8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Complaints have been made to me of the actions of strangers who congregate about the lobbies between the members’ rooms and the Chamber, and of annoyance to honorable members resulting therefrom. The intrusion of strangers into portions of the House exclusively reserved to the use of members is a breach of privilege. I have instructed the Serjeant-at-Arms to take steps to see that the rules’ of the House are observedin this regard, but it is very difficult for him to do so unless honorable members themselves refrain from encouraging the presence of strangers in such places. The attention of honorable members is directed to the notices which are posted up in conspicuous places, with a view to insuring them a reasonable measure of privacy and security from molestation within the building. If honorable members themselves introduce strangers in disregard of such notices, attendants cannot well interfere to enforce their observance.
– (By leave.)- I have the honour to lay on the table the report of the Royal Commission on the Basic Wage, together with appendices and Messrs. Keep and Gilfillan’sreply to the chairman’s comment upon their minority report, and a memorandum by Mr. Piddington, and I intend to move they be printed. As I explained yesterday, this report reached me on Sunday afternoon, and I have had no opportunity yet to examine it carefully; my colleagues did not receive copies of it until between 11 and 12 o’clock this morning, and they have, therefore,, had no opportunity even to look at it. As the Commission occupied twelve months in the taking of evidence and the compilation of its report, neither the Government nor the Parliament can be expected to express a final opinion at a few hours’ notice on a matter so important and complex.
The circumstances under which the Commission was appointed will be within the recollection of honorable members. The leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) introduced a deputation to me, composed of members of unions that usually sought redress for their grievances in the Arbitration Court. They waited on me to ask for the appointment of a Commission to inquire into and report upon such re-adjustments of the basic wage as circumstances, in their opinion, rendered imperative. I was entirely favorable to the suggestion that some clear and definite decision should be given on this subject. I explained to the deputation that the Government had already considered this matter, and was in favour of the appointment of a Commission for the purpose indicated.
In the speech which I delivered at Bendigo on the 30th October, 1919, I said -
The Government has, therefore, appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the cost of living in relation to the minimum or basic wage. The Commission willbe fully clothed with power to ascertain what is a fair basic wage, and how much tbe purchasing power of the sovereign has been depreciated during the war, and also how the basic wage may be adjusted to the purchasing power of the sovereign, and the best means, when once” so adjusted, of automatically adjusting itself to the rise and fall of the sovereign.
The Commission was duly appointed. The policy of the Government, as set out in my Bendigo speech, was shaped generally upon the expectancy of a grant of those extended powers which -a majority of this Parliament has on several occasions stated to he necessary. The Government asked the people, inter alia, to give them those extended powers in relation to industrial matters, but, as honorable members know, this was not done. The present position is that the Commonwealth, is unable to make industrial laws, or to give effect directly to the recommendations of this or any other Commission of the same kind, except in respect of its own public servants.
I turn aside now for a moment to state what the Commission was appointed to do. I quote from the Letters Patent, which set out that the Commissioners were to inquire into the following matters : -
A word now as to what “basic wage means. The basic wage is not a wage determined merely by the value of the work done. It rests upon a principle established long ago in this ‘Commonwealth, and, I think, very properly, that a wage must be paid which will enable the citizen receiving it to live according to a standard of comfort fitting and proper in a progressive community. This Commission, therefore, did not concern itself with the question whether as a fact a wage sufficient to ena’ble a man, his wife, and three children to live at that standard of comfort could be paid.. It only sought to ascertain the money wage which would enable that to be done. The principle of the basic wage was first declared by Mr. Justice O’Connor, in the Merchant Service Guild case. His Honour said - . . . there must also be added something for the increased cost of living in Australia, not only by reason of the higher cost of some of life’s necessaries, but also by reason of the increased comfort of living and the higher standard of social conditions which the general sense of the community in ‘Australia allows to those who live, by. labour. :
But the basic wage proper may be said to rest on. a decision given by Mr. Justice Higgins in the Harvester case. That was a case outside the arbitration jurisdiction and arising out of an application by Mr. McKay, of the Sunshine Harvester Company, for a declaration that the wages’ paid by him to his employees were “ fair and reasonable.” Upon inquiry by the Court, his Honour declared that 7s. a day was a fair and reasonable wage, and that as the appellant was paying less than that wage he was not entitled to the benefits of the Act, which, by the way, was subsequently declared to be ultra vires of the Constitution. In 1907, therefore, £2 2s. per week was considered to be a fair and reasonable wage for a man and his wife and three children. Since then, the purchasing power of the £1 has depreciated very materially. The Commissioners have analyzed the reasons and facts that induced his Honour to fix the rate of 7e. a day, and have endeavoured, by taking evidence in the various capital cities in Australia, and at Newcastle, to ascertain what, as a fact, is the present purchasing power of the £1, and what is, or ought to be, a fair and reasonable wage for a man and his wife and three children. So far as I know, the Commission did not take evidence in the country towns or districts of the Commonwealth.
I shall not attempt to examine the figures on which the recommendations of tie Commission are based. Honorable members, having the report before them, will have an opportunity to do so. The time at my disposal now makes it at present quite impossible for me to deal with the report in detail. Without accepting or rejecting the figures put forward, I turn to the findings of the Commission as set out on page 58 of the report, which are as follow : -
The actual cost of living at the present time, according to reasonable standards of comfort, including all matters comprised in the ordinary expenditure of the household, for a man with a wife and three children under fourteen years of age is in -
Expressed in round terms, the average for the Commonwealth is about £5 16s. The several items of amounts which make up that cost are set out on page 59 of the report.
The report . goes on to state the cost of living in 1914, which was as follows: -
Now let me turn for one moment from the Commission’s report to some figures by Mr. Knibbs relating to. the depreciation of the sovereign from the year 1907 to date. According to these figures, in 1907, the year in which 42s. per week was regarded by Mr. Justice Higgins as a fair and reasonable wage, the indexnumber was 897, and the wage for the Commonwealth as a whole was 43s.1d., being the average for the six States corresponding to the Melbourne rate of 42s. The table prepared by Mr. Knibbs is as follows : -
So from Mr. Knibbs’ figures it would appear that84s.8d. to-day is the equivalent of 43s.1d. in 1907. Admittedly, therefore, the depreciation of the sovereign has been very considerable, and has rendered it imperative to re-adjust the money wage to meet the increased cost of living-; and, as honorable members know perfectly well, the Industrial Courts and wages tribunals have from time to time made an effort to do this. At present no uniform standard has been adopted, except by the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration. According to the latest decisions of the tribunals, the present basic wage for New South “Wales, Queensland, and Victoria is £4, whilst the recent determination of the New South Wales Board of Trade fixes a basic wage of £4 5s. for the metropolitan district only. Prom these figures it will be seen that the average basic wage throughout Australia is somewhere in the neighbourhood of £4 per week.
I turn now to the findings of the Basic Wage Commission. It was asked to say what is a fair basic wage for a man, wife, and three: dependent children, and has fixed the wage for different capital cities at the figures I have already quoted, giving an average of £5 16s. per week . all over the Commonwealth. Let me now examine this” position a little more closely and see what these new proposals would mean and the effect they would have if applied in our home industries and trade with foreign countries.
First it has to . be noted that the increase proposed, . roughly about 35 per cent., is greatly in excess of any increase ever awarded by any Court. “We have to consider its effect upon industries and upon the country. Its effect, if it is applied, as suggested by some, to all workers, married or single, would mean an economic revolution. It is very evident that since wages must be paid out of ‘.production - whether basic wages or any other is not material - they are’ limited by the actual amount of wealth produced in the country. By no conceivable means can wages be increased beyond this point except by increasing production.
In order to show the effect of applying this basic wage of £5 16s. a week to all workers, I cannot do better than quote from a memorandum supplied to me by the Chairman of the Basic Wage Commission himself.
– When did he supply it ?
– This memorandum, which I will move shall be printed, was supplied to me last evening. It deals with the following matters : -
Mr. Piddington, referring to the principle of a uniform basic wage applied, as at present, to all employees without distinction, says -
It is self-evident that while this wage system is based on the theory that the minimum of wages is that which will enable employees to live in comfort, it does not follow that system. Assuming that the basic wage does provide the actual cost of living of the typical family: -
All families with more than three dependent children suffer privation.
All families with less than three children receive more than is- necessary for the living wage.
All unmarried men receive what would support a wife and also three children.
He then proceeds to quote some figures which have a very important bearing upon this, question. He- says -
The following- population figures become relevant : -
It will thus be seen that the number of children per . head of all adult workers- is 90, that is to say, a little less than one child per head. “ Thus industries,.” as he. says, “now pay for 450,000 non existent wives and 2,100,000 non-existent children.” Mr. Piddington goes on to say-
There is little doubt . that the present quasi submergence of employees with families is due to ignoring the true incidence of’ the actual cost of living. From the produced wealth of the country, its children have: less than enough in order that the unmarried childless may have more than enough.
Roughly speaking, as I have said, 600,000 male persons in this country have no dependent, children; 370,000 have one or more children. These are the figures for 1911. Mr. Piddington assumes for 1920, 1,000,000 employees and 900,000 children. But industries are charged now with the support of 3,000,000 children, of whom- 2,100,000 are non-existent. I turn now to. the effect of - paying this basic wage of £5 16s. which the Commission has found to be sufficient for a man-, his wife, and three children, to all adults whether they have dependent children or not. If the basic wage were applied to employees with or without dependent children - as it has been applied since 1907 - the increased burden, according to Mr. Piddington, would be £93,000,000 per annum: and, according to Mr. Knibbs, £101,000,000 per annum. Now, the total wealth produced in Australia in 1918 was £298,000,000. Prices have increased since then; but, allowing for this, the burden imposed on industry by this basic “wage would be nearly 31 per cent. Mr. Piddington assumes that the labour costs, as expressed in the terms of value of all goods and commodities, amount to 50 per cent., so the increased burden on industry, following the payment of this basic wage to all male workers, would be in the neighbourhood of 62 per cent. What this means may be set out in Mr. Piddington’s own words: -
If it could be supposed that the whole of the additional £03,000,000 labour costs could bo passed on to the community, the increase in prices would altogether outstrip the purchasing power of employees having a basic wage of £5 16s.
