8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., andread prayers.
Debate resumed from 4th March (vide page 210), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Supply to be granted to Bis Majesty.
Uponwhich Mr.Tudor had moved -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted : - “ the Government be censured for - (a) their failure to deal with profiteering; (6) their injudicious expenditure; (c) their control of shipping, and of wheat, wool, metals, and other products.”
– Before the honorable member forWest Sydney commences his speech, I would remind him that he has already spoken on the main question, and that under our Standing Orders he must now confine his remarks to the amendment.
Mr.RYAN (West Sydney) [11.2].- I quite understand the position, , Mr. Speaker, though I thank you for the reminder. If I am allowed as much scope as the Prime Minister was given when speaking on the amendment, I shall be quite satisfied. I have been very interested in the debate, and have listened with particular interest to the speeches of those whom I might call the country members sitting on this side of the House, especially these of the honorable members for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), Angas (Mr. Gabb), Calare (Mr. Lavelle),Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), and Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). It has been impressedupon me in a striking manner, and has been made clear to the public of Australia, that the programme of the Labour party embraces all the interests of the community, and that the members of the party regard the interests of the industrial workers and of the men on the land as identical. I am sorry that I have not had an opportunity to hearmore speeches from the members who sit on the corner benches on the Ministerial side of the Chamber. I listened with pleasure to the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who took the Ministry to task for its departure from parliamentary government.
– That, of course, is the test of merit with the honorable member.
– It is some test of merit, but from the Country party I expected something broader. I would expect a real Country party to express some of the sentiments that have been uttered by members sitting on this side of the Chamber, in speeches like those of the honorable members for Hume/ Werriwa, and Angas. The criticism that came from the so-called Country party - I do not use the term in any offensive way - was very limited.No doubt, before the debate concludes, or on some future occasion - of which they must be the judges, because I do not for a moment wish to suggest to them what they should do - we may hear from them broader and more trenchantcriticism of the general administration of this Government. The remarks of the honorable member for Cowper were put forward, I thought, rather timorously. He spoke of obtaining an assurance from some Minister, and, no doubt, referred to the matter with some inside knowledge, so that we may have such an assurance. I shall reserve any comments upon the promises of the Ministry until we have an opportunity of knowing what they are. There could be no’ better illustration of the degree to which the Ministry has departed from parliamentary practice and control than the statement of the Prime Minister yesterday that in the whole of his experience he had not known procedure such as has been adopted by this party in connexion with the Government’s request for Supply. Apparently he has entirely forgotten the time-honoured con stitutional practice which prevails in the British House of Commons and in every Parliament of the oversea dominions of the British Empire. It is stated in the 11th edition of May, on page 608, that-
The ancient constitutional doctrine, that redress of grievances should be considered before the grant of supply, is maintained by the provision in Standing Order No 51 that the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair, must be proposed whenever it is intended that the House should resolve itself into the Committee of. Supply; and on the following page it is stated that-
Under established usage, members who desire to bring forward amendments of which they have given notice do not wait for the Speaker’s call, but rise to do so when the opportunity occurs.
That practice, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, is recognised in the Parliament of every oversea dominion, and is recognised in this Parliament.
– It has been recognised for over 300 years.
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection, because there is no better judge of parliamentary practice, nor any one better acquainted with constitutional usage, than the honorable member, who for so long occupied the Speaker’s chair in this House. The Prime Minister has apparently entirely forgotten this constitutional usage, and he has told us that in his experience he has never seen the course followed that has been taken by the Leader of the Opposition.
– It was followed in 1916.
– The honorable member reminds me that it was followed on some recent occasion in this House, but whether that be so or not, the fact remains that when I rose on the motion that the House do resolve itself into a Committee of Supply, I was exercising a well-established constitutional right, possessed by every member of this House, and while I remain a member I shall exercise my right under the Standing Orders, whenever I think fit to do so.
I expected that honorable members on the corner benches would have directed some criticism to the failure of the Government to properly protect the primary producer. I shall not occupy much time with that portion of my remarks dealing with the matter, but I would remind honorable members and the people of Australia that this Government is responsible to a large extent for the present shortage of sugar in this country, and I shall show how. When the agreement was made between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland with regard to the acquisition of the sugar crop the Commonwealth Government insisted on the inclusion of a provision, under which there should be no extension of the milling power ; there was to be no further production. The inclusion of that provision was strenuously opposed by the Queensland Government, but the Commonwealth Government insisted on it, and it was finally accepted under protest.
– What is the capacity of the mills in Queensland to-day?
– The honorable member who interjected must have a very vivid recollection of his conversation with me at the Carlton Hotel, Sydney, before the agreement was signed, when, in the presence of the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), I strenuously protested against the inclusion of such a clause.
– I could say something about that. What the honorable member says is not correct.
Mr.RYAN.- The honorable gentleman may be able to say something about it, but the documents relating to it speak for themselves. That clause was included in the agreement at the behest of the Commonwealth Government, under protest from the Queensland Government. These facts are undeniable.
– The honorable member has not answered my question.
– There need be no misunderstanding about my statement. If that clause had not been included in the agreement, more sugar would have been produced in Queensland than was produced during the currency of the agreement.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member may say that, but the fact remains that that clause was included in the agreement, and I speak advisedly from an intimate knowledge of the matter, seeing that I was Premier of Queensland at the time. T know what the feelings of the growers were in regard to that clause; and if any future agreement is made they, and also the Queensland Government, will be insistent that no such limitation shall be included. Why was such a clause inserted? Who proposed, who instigated it? It was a most extraordinary stipulation that Queensland should produce no more sugar than she was then producing. I am quite satisfied myself that the provision was put in at the suggestion of the big refining interests, probably the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. While on this subject I wish to remove a wrong impression that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has created with regard to the origin of this agreement. The honorable gentleman is constantly claiming credit for having suggested it; but he knows perfectly well that the suggestion for the acquisition of the sugar by the Commonwealth Government came from me, as Premier of Queensland, as soon as my Government was returned to power in May, 1915. In case there should be any doubt, I have here the Prime Minister’s own manuscript letter, which speaks for itself. It was written on the 3rd. July, 1915, and I shall quote relevant parts in order to show that it was the Queensland Government, and not the Commonwealth Government, who were responsible for the making of the agreement. This is his letter - 3rd July, 1915.
My Dear Mr. Ryan,
I have had two interviews with Mr. Knox. The problem before us is not an easy one. The action of your Government has met with the approval of the country, but naturally one can hardly expect the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to go into transports of delight about it. “ of your Government “ ! -
Put yourself in their place. For years they have been “ lords of the earth,” and now you come along, and, lo! they are as chaff driven before the wind.
– Is that a public letter or a private letter?
– It is a letter that I am entitled to quote in this House, and if the honorable gentleman wishes me to quote the whole of it, I shall do so. I am quoting so much of it as is necessary to refute the claim which he makes for the credit for this agreement. The honorable gentleman has made the claim publicly., and I produce this letter in his own handwriting, bearing his own signature, in which he admits that the agreement was due to the action of the Queensland Go- vernment, and not to the action of the Commonwealth Government.
– What action was it?
– The honorable gentleman has a conveniently poor memory.
– What action was it?
– The action with regard to the agreement for the acquisition of the sugar crop of Queensland, which was made in June, 1915, and has been continued ever since. That was a proposal which came from the Queensland Government, and was agreed to by the Commonwealth Government.
– You were “ My Dear Mr. Ryan “ then!
– Whatever may be the feeling of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) towards myself, I can assure every member of the House, and the people of Australia, that I have no personal antipathy towards him. The issues before Australia are too big for us to allow ourselves to waste our time over personalities. If we allow personalities to run away with us, we shall show that we are unfitted to hold the public positions in which the people of Australia have placed us.
– The Prime Minister had no such compunctions during the last election campaign.
– That may be, but that is no reason why I should indulge in personalities. I shall, as hitherto in my public life, endeavour to keep public discussions on a high plane. I have never descended to personalities, and I am not going to begin now. If, however, I am personally attacked I shall take occasion to make a few observations which will show those who attack me that they are not immune from attack themselves.
Last evening the Prime Minister, in his usual histrionic manner, interrupted the debate on this motion for the purpose of making a statement with regard to the financial position of Australia, and in order to inform the House that the Cabinet had agreed to send Home his colleague the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) on a certain mission. No doubt the honorable gentleman had all that information before the debate on this motion began yesterday, but he rose to make the statement at a time when, no doubt, he thought it would have some effect, not on honorable membors of the Opposition, but on those hon orable members who have their seats in the Government corner.
– It is going tohave more effect on your side than in this corner!
– I do not know, but I am suggesting the intention of the Prime Minister in making the statement as he did. It was a statement he could have made before the debate began, but he chose that particular time to make it.
That statement discloses three things. It discloses how bad is the position into which the Government have got the finances of the Commonwealth. It illustrates their policy of “ keep it dark,” seeing that the information was in the hands of the Government long ago, and it should have been given to the people of Australia when the Government were asking the suffrages of the people. Imagine the honorable gentleman referring to the Queensland financial statement as having been kept back, and immediately afterwards making a statement which should have been disclosed to the people during the elections.
– It was known long before.
– It was not made known by the right honorable gentleman.
– It was.
– Of course it was.
– I challenge the Prime Minister to point out when and where he, or any other Minister, made a public statement that there was £33,000,000 due to the British Government and not represented by bonds, in addition to an amount of £8,750,000 due this month, for payment of which the British Government was pressing.
– I stated all of that in regard to the loan of £14,000,000 which we obtained on the security of the wheat.
