7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., andread prayers.
Mr. Hill made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral district of Echuca.
– Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table of the Library the majority and. minority reports of the Australian Metal Exchange in regard to the export of base metals?
– I have not yet seen either of them, but know no reason why they should not be laid on the table. I shall read them, and lay them on the table as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform the House of the position in Western Australia regarding the stranded munition workers from the Bahia Castillo ?
– We have asked Mr. Scaddan to make the best possible arrangements so that the ship may come on, and the munition workers be brought home. That is the extent of Mr. Scaddan’s function, the whole matter being left open for full inquiry at this end.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation have prepared a return showing the progress made with the construction of war service homes, and indicating what further progress is likely to be made before the Christmas holidays?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information, and supply it to the honorable member.
-We have been told that only a limited quantity of a certain class of ammunition is being used by our rifle clubs and Citizen Forces. We have evidence, however, that the Department of Defence has a large quantity of foreign made cartridges marked W15, in which black powder is used. Will the Assistant Minister for Defence take action to see that, as far as possible, these cartridges are not distributed among the Forces?
– I shall make inquiries on the subject.
Guarantee to Farmers
– With a view to en deavouring to secure an increased wheat production next year, will the Government give early consideration to the question of giving the farmers a guarantee in respect of next year’s wheat crop ?
– If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper, I will endeavour at the earliest possible moment to ascertain the views of the Government in regardto it.
– I understand that progress reports, if not the final report, of the Economy Commission have been in the hands of the Government for some months. Will the Prime Minister lay them on the table of the House so that honorable members may learn what economies are suggested’ by the Commission?
– I have not seen any of the reports, but shall call for and read them this afternoon. I will take a further opportunity to declare the attitude of the Government towards them, and give honorable members an opportunity to see and discuss them.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customswhether it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the Customs Bill, or is it to benumbered among the “slaughtered innocents”?
– It will depend to some extent on the course of business.
– Will the Min ister for Home and Territories state when we may expect to have the war trophies delivered in the varioustowns intheStates?
– A great many of them are arriving now, and I am at present making arrangements with acommittee to take in hand the distribution in the States on the lines already laid down.
-Does that mean a Melbourne committee or a general Australian committee?
-It will be a committee of five, onwhich there will be a representative of the State, and in each State there will be a senator and a member of the House of Representatives, as well as a returned soldier. I hope there are sufficient trophies in hand now to begin immediately some distribution, and arrangements for the purpose are being made.
– Will it he possible for honorable members to obtain a copy of the offer made by Messrs. Timma and Kidman to complete the construction of the North-South railway on the landgrant system, or for the Minister for Home and Territories to lay the offer on the table of the House before we adjourn?
– I think theoffer was made direct to the Prime Minister’s Department. I saw a copy of it, but it does not contain much in. the way of particulars.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister if itis true, as stated in the press, that the Government intend to take certain action to. protect industries established during war time against oversea cheap labour competition?
– That matter cannot be regarded as one of urgency. I say now, for thefive thousand two hundred and twenty-second time, that the Governmentwill declareits policy in due course.
Questions without Notice.
-I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) if he was made acquainted with theprovisions of the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill before it was introduced, and if he approved of its contents?
Question not answered.
– The Prime Minister has already intimated on several ocasions that it is not the intention; of Ministers to answer questions which can properly be put on the notice-paper, and that they will answer only questions which are of obvious urgency. In the face of that statement, it would he simply occupying the time of the House fruitlessly for honorable members to persist in asking questions of the kind to which the Prime Ministerhas objected unless notice is given. I, therefore, ask honorable members to observe those conditions.
– I desire to askan urgent question. Ministers have not declined to answer questions, and it is not a matter for the Speaker to say whether they are to be answered or not.
– Order!Will the honorable member resume his seat? I do not think the Speaker requires an intimation of that kind from the honorable member.
Mr.Riley. - And we do not want it from you.
– I remind the honorable member that it is the special business of the Speaker to decide whether questions can be permitted. Under the Standing Orders, which are the Standing Orders of the Parliament, and not of the Speaker, the Speaker is the authority to decide whether a questiton is admissible or not.
-But you are setting up a new standard.
– The honorable member is in error. I have never attempted to stop honorable members from asking questions without notice,as long as Ministers were willing to answer them, unless the questions themselves were out of order. But in this case the Prime Minister has intimated that he will not answer questions except those which are obviously urgent. In face of that announcement, I have merely asked honorable members to observe the intimation by the Prime Minister. It would, obviously, be a disorderly proceeding to persist in putting questions, with the knowledge that Ministerswould require notice to be given.
– I wish to ask a question, which is, perhaps, more one of order. I understood you to rule my ques tion out of order. May I explain that I saw it publicly stated that the only people who had been consulted by the Prime Minister regarding the Bill were the Solicitor-General (Sir Robert Garran) and the Minister forWorks and Railways (Mr. Groom), and that other members of the Cabinet had not been consulted? I desired to know whether that was true. Surely that is a question which might be put to the Minister for the Navy?
– The honorable member’s question was put to the Minister for the Navy. It appears to be one which might well be placed on the noticepaper; but as the Minister himself did not rise to reply, I took it that he did not regard the question as one which seriously required an answer.
– But the Bill will be through to-morrow.
asked the Minister controlling shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister controlling shipping, upon notice -
Whether he will allot shipping for the Western Australian timber export trade in view of the urgent necessity for the same?
– Owing to the necessity for replenishing coal stocks at Albany and Fremantle, especiallybunker coal, urgently required for transport and other oversea vessels which are unable to obtain sufficient coal at either Durban or Colombo, the Controller of Shipping is unable to delay steamers for the lengthy time necessary to load and discharge timber.
Preference to Soldiers - Post and Telegraph Department : Position of O. A. Junck: - Long Service Furlough
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Mr.WEBSTER. - ‘The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow : -
Gratuity for Army Pay Corps - Recognition of Soldiers’ Services - Lost Kit-bags - Release of Prisoners - Case of Private Baker.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Members of the Army Pay Corps, in common with all other home service units, upon demobilization, receive fourteen days’ demobilization leave or recreation leave if such is due, but not both. It is not proposed to depart from the present practice.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Government intends to make a grant to all soldiers in recognition of services rendered during the recent war?
– This matter is at present under consideration.
On the 24th September the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) asked the following question: -
Is the Acting Minister for Defence aware that, some time ago, a number of South Australian troops who had arrived by theÆneas were taken overland by train to Adelaide, and that, in the confusion consequent upon an accident to one of the coaches, thirty of these men lost their kits, comprising the whole of their belongings? These men have repeatedly made application to the Defence Department at Adelaide, and in other directions, but are unable to obtain any satisfaction. One man’s loss represented £20, and the men desire to know who is responsible, and where they can get redress. Does the Minister know anything of thematter?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The kits referred to by the honorable member were despatched by rail to Adelaide from Spencerstreet on 14th July, in a truck also containing Tasmanian troops’ kit who were proceeding to Adelaide to embark for Tasmania. During transit the truck developed a “ hot box,” and was eventually returned to Melbourne, where, by mistake, these South Australian kits were loaded with the Tasmanian luggage on a transport proceeding to Tasmania. As soon as the mistake was discovered, action was taken’ to have them forwarded to their correct destination, but, owing to absence of transport from Tasmania, as a result of the recent shipping strike, it was impossible to return them until 19th September; 1919. The Commandant, Adelaide, reports that only three officers’ valises are now outstanding, and every endeavour is being made to facilitate their location and return.
On the 26th September the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) stated -
In connexion with the proclamation of Peace, it was decided that clemency should be extended to members of the Australian Imperial Force undergoing terms of imprisonment, but the benefit of this act of clemency cannot be secured by such men now imprisoned on the other side until their return to Australia. Will the Assistant Minister for Defence endeavour to expedite their return?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The return of all members of the Australian Imperial Force, whether undergoing sentence or not, is being expedited as rapidly as possible. Members of the Australian Imperial Force under sentence are being received in Australia by almost every boat.
On the 26th September the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) stated -
Some weeks ago I wrote to the Defence Department regarding the case of a member of the Australian Imperial Force named Baker, who had been four times wounded, and had at different times got into trouble, with the result that he had returned to Australia penniless, and had no deferred pay to draw, and asked that the matter be inquired into.
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The case referred to has opened up an important question of general policy, but I hope to bo able to furnish the honorable member with a. reply in the course of the next few days.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commissioner has supplied the following: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will announce specifically the details of the Imperial wool contract, so that growers may know to what extent they may participate in post-war sales in the open market?
– I propose to make a statement in regard to this matter at an early date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is not a fact that, if senators are elected in December of this year, a senator who takes the place of a retiring senator cannot take his seat until July, 1920 ?
asked the Prime Minister; upon notice -
– The policy of the Government will be announced in due course.
Land Purchases by Chinese.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Debate resumed from 1st October(vide page 12885), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill now before us is quite a different measure from that which I understand was first prepared, and from that which many honorable members on this side successfully fought and defeated on two occasions. If the measure which is now introduced proposed the alterations which were contained in the former Bills, I should be found opposing them now as I opposed them previously.
– Is the honorable member referring to the four Bills which were put through by means of the gag ?
– Yes, and against which the right honorable gentleman successfully led a solid phalanx of Liberal supporters, with the result that they were rejected by the country. I am one who holds that the Federal Constitution Act, while it should not be sacrosanct, ought not to be treated too lightly, and I am afraid that there is a tendency nowadays to indulge in constitutional tinkering, which is not likely to result in good for Australia. For the last four years the Commonwealth Government has heldsupreme power. Sir William Irvine told us that he could not define anything which it could not do under the War Precautions Act. Commonwealth Ministers had full and complete power under that Act to deal with everything which is contained in the Bill before us to-day, and a great deal more, but the experience we have had of the exercise of power given in that Act is not, in my opinion, very strong justification for seeking to obtain a continuance of it. A greater blunder could not have been made than was made in connexion with fixing the price of meat. In Tasmania the result was that every butcher’s shop in Hobart, except one, had to close, and the only meat obtainable had to be purchased at a very much enhanced price. I like still less the proposal to give the Commonwealth control of industrial matters. I do not think that we can handle many of these questions as well as can the States. I believe that the State of
Tasmania will deal with profiteering very much more successfully and very much more quickly than it can be dealt with under this Bill.
– The States have waited a long while to take action.
– While the War Precautions Act was ruling Australia it was not possible for the States to do very much in that direction. The Premier of Tasmania (Mr. Lee) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons), in the State Parliament, have arranged a common basis on which to produce a Bill which will enable the State Government to deal successfully with profiteering. After his interview with the Prime Minister, the Premier of Tasmania stated that it was his intention to go straight ahead with the Anti -Profiteering Bill, and the information I have received is that within a very short time that Bill will be the law of the land in Tasmania.
– Tasmania is not Australia.
– No; but what can be done in one State can be done in other States, and I have been informed that every State Government in Australia is introducing legislation to deal with this matter.
– They are only talking about it.
– They have done it in New South Wales, Western Australia, and South Australia, and Victoria intends to do it.
– They did not move until the Federal authorities moved.
– In Tasmania, arrangements were made weeks ago between the two parties that the AntiProfiteering Bill should be one of the first to be dealt with by the State Parliament.
– Has the Queensland Government done anything?
– So far as I can learn, they have not. I predict that when the Bill now before this House is put into operation it will result in very serious disappointment.
– It will cause no disappointment to me.
– In Queensland, the State Government have had unlimited power to deal with profiteering.
– The honorable memberis quite wrong.
– The honorable member has just been arguing that Tasmania had no power to deal with this matter because of the War Precautions Act. Every State is in the same position.
– The State Parliaments are free now to handle the problem, and every State Parliament but that of Queens. and has indicated its intention of doing so. According to different points of view, Queensland has either the most extreme or the most advanced Government in Australia. They have been passing advanced or extreme legislation for a considerable time, and Queensland is the only State in the Commonwealth where Ministers are scurrying to get out of State politics. There we have the extraordinary position of a Government who have power to deal with profiteering to a considerable extent-
– The honorable member knows that the State Governments caunot deal with profiteering.
– I do not accept the honorable member’s dictum on that point. The States have absolutely sovereign powers to deal with any matter with which the Federal Parliament has not dealt, and I believe that the passage of this Bill may very seriously affect the immediate action that is being taken by some of the States. In Tasmania the two parties have agreed that profiteering must be dealt with, ‘and they intend to do it at once. We shall have an AntiProfiteering Bill in existence in that State at the very time when the Federal representatives of Tasmania, are asking the people to agree by referendum to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to deal with the same question some months later.
When we were opposing successfully the Referendum Bills in 1915, I expressed the opinion that many of the matters to which the Bills related could be dealt with by the States better than by the Commonwealth. I am a Federalist. There is a tendency on the part of some people, and ofsome members of this House, to steadily whittle away the powers of the States and increase those of the Federation. I am not one of those people. I believe in Home Rule for my own State as far as possible. Frequently I have pointed out the inconsistency of men who advocate Home Rule for every other country on earth except their own State. This Bill is a stepping-stone to the reduction of State powers. It has not received sufficient consideration from this House. It is not right that a Constitution such as ours should be treated as lightly as we attempted to do on previous occasions, and as is proposed now. The Constitution of Australia is the best in the world. I know of no country that gives to its people so wide a franchise as the people of Australia enjoy under the Federal Constitution.
– Except that the States have equal representation in the Senate.
– In the United States of America, which has a population of 110,000,000, the same principle has served fairly well for 140 years, although the inconsistencies of the State representation in the American Senate are greater than those in the Australian Senate. When we deliberately federated, we consented to a federation of peoples in this House and of States in the Senate. Proportional representation for the Senate is a very big question, which will have to be considered on its merits. There is plenty of work for this Parliament to do without attempting to tinker with the Constitution. A Frenchman once remarked that Englishmen say, “It is a wet day. We have nothing else to do; let us go out and kill something.” There seems to be a growing tendency in this House when honorable members have not much to think about politically, to have a shot . at the Constitution.
The only reason why I will not deliberately oppose this Bill in the House is that a time limit has been placed on its operation.
– The honorable member is giving the show away now.
– I speak my own opinion. If this Bill had not a time limit attached to it I would vote against it.
– So would I.
-I do not wish it to be assumed that, because I am not opposing the Bill in this Chamber, I pledge myself to support it in my own State. I do not. I shall wait to see what powers are taken by the State Parliament, and what powers the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) intends to take. But I say deliberately that, if this Bill represents an attempt to . continue the fixation of prices of the staple products of the land . and the penalizing of the primary producers for- the benefit of the cities, I am opposed to it. That there has been profiteering is admitted, but it has been in the cities. I have said from the public platform that I have absolutely no sympathy with the man who is prepared to give 6d. for a “pony’” beer, or a third of a pint, and calk an indignation meeting if he has to pay 7d. a quart for milk. Neither have I any sympathy with a man who will submit without a word to the price of tobacco being raised from 6s. to 12s. per pound, but who screams out if the price of butter is raised a penny or meat a halfpenny per pound. I repeat that the chief profiteering has been in the cities; and it is not hard to discover it. I have ji: my possession some figures given me by a man who is directly interested in the business; and I learn that three and a quarter yards of cloth, sufficient for an ordinary man’s suit, is sold by woollen mills for 25s., that it is made up in Melbourne at a little over 25s., and that the man who retails the suit over the counter is paid 25s. for doing so. It will- be seen that as much is paid for selling the cloth over the counter as for the whole production of the wool and cloth and its manufacture into the finished article. I believe that tradesmen in Melbourne, and all the cities, are guilty of profiteering to an almost criminal extent, and that this has been going on during the whole period of the war. With the hides grown in Australia, and the leather and boots manufactured here, there is no reason why boots should have been increased so much in price, but the price of the locally manufactured article increases with that of the imported article, which has to bear the cost of carriage oversea. While I hold no brief for the importer, who is a great profiteer, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that the local manufacturer keeps well on the mark with him in the matter of prices. Much more effective work could be done if this Parliament would do its utmost to encourage increased production. A cable message appears in the press to-day which suggests a way in which more could be done for the benefit of the country than has been done by the legislation we have been passing for years. This is the message: -
A despatch received in New York from Buenos Ayres states that the President of the Argentina has sent a proposal to the Argentine Congress for the formation of a National Agricultural Bank, which will extend ‘ credits to farmers and cattlemen, and aid in the carrying out of the colonization, irrigation projects, and the construction of granaries.
As I say, such a scheme would result in more benefit to this country than * thousand Bills like that on which we are now spending our time. This cable caused me to look up the subject of the Argentine!, and see; how that country compares with Australia. I find that the total number of sheep in Australia dwindled from practically 98,000,000 in 1890 to 76,500,000 in 1916. There was a steady decrease year after year, with occasional fluctuations; and I am afraid that if we had the figures for to-day we should find them very much lower, owing to the unfortunate drought. Argentine, on the other hand, Has 81,500,000 sheep, as compared with our 76,500,000. It may come as an awkward surprise to members to learn that while the great State of Queensland contained about 15,000,000 sheep, Great Britain,, which could be dropped into Queensland and lost, has nearly twice as many; indeed, Great Britain contains more sheep than any State of Australia, with the exception of New South Wales. As regards cattle, the discrepancy between the Argentine and Australia is enormous, and while the production of wheat is decreasing here, it is increasing there. These facts are sufficient to make us pause and think. The great policy that this National Parliament must face in the near future, with our enormous debt, is steady, continuous increase in production, and we cannot increase production if we pass legislation which will hamper the producers and bring them under the iron- heel of those who think that the country should be altogether subservient to the wishes of the city. There is no reason or room for a battle-royal between city and country; but I am glad to see that there is now growing up a determination on the part of those in the country, who deprive themselves of many of the benefits of civilization, to take a firm stand and insist on a fair and full reward for. their industry.
It is difficult for a layman like myself to thoroughly grasp what is the real intent and scope of a Bill such as this; and that is not to be wondered at when we find it necessary for the Government to consult the ablest constitutional authorities in regard to it. I desire to make my position quite clear. If I find that the intention of this Bill is to take control of local industries, and specially of the primary producers, and hamper them iri any way, it is not going to receive my support when it goes before the country. I do not wish to labour the question ; but I do think that it rests upon those of us, who hold the views that I do, and who have opposed and defeated similar constitutional amendments on two occasions, to make our position clear. Personally, I think that the exemption of the railways is a very decided improvement. It would be intolerable if we, as a Federation, were to say to the States, who have spent enormous sums of money on the construction” of the railways, that we intended to regulate the expenditure in the conduct of those enterprises. The States take full responsibility for the money borrowed for their construction, and have to impose taxation in order to make up every penny of loss; and it would, as I say, be intolerable if some body like the Commonwealth, which has no responsibility in the matter, were able to make itself popular by generously increasing the salaries of those employed on the railways. The authority which has to find the money for the running of the railways is the authority which ought to, and must, control the expenditure. It is not for the Commonwealth to determine what should be the expenditure, “by way of wages, in connexion with the railway services of the States.
I hope I have made my position clear. I shall not vote against this Bill, but should the Commonwealth and the State of which I am a representative come into conflict, I shall stand by my State. If it be clearly stated that there is any. desire or intent, by means of these increased powers, to penalize the primary producer by regulating either his prices or means of production, his hours or conditions of labour, I shall not invite -my constituants to support the Bill.