I shall come again and again to that fundamental point ; but it is sufficient for the present to state it.
But, of the £20S,000,()00 produced in Australia in 1918, says Mr. Piddington, £113,000,000, or about 38 per cent., was exported. Whether the increased wage cost of 62 per cent, could bc added to the prices asked for the 38 per cent, of our products would depend upon world prices, that is upon outside competition with all countries in the markets of the world.
That, of course, i3 quite obvious. It is a question which no man is able to answer, though it is possible to estimate pretty closely what the position will be. Mr. Piddington continues: -
I have not had time to go into details with regard to our individual export industries, but it seems certain that, as far as manufacturing industries for export are concerned, they would be ruined. With regard to primary industries, the percentage of labour costs in them is below the percentage of labour costs - carried to the last analysis - in the industries of the Commonwealth as a whole; and, moreover, wool and - at present - wheat, enjoy a favorable position in outside markets compared with other countries. Still, the increase in the price, even of the products of our primary industries, would, before long, be a formidable drawback to their development, and possibly to their continuance…..
Another result of adding to the cost of production of goods for domestic consumption - which was 62 per cent, of the total production of ‘1918 - the additional wages cost would be to so raise prices for such goods that all secondary industries would be liable to be ruined by importations, unless the Tariff was very substantially increased.
– Are you still quoting Mr. Piddington’s figures?
– Yes. We have recently put on a Tariff, and I have not heard any one upbraid its authors for their moderation. Bui Mr. Piddington says that if effect is given to this basic wage upon the lines of other basic wages the Tariff will be wholly inadequate to prevent the market from being flooded with cheaper goods ‘from overseas, and that, consequently, we shall have to impose a still higher Tariff.
The Chairman of the Commission has made it abundantly clear that the only way in which the basic wage of £5 16s. can be applied in this country is to apply it only to males with three dependent children. I repeat and emphasize that point. Mr. Piddington has made it perfectly clear that it is impossible to apply the basic wage of £5 16s. to all male workers in this country, because if it is so applied it will ruin our secondary industries, and retard the development, and probably prevent the continuance of our primary industries. Let me illustrate this point by reference to figures from Mr. Knibbs. ‘ It may be said that there is, between what the worker gets and the wealth actually produced by the worker, a margin sufficient to pay this wage without increasing prices correspondingly. Let me give these figures as a final and a crushing answer to such ‘a contention. Mr. Knibbs, taking the statistics for 1915, ‘states that if all the incomes over £156 per annum had been divided among those who had less than £156 per annum each such person would have received as his share’ 10s. 5d. per week. Let me. repeat this : If all the income in this country received by persons getting more than £156 per annum had been divided among those who got less than £156 per annum, then every such person who received less than £156 would have got only 30s. 5d. per week more. Whatever their basic wage was there would be added 10s. 5d. each week, and no more. Now, anticipating the argument that there are the profits received by the capitalist, employer, or profiteer, whatever you may choose to call him. from which to pay this amount of £5 16s. without appreciably raising prices, it is sufficient to state the plain facts. All the profits made in Australia are wholly inadequate to ‘ provide for any such “ wage. If the whole of the net profits of Australian manufacturing industries had been distributed amongst the employees they would, during the period from 1913 to 1918, .have received only from 7s. 4d. to lis. per week more than their actual wages. A more effective statement of the position in which Australia stands to-day could not possibly be made. We are living so near the margin - I want honorable members to follow me very closely - that if all the profits received by manufacturers from 1913 to 1918 had been distributed among their employees they would have received in addition to their wages only from 7s. 4d. to lis. per week ! So that to increase the basic wage by more than from 7s. 4d. or lis. - the difference in the purchasing power of the sovereign during that period explains why the amount varies - would be impossible. The amount of wealth produced is an’ impassable barrier to any higher wage than can be paid by distributing the whole of the profits.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I find that owing to the constant running fire of irritating interjections it is almost impossible for me to follow the Prime Minister’s speech. I must, therefore, ask honorable members to restrain their impatience, and regard this as a matter that can be fully debated, and on which they can express their opinion quite as fully as the right honorable the Prime Minister.
– I am sorry that I am not. permitted to deal with a matter of the utmost possible importance - one which is or ought to be free from party bias - as is proper in a deliberative assembly. I never interrupt other honorable members. If it is urged that an increase from £4 to £5 16s. per week can be paid to all workers, the answer is to be found in these figures. It cannot be done. In proof of this contention here is another striking illustration supplied by Mr. Knibbs. If the amount of interest and net profit combined per employee per week which was realized in the manufacturing industries of Australia between 1913 and 1918 had been realized in all Australian industries, and if the whole of the interest and profit had been dis’tributed amongst the wage-earners, the1’ maximum basic wage that could have been provided, according to the corrected’ prices for the September quarter of 1920, would be as follows :- 1913, £5 8s. 6d. ; 1914, £5 9s.; 1915, £5 7s. ; 1916, £5 7s.; 1917, £5 lis.; 1918, £5 13s. Here, then, we see that even under, not Socialism, but pure Communism, where neither interest nor profit was allowed,and ‘ though no part of the national income were capitalized to enable industry to expand and provide further opportunities for employment or meet the needs, of an increasing population, the wage of £5 16s. could not be paid to all males. This wage could not be paid because the wealth produced in Australia is not sufficient to pay it. That is the position. I need hardly point out what the effects upon industry and upon the great mass of the workers would be if, instead of the community being animated by a spirit of progress, it was submerged in a pool of stagnation. All men are spurred on by the same motive. Self-interest is the main-spring of human action, and to say that the employer shall have nothing whatever by way of interest or profit is to say, in so many words, that all enterprise must perish, and we must be submerged in an environment fatal to all progress. Unemployment would naturally follow. Why should a man launch out into enterprises ? Who would recoup him for his losses ? Who would insure that he would even cover the depreciation of his capital ? No one. He is to have no return, and even if he does get a return, it will not be sufficient to pay this wage except by increasing prices. It is clear, then, that the wage recommended by the Commission to be applied to a man and his wife and three children cannot be applied to all men irrespective .of whether they have dependent children or not. Mr. Piddington says it cannot be paid without ruining the country; but, supposing it is paid, let us consider the position of the workers.
Under the proposal of the Commission provision is made for automatic readjustments of the basic wage every quarter so that the sovereign nr.ay always purchase the same amount of commodities. I have shown that the community cannot pay this wage without increasing prices, because the necessary wealth is not pro- duced. Therefore, the effect of increasing wages must be- . to increase prices, and : the increasing of prices will again further increase wages. What will, the effect be upon the worker-? If -a* the . present time we increase the basic wage from.£ 4 to £5 16s. 6d.. . a week, the latter amount will, the Commission says, purchase all those things that -a. family needs, to live at the standard of comfort which it has declared to : be proper in this country. But Mr. Piddington tells us that if £5 16s. 6d. is granted to all males, then in February next, that is, at the beginning of the next quarter, the basic wage “will have to be increased from £5 16s. 6d. to £7 3s. in order that it may purchase the same amount of commodities as £5 16s. 6d. would purchase to-day. In May,the basic wage of £7 3s. will have to be increased to £7 19s., ‘because then £7 19s. will be needed to buy what could be bought in February for £7 3s., and to-day for £5 16s. 6d. In August, the basic wage of £719s. will have to increased to £8 7s. 9d., and in November, a year hence, the basic wage will have to be increased to £812s. 4d. to purchase what could be bought to-day for £5 16s. 6d. And this kind of thing will go on for ever !’ Is it not perfectly clear that the problem, attacked from this standpoint, is insoluble; that the position of the worker will not be bettered by the alteration of his monetary wage, if, as a result, prices rise ? And Mr. Piddington, the Chairman of the Commission, says they most certainly will rise, and he is responsible for the figures that I have given. A man with a wife and three children would be worse off under this arrangement than he:is to-day.
– Were the figures prepared by the Mr. Piddington who signed the Commission’s report?
– Yes; there are not two Mr. Piddingtons. He has signed the statement from which I am quoting, though not as Chairman of the Commission. Mr. Piddington has acted quite properly. He was not asked, as Commissioner, to say how this wage could be paid. He was asked what was an adequate basic wage for -a man with a wife and three children. He was not asked, as Commissioner, whether it was proper to pay the same wage to a man with a wife and three children as ; to a man without children. But, when I asked him the question, . he said that it was not proper. He says that the average basic wage in Australia to-day is £4. Asked - howthe finding of the Commission can be made effective so as to secure for every employee the actual cost of living . according to- its true incidence, accepting; the finding of £516s. as ithe actual cost -of living for a man, wife, and children, he says -
To secure the actual cost of living for each employee according to itstrue incidence, it is desirable that every employee should receive enough to keep a man and wife…..
The figures as to 450,000 non-existent wives may therefore be disregarded.
Every employee must be paid the same, amount of wages; otherwise married men, with children, will he at a disadvantage,
There is, however, every reason why employers, as a whole, throughout the Commonwealth should pay for the living needs of their employees as a whole. Indeed, that they should do so is the basis of the whole theory of the living wage. The proposal below for a tax upon employers as a whole is based upon this consideration.
The desired result can be secured by a basic wage of £4 per week paid by the employer ‘ to the employee, and the payment of an endowment for all dependent children, whether three, or less, or more, in the family at the rate of 12s. per week.