– Included in the Prime Minister’s statement was a paragraph which I cannot allow to pass without notice. He referred to the Treasurer representing the Commonwealth “ in the Imperial Cabinet in connexion with several important aspects of the Peace Treaty, including the German indemnity and the mandate for the Pacific Islands.” There wehave a definite and specific statement from the Government that a Commonwealth Minister of theCrown is to represent Australia “ in the Imperial Cabinet.” Is this the commencement of the establishment of Imperial Federation ? Honorable members may laugh at the suggestion, but any student of the matter knows that this is one of the methods advocated by the Round Table group in order to insidiously bring about Imperial Federation, and eventually take away some, not all, of our self-governing powers. I take it that if a Commonwealth Minister of the Crown takes his seat in the Imperial Cabinet, he will be bound by a majority decision. Is that not so?
– It is not so.
– Then what is the good of him going there? I could understand a Minister going to London to represent the views of Australia, and to impress those views upon the Imperial Cabinet; but the statement made by the Prime Minister is that the Treasurer is going to London to represent Australia “in the Imperial Cabinet.” It is all very well for the Prime Minister to exclaim “Oh!” but I am one of those who believe that he, and a great number of those supporting him, are insidiously working to bring about Imperial Federation, and reduce our self-governing powers. . I should be failing in my duty if I did not, at the earliest possible moment, enter my protest against such an innovation, lest it should appear that the Treasurer went to London and took his seat in the Imperial Cabinet without any protest being made by any member of this House.
– The honorable member ought to know better.
– The interjections coming from honorable members prove to me that they know the truth of the suggestion I am making.
– What rubbish !
– This is a matter that is of serious concern to the people of Australia, because they are jealousof their self-governing powers, and are determined to retain them. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) is interjecting; probably we shall have an opportunity later of hearing more of him when we are discussing who shall be the next High Commissioner. I believe the right honorable gentleman is to be elevated to that position, and also that the Prime Minister has aspirations to become the permanent member of the . Imperial Cabinet.
– I did hear that God Almighty was resigning, and that you were taking His place.
– The right honorable gentleman must have been dreaming, because it is only in dreams that he hears of God Almighty.
– Order! It is almost impossible for the honorable member for West Sydney to proceed when there are so many interruptions.
– I am glad, sir, that you are calling honorable members to order, although I feel satisfaction in hearing so much evidence of how my remarks are getting home on honorable members opposite.
The Prime Minister’s main speech was divided into three parts; one was a personal attack upon me, the second related to profiteering, and the third was an evasion of the real issues to which he should have addressed himself. When the right honorable gentleman attacked me as the late Premier of Queensland, he looked to his. own supporters for applause, because during the recent campaign they were repeating throughout Australia, like parrots, and without any knowledge of the facts, the same sort of allegations regarding governmental extravagance in Queensland. Those falsehoods were repeated over and over again, and the Prime Minister looked to his followers who had been returned on that misrepresentation for applause.
Mr. Gregory interjecting,
– That interjection from the Country party is evidence that some of its members are only the tail of the Nationalist party. When the division bells ring we shall see where the Country party stands. Will its members vote with the representatives of the industrial workers and the workers on the land, or with the representatives of the profiteers and the middlemen? That is the only test, and I hope that we shall afford Country party members many opportunities during the life of this Parliament to show exactly where they stand.
The financial position of Queensland is much sounder than is the financial position of many of the other States, and infinitely sounder than that of the Commonwealth, as disclosed by the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday. The balance-sheets of New South Wales and other States disclose that many of them are in a worse position than Queensland occupies ; in fact, Queensland is in a very good position, as has been demonstrated by the fact that it floated in London subsequent to the Federal election on the 13th December, a loan of £2,000,000, and the amount was doubly subscribed. I wonder could the Commonwealth do the same. And Queensland floated the loan without sending any special representative to London.
– What was the price ?
– The average market price.
– What was it?
– If the financial position of Queensland had been rotten, the loan would not have been over-subscribed, no matter what the price was. An examination of statistics will disclose that during the twelve months from November, 1915, to November, 1916, representing the first year in office of the Government led by me, the cost of living in Queensland was reduced by 12.6 per cent. The Commonwealth Government then took over the matter of price fixing under the War Precautions Act. As soon as they did that the rise occurred in Queensland, just as it did in the other States. And, because Queensland had reduced the cost of living more than was the case in any other of the States, when the Federal authorities applied their War Precautions Act the percentage rise, of course, was greater in Queensland. Then they went round the country blaming us for that which they themselves were responsible. Examination also shows that in Queensland, not only was the cost of commodities reduced, but wages rose higher than in any other State. That fact is shown by reference to Mr. Knibbs’ figures as under : -
Knibbs thus demonstrates that rents were lower in Queensland than anywhere else. Here are further statistics, having to do with the amounts standing to the credit of depositors in the Savings Banks. They show that that credit is higher in Queensland than in any other State. Queensland is shown as holding in her Savings Banks, for each individual, the sum of £50 15s. 8d. The individual total in New South Wales is £45 10s.8d. ; South Australia, £37 10s. 3d. ; Victoria, £37 7s. 7d. ; Western Australia, £34 5s. 3d.; and Tasmania, £31 3s. 7d. The Savings Bank is the” institution to which one naturally refers in order to ascertain the comparative wealth of the workers throughout Australia. If we examine the banking institutions of the other States we find that general deposits have very considerably increased, but those are the accounts of the wealthy people. In Queensland, where there is very equitable distribution of wealth, the amounts standing to the credit of the workers, in the Savings Banks, average much higher than in any other part of the Commonwealth.
But, after all, what is the best test with regard to this misrepresentation of Queensland? The best test lies in the hands of the Queensland people themselves - the people who are on the spot, who know all the facts, and are not so likely to be misled by misrepresentation. Now, what is their judgment ?
– Their judgment was that you were no good.
– I was returned to power in Queensland as the head of the Labour party in 1915, and with a large majority. We went to the country twenty-four in number.
– There was a later test.
– I will refer to the later test, and it bears still more heavily against you. The honorable member has been too long in South Africa; he does not know what is going on in Australia. In 1915 we went to the country with twenty-four in our ranks, and the Denham party numbered forty-eight. We were returned to power with forty-five adherents, and our opponents totalled twenty-seven. We again went to the country on 16th March, 1918, and what was the result? We were again returned to power, with forty-eight members - an increase of three; and our opponents were reduced to twenty-four. Now, what has the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) to say to those last election returns ? We retained power in Queensland with a majority of two to one of the elected representatives of the people.
– (But there is a still later test.
– It is a long way to look forward to the next three years, or until the next Federal elections, whenever they may be ; but during that period the people will have had the scales removed from their eyes concerning the campaign of misrepresentation of Queensland. There was never more malicious misrepresentation associated with any contest than in regard to the last Federal elections.
– Hear, hear!
– That is the case, particularly with regard to the State of Queensland, and to myself individually. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had_ the audacity, standing at this table yesterday, to talk .about the Ryan ‘Thousand. He turned to one of his colleagues, alleging that he did not remember the number of enlistments. Was it seventy-eight, or was it only twenty ? Then he raked up the old lie about parading those recruits around a room. The facts are that when the Commonwealth Government asked me, through their Minister for recruiting, to allow my name to be associated with the raising of 1,000 men for service at the Front, 1 agreed to the project. And the Commonwealth recruited, not seventy-eight, or twenty, but they themselves have informed me upon official documents, despatched from their own officers, that there were well over 400 who enlisted, notwithstanding the attempts made to discredit the Ryan Thousand. If I went on the platform the criticism was hurled at me that I was hindering recruiting, and that I ought to get off; if I did not mount the platform I was told that I ought to do so. It did not matter what I did or refrained from doing, -my action or inaction was wrong in the eyes of some of those who support honorable members opposite, in the eyes of those who wrap the Union Jack around themselves for political purposes, and who stalk about the country thanking God that they are not as other men arn. I wrote to the Minister controlling the Federal Electoral Department with regard to the misrepresentation surrounding recruiting for the Thousand, and I asked him to institute proceedings against the official publicist of the National party. The people of Australia would be surprised to think that the Prime Minister should not have had the facts within hi» own knowledge, seeing that the communications were from an official under his own, Minsterial colleague controlling the Electoral Department. How could Mr. Hughes have been under the impression that therewere only twenty enlistments, when, as a matter of fact, he’ must have known that, there were well over 400 ?
– I know nothing of the? sort.
– And he must have known, that the recruiting was continued right up to the time of signing the Armistice.
– Order!’ I point out that the honorable member is not dealing with, the amendment which is at the present time before the Chair. I remind him that when the Prime Minister was speaking hehad not addressed himself to the motion,, and was entitled, therefore, to speak either to the motion or to the amendment. Thehonorable member for West Sydney (Mr- Ryan) has already spoken to the .motion,, and, according to the Standing Orders, must now confine himself to discussion of’ the amendment.
– May I not be permitted toanswer what the Prime Minister said in the course of his speech?
– The honorable member may specifically do so. by way of personal explanation.
– With all respect, sir, I contend that when the Prime Minister spoke he should- have confined himself to the amendment.
– That is not so. Will the. honorable member please resume hisseat? I purposely referred to this matter in order to avoid the possible necessity of having to interrupt the honorable member in the course of his speech. The practice of this House is, and always has been, that when an amendment has been moved to an original motion-, any honorable member who has not previously spoken may speak both to the motion and to the amendment; but that, if an honorable member has already spoken to the motionbefore the amendment was moved, he may speak to the amendment, hut may not address himself to the subject-matter of the motion itself, nor, when speaking to the amendment, may he reply afterwards to any points contained in other honorable members’ speeches delivered upon the motion, except in so far as his remarks are within the limits of the amendment itself . That is the practice, according to the Standing Orders.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker; but, with all respect, I differ from you with regard to what ought to be the practice.
– The practice is not mine; it is laid down in the Standing Orders.