.- I desire at the outset to make my position clear. I shall vote for this measure in the hope that the amendments of the Constitution for which it provides will prove but a partial instalment of the wider grant of power which this Parliament should enjoy. On two occasions I have taken the public platform to advocate the granting of wider powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, and if the Government are sincere in their professed intention of seeking power to control monopolies and combines-, I shall support t-hnm in the effort. There are, however, one or two serious objections to this Bill. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) said he would support it because of the time limit attaching to it. In my view, that is the weak feature of the whole proposal. At the present time the Commonwealth Government are controlling shipping, and expect within the next three years to complete a shipbuilding programme which will enable the Commonwealth to compete with privatelyowned steam-ship lines in our overseas trade. After we have controlled shipping for three years, and -have incurred an expenditure of some millions of pounds in securing a Commonwealth-owned line of steam-ships, are we to scrap the whole scheme, and sacrifice our vessels because of a want of adequate constitutional power over trade and commerce ? That will be the result if the powers for which this Bill provides cease to operate three years hence. If the Government shipping policy is right, surely they should not seek power to engage in trade and commerce for only three years. While in England the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) purchased a number of vessels, and entered into contracts on behalf of the Commonwealth for the construction’ of’ others. I take it, therefore, that a Commonwealth line of steam-ships is part of the policy of the Nationalist party. What, then, is to be the position if the amendments of the Constitution for which this Bill provides lapse three years hence? Without these extended powers over trade and commerce, we shall be unable to continue the system. I am convinced that if such powers are granted and allowed to lapse, the country will regret it, and the Government will be in great disfavour.
We are told that one of the objects of the Government in seeking these amendments of the Constitution is to secure power to deal with trusts and combines. There is no bigger combine than the Shipping Ring. Under the War Precautions Act, and regulations made by virtue of it, we have been able to exercise some control over the Shipping Ring, and now that the time is at hand when that Act must cease to operate it is necessary that we should have an amendment of the Constitution to enable us to continue that control. My desire is that the shipping policy launched by the Government, with the object of assisting our producers and importers to secure reason- able freight, shall be a success. Do honorable members think that profiteering can be got rid of within three years ?
– Not in three years or 3,000 years.
– Quite so. That being so, this Bill, providing, as it does, that the amendments of the Constitution embodied in it shall not operate for more than three years, is only a sham and a make-believe. The Government propose to ask the people to give them power to deal with profiteering, but their supporters approve of this -Bill only- because these wider powers if agreed to by the people are to be limited to a three years’ period. In the one breath Ministerial supporters say ‘that these powers are sought in order to protect the public - to fight the profiteer - and in the next they want them for only a limited time. Profiteering cannot be crushed’ in three years, and, therefore, this Bill gives the lie direct to their avowed object.
– ‘Some members of the Labour party said last night that the Government could have dealt with profiteering under the War Precautions Act during the last three years.
– For nearly four years the Government haye had power to deal with profiteering, but have not attempted to exercise it. I take the. view that this Bill is merely an electioneering placard, and that there is no sincerity behind it.
– Then the honorable member ought not to vote for it.
– I shall vote for it, in order to put the Government to the test. They say they wish to stop profiteering, and I would give themevery . opportunity to do so. It isplain, however, that this Bill is merely designed to carry them over the approaching elections. Had the Government desired to deal with profiteering, they could have done so under the War Precautions Act. Their powers under that Act are wider even than those now sought in this proposed amendment of the Constitution. I know that it is a difficult job to deal with profiteering.
– The honorable member would sooner find fault with those who try to deal with it than undertake the job himself.
– During the first eighteen months of the war, when a Labour Government were in power, there was practically no profiteering. But the profiteers know that the present Ministerial party is sympathetic, and they have been and are using their opportunities to exploit the public to the fullest possible extent.
This Bill will be found totally ineffective. Since the public are being exploited from day to day in Tegard to the prices of food they consume and the clothes they wear, surely the Parliament ought to be unanimously in favour of taking action to protect them. Surely such a matter should be above party politics. We find, however, that the Government, have not been prepared to deal with the profiteers as they could have done by regulation. Honorable members complain about the price of boots, and yet the Government have allowed thousands of tons of leather and hides to be exported. They could prohibit the export of hides and leather until local prices return to a reasonable level. In the same way they could prevent the export of meat until supplies for local consumption are made available at reasonable prices.
– Hit the producer every time!
– The producers are doing very well. As another bribe- to them, the Government are. raising the price of wheat for home consumption to 5s. 6d. per bushel.
The method by which the Constitution may be amended is clearly laid down in the ‘Constitution itself. A proposed amendment must be approved, not only by a majority of the people, but by a majority of the States. The procedure is an elaborate one, and the Government are going to resort to it to secure an alteration of the Constitution for only a limited period. I am not a lawyer ; but as a common-sense man, it seems to me that once these amendments are approved, as required by the Constitution, it will be impossible to vary or remove them without resorting once more to the process of an appeal to the people. Such alterations cannot lapse without a further reference to the people.
– What about the section of the Constitution which provided for the disappearance of the Western Australian Tariff on a sliding scale?
– That was part of the Constitution itself. I shall do all that I can to induce the people to accept these proposed amendments of the Constitution, in the hope that when the Labour party return to power next session we shall he able, even within twelve months, to deal to some extent with profiteering. If the present Government return to power, it will certainly be with a diminished majority. There is a ring of insincerity about this proposal, and the decision of the Government to rush the Bill through shows that they fear the exposure which a full debate would mean. I hope, however, that these amendments of the Constitution will be carried, and that an earnest effort will be made under them to secure for the people .some relief.
– I was somewhat disappointed with the speech delivered by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams); since, although he endeavoured to throw some light on the constitutional aspect of the Bill, he seemed to damn it with faint praise. The part of his speech to which I take most exception is that in which he attempted to champion the States in their desire now to come in and do that which, by this Bill, we seek to do. It seems the States have stood by for three years, during which he himself admits that profiteering has been going on, and they have made no attempt to check it or satisfy the public that they intended to check it at any time. It was not until the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) called the Premiers of the States together, and made it quite clear to them that he intended to act, that any of them have been put into action with regard to this matter. Now, we see Tasmania moving in the question; and we hear of New South Wales attempting to move. My opinion is that the States could, three years ago, have dealt with this question; and, that if the Prime Minister had been here, the Government and the House could have dealt with it under the War Precautions Act.
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has taken up a more reasonable position than some of the gentlemen on his side of the House. He feels very naturally the fact that, on a previous occasion, he and his party not only voted for a measure of a much more comprehensive character than the one now before the House, but that they actually introduced it. They would place themselves in a very peculiar position before the public if now, supposing that the Bill were to be more extreme, and with less excep tions in it, they were to vote against it, or advise the public to do so. The honorable member says that his great objection to it now is that it is too limited ; but I remind the honorable member that half a loaf is better than no bread. If this House were prepared to pass, for a year, or for three years, a measure which he joined in advocating some years ago for all time, the honorable member ought to be one of the first to support it and advocate it, instead of objecting to it because it does not go quite as far as he desires.
I think I shall have credit in this House for generally approaching’ questions, even party questions, in an impartial spirit. I confess that when I came down to Melbourne this week, without knowing exactly what form the Government’s Bill was going to take, I began to wander whether an attempt would be made by the Prime Minister to reintroduce the measure which he unsuccessfully introduced some years ago to the people of the Commonwealth. If he had done so, I should have felt it my duty, in view of the course I had taken previously, and of my feelings with regard to Federation, to vote against it, in party, and in the House, and to advise the public to reject it. But I read with very great care the statement which the Prime Minister made, and do not hesitate to say that it was a thoroughly sound and sane review of the situation in which we are placed to-day. I have no hesitation in supporting this measure, and will show the House why I support it. I shall explain how I differentiate the position in which I stand to-day from the position which I took up on a former occasion. I have listened with great care to some of the speeches on the other side - some of them I preferred not to listen to - and I am bound to say that they seem to me to have been cast in the same mould, and to be all animated by one spirit. In the first place, it was “quite evident that the old feeling of intense hatred towards the Prime Minister was dominating most of the honorable members who spoke on that side. I can look back on past years in this House, and remember how, even when he introduced the very measure of which this is a partial repetition, they dwelt on his every word and breath, and thought him a demi-god. To-day, because he has left them, we see the same gentlemen giving voice and effect to their intense personal hatred of him - I do not call it political hatred - because he has succeeded, notwithstanding all their opposition and all their attempts to defeat and destroy him. I am not at all surprised at that attitude. I have seen it on many occasions since the Prime Minister has held his high position. They know very well, and the House knows, that I am not animated by any overweening love for the Prime Minister. I have opposed him in this Chamber for twenty years, and only lately I had the temerity to publish letters against him and his attitude over the League of Nations, so that I do not stand here as an admirer or advocate of his in regard to everything he does. But I do say unhesitatingly that the statement that he made yesterday was one on which he had evidently exercised great care; and I do not hesitate to characterize it as a thoroughly sane and sound presentation of the extraordinary position in which we find ourselves in this country to-day.
It is all very well for gentlemen on the other side to ask, “What did you do then? What are you going to do now?” Do they forget that the world has undergone an upheaval such as it has never known before? Do they know - because they sometimes took very little interest in it - that this war has been the greatest in the history of the world, and has had extraordinary economic as well as moral effects upon mankind ? Do they recognise that the world to-day is hysterical and neurotic from one end to the other? I thoroughly agree with Mr Lloyd George’s statement that “ everybody in the world is finding fault with everybody else.” The world is hysterical and not normal, and one of the consequences of the war has been that we find on all hands, not only here, but in Great Britain, the United States of America, Prance, Canada, New Zealand, and even South Africa, an extraordinary development of the attempt to make out of the public profits Which the circumstances do not justify. The economic and competitive spirit has been disturbed ; nothing is fixed; nothing is stable. The consequence is that merchants and shopkeepers right and left; men who on other occasions would have been ashamed to enter in their books the enormous profits they have been making, have been overcharging the public and drawing from them moneys to which they were not entitled.
– Was that due to hysteria ?
– My own opinion is that a very large amount of it in this country has been due to resentment at ‘the war-time profits tax that was put upon trade by this House. There has been a desire, although perhaps not a conspiracy, to pass that tax on to the consumer ; and in doing so there has been a tendency to overcharge the public and draw from them sums of money to which these traders were not entitled. I need not here dilate upon these instances of profiteering. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) gave us yesterday some examples which are only parallel with those we all know of . I know of extraordinary instances myself. I heard of one case only the other day, in which a working furrier was turning out a particular kind of cape, without the expense of a shop or of rent, at £13 per article. He had sold similar articles to some, of the big shopkeepers in one of the Australian capitals. They were followed up, ‘ and it was found that some of those big shops were charging 45 guineas and 60 guineas for the identical article that had been turned out by the maker at £13, and would have been sold to the public at that lower price, if people had happened to go direct to him. The hysterical condition of the people is shown in a variety of ways. I heard of a case in Sydney Where a certain kind of lace was exposed in the window of a large shop at ls. 6d. per yard. It had been long in stock, but no sales could be made. Somebody suggested to the shopkeeper that he should raise the price to 6s. per yard, and the whole stock was sold in a short time. That is only another evidence of what I call the neurotic condition of the people at the present time; and while that condition is present it is our duty as a Parliament to do something towards reassuring the people and checking the tendency of certain persons to take advantage of the disturbed condition. There is no need to charge these people with a crime. There is no need to use ugly language, because we know that throughout the world people are ever trying to make money. Competition is the soul of trade; but the question is : Should we not put some check upon the extravagant attempts that are being made to impose upon people by taking from them much more excessive profits than the circumstances justify? What does this Bill do? I for my part would hesitate to pass any Bill which interfered with Federation. I have often felt that the people of this Commonwealth do not really appreciate the significance of Federation. I once had the temerity to write a book on Federation, the best compliment paid to which was that it was made the textbook in five States out of six for public teachers. I endeavoured in that work to trace from the Greek States downwards through the Netherlands and Switzerland, the axiom that, where you have a country so large as this, or even much smaller, the principle of delegation must be strictly observed. I always felt that in our system of Federation we had delegated to the States certain powers-
– Well, it amounted to that.
– It was the other way about.
– The people of Australia consented to an allocation - I will put it that way to suit the punctilious honorable member - by which certain powers were left to the States and others were given to the Federation. I thought the honorable member would have been able to understand the less simple language. This measure in its former form, as introduced by the Labour party years ago, would have had the effect of cutting seriously into the spirit and machinery of Federation. If it had come forward to-day as it did then, I should have done my utmost to oppose it. If anybody will take the trouble to read the last clause, they will find it very simply stated that within a year from now we are to have a Convention. The object of that Convention, in which the people are to have a hand-
– Who says so?
– The Bill says so.
– It does not, and the Government do not say so, either.
– Under this Bill, we are to have a Convention. I am telling the honorable member, among others, what I read into this measure.
– It is not there, and the Government will not say so.
– I do not care what the Government say. There is a provision in the Bill which declares that a Convention is to be held. The very longest time that this measure, limiting the powers of the States, and taking them for the Federal Parliament, can operate is three years; but if the Convention is appointed - and, in my opinion, there is every guarantee in the Bill that it will be appointed - it will come to an end in view of the possibly larger or more extensive and detailed reform of the Constitution that will come about. There is nothing to fear from the point of view rf the Commonwealth. This is a temporary proposal,” put forward in view of an abnormal state of things existing in this country. We know that profiteering has reached an extraordinary development, not only here, but in other countries also. I suppose that most people have seen that extraordinary power is taken in France to limit the profit which a trader can. make upon a particular article. Government inspectors may enter establishments and take possession of certain goods which are apparently overcharged, and compel the proprietors to trace the goods to their origin in order to show that the specified profit has not been exceeded. We may do something in that direction byandby; but, in the meantime, we are merely taking power to create the necessary machinery, and we shall have every opportunity of discussing it. I cannot see why honorable members of the Opposition should object to the Bill, or how honorable members on the National side can object to it. We take a certain step, no further than is consistent with the traditions of the Nationalist and Liberal parties, in order to prevent the recurrence and continuance of the difficulties created by an abnormal state of things. I shall have considerable pleasure in supporting the Bill, because I feel that we are on thoroughly safe grounds, and that we are taking the very best, sanest, and mostbalanced way of attempting to cure the difficulties which have arisen.
.- It is not my purpose to speak at length on the measure, except to say that so far as it goes I shall support it. There is no doubt the last two speeches we have heard from the Ministerial side are the greatest State-rights speeches which have ever been delivered in this chamber. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) has always devoted considerable attention to Federal matters, but I cannot understand how he comes to ascribe the whole of the profiteering of the present time to a state of hysteria, which, he says, appears to be running throughout the world. The honorable member paid no attention to the feeding and the clothing of the people. The only case which the honorable member quoted was that of a furrier, a man trading in, not a necessary of life, but a luxury, a man who seeks to profiteer upon the profiteers who are able to afford 45 guineas for a fur.
– Furs are very often purchased by people who have no food.
– Quite possibly they are the hysterical people to whom the honorable member has referred. But does he tellus that in a country which exports hides to every part of the world, and where they should be the cheapest in any part of the world, the prices of boots have been raised by people who have become hysterical?
– The prices that the people are willing to give for boots are “ hysterical.”
– Does the honorable member think that the increase in the price of boots is due to hysteria ? -Does he tell us that the price of every article of consumption has been manipulated, and put up by the people who do not produce, but, as it were, stand, like the meat in the sandwich, between the producer and consumer, because they have become hysterical? Does he say that these robbers of the fathers and mothers of the boys who have been ‘ fighting for our national life have so acted through hysteria ? The honorable member says that there is no need to treat these people as criminals, and that we ought to be lenient with them. May I remind him that, even in Conservative England, where they were a long time waking up to the problem, the authorities are treating these people as criminals and putting them in gaol if they are convicted of profiteering? The same action is being taken in France. I am not a vindictive person out for everyone’s blood, but I do say that no greater crime can be committed than that of robbing the community when the nation is in the toils of war. My complaint in regard to the Bill is that the Government have been too long in taking action. Under the War Precautions Act, they had ample power to do everything that can be done under the powers that they are now seeking to have placed in . the Federal Constitution; but during the last two and a half years in which they have been in ‘office, Ministers did nothing.
– Nothing? Did they not fix prices?
– Yes; in certain cases. They looked after the interests of the farmers, and the wool-growers, but not the interests of the poor consumers.
– What about fixing the price Of beef? Did it not pretty well ruin the farmers?
– I do not know who has been ruined. I ‘only know that meat is too dear in this country, and that many people cannot afford to buy it more than once a week. While the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was sending his wireless messages to Australia, telling the people here that he proposed to deal with the profiteer, his Government had just abandoned the very regulations under the War Precautions Act under which it could have done something to prevent profiteering.
I have said that I will support . any amendment of the Constitution up to and beyond what was asked for by the party in power in 1915. Much has been ‘said by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) in respect to the democratic character of our Constitution. He claimed that the right of Tasmania to representation equal to that of the biggest State of the group should be protected, and he referred to America as a country which upheld the State rights system. I stand here as a Unificationist. I would adopt a process of devolution in regard to some of the States in order to arrive at more equal States representation on a population basis, and put us on a level with the American States in that way.
– Does the honorable member say that he would propose the division of some of the larger States ?
– I claim that there would be better local government if a scheme of devolution on the lines I have suggested were adopted. Any one who claims that the constitution of the Senate - with the small States having the same representation as the larger - is a democratic one, holds considerably different views from those I entertain of Democracy. Let us divide the country into as many States as we like, Avith equal populations, and then we can talk about having equal States representation in the Senate with a view to approaching the system of Democracy advocated by the honorable member for Franklin. I would support the Bill, if I thought that it was anything more than an electioneering placard, with greater ardour. I accept the measure because I can get nothing better. When Federation was accepted, we were told that we had entered into a bond “which was indissoluble. Do honorable members know of any country which has attempted to amend its Constitution in a temporary manner by transferring powers to the central body for a given time only? In this case, it may mean twelve months.
– But that provision is covered by the proposed Convention.
– 1 am not quite sure that the Convention will be a reality. Why could not this- Bill say definitely what is to happen at the end of twelve months ? If we provide in this measure that these powers are required by the Commonwealth Government, and if the people approve of giving them, a Convention will be quite unnecessary, and the proposals can be permanently embodied in the Constitution. If it be good to have the powers for twelve months or three years, surely it is better to have them for all time. My complaint against Federation has always been that the powers allotted to the National Parliament were too limited. We are the National Parliament governing the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, yet we ‘ have to make the admission that we cannot deal with anything in the way of trade and Bommeree.
– That was true ten years ago.
– I admit that. The Commonwealth Parliament is still called the National Parliament, but every honorable member knows that our powers are limited, and that we are obliged to leave many national questions to the State Parliaments. Until power to legislate in respect of Trusts and Combines is embodied in the Federal Constitution permanently, those organizations can continue to operate in one State or another with impunity, because we cannot expect that six State Parliaments will pass uniform legislation to deal with them. Therefore, the sooner we have a re-arrangement of the whole system of government, the better it will be for all concerned. The country is overburdened with debt, but there is still an overlapping of legislation and various governmental activities. What is needed is a Convention which will review the whole Constitution. If that were done, it would be possible to effect savings which would give us some hope of liquidating our immense war debt. Do honorable members realize that the national debt of Australia, including the State debts, is greater than that of Great Britain was prior to the war? And yet we have a population of only 5,000,000 people. We have fourteen Houses of Parliament, seven representatives of the King, seven Supreme Courts and sets of Judges, and seven agencies in London. It is time that we set our house in order, and so re-arranged the Federal and State powers as to put an end to the present enormous waste of public money. The Bill provides that within twelve months a Convention shall be held to review the constitutional amendments proposed by this Bill. If the referendum indorse this measure, the Commonwealth Parliament will enjoy additional powers, but only for twelve months, because then our right to exercise these powers will be handed over to the determination of a Convention, probably composed of men outside this Parliament. This measure is tainted. It is obvious on the face of it that it has been introduced only for the purpose of influencing the election. There is not one line in the Bill which provides that anybody shall arrange a Convention. Clause 6 merely states -
Provided that if no such convention is constituted by the Commonwealth before the 31st day of December, 1920, the alterations made by this Act shall cease to have effect on the said 31st day of December, 1920.