Thus the employee would receive as fol lows: -
Mr. Piddington says that this can be done if the employer pays . £4 to each employee and then pays into a pool 10s. 9d. per employee. This would raise £27,900,000 a year for the endowment of the 900,000 children under the age of fourteen. The Commonwealth can then pay to the mothers of families 12s. a week for each child. The total obligation of the employer would be £4 10s. 9d., wage and tax, per -week. This, he says, would involve an increased burden on . industry of, roughly speaking, £28,080,000, as against £93,000,000 if the basic wage were paid to all. It would insure to a man with a wife and three children £5 16s. It would insure to every man £4 a week, and to every man who had children 12s. a week per child. This would adjust the basic wage to the principle upon which it rests, namely, that the wage is not a return for tie value of labour, but a return to the citizen by virtue of his citizenship, and is determined by the needs of the citizen, so far as he is or is not the father of a family.
This principle is entirely novel. Tt is tome that Mr. Justice. Starke, the other day, differentiated, in a judgment, between married and single employees, but the difference in the salary awarded was comparatively slight. He did not, so far as I know, take into consideration the number of children, but only conjugal conditions. What I want this Parliament to remember is that this is a far-reaching principle. How far it goes none of us, perhaps, is able to say. But wo are asked now to do one of two, or, if you like, one of three things: To ignore the Commission’s basic wage entirely; to apply its finding to all persons, and _ so bring on ourselves and the community, and on the very men that the Commission was created to benefit, a state infinitely worse than the present state; or else to apply this wage on the lines, or some modification of them, suggested by Mr.. Piddington, namely, apply it to married men with children, on the basis of the number of their dependent children. I hope I am the least conservative of men. A thing has no terrors for me because it is novel ; but if I am asked to apply this new principle to society, without opportunity for careful consideration, without discussing it with my colleagues, or allowing them to even read the Commission’s report, I say at once that I am not yet prepared either to adopt the principle myself or to recommend Parliament to adopt it. I neither accept it nor reject it. As a principle, on the face of it, it has much to recommend it. It appears to be at once equitable and salutary ; it .seems to place the basic wage on sound foundations. It seems to create such conditions as will encourage men to get married and to have large families. This is our crying need. We want more people.
This’ country of ours, with its 5^000,000, people, is confronting a situation which might well appal a les3 courageous community. We are launching out upon a great system of immigration in an endeavour to attract people to this country ; and we must hesitate before we turn down any principle that will, or seems likely to, increase the population of the Commonwealth. So I do not .reject the principle; on the other hand, I do not accept it; I must have time to consider it. One thing I do reject absolutely and without reservation. I reject, because of its .impossibility, any proposal to pay £5 16s. a week to all persons in this country, whether they have children or not. That I do reject, because, as I say, of its inherent impossibility. I reject it because it would bring ruin to this country - ruin to the very men whom, it is intended to benefit. I reject it because it will do no good to the very men to whom we seek to do good, and, most of all, to the married men, who are struggling in these days of high prices to maintain families. Those are the men, if any, who should be singled out for assistance. But to apply the principle equally to young men without encumbrance or care - to give them £5 16s. a week, and leave the married -men with children in such a position that in twelve months from now they will need £8 7s. 9d. for what they can buy to-day for £5 16s. - is a course which, if Parliament assented to- it, would stamp it as unworthy of the respect and confidence of the people. I reject the application of the .proposal to all males. As to the application of this principle suggested by Mr. Piddington, I suspend my judgment and reserve my decision.
So much for the application of the principle to industry generally. 1 now come to the Commonwealth employees. Here we are in a different position altogether. We have the power to increase the wage of Commonwealth employees, and there is a solemn obligation on us to see that the public servants of the country are paid an adequate basic wage. If I am asked whether I am prepared to apply the basic wage recommended by the Commission to every person in the Public . Service, I at once say, without reservation, “ I am -not.’’ If I am asked, “Is the wage of the public servant adequate? “ 1 say, “ It is not.” If I am asked, “Do I intend to apply this system of differentiating between married men with dependent children and others in the Public Service,” I say, “ Opportunity must be given to the Government to consider the question carefully, because where we lead the community will have to follow.” We have 40,000 public servants. The decision of this Parliament will be noted by the Arbitration Courts. That which we do will in effect set the industrial pace all over the country. Therefore, we must consider most deliberately that which we do, and must not commit ourselves to any course which would handicap or retard the development of the Commonwealth. But we must do justice. We must see that our public servants are not singled out amongst employees in this country and denied a fair wage. I have asked myself this question, and I have answered it: “ Are they getting a fair wage V I say, “ In my opinion, they are not.’’
Now., if I am asked what the Government are prepared to do, I will state it in a few words. With the figures submitted for their consideration by the Basic Wage Commission, supported by the figures of Mr. Knibbs, showing that the purchasing power of the sovereign has depreciated from 1907 until the present time to the extent that 84s. 8d. will now only buy what 43s. .Id. would buy in 1907, we have to satisfy ourselves that the public servant can buy as much with his present wage as he could buy in 1907. In many cases he cannot do so, because his money wage has not risen correspondingly to the increase in the cost of living. The Government recognises, therefore, that the wages of the public servants must be increased, and, although it. is not prepared to say offhand what is a fair basic wage, it will give immediate consideration to the question.
Meanwhile, in my opinion, the matter should be adjusted on a basis that will enable the public servant to purchase as much with his present wage as he could purchase in 1907, leaving him to obtain further redress in the way of increase of salary from the Public Service Arbitrator. It must be remembered that we are now dealing with the basic wage, which is a matter quite apart from the wage to be determined by any Court for skill or work of a confidential nature. The Government will grant an interim increase of wage at the earliest possible moment, and make it apply as from the 1st November this year. More than that, I am not able to say. I have indicated pretty clearly my own opinion, and the public servants of this country may draw their own deductions from that. There will be no delay. The public servants have the assurance that, whatever is done, the interim increased wage will date from 1st November.
I leave this question to honorable members for their mature consideration. There never was a more important matter presented to them. We can easily take a step which will push this country down to ruin. It is easy to say that we shall increase wages to £5 16s. per week for every adult male, but there is only one means of paying those wages, and that is from the value of the totality of production. There is no way by which such a wage could be paid except by increasing production.
But production has gone down in this country. Mr. Knibbs points out that, whereas in 1911 productivity was represented by 1,000, to-day it is down to 816. It is in these figures expressed quantitatively, and not in terms of value. Value is a fickle thing. Wheat may be worth lis. to-day, but no one knows what it will be worth next year. Still, the same amount of wheat requires the same amount of labour, and Mr. Knibbs’ figures show that throughout Australia, in respect of all goods, less is being pro- *duced to-day than was produced in 1911. In 1913, when we reached the peak of production, it was represented by the figure 1,033, and now it is down to 816.
There is another point which . requires consideration. This production is based on a forty-eight hour week; but, only the other day, Mr. Justice Higgins inaugurated a new era, and we are told that we are now to work only forty-four hours a week. It is said, of course, that people will produce more in forty-four hours than in forty-eight hours. These prophecies, no doubt, amuse those persons who are easily amused; but every man knows that, except in those industries that are particularly arduous or unhealthy in their nature, an eight-hour day does not impose an excessive strain upon a man of average physique.
This country, as a result of the dreadful war, now has a debt of £400,000,000. We have to work hards live frugally, and, like all the- rest of the world, do the best we can in the endeavour to rehabilitate ourselves. We are producing less. But we must produce more. That is the gospel.
I wish honorable members to bear in mind that the Basic Wage Commission does not ask us to apply to all the basic wage it has recommended. The Chief Commissioner, although not signing, as Chief Commissioner, the memorandum from which I have quoted, has said that if w© were to do that we should ruin industry. Clearly, therefore, the Basic Wage Commission does not intend us to apply to a man without children the wage which they consider sufficient for a man, wife, and three children. To do that would be to ruin the country; but the Chairman of the Commission suggests that the new principle might be applied to 38 per cent, of the community, leaving 62 per cent, untouched. I am not going to say now if, and to what extent, such a proposal could be applied. I hope that the good sense of the majority would appreciate its excellence; but it might not. In the circumstances, therefore, I am content to have stated the position as I see it, and having done so, to submit this report to honorable members. I ask them to bring to it their most mature and careful consideration. There is, in this matter, no party, because we are now dealing with the very foundations upon which this Commonwealth rests. We ara dealing with a matter which vitally affects the overwhelming bulk of our population in the most intimate relations of their daily life. That which we do to-day may bring disaster or may bring comfort and happiness to the people. The Government says at once that it entirely rejects the proposal to pay £5 16s. per week to all male employees. It neither accepts nor rejects the other principle to which I have alluded, but requires time to consider it. It has had no opportunity to examine the figures, to test their accuracy, or to see what would be precisely the effect of loading industry with a further liability of £28,000,000. It wishes further to ascertain whether the suggested endowment of families would give that added good to the community which, in a country so needing population, is so urgent. In regard to its own employees the Government policy has been stated. : With these observations I leave the matter. I move -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
– I ask the Prime Minis ter what has been done in regard to the recommendations of the Conference which recently met to consider the question of the export of sheepskins. I understand that there are about 900 men engaged in the fellmongering industry who are at present out of employment. Will the Government take action before the House rises to protect the rights of these men?
– I am’ prepared to do anything practicable, but there seems to be a difference of opinion amongst honorable members of this House, and, indeed, amongst the honorable member’s own party. I have said that I am prepared to give effect to the agreement which has been recommended, but I must have the approval of the House upon it. I would suggest to the honorable member that he should take an opportunity of ascertaining the feeling of honorable members upon the matter. That would be quite satisfactory to me.