– But, of course, it is your interpretation of the Standing Orders.
– That is not so. It is the interpretation of the House.
– I might say that I have not spoken upon the motion.
– The honorable gentleman was the first to speak.
– The first to speak upon the motion that the House do go into Committee, but not on the motion of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), who moved the amendment. You make it difficult for me, sir, if I am to be called upon to dissect the Prime Minister’s speech in order to ascertain what part of his remarks had reference to the motion-, and what portions were addressed to the amendment. The Prime Minister will admit, I think, that nothing which he said concerning myself had reference to any portion of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra. At all events, I am satisfied with what I have Already said concerning enlistments for the Thousand, and I will take the opportunity, whenever it presents itself, to expose the misrepresentation employed during the recent Federal campaign, not only regarding that matter, but with respect to many others. I propose to reply to the Prime Minister’s remarks on profiteering. Shortly put, he says we have no power to deal with profiteering.
– Under the Constitution.
– Will the right honorable gentleman tell me that he has no power to deal with profiteering under any other authority ?
– I am merely saying that that is what I said yesterday.
– But I want to know what power the Government say they have to deal with profiteering. Surely it is a fair question. The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that he has the power to deal with it, not only under the War Precautions Act, but also under the Constitution of Australia as it stands to-day; he has the power under both.
– The honorable member must not put words into my mouth. He says that I know it. I say not only that I do not know it, but also that it isnot true.
– If the honorable member does not know it, it is a reflection on his legal knowledge. Yesterday, he said that I had no constitutional knowledge, notwithstanding the fact that during the four and a half years that I was Premier and Attorney-General of the State of Queensland, there were several very important constitutional cases in which the Government of Queensland and also the Commonwealth were involved, some of which were tested by the High Court of Australia, and others by the Privy Council, and that I did not send someone else to argue them on behalf of the Government, but argued them myself, and was legal adviser to the State Government myself. The right honorable gentleman knows that in every case the State Government was successful in the final Court of Appeal, whether it was in the High Court in the stock case, or in the Privy Council in the Mooraberrie cattle case. The question of profiteering is so important that I want to make it definitely clear that in my opinion, which I think will be accepted on matters affecting the Constitution of Australia, notwithstanding the comments of the Prime Minister, not only by supporters of the Labour Party, but also by a majority of supporters of his own party, the Commonwealth has power to legislate in order to deal with profiteering, under the existing Constitution, apart from the War Precautions Act.
– The honorable member has said that already ; let him prove it.
– I want to make perfectly clear what I say, and to put my argument on record, so that it can be examined and tested and, if possible, refuted. Secondly, I say there is no possible doubt that the Government has power to deal with the matter under the War Precautions Act. If we want any evidence of the opinion of the Prime Minister we find it in the regulation recently issued to deprive the members of the Institute of Marine Engineers of the use of their funds. I refer honorable members to the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution which, I claim, give the power to deal with profiteering. Section 51 provides -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States;
taxation, but so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States;
postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other like services;
the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth;
census and statistics;
foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth;
matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament or in either House thereof, or in the Government of the Commonwealth, or in the Federal Judicature, or in any department or officer of the Commonwealth.
Under the powers given in those paragraphs, the Commonwealth Parliament may enact legislation to enable them to get statistics which would show exactly the profits made in every business carried on in Australia. The Commonwealth Government have power over exportation and importation, and a great many of the evils of profiteering arise from the fact that, while goods are in transitu between overseas countries and Australia, they are sold and resold at huge profits. The Commonwealth has ample power to prevent that, and it is unnecessary for me to dilate upon the powers the Government possesses over exportation; but with the authority to take a census and get statistics they can secure all the requisite information for carrying out any of the powers referred to in section 51.
– Did the honorable member say that those powers are ample ?
– They are ample to deal with profiteering. The arguments of the
Prime Minister about the referendum proposals, submitted on two occasions previously, are like the flowers that bloom in the spring; they have nothing to do with the case, because when those proposals were put forward the great issue was not profiteering. There are many matters calling for an alteration of the Constitution, but the Commonwealth Government already have the power to deal with profiteering without any alteration of it. Last night, the Prime Minister referred to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was a member of the Government to the end of 1916, and he said “ Tu quoqve; if I am guilty, you are guilty.”
-It did not happen to be correct.
– Quite apart from the fact whether it was correct or ‘ not, the Prime Minister, as Attorney-General of the Government of that day, was its legal adviser, which probably accounts for the bad legal advice that was given with regard to the powers of the Government. I understand that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), and no doubt also the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and others, held views entirely different from the Prime Minister with regard to those powers, but the fact remains that before the Ministry of which he was a member took any steps towards dealing with price fixing, under the War Precautions Act, the right honorable gentleman was away in England, and the Government, I suppose, had to look to some one else for advice as to what their legal powers were.
– That is quite untrue.
– It is not untrue, because the decision bearing upon this matter was given by the High Court of Australia while the Prime Minister was in England; that was the case of Farey versus Burvett, reported in the Commonwealth Law Reports, Vol. 21. The decision was given in Melbourne, in June, 1916’. The right honorable gentleman left for London in January of that year.
– And I was back here in August.
– But all this happened while the right honorable gentleman was awav.
– No, no!
– Yes, yes!
– If the Government were badly advised as to what their legal powers were, then the Prime Minister himself was responsible for it. I can understand that with his limited legal knowledge he might easily, make a mistake, but whoever was responsible, the fact remains that after the High Court of Australia had given that decision there was no excuse for the failure of the Government to use their powers to check profiteering. The Prime Minister said yesterday that the Government did pass certain regulations but that on the signing of the Armistice they were relaxed in response to public opinion. In response to public opinion, from what quarter were those War Precautions Regulations repealed? They were repealed at the instance of the profiteers, who provided the funds to put honorable members opposite in power.
– Would it not be much more to the point to tell us-
– I am proceeding to” tell the House what are the powers of the Government in this respect. The Prime Minister said yesterday that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), when Minister for Trade and Customs, was unable to obtain certain information which he sought to obtain by means of circulars issued under the census and statistics power. But no matter how limited his legal knowledge, he must know that the honorable member did not seek’ that information under the authority of any Statute. If the Commonwealth Parliament chooses to pass legislation requiring the supplying of these statistics there would then be the -necessary authority, and those to whom the circulars were sent would have, under penalty, to furnish the information.
– Do not glare at the Prime Minister.
– I am not. The honorable member seems to be very disturbed, but his leader can look after himself. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that there was a decision of the High Court of Australia, in which it was held that such information could not be obtained. He did not give the name of the case, but I have no doubt he was referring to that of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited v. The AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth.
– I did give the name of the case.
– Then I did not hear it. That case, as he quoted it, has no bearing on the point I am making ; but the dictum of the Privy Council, on appeal, backs up to the hilt all for which I am contending. It was held by the High Court that the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company could not be compelled to answer certain questions submitted to him. The case then went on appeal to the Privy Council, which came to the decision that the Act itself - the Royal Commissions Act - was invalid. But the Privy Council also held that if the Act were properly drafted it would be valid. There we have another testimonial - a monument - to the legal ability arid the draftsmanship of the Attorney-General, or whoever he was, who was responsible for the framing of that measure. The Lords of the Privy Council - and I propose to quote passages from their judgment, so that honorable members may read them in Hansard specifically held that information, having for its purpose the carrying out of existing powers under the Constitution could be validly demanded. They held that companies, persons, and corporations could be compelled to give, the information so long as it was required for the purposes of the existing powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. One of the existing powers is in relation to taxation, and for the purposes of taxation the Government can obtain every detail of information they desire.
I shall now cite passages from the judgment of the Privy Council in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and Others v. The Attorney-General for the Commonwealth. The proceedings in the High Court are reported in the Commonwealth Law Reports (vol. 15), and the judgment of the Privy Council, delivered by Lord Haldane, is reported in vol. 17 of the Commonwealth Law Reports. Referring to this legislation. Lord Haldane, as reported on page 654, said -
Such legislation might possibly take the shape of Statutes requiring and compelling the giving of information about these subjects specifically. But this is not what the Royal Commissions Acts purport to do. Their scope is not restricted to any particular subject of legislation or inquiry, and no legislation has actually been passed dealing with specific subjects, such as those to which their Lordships have referred, as matters to which legislation might have been directed, giving sanction, to some of the inquiries which the Royal Commissioners are now making.
At page 655, His Lordship is reported to have said -
The authority over ‘the individual sought to be established by the Royal Commissions Acts, the new offences which they create and . the drastic powers which they confer, cannot, in their Lordships’ opinion, be said to be incidental to any power at present existing by Statute or at common law.
Further on he said -
And until the Commonwealth Parliament has intrusted a Royal Commission with the statutory duty to Inquire into a specific subject, legislation as to which has been, by the Federal Constitution of Australia, assigned to the Commonwealth Parliament, that Parliament cannot confer such powers as the Acts in question contain on the footing that they are incidental to inquiries which it may some day direct.
Here we have a very interesting passage, showing that the invalidity was really due to bungling in drafting-j-
Without re-drafting the Royal Commissions Acts and altering them into a measure with a different purpose, it is, in their Lordships’ opinion, impossible to use them as a justification for the steps which the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry contemplates in order to make its inquiry effective.
Do honorable members appreciate that point ? -
Without re-drafting the Royal Commissions Acts and altering them .into a measure with a different purpose, it is, in their Lordships’ opinion, impossible to use them as a justification for the steps-
– Nothing there about the Constitution.
– Certainly not. There we have the Lords of the Privy Council actually telling the Government that if they draft their legislation properly they will be able to get the information they desire:
– -Assuming, for the sake of argument, that we had a Statute giving power to obtain, through some Commission, statistics in regard to taxation, how much further forward would we he than we are now ? We are able now to take, by way of taxation, 19 s. 11 3/4d. in the fi.