If the Government within twelve months do not- arrange the Convention-
– And they will not.
– If they do not, these additional powers will pass out of the Constitution, and the money expended on the referendum will have been thrown to the winds. We are told that if profiteers are discovered during the next twelve months they will be punished, but at the end of that term they can continue profiteering as much as ever, for the Commonwealth Parliament will be just as powerless then as it is now.
– What makes the honorable member think that the Government are not in earnest’ in this matter ?
– The very Bill itself. I hope that the Government will achieve success with the measure, and that profiteers will be dealt with, but I say that it is an insult to the people to ask them to tinker with the Constitution in this paltry way.
– I rise to make a few observations on some of the points which have been raised during the debate. The statement by one honorable member on the Opposition side that a proposed alteration of the Constitution should be considered apart from party politics represents the proper spirit in which this measure should be debated. We are dealing with a Bill to alter the Constitution and to confer additional powers of legislation upon this Parliament. The method by which those powers shall be exercised afterwards will depend upon the complexion of the party authorized to give effect to them for the time being. But the essential consideration in each case is: What is the nature of the powers to be conferred? Are they powers that ought to be invested in the National Parliament? That is the main issue. Our instrument of government, the Constitution, was’ never meant to be a hard and fast piece of machinery incapable of alteration. The wording of the Constitution itself, providing for its alteration, presupposes that it will be moulded and shaped from time to time according to the development and growth of the nation, and in order that it may be adapted to the changing necessities. We are now closing the war period. Fortunately for us, under the wide definition given to the power of defence, the Commonwealth had jurisdiction while the war continued to invade many of those domains which the Constitution reserves to the States. It became essential for the safety of the Commonwealth, and the people who inhabit it, that the Commonwealth should exercise certain powers, which represented a very big inroad on the authority of the States. The Commonwealth exercised those additional powers mainly through the authority conferred upon the Executive by the War Precautions Act. lt was found necessary to interfere in Intra-State trade and commerce, to interfere in industrial matters, to assume control over corporations, and to do many other things which the Constitution did not specifically empower this Parliament to do in times of peace. And the High Court in the case of Farey v. Burvett sustained the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. The Chief Justice (Sir Samuel Griffith) stated, in the course of his judgment -
It is true that … in answering the inquiry regard may be had to extrinsic temporary circumstances of which the Court takes judicial notice.
That is to say, in order to decide the inquiry whether or not the Federal Parliament had power to legislate on a particular subject, the Court was entitled to take notice of extrinsic circumstances, those circumstances being that the war was in progress. For the preservation of the nation the Commonwealth had to invade the, jurisdiction of the States. Throughout the war period, those wider constitutional powers were exercised; but now that the war period is closed, the defence power in the Constitution under which we operated bears a different complexion. The extrinsic circumstances have been altered.
Honorable members opposite have asked why this Parliament was able to pass the Commercial Activities Bill and yet is not able to exercise a general power of price- fixing. There is an explanation. During the period of war, the Commonwealth had complete jurisdiction in all matters affecting the defence and safety of the Commonwealth, even though State jurisdiction were invaded. Nobody could tell when the war would end. The termination came more quickly than was expected; but while the war continued we had power to pass legislation in certain circumstances even for a period that might extend beyond the war. For instance, this Parliament decided that the moratorium should continue for a period beyond the duration of the war. This Parliament had not an indefinite power. It was vested with power to deal with the circumstances with which we were faced, and to pass legislation under it extending even beyond the date of the termination of the war,
Because it distinctly arose out of the extraneous circumstances of thewar itself. Inasmuch as the Commonwealth had undertaken obligations, and entered into contracts which were likely to extend over a certain period, and which did, as a matter of fact, continue after the close of the war, we had power under the defence provision of the Constitution to make laws which were necessary for the completion of those obligations and contracts,, even though there was an intrusion upon the State domain of legislation. This Parliament had power to fix the price of . sugar, for instance. That was an exercise of the wider powers which the Commonwealth possessed during the period of war. Under the defence powers this Parliament could, during the war, pass legislation covering the domain reserved to the State to continue even beyond the absolute termination of the war; but the extent to which it may legislate under these powers on post-war problems no one can precisely define. The War Precautions Act has been continued for a period of only three mouths after the termination of the war, when it will expire, and all powers under it will be gone. When the Government sought power to continue that Act for six months after the war, they had no more strenuous opponents than honorable members opposite, who wished the Act to be repealed at once. Now, however, they desire to know why the Government does not exercise a power which, according to them,is given under a discredited piece of legislation.
The position is that the war has closed, and we are faced with a very serious set of circumstances arising out of the war. We are faced with profiteering and with the necessity of regulating trade and commerce - with what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) described as the aftermath of the war. We have also to deal with industrial unrest; and the desire of the Government is that they may be enabled for a limited time to legislate, not under a power that may be challenged - not under a power which, if challenged successfully, would bringall our legislation to the ground - but with clear, specific, definite authority, undisputed so far as our source of authority is con cerned. The only way that can be done is by amending the Constitution. We are, therefore, asking for power to deal for a limited period with trade and commerce, though within a State, corporations, trusts and combines, and industrial matters. By means of this Bill we shall be able to exercise effectively powers which cannot be challenged in any Court of law.
Last night the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked me whether I thought the Bill was constitutional; and now I answer him in the affirmative. The Bill we are passing is within the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, and when it is ratified by the people it will become a’ valid law. The honorable member raised one question, andhe will check me if I am wrong in my presentation of it to the House. He pointed out that the Government were taking only three years’ power under paragraph a of clause 6, and that under the proviso the period might be only twelve months. On this, the honorable member declared that the Government sought to amend the Constitution, and were by the proviso seeking a further amendment in an underhand way, which, in his opinion, was unconstitutional. I think the honorable member will admit that that is a fair statement of the point he raised. Now, what are the Government really seeking to do? We are asking for an alteration of the Constitution. It should be remembered that the power of alteration is not limited or defined in the Constitution, except in three or’ four specific cases. There is power to amend the Constitution so as to increase or decrease the Federal powers under it, and to seek powers subject to conditions or for defined periods, and so forth. What is proposed now is to provide that this Parliament should have certain -powers for three years, and setting forth that if certain conditions are not fulfilled, the powers will last only one year. That, I say, is a perfectly legitimate form of amendment - a perfectly valid amendment within the Constitution. It is proposed to confer powers on this Parliament which would enable it to deal effectively with particular problems without challenge during a certain period; and in this we are complying with the terms of the Constitution. The preamble to the Constitution Act commences -
Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania . . . have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth . . .
The source of our power and authority is the people, who were responsible for the Constitution, although legally and technically our authority comes from the Imperial Parliament. The principle of the Constitution is that, as this Parliament receives its authority from the people, no alteration can . be made in the Constitution without the approval of the people. The Government view is that, seeing the people are the source of our authority, a Convention should be held to frame recommendations for alterations, and such proposed alterations must receive the ratification of the people of Australia. The proposal before the House, therefore, is essentially democratic. The desire is to enable the people to confer meanwhile on the Commonwealth such powers as, in the altered condition of things, are essential to the good government of Australia at the present juncture.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Woes . . . . 2
Majority . . . . 50
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 51 of the Constitution is altered by omitting from paragraph (i) the words “ with other countries, and among the States “, and by adding at the end ofparagraph (i) the words Provided that the alteration of this paragraph by Constitution Alteration (legislative Powers) 1919 shall not be construed to empower the Parliament to make laws with respect to the control or management of railways the- property of a State, or the rates or fares on such railways:”.
Section proposed to be amended -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: -
Trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States.
– I move -
That all the words after “ States,” line 3, be left out.
The object of the amendment is to bring the Bill into line with the constitutional alterations submitted to the people in 1913, and the other alterations that were proposed tobe submitted in 1915. I object to the railways being deliberately exempted from the scope of the powers that are being taken by this Bill. I know, of course, that during this Parliament, no amendment moved by honorable members on this side of the House has ever been carried. We submitted amendments in several measures, . such as the Entertainments Tax Bill - which honorable members opposite will be very anxious to have altered before the election - and in the bachelor tax proposals, which the Government have not proceeded to carry into effect, but those amendments were not entertained. I have to-day received a resolution, which I shall read presently, from a Conference representing 10,000 locomotive engine-drivers and firemen throughout Australia, in reference to this Bill. Copies of that resolution have been sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and myself. I have no doubt that similar action will be taken by representative railway men in all the States as soon as they are certain what the Government propose to do. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before this House in 1904 Mr. Fisher, on behalf of the Labour party, moved to bring railway disputes within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, and ever since then this Parliament has deliberately decided that State railway employees should come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. As I said yesterday, there is no public utility in connexion with which there is more industrial unrest than there is in the railway services throughout the world. There is a tremendous industrial upheaval in Great Britain to-day in connexion with its railway services. The Ministerial party, however, shut their eyes to these facts, and say, in effect, that State railway employees are beyond the pale. They do not recognise that railway servants have any rights, and they decline to take action to bring them within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
I received this morning the following letter from Mr. Arthur S. Drakeford, General Secretary of the Victorian Locomotive Engine-drivers, Firemen, and Cleaners Association : - 2nd October, 1919.
Dear Mr. Tudor, - Herewith please find copy of letter and resolution forwarded to the Prime Minister to-day from our Conference.
I might add that it has been the strong desire of locomotive men throughout Australia that they should have the same right as all others of approaching the Federal Arbitration authorities, for consideration of their wages and conditions.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) does not hold that view.
– I hope that he will vote as he did on a prior occasion, to enable State railway employees to go before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The following is a copy of the letter sent by Mr. Drakeford to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes): -
The Prime Minister of Australia,
Federal Parliament House,
By direction of the Conference of Locomotive Enginemen of Victoria, now sitting, I have been instructed to forward to you a copy of the resolution carried at its sitting this morning, and to make the request that your Government will be good enough to give favorable consideration to the desire expressed in the resolution, of having the question of enabling railwaymen to have access to the Federal Arbitration Court submitted to the people in common with the other matters proposed to be included in the Government’s Referendum Bills.
Hoping that this will receive favorable consideration, 1 remain, yours faithfully,
Arthur S. Drakeford, General Secretary.
It would seem that Ministerial supporters think that these men, instead of going to arbitration, should take direct action. Do they want this country to be thrown into a state of industrial turmoil ? Do they regard the State railway employees as pariahs, devoid of rights? But for the fact that a conference of the locomotive enginemen of Victoria happened to be sitting to-day it would have been impossible for this united representation to be made to the Prime Minister. The resolution reads -
That this Conference, representing all branches of the Locomotive Enginemen of Victoria, strongly protests against the proposal of the Federal Government that the railwaymen of Australia should be denied access to the Federal Arbitration Court, and asserts that it is the desire of the 10,000 locomotive enginemen of Australia, whose policy has always been that of arbitration by . the Federal authority, to have the opportunity of approaching the Federal Arbitration Court for the regulation of their wages and working conditions, and it asks further that provision be made in the Referendum Bills now before Parliament for the question to be submitted to the people of Australia for decision.
The executive of the Victorian Railways Union held a meeting this morning, and have forwarded to me the following letter : -
Unity Hall, 636 Bourke-street, Melbourne, 2nd October, 1919.
The Hon. F. Tudor, ‘ Federal Parliament House, Melbourne.
Dear Comrade, - At a meeting of my executive this morning, the following resolution was carried for submission to the Prime Minister and Cabinet for favorable consideration, viz. : -
That this executive of the Victorian Railways Union, representing 12,000 members who are employees of the Victorian Railway Service, views with concern and keen disappointment the exclusion of railways from the provisions of the Bill for a referendum on the alteration of the Federal Constitution, and considers that the reason for the inclusion of State railways in the questions put to the people on two previous occasions are now strengthened and intensified. Further, in view of the facts that State and Inter-State land transport is an industry vital to the industrial welfare and progress of the Commonwealth, and that industrial unrest and discontent with their working conditions is seething among the employees of almost every State railway service (especially in Victoria), this executive requests members in the Federal House of Parliament to use their best endeavour to secure the right for the people of Australia to decide whether State railway servants should have free access to the Federal Arbitration Court for settlement of industrial disputes. My executive consider that the industrial interests of such a large part of the working class could be adequately safeguarded by the alteration of the Constitution in reference . to railway employees on the lines of the two previous referendums. If the Federal Parliament will agree to include railwaymen within the scope of the proposed Constitution Alteration Bill, it will be the means of helping to stem much of the industrial unrest now existing among railwaymen.
Wm. Smith, General Secretary.
I have no doubt that similar resolutions would have been forthcoming from kindred organizations had time permitted. As it was, as soon as we met yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister declared this to be an urgent measure, and moved accordingly, before any member of the Opposition had seen a copy of it. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has said that even Ministers did not see a copy of the Bill until it was introduced yesterday, but they must at least have known its purport. They must have known that provision was not made in it for railway employees to be brought within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Ministerial party, at its Caucus meeting on Tuesday, no doubt learned of the provisions of this Bill, but no member of the Opposition knew what they were until the Bill itself was introduced yesterday afternoon. It has now to be rushed through all its stages by 10.30 to-night.
This failure on the part of the Government to provide for the inclusion of railway men is a deliberate invitation to them to resort todirect action. Honorable members opposite must not complain if they accept the invitation, since they are prevented from going to the Federal Arbitration Court. Every honorable member who votes to prevent railway men from going to arbitration is practically inviting them to resort to direct action if they are dissatisfied with their present conditions.
– Not at all. The honorable member knows that this Bill repre sents a compromise arrived at between the Premiers and the Prime Minister.
– The Prime Minister has not said that it is. The Government and their supporters say, “ Shut out the railway men. Give them no rights as human beings.” It is all very well for honorable members opposite to laugh. They are free from the cares of the railway men in this State, who, until recently, were working for less than 9s. per day, and were expected on such a wage to maintain their families. Honorable members opposite would prevent these men from going to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I hope the men will not take the bit between their teeth and resort to direct action, as has been done in some of the States, but if they do, the Ministry and’ its supporters must not blame them. On every occasion since 1904 a majority of the members of this Parliament has declared that State railway employees should come within the jurisdiction of the Court. It was on this very question that in 1915 the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who was then Leader of the Opposition, led his party out of the House rather than that they should be called upon to vote against the State railway servants coming within the jurisdiction of the Court. I trust that even at this late hour Ministerial supporters will realize their responsibilities, and will support my amendment.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is playing the game a little low down when he endeavours to make it appear that those who oppose his amendment are anxious to keep railway men in an unfair position. The point is that if this amendment were carried the whole Bill would go by the board. I gathered from what the Prime Minister (Mr; Hughes) said yesterday that he put certain proposals before the State Premiers, but that they would not agree to them. He then asked them, I understand, for counter proposals, with the result that they found a ground upon which they could agree. This Bill is the result of that agreement, and I, therefore, object to the Opposition trying, as their Leader has done, to put Ministerial supporters in a false position. Such an attempt is mean and unfair.
This Bill is designed to stop profiteering, and to enable something to be done to allay industrial unrest. If the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition were carried, the State Premiers would consider that their agreement with tha Prime Minister had been broken, and their proposals flouted, with the natural result that they would urge the people to reject the Bill. In my view the Prime Minister has acted in the best interests of the people in taking as much as he could secure with safety. At the present time a committee consisting of Professor Harrison Moore, Professor Jethro Brown, and the Solicitor-General (Sir Robert Garran), is meeting to see if the powers provided for in this Bill are wider than are necessary. If they come to the conclusion that they are wider, has not the Prime Minister given his word to the Premiers that he will restrict them? That is a fair agreement. This Bill embodies an agreement, and if we introduce . amendments we shall alter the whole basis of it. For the honorable member for Yarra to move an amendment that would wreck the Bill, and then accuse those who oppose it, in-order to keep the Bill intact, of having some ulterior design against the railway men or some other section of the community, is ‘to put them in as unfair a position as any man could try to place another in. I hope that the honorable member will not attempt to make political capital out of his -amendment, and waste the time of the Committee. His proposal is not going to g.ull .the people outside. The people of - Australia- are too good sports to ‘be gulled in that wa.y. They will .see who are really trying to do the fair thing in the present situation. It is going to be hard, enough to stop profiteering as things are, and the Prime Minister is making the best effort he cao to do so. He is giving this Parliament the speediest opportunity to do it, and, in the circumstances, the Bill ought to be allowed to go through a6 it stands.
.- The very character of the speech of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) indicates the illogical attitude adopted by the Government. The section of the Constitution particularly affected by this clause is one of the most important and far-reaching in its consequences and application to the affairs of Australia. We are proposing to extend the powers of the Commonwealth to deal without limitation with the most im portant avenues of trade and commerce throughout the whole of Australia. Yet the Government are opposing our amendment which removes the limitation that the Government themselves^ seek to impose. This clause will give them unlimited power over shipping, all kinds of air transport, and all kinds of land transport except railways. In view of the developments in the world to-day, one wonders why the Government propose to accept all responsibility regarding trade and commerce as far as transport and communication in every direction are concerned, except railway communication. Undoubtedly, the elimination of the railway control is due to the attitude of the State Premiers at the recent conference with the Prime Minister. It is quite in line with the attitude of State Governments on previous occasions when a similar proposal was made. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has always taken up the attitude that the State railways should not be excluded, but he now accepts their exclusion, obviously not because he thinks they should be excluded, but be- cause, for political reasons, he thinks it wise to leave them out alt this juncture.
– Is not that a policy -which both sides generally follow?
– It may be, but with regard to -such an important matter as the Constitution of Australia, it is obviously a policy of make-shift that should not be tolerated.
– All Governments go for the practical, and not for tie ideal.
– But it is eminently practical to insure that the powers of the Commonwealth shall be unlimited over all avenues of trade and commerce, particularly in these days, when transport and communications are the vital avenues of trade and commerce. Those in particular, therefore, should be under Commonwealth control. There are on the Government side of the House a number of men who honestly and consistently support this referendum proposal. How can they square their previous professions with the intention of the Government to exclude the railways? When we were with the Prime Minister on the other side of the House, we and they strongly asserted that the railways should be included within the Common- wealth’s trade and commerce power. On the other hand, there are members on -the Government side who opposed these proposals, but are ,now supporting them. I believe they support this particular one because it excludes the railways, and they find a special virtue in that exclusion. I have been wondering ever since this Bill’ was introduced what particular brand of mental soothing syrup the Prime Minister administered to induce those members now ^supporting him, who previously opposed them, to accept these proposals, and how he has been able to placate those who at one time refused to accept the elimination of the railways. He did the same thing with the Labour party in 1915, when we had agreed, as is well. known, to submit certain proposals to the people. On his very urgent suggestion, -we consented to withdraw them at that time. We are now confronted, we are told, with a different set of circumstances. Of course, the Prime Minister had a reason for doing what he did then. He wanted to get away to England, and he told us that certain arrangements had been come to with the State Governments. I have always had serious doubts whether what he called facts then, as he put them before us, were really facts, and whether he had any distinct promise from the State Govern- ments that they would pass those enabling Bills conferring certain powers on the Commonwealth.
Two things which must alter our whole view of these referendum proposals have emerged since then. The first is the war, and the second is the fact that Australia now ranks as a sovereign nation among the nations of the world. In the light of our experience those two points must profoundly affect our attitude towards the Australian Constitution. I stand here absolutely immovable in the belief that the reserve power with regard to trade and commerce, industrial affairs, corporations, and everything else should rest in this country with the Commonwealth Parliament, and not with the State Parliaments. If Australia is to take its place as a sovereign nation in cooperation or collaboration with other nations, our Government must have a clear and almost unlimited reserve of- power in these matters. Otherwise, they will be unable to. make arrangements, or to come to understandings, or even to act in any spirit of co-operation, with other nations, because they will be hobbled, and restricted, and confined through their powers being circumscribed by the terms of the Constitution. What do the Government propose to do now? They arelimiting the powers still further. That will be the effect of this Bill, and I have no hesitation in saying that, as I have shown by my vote to-day, I would rather refuse these powers to the Commonwealth, even under present circumstances, than saddle them with the limitations, exemptions, and eliminations contained in this measure.