Mr. Piddingtons Memorandum
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to inform the House how Mr. Piddington came to make his second report or memorandum? Was it in response to a request?
- Mr. Piddington was asked by me to prepare that memorandum. When I perused the report of the Commission, I asked to see Mr. Piddington, and said, “I shall be glad to know how this is going to be done.” Mr. Piddington replied, “Well, I will tell you.” His memorandum is the result.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy if it is a fact that some of the men employed at Cockatoo Island Dock-yard are receiving as much as £40 and ‘£50 per week ?
– Most of -the clock-yard employees are working on piece-work under an award, ‘ and, so far as I am aware, they are not getting any more than is being earned iby similar tradesmen under the same conditions in Sydney.
Mr.WATKINS. - Is the Minister controlling shipping in a position yet to say whether anything further has been done in relation to the proposed contract with the New South Wales Government for the building of other ships at Walsh Island?
– Nothing has yet been done. I understand that some of the organizations have not yet signed the agreement.
– I should like to know from the Minister for Works and Railways if it is the intention of the Government to establish a Works Department in ‘South Australia, and, if so, why?
– That matter was, I think, decided last year. A sum appeared on the Estimates last year, and again this year, and the proposed expenditure has been approved by Parliament. We find that in practical working it will be more expeditious, and, we believe, more efficient, to do in South Australia as we are doing in all the other States with the exception of Tasmania and Western Australia, namely, establish a Works Department with our own officers.
– I should like to ascertain from you, Mr. Speaker, if, in view of the report submitted by the Basic Wage Commission and figures supplied by Mr. Knibbs, you will take steps to raise the salaries of the underpaid men employed about this building?
– I think that, with the young lady who was expecting a certain question, I may say that “ this is rather sudden,” as I have not yet even had a chance to see the report for myself. But as the matter affects the whole of the Public Service, there is no doubt that the salaries of parliamentary employees will be affected by changes . in other Departments.
– At the commencement of the sitting you, Mr. Speaker, intimated that the Serjeant-at-Arms had been instructed to see that all the passageways of Parliament House were cleared of the general public who may have been intruding upon the precincts of the House that are supposed to be sacred to members. Does that instruction alsoapply to deputations that . have been arranged to interview Ministers?
– I may again point out that the practice of receiving deputations at Parliament House while the House is in session is contrary to the practice of the Mother of Parliaments. It may be convenient, but it is very irregular, and honorable members can see that if it is continued it may lead to awkward, and perhaps dangerous, complications sooner or later. In fact, some of those organized demonstrations that we have had outside Parliament House, and which have necessitated our appealing to the State Government for extra police assistance, have been due to this undesirable practice. Honorable members must realize that the rules governing the admnssion of strangers have l>een made for their own protection, and to insure privacy, and freedom from molestation, and if they are not prepared to assist in their observance, it is futile to make complaints concerning strangers invading parts of the building reserved exclusively for members themselves.
– Is the Minister for Trade, and Customs (Mr. Greene) aware that, there is a serious shortage of binder twine in Australia? Will he cause inquiries to be made to ascertain if supplies are being hoarded, and if an artificial shortage is thereby being created ? If stocks are being hoarded, will the Minister order them to be distributed?
– I am not aware of the facts, but I shall have inquiries made.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As the Government does not appear to intend to introduce before Christmas the Public Service Bill dealing with dual furlough, will the Prime Minister take action to see that it is made retrospective as from, at least, the 1st January, 1920, as certain public servants entitled to this furlough will probably retire before the Bill is finally passed?
– The matter is now under the consideration of the Government.
Mr.WATKINS asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is the Department in a position to state if the agreements are arranged with the various unions connected with shipbuilding?
Will the matter of shipbuilding come before the House this week?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– I hope to be in a position during the week to announce the personnel of the Committee.
Basis of Purchase
asked the Minister for “Works and Railways, upon notice - -
– I would refer the honorable member tomy reply to a similar question on the 7th October, 1920.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is not available in Melbourne, and will necessitate inquiries from Western Australia. The particulars required will be supplied as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. These would appear to be matters affecting the Governments of the various States.
Importations and Local Manufacture
– On the 18th November; the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - 1. (a) 133,667 lbs.; (b) 4,715,324 lbs.
Supplies for New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania
– Yesterday the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis) asked the Prime Minister the following questions: -
In view of the Ministerial statement given to the newspapers that 15,000,000 bushels of wheat had been ear-marked for supplying New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania, would he state -
What quantity of this wheat has been delivered to those three States.
What further quantity, is it estimated, will still be required by those States.
The Prime Minister promised to obtain the desired information as soon as possible, and I am now in a position to furnish the desired particulars, which are as follows : -
In addition, supplies of flour have been made by millers from the States, the ‘total wheat equivalent of which is not yet available. When details are complete a statement will be published as to the effect on the people concerned.
The following papers were presented : -
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, at -
Neutral Bay, New South Wales.
Ryde, New South Wales.
– I move -
That Orders of the Day Nos. 1, 2, and 3 be postponed until after Order of the Day No. 4, Government Business.
My reason for moving this “motion is to enable Order of the Day No. 4 to be reached, when I will then move that it be read and discharged. Honorable members will see that Order of the Day No. 4 is the Unlawful Assemblies Bill, the provisions of which are already incorporated in the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill, which appears as Order of the Day No. 1. If Order of the Day No. 4 is allowed to remain on the noticepaper, owing to the rules of debate it may interfere with discussion on Order of the Day No. 1.
.- I rise to object to the Government being given leave to postpone Orders of the Day Nos. 1, 2, and 3.
– If leave is not given, a point of order may be raised which would prevent honorable members from discussing Order of the Day No. 1.
– It is not necessary for Ministers to obtain leave, because the arrangement of business is in their own hands.
– The reason that has been put forward by the Treasurer is one on which. I feel disposed to object to the postponement of Orders of the Day Nos. 1; 2, and 3, because I should be able to vote for the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill without having it made conditional upon agreeing to the Unlawful Assemblies Bill. The manner in which the provisions of that Bill have been included in the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill makes the repeal of that Act conditional upon us agreeing to enact the Unlawful Assemblies Bill.
– That is not so.
– The provisions of the two Bills should not be incorporated in one measure, and we should be allowed to discuss both on their merits.
– You will came up against the provisions of the Unlawful Assemblies Bill in Committee just the same.
– No. Will the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) say that if we strike out of the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill those provisions dealing with unlawful assemblies, he will still go on with the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill? That would not mean dropping the measure? Assuming the majority of this House are in favour of striking out of the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill those provisions dealing with unlawful assemblies, would the Government bring forward a measure dealing with unlawful assemblies?
– I should be inclined to bring in the Bill.
– Even if the majority have declared against it?
– This is a matter on which we should not waste time. I am prepared to withdraw the motion.
– It is not a question of wasting time, but it is one of sharp practices.
– If that is the attitude the honorable member intends adopting, I move-
That the question be now put.
– Then use the gag by all means.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That Order of the Day No. 4, Unlawful Assemblies Bill, second reading, be discharged.
.- I wish now to point out to the Treasurer, if he is cool enough to listen to one, the reason I objected to this Order of the Day being discharged from the noticepaper. It was because I did not want to have the Bill incorporated in the measure for the repeal of the War Precautions Act.
– I have already told the honorable member that he can remove it, if he is able, in Committee, so that he will lose nothing.
– Yes; but I asked the right honorable gentleman something further, and the reply I received was the “gag.” Iasked, assuming that it was removed, would the Government, therefore, drop the Bill?
– And I told the honorable member “ No.”
