7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11a.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented: -
River Murray Waters Act.-River Murray Commission.- Report for the year 1918-19.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister for the Na vy, upon notice -
With reference to replies given to questions asked on the 24th September relating to the Commonwealth system of wireless telegraphy, will the Minister supply the following information : -
– I have hot yet been able to obtain the information for which the honorable member asks, but will supply it to him as soon as I can.
Votingfaculities for Members of the Australian Imperial Force.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, in order to enable those members of the Australian Imperial Force still absent from Australia to record their votes at the forthcoming elections, will the Government arrange for the necessary facilities to be provided, so that every member, both male and female, will not be disfranchised by their enforced absence ?
– The matter has received full consideration, anda Bill to make the best possible provision in the circumstances to facilitate votingbythose who are, or have been, members of the Forces will be introduced.
– On Wednesday last, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page)asked the Assistant Minister for Defence -
I am now able to supply the following answer: -
Decorations and Medals awarded to Mem- bers of the australian imperial force duringthepresentwar.
Victoria Cross (V.C.) (63).- Lieutenantcolonel, 1; major, 2; captain, 11; lieutenant, 12; 2nd lieutenant, 3; sergeant, 7; corporal, 7; lance-corporal, 3; private, 17.
The Most Honorable Order of the Bath. - Knight Commanders (K.C.B.) (8) - Majorgeneral, 6; lieutenant-general, 2. Companions (C.B.) (42)- Major-general, 6; colonel, 28; lieutenant-colonel, 8.
The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George.- Knights Grand Cross (G.C.M.G.) (2) - Lieutenant-general, 2. Knight Commanders (K.C.M.G.) (8) - Lieutenantgeneral,1; major-general, 4; colonel, 3. Companions (C.M.G.) (148) - Majorgeneral, 4; colonel, 78; lieutenant-colonel, 64; senior chaplain, 2.
TheMost Excellent Order of the British Empire. - Commanders (C.B.E.) (15) - Colonel, 6; lieutenant-colonel, 6 ; major, 3.
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.- Officers (O.B.E.) (201) - Colonel, 9; lieutenant-colonel, 33; major-general, . 1; major, 57; captain, 58; lieutenant, 38; senior chaplain, 2; chaplain, 5. Members (M.B.E.) (39) - -Lieutenant-colonel, 1; major, 8; captain, 24; lieutenant, 6.
The Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) . - 2nd Bar to D.S.O. (1)- Lieutenant-colonel, 1. Bar to D.S.O. (40) - Major-general, l; colonel, 6; lieutenant-colonel, 26;major, 7; captain, 1. D.S.O. (607)- Major-general, 3; colonel, 39; lieutenant-colonel, 208; major, 270; captain, 65; lieutenant, 28; chaplain, 4.
Royal Victorian Order (2). - Major, 1; captain, 1.
Military Cross(M.C). - 2nd Bar to M.C. (4) - Captain, 2; lieutenant, 2. Bar to M.C. (170) - Major, 48; captain, 71; lieutenant, 51.
Military Cross (2,375).- Colonel, 1; lieutenantcolonel, 18; major, 211; captain, 761; lieutenant, 1,306; 2nd lieutenant, 39; warrant officer, 17; chaplain, 22.
Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.) . - 2nd Bar to D.F.C. (2)- Captain, 2. Bar to D.F.C. (5) - Major, 1; captain, 4. Distinguished Flying Cross (60) - Major, 4; captain, 15; lieutenant, 40; 2nd lieutenant, 1.
Air ForceCross ( 14 ) . - Major, 1 ; captain, 8; lieutenant, 4; 2nd lieutenant, 1.
Air Force Medal ( 2 ) . - Sergeant, 1; 1st air mechanic, 1.
Albert Medal in Cold (AM.) (1).Sergeant, 1.
Albert Medal (2) -Lieutenant, 1; 2nd lieutenant, 1.
Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.). - Bar to D.C.M. (21)- Company sergeant-major, 7; staffsergeant-major, 1; company quartermastersergeant, 1;sergeant, 4; lancesergeant,1; corporal, 4; lance-corporal, 2; private 1.
Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.) . (1,744). - Warrant officer, 169;staff-sergeant, 21; company quartermaster-sergeant, 9; sergeant, 653; lance-sergeant, 15; , corporal, 260; 2nd corporal, 11; lance-corporal, 176; -driver, 5; sapper, 16; bombardier, 18; private, 372; gunner, 19.
Military Medal (MM.).- 3rd Bar to M.M. (1)- Corporal, 1. 2nd Bar to’ M.M. (15) - Sergeant,5; corporal, 4; 2nd corporal, 1; lance-corporal, 1; private, 3; sapper, 1. 1st Bar to M.M. (429) - Warrant officer, 4; company quartermaster -sergeant, 1; sergeant, 145; lance-sergeant,5; corporal, 56; 2nd corporal, 6 ; lance:Corporal, 85 ; bombardier, 6 ; driver, 5; sapper, 8; private, 126; gunner, 12. MilitaryMedal (M.M.) (9,643)- Warrant officer, 48; companyquartermastersergeant, 15; sergeant, 1,637; staff -sergeant, 25; lance-corporal, 84; corporal, 1,241; 2nd corporal, 66; lance-corporal, 1,231; bombardier, 164; private, 4,009; driver, 340; sapper, 349; 1st air mechanic, 2; 2nd air mechanic, 2; gunner, 430.
Meritorious Service Medal(M.S.M.). - Bar to M.S.M. (1) - Corporal1. Meritorious Service Medal (1,174) - Warrant officer, 292; staff-sergeant, 81; . company quartermastersergeant, 88; sergeant, 369; lance-sergeant, 15; corporal, 137; 2nd corporal, 8; lance-corporal, 50; bombardier, 13; gunner, 6;. sapper, 15; driver, 23; private, 62; 1st air mechanic, 6; 2nd air mechanic, 3.
American. - Major-general, 3; general, 1; colonel, 4; sergeant, 1.
Egyptian. - Lieutenant-colonel, 1 ; colonel, 2; lieutenant-colonel, 2; captain, 1; lieutenant, 1.
French. - Major-general, 8 ; lieutenantgenera I, 3; colonel, 14; lieutenant-colonel, 23; major, 25; captain, 29; lieutenant, 16; chaplain, 1; warrant officer, 21; staff-sergeant, 5; sergeant, 45; lance-sergeant, 3; corporal, 14; 2nd corporal, 3; lance-corporal, 17; bombardier, 2 ; gunner, 7 ; driver, 8 ; sapper, 6 ; private, 26.
Belgian. - Major-general,. 2 ; lieutenantgeneral, 2; colonel, 8; lieutenant-colonel, 10; major, 4; captain, 19; lieutenant, 28; warrant officer, 26; staff-sergeant, 3; company quartermastersergeant, 6; sergeant, 101; lancesergeant, 5; corporal, 69; 2nd corporal, 2; lancecorporal, 13; gunner, 15; private, 32.
Roumanian. - Lieutenant-colonel; 1; lieutenant, 1; sergeant,2; corporal; 1; master- mechanic, 1.
Serbia. - (Major-general, 2; colonel, 2; lieutenantcolonel, 10; captain, 1; warrant officer, 3; company quartermaster-sergeant, 2; sergeant, 6; corporal, 3; lance-corporal, 5; bombardier, 1; driver, 1; gunner, 1;. private, 32: sapper., 2.
Italy. - Colonel, 1; major, 2; captain, 2; warrant officer, 2; sergeant, 13; corporal, 2; 2nd corporal, 1; lance-corporal, 1; gunner, 1;
Sapper, 1; private, 4.
Montenegro. - Major-general, 2; colonel, 1; lieutenant-colonel,2; captain, 2; sergeant, 1.
Russia. - Major-General, 1 ; colonel, 2 ; lieutenantcolonel, 3; major, 1.
Royal HumaneSociety Medal. - Sergeant, 2; corporal, 3; private, 2.
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.- Commanders (C.B.E. ) (1) - Matron, 1. Members (M.B.E.) (1)- Matron, 1.
Royal Red Cross (R.R.C.)- Matron, 36; senior sister, 2 ; head sister, 27 ; sister, 72 ; staff nurse, 13;head nurse, 1.
Military Medal(M.M.) - Head sister, 1; sister, 4; staff nurse, 2.
French. - Matron, 2; head sister, 1.
Decorations and Medals awarded to Members of the Naval Forces during the War.
Award,No., Rank or Rating.
Companion of the Bath, 2 - Captain (2 ) .
Distinguished Service Order, 6- Commander, (2); lieutenant-commander (1); lieutenant (3).
Distinguished Service Cross, 3- Lieutenantcommander ( 1); lieutenant ( 1 ) ; artificer engineer ( 1 ) .
Distinguished Service Medal, 20 - Chief petty officer (2);chief yeoman of signals ( 1 ) ; chief engine-room artificer, 1st class (2) ; engine-room artificer, 2nd class (1): petty officer (2); stoker petty officer (1); sick-berth steward( 1 ) ; leading seaman (2); acting leading stoker (1); able seaman (5) ; signalman ( 1 ) ; stoker, 1st class (1) . 1914 Bronze Star, 2 - Captain ( 1 ) ; stoker, 1st class (1).
Meritorious Service Medal, 1 - Engine-room artificer, 3rd class (1).
Officerof the Legion of Honour, 2: - Captain (2)
Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, 1 - Commander (1).
Croix de Guerre with Palm, 9 - Captain (1); lieutenant-commander (1); chief petty officer (1); chief engine-room artificer ( 1 ) ; chief stoker ( 1 ) ; acting chief yeoman of signals (1) ; petty officer (1) ; able seaman (1); stoker, 1st class (1).
Medaille Militaire, 1 - 2nd sick-berth steward (1).
Order of the Sacred Treasure, 3rd Class, 1 - Commander (1).
Order of the Rising Sun, 3rd Class, 1 - Captain (1).
Silver Medal for Military Valour,. 5 - Captain ( 1 ) ; commander (2 ) ; engineercommander. (1); flag commander (1).
Order of Saint Stanislaus with Sword, 3rd Class, 1 - Flag commander (1).
Order of Saint Stanislaus with Sword, 2nd Class, 1 - Captain (1).
Order of Saint , Ann with Sword, 3rd Class, 2 -Flag lieutenant-commander ( 1 ) ; paymaster lieutenant-commander (1).
Croix de Guerre, 1 - Captain ( 1 ) .
Declaration of Urgency.
– On behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) I declare the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies)Bill to be an urgent Bill, and move -
Thatthe Bill be considered an urgent Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Limitation of Debate.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the time allotted shall be - (a) for the second reading of the Bill, until 1. p.m., this day; (b)for the Committee stage of the Bill, from the second reading of the Bill until 3 p.m. this day; (c) for the remaining stages of the Bill, from the conclusion of the Committee stage until 3.30 p.m. this day.
.- I object to the procedure to be adopted in this case, although, as I said last night, it is quite possible that the Government desire to pass through the Senate to-day both this Billand the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill. This Bill differs entirely from that which was passed in 1915 providing for an alteration of the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with monopolies. We are now asked to dispose of the motion for its second reading in an hour and fifty minutes ; to pass it through the Committee stage in three-quarters of an hour, and to deal with its remaining stages in half an hour. I object to such a limitation of the debate. I admit, however, that this will serve as a useful precedent. When the Labour party are in power, they will be able to quote it in support of any proposal they may make to hurriedly rush legislation through Parliament. If the Bill were altered in some respects, I should be quite prepared to recommend that we pass it through all its stages within the next hour, since I recognise that it is absolutely imperative that action should be taken to nationalize those monopolies which to-day are bleeding white the householders of Australia.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The proposed amendment of the Constitution, as provided in this Bill, differs in two particulars from that to which this House agreed in 1915, and which, speaking from memory, was the same as that proposed in 1913. The words “ assets and good-will “ are inserted in place of the word “ property,” which appeared in the 1915 version. This alteration meets an objection raised at the time, and makes that which was held to be ambiguous perfectly clear. We take over the assets and good-will. I declared at that time that the word “property” included and covered good-will.