The trade and commerce section of the Constitution is the principal section affecting our powers to prevent what is generally known as profiteering. As has been said, profiteering is not unknown in any country. It is always in evidence during war time. But what concerns me is the fact that -during the war this Government has had, by the direct authority of the High Court in its interpretation of the Constitution, clear and unlimited authority to deal with trade and commerce. For at least three years the Government has been able to exercise that power in order to stop profiteering in every aspect, and the word “ failure “ has to be written across every act and effort of the Government in that direction. Yet the Government has the effrontery to say to the House and the people, “ Although we have to admit failure during the last three years to use our unlimited powers under the War Precautions Act, although we have withdrawn all the pricefixing regulations, and although the Prime Minister has clearly admitted our absolute inability to deal with the matter, we ask you to give us these constitutional powers for twelve months, and we will show you what we can do. Let us have them until the 31st December, 1920, and we will shake up the Bolsheviks and the profiteers.” I refuse, in view of the fact that the Government- have, in three years, failed to do anything effective. to believe that they are capable or prepared -to do anything effective in the next’ twelve months. If they refuse or neglect to convene the Convention next year, all these powers automatically fall to the ground. The Government have simply to say, “We will not call the Convention this year,” and they can readily find an excuse for their attitude. Who knows whether they have not already, in a quiet underhand, confidential way, which they are so clever at managing, come to an understanding with the profiteers ? How do we know that they have not said, “Say nothing until this Bill goes through. We will take no action with regard to the Convention, and the whole Bill will be worth nothing?”
– The honorable member is making a most unjustifiable suggestion.
– I am prepared to believe anything about the Government, because it has to depend upon the profiteers for support at the next election. It has to depend on them for its election expenditure, and unless it is prepared to give them some sort of guarantee they will fight it instead of supporting it. If there is any political arrangement at all in the matter, we may be quite sure that the Government is taking good care that it has an understanding with the profiteers before it goes to an election. The Prime Minister is not such a novice in political affairs as to take on an election without some understanding with the people on- whom he relies for support.
– Has that been your experience of him ?
– Absolutely. He is no novice in political strategy and tactics, and if he has taken action at this juncture, he is not doing it for any particular love of a fight, or from a desire to risk his office, but in the sure and certain knowledge that he has prepared the way, and that the time is opportune.
In regard to trade and commerce generally, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) says the world is hysterical, and that we should legislate only to cover the period of hysteria, and allow other matters to wait until things settle down. He thinks that we should therefore be content with this temporary extension of powers. In view of the fact that even those who have hitherto opposed every proposal to amend the Constitution now admit that amendments are necessary for the sake of the national life and security of the Commonwealth, we should not look upon the alteration of the Constitution simply as an expedient to get over a temporary difficulty. We should so try to amend it as to make it broad, and sound, and sure enough to safeguard the future government of th» Commonwealth, and protect the interests of the people in every direction. This Bill does not profess to do anything of the kind. It proposes merely a little bit of patchwork and a modicum of tem porary relief. If that is not successful, we are given a promise that something else may happen, but we are told that if it is successful, it will prove sufficient for the purpose. The mere fact that the Government so utterly and absolutely failed to use the trade and commerce powers when they were able to deal with profiteering proves that what is really wanted is not an extension of powers, but a change of Government.
Another reason why I oppose the Bill is because I believe that there will be a change of Government at the next election, in which circumstance it will not be a partial measure of amendment of the Constitution that will be brought in. The Labour party will promise that if they are returned to power the people will have an opportunity, within six months, of so amending the Constitution as to provide a permanent guarantee for the efficient control of the affairs of this country and the interests of the people of the country by giving them greater security in their various operations. That is the alternative proposal of the Labour party. The proposal before the. Committee now is anything or nothing, just as it suits the purpose of the Government. It may be used; it may not be used. It is a doublebarrelled gun in which _ only one barrel is loaded. There is no guarantee that if the necessity should arise the measure will be put into operation. The fact that the Government, having the power, have refused to exercise it is sufficient proof, if proof be necessary, of the truth of what I am saying. The Bill is merely an election placard. The people will see through this obvious device to trap votes.
Take the position of the railway men affected by the amendment of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor). They are to be excluded from the Bill, although the referendums proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in former years included them, and naturally they must oppose this Bill on the very ground of their exclusion. The honorable member for Yarra proposes that the railway men should have the protection of the Federal Arbitration Court, which every other worker in the community has.
– What tripe the honorable member talks ! Have not they the protection of the State Government, which employs them?
– They have exactly the same measure of protection that every other member of the community has from the State Government, but we are asking, on their behalf, that they should have the added protection that every other member of the community has.
– It is not an added protection, but a transfer of protection which the honorable member seeks.
– It has been pointed out over and over again that none of the increased powers sought to be given to the Commonwealth Parlia-ment deprive the people of the States of any power, and that it is simply in the most extreme case a transfer of power from the States to the Commonwealth, depriving the people of nothing. If railway men are included in the Bill they will not be deprived of any rights which they now enjoy under the States, but they -will be given the additional right, under the Commonwealth, of being able to approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the right which is possessed by all other Departments of State activity, all other branches of trading and commercial activity, and all other avenues that carry on the business of the country. Yet it is to be denied to these railway men. There is to be a discrimi-nation in their case, a discrimination which cannot stand on logical or reasonable grounds. These men were led to expect that their rights would be protected in any amendment of the Federal Constitution, and that they would be put on the same level as employees in any other branch of Commonwealth activities; but this Bill says “No.” Obviously, the railway men will not stand for a discrimination which bars them from the additional protection the Commonwealth may be able to extend to them.
– Would the honorable member give the Commonwealth the same power in regard to all other employees of the States?
– I would go further than that. I would say that the whole of the reserve powers under the Constitution should be controlled by the Commonwealth and not by the States; in other words, that the States should simply have such powers as the Commonwealth may delegate to them. The unfortunate feature of our constitutional arrangement is that it is an inverted pyramid. The residue of powers in regard to the affairs of the country in its most vital interests lies with the States, the inferior bodies, instead of with the Commonwealth, the superior body; and as an outcome of the war, and because Australia is now on a level with the other nations of the world, the Commonwealth’s powers of negotiation, trade, co-operation, and collaboration should not be restricted by any constitutional limitations. For these reasons I oppose the Bill, and support the amendment, which seeks to remove the discrimination against railway men. I shall oppose every suggestion that refuses to give to the people of the Commonwealth the opportunity of saying that they shall give to the Commonwealth Parliament full and unlimited power, or that- it should be content with restricted power.
– The proposal as it stands before the Committee differs from what was previously presented to Parliament by the insertion of the words which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) has moved to have struck out, these words being -
Provided that the alteration of this paragraph by Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) 1919 shall not be construed to empower the Parliament to make laws with respect to the control or management of railways the property of a State, or the rates or fares on such railway.
Although it is some years since I first had the honour of introducing some of these amendments to Parliament, the matter is very fresh in my memory, and I recollect that on every occasion I pointed out in the House that their object was not to control the freights and fares on State railways or control the management of State railways. In every brochure I issued setting out the case for the amendments I said the same. I have not all the brochures with me now, but that of 1915 contained the following words : -
The Commonwealth is not asking for a wide general power. lt does not seek, as some foolish people say it does, to fix fares on the railways.
On a thousand platforms I have pointed out, just as has any other person who has advocated these amendments , exactly what this pamphlet set out in the plainest of terms. The clause before the Committee to-day contains nothing more than I would have been willing to agree to had
I been leading the united Labour party to-day. Therefore, I can see no useful purpose in discussing the matter any further.
.- It is rather remarkable to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) talk in such a way. I ‘notice that in the paragraph from the pamphlet he quoted, he merely read> eight words in the first line, and about five words in the third line. The whole paragraph reads as follows: -
The Commonwealth is not asking for a wide general power to regulate the conditions of employment in the railways. It does not seek, as some foolish people say it does, to fix fares on the railways. It wants nothing more than the power to keep the wheels going. It wants to be able to protect the whole people from suffering through a purely local dispute.
The kernel of the .paragraph is in the concluding words which the Prime Minister omitted. While the right honorable gentleman is in the chamber it is just as well to read the whole page, in which he says -
This amendment will give power to the Federal Parliament to deal with industrial disputes on State railways or tramways through the Conciliation and Arbitration Courts. It will not do more than that. It will not give the Commonwealth Parliament power to fix fares and freights on State railways or interfere in their management, or take the railways over. It confines Parliament to dealing with industrial disputes on State railways, and to dealing with them through the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. It begins and ends there’.
In the early days of Federation, Parliament thought it had power to bring railway disputes under the Arbitration Act. In 1904 an amendment of the Arbitration Bill was carried, bringing railway disputes under the Arbitration Court. The High Court, however, two y.ears later, decided that Parliament could not deal with railway servants.
Parliament should, however, have this power1.
Those are the words of the present Prime Minister. He penned them; he read and revised the proof very carefully to see that there were no mistakes, as he .always does, which I know from personal experience -
ALI citizens of the Commonwealth are vitally concerned in keeping the wheels going. If a dispute happens on the railways of any State, it affects not only that State and it’s people, but other States and their peoples. Every one might suffer because the people of the State immediately concerned could not keep the wheels running.
The railways are the veins and arteries of the system of land defence of Australia. Unless those veins and arteries are kept unclogged by industrial disputes, the system of land defence may be dangerously impaired.
The Federal Court will, in this matter, supplement, not destroy, the work of those State Courts which have power to deal with railway disputes. Those Courts will not be interfered with. But not all States have such Courts. Victoria has none, and we all know that this led to the Victorian railway strike.
Then follows the. paragraph I have already read. The Right Honorable W. M. Hughes of to-day is confronted by Mr. W. M. Hughes ‘ of 1915, and finds it rather difficult to recognise the 1915 photograph.
It is possible that the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) have a few more railway employees in their electorates than I have in mine ; but I am vitally interested in seeing that the railway men of Victoria are allowed to take advantage of the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Of course, we must answer the Prime Minister in the most effective way, and that is by using his own words. The page of the pamphlet which I have quoted refutes practically everything said on the Ministerial side in opposition to the amendment of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor). The Commonwealth has 400 railway employees on the transcontinental railway, which has interchange of business with State railways. I have heard the Prime Minister and a Justice of the Arbitration Court say that there is nothing more likely to create industrial unrest and trouble than for one set of employees in a particular employment in a State to be receiving better wages and working under better conditions than apply in any other State. If we are to have harmony in trade and commerce and in industrial matters, it is essential ‘that the railway servants throughout Australia should be able to take advantage of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act ; but they will not be in a position to do so unless the Constitution is amended as the Prime Minister sought to amend it in 1915. I am surprised that the right honorable gentleman should have given way on this point. We have heard of the hypnotic influence he seems to exercise over people to get them to agree with him; but, notwithstanding this, he has apparently submitted to the hypnotic influence of the six State
Premiers. I understand that Mr. Coyne, the representative of the Queensland Government, was prepared to give full powers to the Commonwealth.
– I understood that Mr. Coyne was prepared to allow the railway employees of Queensland to put their case before the Federal Arbitration Court.
– I question that.
– We know that it is a fact, because the people of Queensland are true Australians, and do not wish to exclude any section of the community from the rights and privileges enjoyed by others.
– Does the honorable member believe that the Queensland railway servants would’ sooner trust their fortunes to the Commonwealth Parliament than- to their own State Parliament?
– They would sooner trust their fortunes tothe Federal Arbitration Court. When a large body of intelligent men like the railway servants of Australia, numbering, I suppose, 60,000, apart from their friends and relatives, have made a unanimous request that they should be. brought under the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court, this Parliament will be only acting on national lines if it accedes to their request. A conference of enginedrivers and firemen is in session at the present time, and it has passed a resolution requesting that those employees of the State railways should not be excluded from the proposed amendment of the Constitution, and thereby be prevented from having their grievances redressed by the Federal Arbitration Court.
– Does the honorable member say that the railway servants of Queensland have made that request?
– The united railway servants of Australia have made that unanimous request through their federation. They are acting federally. They know that, if they wish to take advantage of the Federal Arbitration Court, they must federate their own organizations.
– Have the Queensland railway servants joined that body?
– The honorable member may speak for his own State, and I shall speak for the one I represent. I know of no bigger sweating establishment in Australia than the Victorian
Railways Department. Its servants desire, and deserve, some relief. Will the Prime Minister say it is fair that, with the present high cost of living, a man should be asked to maintain . a family on 9s. 6d. a day? Railway servants have little chance of rising to any higher wage, so long as they are excluded from the benefits of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court
– The Board of Trade in New South Wales said that £3 17s. 6d. should be the minimum.
– Thousands of men in the Victorian Railway Department are not receiving £3 per week. These men are asking for a loaf, and the Government are giving them not even a stone. Their claim is just, and I am surprised that the views of the Prime Minister are different today from what they were in 1915. I am afraid the Prime Minister is building his little house in the middle of a bog. It has a most unstable foundation. We know how he fought the Premier’ of New South Wales on the question of InterState Free Trade. When Mr. Holman commandeered, the wheat of New South Wales, we thought that the Commonwealth had a splendid case against his Government, but when the matter was taken to the High Court, the decision was given against the Commonwealth. So long as the States enjoy their sovereign rights, the Commonwealth will always be subject to the storm and stress of the States-righter. The only means by which we can act with security is by striking out the whole of the thirty-nine articles and making clause 51 read “ The Federal Parliament shall have; power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth.” In that simple and effective way, the States can be put in their proper place, and justice can be done to the railway servants, and every other body of men in the Commonwealth. Is there no chance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) consenting to include the railway servants in this Bill?
– No possible chance.
– The honorable member is a States-righter. Apparently, the die is cast; appeal is futile. The State Premiers met the Prime Minister behind barred doors, and an arrangement was made behind the back of Parliament and the people. Later, a secret caucus meeting of the Nationalists, Country party, and ex-Labour members, decided to accept the arrangement made with the State Premiers, and this Parliament is asked to pass a fraud of a Bill that will have no effect in stopping profiteering, and shuts out the finest body of men it is possible to meet in Australia. East and west, north. and south, there is not a finer body of men in the Commonwealth than the railway servants. They have done good and loyal work for the benefit of Australia and its development, and, as a reward, they are to be denied the right to approach the Federal Arbitration Court that we allow to practically every other citizen in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has chanted his anthem in a way to which no exception can be taken. I desire to tell the Committee something of the genealogy of this measure. I will say nothing about what happened on those rarer heights which the honorable member and I used to tread, but I do say, and I challenge honorable members opposite to deny it, that not one of the amendments proposed in 1915 had fewer friends in the Caucus than that relating to the railway servants.
– That is quite right.
– Let me contrast the position to-day with that in 1915. There were railway men in this country then - probably more then than there are now, because some of the railway workers have not returned from the war. A Labour Government deliberatelywithdrew, not only the amendment relating to the railway servants, but every one of the others, at the bidding of those State Premiers whom honorable members opposite now denounce. I am told that we have bartered away the rights of the railway servants. The Labour party in 1915 withdrew every one of these proposed amendments, and, if my memory is correct, there were only four or five dissentients in a great party meeting. I have never seen greater unanimity than prevailed on that occasion. Honorable members agreed to withdraw every one of the Referendum Bills on the promise that the State Pre miers would introduce certain measures in the State Parliaments. They abandoned the railway men and every other worker in the Commonwealth. If honorable members opposite regard this Bill as an abandonment of the railway servants, what shall be said of their action when they withdrew all the amendments? I share the responsibility for that; so do they. When honorable members have done explaining why, at the request of the State Premiers, they withdrew all the constitutional amendments in 1915, I shall explain why I have withdrawn the provision relating to the railway servants on this occasion. I shall now deal with the position as it is.
– The honorable member’s statement is absolutely untrue.
– I ask honorable members to preserve some dignity.
Mr. Mathews. Let the Prime Minister show some decency. He is telling a lot of damned lies!
– I call upon the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to immediately withdraw that statement and apologize.
Mr. Mathews. I withdraw and apologize.
– I ask honorable members to maintain some degree of order in the debates.
Mr. Mathews. Let the Prime Minister keep to the truth.
– He cannot.
– I ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdrawthat statement.
Mr. Mathews again interjecting
– If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports refuses to obey the Chair, I shall name him. I. again ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw his statement that the Prime Minister cannot keep to the truth.
– In obedience to your ruling, sir, I withdraw it.
– Honorable members opposite have forgotten those lessons which they learned so well from my lips, and which they repeated in this House. Every one of the amendments proposed in 1915 was drafted by me, and by nobody else. Had I drafted them in some other shape, they would have been equally acceptable to my then associates. I say that de- liberately, and no one who sat in Parliament for years with me can deny it. Not one line or one word of those amendments as I drafted them was altered. Of all the amendments this was regarded as the least important and least effective weapon in our armour - as the one which struck at the least important link in the armour of capitalism.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is continually interjecting when the Chairman calls him and other honorable members to order.
– When the Government had to considor the proposition in 1915 - I speak of the Government of which my friends opposite were members and supporters - it was realized that the nation was in a state of war, and that the conditions were abnormal. We met the Premiers, who made us offers to do certain things; and on those bare promises the Government acted. For that every honorable member opposite is as responsible as myself. Amongst the amendments withdrawn was the railway disputes amendment, and honorable members opposite were prepared to, and did, leave the railway workers, from 1915 to this day, without recourse to the Arbitration Court. This they cannot deny, and they did it with their eyes open, and in order to get out of a position which had become intolerable.
Several honorable members interjecting ,
– I give honorable members on both sides warning that if they persist in interjecting I shall name them.
– I now come. to the position as it is to-day. We are dealing, not with war, but with the consequences of war, and the conditions are as abnormal to-day as in 1915, As I said yesterday, we are now wholly divested of all the powers to deal with any of the difficulties, or shortly will become so; and we have to face the situation as it is. What the Government have done is thought the most effective way of achieving our purpose, which is to secure the welfare of the whole Commonwealth. This Parliament ought to have greater powers thau it is now clothed with, and it was not for us to seek to stir up strife in our efforts to get those powers. I recognised that this was not a State, Federal, or party matter, but a
National matter. I called the Premiers together, as did the Labour Government in 1915, and laid before them the amendments as they were proposed in that year. But I came out of the recent Conference not as the head of the Labour Government did in 1915 - without an amendment left; I came out with the most effective amendments that are necessary to protect the interests of the people. The only limitation in the Bill is a limitation of time, and it is an eminently proper one and suited to present circumstances. I say now, deliberately, that I do not think this is a final and satisfactory distribution of powers as between the Commonwealth and the States. I never have said so, and my opinions remain unaltered. But we have to get these things done. Wha’t is the history of the proposed amendments as to the days goneby ? They were defeated by the people, whether we submitted them at an election or otherwise, and whether as one amendment or as six. It is not by getting amendments defeated that the interests of the people are conserved, but by securing new powers for the Commonwealth. As the Premiers were hostile, or, at any rate opposed to the amendments as put forward, and I had invited them to. meet me in order that we might work together in the great purpose which the States and the Commonwealth are alike desirous of achieving, I thought it proper to listen, as I had done in 1915, to what they had to say. Of all the amendments, the one affecting the railways was the only one to which the Premiers would not agree in any shape or form. They agreed to some of the others as they stood, and to others tothe extent of the power sought; but from this they dissented altogether. To subject the State railways to the control of the Federal Arbitration Court was a proposal to which in any shape they could not agree. On all the other amendments they were prepared to come to some mutually satisfactory understanding. I tried to meet the views of the Premiers by making the amendments temporary. I further made an amendment in clause 2 - the trade and commerce amendment. I think that in both these things I did right. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) addressed the Committee, but was very careful not to apply his argument to what
I had said, namely, that the amendment to the trade and commerce clause takes nothing from the effectiveness of the clause, but only does what, over and over again, on thousands of platforms, we have said we believed in - that we did not seek to interfere with freights and fares on the State railways. The clause does not limit the trade and- commerce power which is necessary for safeguarding the interests of the people.
