions it would not be possible to do anything detrimental to the Empire in Australia.
– Suppose a person aided and abetted the enemy.
– I should have no objection to the Government dealing with such a person. _ No intrigue outside a matter of trading could, under existing conditions, be carried on in Australia effectively. If the Germans burst the bounds within which they are confined at present, and the German fleet got to sea again, and was adjacent to our shores, I could understand that it might receive assistance from some one in Australia. Until such a contingency arises this provision as it stands places too much power in the hands of the Military Department. No matter how sincere the AttorneyGeneral and other members of the Ministry may be in their desire to preserve the authority of the civil power whilst these matters are supervised by the Defence Department, action taken under this Bill is likely to be so highly coloured by military influence that the desires of the civilian population are not likely to be given effect to. I am prepared to push my amendment to a vote if I can secure support for it.
.- I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will accept the amendment. He has just said that, so far as he knows, no Britisher has yet been interned. He must have heard sufficient argument to-night to convince him that there is no urgent necessity at the present time to curtail the rights and liberties of British subjects whatever may be done to aliens. I am not here to support the rights and privileges of enemy aliens, because I feel sure that British subjects are given very few privileges and very little liberty in Germany to-day. T object to the rights of British citizens being taken away from them, even at a time like the present, without any opportunity to appeal to the Courts of the realm. At this time of the morning it is unnecessary to speak at length about the fight which our ancestors put up to secure those rights and privileges. They ought not to be taken away because of any scare from which any member of the Ministry may suffer as to what might happen if these powers are not conferred. I hope that the Committee will consider the importance of preserving the freedom of British subjects, for which the people of our race have fought in the past, and will not, under the influence of a scare, sacrifice those rights at the will of any
Minister. The war may continue for many years, but the actual scene of conflict is far removed from Australia, and long may it remain so. While that is the case, and the enemy fleet have been removed from Australian waters, British subjects living in Australia ought not to be deprived of their rights. If the enemy had control of the seas the position would be entirely different, but under existing circumstances I hope that the Government will agree to accept the amendment, and if they do, we can pass the remainder of the Bill as it stands.
– I hope that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will not press the amendment. It is foreign to the purpose of the measure, which is to provide for the safety of the Commonwealth. I say that the history of our race, much as we have reason to admire it, is studded with stories of treachery. Many of the difficulties of the British Government during the first few months of the war were caused by the system of espionage which had been created with German money by German cunning, and depended for its success, not on Germans, but on Britishers, who could do their work free from suspicion.
– Great Britain is close to the seat of war.
– We cannot say when we may not be threatened. A little while ago the enemy’s submarines were in the Channel. Then we heard of them passing into the Mediterranean, through the Straits of Gibraltar. Later they may get through the Suez Canal. Who was it who sold coal to the Emden, to the Gneisenau, and to . the Scharnhorst f Some one in this country. Those vessels were supplied with Australian coal, and the British sailors who went down off the coast of South America were murdered by the men in Australia who sold it. . So far we have not been able to get them. I do not pretend to say how it was done, nor who did it.; but it was done, and no punishment is too severe for those who did it. The power that is asked for should be used most carefully, and only when the need for its use is supreme; but it ought to be given. At the very outset of Federation, I advocated that every man over the age of eighteen years and under sixty should be trained to the use of arms. I have never disguised my hatred and detestation of military despotism. The country, however, can be defended only by an armed force, and we are discussing now, not the gathering of buttercups, but the crushing of a viper. This is no time for talk but for action. If the honorable gentleman will accept my assurance that this power will not be exercised in regard to others than aliens and naturalized aliens, except on the advice and authority of the whole Government, I shall give that assurance.
– I am with the Minister in saying that, although I cannot at this stage see any necessity for giving the power that is asked for tn be exercised in regard to British-born subjects, the Government should have it, as it may be needed, and* they should be able to use it immediately.
– A member of the British House of Commons has proved a traitor.