– But with such an authority the Government would be able to take specifically from those who were profiteering. It would be able to take from them their unjust profits.
– But profiteering is not confined to any one class. Profiteers are of all classes.
– The Government would be able with such a Statute to make it unprofitable to he a profiteer. It would be able to put down profiteering. Why does not the right honorable gentleman* give this proposal a trial?
– Because the Government must have power to follow the thing; through all its ramifications.
– I will guarantee to draft a measure - if the honorable gentleman will undertake to pass it - that will effectively deal with profiteering. What ismore, I will guarantee to see it through to the Privy Council, and to have it& validity upheld.
I regard it as’ of the utmost importance that we should make it clear, not only to> the House, but to the people of Australia generally, that the Commonwealth Government has power to deal with profiteering. , It is a reflection upon the statesmen of Australia who drafted the Federal Constitution to say that there is not that power. It is almost in the nature of a
Defence power. The Government havefull and complete power over Defence, and that carries with it all incidental powers, such as the power to say how the war debt is to be defrayed, who shall pay it, and in what amounts, and whether they shall pas3 on their taxation. And, after all, is not this profiteering the passing on of taxation. It is admitted that the power exists to prevent that-then why not prevent it? It is because honorable gentlemen on the other side hold their seats by the support of money from the profiteers. We cannot expect, in the circumstances,- that they will do anything against it. But, in order to deceive the people of Australia, they ‘ tei E us that they have no power to deal with it. There are certain powerful sections of the press, from whom I should have expected something better, who make the same contention. I do think that there are some sections of the press who really desire to find out what are the facts with regard to this matter, and who are sincere, but they take up- the attitude that the necessary power does not exist in the Commonwealth to deal with profiteering.. I say that the power does exist, and all the special pleading of the Prime Minister for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and for the other capitalist interests cannot alter that fact.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that we have the power over corporations or trusts?
– The Constitution itself says so.
– It says that we have?
– Over foreign corporations.
– The honorable gentleman is falling badly in that.
– The Prime Minister has all the power he requires over corporations to obtain statistics from them. If some corporation is carrying on business here in a way which isnotin accordance with the principles upon which we consider its business should be carried on, cannot the Prime Minister refuse that corporation the use of the Post Office, of the Telegraph Office, and of the telephone? Can he not cut them off from all communication, not only with the other States, but with the residents of any one State? What is the use of talking like that? If the right honorable gentleman has not the power in one way, he has it in another.
– Could he use the Commonwealth police as well?
– The Prime Minister uses the Commonwealth police for other purposes. That whispering brigade that he sends round the country is for other purposes, and amongst them to boom the right honorable gentleman at the expense of his own colleagues.
The party on this side stands for an alteration of the Constitution.
– Before the honorable gentleman goes further, will he allow me to say that I saw in the newspaper this morning that the price of oil has been put up by a Judge in New South Wales, after investigating the statistics to which he refers.
– I do not know what the object of the right honorable gentleman’s interjection is.
– The honorable gentleman, by his proposal, gets us no nearer.
– Of course, we cannot get any nearer in dealing with profiteering whilst honorable gentlemen opposite occupy the Treasury bench, because they are determined that we shall not be able to deal with it. I have shown clearly that we have the power to deal with it if there is the will to exercise it. .
– Then why did not the honorable gentleman do it in Queensland?
– We have this experience, that, although the Government have the power, they have repealed all the regulations under the War Precautions Act. Of what use it is to treat the people of Australia as though they were fools?
– Why did not the honorable gentleman do all this in Queensland?
– A State has certain powers to deal with profiteering.
– It has all the powers necessary.
– While we were untrammelled we were able to reduce the cost of living by 12.6 per cent. in Queensland, but when the right honorable gentleman applied his War Precautions Act it superseded our action.
– No, it did not.
– It did, as a matter of fact.
– The honorable gentleman has said that a thousand times, but it is not true.
– How could a State control sales and re-sales of goods that take place whilst they are in transit from some port of the world overseas? The Commonwealth could do that, because under the Constitution it is invested with power over trade with other countries.
– What a State could do is to use the weapon of taxation.
– Yes, that is one way; but the Commonwealth controlling all the States has the power, which the present Government have refused to exercise, and a power which is much more effective than any which could be exercised by the Government of a State. In fact, the Commonwealth Government possess the only effective power to deal with profiteering in Australia. The powers of the States are very limited indeed.
I was saying that on this side we have always stood for the amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution. I stand for it to-day. The Labour party does not stand still, it progresses. The requirements for the rapid development of Australia in the future no doubt make an alteration of the Constitution necessary, and the platform of the Labour party contains proposals for its amendment in such a way as to centralize the powers and then redistribute them amongst provinces and municipalities. We propose a complete redistribution of these powers, which, incidentally, will do away with the expense that arises from the duplication of taxation authorities. The proposals which the Commonwealth Government submitted to the people at the recent referendum were not the same, or anything like, the proposals that were submitted previously by the Labour party.
– That is not so.
– In fact I say, and I challenge the right honorable gentleman to deny it, that if his last proposals had been carried as amendments of his original proposals, he would never have submitted them to the people. Yes or no ?
– Yes. I should have been only too glad to get them through.
– The right honorable gentleman would never have accepted any such amendments of the original proposals. His last proposals included provisions which he specifically objected to when the original proposals of the Labour party were before this House. They were subject to conditions as to time of duration. . They were subject to the holding of a convention the constitution of which no one knew, or whether it would be appointed at all, and if it was not appointed, the proposals would have fallen to the ground, after being responsible for a dislocation of the relations between the States andthe Commonwealth. In fact, if the later proposals had been carried, I fear that something would have happened which, in my opinion, would have discredited any genuine attempt on a subsequent occasion to amend the Constitution in the way desired. The later proposals were in the nature of a doubleheaded penny. The Tight honorable gentleman had a majority in the Senate, and he said to the electors, “ Give the Commonwealth powers which cannot extend beyond three years. If the members of the Labour partyare returned to power they will not be able to use them, because, the profiteers in the Senate will block them, but if we get them we can use them to deal with the profiteer.”
Perhaps the Prime Minister will be interested to learn the view of a late member of his own Caucus, the ex-member for Hume, Mr. Falkiner. Speaking at Wagga on December 3rd, just prior to the election, he said -
Not one of the Nationalist candidates had told the electors what they would do if the referendum proposals were passed. The fact was, the proposals were only put up as counterproposals to the Labour cry about profiteering.
The Prime Minister had no intention of using them in order to deal with profiteering, but what he did want was to secure these powers under the Constitution to enable him to deal with the industrial organizations. There is evidence of that in the regulation passed under the War Precautions Act to deal with the marine engineers. The Prime Minister wanted these powers in order to be able to use, as he himself said in Perth, “ horse, foot, and artillery,” if necessary, against the industrialists of this country. Those were his reasons. His proposals, as I have said, were in the nature of a double-headed penny, but if any genuine proposals for the amendment of the Constitution are brought forward they will have my cordial support. I am glad that I can stand on the floor of this House to-day and say to the workers of Australia that I take no responsibility for proposals submitted merely in order to give more power to the Prime Minister, and to him alone, because that was what he proposed, since, under his arrangement, the powers he sought could not be given to us if we were returned, and his intention was to crush every industrial organization in this country.
I entirely agree with a resolution which was passed by a properly-constituted Labour Convention in Sydney not very long before the elections, and which was to the effect that -
In our opinion, the referendum proposals of the present Government do not provide for definite amendments of the Commonwealth Constitution of the character and duration suited to the requirements of Australia, and are merely intended to mislead electors as to the policy of the “ Nationalist “ Government on the question of profiteering and other matters of vital importance to the welfare of the workers.
I have shown, and, I think, in a manner that cannot be controverted, that the Government have the power under the present Commonwealth Constitution to deal with profiteering, but have not used! it. I have shown that their referendum proposals were a mere sham and a delusion; that they were not intended for use against the profiteers, but might, have been framed in order to give the Government power to crush the industrialists of the Commonwealth.
The right honorable the Prime Minister devoted some of his time to a personal attack upon me. He shakes his head. I repeat, however, that I do not intend to descend to personalities. I claim to represent the workers of Australia, and I remind honorable members supporting the Government that I did not follow precedent in resigning the Premiership and the portfolio of Attorney-General of Queensland to come into this Parliament. Had I followed precedent, it was within my power to take some fat billet. I did not do that. Oh the contrary, I responded to an invitation from the representatives of the large body of the workers of Australia to enter the Federal Parliament. I did not leave the Queensland Government when they were in any difficulties, struggling along not knowing whether they would “live or not, because, as a matter of fact, they had a majority of two to one, and they are likely to have that majority for at least another fifteen months, and, no doubt, longer.