If honorable members will read the speeches which I have delivered in times gone by, in this House, they will see which amendment 1 regarded as the most important. I have ‘repeatedly said that it is the trade and commerce amendment, and that if it were destroyed all would be destroyed. That no one can deny, and on that I stand. If I thought that this Bill took anything from that power which is- necessary to safeguard the interests of th» people, I would not agree to it. But we .are living now in an abnormal period ; the world is. in a ferment; and surely the Government are riot to be. blamed, if, .instead of going to the Premiers with a pistol, they went to them with the open hand of friendship. That is not a crime; if it is, then those who first set the example were the Labour Government in 1915; for what this Government has done the Labour Government did too.
Let me remind honorable members of the fact that this railway amendment was not always presented in the same form. In a speech which I delivered on the amendment, on the 21st November, 1912, as reported in Hansard for that year, page 5841, I said: -
It is to be noticed that this proposal differs very materially from that which was before the House in 1910. Under the proposal of 1910 it was sought to give this Parliament power to make laws in regard to labour and employment, including labour and employment and the prevention and settlement of disputes on railways the property of a State.
Who was responsible foa- this falling away from grace ? The Labour Government. Why did they bring forward this narrow, mean measure of relief to those men of whose cause they now pose as champions? Why did they coo so softly where formerly they roared ? Because, first of all, the amendment had been hopelessly beaten, and, secondly, as we found afterwards, the men who had voted against it with the greatest unani- mity were the railway workers in some of the big cities. Every one who knows Sydney knows what happened. The records show that in the electorates surrounding the railway termini in Sydney the vote went against the amendment. It may be that in some of the other cities the vote was for the amendment; bub where the bulk of the railway men were in New South Wales the vote was against it in 1910, and again in 1912.
I was confronted with the position that I must press on with the amendment, which the men whom we sought to benefit have turned down’, or challenge the Premiers and invite hostility in regard to all the other amendments. I took the course that any- sensible man would take. I took a course which will enable the States, and those who desire to do something for the people, to work hand in hand with us.
Let me come to another point. The honorable member for Maribyrnong spoke as he would not ‘ have dared to speak had he been’ -sitting behind me; and his was the utterance of a petulant child. The amendments are there, and if the country carries them this Parliament will be able to do something- for the people. It is true,’ and it is proper, on the honorable member’s own showing, that the- amendments are ‘ only temporary. He invited u§ to strike out all the words and have Unification under section 51. I am not a Unificationist, as I have said, fifty times in this place when introducing Bills. Let the’ honorable member “ carry that pig to market “ at the elections. What I have done on the pre sent occasion is more than I had an opportunity of doing, or did, in the whole time I had the honour to be associated with, and lead, the Labour Government. I have made in this measure provision for a National Convention which will deal with the matter in a comprehensive and final way, and present recommendations on which the people shall decide how they will be ruled, what powers shall be given to Parliament, and what powers remain with the State Parliaments. If the people want to include the railway workers they will have the opportunity of doing so after the Convention has sat. There is the position; and, on a fair analysis, not only is it one that does not invite but precludes criticism, especially from those men who, like the honorable member to whom I have referred, are overwhelmed, not because of the omission of the railway amendment, but because of the inclusion of the other amendments. That is the last blow under the fifth rib that has pierced their armour and utterly dismayed them.
.- I have never seen a more pitiable exhibition than that which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has just given us. In order to curry favour with his new-found friends, he spoke of what had happened at a caucus meeting of the Labour party, and also of many things that had never happened there. We on this side of the House could defend ourselves from his attack only by betraying the secrets of our party meetings. I would point out, however, that the chief statement made by the Prime Minister carries on its face its own condemnation. He said that the amendment of the Constitution proposed in 1915 to bring railway employees within the scope of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court had fewer friends in the Labour caucus than any other.
– In the Labour party. I say so again.
– It must at least have had the support of a majority of the party, otherwise it would not have been included in the Bill to provide for the amendment of the Constitution at that time. That fact in itself is a complete refutation of the right honorable gentleman’s statement. I have not the slightest intention of mentioning the name of any honorable member opposite who at thattime also opposed such an amendment. I have never descended so low as to indulge in personalities, and I hope I shall always retain my self-respect and the respect of my honorable friends by . refraining from any breach of confidence. Unlike the Prime Minister, I shall not indulge in any “ hifalutin,” nor shall I draw upon my imagination as to what has happened at party meetings. However we may disagree on political questions, we should at least have respect for each others’ opinions, and notseek to make political capital against those- who have been our friends by repeating statements made at party meetings. To do so is not to play the game.
– I did not understand the Prime Minister to do anything of the kind. The point he made was that in 1915 the Labour party surrendered this same power to the States.
– I have never been unfair, and do not intend to be on this occasion.
The Prime Minister said that the proposed amendment of the Constitution in 1915 - to enable State railway servants to go to the Federal Arbitration Court - had fewer friends than had any other suggested alteration of the Constitution. He sought to convey the inference that honorable members on this side were not friendly to such- an amendment. He cannot say that of me.
– But the honorable member was in the Cabinet at the time. Mr. TUDOR. - He cannot say that I was unfriendly to such an amendment either when I was a member of a Labour Government, or before.
– The Prime Minister did not refer to any individual member.
– He did not, but he tried to suggest that he alone was “ the pure merino.” If we cared to resort to the same tactics, we might very well refer to certain other happenings. But I hope honorable members of our party have a higher regard for the responsibilities, of public life than to descend to anything of the kind. The Prime Minister saidthat in 1915 members of the party to which we and some honorable members now supporting the Government at that time belonged, agreed that the power provided for in my amendment should be surrendered to the States. I said in speaking to the motion for the second reading of the Bill that the proposed referendum in 1915 was not proceeded with because we accepted the undertaking given by the State Premiers.
– The Prime Minister said so.
– No, he said that we passed over this power, as well as others, to the States. The State Premiershave decided that this act of justice shall not be conceded to railway employees.
– Be fair.
– I am fairer than the Prime Minister is.
– He said distinctly that the Labour party at that time surrendered the claim for these powers because the Premiers promised to provide for them.
– The Premiers failed to carry out their promise, and, as I said yesterday, I would not again accept such a promise on their part. Only one of the State Premiers - Mr. Holman - carried out the undertaking that legislation surrendering to the Commonwealth the necessary power would be passed by the State Parliaments. A similar proposal was thrown out by the Legislative Council of Victoria.
– The Victorian State Premier could not control the Legislative Council.
– -Certainly not, butat the Conference in question there were representatives of the Legislative Council who agreed to do their best to secure the passing of the promised legislation. Some of them perhaps did so, but some did not, and I personally would not take the word of the State Premiers in this matter. Those who vote against this amendment will practically invite State railway employees to resort to direct action.
– We would give them the right to go to the Federal Court if it were possible.
– We learned to-day for the first time that this Bill represented a compromise as between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers.
– Surely not. The honorable member has known all along that it represents a compromise.
– I have not. So far as I am aware, Mr. Lee, the Premier of Tasmania, is the only State Premier who has reported to his Parliament’ the result of the Conference held last week. We did not know until this afternoon that this Bill was the result of a compromise. As a matter of fact, it has been alleged in the press, as well as by some honorable members, that the Bill was introduced because the Premiers refused an offer made by the Prime Minister. Surely a proposal to amend the Constitution should not be made a party measure.
– No, that is why we should have a Convention, as proposed m this Bill.
– The Bill does not set out whether that Convention is to be elected or selected, and although I have asked Ministers for information on the subject, not one of them has responded.
– This Parliament will pass an enabling Bill providing for the creation of the Convention.
Mr-. TUDOR.- The honorable gentleman is the first member of the Ministry to say that there is to be an enabling Bill.
– Clause 6 provides that the Convention is to be “ constituted by the Commonwealth.”
– The word “Parliament” has been deliberately left out of the clause. I invite the honorable member when we reach that clause to move the insertion of the word “ Parliament “ after the word “ Commonwealth.” If he does, I will support him. The Government will not accept even a suggestion from a member of the Opposition. They have not accepted from us one amendment in any Bill introduced since 1916.
– When we reach clause 6 we will put the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) on the gridiron.
– It is quite possible that we shall not have a chance to discuss that clause. We have only three and a quarter hours in which to deal in Committee with the various phases of this Bill, although the report of the discussion of similar proposed amendments of the Constitution in 1911 covered hundreds of pages of Hansard.
– In connexion with the referendum proposals of the Labour party in 1915 I was “ closured “ after I had been speaking for only fifteen minutes.
– No doubt, the honorable member and his party were holding up business at the time, and the closure was deservedly applied to him. I hope that honorable members will view fairly the amendment I have submitted, and will not deliberately exclude from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court as reputable a body of workmen as we have in this community.
.- Having regard to the fact that both sides are practically unanimously in favour of this Bill, more heat has been engendered over its discussion in Committee than we have had in respect of any Bill submitted to us during the last few years. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) have urged the Government and their supporters to give railway men the right to go to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, although the great bulk of their followers are to-day denouncing that course and advocating resort to direct action. Those honorable members, however, have not uttered a word against the demands now being made for the repudiation of the Arbitration Court, and for an appeal to direct action as a means of redressing grievances. I am one of those who fought the last Constitution Altera- ‘ tion Bills tooth and nail, and I am not an admirer even now of such measures. This amendment, under which it is proposed that State-controlled railways shall be brought ‘ under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court, is to my way of thinking a piece of gross impertinence. It is an arrogant assumption of superiority on the part of this Parliament, and an attempt to usurp the rights of the elective representative bodies which own the railways, and whose constituents, as taxpayers, have to carry them on. Those who control the State railways are responsible for finding the money to maintain them. They do not find it out of their own pockets, but out of the pockets of the electors of the States. As Parliaments elected by the very people who own the railways are responsible for their success or failure, they are perfectly entitled to the full control of them. I remind honorable members who talk about the powers of this Parliament that it is a Federal Parliament, created with delegated powers. It is of no use for honorable members to kick because they have not the sovereign powers of the States, and because the States have not merely delegated powers. If they had asked for those conditions when Federation was brought into existence, there would never have been a Federation. It is because the States were jealous of the powers they hold that we had a certain amount of difficulty in getting the powers that exist in our Constitution to-day. The Federal Parliament, when it was created, obtained all the possible powers that the people were prepared to give it; and the people have been very chary of extending those powers when the question has been submitted to them by referendum. I approve of the action of the Government in excluding the railways from this Bill.
We are asked to give the Government certain powers to deal with profiteering. It is because every honorable member on this side regards profiteering as an iniquity that we are prepared to give the Government those powers. I very much doubt whether, when they have them, they will be able to do anything with them.
– We are positive that they will not.
– The honorable member is only repeating what has occurred in history: In looking up some ancient history recently, I found th-t one of the greatest autocrats that ever governed in India - this was 500 years before the time of Christ - had his economic State organized into seven Departments, one of which dealt with price-fixing and profiteering. The penalty for the offence of profiteering was sudden death. I suppose that the worst_ even our opponents would support would be imprisonment. In spite of the severity of the penalty, the whole of the system of that monarch collapsed within his life-time. Do you think there have not been ‘wise men in this world since then who have tried to stop this kind of thing ? Do you imagine there are no- loopholes of escape from any regulation that you can devise ? The cure for this thing is free and open competition, and the prevention, as far as that is possible, of monopolies raising prices. You may be able to prevent monopolies raising prices by legislation, but what happens when you have to deal with individuals in the way that has been suggested ? In Germany when these things were tried under war conditions the producers either did not produce, or they hid their produce. You would require a perfect army to control these things, and when you paid the cost of your army of inspectors, and added it on to the price, you would be a great deal worse off under your regulations than if you had left the thing alone in the first instance. I remember an old relative of mine saying long ago, “ My sympathy goes out to the Government, because about twelve men put their heads together and try to regulate things in. what they consider the best interests of the country, and every other person in the community tries to see how he can defeat them.” I fear that if any Government, even one formed by the Opposition, were given the power to control and nationalize monopolies, they would find, when they got an industry nationalized, that they had an incubus round their necks which they could not manage. I have had a little experience in business, and know the difficulty of building businesses up. Ninety-five per cent, of the men who go into business, as a rule, fail. Do you think that those gigantic monopolies, like the steel corporation in the United States are built . up without long nights of hard grinding, and sweating, and brain worrying by the men in control ? Would the directors of tho Steel Corporation pay a man like Schwab £250,000 a year to manage their concern if he was not worth it? If the Government nationalized an undertaking of that sort, doyou think they would pay any oftheir employees £250,000 a year? Do you think the people would let them do it? And how long do you think a. nationalized industry would be a success once it was passed over to Government officials? We should have an army of officials controlling these things, whose wages would have to be paid, and all the extra cost would have to be added to the cost of the product. Is not one of our great objections to-day to the enormous increase in public expenditure caused by placing extra officials here and there to control things? How do you think you are going to control these things without creating another army of officials if this power is granted? I have little or no confidence in the effect which these (provisions will produce, even if they are carried. The Government want them, and I am prepared to support them. I say candidly that I would not vote for them if the Bill did not contain the three-year limitation. I would sooner take all the responsibility of opposing the Government, as I have done on other occasions, and take the consequences, seeing’ that we ar,e about to face the electors, than consent to sacrifice the rights of the States to the Federation so ..that the Federation might play ducks and drakes with them.
– Do you think the Government could do anything effectively in three years?
– I have already told the honorable member that I do not think this or any other Government, one from that side included, could do anything effectively in 3,000 years. You can talk about it, and- promise all kinds of things; but, in my judgment, those promises are worth nothing.
The main purpose of the Bill is to stop profiteering. The amendment has absolutely nothing to do with profiteering, and, therefore, its introduction is merely taking advantage of the Bill to air , a grievance existing between the two sections of the old Labour party, one section of which is now amalgamated with this party.
– But the Bill deals with industrial unrest, and the railway question is, therefore, affected by it.
– We have had some experience of the efforts of the Government to deal with industrial unrest. Before the Prime Minister went to England,, he tried to settle the coal dispute in New South Wales. Although he settled that difficulty then, all the difficulties that have grown up since are the outcome of Government interference.
Mr.RichardFoster - And how was it settled then ?
– By giving both parties what they asked for, and passing the cost on to the suffering public. That is an illustration of Government control; and that is how the seamen’s difficulty has been settled.
– That is how they settled their difficulties, in the Old Country all through the war.
– Exactly; it is the easiest way. Talk about preventing industrial unrest! The Government, by interfering in the coal dispute, and giving the men all they asked for, instead, of allowing the case to go to the Arbitration Court, also gave the employers the right to put the price of coal up by 5s. 9d. per ton. That was not paid by the employers. It was paid by the people who had to use coal. Those are the actions that help to increase the agitation outside, because the cost of living is rising. Wherever you interfere with the normal development of commerce you always raise prices. You can thresh the thing out until you are black in the face, but it will make absolutely no difference in the end. Wherever you can introduce open competition you tend to reduce prices, because every man who wants to make a living will try, if he is not in a Combine, to meet the demands of his customers by keeping his prices low, and- if people can buy a thing cheaper in one shop than another, that is the place to which they go. Wherever you have Government interference you raise prices without improving the lot of the people who are suffering from the actions of the profiteers, as they are called. While some people have made big profits through the war and have no moral right to them, it seems to me that we are constructing an engine to crack a nut. We shall find on investigation that a very large percentage of the increases that have taken place has been due, not to the operations of one trader here or another there, but to a multiplicity of operations by a number of traders through whose hands the article passes. These include freights, rates, interest, and charges of all descriptions. In England most of the mills were converted for war purposes, and now have to be altered back again. This causes increased capital charges, and consequently increased interest charges. All these factors add to the cost of the article before it gets here, but the peculiar thing is that the people who are producing similar articles here are charging equally as much. All such burdens as I have illustrated - in the case of coal and in the case of shipping freights - are added to the cost of articles, and so the cost of living is increased and the agitation . outside is intensified. I intend, to vote against the amendment because it is foreign to the purpose for which the Bill is introduced, and I ean see no object that can be gained by its inclusion, apart from, the violation of State rights and the interest of the State Governments in the control of their own railways.
.- I shall endeavour to bring the Committee back to a consideration of what the amendment really is. The discussion this afternoon, especially from the Government side, has been in the direction of backing up the friends of the Government party who have done so well since the war broke out. The object of the amendment is to give the railway servants the same privileges as any other section of the community. No one has shown this afternoon that they should not have the same privileges as tie men in private employment.
This afternoon we were told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in an excitable manner not creditable to him, that the railway men are State servants; but we understood at the time the Constitution was framed that all persons in Australia outside gaols and lunatic asylums were to be afforded the protection of that Constitution. We are told that if the railway employees of the States have the right to approach the Federal Arbitration Court, it will interfere with the State management of railways; but, seeing that every private employer has to abide by the award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, there is no reason why the State Railways Commissioners should not equally be bound by the awards of that Court. There ought to be uniformity in regard to the working conditions of railway employees in the various States. In. the State of New South Wales Wages Boards deal with the working conditions and wages of the State railway servants, but similar tribunals are not to be found in other States. It is one. of our responsibilites to see that there is no differentiation as between members of the community. The State railway servants have as much right to go to the Federal Arbitration Court as have- other- employees in the community. I object to the innuendoes of the PrimeMinisterthisafternoon. I cannot say that- he- is a liar, but what he said to-day was at variance with the truth.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, but I can say that his statement this afternoon was not based on facts. In 1915, when the proposal put forward by the various State Premiers was brought before the Labour party, the members of that party understood from the Prime Minister that if they - agreed to allow the Commonwealth Government to accept the offer made, the State Premiers would give every assistance possible in the then state of war to secure to the Commonwealth Government the powers that were necessary to conduct the war and protect the interests of the people. It was the Premiers who broke away from that agreement. This afternoon the Prime Minister stated that the Premiers of the various States had been called to Melbourne to deal with a Federal matter; but I take the strongest objection to any dictation by the Premiers of the various States. We were elected as a separate legislative body, subject to no domination by the various - State Premiers. However, I have come to the conclusion that the only object of the Prime Minister calling the Premiers to Melbourne was to save his neck at the impending election ,b.y obtaining their support. I do riot think the people ‘will indorse his action in allowing himself to be domineered by State Premiers instead of going straight to the electors and asking them, to give to the Commonwealth the increased powers set out in the Bills which were brought forward in 1915. The Prime Minister must be fully aware how jealously each State Premier guards every bit of red tape and wax, and will not give way in any direction in regard to the expenditure of money. The States are not prepared to economize. Does not the Prime Minister know that the people are anxious to put out any Government, State or Federal. that will persist in extravagant administration? He must know that at the next election the people will be calling out for economy.
– To what clause is the honorable member speaking?
– I am speaking to the amendment. If we exclude railway servants, we might just as well exclude- harbor trust employees, or the whole of the employees of the States.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.J/.5 p.m.