– I did . not hear the right honorable member say “ No.” The Treasurer is a little short in the temper. If he would be somewhat more patient, and listen, perhaps he would be able to conduct the business of the House better.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 22nd November (vide page 6792), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I think I should put the position- fairly mildly if I said that there was very general public dissatisfaction with themanner in which the powers under the War Precautions Act had; been exercised by this Government- during the past few years, and that the public were looking1 forward’ with some expectancy to having’ the- Act removed from the statute-book. Our experience, however, during the past’ few months, in which the Government have introduced and passed measures dealing with passports, immigration, naturalization, and kindred matters, must have led us to the conclusion . that they were really not. sincere in their protesta? tions of intention to have the Act repealed. Before we have come to the consideration of the actual measure, we find that many of the restrictive and drastic powers contained in the War Precautions Act have been already conferred upon the Government by other measures, such as those to which I have referred. I am sure that a majority of the people of Australia believe that these powers, at least during recent years - it cannot be said that it was so during the early part of the war - have been exercised in a very one-sided, hysterical, and tyrannical manner, and very often put into operation and used for purely party purposes. Those who have looked forward to a genuine repeal of these drastic powers will be very disappointed when they find that, after all the protestations of the Government of their intention to abdicate them, it is proposed to substitute for them in the repealing measure other powers of quite as drastic a character. I am sure that the public will come to the conclusion that it is a onere hollow pretence on the part of the Government to say that they intend to do away with the powers in the enactment which up to the present has been known as the War Precautions Act.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in his second-reading speech, referred to a part of the Bill which provides for the repeal of the War Precautions Act, but the Bill re-enacts many of the provisions of that Act, or similar provisions. Not only does it do that, but it goes much further than the War Precautions Aot itself went. The Bill not only -continues the powers which the Government had under the War Precautions Act, but it confers on them other drastic powers of a similar nature. I have looked through it, and find that it is a conglomeration of clauses dealing with coal, -wharfs, primary* products, companies, firms, and businesses, oaths of allegiance, unlawful assemblies, amendments of the Crimes Act, sedition, loans, council of finance, agents of oversea companies, the defacing of gold coins, and giving the Government power to make provision for -certain penalties. Amongst other things, it gives them power to make regulations dealing with the sale of intoxicating liquors. It is a conglomeration of clauses which will confer upon the Government powers just as drastic and tyrannical as those which they possessed under the “War Precautions Act. 1 hope their own good sense will lead the majority of honorable members to reject those particularly drastic clauses. “Why did not the Government come down with a simple measure to repeal the “War Precautions Act ? The Act was brought in because of the war, and was to operate for the duration of the war. The Government gave an assurance that the powers conferred upon them by the Act would not be exercised as they were subsequently exercised. Seeing that the Act was passed for war purposes, why is it necessary, in repealing it, to re-enact drastic provisions of it and to incorporate in the repealing measure even more drastic provisions than those which the Act originally contained? Why is it done in this form? Why are not separate measures introduced in order to deal with these other matters? Why is the repeal of the War Precautions Act. made a lever to compel honorable members to accept other very objectionable provisions? It is being made a lever, and we have an example of that in the fact that the “Unlawful Assemblies Bill is incorporated in it. When I pressed the Treasurer this afternoon, he said that if a majority of the House struck those clauses out he would still go on with the .measure. Not only is the Unlawful Assemblies Bill incorporated in the repealing Bill, but it contains quite a number of other objectionable .provisions. In my view, the proper course for the Government to have adopted, if they wished the particular matters dealt with in this
Bill to be considered on their merits, was to introduce a separate measure dealing with each of them. Take for example the absurd provision requiring the oath of .allegiance to be taken by an immigrant who, in the opinion of some officer, is of doubtful loyalty. That could have been more properly included in the Immigration Bill than in this measure. Why is it incorporated in this Bill? Then, again, the regulations in regard to coal and primary products have not properly a place in a measure of this kind. If it is necessary to provide for them at all, they should be dealt with in a separate measure. Why are companies dealt With in this repealing Bill ? It is not as if the Government had brought down some comprehensive measure, making uniform the law and practice with regard to companies throughout Australia. They have not done anything of the sort. They merely retain some powers with regard to particular companies that were contained in War Precautions Regulations. Those powers, I think, are entirely unnecessary ; but I presume that, in order to keep in position some little staff that has been built up .to administer those regulations, it is felt necessary to continue them in this way. I believe that a good many of the War Precautions Regulations that are proposed to be retained in this Bill are to be retained only because certain Departments have been built up with certain officers whom it is desired to continue. My ‘experience of Departments and new sub-Departments is that if you give a man an office table and a chair, he will soon build up a staff about him. It is the duty of the Government to see that such Departments or subDepartments are not built up.
In my opinion, the most objectionable portion of this measure is that part of it in which it is proposed to amend the Crimes Act, and to make certain provisions with regard to sedition. If it is necessary to amend that Act, it should be done by an amending Crimes Bill. If it is necessary to make provision with regard to the punishment of sedition, that also should be done in an amending Crimes Bill, and not in a measure of this sort. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) told us that some of the provisions which it was proposed to enact in this regard were taken from the Queensland Criminal Code, and some from the New South
Wales law. Some of the provisions in regard to sedition are taken from the Queensland Criminal Code, or are modelled upon it, but not the whole of them. The Government have superadded certain things which are not contained in the Queensland Criminal Code. Some of these were referred to by the Prime Minister. If honorable members will compare the Criminal Code of Queensland with that part of this measure which deals with sedition, they will come to the conclusion that there are some very material alterations in the definitions which prescribe the offe’nce. There is a far more radical difference in the method of procedure laid down for establishing convictions. It is proposed by this measure that charges of sedition shall be dealt with summarily, if the Attorney-General thinks fit. The right of trial by jury is taken away. If the Attorney-General is so minded, he can have a person charged with sedition tried before a magistrate without any jury, and that person, under this Bill, will be liable to imprisonment for twelve months, or to a fine of £100, or both.
– That is done at the present time.
– That may be done under the War Precautions Act. The Government are now proposing to continue the power. Whatever views honorable members may have formed when the War Precautions Act was passed - and they were formed, no doubt, largely owing to the assurances given by the then Government - with regard to the safety of doing away with trial by jury, I feel confident that the majority of honorable members will not be prepared to continue that practice. It is provided in this Bill that -
An offence under either of the last two preceding sections -
That is those dealing with sedition - shall be punishable either on indictment or summarily, but shall not be prosecuted summarily without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral.
It is provided further that the penalty shall be imprisonment for a period not exceeding twelve months, or a fine not exceeding £100, or both. Honorable members have the opportunity here to .prevent the Government establishing the principle that the right of trial by jury in regard to offences of the vague character of sedition shall be done away with. As honor able members will see from the definitions which are laid down, sedition is a very vagu”e offence. Judging by the general attitude of the Government, I should imagine that some honorable members of this House are guilty of sedition, since they certainly try to stir up opposition to the Government. So far as I can see,, that under, this Bill, will be regarded as sedition, and honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) will have to be very careful, or they may be liable to be convicted before a magistrate without any trial by jury. This is a very serious matter, and I hope that in Committee a majority will vote for the elimination of those provisions which enable the Attorney-General to have a charge of sedition prosecuted summarily before a magistrate. One can see that it will be most difficult to apply any of the defences, which are provided for in the measure, as a defence to some of the things which are declared to constitute sedition. For example, I see that it is a “ seditious intention “ -
To excite disaffection against the connexion of the King’s Dominions under the Crown.
It is also a “ seditious intention “ to excite His Majesty’s subjects, to attempt to procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter in the Commonwealth established by law of the Commonwealth; or to excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of the Commonwealth or against either House of the Parliament.
– Under such a provision the Government could have prosecuted the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) a little while ago.
– That was why I mentioned the honorable member’s name a few moments ago. It is provided further that it shall be a defence to any such charge to show that the person accused was endeavouring in good faith to show the Sovereign had been mistaken in any of his counsels-
It might be very easy to establish any of these defences before a jury with its broad common sense and its general experience of the affairs of men. But it is proposed that the trial of these matters shall be handed over to magistrates to be dealt with summarily. Do my honorable friends opposite stand for that? Are they going to have it go down in the history of this country that after a war that was fought for freedom and liberty - a war which was fought against Prussianism - had been brought to a successful conclusion, they voted to do away with those safeguards of liberty of which we have been proud for centuries.
– Honorable members opposite are bound to the Government.
– But there are some matters in respect of which even that allegiance to the Government ought to be broken.
– I am afraid they will vote for the proposal, no matter what it is.
– On that point I shall reserve my judgment. I am hopeful that honorable members opposite will not allow the Gover nment to place upon the statute- book a measure which does away with the provisions of MagnaCharta with regard to trial by jury. Those provisions have not been done away with by any State of the Commonwealth. Why then should we allow the National Parliament todo away with the right of trial by jury, more particularly in connexion with vague offences of this sort? A person with strong political feelings, under these provisions, might- readily be charged with sedition, and if the magistrate before whom he was brought was biased, we know what the result would be. I hope that honorable members will pay particular attention to these clauses, and that when we go into Committee they will take action to prevent the Government passing such drastic provisions.
The Bill passes from the Crimes Act to sedition, and from sedition to loans. There are some ridiculous provisions with regard to loans. It is declared that no person shall by word of mouth or otherwise do anything likely to prejudice the raising of a loan by the Commonwealth. The provision is broad enough to cover general criticism of the Government’s administration. I have neither time nor sympathy for any one who would deliberately try to damage the credit of his country. That is very improper.
– It would be very hard to draw the line in the interpretation of that provision.
– Very difficult. While no one should attempt to damage the credit of his country, I believe in good, free, healthy criticism of the doings and policies of all Governments. It might be held, however, that such criticism constituted something prejudicial to the raising of a loan.
– The Age, if it published articles like some of those which it has published lately, would be hit, by such a provision.
– It might be. I dare say that I have been as severely criticised by the press as has any public man in Australia, but I do not bother about it as long as it is criticism. If it is not a statement of libellous falsehoods, I do not care how hard I am criticised. It is a good thing in the public interest that there should be full criticism of politicians, and of Governments, and of their acts.
– Suppose the Government proposed a compulsory loan, and you objected to it.
Mr.RYAN. - I have sufficient confidence in the patriotism of the average publicman, and of the average citizen, and in that of the press, of this country, to think that there is no need for a provision of this sort. Can it be shown that any section of the press, or any party, or any prominent man has deliberately tried to damage the credit of the country in order to prevent the success of a loan ? I do not think so. But the enactment seems to suggest that something of that kind has been done.
– Surely something must be done to protect the imoney-lender.
– I think the provision can hardly be construed as one for the protection of the money-lender, though if it were, I might understand it; perhaps, on looking at it more closely, I may find that the view expressed by interjection is the correct one.
It is provided that banks and public companies may make advances to their employees to enable them to put money into Commonwealth loans, notwithstanding that it is contrary to their articles of association to do. so. I do not quite see the purpose of that provision, and I should like to hear the Minister upon it. I hope that it is not intended to provide means for compelling the employees of banks and companies to make advances to the Commonwealth
– That is certainly not intended. This is a ‘special power conferred during the war in the interests of men who wished to assist the Commonwealth.
– Is it necessary to continue war powers?
– Yes, such powers as may to the advantage of the community be continued.
– If we had an all-wise and all-good dictator, then the more power we gave him the better ; but there are those who do not believe that this Government is the repository of all wisdom and goodness, and who think that it is necessary that there should be some restriction on its powers. Why should companies or banks be allowed to do something which their articles of association forbid? The shareholders in these associations can, if they desire, alter their articles of association. Why not let them do so, if they think it necessary ?
The measure provides for a Council of Finance re-enacting the provisions of certain War Precautions Regulations, I understand.
– The Council of Finance was originally established by regulation.