There was much misrepresentation concerning me during the elections. It was said, for instance, that I had been a supporter of the Black Labour party in Queensland. That is not true. I was never a supporter of the Black Labour party, and my opponents know it. I challenge them to produce any evidence in support of their charge. I joined the Labour party in 1905 or 1906 because I believed in its policy, and I think I have shown since that I have been true to it. I have stood for the Labour party during the most trying period of its history in Australia. I kept the flag flying over at least one Government during the most strenuous period in the history of Labour in this country. I can say, too, that I have neve!” failed to stand up for its principles. [ have not “ squibbed “ when any difficulty was confronting us. I knew the danger aud risk confronting me when I left the State Premiership to enter Federal politics ; but, sitting on this side of the
House as a private member for West Sydney, I have a clearer conscience than has the right honorable the Prime Minister sitting there in command of the Treasury bench as an instrument of the profiteering interests. I hurl back at my opponents the charges of disloyalty that have been levelled against me. The right honorable gentleman and some of his supporters during the last election campaign referred to the disloyalty of myself and the Labour party generally. We wanted, so they said, to break up the British Empire. They know perfectly well that there is no more loyal organization in Australia than the Labour party. We have no desire to break up the British Empire. On the contrary, I desire to make the bounds of freedom wider yet, and give a greater measure of self-government to certain portions of the Empire ; because I believe that, in doing this, we shall strengthen the bonds by making the people more satisfied’. I know, too, that to bring about these” reforms we must rely upon public opinion, and I have no wish to attain this end without that indorsement. I have sufficient confidence in the broadmindedness, the intelligence, and fairness of all the people within the British Empire. I believe they are quite prepared to extend a greater measure of self-government to certain portions of our Empire. We should be able to hold aud advocate these views without having ourselves misrepresented ; but the right honorable gentleman and his followers have gone up and down the country misleading the people in regard to this issue. I challenge any honorable members in this House or any of those who have been acquainted with me during my public career in Queensland to point to any act of mine, during the four and a half years of my Premiership in that State, that was influenced in any way by any man’s creed or faith. They cannot do it. I was Premier of Queensland by the unanimous vote of the State Labour party, and I left that position in the height of my ,power and of my own volition to serve the people in the National Parliament. Tt :s a long road to go, but ths people will yet know that what I say is- true, for I intend that they shall have an opportunity of learning the truth. I come into this House with clean hands. There is no “Beady in- cident” for me to explain; no wheat scandal for me to defend; I come to this House with no broken pledges. If the party to which I belong is defeated its defeat ia only temporary. Talk about sectarianism ! I have too much faith in my Protestant brethren to think that sectarianism can defeat the Labour party. I know them too well. I believe that, taking them in the bulk, the people are too broadminded to allow these tactic3 to be successful for long. They will be checkmated as soon as the people learn the truth, as soon as they begin to feel the pinch of the shoe or the tightening up of the belt which must inevitably follow as a result of the policy which this Government have adopted in Australia. That awakening will perhaps come sooner than some honorable gentlemen opposite expect.
I am not going to reflect on the Prime Minister except to remind him of his claim that he left the Labour party over the Conscription issue. I do not want to enter into a discussion upon that subject, but I say that there was no need for him, even if he did leave the Labour party over Conscription, to go back on all the other principles of Labour. There is no doubt he has done that. He may be the willing or unwilling - I would not like to think him the willing - instrument, but the fact remains that at present he is the instrument of the profiteers. He sits there and gibes a.t me about the position I occupy in this House, as an indication of my ability and strategy. I can afford- to ignore his gibes. I value position only because ofthe power it gives me to be able to defend the interests of the workers. As soon as I find that I am unable to do that, I shall get out of politics, and I shall be able to live out of politics better than I can live in them. If I had my way the Leader of the Government would be chosen by the vote of the rank and file of the Ministerial party just as the Labour party stands for the election of the mayor by the ratepayers. May I apply that test to the Prime Minister? If he were to take a plebiscite of the party which he leads in this House where would he be? He would not be its leader. If he had to submit to a vote of the party that he leads in this House, would he be its leader? Do we not know that the
Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is one of the real leaders behind him, and that he possesses the power to destroy him wheneverhe chooses to exercise it?
-The matter to which the honorable member is referring may be very interesting, but it is not relevant to the amendment.
– Perhaps the Prime Min ister will inform me whether he made his attack upon me on the motion or on the amendment? The right honorable gentleman is silent, and, therefore, I will not pursue that line of argument. In conclusion, I merely wish to say that I conceive it to be my duty to take every opportunity - and particularly these wellrecognised opportunities - to place before Parliament and the people of this country the true position of affairs, because we must all realize that ultimately the decision of political matters rests with our constituencies. I propose, therefore, to use Hansard and every instrumentality that I can, in order to enable the people of Australia to realize how far they have been deceived by the Government, and what is the real position. I am satisfied that when that position is known to them we shall be able to snap our fingers at all. efforts to raise sectarian issues. I have an abiding faith in the broad-mindedness, the good sense, and the intelligence of tha people of this country. They will stand up for what is right, I do not care whether they are Protestants or Catholics, Englishmen, Irishmen, or Scotchmen. They will stand up for what is right eventually, no matter from whom the proposals may emanate. They will judge them on their merits, and I feel confident that when they have another opportunity of so deciding - if this House will not decide, and I do not anticipate that it will - they will come to a decision which will be more in the interests of the people than that at which they arrived on the 13th December last.
.- However much honorable members may disagree with the views expressed by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), I am sure that all will re-echo the opinion that his entrance to this Chamber has added considerably to its debating power. His utterances to-day upon our Constitution remind me forcibly of the early days of the Federation, when the powers of the Commonwealth under ih©- Constitution used -frequently to come under review in the Senate, where there were then no less than ten lawyers, most of them eminent. May I mention their names? They included Sir Josiah Symon, Sir Robert Best, Sir Richard Baker, Sir John Downer, Senator Drake, Senator Harney, Senator Clemons, Senator Ewing, Senator Keating, and Senator O’Connor. It was not an infrequent thing to find these gentlemen equally divided upon questions involving the powers of the Commonwealth under our Constitution. There would be five barristers on one side and an equal number on the other. I imagine that there will always be a twilight zone between the daylight of State rights and the darkness of the Constitution about which lawyers will disagree. We, who have been in this Parliament for a great number of years, have been led to believe by our experiences that under our Constitution the Commonwealth does not possess the powers which the honorable member for West Sydney thinks that it does possess. If the honorable member is right, he certainly has a very large body of legal opinion opposed to him. What had those who favoured an amendment of the Constitution to guide them in regard to this matter? We all know that the Railway and Tramway Employees Association of New South Wales desired to be registered as .an industrial organization under the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The case went before the President of -that tribunal in the person of Mr. Justice Higgins, who asked, “ Why should a State be exempted from- the operation of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?” But subsequently the High Court decided that the provision of the arbitration law per.mitting the registration of State railway servants was ultra vires of our Constitution, and therefore the applicant association could not be registered.
– That is an entirely different question from that of profiteering.
– The honorable member for West Sydney spoke of the Commonwealth power over foreign£ corporations. But he has apparently forgotten that we cannot exercise power over local corporations. In his search through the lawbooks, he has evidently overlooked the case of Archibald Currie & Co., of the State of Victoria. That company is a joint stock company registered in Victoria, and owning a line of steam-ships that is registered in Melbourne. These steamers trade between Australia, Calcutta, and South Africa. The officers of the company resided in Australia, and were engaged here, but the ships’ articles were filled in and signed in Calcutta. The officers, though not entitled to be discharged in Australian ports, were allowed to leave at such ports if they wished to do so, subject to the consent of the master. The ships did no Inter-State trade, but occasionally made short trips from Calcutta to other Indian ports. The company desired the Arbitration Court to settle a dispute which involved questions of wages and hours and conditions of labour. The High Court held that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had no jurisdiction to determine that dispute, holding that the vessels engaged in such a trade are not ships whose first port of clearance and port of destination are within the Commonwealth within the meaning of section 51 of our Constitution Act.
The federated saw-mill employees of Australia took action against James Moore and Company, and the High Court decided that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court could not make an enforceable award which was inconsistent with the determination of a Wages Board, empowered by a State Statute to fix a minimum rate of wages. Surely the honorable gentleman who has contended this morning that the Commonwealth Government has all the powers which he said it had. must realize that if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has no power to make an award which is inconsistent with the determination of a State Wages Board, we cannot possibly intervene in the way he has suggested.
The boot trade employees of Australia spent thousands of pounds in trying to get a wages log that would settle the rates of wages throughout Australia. Time after time they went to the Court, and the President of the Court made an award, but on appeal to the High Court it was decided that the award was in several matters invalid and beyond the powers of the President of the Arbitration Court, and therefore beyond the powers of the Constitution.
Take now the case of the Commonwealth v. Barker and McKay, which has a bearing upon the honorable gentleman’s contention that the Commonwealth Government can settle profiteering by means of its taxation power. This case will also answer the interjection of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald). It arose out of the efforts of the Australian Labour party to give the workers of Australia some of the benefits arising out of the Protection given by the Customs Tariff - to my mind a very admirable thing, because if we give Protection to the Australian manufacturer, we ought to endeavour, if we can do so, to pass on some of the benefits to the employees engaged in the protected industry. The Commonwealth Parliament tried to do this.
– And you might include the primary producers also.
– My experience of the farmers in Capricornia is that they work as hard as any wage-earners I know; they have a permanent job, and many of them do not receive a living wage. Anything I can do to assist my honorable friends of the Country party, I shall be glad to do.
– Does the honorable member object to my statement? What is the meaning of “ Ah ! “ ? Is it a satirical interjection? We know what he means.
– I will be very glad to help them, and to help you.
– Then I ask the honorable member not to interject again in that satirical manner, when I point out to the farmers of his district that I am always willing to help the Country party to make the lot of the man on the land more secure and more comfortable. I hope that when I make that announcement my honorable friend, who represents a farming constituency, will not make a satirical interjection.
– The .honorable member entirely misinterprets my meaning. I shall be very glad if the honorable member does help to improve the lot of the farmer. I will assist him.
– It is unfortunate that the honorable member interjected “Ah!” What does it mean? The honorable member may explain when he gets up to speak.