– I do not know how honorable members can vote against the amendment. The Bill deprives a section of the community of the benefits of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act. It is not many weeks since every honorable member on the Government side felt that it was his duty to urge the seamen who were on strike to avail themselves of the Arbitration Court. Now, for no reason that I can see, they propose to exclude the railway servants from the benefits of that tribunal. Parliament should not, without the gravest reasons, differentiate between sections of the community. When the Constitution was framed, provision was deliberately made for the settlement of industrial disputes by a Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I am at a loss to understand why the position of railway employees should not be the same in Queensland as in New South Wales; but how can we have uniformity unless all railway servants are brought under a Federal Arbitration Act? I look forward to the day when all the railway systems of Australia will be under one control, and a passenger will be able to book from Sydney right through to the Northern
Territory, or Western Australia, without any consideration of State boundaries. I was not altogether favorable to the Federal Constitution when it was first submitted to the people, but, like many others/ I accepted it as the best that we could get in the circumstances. It was never regarded, however, as a final and unalterable instrument of government. Provision was made for its amendment as the nation developed and conditions altered. It is quite easy to understand that, when the Prime Minister called the State Premiers together hurriedly, they had no time to consider what the Commonwealth Government desired. But what the right honorable gentleman did impress upon them was that he desired to repeat Lloyd George’s trick by hurrying forward the election. I believe that the results of the last elections in Great Britain axe the underlying cause of the present strike of railway men in that country. At the general elections Mr. Lloyd George’s party swept the polls; but the subsequent by-elections have shown a change of opinion on the part of the electors. The railway employees of Australia will increase in numbers and become a very important section of the industrial community. I can understand that Ministerial matters are in an awkward position. When the last Referendum Bills were introduced by a Labour Government, the then Leader of the OP position (Sir Joseph Cook) - a very cute politician - withdrew his supporters from the chamber rather than vote against the measures. Honorable members opposite are faced with the same dilemma to-day. If they vote against the inclusion of the railway servants, they will have a difficulty in explaining their position, and they -will do! much, to prevent the Bill being accepted by the people. I shall do nothing to prevent the passage of the Bill, because I am ready to accept even, the smallest addition to the powers of the Commonwealth. I look forward to the day when this Parliament will have greater powers, and be able to deal with all questions that arise, without being obliged to appeal to the people. Is there any honorable member who, at the commencement of Federation, dreamt that a Bill of this character would require to be submitted to a referendum of the people ?
What is the need for appointing a Convention to consider whether whatever powers are given to the Commonwealth on this occasion shall he continued ? We were prepared to trust the people on the occasion of the last referendum; we were quite content to accept the decision of an intelligent Democracy. The reason why the referenda questions were not agreed to in 1913 was that the people viewed the proposed amendments with some apprehension. It is a good thing that the people do not act hastily. I do not believe that any issue that is submitted to the people by referendum will be accepted on the first appeal ; the people will require to be educated to an understanding of the proposal before they will accept it. I understand that in Switzerland no referendum issue has been carried on its first submission. Honorable members must not think that, because the Referendum Bills were rejected in 1913, they will suffer the same fate on this occasion. This Bill considerably improves the prospects of the Labour party being returned to power in the Commonwealth Parliament, because the people do not trust those who’ are sitting on the Government benches to-day, and if they agree to an alteration of the Constitution they will feel more confident if the administration of the additional powers is in the hands of a Labour’ Government. They will know that they will not then’ have occasion to fear such tyrannical and extreme measures as were adopted ‘by the present Government under the War Precautions Act. Therefore, I feel that the people will vote to give the Commonwealth increased powers, and at the same time put the Labour party in office. I do not think there is a precedent in any part of the world for the curtailment of a debate on a proposed amendment of the Constitution. Nothing could affect more seriously the interests of the people, and every facility should be given for the fullest discussion. I have no confidence in the actions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) ; I have never abused him I have known him longer than any other honorable member in the House, but in regard to this matter he has not shown himself at his best. It is evident he is not confident of the result of the next election’, and he regards this Bill as a means to help him to save his political neck. I am confident that, when the appeal to the people is made, they will not support the right honorable gentle man, because they will fear that he is not sincere in his protestations.
– I call attention to the absence of a quorum. [Quorum formed]
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - ‘That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section 51 of the Constitution is altered by omitting from paragraph (xxxv.) the words “ Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State,” and inserting in their stead the words - “ Industrial matters, including -
the settlement of industrial disputes.”
– I move -
That the following new paragraphbe added : -
conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes in relation to employment in the railway service of a State.
I shall not elaborate the arguments I used this afternoon, but simply say that there is no reason for exempting the railway services from the operation of this Bill.
I trust that the good sense of Parliament will give the railway men of this country the same rights as are enjoyed by the rest of the community.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolvedin the negative.
.- The time allotted to the consideration of the motion for . the second reading of this Bill was so limited that I wish to avail myself of this opportunity to make a few observations regarding the measure. I agree with the proposition immediately before us, and with the Bill itself. I agree with anything of utility in the Bill, while anything in it that has no utility is equally valuable from a. political point of view. I am delighted with the process of conversion that has gone on during the last few years. It is delightful to find that so many honorable members opposite who, in the public interest, opposed these amendments of the Constitution in 1911, and again, in 1913, are today their most ardent supporters. Nothing is better calculated to justify the attitude of the Labour party in regard to the need for an amendment of the Constitution than is the fact that so many honorable members opposite who at that time opposed such amendments as being most inimical to the interests of the community, now cheerfully support them. The value of this Bill from a political point- of view is that it does not mean anything, and will- do no harm to any one. It has, indeed, a vital political value in that it will carry the Government over an election and show that they are progressive and anxious to secure the great era of peace for which we have all been devoutly wishing.
I know of no stronger criticism that could be levelled at this Bill than that which has been offered by the daily newspapers. They have shown, that, even if this Bill be indorsed by the people, nothing can be done until July next, and that some months after that date will have to elapse before any of these powers can be brought into operation. They have shown, further, that by the time that these powers can be brought into operation they will be dead. These amendments of the Constitution are to die a natural death, because even should they be accepted by the people, a Convention is to meet and decide what shall or shall not be done with the Constitution. If the Convention is not convened, then these powers will automatically lapse. ‘ We are to spend thousands of pounds on a referendum, we are to work up intense excitement amongst the people,’ to denounce profiteering, and then Parliament, after six months’ adjournment, is to meet, and, if we do anything”, we shall have to thank God that even a little is possible. The Convention that is provided for in this Bill is not bound to be called into existence, but if it is convened, it can upset even the massed vote of the people of Australia. It can render the decision of the people null and void.
This Bill comes too late. There was a time when the amendments of the Constitution for which it provides were regarded as imperative. There was a time when, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) “ has pointed out to the House and the country, peace was essential, and when it was necessary to solve industrial unrest and the dislocation of the people’s interests upon the fundamental rock of public robbery. The problem of public robbery, it was said, had to be solved. It ought to have been solved years ago. There was never a day nor an hour when that problem pressed itself upon us in a more marked degree” than it did when the war commenced. Five years have since gone by. During that five years we have put into the political dust-bin, and have ignored from day t» day, week to week, and month to month, every instrumentality by which we might have protected the people and given effect to some of the things that we are promising to carry out under this Bill. In the early days of 1915 I told the House and the country that, whether the war lasted three months or three years, I was satisfied that .neither the Labour Government, behind which I was then sitting, nor any Government that might follow it would use their powers for the annihilation of human liberty to protect the people against the profiteers who- are now being denounced. That prophecy has been fulfilled.
A few days ago the Age newspaper uttered a greater condemnation of the present Government than could come from any honorable member on this side. It gave voice to a stronger condemnation of them than I could utter if I were to continue speaking for an hour. It pointed out to the people of Australia, .if they had ears to heaT and eyes to see, a fact which no man can ignore. It showed that the Government had, and still have at the present time, vast powers. It showed that while the War Precautions Act and the regulations made Under it were still maintained for many purposes, in those directions in which they could be exercised to protect the public - where they might be utilized for some purpose of public good - the Government had swept them aside and had left the general public to the profiteers whom they now denounce. This is not my affirmation, or the affirmation of an extremist; it is the statement of the Age.
– That matter was left to the States to deal with.
– The honorable member is speaking of this Bill. I am referring to something else. It , is now too late to deal with these matters. We have not merely to consider the question of solving the industrial unrest that can be settled by arrangement. The principles before us are vaster and greater than anything that could be touched by this Bill. The evils which the Government could have solved last year cannot be solved next year. Australia, like the rest of the world, is face to face with problems to which the Prime Minister in the earlier part of this discussion referred. The future of this Australia- of ours is involved in the situation in Europe and America to-day. And the situation in Europe and America must inevitably be our situation next year. Our position is wholly and solely dependent upon the production of raw materials to supply the markets of the world. The markets of the world to-day where our raw materials are required are absolutely incapable of buying them. Europe is hungering for our raw materials; but its machinery is dislocated, worn out, and incapable of replacement. Many of its railroads have gone, the machinery in its mines is falling to pieces, and we are told that they are incapable of carrying on. So bad is the position that England cannot even produce as much galvanized iron as America can. America, we are told, has £600,000,000 worth of raw material in Europe, but cannot sell it. Sir John Paish, one of the greatest statisticians in the world, says that the food-producing countries can be kept from chaos and from dissolution in the immediate future only so far as they are able to. protect the great countries of Europe from absolute economic collapse. Hoover says that we are now face to face with the economic tyrants of the world, who can control the supplies on which the people live. Paish recommends that in order that Europe shall not be thrown into the melting pot by the instruments of hunger and unemployment, and the countries which produce the raw materials and the food saved from dissolution, a loan of £5,000,000,000 should be made by the United States of America. How does he propose to secure that loan? He wants America to subsidize Europe with food, machinery, plant, and other things of that character. He says to the Argentine, which is a foodproducing country and also produces many raw materials, “ Europe cannot buy these raw materials, and, therefore, you must help to finance Europe. You have not the money, but you must help to guarantee to the money market of the United States of America the interest on the money required.” To-day we see that the Argentine is advancing and subsidizing the markets in Europe to the extent of £40,000,000. Paish wants Australia, if it is to be saved from chaos in the immediate future, to guarantee immediately to the Americans the interest upon £50,000,000, which they are to advance.Frank Vanderbilt, of the National State Bank of New York, says the same thing. This is not the teaching of extremists, of Labourites, or of Socialists, but the greatest economists and financiers of the world, who see the world moving towards and being preci- pitated into a great chaos. The war of blood has produced an economic situation. How then can this tinkering, this trifling Bill solve the problem when men are walking about the streets of our cities looking for work? It mattersnot how much you regulate things, or how far you fix the rates of wages. The question is: How far shall prices themselves be restricted? And then, behind the wages and behind the prices, is the fundamental fact, with which you are coming face to face every day, that you must meet your enormous debts and obligations. You may levy another toll to-morrow to meet the crisis, but how far forward does that ‘bring you? We owe, according to the Prime Minister, a war debt of £364,000,000. To that must be added another £100,000,000 to produce the war pensions and our other obligations to the- soldiers. There is another £55,000,000 worth of Australian notes to be redeemed. All these things pile up and pile up, and the Government have not attempted to meet them. These are the- problems which confront our country, and this Bill is so much piffle.
In the year 1916, when the Prime Minister was in England, he went to the Imperial Council of Commerce. He said then, and I agree with him, “ Let us devise a policy which will ‘ cover every phase of our economic and social life.” We are not doing it. He said, “ Let us no longer pursue a policy of drift.” What else have we done ? He said, “ Let us set sail on a definite course.” Yes, and steer zig-zag! He said -
To postpone consideration of broad principles until after the war will make the possibility of a change of policy most remote.
That policy was good then, and sound. If we had a right to prepare for war, we had an equal right to prepare for peace. He has said: “We have formulated a clear and definite policy for the guidance of out country.” I affirm that, apart from the War Precautions Act and apart from this Bill, there never was a day or hour in the history of this country that we have not had all the authority we require, under the Constitution, with its power of licence, and1 of limitation, and of taxation, but especially its power of licence. If we could go into Tasmania and regulate Tattersalls, we could go into every other State and regulate every monopoly that was preying on the vitals of the people. If it was good policy to use a public instrumentality to suppress a concern in which the people were gambling, it was good policy to use it to deal with every other institution that wa3 acting in a way injurious to the public weal. But we have never done, and have never intended to do it, because down at the very root of all these things are the rival interests of the community. The Prime Minister said : “ We must work together. Capital and labour must come together.” How, I ask him, can conflicting interests come together? The man who carries on a big industry, out of which he made £10,000 a year before the war, is determined to make £10,000 a year out of it now, because he regards that as a decent return upon his capital. If you load him with £10,000 of taxation, up go his prices, in order that he may have his ordinary modicum of profit, apart from profiteering, and merely that he may be able to secure what he regards as normal interest on the capital he has invested.. He transfers the burden to somebody else. So it is with the producer of raw material, the manufacturer, and the wholesaler. All these burdens are laid eventually upon the consumer of the product, so that he finds, whatever his earning power is, that his social situation as a human being is infinitely worse. The country cannot possibly escape this situation. Inchcape, Curzon, Booth of the Cunard; in fact, every great capitalist in the world, apart from all shades of politics, is looking forward with great trepidation to the economic future. It surely becomes the duty of the Government to’ face that situation, and to ask itself what it is going to do, apart from mere palliatives, which do no more than touch the surface of things. In this situation something has to go. Either labour must go down into the cesspool, work harder, take less, and do as Lloyd George and Inchcape indicated, when they said that “ the standard of life must be reduced,” or as Lloyd George said in the early part of the war, “ All great wars are inevitably bound to produce misery and stagnation.” Of course, it afterwards became criminal to say that, but the world recognises to- . day that either labour must be subordinated, and go down and pay the penalty, or the penalty must be paid by the great wealthy classes. Neither side will do it. The workman will not go back into the pit. The capitalist will not take less, profit. Somebody has to pay the penalty of the war. Either you must get more wealth out of the workmen in the mill or the factory in order to pay the bondholder, or the capitalist must pay. The capitalist says that if the burden is allotted to him he will pass it on to somebody else. One or the other must pay, and if nobody pays an economic crisis is bound to come. The country cannot possibly avoid the situation.
Probably when our pre-war debts and our war debts are added together, we shall find that £30,000,000 worth of the actual productions of Australia have to go oversea to pay the foreign bondholder. Our total exports are something like £70,000,000 per annum, so that roughly, to-day onethird of the total production of the country has to be sent overseas to meet our interest burden. That is inevitable. Yet the Government say that they will have no policy of reconstruction, but will retain the existing system, simply try to gloss over the difficulty, and make things pleasant. That policy is bound to create more and more conflict between the rival interests in the community, and there can be no peace. If you load the man who carries on an industry with £10,000 or £20,000 of interest, he must either pay it and earn less, in which case his industry is no good to. him, or he must try to get more out of his workmen. Somebody must pay the penalty, and yet the Government want to maintain the existing system. Australia, it has been said, is as immense as the United States. It has an insignificant population, smaller than that of New Y’ork, and little more than half that of -London. To a very large extent its immense territory is not utilized, and yet monopoly is rampant in it. They fake their statistics; they do all sorts of things, but the fundamental fact remains that two-thirds of the population of Australia have no proprietary interest in the lands, the domiciles, or the industries of the country in which they live. That is the outstanding fact produced by the present system, but what are the Government doing? What do either the States or the Federation propose to do in connexion with the land question alone? Nothing ! What do they propose to do in connexion with the great trusts ? Nothing ! What do they propose to do regarding the great monopolies ? Either the profits of those industries must pour into the public exchequer, the great financial institutions and corporations themselves must be utilized as public utilities, and capital and labour must be brought into harmonious relations, or we musthave all the evil effects of clashing interests.
I look on this Bill as nothing - as so much rubbish. It is valuable from a political point of view, because it will carry the Government over the elections.
– Will it?
– I think it will.
– It is extremely doubtful.
– I hope the Government are there after the elections. for the simple reason that they will- then have the benefit of what comes afterwards. . It will be theirs to carry the responsibility. The Prime Minister said something about the gentlemen on this side. Some of those on that side are smiling. I should like to remind them that when the Prime Minister waved hie hand, he did not look at them, but the wave of his hand included them. They were his humble followers, his satellites. They, too, hung upon his lips. Some of them followed him most docilely. So I would ask the Prime Minister, as a favour, next time he is saying anything about the people on this side, to please turn round and look at some . of those on his own side. When he is making his bitter denunciations of those of us who sit here, will he kindly have a look at the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), and atthe gentleman who is sitting next to him.
– I did not advocate conscription in here, and then get out. That is what you did.
– The honorable member is very angry, is he not? I only asked the Prime Minister to look round at those honorable members and say to himself, “ These also were mine, like the corn in the valley, and the silver in the mine.” They, too, were all his to dangle on the string at that dear time, and all equally useful.
– We will stick by him.
– My experience of the honorable member is that he would stick to anything. How long he will be able to stick to his seat, God only knows !
– Somebody will go one better than you yet, so look out.
– The honorable member has tried it once or twice, but failed miserably.
I shall support this Bill. I shall walk on to the public platform and ‘ say I support it. None will be more willing than myself to describe to the public the change of attitude of a number of gentlemen who opposed us previously, and said that we were trying to push the country over a precipice. None will be more glad than myself to point out the wonderful conversions that have taken place. I shall mention the honor- ‘ able member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) and the farmers’ representative from the Grampians (Mr. Jowett).
– With his £15,000 in the war loans.
– Not £15,000 from his stations, but from his farms. He is not a member of the Farmers’ Union as a financier. He does not represent the farmers, as a contributor to the funds of his country at 41/2 per cent, free of income tax. He does not represent the agricultural population, of Australia as the holder of fifty-four sheep stations and the owner of 5,000,000 or. 6,000,000 sheep. He represents the farmers as a genuine grower, of wheat. I do not say that he grows it upon a large scale. He is a genuine miniature farmer. If he does not use agricultural implements, he is expert in producing wheat upon a small scale in his back garden. Probably his wheat grows side by side with his roses. Whatever he is, we see in him the newest convert to the process of securing industrial peace throughout the world. We will carry this Bill. It will go to the country, and it will be carried unanimously, because the mass of the people will believe that they are going to get something - although they will get it not. The other party will be absolutely confident that it means nothing, and contains no risk to them, so that they will support it. Then we shall adjourn happily until six months after the election, and during that strenuous six months wa shall do an immense task for our beloved country, by legislating from little seaside villas. Meanwhile the . profiteer will be gathering his harvest. Of course, the Prime Minister will pursue him ferociously from every public platform, but while’ he is talking the profiteeer will be carrying on his “honest” operations. Could any one be more anxious than this body of legislators to meet and pass a Referendum Bill and do something ? But even if we do we shall not meet until July next, and then what shall we deliberate upon; what will be the character of our legislation ? How brilliant will be our effort when we meet again, and Bills are presented for the purpose of bringing about industrial* peace, that blessed and ever-enduring peace about which the right honorable gentleman has spoken so often. When we have climbed out of the pit and got into those green pastures about which he held forth in Perth, we shall have fifty-six regulations submitted to us in the first Bill. God knows what it will be; we do not; but, at any rate, we shall discuss it in the interests of our country.
The Bill before us to-day is an emergency measure. It is so absolutely imperative to push on with it as earnestly as possible that we have applied the closure to it; we have carried it through the first-reading and the second-reading stages, and the Committee stage-, and the third reading must be concluded within a few minutes from now. Everything must go through. I guarantee that the Bill which comes before the next Parliament will be equally as urgent. If it is urgent to pass this Bill in such a hurry, if it is imperative in the interests of the country that we should do so, because everything hangs on the passage of the Bill to-night - if we do not pass it we cannot have the election at the specified time - how much more important will it be when the next Parliament meets to pass the legislation introduced to check profiteering with the same amount of urgency? But will the Government say, “ Gentlemen, the profiteer is alive in the country pursuing his depredations and dishonest practices. There can be no time for consideration of this Bill. You must swallow it within three or four hours ‘ ‘ ? No ! I guarantee that every line in that Bill will be perused day after day, ‘ and week after week, from July, well on to .September. When it is finally passed by this House we can wait until the cows! come home, and until the day of judgment, to see it put into force. Even when the Bill has gone through the Senate in the same slow process it will probably be found that the Convention has not met, and if by any chance the Convention does not meet, all these powers will lapse, and honorable members opposite can say, “Thank God! If the Labour party ever get here they can do no harm.”