– You never know where treachery will break out, bribed with German gold. The safety of the Commonwealth must be our supreme consideration, and the Minister should have power to arrest a traitor at once. Even those who are opposed to the giving of this power should be content with the assurance that the whole Government will deliberate in the case of British-born subjects, because that is a security for its wise and discreet exercise.
– I am prepared to accept the AttorneyGeneral’s assurance and to support the clause. His promise is that this power shall not be exercised in respect of Britishborn subjects, except in accordance with the determination of the whole Government.
– We shall make it a Cabinet matter.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the borrowing of money from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
The Bill authorizes an appropriation to enable the Government to carry out an arrangement which it has entered into with the wheat-producing States for the purpose of obtaining freight to carry the wheat crop to the markets pf the world. I hope that I shall be excused at this hour of the morning for not entering at any length into the- matter. Shortly stated, the arrangement involves the complete control by the Commonwealth of all freight engaged in the transport of wheat and flour from Australia during the next season. It is to be carried out by the aid of two firms who have been engaged as agents, and the terms on which they have been engaged have been set before the House, and are embodied in Hansard. It is highly probable that it will not be necessary for the Government to use any loan money; but it is desirable that the authority should be granted in order that the money may be available if necessary. It is proposed to open the wheat season about the 15th October: that is to say, to declare on or about that date the probable rate of freight for November, so that farmers and shippers may know the conditions which will regulate the price of wheat at the end of that month. It is likely that some 250,000 tons of freight will be provided by the Commonwealth itself through the Commonwealth steamers ; but, in addition, it is probable that anything from 1,000,000 to 1,250,000 tons of freight will be chartered. That, of course, will represent a transaction of considerable magnitude; and if freight is, as it probably will be, vary high, it is easy to, understand that the sum of money involved will be very considerable.Yet, as honorable members will readily understand, the amount of cash actually necessary for the purpose of the transaction will be small. We ask for authority in order that we may make an arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose. It is proposed that -
Australia moneys for the payment of moneys in respect of arrangements for freight on Australian produce, but so that the indebtedness of the Commonwealth to the Commonwealth Bank under this Act shall not at any time exceed One hundred thousand pounds.
The Treasurer shall pay into the Commonwealth Bank, to be credited to the account specified in the next succeedingsection, all moneys received by the Commonwealth in respect of freight, or arrangements forfreight, on Australian produce.
Thematter resolves itself into a transaction on all-fours with that of the sugar purchase, and I ask honorable members to agree to the motion without debate.
– There are two or three honorable members on this side who wish to discuss this matter very seriously, and it is not a fair thing, I submit, to ask them to do soat this hour of the morning.I suggest that the Attorney-General might now very well let us go home, and finish this business later in the day.
-Put the resolution through, and bring the Bill up to the second-reading stage.
– I am willing to do whatever honorable members desire, but I think that now we are here we might dispose of this motion.
– There is nothing in the Bill itself ; it is the agreement which we want to discuss.
– We have not yet had a statement of the agreement, so far as it affects the States. The Attorney-General has given us no evidence.
– There are several matters in regard to the agreement which require clearing up. For instance, we desire to know how it is to affect the States, and. also whether the Government intend to retain possession of the money.
– All my pious resolutions come to nothing.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral going to retain the money!
– I have seen the error of my ways.I am going to hand it over, but to whom remains to be seen. The States want it, the shippers want it, the farmers want it, everybody wants it. Our idea is that the percentage we get shall be taken off the freights for the benefit of the farmers. Whether that will be best done by handing the money to the States, and allowing them to pass it on, or whether we shall hand it direct to the farmers is not determined.
– I think the honorable member for Wannon has an important speech to make on the question, andI suggest that the AttorneyGeneral should introduce the Bill, and carry it as far as the second-reading stage.
– Very well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Hughes and Mr. Tudor do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until noon this day.
House adjourned at 3.35 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150909_reps_6_78/>.