We gave a Protection, in the case of stripper harvesters, of £12 each ; strippers, £6 each; stump- jump ploughs, 25 per cent.; disc cultivators, 25 per cent.; and ploughs, 25 per cent. We then passed a law that, in order to compel the local manufacturers of those implements to pay a fair rate of wage, an Excise duty of £6 each should be imposed on stripper harvesters, of £3 each on strippers, of 12$ per cent, on stump-jump ploughs and disc cultivators, and 10 per cent, on ploughs. We tried to get the local manufacturers to pay the rate of wages which was thought to be the standard rate. The manufacturers refused, and the case, went before the High Court. The High Court said -
If the control of the domestic affairs of the States is in any particular forbidden’ by the Constitution, either expressly or by necessary implication, the power of taxation cannot he exercised so as to operate as a direct interference with those affairs in that particular.
It further said, and this bears upon the contention of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), that the Commonwealth can by taxation deal with profiteering -
The selection of a particular class of goods produced in Australia for taxation by a method which makes the liability to taxation dependent upon condition’s to be observed in the industry in which they are produced, is as much an attempt to regulate those conditions as if the regulation were made by distinct enactment.
– It was all a matter of drafting the measure.
– The High Court decided that the Excise Tariff Act of 1906 was invalid on the ground that it interfered with the domestic affairs of the States, and that therefore neither Mr. Barger noT Mr. McKay was called upon to pay the Excise duty imposed upon them. The honorable member for West Sydney did not hear the argument, or I am sure he would not have said that it was merely a question of drafting.
– Mr. Batchelor said in this House’ that the drafting of that Bill by Mr. Deakin doomed it to failure, and made its destruction at the hands of the High Court inevitable. That was why it was held to be invalid and thrown out by the High Court.
– My honorable friend knows that when our party had a large majority in both Houses of this Parliament - we had 70 men out of a total of 111 - we did our level best. As laymen we sought the highest legal opinion, and that legal opinion was against us.
– Whose opinion? Not the Attorney-Generals ?
– The legal opinion of the High Court. I have given cases which the honorable member did not hear, but which I hope he will read.
– I have read them over and over again.
– All the cases?
– Including the case where the High Court decided that the sawmillers could not even register in the Arbitration Court?
– Then I can only repeat that the Constitution will always provide grounds for debate, in which we shall find the legal fraternity almost equally divided, with very eminent lawyers on both sides, as to the powers conferred by it. We endeavoured to deal with Trusts and Combines, and found that it was impossible. The coal and shipping companies were combining to restrict the output of coal and to decide the price at which it was to be sold. The companies were called upon to answer certain questions, and when they refused were fined by the Court. An appeal was lodged in the High Court, and that Court decided that the Commonwealth had not the power to invade the field of State law as to domestic trade, the carrying on of which is within the capacity of trading and financial corporations formed under the laws of the States. In other words, said the late Chief Justice (Sir Samuel Griffith)-
I think that sub-section xx. empowers the Commonwealth to prohibit a trading or financial corporation within the Commonwealth from entering into any field of operation, but does not empower the Commonwealth to control the operations of a corporation which lawfully enters upon a field of operations the control of which is exclusively reserved to the States.
– It does that with “Tattersall’s.”
Mir. HIGGS.- What is the use of discussing this subject when we know the Government do not possess the power?
– Then let us take it.
– By a majority of the people in a majority of the States the proposals have been turned down on three different occasions during the last ten years- in 1911, in 1913, and in 1919. It has been decided by the people that the Government should not possess these powers, so what is the use of us wasting time ? We must respect the verdict of the electors.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Government have the power to deal with profiteering?
– I shall deal with that phase of the question in due course. Having in view the verdict of the people as expressed on three different occasions within ten years, we have no right to interfere with the domestic affairs of the States, but should confine our activities to those national questions which we have the power to deal with under the Constitution.
– Could not the Government prevent such people using the telegraph, telephone, and postal services?
– But settlers are ordering goods almost every hour of the day.
– The Government found means of dealing with the engineers, so why can they not deal with others similarly?
– I can imagine what would happen if the Government endeavoured to do what the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) suggests. Does he think that would stop profiteering?
A motion of censure is based on two grounds. One iswith the idea of defeating the Government, and the other to make political capital out of a recital of their crimes for use at coming elections.
– It also gives the House an. opportunity of defining” the position of certain members.
– Political capital is one of the schemes of politicians.
– Order! I ask honorable members to allow the honorable member for Capricornia to proceed.
– What is the use of making political capital by a recital of the sins of the’ Government, when we have been doing that for over three months.
The crimes the Government have committed have been detailed on a thousand platforms throughout the Commonwealth, and the despotism of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has been referred to in all kinds of language - parliamentary and unparliamentary. Those who were opposing the Government during the recent campaign referred to the mismanagement of the Wheat Pool, the metal industry, the Shaw wireless purchase, and the Ready incident. The response of a majority of the electors was, “ Well, we believe you; but we are afraid of the Labour party.”
– They have reason to be afraid.
– At any rate, the result of the recent elections shows conclusively that they were afraid of the Labour party.
– Is that why the honorable member was elected - -because they were afraid of the Labour party?
– I would not go into that, “ Billy.”
– My modesty will not allow me to say why the electors of Capricornia placed me in my present position. I have already stated that one reason for submitting a motion of censure is to defeat the Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) knows that he cannot do that.
– We do not Know yet.
– He knows where honorable members stand, or he ought to have inquired before he moved his motion. If he wished to defeat the Government, why did he not take the advice I gave to the electors in Capricornia?
– There is some doubt as to where the honorable member will vote.
– There will not be when I have concluded my speech.
– There is a job in some vacant position.
– That remark is on a par with a recent satirical interjection of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has said, “ There is a job in some vacant position.” Some of the writers in the Official Labour press have said that I delivered a certain speech in my district to secure a place in the Ministry. They are very much mistaken.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member said, “ There is a job in some vacant position.” There can be only one meaning tothat interjection.
– I do not mean that.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Not now.
– Order! DoI understand that the honorable member for Bourke wishes to make a personal explanation ?
– The honorable member has misunderstood me.
– Honorable members are greatly mistaken if they think I am seeking office.
– I did not mean anything like that.
– Before I was elected to the Ministry I was extremely anxious to be a member of a Government. I would have been disappointed had I gone out of political life without having occupied such a position; but after twelve months’ experience, I can assure honorable members that I am not now seeking such favours. Because, after all, as Mr. Justice Duffy said in a poem he wrote many years before he was appointed to the High Court Bench, promotion is only, “ the right to labour at the oar.” That is my feeling regarding holding office as a Minister of the Crown. If I had my choice, I would like to end my political life, not lagging superfluous on the political stage, but able to come into the House and say what I think ought to be said and don© in the interests of all Australia - free and untrammelled by any party, and responsible only to the electors of Capricornia, the constituency I represent. I may not be able to do that. I may be compelled! to join a political party, for the position of an independent member is a peculiar one. The public wants its parliamentary representatives to join some political party, and to be prepared to take the blame for the sins of that party, as well as the credit for its good deeds.
If the Labour party had wished to defeat this Government, it would have accepted my advice, which was to come to some arrangement with a third party. It must be remembered that the formation of political parties is merely a means to an end. Parties are created to secure the legislation set out in their programme. How can a party which is not in a majority getits proposals for legislation passed into laws? Is it not the plain duty of such a party to get into touch with others by whose help they may hope to carry out their programme? To my suggestion the Labour party said, “No, we are independent, and intend to stand by ourselves, as a class party.” I regret that decision.
The Australian Labour party has done a great deal of good for this Commonwealth. Before it was formed, no political party in any of the States had put forwardany proposal for legislation to ameliorate the conditions of the masses engaged in industry. It was only after the formation of the Labour party that otherpolitical parties felt that they must recognise the political necessities of the people.
But the Labour party has altered its methods of late. There was a time when it would coalesce with those whose views were near to its own, though it will not do so to-day. The assistant secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall, Mr. E. J. Holloway, says that compromise means sacrifice. It does not mean sacrifice to the people; it means sacrifice only to some men in Parliament, and to some others who hope to enter Parliament. There are only about a dozen Ministerial positions, and, consequently, when a coalition is mooted, there are men in Parliament who say, “ I have no chance of getting into the Ministry that it is proposed to form, and, therefore, I shall vote against any coalition.” Then, outside, there are other men who say, “ The proposed coalition between the Labour party and the Farmers party will mean that the candidates of the Farmers party cannot be opposed by Labour candidates at the nest election, and this will deprive us of a chance of getting into Parliament, so we shall oppose the coalition.’’ I regret that the Labour party has taken this stand, because, while it remains a class party, and is isolated, it must stay in Opposition for a very long time.
– This is the most deplorable result of the honorable member’s pernicious teachings. I might have been on the opposite side of the chamber if it had not been for his teachings.
– The honorable member is wrong. He will find, if he looks through the files of the Brisbane Worker, which I edited for five and a half-years, or reads the reports of my parliamentary speeches, that behind everything I have written or said there is a sane policy. Thereisno talk of repudiation in any of my speeches or writings, although there may have been talk of it in the speeches of the honorable member.
– There is in mine, and, I think, also in the honorable member’s.
– There is no man in this House who possesses greater ability as an orator than the honorable member, and no member who is more useless as a politician. He blows in here and makes a brilliant speech-
– And that is the last of him.
– And that is the last of him. The honorable member, than whom there is no more emotional orator in this Assembly, goes outside and works up in his hearers the belief that the only way in which they can improve their conditions is with a revolution.
– Hear, hear ! . That is blood andbread once more. Thatis what the honorable member once taught. It is his own gospel.
– The honorable member misquotes me. He has distorted an historical reference. It is a great pity that he should use his oratorical talents to mislead the workers outside.
– Intentionally, too.