There is a second alteration. Some honorable members objected to the 1915 proposal because Parliament was to have power to make laws for the carrying on of an industry or business by or under the control of the Commonwealth, without provision being made for an inquiry by a competent authority. When speaking on the measure in this House, I said it was the intention of the Government, and would be, I felt sure, the course pursued by Parliament, to have a competent preliminary inquiry into the alleged monopoly, in order that Parliament might have before it the facts upon which to act. In the proposal now before the House, this method has been set out in the text itself. There is to be a reference to the
High Court for inquiry and report. Then the matter comes back to Parliament, and Parliament, having the report before it, can decide for itself what it will do. There are no limitations oh its power.
This measure is limited as set out in clause 3 in precisely the same way as the other amendments of the Constitution contained in. the Bill which the House passed yesterday. I do not need to deal with the merits of this proposal, because it speaks for itself. Those who believe in it will vote for it, and those who do not will vote against it. But I wish to say a few words now, because this is the only chance I shall have to speak, since those who have been the ardent champions of these Constitution amendments from the time I first introduced them, will see to it that I am not allowed to reply to any of their arguments. They are such lovers of free speech that one speech from me ia more than enough for them. I shall, therefore, take the opportunity now to say something by way of meeting some of their objections. They will say that no objection would be taken by them to this measure if it were not for clause 3j which limits its operation. I shall deal with that objection on its merits, although it has very few merits. Their real objection to this measure is that it is introduced at all. Nothing would have suited them better than that it should not have. been introduced.
The operations of this amendment of the Constitution are limited to three years, or to the 31st December, 1920, if a Convention is not called in the meanwhile. I should have thought that that would commend itself to a party which, on three successive occasions, endeavoured unsuccessfully to carry amendments of the Constitution, including this very one, because, with this limitation, the measure is more likely to receive the assent of the’ people than it otherwise would. The best proof of that lies in the fact that many honorable members of this House are prepared to vote for it with this limitation who would not otherwise do so, and they reflect the opinions of a considerable number of people outside. There was a certain small majority against the Bills before. What we want is not merely to put a proposition before the people, but to get them to assent to it, to give this Parliament power. What the honorable gentlemen on thB other side want is just a placard, and no more. What I want is the power, and it was because of that that I was willing, in 1915, to withdraw these measures altogether if the States would give us the necessary power during the war. I emphasize the fact that every one of those gentlemen agreed in 1915, to the withdrawal of these very measures, or something so similar to them that ninety-nine out of every one hundred of them, could not tell one from the other. I venture to say now that if you were to take the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) away from the books that I have written he could not tell one amendment from the other. Not one of them could do so. They do not know anything at all about these proposals. They could not tell you why the trade and commerce amendment is necessary; they do not know why the corporation amendment is necessary ; they do not know anything at all about it. They have to turn up that book. They were quite willing to withdraw these proposals in 1915 and agree to a limitation infinitely more cramping than the one contained in this Bill. This proposal stipulates that we shall enjoy these powers for three years, and in the meantime we are to call a Convention and the people of Australia will decide’ for themselves. Last night the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) spoke about the initiative and referendum. The people are going to decide this thing- Do my honorable friends object to the people deciding^ Long before these powers will run out the people will have decided what shape this Constitution is to take. It is a most excellent arrangement, and the clause carries on its face its own justification. This Bill, therefore, is not merely to enable this Parliament to deal with monopolies, but in* its very nature insures the calling of a great Convention to deal with these important questions.
Honorable members have taken exception to the haste with which we are putting these Bills through. They ask, “Why rush them through?” The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) said that if they were not rushed through he and his party would, no doubt, be able to make very good Bills of them. As I have said, they do not know anything at all about them. They have not the faintest idea of what they mean. I ask any honorable member to ransack
Hansard, from the first day I brought these amendments in until now, and see if any one of them has said one word that exhibited the faintest knowledge of what the whole thing was about, except to repeat that which I had said. However, we are told that if they had plenty of time they would do it, and they object to our rushing the thing through Gentlemen, this dreadful book (Hansard) is like the book which will be opened on the last day, wherein we shall see written in letters of fire those things which we thought we had so successfully hidden while we were sojourning on this earth. I turn to this dreadful volume, and on page 4319, date, 18th June, 1915, 1 begin to read. I. find inscribed there a record which, in view of what my honorable friend said last night, is most diverting, a. little pathetic, and calculated to cause the electors furiously to think when they compare what he said with what he did. These Bills were brought before the House in 1915, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) . and. I were arrayed under the same banner. The honorable member now says, “ Let there be no haste; give everybody a chance; let free speech pervade this fair land.; let every man say what is in his mind.” But this is what he did in 1915 ; that is to say he and I, and the honorable member for Capricornia. (Mr. Higgs), the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), the honorable member for Newcastle. (Mr. Watkins), the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), with numbers of other gentlemen, who are not amongst us to-day - some have left us, some are on a journey, and some, peradventure, are sleeping - every one in the party did it. We took twenty -three successive divisions without debate, and put through six Bills without any observations, excepting that Mr. Fisher, our Leader, made this eloquent speech which Demosthenes, at the top of his fame, could not have equalled -
I move thatthe question be now put.
The question was put, and was resolved in the affirmative. Then an amendment was put, and that was negatived, whereupon my colleague (Sir . Joseph Cook), who was then opposed to us made this observation -
On a point of order -
But Mr. Speaker said without any more to-do -
There can be no point of order.
Then the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) said -
Will you, sir, inform the House what is the question ?
Whereupon Mr. Speaker informed him, and the honorable member for Wentworth said -
We call for a division.
Thereupon Mr. Speaker said, “You shall have one,” and they had one; Thedivision was taken, and the question was resolved in the affirmative. Then I made a speech. I said -
I move that this Bill be now read a first time.
It was read a first time, and then I made another eloquent speech. I said -
I move that this Bill be now read a second time.
It was read a second time. And so it went on ; we took twenty-three divisions, and the task was done.
– Did not your newfound friends walk out of the Chamber, and allow us to take the divisions without opposition ?
– I have omitted to mention one honorable member’s name. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) was also among us. I sat cheek by jowl with him, and we stuck together, and voted together all through those troublous times.
– I have with me the report of the debate which preceded those divisions, but which the right honorable gentleman has deliberately omitted to mention.
– At any rate, there were twenty-three divisions. Why should those who all through their political life have believed that these alterations to the Constitution are good, object to haste when the party which they tried, but failed, to convert, has now, according to them, been converted to a belief in these proposals? In 1915 the Bills were put through in the twinkling of an eye. If haste was good in 1915, then they should say, “ Behold it is good to-day.” So much for the accusationof haste!
Now I come to another point. Last night the Leader of the Oppositionsaid that honorable members on the Ministerial side of the Chamber were dumb and blind.
– I did not say that they were blind.
– If- the honorable mem- ‘ ber had said that they were deaf, I would not have objected. Thank God, the people of this country have a sense of humour. I know where I am in the matter, and I see the humour of the position ; but I want the people of the country to understand it, and see the humour’ of it. These honorable gentlemen opposite are actually levelling at the party on this side the charge that, having considered a question at a party meeting, we come down here and vote solidly together. The Leader of the Opposition says that if honorable members on this side were free to express their opinions, they would say so-and-so. I never thought that I should live to hear such a charge from the lips of the honorable member. Coming from such a source, what are we to think of it ? I have not time to turn up the speeches of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) about myself, or those in which the honorable .member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) referred to the Labour party; but I can recall .them fairly well. They said, in .regard to the Labour party, “ Here is a party that decides what it is going to do, not on the floor of the House, but in another place.” How many times have honorable members opposite sat .on these benches, some of them wishing that they .could vote in some other way, but not daring to -say “ boo “ ?
– We admit ;that. we are a Caucus party, but they will not ‘admit that they are.
– How many times, ever since . they came into politics, have those honorable members done the very thing with which they charge honorable members on this side? They are the very last persons who should lev.el such a charge against any party.
Let me explain to the House and the country the difference between the methods of honorable members opposite and our own. In’ such a time as this, it is really necessary to make the people understand it. There was a time in the history of the Labour party, when it was a united party, when its members did really decide in the Caucus-room what they should do in the House, and what policy they should have. As long as they , did that, I remained a member of the party ; I took my chance as a free man on the floor of the Caucus, and if I was beaten I was willing to abide by the will of the majority ; but there came a day, and that day is still with us, when ‘they were no longer free men to say what they thought, even in Caucus, but were like dumb, driven dogs.
– On a point of order. In view of the limited time for the discussion of this important measure, I should like to know whether the Caucus meetings of the Labour party .at the time the Prime Minister was connected with it have any relevancy to the Bill.
– Strictly speaking they have not ; but certain charges have been levelled at the Prime Minister associated with the introduction of the Bill to which he is now replying. I cannot in fairness deny him the right of rebuttal, as he will not have another opportunity. I remind the honorable member that a similar discussion was permitted on the previous Bill, which is of the same character as that under discussion.
– I have said what is literally true; and it is due to that fact that I am where I .am and honorable members opposite are where they are. There was a time when, if honorable members had had the courage to be men and to think, believe, and act like men, the great Labour movement of this country would have come out of this great trial triumphant; but it was weighed in the balance and found wanting. There were men in the party who bowed the knee to. Baal. Instead of standing fast to that in which they believed, and- in which an overwhelming majority of them up-stairs believed, they submitted themselves tamely and cravenly to an outside organization ; and now, see where they are. Honorable members speak of “ free men,” but a state of things existed in that party which was intolerable. On the day. on which this very trouble came about, the honorable member for .Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) who, obeying the call of nature, happened to follow us out of the Caucus room, was called to book by men who said, “Why do you dare to walk out of the room at the same time? “ And the honorable member was forced to explain. These gentlemen dare not call their souls their own, and yet they say that we are not free men. No organization inside or outside this chamber will make me do what I do not like. An organization outside which I helped to build up tried it, and failed. That organization, which was built up for the cause of the people, was captured by men who wished to destroy the people, and wished to make me their tool.
Now, I come to the railway amendment about which honorable members have been talking. I regret very much that it is not included in the present proposals; but, as it had already been put forward twice and defeated, and as it was of vital importance that these amendments-
– On a point of order, I wish to know whether the Prime Minister is in order in referring to the question of therailway men, which was dealt with in the previous Bill, and finds no place in this measure.
– I was just perusing the Bill in order to see whether railway servants were referred to. If the railway servants do not come within the scope of this Bill the Prime Minister will not be in order in referring to them and in replying to statements made during the debate on the previous Bill covering them.
– I am sorry that I was prevented by that stickler for free speech, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) from replying last night to the statements made by honorable members opposite. I shall reserve my remarks on this subject for another occasion. I commend this Bill to the House and to the country. It is a measure that carries on its face its own justification. Not one of the Premiers or representatives of the States took exception to it. Those objections which had been levelled against the Bill in 1915 have been met by the amendments made in the present measure. Those amendments do not jeopardize the good that is in the Bill, but perhaps will prevent its employment for purposes for which it is not intended. The clause which provides a time limit is not a blemish, but is an added reason why the Bill should receive the support of every honorable member, because it gives us an assurance, so far as anything can do. that the Bill will receive the assent of the people, and because it provides for a Cenvention in which the matter with which it deals and all other constitutional matters will go into the melting pot, so that the people of Australia may decide what shall be the distribution of powers between the Commonwealth and the States.