– It is now proposed to give statutory sanction to it. The Bill deals also with agents of oversea companies, and the defacing of gold coin, and it gives the Governor-General in Council power to fix penalties not exceeding a fine of £100, or imprisonment for six months, or both, for breaches of the regulations made under the latter part of the Bill. Some of the offences which it is proposed to punish will be of a very trivial character, and I do not think it is desirable that we should allow the Governor-General in Council to provide for such severe penalties.
Whatever justification there may have been on tho outbreak of the war for a measure giving the Government the drastic powers contained in the War Precautions Act, there is certainly no justification for continuing such powers now that the war is over. The war was fought for liberty. Is this Parliament going to curtail liberty ? It was fought to destroy Prussianism. Are we going to set up Prussianism ? I am afraid so, unless a majority of honorable members are in a different frame of mind from that in which I believe them to be. I am satisfied that the majority of the people are against proposals of this kind, and that, if the Parliament passes the Bill, it will not be giving effect to their wishes. I hope that iv Committee the Bill may be shorn of its objectionable features, some of which provide for the re-enactment of provisions already in force, while others constitute new legislation.
There is a provision dealing with unlawful assemblies which seems to be the result of a panic. Twenty persons are not to be allowed to assemble in the open air - apparently they may assemble in a. room - within the precincts of this House, which comprise certain streetsthat are set out. Those who comprise such an assembly will be guilty of an offence, and they cannot make known their grievances or discuss public affairs or matters of public interest, or consider, prepare or present any petition, memorial, complaint, remonstrance, declaration or other address to His Majesty, or to the Governor-General, or to both Houses of Parliament, or to either of them, or to any Minister or officer of the Commonwealth for the repeal or enactment of any law, or for the alteration of matters of State. The doing of these things is made an offence. To me that seems a ridiculous provision. . There isno need for such a drastic law as that, which would make the members of a deputation to a Minister, assembled on the steps of Parliament House, liable to arrest if they discussed the subject-matter of their deputation.
– It is putting Parliament above the people, instead of allowing it to be approachable.
– Yes. Parliament is not above the people. All these provisions show a tendency, which has been manifested in other measures that have been passed by this Parliament in the present’ session, to narrow and .curtail the liberty of the subject. This is going in a direction which does not. accord with the public sentiment of Australia, and I am glad that some of the leading newspapers are protesting against it. They have influence in the formation of public opinion, and when they go in the right direction it is only fair to give them credit for doing so,, just as we criticise them adversely when they go in the wrong direction. If wc wish this country to prosper, and if we desire the restoration of harmony in the community, we shall not effect our object by passing measures of this sort. Let us repeal the War Precautions Actaltogether, and show that we really stand for liberty, and are opposed to Prussianism. In Committee, I propose to move some amendments.
.- I offer no apologies for any assistance I may have rendered this Government, or the Labour Government, in providing for the protection of the community during the wart We anticipated that when the war terminated the War Precautions Regulations would cease to operate, and that, should they contain provisions likely to be of further use to the community, those provisions would be embodied in the statute law, so that the public might easily ascertain what the law of the Commonwealth was.
The present Bill does not give Parliament an opportunity to discuss on their merits any of the provisions contained in it. Owing to the position of parties, and the attitude of the members of the most numerous party, it would be a waste of time to remind the House of Magna Charta, and the important enactments which stand as bulwarks to our liberty, honorable members opposite having already made up their minds with regard to this measure. The Bill gives the Defence Department powers with regard to the closing of hotels which I do not think Parliament would, under ordinary circumstances’, be willing to give. If honorable members would consider this matter in a calm and judicial frame of mind, they would probably vote against such a provision in- this measure. If they ‘ were free agents to discuss the merits or demerits of the proposal, I am quite satisfied that they would never permit the Defence Department to have any control whatever over the liquor trade. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has dealt with that portion of the Bill which refers to the amendment of the Crimes Act, and I feel quite sure that the general public are quite in accord with that gentleman’s views. It is not right or proper that the AttorneyGeneral and. other .persons should have the power to not only decide what is an offence, but also to inflict punishment. This is against all that law and custom which have hitherto guarded the liberty of the subject. For centuries, we have fought’ for and maintained trial by Judge and jury, and the system that it is now sought to fasten on this country is unheard of amongst free and enlightened people. I make no apology for having consented to extraordinary powers being exercised by the Government during war time; but under normal conditions, when all bitter feeling should be permitted to die down, the ordinary laws of the country ought to be sufficient to maintain peace and order.
I strongly object to the Council of Finance as proposed in the Bill; and I took the same stand when the proposal was first laid before us. I then, however, gave way, because I thought there might be some necessity for the creation of such a body, at the same time, along with other honorable members, looking forward to the time when we should revert to normal conditions, and* no longer be subject to government by regulations, and by Boards and Commissions. Amongst those who are to constitute this Council of Finance are Mr. J. R. Collins, Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, and Sir Denison Miller, Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, in addition to three other gentlemen, who, however estimable they may be as to their personal character, should not, in my opinion, be given the proposed control. Three of these gentlemen are connected with large, private and public financial companies, and it is well known that no man can serve two masters : if they are watching over the interests of their private and company businesses, they cannot also have proper regard to the interests of the Council of Finance and of the taxpayers. When I brought this matter under the notice of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) some time ago, he expressed the opinion that we could not have too much expert advice during war time. There might be something in that argument then, but under present conditions I regard this delegation of power as a departure from constitutional government. One member of the Council of Finance is the Honorable W. L. Baillieu, of the Broken Hill and other large proprietary companies, but I see no justification for his appointment to the office created by the Bill. As I have said, we have looked forward to a return to normal conditions when the Treasurer, responsible to the House, shall have charge of the Treasury. In my opinion, if such a proposal as that for a Council of Finance had been proposed in a separate Bill, it would never have received the sanction of the House. I know of no State in Australia which has adopted such a measure; in any case, if a Council of Finance is necessary, its members ought not to be connected with large private institutions, but should be men of a character more representative of the community” generally. ‘ I sincerely hope that this portion of the Bill, and also that portion which gives the Defence Department control of the liquor trade, will be struck out. For long, there has been a widespread and deep desire that the War Precautions Act and its regulations should be altogether repealed. This feeling is shared by honorable members on both sides of the House; and, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has pointed out, by the press also. Parliament should exercise those functions which the people expect it to exercise, and in no way shirk its responsibilities, but show itself worthy of the confidence of the electors. If I had my way, I would reject this Bill on the second reading. If powers of the kind are necessary, they should be exercised under the ordinary statute law, which is understood by the community generally. I know I have to be very guarded in what I say, but I really think that there must be some ulterior motive for this proposed legislation; at any rate, I am satisfied there is more in it than “ meets the eye.” Parliament is not at present in a frame of mind to pass such measures, and it would be better to withdraw the Bill until after the Christmas recess.
We ought to be very careful, indeed, in passing the provisions relating to unlawful assemblies. One of the prerogatives of a British subject is the right to approach the King by petition ; and from no light sentiment, but with keen feeling, I resent all these inroads on the liberty of the subject. In a high-class journal the other day, a writer expressed the opinion that people in’ Great Britain are losing their appreciation of the value of the liberty of the subject; and, further, that if such proposals as were being made in the British Parliament were made in the Australian Parliament, they would never be permitted to have the force of law. Many of these proposals we are slavishly adopting in this Bill, but I hope that honorable members will be found to have a higher conception of what the people of Australia require. I would not tolerate certain proceedings, but I object to any attempt being made to prevent bodies of individuals from approaching the Prime Minister or Ministers of the Crown for the purpose -of stating their grievances. SucH a proposal was unknown in the country of my birth. As a member of the Reform League, I took part in a deputation which was permitted to enter the precincts of the House of Commons to present a petition, yet here in Australia the people we represent are not to be permitted to approach this House with a petition. It is a satire on their intelligence. Surely we shall not be so forgetful of those we represent as to seek to treat them in this way ? Surely we have a better conception of the noble ideals of our forefathers? Why, the very foundations of social progress have emanated from deputations. Men who in their early days were looked upon as rebels have lived to be regarded as the liberators of their country. In days gone by, representations have been made to Parliament by deputations regarding taxation and the necessity for passing legislation to amend the laws governing trade unionism. We were obliged to adopt this means in order to educate a certain class of people, as to tie difficulties under which another class with whom they were not acquainted had to live. It was only by this means also that the seething discontent of the workers was made known, and ultimately alleviated by legislative action. The measure before us is one which is likely to cause disturbance. It certainly will not create peace, or encourage among those we represent any feeling of love or respect for us. We ought to be passing measures that would cause the people outside to look upon us as their leaders - measures that will call for admiration, and will lay the foundations of progress. But here, at the eleventh hour of the session, when we are looking forward to spending our Christmas at peace with all men, we are asked to pass legislation framed as a result of the exercise of that domineering spirit of tyranny which is the greatest trouble facing us to-day. It is not based on liberty or progress, nor has it for its object the establishment of goodwill among the people, but it is built upon that spirit of enmity between section and section which it was so impossible to avoid during the war, and which now, in time of peace, we certainly ought not to display in our Statutes. In any case, we ought not to pass legislation because of the actions of a few who misunderstand the liberty they enjoy under our Constitution. We ought not to hand down to posterity those restrictions and penalties which we now seek to impose upon persons who venture to differ from us in their views as to what should form the best foundation for the future progress of the country. I hope the time will soon arrive when honorable members will be in a frame of mind that will cause them no longer to regard the people outside as reptiles or ravenous creatures that ought to be put in cages. If the war had not occurred, we would not have been asked to pass a measure of this character - in fact, this conglomeration of unrelated matters quite foreign to the spirit of a free and enlightened people would not have been put forward in this National Assembly. I am sorry I cannot express myself in stronger language. I rise mainly for the purpose of endeavouring to get honorable members supporting the Government to grasp the fact that they are asked to legislate for people who are equal to them in intelligence and capacity. But even in my early days, when four persons out of five could not read or write, and very few had any knowledge of what was happening in their country, men like Bright and Disraeli would not have allowed their names to be attached to such a measure as this. And in later years the British statesmen who granted the Constitutions to the Commonwealth, Canada, and to South Africa, would not have allowed their names to be recorded as having supported a Bill of this character. They knew something of the principles of government, and something of the requirements of a free and enlightened people. We are asked to pass this measure at the last hour of the session, when we are all anxious to conclude our labours and return to our homes. Possibly the Government think that our anxiety to get away may cause us to be so disregardful of our duties as to pass a measure which, in my humble opinion, has already been decided upon by honorable members opposite without criticism or analysis. I suggest that the debate should be adjourned until we meet again, renewed in health and - intelligence, because then I am sure such legislation as this would not be passed.