– He is educating men into the belief that the workers can improve their conditions only by direct action. That is the Gospel of Despair, and the honorable member must know it, although, possibly, when in an emotional state, he may feel that he would like to blow up everything, bring about the original chaos, and start again. The fault of the Labour movement to-day is, that the direct actionists are to be found everywhere in it. They are on the executive which lately expelled me. . Direct action means the doing away with parliamentary institutions, and the substituting of Soviets. Yet everything that the working classes of Australia have gained they have gained through the trade unions, by political action, and the use of parliamentary and municipal institutions. Is it not wrong of honorable members to go about the country preaching the doctrine of direct action? The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) does not mean what he says. He is not prepared to take a rifle and lead a crowd on to some revolutionary movement, but he is prepared to preach revolution.
– I live in a coward’s castle. I can courageously urge on others to die, but I am not prepared to die myself.
– What position is that to occupy ? What kind of philosophy has the honorable member? What is his view of life that he can adopt that attitude? We may not be emotional orators, but we are practical men.
– Hear, hear! “Socialism in our time!”
– I remember reading somewhere twenty-five years ago the statement of Lord Dufferin, that the world was governed by phrases. At the time I was editor of the Worker, and, with a view to instilling enthusiasm into the people of Queensland, I coined the motto “ Socialism in our time.”
– But, like me, the honorable member did not mean anything that he said.
– I respectfully resent the suggestion that I resemble the honorable member in any particular whatever.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.
– I ask leave to continue my speech later.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned .
Mr. CONSIDINE made an affirmation, and subscribed the roll as member for the electoral division of Barrier.
.- Before the lunch adjournmentI was about to explain how I came to hoist the flag “Socialism in Our Time.” After these words I wrote “ That is to say, State Cooperation and Municipal Co-operation in Our Time.” I speak from memory, but I believe I also added “As much State Co-operation as we can get in our day and generation.” After the motto were set out the planks of the Labour platform of the time. Of course, we did not then have one-adult-one-vote; nor had we any Factories Acts or early closing in Queensland. I may say that Mr. A. G. Stephens, proprietor and editor of the Bookfellow, who was then editing the Red Page in the Sydney Bulletin, expressed the opinion that the Brisbane Worker, as conducted by myself for a period of five years, had had a great deal to do with creating the solidity and strength of the Labour movement in Queensland. Such is the jealousy even in the Labour movement that the motto “ Socialism in Our Time “ was removed in 1899 by the editor who followed me, never to be restored.
What is the use of this House taking up any more time discussing what are our powers under the Constitution? The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) contends that we have power to deal with profiteering; but profiteering is a great deal more difficult to deal with than many people imagine. I am sure that it cannot be dealt with by means of taxation, and I doubt very much whether we can succeed by fixing prices. In waT time, no doubt, fixing prices may be more or less successfully managed; but to fix prices in peace time is an entirely different matter. For example,if we try to fix the price of gas, the result to the general community, who use gas, is poorer lighting; and if we try to fix the price of meat, the result is a supply of inferior quality - I mean, of course, when services and goods are distributed by private persons. There is only one way, to my mind, in which to lower prices, and that, as I have frequently said in the House, is for the Government to undertake to supply the services or goods in competition with the monopoly or combination of persons who have raised prices. If I am asked for an illustration, I refer to the Commonwealth Bank. What would be the use, in the absence of the Commonwealth Bank, of fixing the rate of interest that should be charged by the banks or money-lenders? What would happen would be a private agreement between the lender and the borrower. The lender would express himself as dissatisfied with the security offered, and would arrange to take the rate of interest according to law, but, in addition, to be privately paid a bonus, and he would deduct the bonus from the principal before he handed it to the borrower. The Commonwealth Bank, however, enters into competition with the private banks, and if it fixes the rate of interest at 6 per cent., the private institutions have to follow suit. That is the only way in which profiteering can be dealt with. “We are told that the Commonwealth has power to nationalize a monopoly; yet on three different occasions a majority of electors and a majority of the States have declined to give the Commonwealth the power. What is to be done? Let us get back to the States, in most of which there is one-adult-one-vote, and allow them to try for success where the Commonwealth has failed. In any case, it is no use trying to abolish anything until a majority is in favour of the abolition. A little while ago the people of Queensland were asked to abolish the Legislative Council, and by a tremendous majority they turned down the proposal. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), if he has taken the trouble to inquire as to who will vote for the motion, knows that he cannot carry the amendment. He is really giving a smack in the face to the Country party, in view of the notice of motion given by the Leader of that party (Mr. Mcwilliams), and I imagine that he will not expect the Country party to’ vote for the amendment. The division will merely disclose to the general public the smashing defeat suffered by the Labour party at the last election. It comprises now only twenty-six members out of 111 in the Senate and House of Representatives, and those who vote for the amendment to-day will probably number not more than twenty-three. We ought to cease going over the old ground just now. It is useless to recapitulate the past sins of the Government. They have a mandate from the people: the Ministerial party is the strongest in the House. The Government come before us and say tha.t they are prepared to do certain things which are outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech. Every hour we spend in talking about the past sins of the Government means delay in the payment of the war . gratuity to the soldiers, which all parties had promised to pay at the earliest possible moment, and we shall be depriving the widows and orphans of the money we undertook to give them.
There are certain matters to be dealt with in regard to which the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth are undoubted. There is the gratuity and repatriation; a great deal has to be done in restoring our soldiers to civil life. We have, power to deal with a Protectionist Tariff; that is our first line pf industrial defence. There are the financial and banking problems; We have complete power to deal with banking. A duty devolves upon us to consider the financial situation and the extent to which the issue of p.aper money is responsible for high prices. The Commonwealth is like a man who is having a good time by increasing his overdraft. The nation is borrowing money, and we shall not be able to cease’ borrowing for a time, because we cannot expect to raise by taxation the difference between our income and expenditure, and for some time it will be necessary for lis to .borrow in order to pay our way. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is to go to London to inquire into’ the financial situation, for the purpose, I suppose, of. ascertaining to what amount and upon what conditions money can be borrowed abroad.
We have power to strengthen the Inter-State Commission. We all thought that that body would be able to do a great deal of good; it is comprised of three very able and earnest men, but they found themselves absolutely without any power to enforce their decisions. We ought to give them power to carry out the work for which they were appointed.
We have constitutional power to deal with the Commonwealth line of steamships. I very much doubt if we have power to engage in Inter-State shipping, but we have power to own and control an overseas line of ships, and we ought to give attention to that matter.
We can apply ourselves to the question of immigration and decide what class of immigrant is to be assisted to come into the country. The representation of the Territories, the number of representatives they are to have, and the extent of their voting power in this Parliament are matters requiring attention. We have power to create new States, with the consent of the Stages, and I favour devoting attention to .that matter. External affairs and our relation with foreign Powers, the League of Nations, the defence of Australia, how many air-ships and submarines we shall have, and the efficiency or obsoleteness of the Dreadnought - all these are questions to which this Parliament could devote attention with great advantage to the Commonwealth. It is futile for us to dwell on the past sins of the Government. In my opinion, they ought to be allowed a fair show to carry out their political programme. I shall give them that fair show, and I intend to vote for the Government against the amendment.
– I had not intended to speak on this amendment, but I feel that probably the mind of the Blouse has been to some extent overawed by constitutional arguments on the question of price fixing. We have had from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) a very ingenious contribution to the debate, and I desire to analyze his remarks and see how far they take us towards a solution of the high cost of living. That this Parliament may have constitutional power to deal with .the cost of living is one thing, but that it may have effective power is another. As laymen, it is our duty to submit these legal and constitutional problems to practical analysis. The honorable member for West Sydney said that we had power to deal with taxation, export and import trade, statistics, and postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services. Admitting that these powers do exist, are they sufficient to effectively control the whole area affected by the cost of living? In effect, the honorable gentleman said that we had power over the import trade, and if we set up a blockade of Australia we should bring down the cost of living.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member was wily enough not to endeavour to show how, by ‘controlling the import trade, we should reduce the cost of living. It is only in order that there may be a little more sincerity in regard to this matter that I am speaking. Never before in the history of the world was there less chance of getting cheap sea-borne goods into Australia. The cost of raw” material on the other side of the world was never dearer, the cost of fuel, the basis of manufacture, was never dearer, money was never dearer, wages were never higher, and shipping was never more scarce. Having regard to this combination of circumstances, which means highpriced goods on the other side of the world, apart from the cost of bringing them to Australia, is it not humbug to tell the Australian people that they can expect to get cheap goods from overseas?
I wish to analyze the frame of mind of the honorable member for West Sydney, and to take Queensland as an illustration, for the - benefit of those who represent country interests, and whom I welcome into this House. Let us classify the various commodities, considering, first, foodstuffs. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) was not candid enough to-day to indicate that his policy would be to deprive the Australian producer of the world’s parity. The policy of the Queensland Government, of which he was until recently the leader, is to bring down the cost of living by certain drastic means. Notwithstanding that today Australia has an Imperial contract for meat, the prices being 4$d. for beef, 5£d. for mutton, and 6£d, for lamb, the State Government of which the honorable member was until recently the head, by proclamation, expropriated all the rights, privileges, and interests of the owners of meat in the freezing chamber? of Queensland, and declared that for five years to come, irrespective of what the Australian parity might be, growers in this country should receive for home consumed meat only 3d. per. lb.
– I deny that. Oan you show me where that was done or announced ?
– I have the proclamation’, and will take the opportunity to read it. I will show it to the honorable member.
– I defy you to do so.
– The honorable member challenges the accuracy of my statement.
– There is no truth in it.
– I will stand by everything I say in this House or upon the platform in the country, and will undertake to produce and read in this chamber the Gazette notice issued by the Queensland Government.
-You cannot do so, because it does not exist.
– This was a proclamation issued under the Sugar Acquisition Act.
– No price was fixed.