I congratulate the Ministry upon their marvellous achievement, and on this exhibition of the most rapid legislative work that any Parliament has undertaken during the five years of the war. Never have Ministers been so vigorous, or so much in earnest over legislation, than they are now in forcing a measure through’ by means of the guillotine on the eve of an election just to show the people how anxious they are to accomplish something for the public good. And the poor devils, for the most part, will swallow it!
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have been twitted with not having the courage of my opinions because I am sitting behind a Prime Minister who has done so much in the Old World for
Australia, and I hope will yet live to see the day in which he will do much more for it. I follow him on this occasion because I believe that not only the clauses already agreed to, but also thi3 particular clause will be in the interests of the workers of the whole of Australia, and in the interests of this great country, and because I know that the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Hughes) has done more to improve the conditions of the workers of Australia than has the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), from whom we get nothing but words and beautiful platitudes. I remember one gentleman who said, “ We must have conscription to save this Empire.” Who was he? He was the honorable member for Bourke. But what did he say when the acid was put on him outside? He twisted. I did not twist when the acid was put on me.
– Order!’ The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– Why do I still follow the Prime Minister, particularly in regard to this measure? Because I believe that he will carry out what he says he will do. Let me quote the words of a gentleman who was speaking recently in a rather aristocratic quarter of his constituency, an atmosphere different from that in which he spoke to-night, and from that in which he sometimes moves. I make this quotation to prove that I am supporting the right man. The Northcote Leader of the 17th September contained the following paragraph : - “ The idol of the Parisian populace,” is how Mr. Anstey described Mr. Hughes at the great Peace Conference. He wielded a mighty influence amongst “ the heads “ in England, too, according to Mr. Anstey. Mr. Larkin, Controller of the Commonwealth shipping, had told him that when they made difficulties about his ships, the- threat to go across to Paris and “ tell Mr. Hughes about it “ ended the trouble. “ He was a great man when he was with us” further commented Mr. Anstey; and he left it to be inferred that he did not think the leopard had changed his spots, so far as ability was concerned.
That is the honorable member’s opinion of a gentleman he has so bitterly criticised to-night, and whom he says we should not follow because he does not carry out his promises. We see how this honorable member changes his views ac cording to the atmosphere in which he is speaking. What I said before I repeat now, that it is in the interests of the workers of Australia that I should follow the Prime Minister.
– I am amused when I hear the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith). On the first occasion on which I heard him he was addressing the workers of Hobart, and his language was something after this style -
How long have we built houses we do not live in ? ‘ How long have we made clothes we do not wear ? How long have we built railways and worked them, and yet are not allowed to -ride on them?
Now, the honorable member is keeping company with those gentlemen who wear the pants, live in the houses, and ride in the first-class railway carriages.
– I notice the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not ride second class’.
– I pot the white when- it suits me to do so, and when it suits me to do so I travel second class. During this debate the honorable member for Denison has tried to score off honorable members of the Opposition by making statements which he had to stretch his imagination a great deal to believe were true. He claimed that there was no keenness on the part of honorable members of the Opposition to include railway employees. The Prime Minis,ter (Mr. Hughes) has made the same statement. What .are the facts? It is certainly true that the Prime Minister did try to prevent the inclusion of railway employees of the States, because he claimed that it would overburden the Bill to include them. The Prime Minister gave away some Caucus secrets to-day. Why should I not do so? What he said was true information was not true information. He gets up in the House and makes statements, and thinks that the people will believe him. I can assure him that they will not do so. The very fact that he showed no keen desire for the inclusion of railway servants on the previous occasion, and has agreed to omit them on this occasion, is sufficient proof that he never intended to include them. At that famous Caucus meeting in 1915, . when we accepted the withdrawal of the Referendum Bills, it” was he, with his gullible style - I wish I could imitate it - who pointed out what the Premiers had promised, and that it was no use our fighting the question. In that way he secured a majority of the Caucus, yet now he claims that it was the party who did it. The honorable member for Denison says that we afterwards came to the chamber and did not say a word against the withdrawal of those Bills. The honorable member knows very well that once a matter is settled in Caucus an honorable member dare not oppose it in the House, just as the fate of this Bill was settled in Caucus on Tuesday last, and honorable members behind the Government dare not say a word in protest.
– In 1915 the matter was agreed to with the State Premiers before the Prime Minister went to the Caucus meeting.
– Quite so. Is the Prime Minister prepared to trust the State Premiers who turned him down in 1915 ? He knows they are absolutely giving away nothing. Honorable members say that we ought to give credit to the State Premiers, because they are giving away some of their powers. They are not their powers. The constituents of this Chamber are the constituents of the State Legislative Assembly, and the State Premiers have nothing to give away. The rights which the States are surrendering are the rights of the people, who are also our people. When the Prime Minister makes statements that are not correct for the sake of getting laudation from his own side, he is playing the game very low. However, when the time comes, we shall see how the railway men, who will suffer under this proposal, as they have suffered in the past, without any hope of getting redress for their grievances, will treat men like the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) and the honorable member for Deni son.
– I want to draw the attention of the railway men I represent to the threat just thrown out by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). Now I can understand why this amendment has been moved, not in the interests of the railway men, but simply, as the honorable member admits indirectly, in order to put the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) and myself in a hole. At any time the Government bring down a measure to include railway men I shall heartily . support it. But after hearing the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) this afternoon, who could support such an amendment when we know that it would mean the rejection of the Bill by the people?
– Order!’ The time allotted for the Committee stage of the Bill has expired .
– May I move that clause 6 be struck out?
– The honorable’ member may not do that.
Question - That clauses, 4, 5, and 6, the preamble, and title be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 47
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- As I predicted, the Bill has reached the thirdreading stage without any amendment. Provisions which the State Premiers and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) agreed to at a secret conference should have been omitted. I regret . that honorable members opposite have seen fit to vote against the inclusion in the Bill of one ‘ of the most important bodies of servants in Australia. I also regret that we had no opportunity of recording a vote on clause 6. I again place on record the fact that I was opposed to that clause, but, owing to the operation of the guillotine, I had either to vote against the clauses which’ I considered beneficial in order to show my opposition to clause 6, or vote for all of them. The limitation imposed by clause 6 makes the Bill absolutely valueless. It is well known that the reason why the Bill is being guillotined through the House is that the Government have determined to hold the elections on the 13th December, and they must get this Bill through the Senate next week in order that the two months prescribed by the Constitution may elapse before it is submitted to the people. The Government have a majority in another place, and, having seen the way that they have bludgeoned the Bill through this House, I realize that it is quite possible for them to do the same in the Senate to-morrow. The Prime Minister has told us that there is to be a second . Referendum Bill, but so far we have not been given the remotest idea of its contents. I suppose that it will be submitted to the people at the same time as the other measures. Therefore it, too, must pass through both Houses, before the 10th of October, in order that an election may take place while the Prime Minister thinks the flowing tide is with him. It is quite possible that the honorable gentleman will find that the tide is flowing, not exactly in the direction he thinks it is. Although he has been able to persuade men like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith), the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner), to follow him religiously in this matter-
– That statement is not correct.
– Those honorable members said not a word against the measure, but sat here as dumb as the animals . in which some of them are interested. They took no notice of what the Prime Minister said ; every honorable member voted solidly to pass the Bill through the House in the time specified.
– I did not vote. I left the chamber. The honorable member’s statement is incorrect.
– It may be incorrect regarding the honorable member’s vote, but it is correct in so far as the honorable member did not offer one word of ‘protest against the Bill. He has swallowed blindly and dumbly everything the Prime Minister has said. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), the honorable member for Parkes(Mr. Bruce Smith), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly), the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), followed the Prime Minister blindly, relying on his promise to them that the Bill is absolutely useless.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member, for Yarra has stated that certain honorable members followed me blindly and dumbly, relying on my promise that the Bill was absolutely, useless. That statement is distinctly out of order and quite untrue, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot’
Johnson). - I have no doubt the honorable member for Yarra will correct his statement if it was erroneous, now that the right honorable the Prime Minister has taken exception to it, but I remind the Prime Minister that if he desires to correct a misrepresentation he must do so by personal explanation later, and not interrupt another honorable member’s speech in order to do so.
– Whether or not the Prime Minister made that promise, I have no doubt a trained legal gentleman like the honorable member for Parkes can see that the Bill is useless.
– I rise to a point of order. I would be glad if the reflection cast upon myself and certain other honorable gentlemen on this side of the House were withdrawn. It is quite without justification. I suppose the honorable member has to make such statements, in the absence of Mr. Ryan, but in any case his allegation is without foundation.
– If the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra are regarded as a reflection upon honorable members on the Government side, I ask him to withdraw them.
– I intended no reflection whatever on any of those honorable gentlemen. If they ‘ feel hurt by my statement that they followed the Prime Minister dumbly in regard to this measure, I am quite willing to withdraw it.
– That is not the statement of which I complained.
– I regret that we have not been able to make this Bill a practicable measure. Had it been possible to devote to it an ordinary amount of time, so that the various amendments could have been discussed, and had members been free of their “arty pledges, and not bound by the vote recorded up-stairs, we should have produced ^ a much better measure than the Bill that is to be submitted to .the people. I regret that this measure is not one under which it will be possible to curb the profiteer in any shape ot form. It is merely a bit of camouflage, representing the .Prime Minister’s last throw in a political gamble. He hopes to persuade the people that they were deceived in 1915, when the Premiers refused to grant the powers asked; but the Bill, if passed in its present form, will only be provocative of industrial unrest, in view of the fact that one of the largest bodies of workmen in the country is prohibited from . taking advantage of it. These men will be driven to direct action instead of being able to appeal to the Arbitration Court, as they have been advised to do by honorable members opposite. I regret that it is impossible to vote on clause 6, which I consider to be the greatest blot on the Bill.’
– The concluding remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) practically give a “ lead “ to the railway employees to adopt direct action, and the .suggestion ‘ thus thrown out may be adopted by them. Suggestions of this kind from either side of the House can do no good; and, in any case, I- think the exclusion- of the railway men is sound policy. There is much truth in the old English practice of not going for too much, for a great deal can be gained by compromise. Honorable members opposite will never attain anything, for it is their characteristic to bang their heads against a wall.
The railway men were, included in the first referendum proposals, and showed their gratitude by voting in the negative, as a reference to the figures will show; at any rate, that was so in my State, and I think in
Victoria. As to the second referendum, the reply of the railway men might be described as a very attenuated one. The Government are anxious to have power to control trade and commerce, and if we can disarm our opponents by accepting a Bill of this character, we shall have taken a very substantial’ step. That, together with the assurance . that the matter will be further considered, is, I think, one of the reasons why the wing of the old Liberal party on this side give the measure their support.
I respectfully ask the railway men not to adopt direct action. A time may come when the people will think it desirable that this Commonwealth Parliament should control the whole of the railways. That will not happen in my time, though it may come to pass in the time of some, of the younger members. The railways at present are under the control of the State Governments and Parliaments, who find the wages, fix the rates, and are responsible for all the liabilities. Under the circumstances, there is much to be said in favour of their having full control, as at present; but if, with the sanction of the people, the Commonwealth were to take over the railways, then their inclusion in a measure of this kind would be perfectly logical. In Victoria there is no necessity for direct action on the part of the railway employees, seeing that there is a State Parliament sitting in Melbourne, and a Labour party, which provides one-third of the members of that Parliament. Can any honorable member who has been in public life for twenty years believe in the stupid, hypocritical yarn that this Labour party can do nothing for the railway men? A party which provides one-third of the members of a Parliament must, if it has any brains, obtain a great deal, if not the whole, of what the railway men desire. The Labour members in the State Parliament, however, are more interested in the abolition of State Governors, or the vaccination of cats, than in matters which affect their own constituents. If the railway men of Victoria, or any of the States, feel disposed to take direct action, they are to be condemned, for they are now in possession of political power; and I have been in politics long enough to know that consistent pressure by a strong party is bound to have its influence on any Government.
However, one of the chief objects of the Bill is to give the Commonwealth Government control of trade and commerce, and if we obtain that control it will mean much. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) possesses brilliant talents and eloquence, but his speech of to-night was such as any one can make. We all know the present situation, with the shortage of production in Europe and scarcity of food and raw materials. Is there anything that we can do to increase production and mitigate that unrest? Given the power, there is no reason why this Parliament should not do all that is humanly possible to solve the present industrial difficulties; but they will never be solved by preaching class hatred. Direct action, which I have never advocated, means, logically, armed force and civil war. We must either have government through the ballot-box or ‘ this armed force; and the supporters of direct action, while not believing in militarism, seldom condemn force, and give a pretty clear indication of what a certain section of the community ought to do in order to attain their ends.
In my time I have said some very stiff things about the capitalist, and I cannot say that what I said was not true; but if the capitalist were ten’ times worse than he is said to be, there is no reason for the feud to be carried on for ever. Some 60,000 of our men have lost their lives during the last few years, and if ever there was a time when, regardless of our prejudices of the past, we should join hands and co-operate in gathering up the threads of civilization and order, it i6 the present. This would be a far better policy than a continuation of the class war. We cannot afford to follow the example set in other parts of the world; indeed, there is no excuse in Australia, which is the freest of countries. In a few weeks every man and woman will have it in their power to’ decide who shall rule the destinies of Australia. There may be excuses for stronger action on the part of the people in England, but we in Australia have never had the drab lives of our English brethren. We all admit that the high cost of living has pressed very hard on the poorer classes of the community; and I believe that every member on this side of the House is supporting the Bill in order that there may be .power to deal with profiteering on its merits, quite apart from electioneering or political objects. The people outside very properly look to us to give them a lead, and we ought to be the last men to furnish or keep . back information so as to obscure their clear and conscientious view of the position. It may be said that amongst the people there are strong prejudices in connexion with profiteering and so forth, but it does not become public men to pander, to the prejudice and ignorance of those who are suffering from high prices. Honorable members opposite may build up class hatred until they get to hell, but I shall be no party to it. I am more concerned about the welfare of the workers than of any other section of ‘the community, and, without any desire to injure the rich man, I am as anxious as ever to protect their interests. Honorable members opposite continue to. harp on the question of profiteering.
– The honorable member and his little “ digger “ friend will be going round with an organ during the next few weeks playing the same tune.
– The result of the election will show that I have as many “ digger “ friends as has any honorable member opposite. While this Bill does not go as far as I should like it to go, it represents a substantial gain’, and I congratulate the Government on its introduction, because it has true regard to the old British principle of evolution. We and our fathers before us have gained on such lines all that we enjoy to-day. While we have been unable to secure all that we wanted, we have been prepared to compromise, and we have ultimately gained what we sought in the first instance.
.- I shall vote against the third reading of this Bill because it does not provide that State railway servants shall be allowed to go to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. It has been said that railway employees can avail themselves of the State Arbitration Courts; but the railway men of New South Wales have no faith in the State Court. The fact that there has been quite recently a general strike among the railway employees of New South Wales shows that they have no faith in it. The Nationalist Government, led by Mr. Holman, has placed on the State Arbitration Court Bench a young brood of industrial lawyers whose appointments have been due to social influence. The Judges avail themselves of every opportunity to insult the worker. Judge Curlewis, for instance, who was appointed because his wife was -very, friendly with Mrs. Holman, never loses an opportunity to insult and lecture the workers who come before him. The recent bread strike in Sydney was due to his stupidity.’ The day-baking system had been firmly established, but when the men went back to the Court for a renewal of the union’s, award, or to secure certain improved conditions, Judge Curlewis ordered a reversion to the system of night baking. The result was that we had a strike in Sydney, and people, because of Judge Curlewis’ stupidity, had to line up in the streets and wait for hours for a supply of bread. Judge Bollins also insults and lectures the workers whenever they appear before him. He looks upon them as loafers and robbers.
– The seamen practically struck against Mr. Justice Higgins.
– Quite so. One can well understand the State railway employees desiring equal opportunities with other men to go to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Why should they be unable to do so? The railway servants of the several States have federated, and their interests are identical, so that a grievance amongst railway men in one State is likely to affect those in the other States. It is because of the danger of a general strike that we urge that these men should be allowed to go to the Commonwealth Court for the redress of their grievances. Our sole desire is to prevent the spread of industrial trouble, and I fail to see why the representatives of the farming or any other interests should object to the Commonwealth Court being open for the settlement of any dispute amongst State railway employees.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) told us this afternoon that every one of the State Premiers objected to such a grant of power.
– Who are the State Premiers ? They are elected only for the time being, and they and the State Parliaments have not consulted their electors on this question. I understand that the State Premier* were asked to agree to the
Senate being sent to the country at the same time as the House of Representatives. That is a matter for which the State Governments must arrange. The Senate, being a States House, can be sent to the country only with the consent of the States.
– The Constitution so provides. The exclusion of State railway employees from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court casts a direct slight upon them. Are they less intelligent than any other section of the community ? Why should they be excluded because they are State employees, when we allow public servants in the Postal, Customs, and other Departments, and the members of every outside union, to appeal to the Federal Court? If that Court were clothed with greater powers, there would be fewer strikes. The Federal Arbitration Court Judges treat with respect all who come before them, and, in consequence, have the respect of the whole community.” A Court which has the respect of the community must exercise a great influence in the prevention of strikes.
– Then how does the honorable member account for the seamen’s strike ? ‘
– Because they were led’ by men who believe in direct action. Had the seamen gone to the Commonwealth Court, I believe the strike would have been prevented, or, at all events, its duration would have been considerably shortened. All over the country there is a growing feeling that direct action offers the speediest means of securing redress of grievances. In the State Arbitration Courts, the lawyers talk for hours, even on minor points, and in that way the country and the unions are put to much unnecessary expense. Until we rid our Arbitration Courts of the lawyers, we shall not have complete satisfaction. The delays that take place in connexion with the hearing of plaints are due largely to the fact that there is too much of the wig-and-gown - too much red tape - in the Arbitration Courts. I look forward to the time when the Labour party will be in power, and lawyers will be excluded from the Court. When that is done, the workers will have more confidence in it.
– Delays did not occur in the New South Wales Arbitration Court when the honorable member was one of those who presided over it.
– In those days the Court had merely reached its preliminary stages. I know of unions which have been waiting for twelve months to have their plaints heard. How can we expect men to wait so long for the redress of grievances while the cost of living is steadily going up. I do not blame some of those who resort to direct action, because they cannot afford to wait months to have their’ claim for an increase of wages settled by an Arbitration Court.
I object entirely to the third reading of this Bill, because it is a direct slap at State railway servants. The Government have taken care to secure the support of the State Premiers, but they would have more reason to expect to carry these proposed amendments of the Constitution if they had behind. them the support of the railway men. By their refusal to extend the jurisdictionof the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to the State railway employees they are making enemies of 60,000 railway workers and their friends.
– Has the honorable member any authority for saying that the State railway employees desire the right to go to the Federal Court?
– In my State they do.
– Then they have changed their views since the last referendum was taken.
– ‘They have, because, under the present State Government’s regime they have been victimized and penalized. I had hoped that the Government would provide in this Bill for an amendment of the Constitution enabling them to appeal to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and since they have not done so I shall vote against the third reading of it.
– I have been very much interested in the references made by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) to the various systems of arbitration that we have in operation in Australia. As most honorable members are aware, the honorable member was connected with what I believe was a very effective form of arbitration in New South Wales, and while he says that it merely blazed the trail, he must admit that it did good work. The tribunal of which he was a member consisted of a Judge as chairman, with a representative of the workers and a representative of the employers. That form of arbitration has been in . operation in Western Australia for many years, and has settled innumerable disputes between employers and employees. At this very moment the railway employees of Western Australia have a plaint before the State Arbitration Court.No decision has yet been given, and I cannot say what the result will be; but from my experience of the working of the Arbitration Court system of Western Australia, I am satisfied that any legitimate grievance under which the railway men are labouring will be solved by the Court to their satisfaction. It was for that reason that I asked the honorable member for South Sydney, by way of interjection, whether he had a mandate to speak for the railway men.