.- For a considerable time past we have been asking the Government to repeal the War Precautions Act. When they came forward with legislation on the subject about two years ago., the question arose as to whether they should be given an extension of the powers for a period of six months after the declaration of Peace. After some discussion, the Minister in charge of the measure then under consideration agreed to an amendment extending the powers of the War Precautions Act to a period of three months after the declaration of Peace. I am quite satisfied that every member of this House was then fully convinced that the life of the War Precautions Act would not extend for more than six or seven months from that time. The Government are quite unable to put forward the excuse that they have not in the interval had sufficient time to prepare legislation which would give them certain powers, which, during the war, it was shown to be necessary they should have. We have had a good deal of new legislation introduced recently to deal with matters which our experience during the war proved that it was necessary that the Government should control. But there is no reason why we should not be able at this stage to repeal the War Precautions Act outright.
If honorable members will look at the short title of this Bill, they will find that it is’ to be known as the “War Precautions Act Repeal Act 1920,” and it is to a measure so named that we must look in thu future to discover what the law is in respect of the matters dealt with in the various provisions of this Bill.
– It repeals the War Precautions Act. There can be no doubt about that.
– If in the future any one desires to know whether he would be committing an offence by doing certain things, he will have to look for his answer to the “War Precautions Repeal Act.”
– The Bill contains some very good provisions.
– It contains, amongst others, a provision dealing with unlawful assemblies in the vicinity of Parliament House. I agree that under no circumstances should any one be permitted to overawe Parliament, but such a provision should appear in a Crimes Act. That is where any one would naturally look for it, and it certainly would not be looked for in a War Precautions Repeal Act. I have no objection to the conduct of a fair agitation for the amendment of legislation passed by this Parliament, but I quite agree that the Government should have the power to prevent the overawing of Parliament, and to deal with any attempt made to influence legislators sitting here in the performance of what they consider their duty, and in doing what they believe to be jusi and fair in the interests of the country. But that should be provided for in a Crimes Act or in an Unlawful Assemblies Act. No one would dream of looking for such a legislative provision in a War Precautions Repeal Act.
– The Bill has really a fraudulent title.
– It has. In view of the provisions which the Bill contains- the title given to it is an absurdity. I am with the Government for all I am worth in carrying’ legislation necessary to put down sedition in Australia.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should leave all these things still to be dealt with under the War Precautions Act?
– No ; the right honorable gentleman was not present when I began my speech. I have pointed out that two years ago we had a promise from the Government that we would get rid of the War Precautions Act not later than three months after the declaration of Peace. I have pointed’ out also that since that promise was given the Government have had ample time to frame the necessary legislation to give them the powers which our experience of war time has shown to be necessary. I say that we should have had an amendment of the Crimes Act proposed to give the Government the powers to deal with the matter to which I have referred, and we should have had a special measure of a temporary character to enable the Government to handle the coal question and questions connected with primary production.
– Those questions are dealt with temporarily in this Bill.
– The provision to enable the Government to deal with the coal question is to expire on the 31st December, but the provisions enabling the Government to handle primary products and to control wharfs are to be permanent under this Bill. I want to get rid of Government interference with industry. We have had too much of it. I had a letter only the other ‘day from Western Australia voicing complaints which have arisen through the interference of the Government with the sugar business. We have had promise after promise from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that people will be able- to secure ample supplies of sugar. But what is the position to-day? I assume that the experience in my own home in this connexion is typical of what has been the experience of people generally. I have said that I received a letter the other day from Western Australia, in which a lady tells me that fruit had rotted on- the trees because people were unable to make jam, since they could not get necessary supplies of sugar. That was a fact last year, and it is a fact to-day.
– It is also a fact to-day that there is more sugar obtainable in Australia than in any other country.
– Then how is it that my wife can buy fruit, but cannot buy sugar for the purpose of making a little jam?
– Because of. the world’s shortage of sugar.
– Order! The honorable member is going outside the Bill.
– I say that this is due to Government interference. I have no wish to decry the ability of Government officials who are responsible for the state of things of which I complain. They have not had the experience necessary to enable them to control these matters. How on earth can men brought up in one of the Government Departments know all the ramifications of a great industry of this sort? Honorable members are aware that whenever the Government interferes in these matters they bring about a condition of chaos. That has been so in regard to the control of the sugar business, and the same may be said with regard to their control of the metal business. I have no wish to waste the time of the House in referring again to what occurred . during the war in connexion with the control by the Government of the metal business. I do not desire to again tell the House how those who went out into the bush and undertook the responsibilities and privations, inseparable from prospecting for. and obtaining metals, and those who undertook to find the money to finance such enterprises, were actually robbed through the interference of the. Government. Only recently the Country party formed a deputation to the Prime Minister., and were given a distinct pledge that . there would be no ‘more embargoes imposedupon exports from this country.
– Would the honorable member be good enough to say when that deputation waited on the Prime Minister ?
– About three months ago. Thematter was referred to in all the newspapers. We received a distinct promise from the Government that there would be no embargoes on exports in the future. I had a similar promise in regard to the export of products from Western Australia. I (have written demanding information on the subject for the past fortnight, but I believe that the Government, through the SolicitorGeneral, have within the past week put an embargo upon the export of lead from Western Australia. I do not like saying these things,, because the persons who are running the smelters are friends of my own; hut I believe that my first duty is to the men who locate these [metals and are responsible for digging the ores out of the ground. If the Government believe that lead should be smelted in the Commonwealth, it is their duty to see that the people who win the. ore shall be paid the world’s parity for their product, and if, in order to give them the world’s parity, it is necessary that the smelting industry should be subsidized, then that course should be adopted. The Government should’ not cheat those engaged in obtaining the ore - and I say they are being cheated - of the value of their product in order to give assistance to persons engaged in another industry.
-How does the honorable member connect these remarks with the second reading of the Bill?
– I am speaking with regard to the powers given to the Government under- this measure. So far these things have only been done under the War Precautions Act. Unless I get some definite promise in regard to this matter, I shall be disposed to move the adjournment of the House before the session is brought to a close. If the Government want to assist smelters, they should do it by subsidy, and should at least give a fair deal to the man who takes the responsibility of getting the ores.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the- drafting of the Bill now before’ us.. We have always held the view that it is better that ninety-nine people should escape^ just punishment than that one innocent man should be sent to gaol. Honorable members will find that sub-clause 17 of clause 6 provides that -
Any person who makes to the Treasurer, or to any officer having duties connected with applications under this section, any statement, whether verbal or in writing, which is untrue in any particular, shall be guilty of an offence against this section.
This is in connexion , with a proposed amendment of our company laws. Again, I do not know why a Bill to amend the company law has not been introduced, and these ‘amendments incorporated in it. In future people concerned about an amendment of our company law must look for the legislative provisions on the subject, not to a Companies- Act, but to the “ War Precautions Repeal Act.” It will be seen that under the sub-clause I have quoted any man who makes a verbal statement to a Government officer, in the circumstances set out, will, if it is found to be untrue in any particular, be deemed guilty of an offence under this Bill, for which he may be liable to imprisonment for twelve months, or to a fine of £100.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has already pointed out that with the approval of the AttorneyGeneral a person charged with sedition may be dealt with summarily. It is contrary to all usual procedure that a man charged with an indictable offence, punishable by imprisonment for a term of three years, should be dealt with summarily. The honorable member for West Sydney has dealt with that matter fully, and I feel sure that the Government will see fit to amend the clause dealing with it.
Sub-clause 2 of clause 15 provides that-
No person shall without authority (proof whereof will lie upon him) destroy, injure, disfigure, or remove any poster, advertisement, or notice relating to any Commonwealth loan.
There are instances in which it is necessary that the onus of proof of innocence should be thrown on the person charged with an offence, but surely this is not a case in which that should be done.
I do not want to deal with the Bill generally. I am going to vote against it, because I want to force the Government to get rid of everything in connexion with the War Precautions Act. I have given them my assurance, time after time, that I will support them to the utmost in any legislation deemed necessary for the purpose of putting down sedition or anything of that sort, though I would have no objection to any man endeavouring in a legitimate and lawful manner to bring about constitutional reforms. The very definite promises made by the Government in connexion with the War Precautions Act should be kept. I do not think the Government have kept their promises.’
– Surely this Bill is a fulfilment of that promise. The Prime Minister made it clear that legislative sanction would be required for certain matters.
– Why is it necessary to include in this Bill any reference to the Customs Act, or provisions with regard to the company law? These could be incorporated in an amendment of those Acts.
– Many of these necessary powers have been vested in the Government by regulations under the War Precautions Act, and, if repealed entirely, they must all go.
– Well, if the Bill gets into Committee, I hope it will be very considerably amended. Some phases of this legislation may be necessary, but others are not. For instance, can the Minister say why it is necessary for any alien - perhaps a citizen from France or Italy, or the United States - to obtain the permission of the Treasurer before acquiring any share or interest in any company incorporated in Australia? The whole thing is preposterous.