.- I have not the slightest intention of descending to the level to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stooped. I do not wish to enter into a competition of abuse with any honorable member. The tirade of abuse and vituperation we have heard from the Prime Minister, and the actions and remarks of honorable members opposite, remind me of a first night performance of a play when the author and the manager, in order to make sure that the performance will be well received, pack the house with paid claqueurs. Ido not say that honorable members opposite are paid claqueurs on this occasion. Some of them arehopeful of being re-elected, others know that they are “ gone to the pack.” This is their last performance. Those expecting to be returned to the House hope to.be rewarded in the future for their support of the Prime Minister to-day.
– This is not abuse!
– No. I am merely stating what I think of the performance this morning and of the deliberate misrepresentation indulged in by the Prime Minister I propose to quote from Hansard, and I ask the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), whom I respect for his political opinions, although I differ from him, to check my reference. On the 18th June, 1915(Hansard, page 4188), the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter paragraph 1 of section 51 of the Constitution.
Immediately the then Leader of the Opposition (Sir Joseph Cook) moved an amendment -
That the following words be added: - “as soon as adequate provision has been made by the united energies of the Government and Parliament for the successful prosecution of the war.”
That amendment was moved at 10.44 a.m., and the debate continued till nearly 4 o’clock in the afternoon. A greater length of time was occupied in debating the motion for leave than is allotted for that consideration of the whole Bill on this occasion. Yet with double-dyed hypocrisy the Prime Minister prated about freedom of speech !
Mr. Webster interjecting,
– Let the PostmasterGeneral deal with telephones and poems; they are his forte.
– Order !
– Go and make a further mess of the Post Office.
– I ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting. There has arisen in this House the disorderly practice of one member making interjections, and several honorable members opposite interjecting replies. The result is that an irregular argument is in progress while an honorable member is attempting to address the Chair. That practice must cease.
– I was referring to the deliberate misrepresentation by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). In 1915, there was no proposal to limit debate as there is on this occasion.
– I see that a great deal of the time on the occasion to which the honorable member refers was occupied in suspending the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster).
– The honorable member was not only suspended from the service of the House, but was ordered out of the gallery just as another honorable member recently was ordered out of the precincts.
– The honorable member for Wakefield was suspended for merely saying that members of the Labour party were heathens.
– The honorable member had my sympathy. He should have withdrawn the remark.
The Prime Minister, in his speech this morning, did not debate the question of monopolies; he was anxious to harkback to last night’s proceedings, and to some ancient history, notably the trouble he had with honorable members on this side on a previous occasion. I do not propose to follow bis example in that regard. I hope that my private and public re- cordwill bear examination in comparison with that of any honorable member in the House. I have no fear of any judgment as to whether or not I have run straight, or have had the courage to express my opinions here and elsewhere. I would sooner leave public life than do certain things that have been done by other men who are in public life to-day.
We were told that the Bill differs in two essentials from the corresponding Bill introduced in 1915. I have given notice of amendments which will restore the present measure to the 1915 model, but, unfortunately, as time is short, the printed copies of my amendment may not be received from the Government Printer in time to be submitted before the guillotine falls. The main alteration that has been made is not the one fixing the value of the assets and good -will of any industry or business. The alteration to which I object is the proposal to hand over to the High Court the responsibility of deciding upon the question of monopolies. I know the delays that take place in the processes of the law.
– I do not think the decision is to be left to the High Court. That tribunal has only to investigate and report. Parliament will not be bound by the report of the High Court.
– Before the matter is referred to the High Court, a resolution must be carried in both Houses of this Parliament. Either House can block the reference to the High Court. Senators, on account of being elected for a period of six years, may not be in touch with public opinion. On different occasions, both parties have in turn completely swept the polls in the Senate elections. That may happen again, and in the course of a few years a majority of the Senate may be out of touch with public opinion, but they will be able to veto the legislation of the Government, and prevent any question being referred to the High Court. In any case, why should the High Court be considered better able than Parliament to decide this matter? Members of Parliament are at least as closely in touchwith public opinion as are the Judges of the High Court. Where is the necessity for referring the matter to the High Court at all ? Clause 3 of this Bill is similar to clause 6 of the Bill that was disposed of yesterday, and I object to it because it will render the Bill useless; because it will cause delay; and because the High Court is out of touch with the people. Every honorable member is accused at . some time or other of being out of touch with public opinion, and not knowing how the people really live. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said to-day that he is the man who taught us on this side all we know. I suppose that, even before he ever met me, when I was an official in a trade union in Great Britain and in America, he gave me my political opinions. What an absurdity it is for the right honorable gentleman to claim that when he puts on his hat it covers all the brains that have ever been in the Labour movement. Honorable members who have been in this House for a number of years will recognise the injustice of the Prime Minister’s remarks when they called forth a protest from a man of the character of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton).
On page 32 of the referendum pamphlet issued in 1915, the Prime Minister wrote -
The amendment provides that the Parliament is to decide what is a monopoly. To this, great objection is taken by our opponents. They say Parliament is not the proper tribunal to do this; that it gives Parliament too wide a power; and that monopoly ought to be defined in the Constitution. ‘ Let us examine their argument quietly. First of all. remember that if “monopoly” were defined in the Constitution, the High Court would interpret its moaning. Judging from the Court’s interpretations of other words in the Constitution, it would be impossible to prove that any business was a monopoly. For example, in the “ Vend “ case, where it was proved that; persons who controlled over !)0 per cent, of the coal supply of Newcastle had agreed with the Shipping Combine, who controlled over 90 per cent, of the freight, that they would sell coal to nobody but them, and the Shipping Combine had agreed to buy no coal from anybody but the vend, or carry anybody else’s coal, the Court held that there was no monopoly.
That is the Court to which it is proposed to refer these matters ; that is the proposal which honorable members opposite are supporting. I propose in Committee, in the brief time at our disposal, to move amendments, that will bring this Bill into conformity with the Bill previously voted for by my friends opposite. Amongst the honorable members I refer to are the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), the honorable member for Bass (Mr* Jensen), the honorable member ‘for Grey (Mr. Poynton), the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), and others who are not just now present. The proposal before us means delay, and will provide an excuse for some weak-kneed honorable members, who have . not the courage of their own opinions, but only the courage of the opinions of others.
– :Such honorable members are on the Opposition side.
– Does the honorable member charge me with not having the courage of my opinions? If he has any charge of the kind to make, let him make it directly to me. The Prime Minister has descended ‘to tactics such as I refuse to adopt. If I chose, I also could relate events that occurred in Caucus, and show how men there made promises as to what they were going to do. I hope that this House will, at least, give this Bill some semblance of honesty, and place it on a par with the measure of 1915, so that the people may know, they are voting for something that is real, and that this Parliament is not presenting legislation which will not achieve what it pretends to achieve.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) has presented a picture of a.” strong manstruggling with adversity,” and the heat he managed to generate in himself shows that some of the shots of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) got home. To those of us who were not in this Parliament at the time to which the Prime Minister referred, it has been edifying and amusing to listen to the slashing attack by that honorable gentleman to-day, and the rather ineffective reply, so far, that has been given.
However, I rose mainly to refer to the provisions which limit the operations of the Bill, and the point I raise is equally applicable to the previous Constitution Alteration Bill which we passed yesterday, when the action of the “guillotine” deprived me of an opportunity to speak. It -seems to me that the verbiage of these limiting clauses is rather involved, and before the Bill is finally disposed of I should like to know exactly what is meant. First, the Bill is limited to three years; secondly, by the fact that a Convention has to he constituted within? twelve months ; and, thirdly, by the fact that the Convention has to agree to certain alterations which have to be indorsed by the people. I am rather at a- loss to know what “ indorsed”, by the people means. Does it mean a referendum? If the referendum, for which we are now providing, is carried in the affirmative, the provisions of this Bill become a part of the Constitution, unless the people indorse something else. The Convention may present recommendations which are not on the lines of this Bill at all, and these may be indorsed by a majority of the people.
– It ends there.
Mr.LECKIE.- The Bill does not say so. What it says is that the Convention may make certain recommendations; and if the Convention does not deal with the proposals in the Bill, these will still remain in the Constitution.
– The Bill provides that the alterations made by the Bill shall remain in force until certain things happen, and then cease to have effect.
– It seems to me there is room for argument as to the meaning of “ indorsed.” Does it mean that an ordinary referendum must be held? At any rate, I think the Ministry should make the verbiage of the Bill quite clear. I anticipatethat their intention is what has just been pointed out; but the wording of the Bill does not support that view, and I urge that in clause 3 of this Bill, and in clause 6 of the Bill we passed yesterday; no room should be left for doubt as to what is in the mind of the Government. I may say that, asa layman, I am not depending altogether on my own opinion, but on the opinion of men learned in the law, who, when I raised the point, agreed with my view. The Bill ought to represent, without ambiguity, the exact wishes of Parliament; it should be made quite clear that these provisions do not go finally into the Constitution until the people have had another opportunity of ratifying them - not only by a majority of the electors, but by a majority of the States. The word “ indorse “ might very well be read to supersede section 128 of the Constitution, and I ask the Government to take notice of the point.
– I make the remarks which I am about to make only because of the exhibition this morning by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), an exhibition which does him very great discredit, and, in my opinion, lowers the position of Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. It is not the first time he has dragged the Commonwealth in the gutter. He has made a Punch and Judy show of the Prime Ministership in Sydney quite recently.
– The honorable member must not cast reflections of that kind.
– The Prime Minister this morning cast the grossest reflections on the representatives of the Labour movement, but I remind the House that that gentleman was literally taken from the gutter by the waterside workers - the poor waterside workers of Sydney - and even provided with clothes when he was “ down and out.” Yesterday and today the Prime Minister has suggested that there is the grossest incapacity and lack of education and brains in the representatives of the Labour movement. He has said that they would adopt anything he wrote, that they had not the brains to frame an amendment. I do not believe the Prime Minister framed those constitutional amendments,. as he states he did, because he had the Crown Law officers, with Sir Robert Garran, an authority on the Constitution, to assist him. It was his duty as the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, and as a Minister appointed by the Labour party, to bring those amendments before the Caucus; and he was appointed Attorney-General, presumably, because he is a barrister. It would certainly have been unusual on the part of any lay member of the Caucus to venture to suggest to the AttorneyGeneral, who had the advice of the Crown Law officers, that the amendments should be altered. Any man with common sense would refrain from making such a suggestion.
The representatives of the Labour party come, generally speaking, from the mines, the carpenter’s bench, behind the counter, and from the wharfs, and although they may not have beenthrough a university or studied Latin, Greek, German, French, Spanish, or Italian, and may be unacquainted with mathematics, they have as their distinguishing characteristic common sense, and, above all, honesty. In the galleries of this House I have been asked by a gentleman with university degrees why it is that, with few exceptions, there was no place in the Legislature for men like himself. He asked why it is that men with poor enunciation, little knowledge of the arbitrary laws of pronunciation, who make mistakes in diction, are members of Parliament. I told him that the reason is that the people outside have known these Labour representatives for many years, and know that their strongest characteristic is honesty of purpose. After all, how many people in Australia have had a university education ?
I say with regret, and only because I am compelled to say it, that the Prime Minister has been helped by the workers on more. than one occasion when he was “down and out,” and had not sufficient clothes or food. Yet the Prime Minister dares to come into the House and suggest that men on this side have neither education, brains, capacity, honesty of purpose, nor any other good quality. Referring to those who now support him, the right honorable gentleman this morning spoke of “ our party.” Who are the honorable members comprising “ our party “ ? Some of them are coal mine-owners, and men of the class to whom he referred when, just before leaving the Old Country, he said, “ I go back to fight the men who have been fighting me all my life.” He was not then referring to the Labour party, or to those members of it who were turned out of Parliament on the winthewar wave. He was not speaking of those honorable members who for years gave him the most loyal support in the Labour Caucus. ‘We, in- those days, made every allowance for his idiosyncrasies.