– I have received resolutions carried by a conference of railway men in this State, and telegrams from railway men in other States, excluding Western Australia, urging that they should be allowed to go to the Commonwealth Court.
– I was referring particularly to the attitude of the railway men in Western Australia. Before I entered this House I was employed for many years in the Government Railway Service of Western Australia, and unless I am much mistaken, the feeling of the men there is one of satisfaction with the actual operation of the State Arbitration Court. Even under such a system of arbitration, however, we have had delays in the hearing of plaints. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), during the debate in Committee, singled me out for special comment in regard to the vote I had given on this question of railway control, but I am quite prepared to explain to those whom I have the privilege of representing my vote on this and every other subject. I was very much astonished during the recent divisions to find that the Opposition, by their vote, objected to the second clause.
– With the proviso in, yes.
– They had the opportunity of striking out that proviso, but failed. Although most of them had voted for the second reading, they voted against the trade and commerce clause.
– With the proviso.
– They voted against the whole clause, although they had already registered their objection to a part of it. Then they expect to deal with profiteering, and all the ramifications of trade. I am inclined to think that honorable members on that side will have infinitely more difficulty in explaining away that vote than any honorable member on this side will have to explain his vote. I should not have quoted these two things but for the fact that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) twitted me with a vote which I had given or was likely to give. I rose to explain to the House the situation in Western Australia and to remind honorable members that, while there may be railway employees in different parts of Australia who specially desire to come under the Federal Arbitration Court, the Railway Union in Western Australia is at present appearing before the State Arbitration Court. That should be a clear indication of the views and feelings of the railway employees of Western Australia.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) does not seem to recognise that his vote puts a bar against any of the railway men in his State having the right to go to a Court.
– No, they are before a Court now.
– They cannot go to the Federal Arbitration Court.
– ‘Would his vote have given them the opportunity to go?
- His vote would have helped to carry it if we had had enough. The railway men in Victoria have been vilely treated. Sir William Irvine, who was a keen follower of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and left this House to be graced with a wig from the tail of a horse, and whose successor, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), is also a follower of the Prime Minister, robbed the railway men of Victoria of their votes. The railway men objected strongly to the way in which this was done. The Government party now tell the railway men throughout Aus tralia, “ This Commonwealth Court of Arbitration is closed to you; you are not fit to enter it.” That is what that vote means. Those 60,000 men, among whom are many of the most keen and intelligent minds in the community, travel all over the country, and will tell the people everywhere how they have been treated, and the infamy of debarring them from going to the Court will sink into the minds of the people. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) spoke about the British example. It is said in England that when justice is refused to any body of people, it tends to make them revolt. It was in that sense that my Leader (Mr. Tudor) said that the vote taken in this House meant almost compelling the railway men of this country to resort to direct action. ‘ No man can ever say that I have advocated direct action..
– The British railway men voted against arbitration.
– No railway man in England ever had a vote on the score of manhood before this war. If there was in England an Arbitration Court as there is in Australia, they would be glad to go to it. Our Arbitration Court has faults. There is terrible expense and delay in approaching it. Any tramway employee in Melbourne will tell you that it cost them many thousands of pounds, collected in shillings and sixpences, to go to that Court. But they were not forbidden to go. No honorable member opposite can name any body of men or women who have not the right to go to it, except the railway men, of whom the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) was at one time a colleague.
I was disappointed that I could not move an amendment toinclude the power to make laws for the purpose of carrying out the principle of the initiative and referendum. That has been adopted by the National Association of Victoria. I believe all the members of that party would possibly have voted for my amendment, unless they were deceived by the not too truthful promises made by the Prime Minister. When he, as he thought, “ let the cat out of the bag,” I never heard such a misrepresentation of fact as left his lips. He had the audacity to say that we wanted to keep the railway men out of the Bill in 1915. He had to use all his persuasive powers, backed up. by the distinct promise of every State Premier that they would carry our proposals into law, in order to get us to agree not to push those constitutional alterations at that time. We were fooled.
– Where did he do that?
– In the Caucus. Only one of those six Premiers kept that pledge; only two tried to do so. My belief, and I say this in sober earnest, is that the Prime Minister was party to that in order to deceive his followers. It is said that if Ananias had lived long enough he might possibly have told the truth before he handed in his checks. The most . crooked nian can sometimes go straight. If the Prime Minister is going straight on the profiteering question, he will have my full support; if he goes straight in the matter of bringing in a proper Tariff, as has been promised year after year, he will have my full support also. Why has he not been man enough, when putting this Bill before us, to do what he promised in the pamphlet he issued on the 16th September, 1915? These are his words -
How can a referendum upon the proposed amendments of the Constitution necessary to give the people more power to protect themselves, be a party question? . . . The Labour party will, before using any of the new powers, pass the Initiative and Referendum Bill, which gives the electors power tc veto any measure of which they do not approve. That is the final and complete answer to all such criticism.
If the Prime Minister had introduced that proposal on this occasion, he would “have had: me as a loyal follower, and the heartfelt support of every member of the National Association of Victoria, which adopted the initiative and referendum as a plank of its platform. He would have made a great name for himself as the first to take this step. He would have carried out what I thought in 1915 he honestly believed in ; and I have yet to learn that he has changed his opinion. He would have given the people who create this Parliament the power to direct its legislation. If the people outside had the power to control prices, what member of this House would refuse to put down profiteering? Every woman who goes to the shops knows that prices are beyond her means. Any mother of a family, who has to meet the bills of a house hold, will tell you that, as the pound is now able to buy only 12s. 6d. worth of food, she cannot make ends meet. The old-age pensioners are striving to exist on 1.2s. 6d. a week, but week after week passes and we do nothing to help these people. I received a letter to-day from Mrs. Keily, of Corowa, enclosing a sample of coarse brown sugar, the kind that used to be sent to the stations in the old days at £7 a ton. This, she says, they are being charged for at 4d. a lb., although I understand that the fixed price is 3£d. for the best white sugar. They are being threatened that if something is not dene soon they will have to pay 8d. per lb. for it. Throughout the whole category of necessaries, there is not one article on which the people are not being robbed. Yet I could not get a division on the question of giving the people the power of the initiative and referendum. Perhaps it is as well. Perhaps the Ministerial Caucus has decided that no amendments are to be accepted. If the Prime Minister had proposed it, he would have had the whole of the members on this side behind him, together with all his late followers who signed the pledge in support of it, and the whole of the Victorian members of the National Party, which adopted it. Then the people, who are the creators of this Parliament, would have had control of it. Under the present system, we, the created thing called Parliament, are giving the people outside, by our kind, permission, the right on one day of the year to create a new Parliament. After that we can do nothing, because the new senators who are elected cannot take their places in the Senate until next July. That has not been contradicted by anyhonorable member opposite. There is only one way out of the difficulty, and that is for the Government to issue regulations to put down the infamy of profiteering. Good luck to them if they do! However, nobody has told us what is proposed to be done in the interval between 13 th December and the following July. The power given by the War Precautions Act will have gone. I know that we are to have a glorified Commission, called a Convention. A witty philosopher once wrote -
If God Almighty had placed the making of the- earth in the hands of a Commission, it would never have been built.
When every Ministry is in a hole, or is anxious to waste time, it places matters in the hands of Commissions. The Victorian State Government has referred the question of profiteering to a Commission, in which very few people had faith. However, that Commission has been doing good work, and has submitted a report, although six weeks have gone by and no action has been taken upon it. ‘If that great being who resides at Government House - the Governor-General - does not call together this glorified Commission, camouflaged under the name of a Convention, the powers given under this Bill will end in twelve months. Taney having a Constitution for a continent, and altering it. and limiting the alteration to twelve months ! If the people outside had the power of initiative, no one could complain;, because when they had created this Parliament they could make it do its duty.
– It is abundantly evident that this measure is to be the vital cry of the next election. All the sins, defalcations, maladministration, and charges of failure to do things that can be levelled against the Government are to be camouflaged by this cry that the Government are anxious to do something, but that their powers are so severely limited that they are unable to do it; that as the War Precautions Act has lapsed, and as the powers given by the Constitution are so limited, nothing remains but for the people, if they want something done, to -give the Commonwealth power to do it. I shall hail the opportunity of fighting the election on this issue. On the occasion of the two previous referendums, and on the third occasion when, at the last moment, the appeal to the people was withdrawn, I supported enthusiastically every proposal for the amendment of the Constitution in the direction suggested, and I am in favour of some of the proposals in the Bill before us, just as enthusiastically as I was on the previous occasion; but clause C determines my attitude towards the Bill, because the price we are asked to pay for the measure is more than I am willing to give. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has told us. that this is the price he had to pay to remove the opposition, and cancel the antagonism of the State Premiers when he met them the other day. He has told us that they were against any proposal .to amend the Constitution, but that when the suggestion was put forward that a time limit should be placed on the operation of the ‘amendments of . the Constitution if they were carried, they withdrew their objection. The price, namely, that the amendments of the Constitution should last at the outside for three years, and may lapse at the end of 1920 -if a Convention is not summoned by whatever Government may happen to be in power, is one that I .refuse to pay. We are told that it is a step in the right direction, and that we ought to accept the Bill because, although it does not go the whole way we would like it to go, it goes a good deal of the way. We are told that it is a half-loaf measure, but even a half loaf may be bought at too big a price, and even the first step may be worth while considering if -by taking that step we involve ourselves in greater difficulties. The more I think of this Bill, the more it appears to me to be similar to the position of a. young woman who has received an offer of marriage, to whom the suitor explains that, while he is offering her his hand in marriage, he wants her to distinctly understand that’ it is only for a limited period, and that at any time during the first twelve months, a . third party may be called in to review the agreement, and suggest whether it should be continued or not.
Apparently we are all agreed now that there should be an amendment of the Constitution, but there was a time not long distant when there was considerable difference in the House amongst honorable, members who still have seats here as to whether or not the Constitution was a suitable, correct, and good instrument for the government of the country. Whether it is the war that has opened the eyes of our ancient opponents to the necessity for amendments of the Constitution, is not quite apparent, but, at any rate, they all seem to be agreed now that amendments are safe so long as they are limited. They remind me of the attitude taken up by Sir William Irvine when he was member for Flinders. He expressed himself in favour of the amendments proposed by the then Labour party, but said, “ Not while my friends opposite are in office.” The amendments were good in themselves, but not for the other fellow to use.
– That is very much the attitude of the honorable member to-day.
– It is. not my attitude. I am in favour of the proposals irrespective of whatever Government is in power.
– The honorable member’s votes do not show it.
– My votes have beau absolutely consistent all day. I have voted against every stage of the Bill, and I hope to record one more vote against it. I shall have no hesitation about going on the platforms during the election campaign, and recommending my friends to vote against the Bill, because the price attached to this temporary provision is altogether destructive of every principle on which we may base any reasonable amendment of the Constitution. The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has had a motion on the business-paper for quite a long time in favour of the appointment of a Convention for the amendment of the Constitution ; of course, he has had no opportunity of moving it, but the Government have evidently secured his support to their measures by proposing to have a time limit and call a Convention. It is evident, on the face of the measure, that the opposition to these proposals from honorable members on the Government side, who have always consistently, up to now, opposed such amendments, has been bought at the price of a temporary application of the amendments. I regard the Constitution of Australia as an important matter; and although I realize that it is in need of suitable and reasonable amendment, to me to tinker with it and patch it up as a temporary expedient is an unworthy proposal.
I have already pointed out that the Bill merely proposes to perpetuate powers that have already operated under the War Precautions Act; and if the Government, during the three years in which they have had the unlimited power given by that Act, without restriction of time or circumstance, failed to make use of it to the advantage of the country, what guarantee is there in this Bill that it is possible for them to do any better with these amendments than they did under the War Precautions Act? That measure had its proper place, and was useful in protecting the interests of this country in some special directions, but in so far as these amendments of the Constitution seek to accomplish that same object, as the War Precautions Act failed or proved inefficient, so also will these amendments fail, particularly as they are .only operative- for a limited period. If they are to prove useful, they should be useful for the permanent remedying of social and economic evils, because the emergencies with which they propose to grapple, and the abnormal state of affairs with which they propose to deal, are not passing phases of our economic life, but, unfortunately, are permanent features of it that require to be dealt with, not by spasmodic and temporary expedients, but by an honest and sincere endeavour to remove them. The War “Precautions Act sought to accomplish certain things in a very timid, halting, and lazy kind of way. ‘ Efforts were made in regard to profiteering, and economic affairs, and industrial unrest. The Bill before us professes to be the roaring lion going around seeking whom it may devour, and I am quite prepared to hear the Prime Minister and his supporters during the elections telling the country how unfortunately the Government were limited by the operations of the War Precautions Act, and how they were unable during the war time, when things were unsettled, and opportunities were so unsuitable, to exercise all the powers they could have brought into play, but now let the people give them these amendments of the Constitution and they would see what the Government would do in the matter of giving protection against profiteering, and some satisfactory industrial peace. It is remarkable that while the same Ministers had full and unlimited powers under the War Precautions Act to deal with preSteering and industrial matters, profiteering was most rampant in this country and the industrial unrest reached its climax.
– Did it exist when the honorable member’s party was in office?
– To some extent, it did.
– What did the honorable member’s party do ?
– More than the honorable member would allow us to do. At that time the Labour party had the courage to face things in a brave and comprehensive way, but, unfortunately, my friends opposite, who are now so anxious to have this temporary expedient applied, were those who preventedus from doing it.
In regard to trade and commerce, I have previously referred to the position Australia now occupies in relation to the other nations of the world by reason of thefact that it is now recognised as a sovereign power. Unless the Commonwealth has unlimited powers to deal with trade and commerce, we cannot associate with those other nations oni a fair measure of equality, and with fair opportunity of collaboration. For that reason, df for no other, we should have these unlimited powers. To go to an International Conference and say that Australia is able to exercise unlimited powers over trade and commerce for only three years, or perhaps only one year, would be to place this country at a disadvantage, and in a position that would be unworthy of any nation which pretends to occupy a sovereign position.
One of the most necessary things in this country at the present time -and it is equally necessary in other countries,’ no doubt - is the devising of some method whereby we can secure a period of industrial peace for the development of our resources and for insuring the prosperity of the country generally. An International Labour Conference is to meet in Washington this month under the auspices of the League of Nations. Australia is a signatory of the League, and should be represented at the Conference; but imagine the Australian representatives participating in the discussions subject to the limitation that the Commonwealth has control over industrial affairs only in relation to an Inter-State dispute. The further humiliating fact that this Commonwealth cannot associate with the other nations on terms of equality because such powers as we may derive from any amendment of the Constitution will be limited to a period of three years will put Australia in a most unfortunate and invidious position. I object to the Bill, not because I do not approve of the amendments that are proposed, but wholly because of the time limitation.
What guarantee have we in regard to the Convention that is mentioned in clause 6 ?
– What guarantee do we need ?
– The honorable member has told us plainly in the motion of which he has given notice what he desires, but there is in the Bill no guarantee that the Convention will be called, or as to how it will be constituted. There is only a vague statement that if such a Convention is not called before 31st December, 1920, all the powers that may accrue to the Commonwealth as a result of this Bill will automatically cease. I am quite willing to recognise and appreciate the desire of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to get these amendments of the Constitution passed, but that he should have agreed to place a time limit on the powers to be given to the Commonwealth is surprising.
– There must be something else.
– We have the assurance of the Prime Minister that this was the arrangement he had to make in order to get the approval of the State Premiers to any referendum at all. He told us that they were opposed to all his proposals. What guarantee have we that they will not oppose this Bill when it is submitted to the people?
– “ Billy “ has them tied up.
– He told us in 1915 that he had them tied up.
– He said he had them in the bag, but they got . out.
– I do not believe he ever had them in the bag. It was on the strength of the right honorable gentleman’s statement in 1915 that four of the State Premiers had definitely promised to pass certain measures through their respective Parliaments that’ the Labour party agreed to withdraw the Referendum Bills.
Mr.Boyd. - On that occasion, too, there was something else.
– Yes; and that something else was that the Prime Minister desired to go to London.
– And the Labour party did not desire to go to the country.
– The party very reluctantly agreed to the abandonment of the Referendum Bills, and we have been very seriously criticised and questioned by our supporters in the various States because of our supineness in giving way to the Prime Minister on that occasion.
– The Prime Minister said that only about four members of the party opposed the withdrawal of the Bills.
– The party were not consulted until the Prime Minister had made an arrangement with the State Premiers. He met the party, and told us of the agreement he had made with the Premiers of four of the States, and he added that if those four agreed, it did not much matter about Western Australia and Tasmania standing aloof : they would come into line later. On the strength of that statement, and the guarantee given by the State Premiers, the Labour party agreed verv reluctantly to abandon the Referendum Bills on that occasion. Personally, I have lost faith, not only in the ability of the Premiers to carry out any arrangements they may make with the Prime Minister - because, obviously, they cannot bind their Parliamentsbut also in any proposal to secure from the State Governments the powers that are necessary. I shall not discuss the legal question as to whether the States can permanently transfer such powers to the Commonwealth, or whether, in any circumstances, the electors must record an affirmative vote; but no ordinary man can imagine that six State Governments will agree on any Bil], and that twelve Houses of Parliament will pass such a Bill without alteration, and in absolutely identical terms, in order to hand over certain powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. There might be a possibility of such unanimity if all the State Governments were under . similar political control, but when there are party divisions and each Government is more concerned about its own life and rights, and privileges than about the Commonwealth’s position, absolute agreement between them is almost impossible. We must face the trouble that the American States had to pass through. We have to meet the same conflict of conditions that confronted George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. But we do not grasp the fact that there is no necessity for us to follow the long and winding path which the United States of America took. We can go direct to the fountain head and ask the people to give us any powers we need. But any extension of the Commonwealth’s powers . will not be satisfactory if it is conditioned by a time limit. The limitation of time seriously reduces the Commonwealth’s opportunity to do anything effective. What can we possibly do if’ the powers we seek are conferred under this Bill ? The election and referendum will be held in December. Probably Parliament will not assemble beforeMarch.
– Honorable members opposite are afraid to hear thePrime Minister’s reply. I heard thehonorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) tell the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) to continue talking until the time allotted forthe third reading debate has expired.
– I told the honorable member for Brisbane that I wanted to have something to say.
– I resent the suggestion that either I or any of my colleagues is ‘ afraid of what the Prime’ Minister might say. This Bill may be approved by the people in December. Parliament will probably assemble inMarch, and some time must elapse before Bills can be introduced to operate the powers that the people have conferred. The real fight will take place then. A new Parliament will be in session, and will be heavily charged with certain responsibilities which have been placed upon it by the electors. Two months or more will be occupied in framing thenecessary legislation, and even after thelegislation is passed the operating machinery must be devised and put intoworking order.
– It will not take twomonths to frame the legislation.
– I cannot imagine that the present Government would be in any hurry. Probably it will be twelve months from now before the new legislation can be brought into operation. What is to happen during the interval ? Profiteering and all the other evils which the Government are denouncing now are to be allowed to continue without interruption or obstacle, and that is a prospect that one cannot contemplate without misgiving.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - As this Bill must be carried toy a statutory majority, I shall cause the bells to be rung, whether or not. a division is called for.
Question - That the Bill be read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 47
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the House.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act. - Regulations
Amended - Statutory Rules 1919, No. 223.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 214, 218, 220, 221, . 222.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations
Amcnded-Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 192, 193; 209, 210, 226, 227.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191002_reps_7_90/>.