– I carried a copy of the proclamation in my pocket for weeks, and will produce it and hand it to the honorable gentleman. The proclamation was issued since the honorable member left the Queensland Government, but it is based upon what was his policy. I take it that he approves of the policy that for five years to come - notwithstanding devastating drought, . notwithstanding that the price of chaff has been £15 a ton, and that the people, if they succeed in saving their flocks and herds, will do so only by exhausting their last pound - producers are to be faced with the prospect of receiving one flat rate for their meat.
– We said no such thing.
– Of course, there have been explanations. The Queensland Government have endeavoured to water down their attitude; but is the honorable member for West Sydney prepared, the while he coquettes with his friends in the corner, here, to say that the primary producer should have the benefit of the world’s parity for all he raises in Australia for home consumption, as well as in respect to the exportable surplus? The honorable gentleman is dealing with the cost of living. Would he force the primary producer to carry a ruinous burden, in order to permit him to cheaply feed his followers in the city? Those followers of the honorable member yelled for cheap meat when he was in power in Queensland, whereupon his Government issued a proclamation and told their adherents they should have it.
Before a vote is taken upon the present issue it is well that the policy of the Queensland Government should be thoroughly known. With regard to staple products, Australia had a very fair deal at the hands of primary producers during the war period.
– Did they get the world’s parity ?
– They did not.
– Then what are you talking about?
– The honorable member knows that no such thing as world’s parity existed while the war proceeded. No honorable member will say that while there was no country to purchase our produce, and while there were no ships to carry it, there could have been any such thing as a world’s parity.
– There is a world’s parity to-day.
– If there was not a world’s parity, why do you ask me if I agreed to the producers securing the benefit of the world’s parity?
– Because the honorable member announced in Sydney that he believed in our securing the world’s parity for our exportable surplus. I followed with interest the constitutional arguments advanced by him; and I may add that all I know about constitutional lore is enough to enable me to listen intelligently to such able exponents as the honorable member for West Sydney and the Prime Minister. But I derive small comfort from an examination of the honorable member for West Sydney’s schemes. He would hold up shipping; he would blockade Australia, in order to insure cheap supplies for his followers. He would hold up the post and telegraphic services; he would prevent trade and commerce from availing itself of those services; and yet he would expect business to carry on. By imposing additional taxation he hopes to bring down the cost of living. ‘ There was a time, during the war, when there was a good, clean public conscience, manifested and expounded by the representatives of the people in this chamber. Nobody desired to emerge from the conflict richer than he had entered it. There was a clean conscience, and no party politics. Then came the imposition of the war-time profits tax, and it hoisted the cost of living more than anything else. Traders are human ; people engage in business for profit. Nobody in this chamber has yet defined just where fair profits end and profiteering commences. There have been lots of wild statements and all kinds of nostrums, but no one has been clever or candid enough to indicate where profiteering begins.
– But the “War-time Profits Taxation Act was not based upon sound principles.
– It was based upon the same principles as the honorable gentleman has adopted. Analyzing the powers which the honorable member for West Sydney seeks to apply to trade and commerce, I am convinced that there would result only confusion; there could be only increased prices and cold comfort for the general community. While there is urgent need for greater production on the one hand, the holding up of public services, interference with shipping, and the discouragement generally of trade and commerce on the other hand would inevitably tend to confuse the whole situation - bad enough as it is at this moment.
– Does the honorable member say that the Government cannot deal with profiteering, even if it has the power to do so?
– I am prepared to admit that we have some of the powers required to deal with profiteering, but they are not efficient.
– Assuming that the Government had all the power necessary, what would they do?
– That is not my problem. The honorable member has suggested a means. I am analyzing his machinery. It is a clumsy misfit, which offers no relief to the hungry, and can only lead to still further increases in prices and make confusion worse confounded. The honorable member has clearly shown that, although his suggestion may be constitutional, it is not a practicable one for the hungry people of Australia.
.- I would not have spoken had it not been for the speech of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). If there is one thing honorable members . of this House do like it is a fair representation of what has been said by them. I listened to the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). I heard him say that he would make use of certain, public agencies with a view to prevent profiteering ; but he certainly did not make the sweeping statement recited by the honorable member for Wannon.
– No. But it was only a fair deduction as to the means to be employed.
– It was not a fair deduction. The honorable member for West Sydney said that if we found any firm guilty of profiteering we should deal with it under the powers we possess - by refusing it telephonic communication-, and so forth. Any one would think that would be the first time this Parliament had endeavoured to enforce its powers in order to prevent people from operating in a nefarious trade. We refuse the proprietors of Tattersalls sweeps the right to use the Post Office, and if a trading concern seeks to rob the people of the country, surely it is not wrong to tackle it in the way in, which this other supposed evil has been tackled.
As an Australian, I listened with a great deal of regret to something the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said last night. He told us that at the inception of the war a matter of about £42,000,000 had been borrowed from the Mother Country without proper arrangements being made.
– That is hardly correct. This money is required to pay Great Britain for services carried out for us at the other end.
– I am not so much concerned with what was done, but as an Australian I am concerned with the fact that a peremptory demand has been received to pay up at once. I am loath to believe that the British Government made such a demand ; but I am informed that, at the behest of certain members of the House of Commons, who have raised the point, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer has asked our Government to kindly step into line in this particular matter. I hope I shall not be charged with any disloyalty to the Home people when I say that, considering the great amount of money Australia spent in connexion with the war, and the part it played in it, such an insult to the Aus- tralian public comes with, ill-grace from the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. Every honorable member should consider well whether we ought to permit this affront, for, as the Prime Minister put it, it means that it is thought the Australian people are not to be trusted to honour the bond into which they have entered.
– We should not have owed the British Government a penny for these services.
– That may be; but we have given our bond to foot the bill for the maintenance of every soldier we put in the field from the time of his departure from our shores until his return. 1 wonder if all parts of the Empire have done the same. We have gone through the war without making any money out of it. Have other parts of the Empire done the same? Our wool growers, our wheat farmers, and our meat producers have given their product to help in the struggle at lower prices than other parts of the Empire received. But I have no desire to compare what we have done with what other Dependencies have done. We did what we did willingly and ungrudgingly. However, after having done so much, it is very unfair to Australia that we should receive such an “affront. If there are matters requiring adjustment I could understand the Home Government sending out a cablegram and a representative of the Commonwealth going from here to the Old Country to put these particular financial matters in order, and if our Treasurer (Mr. Watt) does go to Great Britain I hope that he, as an Australian, will tell the people there that the Commonwealth will honour its obligations, as it has always done in the past. If I had my way that £42,000,000 would be paid” now.
– It would be paid if the Government had the money.
– I do not wish my utterance to be misinterpreted. If I had my way now, and it could be done, I would pay the money at once. During this debate much has been said as to the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to control prices and deal with profiteers, and the question of our constitutional powers has also been from time to time the subject of much argument in our Law Courts. It is being shown more clearly every day that it is -useless to play witu our Constitution as the Government recently attempted to do. It is idle to adopt half measures. That has been my view from the> inception of Federation. If we want to free trade and production in this country, if we want to solve the problems that confront us, we must ask the people themselves whether they are not tired of being governed by so many Parliaments. I shall not deal with the ramifications of our parliamentary system, but it is well known that almost every business man -and every industrial union, under the present system, has frequently to consult the lawyers, in order to ascertain whether their various enterprises are governed by State or Federal law. It has been said during this discussion that it costs many men more to prepare their income and land tax returns’ than they have to pay by way of actual taxation. On every hand producers are hampered and harassed by conflicting decisions as to industrial and other disputes. The system of government in Australia is becoming more and more complex. One would think that the people of the different States were of different races, living wholly under differing conditions. My regret is that, at the outset, when Federation was first proposed, we did not go the whole way, and determine that in practice as well as in theory there should be a truly National Parliament. As it is, we are a National Parliament without national powers.
– And with no national aspirations.
– Exactly. Because of artificial State boundaries, we have differing railway gauges and differential railway freights designed to divert produce from its natural ports, and to cause it to be carried over hundreds of miles of railway to particular State ports. There is only one course by which we can rid ourselves of these systems, and this is an opportune time for the National Parliament to take over national duties. There should be a devolution of the States, such as would permit of reasonable local government. With reasonable boundaries we should have local government in the truest sense of the term, and much less centralization than now obtains in the several States. In that way .we should have less of that centralized form of government which is the curse of several of our larger States, and we would become a people with truly national aspirations. Would any one say that a Parliament meeting in Sydney is a truly local governing body for the whole of theState? Will any one say that of a Parliament meeting in Brisbane or Perth or Adelaide? I think not. The sooner we realize our present shortcomings in that regard, the sooner we shall recognise that the one way out of the difficulty is to rid ourselves of these existing encumbrances. Why should it be necessary, for instance, to have seven Governors in Australia? I have no desire that we should dissociate ourselves from the Empire; but surely one Governor for the whole of Australia would be a sufficient tie between the Homeland and ourselves. Then, again, what do we want with fourteen Houses of Parliament, with all their administrative machinery? Surely they should not be necessary to the government of a population of a little more than 5,000,000. We should shed these excrescences, and let trade have free and full play. Let us be in reality one people, with one destiny.
– Mr. Speaker-
– I thought we were to have a division. If honorable members opposite are going to speak, we shall carry the debate over till next week.
– I am willing to sit down if the Opposition will agree to a division being taken at once.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Tudor’ s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– Order! I remind the House that it is not usual to speakon the motion for the adjournment of the House until after a matter of this kind has been disposed of.
– On the point of order-
– If honorable members desire to speak on the motion for the adjournment, I must inform them that it is contrary to all our previous practice.
– The motion of want of confidence has been disposed of, and the House has begun its consideration of Supply.
– I remind the honorable member, also, that only formal business can be taken until the AddressinReply has been disposed of.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200305_reps_8_91/>.