– And recognised his genius.
– Shall we call it genius? Is it genius that he displays ? Was I not right when I said that he had smashed for a time the Australian Parliamentary Labour party? I said a year ago that if he were at the head of the British Empire he would wreck it, and that he would smash the party now behind him. Time will prove the truth of my statement.’ He will destroy his present party by reason of the very qualities which he has displayed here this morning. The right honorable gentleman has a destructive capacity. As a destructive orator, he is probably without equal in Australia. Why? Because he is prepared to make statements that no other honorable member would think of uttering; he is prepared to build up a case knowingly, on false premises- He suggested this morning that when we were in power we forced our Constitution Alteration Bills through the House by the use of the “SaS-“ I* *s interesting to recall the circumstances under which we applied the “gag.” The Prime Minister, who was then Attorney-General in the Labour Government, moved for leave to introduce the amending Bills, and the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who was then Leader of the Opposition, submitted an amendment, on which he and his party tried to block the Bills in their preliminary stages.- We then applied the “gag,” and eventually secured their introduction. The Bills were introduced on the 18th June, 1915, and the records show that they were not passed by this House until the 2nd July. .
– But the fact re-, mains that they were not discussed.
– Because the right honorable member and his party walked out of the chamber.
– Did we prevent the then Opposition from discussing them?
– Yes; when the rest of my party walked out i remained, and tried to discuss them, but was thrown out.
– We did not prevent their discussion.
The Prime Minister describes his opponents as “ men who speak with forked tongues.” It is in this way that he refers to former colleagues who gave him the most loyal support when he was a member of our party. ‘ We knew his tricky methods, but made - every allowance for them because of what the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) has described as his genius. In due course, the right honorable gentleman was made Prime Minister. The Prime Ministership in the case of the Labour party, asdistinguished from all other parties, belongs not to an individual but to the party itself. The Labour party elects its leader, and when it secures a majority, that leader is elected by the party to the office of Prime Minister. The position in that regard is different from what it was when men like the late Sir Henry Parkes, or Mr. Dibbs, Mr.’ Deakin, or Sir Graham Berry were in power. In those days, the leaders used to form their own parties. We, at all events, made the right honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hughes) Prime Minister. Prior to Mr. Fisher’s departure for England, the present Prime Minister had made a speech in the electorate of Melbourne Ports, in which, referring to the raising of Forces for oversea, he said, “We must take power to send these men away.” A statement much the same was made by Senator Pearce. The matter, was brought up in. Caucus, and both these honorable gentlemen denied that they were in favour of conscription. The present Prime Minister knew that if he announced himself in favour of compulsion he would not succeed Mr. Fisher as leader of our party and both he and Senator Pearce induced the Caucus to believe that they were not in favour of compulsion. The Prime Minister said, “In no circumstances would I force a man to go out of this country against his will.” Shortly afterwards he was made Prime Minister. He then left for England, reversed his views, and, returning to Australia, - proposed conscription.
– I must ask the “honorable member to address himself to’ the question before the Chair, and, at least, to connect his speech in some way with that subject.
– I think, with great respect, sir, that we are entitled to reply to the attacks that have been made upon us by the Prime Minister.
– I have allowed the honorable member considerable latitude; but he is wandering into matters quite remote, and which are not in any way connected with this Bill or the circumstances associated with its introduction.
– I recognise, sir, most willingly, that you have allowed me considerable latitude. We were grossly attacked by the Prime Minister, who, by innuendo as well as by his tone and manner, endeavoured to convey to the public the view that honorable members df the Labour party had neither capacity, brains, education, nor honesty of purpose. When the conscription referendum was defeated on October 28, 1916, the Prime Minister did not return to the Caucus for a fortnight. He then attended a meeting of the party, called at the instance of several members of it, and, taking the chair, did what no other Leader of the Labour party had done there. He refused to accept a motion disagreeing with his action. Having in his pocket a Prime Ministership, and a dozen portfolios, he refused to put the motion, and, rising from his chair, said, “ Those who believe in me, follow me.” Some twentytwo or twenty-three members of the party followed him out of the Labour party’s room. These portfolios, however, belonged, not to him, but to the Labour party.
– Order ! The honorable member has far exceeded all reasonable latitude, and is departing altogether from the discussion of the Bill.
– The Prime Minister has repeatedly attacked many honorable members who now sit behind him. He described Mr. Deakin as a Judas, for leaving his party. Honorable members opposite who wish to know the right honorable gentleman’s views concerning those who forsake their party should read his Case for Labour. There they will also find his views regarding those members of his present party who represent business interests. If the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), who has an interest in coal mines, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who represents a great pastoral industry, and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who represents the softgoods trade of Flinders-lane, wish to ascertain their present leader’s opinion of the class to which they belong, let them read his Case for Labour. They will find that he has applied to them the same coarse epithets that he has applied to us, because we refused to follow him. Having referred at different times to those who now support him in the most opprobrious terms - having abandoned the party which made him what he is - he now speaks of the members’ of the Liberal party as “ our party.”
– We have converted him.
– Honorable members opposite are welcome to their convert. This Bill provides for ah amendment of the Constitution to permit of the nationalization of monopolies. When honorable members opposite take the platform to support the Bill they will have the greatest difficulty in persuading the people that they believe in it. Already the public utterances of those whom they represent are in condemnation of the Bill. The only hope of these people is, that should the Ministerial party return to power, they will see that the Prime Minister does not exercise these wider powers. Is it proposed by honorable members opposite to nationalize the coal mines, the wholesale clothing trade of Flinders-lane, or the sugar industry? Honorable members opposite have not the slightest, intention of nationalizing any industry in the event of these wider powers being granted to Parliament. ‘
– Did the Labour party intend to nationalize all the industries just mentioned by the honorable member?
– We certainly intended to nationalize any industry that had become a monopoly; that is still our intention. Honorable members opposite are neither Socialists nor believers in the Labour programme. For the most part, they consider that our programme of nationalization is impracticable. They are opposed to it. They say that they base their hostility to it on considerable business experience. The honorable member for Henty knows what it is to run a business, and we know the difficulties, too. I see the difficulties of the State ownership of railways as well as anybody. I know that some people take advantage of the State railways, but we must view the thing by and large in regard to that great monopoly, and ask ourselves whether the public generally are not better served by State ownership, with all its defects, than they would be if those railways were in the hands of a private monopoly, as they are in the Old Country and America.- I shall never, forget how a representative of our friend the Melbourne Argus thought he saw some men going slow on some railwayworks, I think at Camberwell. They were engaged in manual labour. I suppose Dr. Cunningham,, a most estimable man, has never done any manual labour. He may have done a little digging in his garden. I suppose that the same applies to that very eloquent writer, Mr. Maling, who uses the pen name of “ Ithuriel.”
– He is a gardener.
– We have all done some gardening in a more or less inefficient way, and some of us have tackled hard work. Of course, when a man is young, and doing a reasonable amount’ of physical work, exercising his muscles during the day, there is no doubt that he feels very fit, if he has no worries, and the world to him is a very pleasant place to live in. But I ask honorable members, if any of them are prepared to change places with those men who are working on the tram lines ot the railway lines with pick and shovel for six and eight hours a day, day after day, year after year, ten years after ten years, with no prospect of any change. Would not honorable members at .times feel disposed to take a bit .of a rest, to stand up and straighten their backs, and look around for a few moments? I dare say some’ men on the State railways may be found taking their time, and not doing as much as other men, but the great majority of those in the Civil Service, in the railways, or anywhere else, .do their fair share. Indeed, this civilization of ours could- not last if the majority of people were not . honest, and did not do their fair share. The very great majority of them do so. I have worked with a large body of men in the printing trade, and- I never found more than about 5 per cent, who were wasters, poor fellows, and they were their own enemies. I venture to say that that is the case in almost any industry. Although certain men in the State railways will go slow, and certain men will do things that they ought not to do, I affirm that, in the interests of the whole of the people, it is better that the railways should be run by the Government than that they should be in the hands of a private monopoly. What applies to the State railways, society will find it necessary to apply “to other industries which become monopolies. I do not know a great deal about the Russian Soviet system, but if we are to meet what the majority of us understand by Bolshevism, if we are to reduce those inequalities which exist between the vast mass of the people, who work for wages, and the overlords or capitalists whom the Prime Minister described in such severe terms in his Case for Labour, we must recognise the changing conditions of the times, also referred to in very eloquent terms by the same right honorable gentleman, by meeting monopoly and combination with State action.
Honorable members talk of dealing with the profiteer. We are the only party that can deal with him, because we have a united programme, and w© go to the public with it. There the thing is in black and white.. The public know when they vote for us that they are voting for people who, if they get a chance, will put their programme into operation. There will be no insuperable differences of opinion. You will not find in our party, although we do have some differences, such determined objections on the part of a member as will be found, for example, on the part of . the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith),, or the honorable member for ..Henty (Mr. Boyd) to nationalizing an industry. I say, therefore, that this is the only party that can deal with profiteering. How we would deal with it, and the only way it can be dealt with, is that if we found a Flinderslane merchant importing goods at a low price, and bleeding the general public by charging a high price,’ we could say to him, and to1 his class, if we found there was an “ honorable understanding “ or agreement, among them: “Our Government will compete with you.”.
Take the cornsack business. Where private individuals were engaged in importing cornsacks, and exploiting the farmers, I should say the Government ought to take charge of the business. I admit that the Government would not find it very easy, because when it was known on the-other side of the water that the Australian Government were going into the business, there would be a combination to prevent them getting the sacks, just as whenever a co-operative society is formed in any town to distribute goods direct to the consumers, you will find a combination on the part of business people to prevent the society getting goods for distribution. Society is engaged in a struggle one man with the other all the time. Individuals are competing with individuals, and corporations and societies with one another, and both individuals and corporations will fight the Governments if ever the Governments .endeavour to interfere with them. We recognise the difficulties in the way, but if we get the opportunity, if w© are put into power by the people, we shall make an honest attempt to deal with the question of profiteering, and we shall be able to make that attempt, because we are a united and a practical party.
It was absurd for the Prime Minister, to suggest this morning incapacity and lack of brains on the part of the members of this party. No member of the Labour party, or, indeed, of any party, gets into Parliament for a second term unless he has something greatly to recommend him. Let there be no mistake about that. Although they may not have had the benefit of a liberal education, they have a knowledge of affairs, and. a knowledge of men, which is very often much more useful to an individual in get ting through the world’ than is all the learning of those who, perhaps unfortunately for themselves, have gone to a Uni- varsity and taken degrees, live apart from the world, and, like many of those poor fellows to-day who have letters after their names, feel so helpless in the community that they cannot earn a living.
– Gladstone said that, nine times out of ten, the University men were wrong.
– That may be so, because the world ‘ is moving so fast that one cannot run to a book to find out what one wants. That is where the man with the every-day experience of life, engaged in any given occupation, and without a liberal education, may know more than a man who has been through the University.
– The honorable member’s argument is that that is the most useful man to himself. But the man who is sent here should be the most useful man to the community, and not to himself.
– The man who plays his part as a man, and justifies his existence must be of use to the community. Will the honorable member say that all that is known’ by those engaged in the pastoral industry finds a place in books?
– No; but the best men in the industry are those who know both the practical and theoretical sides.
– I quite agree that the man who has the book knowledge and the practical knowledge also is the best man; but the honorable member will admit that a man may pass examinations merely by means of a knowledge of books, and then find himself nowhere when he gets out into the practical world.
I shall support the Bill, and the amendments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). If they are defeated, I shall still support the Bill. It does not go very far, and, perhaps, as the Leader of the Opposition says, when it becomes law, and we refer to the High Court some monopoly such as existed at the time of the coal vend, we shall find the High Court deciding by a majority that there is no monopoly. Still, there the Bill is. Something is better than nothing, and if the amendments are defeated, I propose to vote for it.
.- I think the measure should be agreed to by the people on this occasion, because it is so safeguarded that they will have it in their own hands, not only to put these amendments into the Constitution for a limited time, but also on another occasion to say how far they should go. It seems to me that the proper way to consider an alteration of the Constitution is to hold a Convention representing all phases of thought and political ideas. If that Convention is properly summoned, as I have no doubt it will be-
– What guarantee have we of that?
– There is this guarantee: that Parliament will have a say in regard to it. Surely, if Parliament has a say, it will be a guarantee that the Convention will be sufficiently Democratic?
– The honorable member means that his side will have the say.
– I do not know that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) poses as a prophet, but I hope that his. prophecy will be true, and that this side will be the dominant party when the Convention question comes up for consideration, because, if it has anything to do with settling the character of the Convention, there will be no doubt that body will be a thoroughly Democratic one. In any case, the Convention will go carefully into every question affecting the Constitution, and thresh it out impartially, calmly, and judicially. Our Constitution is an important matter, which should not be made the plaything and snort of political parties. For a long time I have advocated, both on the platform and in the House, that the proper method of dealing with amendments of the Constitution would be to summon such a Convention. When certain proposals of a revolutionary character were submitted to the country by the Labour party I told the people that they should make themselves thoroughly acquainted with them before accepting them. The people were asked to vote on matters they could not possibly understand, and in the way in which they were presented no one could make the electors understand the effect of them. The trouble was that those proposals were put forward for party purposes, and that, I consider, is not the proper way in which to treat our
Constitution. Like the question of Defence, it should beabove party. The only way in which the people can give a matured opinion upon proposed alterations is to summon a Convention such as is now proposed to go into the whole question in a thorough manner.
It is said that because this Bill has been introduced the Liberal party has changed its political views and become favorable to the nationalization of monopolies. No one would argue that it is not occasionally an advantage to nationalize a monopoly which is a menace to the community. There may be no other way of saving the situation except by the State tackling the problem, and even, if necessary, resorting to nationalization. But though we may hold that view as a party, it does not mean that, if we are returned to power, we would propose to indulge in a wholesale scheme of nationalization. On theother hand, we do not propose to allow honorable members opposite to nationalize this thing or that thing simply because they wish to do so. Provision is made in the Bill by which they will be compelled to put up a good case in each instance in which they desire a monopoly to be nationalized. We know that if honorable members opposite were returned to power with no suchcheck upon them there would be an era of nationalizing all manner of things, because their platform provides for nationalization, and even now Labour orators have only one remedy for preventing the present high cost of living, and that is a wholesale scheme of nationalization. That is where the danger would lie; but the people will run no risk in accepting this Bill, be- cause, if no Convention is appointed, this measure will lapse in twelve months’ time, and if a Convention is appointed and recommends alterations of the Constitution those alterations will have to be submitted to the people for acceptance.
– In either case, we are quite safe; andthe Bill will do no harm.
– Of course, from my point of view, we are quite safe. I have already said that I believe that any proposed alterations of the Constitution should be submitted to a Convention representative of all shades ofopinion and political thought which can consider matters calmly, serenely, and impartially, and not, as we sometimes are obliged to do, in the heat of party passions.
The fact that each proposal to nationalize a monopoly must be submitted to a High Court Justice for report as to whether it is a monopoly or not, provides another safeguard. This Bill, with these limitations, is very different from the proposal of the Labour party, which would have placed permanently in the Constitution the power of this Parliament to nationalize monopolies. And I have no doubt the people will view the present proposal in a very different light. At the forthcoming referendum, the matter will be in the hands of the people. What is really contemplated will be fully explained to them on the platform and through the newspapers, and the electors will thus be in a position to form their own judgment upon this proposal.
– The Bill provides for a very roundabout way of arriving at a decision upon this question. First the matter is to be referred to the people; then to a High Court Justice; and then again to the people. We know, from our experience of the High Court, that the wealthy monopolists will engage the highest legal talent available -in Australia, and thus months and months will be spent in submitting arguments to the Bench. I believe in confronting Hughes with Hughes, although it may be somewhat .confusing for the right honorable gentleman. At. any rate, this is what he said upon this question -
We know a monopoly when we see one, or feel its grip, hut we cannot define it in such a way as to include every possible form in which monopoly may manifest itself.
Why should not Parliament decide what is a monopoly? It is surely as well able to do so as any other tribunal. It represents the people. It’ is what the people make it. Every three years, at most, it springs from the people. It is charged with instructions to do the people’s business. It knows the evils from which the people suffer, and the remedies .the people consider suitable. Remember, this question of nationalizing monopolies is a people’s question. By what better means then can it be dealt with than by the direct representatives of the people, specially charged to do the work in the way the people ‘desire? If the power is to be of any use to the people, Parliament is not only the best, but the only tribunal to exercise it.
Under the influence of monopolists, profiteers, and Conservatives, this same honorable gentleman now proposes that the thing should be bandied first from Par liament to the people, then to the High Court, and once again to the people. Goodness knows where we shall be !
The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr.’ Wise) said, in 1915, that owing to the whole of the members of the Opposition having’ absented themselves from -the sitting, he was not able to discuss the proposed alteration of the Constitution so ex- tensively as he intended to do, because he ‘ had expected several days to elapse before being called upon to address himself to the question. I quote these words in order to prove that, in 1915, most extended time was allowed for the discussion on the proposed alterations, and that they were not rushed through as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said they were. We should have weeks to discuss this measure ; but, when we protest against the hurried way in which the Government want it dealt with - because we are anxious to let daylight into the question, and allow the. electors to be educated, upon it - we are told that we are delaying reforms for which the people have been pining for many years. . I shall vote for the amendment which has for its object the passing of this Bill in the form of the proposal of 1915, allowing this Parliament to decide what is a monopoly, and get to work to deal with profiteering and monopolies without the undue delay that can be brought about by lawyers arguing the pros and cons of the matter before the High Court, and pointing out that the poor fat-bellied monopolists are the unfortunate creatures of circumstances, who must be protected against the law. If this Bill goes through in its present form, and these talented legal gentlemen are to be allowed to argue each case referred to the High Court, there will be months and months of delay, and in the meantime the people will continue to be fleeced by the monopolists and profiteers. I cannot understand why it is that men who previously supported a short cut for dealing with the greatest evil that has ever inflicted itself on this community now ask Parliament and the people to take the longest way around. I shall support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, because I believe that it will be a reasonable and just short cut to get at those individuals who are now carrying on depredations against society.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
N oes . . 2
Majority . . . . 44
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 1.5 to2.15 p.m.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Constitution is altered by inserting, after section 51, the following section : - 51a - (l) The Parliament shall have power to make laws for carrying on by or under the control of the Commonwealth, the industry or business of producing, manufacturing, or supplying any specified goods, or of supplying any specified services, arid for acquiring for that purpose on just terms the assets and good-will of the industry or business,where each House of the Parliament has in the same session, by resolution passed by an absolute majority of its members, referred to the High Court, for inquiry and report by a Justice thereof, the question whether the industry or business is the subject of a monopoly, and where, after the report of the Justice has been received, each House of the Parliament has, in one session, by resolution passed by an absolute majority of its members, declared that the industry or business is the subject of a monopoly. (2.) This section shall not apply to any industry or business conducted or carriedon by the Government of a State or any public authority constituted under a State.
– I move as an amendment -
That proposed sub-section (1) be left out witha view to insert in lieu thereof the following . - “51a. (1.) When each House of the Parliament, in the same session, has, by resolution passed by an absolute majority of its members, declared that the industry or business of producing, manufacturing, or supplying any specified goods or of supplying any specified services, is the subject of a monopoly, the Parliament shall have power to make laws for carrying on the industry or business by or under the control of the Commonwealth, and acquiring for that purpose onjust terms any property used in connexion with the industry or business.”
I am proposing to insert in the Bill the same clause as appeared in the measure which was passed by this House in 1915. If the amendment is agreed to, control will remain in the hands of Parliament, and there will be no reference to the High Court. A reference to the High Court can only result in interminable delay. The Prime Minister , (Mr. Hughes), in the pamphlet he wrote in 1915, argued conclusively that the Court is in a worse position to decide this matter than is Parliament. He instanced the Coal Vend, and proved that 90 per cent. of the Australian coal was controlled by the Vend, and 90 per cent. of the shipping by the Steam -ship Monopoly, which had agreed to carry only coal belonging to the Vend. Yet the High Court said that the Coal Vend was not a monopoly. The Bill proposes to hand over to the Court authority to do that which the Prime Minister has proved it cannot do. There is no need for me to argue this amendment. I am anxious that the question shall be taken to a vote. We were not able to get a division on clause 6 of the Bill dealt with last night, but I desire that honorable members shall have the chance to-day of voting for or against the hanging up of this legislation by making it of a temporary character. Ialso desire to hear from a member of the Government a statement as to how the proposed Convention is to be called together. We have been told that the Bill in its present form is an advance on the measure of 1915. On the contrary, it represents a retrograde step. I object to the interminable delay that will be caused by the Government’s proposal.
.- The amend- ment seeks to put the Bill back into the form it took in 1915. Any man who at this time in history desires to put the world back to where it was in 1915 is comparable to the celebrated Rip Van Winkle.
– Is clause 2, in its present form, more advanced than the similar clause in the 1915 Bill ?
– We have moved a long way since 1915. The world has been in the melting pot. Topsyturvydom was created during the war, and war, as Edmund Burke said, never leaves the world where it was. Honorable members opposite seem to have forgotten that there has been a war.
– I do not think they ever knew.
– I suppose that as many members went to the Front frommy family as went from the honorable member’s.
– That is all the more reason why the honorable member should recollect that there has been a war. My complaint is that the honorable member ignores all that has happened since 1915. In that year the Labour party tried, as they had done previously to bring about a drastic alteration in the powers conferred on the Government by the Constitution, not for the purposes of the war, but in pursuit of their generally Socialistic aims and objects. To-day. we are proposing to meet a trouble that is urgent and imperative, and from which we cannot escape. We are asking for a grant of power, not such as was asked for in 1915, but one to meet a set of emergent circumstances; only that, and nothing more. We properly say in the Bill that anything more shall be left for review by the people, who are entitled to be consulted when the Constitution is thrown into the melting pot. Therefore, to cope with this urgent question of profiteering, these amendments are necessary at the present time.
– How long will it be before the amendments are effective?
– Never mind; nobody is doing anything now.
– We desire urgency in this matter.
-The honorable member should suggest urgency. The attempt to include the railway servants in the previous Bill did not tend to expe dition. I suggest that honorable members should face this position when they vote against a proposition to deal with profiteering, simply because it does not embrace other questions. They say that because nothing is done to enable the railways of the States to be brought under Federal control, or to bring nearer that Socialistic state which they are seeking to create, they will not deal with the question of profiteering. They say, “ Let profiteering go on if we cannot annex the railways of theStates. Let profiteering continue if we cannot obtain our Socialistic aims in general.” That is the position which we shall be in duty bound to place before the people at the proper time. Honorable members opposite say they do not care what profiteering goes on-
– Who says that?
– You say it.
– I would not like to say to the right honorable member what I would say to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), but he is wrong.
– Honorable members say that they will prevent the passage of this Bill, which is aimed at profiteering-
– The previous Bill dealt with profiteering.
– This Bill, too, is part of a general scheme for dealing with profiteering; only that, and nothing more. No Parliament that I know of would be justified in ripping up the constitutional powers of the States for any other purpose than to meet a set of emergent circumstances, and without the limitations included in this Bill. I tell honorable members frankly that I should be chary of taking awaythe whole trade and commerce power of the States for any other object than the imminent and urgent one we have in view, unless there were to bea revision of the entire Constitution. Remember always that the Constitution is a balanced document.
– If it is illbalanced, honorable members are proposing to make it more so, because they seek to take a huge grant of additional functions without at the same time revising, or even considering, the instrumentalities of the. Constitution. There is no justification for doing that except for a temporary and emergent purpose. If there be any proposal at all for taking over these powers definitely and finally, I shall be compelled to vote against it. I am opposed to taking the whole of the- trade and commerce power of the continent, and placing it in .’the hands of a small body like the Senate as at present constituted.
– The right honorable gentleman admits that this Bill is only a temporary expedient.
– Exactly. It is limited to a period of three years, and deals with a- specific object. Honorable members opposite will not give power to deal with profiteering unless they can also annex the railways of -the States.
– Is that why we voted foi this Bill and for that which preceded it?
– The honorable member voted against this Bill being considered at all.
– I did not; I voted against the time limit.
– We only voted’ against the gag.
– The honorable member should not say so much about the gag, in view of the 1915 occurrence.
– The Liberal party walked out of the chamber like a lot of schoolboys.
– Let that incident lie, because I have a very distinct recollection- that upon that occasion the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) rose to make a plea for the Opposition.
– Hear, hear! I did.
– On that occasion, at any rate, the honorable member voted for fair play, which he recognised we were not getting; and we were not getting fair play’ from the Speaker at that time. It was not in protest against the Bills that we went out, but in protest against the Chair. If honorable members opposite desire to have the facts, they ought to have the whole of them. They ought to remember that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) was tipped out of the House, although the whole of his offending was that he said, “You are a set of heathens over there.” This shows how inflamed feeling was in the House on that occasion; and for that simple offence the honorable member was ejected. Would it not be better if honorable members opposite let the 1915 matter alone?
– I am afraid the Minister is getting a little outside the scope of the question.
– I am afraid I am. This Bill aims at a particular and special trouble which my honorable friends opposite are constantly denouncing up and down the country. It has been their cry for a long time that profiteering is rampant, and that the workers are being oppressed by profiteers. Here is a proposal to deal with profiteering; and , further powers are asked for a limited, definite, clearly-specified period. The reply of honorable members opposite is, “ Let profiteering go on; let the working man sink out of sight if he likes; let the profiteer work his sweet will on the workers of the country.”
– You might just as well give the profiteers a licence to rob the people !
– Am I to take it that honorable members opposite are voting to give the profiteers a licence to rob the people? Is that why they come over and vote on the Government side? All right; let the matter rest at that.
– The amendment will not alter things a bit, will it?
– The amendment, if carried, will destroy this Bill; let that be distinctly understood.
– That is why I vote for it.
– The honorable member says that that is the reason he votes for the amendment - he wishes to destroy the Bill. Then the noble two, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) are out for destructive purposes only? Their “ troubles “ about the profiteer ! The working men in their electorates may go to Hong Kong and the profiteer have his way for evermore!
– You wish to play with the profiteer, whereas we wish to hang him:
– How would you hang him ?
– We have our method, and it is a better one than yours.
– I have no doubt you have your method, but the fact remains that there is no power under the Constitution to hang, draw, or quarter the profiteer, and the Bill represents the only power there is to deal with him.
– We have power to change the executioner.
– Then that is what you are after - to change the executioner ? You are merely concerned in the deposition of this Government; is that it?
– I shall tell you in a minute.
– Anything that will attain the honorable member’s party ends, it does not matter what, must be adopted, and their position simply is that, unless theycan at the same time destroy the control of the States over the rail- ways, and make the Constitution an instrument of socialistic ends, they will not touch the Constitution at all.
– Do you not think that the provisions of the Bill will have ceased to take effect by the time they have gone through all the various channels?
– I do not know what the honorable member is talking about. If the honorable member knows of any more speedy way of dealing with the profiteer, he ought to have proposed it long ago; but nothing comes from him except destructive criticism. The moment a constructive proposal is placed before them honorable members opposite say, “ Out with it; it does not go far enough.”
– We ask for bread and you give us a stone.
– And the “ stone “ honorable members opposite would offer to the people, who are oppressed by the profiteer, is the entrance of the railway people of the States to the Arbitration Court.
– You do not give the railway men the same rights asare given to their fellow-citizens.
– I do not think that is the case in New South Wales. I have a recollection that in New South Wales the railway men’s wages and conditions are regulated by State instrumentality, and, so far as I know, in accordance with the ideas of the people of the State. But just because thisstate of affairs does not obtain in Victoria, honorable members opposite say that profiteering may rage.
– I do not say any such thing; I say that you do not allow the railway men the right to enter the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– The fact remains that honorable members opposite are proposing to insert amendments which they know will destroy the Bill.
– We do not know any such thing.
– Now that you do know it, perhaps the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) will withdraw his amendment.
– You were a different man when you were opposed to your present leader; now, however, you are under his knuckle and have to do as you are told.
– I wish to put the position fairly; and the fact is that an arrangement has been made with the State Premiers under which we can combine the power of the States and the Commonwealth to deal with a specific evil, and that evil only, leaving a review of the Constitution for a more convenient season.
– Hear, hear! put it off !
– Does my honorable friend desire to go into a revision of the whole Constitution just now?
– That is what is wanted.
– A revision of the whole Constitution would occupy say, a couple of years, whereas we have to deal with an emergent evil, against which honorable members opposite are never tired of declaiming, and which is the very life and soul of their propaganda. In the face of this terrible evilof profiteering honorable members opposite say, “Never mind the profiteer ; let us revise the whole Constitution and see what we can make of it.”
– It is the profiteers’ protector, we want to getrid of.
– Who is that?
– I am much obliged to the honorable member for his interjection. I take it that he and his party are making this evil of profiteering a matter of party propaganda.
– Then the naked and unashamed statement of the honorable member-
– An avowed confession.
– His statement is that the poor man may be imposed on as long as the profiteer likes to impose on him, if only the honorable member can make some party political capital out of the controversy. I am glad to hear all these confessions, because they will be very useful when we come to close grips. We have the statement from one of the ablest members of the Labour party, “We don’t care anything about profiteering, so long as we can get the present Government out of power.”
– When did I say that.
– Just now.
– You said it, I did not.
– What the honorable member said is on record, and no other meaning can be attached to it.
– That is a different thing.
– The fact remains that honorable members opposite are trying to destroy this Bill.
– Sit down, and I will tell you what I think.
– The honorable member has been against the Bill all through, and will nothave anything to do with it.
– He does not believe in your crowd.
– When one comes to think of it there is a big “crowd” over here, and only a very small one over there. I complain of want of openness on the part of honorable members opposite in this matter. If they said straight out, “We do not want to deal with the profiteer,” as the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlay- son) has already said-
– I said nothing of the kind.
– My honorable friendhas said it.
– I did not say it.
– You said you wished to get rid of the “crowd” on the Government side.
– I said we wanted to get rid of the profiteers’ protector.
– I know, but that is only another way of saying you want to dispossess the Government.
– And you are voting every time to dispossess the Government.
– And, therefore, the question of dealing with the profiteer is in the honorable member’s mind a party question, pure and simple - only that and nothing more. The question of profiteering is to him entirely and completely subordinate to party ends and purposes;
– That is very logical, and honorable members opposite cannot get away from it.
– It is, and I think I had better leave the matter there.
.- I have paid particular attention to the speech made by the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), and I have come to the conclusion that his present state of mind is of very recent development. I never in my life saw a man shed so many crocodile tears over the poor worker as the honorable gentleman has just shed.
– No; I have been trying to show you where you are.
– I intend to endeavour, perhaps in a feeble way, to show that the amendment would enable us to deal far more expeditiously with profiteering than would the clause as it stands. The procedure for which the clause provides is very elaborate. In the first place, it would be necessary for a majority in both Houses to determine that a certain business was a monopoly. A resolution to that effect having been carried, the matterwould be referred to the Court, and ifthe Court decided the question in the affirmative, the whole subject would again come before the Parliament,and a certain course of action would have to be taken. Thisprocedure would extend over several months, and meanwhile the profiteers would be still at work. On the other hand, under this amendment, if the Parliament decided that a certain business was a monopoly, that monopoly could be dealt with expeditiously.
It is idle for the Minister for the Navy to seek to make the public believe that the Labour party are opposed to an amendment of the Constitution in this direction. We are not. The righthonorable gentleman indulged in a most pathetic plea on behalf of the poor working man, although for many years neither he nor any member of his party has attempted to do anything for theworkers. Quite a number of years ago, however, the right honorable gentleman stood up for the cause of the working man, and denounced the profiteer and the exploiter of the public.
– I still denounce profiteers.
– And yet the right honorable member and his party for some years have allowed the profiteer to exploit the public. This sudden change of attitude on his part is due to the fact that he and his party believe that the poorer classes are indignant at the profiteering that is going on. And so, in order to save their political skins, they have now discovered that something must be done to put down profiteering. How different is the attitude of the right honorable gentleman to-day from that he has adopted during the last fifteen years. If the Ministerial party had been anxious to uplift the working classes, they could have availed themselves during the last three and a-half years of the War Precautions Act to save them from the exploiter. They have made no attempt, however, to apply the Act in. that direction. Advocates of the cause of Labour have alone been prosecuted under it,and the profiteer has been allowed to carry on at his own sweet will. The Government now tell us that the profiteer must be crushed out of existence. Is it reasonable to suppose that the Ministerial party, whose political fighting funds are provided by the profiteer, will make any attempt to rid the country of him? Despite their statement that they intend to put down profiteering, I venture to assert that, should the Nationalist party be returned at the next general election, profiteering will continue. This is only a make-believe Bill.
– Then the honorable member will vote against it.
– I shall vote for the amendment. The Bill was only introduced by the Government as a votecatching device.
When the Minister for the Navy was the secretary of a very important union in New South Wales, a good many years ago, he took up an attitude wholly different from that which he has adopted since my return to Parliament. I have followed the right honorable gentleman’s public utterances very closely, and I invite honorable members to contrast the views which he has expressed from time to time during the last few years with those which appeared in the following letter, written by him, as the Miners’ General Secretary, in 1890 : -
Lithgow, 18th October, 1890.
To theSecretary Drivers and Firemen’s Assotion, Eskhank.
Having regard to a communication which recently appeared in the daily press, purporting to have been written by the secretary of the Drivers and Firemen’s Association to the Trades and Labour Council, suggesting the fusion of the Labour forces ofthe district with the view of returning a representative to Parliament whose sympathies should be entirely with the worker, I am directed by my Delegate Board to submit for your consideration the following proposition: - “That two (2) representatives from each Labour organization in the Hartley district meet at a time and place to be hereafter arranged for the purpose of taking the necessary steps for the return of a Labour candidate at the next general election.”
The right honorable gentleman knew that he was a likely looking bird - that he would be the candidate.
-How does the honorable member propose to connect this letter with the question before the Chair?
– I think Ishallbe able to do so. The letter continues -
The need for this has been emphasized by the unsympathetic and actively hostile attitude assumed by our present member through- out the long and wasting strike in which our own organization is plunged at the present time. During the present crisis, Mr. Hurley has not failed whenever the opportunity has presented itself to declaim against the tyranny and unrighteousness of the methods of our. procedure as well as having gone out of his way to be brutally offensive towards those members upon whom only we can rely to furnish us with the means of voicingour complaints in the Parliament of the country. Not only so, but very recently Mr. Hurley gave expression to words in the House which can only be construed as containing a direct challenge to the Labour organizations of this district. Furthermore, since the commencement of the present struggle Mr. Hurley has never evinced the slightest desire to help in any way those of his constituents and supporters whose fortunes have been so adversely affected by the continuance of the strike, and, indeed, has shown in every possible way and manner his strong sympathy with those who, in this struggle, must be regarded as the opponents of trade unionism-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.So far as the honorable member has gone, the letter which he is reading in no way touchesthe question before the Chair. He will only be in order in quoting any part of it that has a bearing on the question.
– I have read all that I desire to quote from this letter.
– Since the honorable member has read that letter, may I say that I was, from first to last, square against the strike to which it refers?
– I do not dispute that.
– That was thirty years ago, and a more wicked rebellion never took place.
– Did the right honorable gentleman say so then?
– Yes; and I helped to break it up.
– At all events, at that time the right honorable gentleman was entirely in sympathy with the working classes; but since then he has never missed an opportunity to denounce them.
– I have done more for the workers in the Lithgow district than the honorable member has done, or would do in a hundred years. Old residents will tell him so.
– I suppose that statement is borne out by the fact that, in those days, they were working for 4s. and 5s. a day.
– That is a lie, sir.
– The right honorable gentleman must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it; but the honorable member’s statement is a monstrous one.
– It is only of recent years that the wages paid in the district have been brought up to 7s. and 8s. per day.
– That is absolutely incorrect, and the honorable member knows that it is.
– Despite the right honorable gentleman’s energy at that time, he secured nothing of a very bene ficial character for the workers. The conditions of the workers in the Lithgow district have been brought up to something like a reasonable level only during the last five or six years.
– The Lithgow miners would kick the honorable member out if, they heard him make that statement.
– They would not.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the Bill in Committee has expired.
Question - That the sub-section proposed to be left out stand part of the clause (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That clauses 2 and 3, the preamble and the title, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 44
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- In the second-reading debate this morning the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that when the Constitution Alteration Bills were previously before the House twentythree divisions were taken, and the whole thing wasrushed through. I did not have time this morning to check the Prime Minister’s statement in Hansard, as I followed the right honorable member almost immediately, or to point out that on thatoccasion the divisions were taken only on the motions for leave to introduce the Bills. It was not a question of the debate on them, as the Prime Minister would lead honorable members and the country to believe.
– They were hurried through, though.
– The motions for leave to introduce were dealt with on the 18th June, 1915. The Prime Minister, who was then Attorney-General, moved the second readings of the Bills on the 23rd June. The debate on the motion for leave to introduce the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill took four hours and twenty minutes, as against only three hours and five minutes allowed for the full discussion of this Bill to-day. The Prime Minister would lead honorable members to believe that there was no discussion at all on that occasion, but there was a longer discussion on the motion for leave to introduce the first Bill than there has been on the whole of this Bill. The debate on the second readings of the Bills took over four hours, andHansard shows, at page 4326, that after the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who was then Leader of the Opposition, had moved an amendment on the motion for the second reading of the first Bill, and after this had been ruled out of order by the Speaker, the honorable member said, “ I will relieve you of any obligation to accept it.” He then walked out of the chamber and was followed by the whole of the members of his party. Nevertheless, there was a debate on the Bills in which various members took part, including the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), who was not a member of the Labour party. He remarked that he thought there would have been a long discussion, and that he would have been ready, in two or three days’ time, to make his speech. The third readingof those Bills was not carried until the 2nd July, over a fortnight after their introduction, in spite of the fact that the Opposition declined to take any part in their discussion. I put that on record as against the Prime Minister’s statement.
– You would not even let me finish my speech. You closured me.
– That was on the motion for leave to introduce one of the Bills. During thedebate on these two Bills, we have not discussed the question of leave to introduce. When the Bill to amend the Constitution in regard to the financial arrangements was introduced, there was no time limit, and the discussion lasted for fully a month. Here we are confined to three hours and five minutes.
– Too long.
– Quite possible it is too long for some honorable members, as they do not think that the Opposition has any right to express an opinion. If honorable members of the Opposition walked out of the chamber, as the Liberal Opposition did in 1915, and did not participate in the vote for the third reading of the Bill, it would not be passed by the statutory majority, and so the Bill would lapse. Honorable members on this side are voting to help the Government, notwithstanding all that has been, said by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook). I did “not occupy more than five minutes in moving my amendment this morning; but the Minister for the Navy took twenty-five minutes to reply, and he then asked whether we had forgotten the war. -The Bill, as altered by the Prime Minister, will make it more difficult to- control monopolies than would have been the case if my amendment had been agreed to, putting the measure in the form in which it was introduced in 1915. Honorable members are anxious to have this Bill passed, because it will make it more difficult to get at monopolists. They will thus have an. excuse to place before the electors. They will
Bay that an amendment of the Constitution was attempted, but that it failed. The Bill will not have the effect that the proposal of 1915 would have had; but even if it is accepted by the people, I hope that this House will have a different complexion, so that next year there will be opportunity to make this Bill, and the Bill’ which was carried last night, effective for the purpose for which the proposals were introduced in 1915. That is why I am voting for them.
.- It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was not in the chamber when his right-hand supporter (Sir Joseph Cook) was speaking, because that right honorable gentleman said that the opponents of the Bill had forgotten the war and the changes that had taken place. The Prime Minister told us yesterday that he had not changed his attitude one iota, and still stood where he was in 1911, 1913, and 1915. The Minister for the Navy tells us also that he, too, stands where he stood in 1911, 1913, and 1915.
– I am not aware that I said that.
– The right honorable gentleman said this afternoon that if this were a permanent measure, he would be very chary about extending this ‘ power over trade and commerce to the Commonwealth.
– Hear, hear!
– He also said that if this power -were to be adopted permanently and finally, he would be compelled to vote against it. That is exactly the same attitude that the right honorable gentleman has taken towards all the efforts that have been made to alter the Constitution.
– Is it?
– The right honorable gentleman was against these proposals in 1911, 1913, a>nd 1915. He is now in favour of them as a temporary expedient. He argues that the object of this Bill is to meet a temporary necessity, a peculiar exigency of circumstances which has arisen, requiring this particular amendment of the Constitution; but at the same time he would limit its operation. Is profiteering a new thing? It has been going on for yeaTS, but it has -been particularly active during the war. During the very time it was most active, and while it is still active, the Government have refused, and still refuse, to deal with it in an effective way, although they have power to do so. They are the protectors of the profiteers. Under their shelter the profiteers have been able to exploit the public in every direction. I believe the Government have no intention, even under . these increased powers, of dealing effectively with these gentlemen. There is only one thing left for the country to do, and that is to wipe out the Government, and replace them by men who will have the courage to tackle these questions. The Labour Government is the only Ministry that has exhibited any desire or courage to deal with them.
– Is there no profiteering in the State of Queensland ?
– Yes, and to the extent that the Commonwealth Government have allowed the Labour Government of Queensland to deal with the profiteers they have dealt with them, but because of the obstructions and obstacles which the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues have put in the way of the Queensland Government the efforts of the latter have been considerably handicapped.
– Mr. Knibbs says that the cost of living in Queensland has risen more than in any other State.
– The right honorable gentleman is sufficiently well aware of the circumstances to know that to the fullest extent, where the Government of Queensland were able to deal, with the question without interference from the Commonwealth Government, they have reduced the cost of living, and that they have only been unsuccessful where they have been obstructed, hindered, and prevented from taking action.
The right honorable gentleman says that our proposals to increase the powers of the Commonwealth were put forward in order to extend the socialistic aims and objects of the Labour party, but I want honorable members opposite, who have opposed this particular amendment hitherto, to notice that the increased] power sought in this Bill covers two specific things. The Government have power, not only to acquire any business on just terms, but also to engage in business. Ministers who profess to be opposed to socialistic aims and projects, and say that the Labour party must not have the power to carry out our proposals in these directions, now deliberately ask the people to give them authority to engage in business. As a matter of fact, they are compelled to do so; the whole tendency of the world to-day is in the direction of Government control, and ownership of certain lines of manufacture and supply.
– As the honorable member is apparently talking out time, I would like him to read a passage from the speech of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton.)
– I want to show how absolutely futile and foolish this proposal ‘is. We are to give the Government the power to acquire, or carry on a business, but that power is to be limited to three years, and under certain conditions, to one year. Does any honorable member engaged in commerce know of a business in Australia that it would be worth while taking over and controlling with any “hope of success for a period of three years only ? No man in his private affairs would take over a business with such a limitation. What honorable member would invest £1 in a business that could only continue for three years ? My attitude to this Bill is based entirely on the limitation of time. If these things are necessary to be done - they have been necessary for some time past, and should have been done earlier - even at this late hour, we should do them well. There, should be no attempt to take two bites at a cherry, thus spoiling what might be made a good job. It is because something must be done in this direction that I think we ought to have men on the Government bench who will have the courage to do it, and who will not be at the behest of the very men who are accused of all this trouble in regard to profiteering and industrial and economic disturbances, and on whose financial and political support they are dependent. Who are responsible for the industrial and economic disturbances in this country? Not the workers, who are compelled to go to the Arbitration Court and ask for a few extra shillings a week in order to make ends meet, but those who are robbing the people by . the profits they are taking from them, and at the same time keeping down wages to the lowest possible point. Because I believe the workers of this country will not be protected from the profiteers, or given a chance to have a period of industrial prosperity, I maintain that this limitation ought to be absolutely removed, and the Commonwealth Government should have once and for all the powers that are necessary to protect the people. Hitherto the Prime Minister has always been in favour of these things without limitation, restriction, or elimination of any kind. To-day he is willing to accept these powers with a limitationThe Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) has always been opposed to these things, with or without limitation. Today he is willing to accept them with a limitation. That is a remarkable conjunction of forces, offering to this country, no guarantee that if the powers are conceded there will be any hope of the people obtaining redress in regard to profiteering or industrial matters unless they have a change of Government.
.- Not being a candidate for re-election to this House, I have some diffidence about speaking regarding the Constitutional proposals of the Government, more especially as I am not in accord with the party to which I have hitherto belonged. I do not think the referendum is necessary, but if it were necessary, the proposal to limit the exercise of the additional powers to a period of three years ought to be sufficient to condemn the Bill. In. regard to profiteering, the war-time profits tax was a failure, because the Act allowed a pre-war standard, which meant that a man who had been profiteering before the war could continue to do so. A very easy solution of the profiteering problem would be an alteration of the incidence of the income tax, in order to base the tax on the rate of interest, rather than the amount, earned on capital.
– The time allotted for the third-reading stage of the Bill has expired.
Question - That the Bill be read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 45
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The motion has been carried by an absolute majority of the House.
Bill read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Trade Marks Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to Passports.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
– Honorable members opposite have been girding at the Government ever since I returned from Europe on account of our negligence and dilatoriness.
– Why not go right ahead with the business now ?
– There speaks the man who lives in Melbourne. The intention of the Government is to get a move on and finish up the business that we have to do for the session, so that we may get away to our homes in good time for Christmas.
– I could describe that statement by a word of three letters.
– There is work to be done, and the Government are desirous of doing it. I appeal to the House to assist us by agreeing to an extra working day for the remainder of the session.
.- The Minister for the Navy professed to tell the House the reason for asking for an additional sitting day. Does any honorable member believe him ?
– Most honorable members have a sense of humour.
– Some of us will have to travel a long road between now and Christmas. Honorable members would be more interested to hear what is the business that has to be done before we get to the electors than the alleged explanation given by the Minister. It is not the business on the notice-paper that honorable members are so vitally interested in. Most of them are interested in the other “ bloke “ who is on the job in their constituencies while they are sitting in Melbourne. Amongst the measures on the notice-paper are the Institute of Science and Industry Bill and the Shipbuilding Bill - does any honorable member believe that we shall deal with that measure before we go home for Christ mas? - the Customs Bill, that little machinery Bill into which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) fired a torpedo by proposing that the Comptroller should make available to the public certain information; the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill, Appropriation, Bill, and the Ministerial statement on the report of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence administration; that is, the report which relates to the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works. In addition to the above measures there will be the Budget, and whatever taxation measures the Government may intend to bring forward. The excess land tax that was imposed last year lapsed on the 30th June. Honorable members on this side appealed against the continuance of the impost of 33 per cent. on the tickets of children attending picture shows, but apparently that is to continue, whilst the poor landowners, who, according to Mr. Knibbs, own three-fifths of Australia, and who must be in possession of land of an unimproved value of at least £5,000, are to be allowed to escape the excess tax. The “wealthy” children who live in Richmond, Collingwood, and Fitzroy,and in other densely populated places, are still to be penalized.
– Is not, the honorable member a little premature ? I have three taxation Bills to submit.
– We have heard nothing about them yet.
– After the drought the land-owner will not be able to send his children to picture shows, but the wageearner will.
– I recollect a return submitted to the Senate showing the values of deceased persons’ estates. It indicated that the pastoralists were earning at least a little more than the wharf labourers or other citizens. Of course, after the National party’s conference at Bendigo asked that the threepenny tickets should not be taxed, because that impost would give the Labour party a weapon to use at the elections, it is quite possible that the Government will be willing to amend the tax. Not a word was said at the conference about the injustice of the tax which was persisted in despite of our protests.
I am agreeable to the House meeting on Tuesday next if we are given an idea of what business is to be transacted before we go to our homes for Christmas. In previous years we have never met on Tuesdays at the beginning of October in order to clear the business-sheet before Christmas. Evidently honorable members opposite are expecting a rough time.
– Can the honorable member tell me why all the Sydney members of his party are in Sydney at the present time?Are they attending to Mr. Ryan?
– I do not know whether the majority of the Sydney representatives are now in that city.
– I think that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is having a big battle, and that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) is looking round the corner; and that, generally, there is a good deal of trouble in Sydney at the present time.
– However that may be, I should like to hear a more valid reason for meeting on Tuesday. The real reason, of course, is that the Government have made up their minds to have a general election, and are not prepared to take members of the Opposition or the general public into their confidence. We have reached a stage, however, when the Government should no longer be reticent as to which measures they intend to proceed with, and which they intend to drop. The Government have not carried out their promises made in the Bendigo speech in regard to the Tariff and other matters. The only alteration in the Tariff since 1914 has been to make semolina free.
– The Government, at aerate, have kept Chinese eggs out of the country which you permitted to come in.
– There are, of course, some prohibitions, and doubtless the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had visions of Warwick when he prohibited Chinese eggs. Most of the other prohibitions, I think, have been relaxed.
The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) has been in Europe for some time associating with the greatest diplomats and statesmen of the world. We understood that the object of their meeting was to do away with secret diplomacy, and that, in this new world of ours, everything was to be open and above board. Why the secrecy this afternoon? Why does the Minister for the Navy associate himself with an endeavour to keep the general public in the dark as to the intentions of the Government in regard to a general election ? What do the Government hope to gain by this reticence? Does the Minister hope to gain some advantage from his own particular followers, by affording them information which he is not prepared to give to the general public?
– Did you say a general election? What is that ?
– Now we can see that the Minister for the Navy has been trained in Paris.
– That, of course, affords an explanation of the attitude of the honorable gentleman. There is nothing that can be gleaned from his impassive and inexplicable expression as to what the intentions of the Government are.
– How many times have you told us that you know all about it?
– We know nothing, although we have tried to ascertain what the Government propose. The honorable gentleman, it issaid, has given a “soul to Bohemia,” and, that being so, he ought himself to be the soul of honour and candour.
– The question before the Chair is whetherthe House shall adjourn till Tuesday or Wednesday.
– I am objecting to the insufficient reasons which have been given by the Minister for the Navy - to his secret diplomacy. He knows very well that the reason he gives is not the real one for meeting on Tuesday.
– It is, indeed - to do public business.
– The honorable gentleman told us that it is in order that we may get home in time for Christmas, and his interjection discloses that he is carrying on a subterfuge. What have the Government to gain by keeping from the general public the date of the general election ?
– This has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– With great respect, I submitthat the Minister for the Navy ought to tell us what is in the mind of the Government; he ought to be candid and open, and tell us the truth, namely, that the Government desire the House to meet on Tuesday in order that certain business may be got out of the way with a view to holding a general election on the 13th December or some other date. If the honorable gentleman will do that, I shall withdraw all opposition to the motion.
– There is a great deal of business to be done. The Budget has not yet been introduced.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), when Acting Prime Minister, promised the Budget early in August.
– I never heard that promise made.
– You were in Europe.
– No; did you hear the promise about the Tariff?
– I did not; but all things will come in their appointed order - the Budget, the Tariff, and probably even the question of the tax on the children’s admission money to picture shows. Crocodile tears have been shed over this last-mentioned tax to-day; but I cannot help remembering that it was the Labour party and Government which first proposed an entertainments tax, and a very much heavier one than the succeeding Government imposed. All the days of honorable members opposite are now spent in denouncing legislation which they initiated. Who does not remember the fine frenzy of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) against the Daylight Saving Bill and also the entertainments tax, which he was the first to initiate ?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that he is not correct in saying that I introduced either Bill.
– Public business is the only reason for sitting on Tuesday, and I hope that honorable members will attend in a better temper and frame of mind than they have shown to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- As honorable members know, there has been trouble amongst, the labourers on the wharfs in Melbourne. As a result of the strike of 1917, original members of the Wharf Labourers Union were prevented from obtaining employment. Not long ago Mr. Dethridge was appointed by the Federal Government a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, and although he has presented a report, it has never yet seen the light of day. On the termination of the seamen’s strike, the wharf labourers’ trouble was practically settled by Senator Millen or some one representing the Prime Minister’sDepartment, and it was decided that the bureau should be abolished. During the strike of 1917, a number of men who offered for work subsequently formed themselves into a loyalists association, and they have now applied for compensation. There was another loyalists organization, but the members of it had nothing to do with the strike of 1917. They also have applied for compensation, and are at present working on the wharfs. Mr. Baker, the secretary of the second loyalists organization that was formed, is at present going about the wharfs endeavouring to foment strikes, instead of working, as he might. At the present time he is picking out for the foremen the men to be engaged on wharf work, and this morning he did this on an Australian Union Steamship Navigation Company’s boat which is lying at the wharfs, and he is selecting members of the second loyalists organization, and not those of the original body. Genuine wharf labourers feel that if he is allowed to go on in this way he will cause trouble.
In connexion with this matter, I should like to read the following extract from the Brighton Southern Cross, a newspaper published in Victoria, of the 13th September -
About midnight en Sunday last, a fire, which is reported tobe of a suspicions nature, took place at a residence in Beach-road, occupied by Mr. G. V. Baker, secretary of one of the loyalist sections, working on the wharfs during the maritime strike. The building, which is owned by Rev. H. Collier, was insured in the Royal Insurance Company for £500, and the contents for £315 in the Queensland office. The fire started in a front room, but was extinguished by the brigade before much damage was done. Constable Raven investigated the case, and found that furniture had been piled together in the room. A claim was mode for certain clothing destroyed, but a systematic search failed to bring to light any buttons. Application hag been made for a detective to prosecutefurther inquiries.
I understand that Mr. Baker informed Detective Ethell that he was under the impression that the fire was started by some of the unionist wharf labourers. According to the paragraph I have read, the fire was of a suspicious mature, and, apparently, an endeavour was made to implicate unionists. However, the re port of the detectives shows that no suspicion is attached to the unionists, and it mightbe as well, perhaps, if some inquiry were made in another direction, possibly amongst those interested in the insurance. I bring this matter before theHouse because in another place it has been sought to cast the whole of the blame on the wharf labourers, and not upon those people who are anxious that trouble should occur’ between the two organizations, and lead to the reestablishment of the bureau. I hope the Government will adhere to their decision, that the bureau will not be restored, and that fair play will be meted out to those who have been employed for many years as wharf labourers.
.- I desire to refer to a matter of some importance, relating to the ‘war service homes scheme. I have received a letter from the ReturnedSoldiers and Sailors Association, complaining of the delay that is occurring, and also communications as to the unnecessary questions that are being put to applicants. In one case a lady, who was an applicant for a home under the scheme, was asked to obtain from a clergyman a certificate that her husband was killed in connexion with war-like operations. In another case the widow of a soldier was asked to obtain such a certificate from a local clergyman, thecertificate beingrequired by the Department before her claim would be entertained. Such a requirement seems to me to be both superfluous and absurd. A clergyman resident in Australia is not in a position to say whether or not a man has been killed at the Front. The only information he can have on the subject is that supplied to him by the Department of Defence, when he is requested to convey to the dependants of a soldier the sad news of his death. War pensions have been granted, in many cases, to those who have had their loved ones killed, and the records relating to the granting of such pensions should be sufficient The Department administering theWar Service Homes Act can obtain from the Department of Defence all the information it requires, and should not require from a clergyman a certificate of the character I have mentioned. It is quite unnecessary, and puts clergymen in a wrong position. I hope that the Minister in charge of the Department will see that this practice is no longer continued, and that the war service homes scheme is energetically administered.
.- The members of the Wharf Labourers Union arein a somewhat peculiar position. They gave certain promises to Senator Millen, and are endeavouring to observe them. One of those promises was that they would loyally abide by the agreement that had been arrived at, and that if any member “ kicked over the traces,” the union would deal with him. The union is quite prepared to honour that undertaking, and I. contend that’ Mr. Baker and his society should be placed in the same position. It is unfair that these men should be allowed to engender feeling and heat among the waterside workers and escape the consequences. Members of the Wharf Labourers Union, as a result of taunts and jeers, might be induced to resort’ to acts or statements calculated to cause much trouble. I hope that the Government will see that this man Baker is not allowed any advantage over and above that enjoyed by the members of the Wharf Labourers Union. If there is proof that Baker is trying to foment trouble, he should be required to give an undertaking, just as the members of the Wharf Labourers Union have done, in order that disorder may not occur.
– It isstated in the press that, while the Government, unfortunately, do not intend to introduce this session a general Tariff Bill, they propose, by regulation,or other means, to give a certain measure of Protection to industries established during the period of the war. This Parliament will not be able to touch the Tariff, although industries are languishing. I have learned this morning, on the very best authority, that 75 per cent. of the hands in a very big industry have been discharged, because it is impossible to compete against importations from Japan and America.
– To what industry is the honorable member referring?
– I shall not mention the name publicly, but I shall be pleased to give it to the honorable gentleman. How are we to find employment for our returned soldiers and others in an already overcrowded labour market, if this kind of thing is to continue ? Before the Prime
Minister(Mr. Hughes) left for England we were told by the Government that Protection would be afforded Australian industries; but no attempt has been made by them to introduce a Tariff Bill. I urge the Minister, by regulation or otherwise, to prevent importations coming in to the destruction of our own industries. Having regard to the raw material that we produce, Free Trade shouldbe thrown to the winds. We are told that, as the result of the war, even Free Traders have become Protectionists ; but I should like to have some tangible proof of that statement. If we are going to reconstruct, it is time that we made a start. During the war a number of new industries struggled into existence; but someof them are almost dropping out, because of the lack of sympathy extended to them by the Government.
I do not wish to delay the House further; but I should like to emphasize the point made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton).We could all speak, if necessary, of the delays that have taken place in carrying out the war service homes scheme.I hope that there will be. an early Ministerial announcement on the subject, and that some energy will be infused into the work of providing homes for returned soldiers and their dependants:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191003_reps_7_90/>.