– It will enable the Government to prevent “ dummying.”
– But we can get plenty of “dummies” in Australia. I am against this restrictive legislation altogether, though I repeat that I shall give my fullest support to any attempt to keep out undesirable immigrants. The Government would be well advised if they brought in separate measures dealing with such amendments of our Acts as may be necessary. We have just passed an Immigration Bill, and yet the Government, under this Bill, may require persons entering the Commonwealth to take the oath of allegiance. The whole thing is an absurdity. The proper place for this provision was in the Immigration Bill. . ..
.- The first thing that strikes me in connexion with this Bill is the necessity for an alteration of its title. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in moving the second reading, said it had been introduced in response to requests from honorable members for the repeal of the War Precautions Act, but so far from being a repeal measure, it may be regarded as the War Precautions Aggravation Act. It seems to be intended to suppress any and all criticism of the Dictatorship in this country. It consists of about twelve pages, and enumerates quite a number of statutory rules and so forth, and it is utterly impossible, in the time that has elapsed since its introduction, for any honorable member to become acquainted with all its provisions. Its effect will be to tighten up the existing repressive machinery against so-called “disloyalists” and others. It is hard to say what is not in the Bill. It deals with coal, wharfs, primary products, companies, firms, and businesses, loans, unlawful assemblies, amendment of the Crimes Act, Council of Finance, agents of oversea companies and other matters. The most ridiculoiis portion of it, from my point of view, are the clauses dealing with the entry of persons into the Commonwealth. Under clause 7 any person arriving from oversea may not be allowed to land unless he subscribes to the oath of allegiance in the form set out in the schedule -
I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful -
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the Bill in detail at the second-reading stage. He may only refer incidentally to its provisions.
– I merely wanted to emphasize the absurdity of this provision, which requires that any foreigner landing in Australia may be required to take the oath of allegiance. If President Wilson, when released from the cares of office, or if the ex-Premier of France (M. Clemenceau), who has been invited to this country, decides to visit Australia, he may be required to swear allegiance to King George V. If it is not meant to apply to any person, obviously it is intended to apply only to some persons. If, for example, our old friend Tom Barker, who is an Englishman and an ex-soldier, and who has been deported from the Commonwealth, attempted to return here, he would be required to take this oath of allegiance to the King.
– But a man who has been deported cannot be re-admitted to the Commonwealth.
– Exactly. Another Bill provides that any person who has been deported from the ‘Commonwealth shall be refused re-admission to it. Upon the other hand, any individual who desires to enter the iCommonwealth will not be deterred from so doing, because he is required to take this oath. Provision is made in the Bill to prevent assemblies of more than twenty persons in and around the Commonwealth parliamentary buildings for any unlawful purposes. I do not suppose that if they came here to protest against price-fixing, as the meat kings did, the- assembly would be regarded as an unlawful one. If people in an exuberance of enthusiasm hurried from the Melbourne Town Hall to express their loyalty to the Throne and person of His Majesty, ‘I do not anticipate that the machinery provided in this Bill would be set in motion against them. So far as I can understand them, the amendments which it is proposed to make in our Crimes Act are far more drastic than are any regulations that have be.en promulgated under the War Precautions Act during the period of the war. It seems to me that the real object of the Government is to act in concert with the Governments upon the other side of the world in respect of legislation affecting such questions as naturalization and nationality, &c. They desire to tighten up existing legislation upon these matters, and to enact new legislation in an effort to enmesh all those people whom the development of our economic system has driveninto opposition to the established social order. Under this Bill, one of the things for which a man may be sent into Pentridge is that of bringing the Sovereign into hatred and contempt. My own opinion is that the acts . of the Ministry themselves are more calculated to bring the Sovereign into contempt than anything which can be done by any so-called disloyalist. The measure further pro-, vides that any person who attempts to overthrow the established form.of government in any civilized country shall be dealt with under Commonwealth law. It also seeks to enact that to excite disaffection against the Sovereign or the Government or Constitution of the United Kingdom, or against either House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, shallbe a seditious intention. ‘ Apparently, to advocate the. abolition of the House of Lords would be calculated, to bring into hatred and contempt our Sovereign Lord the King.
– The honorable member for Bourke’s speech here the other night would constitute seditious- intent.
– Precisely. To excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of any of the King’s Dominions is also constituted an offence.
– Order ! I must ask. the honorable member not to dissect the clauses of the Bill in the. way that he is doing. I have already called his attention to the matter:
– How can I discuss the measure if I am prevented from dealing with its clauses?
– I would point out that upon the second reading of the Bill the honorable member is entitled to deal only with its general principles. The Committee stage is provided to enable the fullest discussion of the details of the measure. Its provisions may then be debated clause by clause, sentence, and word by word, if that- course be considered necessary.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 8 p.m.
– When the House adjourned for dinner, I was endeavouring to dissect the various clauses in the Bill now before us,, which is masquerading under the name of the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill. As you have intimated, sir, that I cannot deal with details on the second reading, I shall have to confine myself to what I believe to be the object of the Bill. So far as I can see, the real motive behind the introduction of this and similar measures which have been inflicted upon, the people of Australia, is well described in a paragraph which I propose reading from an American publication commenting upon the recent election for the office of President. This paragraph states, inter alia -
We are going through, a period - . now in which we tolerate Democracy because we hate to think about war.We muster up what interest we can for the sham contest between Harding, and Cox because that is more agreeable than facing the real; issue. We are tired of war. We long for peace. But there is no peace. In the background waits the real struggle. We shut our eyes to the future. We hate to think about any kind of a dictatorship. But we have seen the fateful lightning of its terrible swift sword, and we feel the insignificance of the games we are playing, the paltriness of our pretences, the insignificance of our personal destinies. All the more on that account, we cling, for the moment, closer to our immediate interests’, we hug our il’lu- . sions, we turn away, perhaps, from the tomorrow towards which we inexorably are swept. But the tattered rags of Democracy are blown away in the great wind that sweeps across the world, and we see a vision of em; battled armies. To-morrow we shall he conscripted, on one side or. the other, in a. war which knows no neutrality. Let us eat, drink, and be merry, but when the call comes, which side shall we be on?
That sums up the present situation, and accounts for much of the legislation that is being introduced to this Chamber. It is a weak attempt- on the part of the Government to suppress the great wave of social unrest which is permeating the world at the present time.
While we have Ministers of the Crown appealing to “the passions and prejudices that were excited during, the recent war, and thereby attempting to foist such legislation as this upon the people, it is in striking contrast - as I pointed out when another measure was under’ discussion last evening- that we have millions of soldiers who fought in the recent war meeting, uniting and fraternising with one another, and speaking; in burning language of the tricks that were played upon them. These men are swearing before one another that they will use every endeavour to pull down the rotten system upon which Governments in all countries are established. They are out to destroy the economic system which makes war inevitable. I have here a publication, which I mentioned yesterday, and I propose to briefly mention one or two points to contrast the attitude’ which these men whoi fought throughout- the war have adopted with the efforts, of war-making Governments in the various countries. The . paragraph reads -
The first act of the Congress was therefore to pledee ex-service men who were represented there - British, German, French, Austrian* Russian, Italian, Belgian, Roumanian, and Swiss - to pledge them’ all to work together to abolish the capitalist and competitive system, and to strive to establish a world-wide cooperative form of society.
This is what the general secretary of the National Union of Ex-Service Men of Great Britain, who wrote this article in Foreign A fairs, said in June last -_
Henri Barbusse - well known to readers of Foreign Affairs - presided. His opening address gave the key to . the whole proceedings. “ Once more, we confront one another,” he said, we who have confronted one another in hell,” and then he went’ on to declare that at that conference the ex-soldiers of Europe returned “ to their first essential belief, belief in their brotherhood.” After five years of slaughter, the surviving combatants emerged, looked each other in the eyes, and recognised each other as brothers. The Governments which made the war - the governing bureaucracies of Europe, responding to the pressure of the financial interests - still glare at each other across the frontiers of the nations. The civilian peoples still bear some of the mean and futile hate that . they had for each other while the war continued. But the men who were actually engaged, hundreds of thousands of them in every land, stretch out to each other the hands of fellowship. Does this seem strange? Does it seem inconsistent? Surely not. For, while the Governments and most of the civilian peoples thought of each other as enemies, the fighting men, even while fighting, knew no enduring hate. They were all alike in the grip of the war machine, and each one knew that the “fellow opposite” was as helpless as himself. At home the British people cursed the Germans, and the German people cursed the people of this land. But in the fighting line British and German troops alike only cursed the war.
– Where did the honorable member get that?
– I am glad to have that interjection, because I understand the honorable member is associated with a returned soldiers’ organization. This article was written by the general secretary of the National Union of Ex-Service Men of Great Britain, and it goes on to say -
The conference passed unanimously a resolution of the British delegates condemning the League of Nations as “ a league of capitalist Governments designed only to preserve the spoils of the conquerors!” It decided that, after the first October next all correspondence and conferences of the ex-service men’s International should be conducted in Esperanto. It set up a central bureau, a clearing-house for views and information submitted by the various national organizations: and the International was formally established.
The National Union of Ex-Service Men is the British organization affiliated to the In- ternational. The decision to affiliate was ratified by the general delegate conference of the union, which assembled at Birmingham early in April; and it is significant that every single branch of the union voted for affiliation. By this may be judged the earnestness and wholeheartedness with which a great body of British ex-service men are entering upon this new campaign, this “ war against war.” All inquiries regarding the National Union of ExService Men should be addressed. to the general secretary, Town Hall Chambers, Martinstreet, London, E. 15.
– It is very interesting.
– Yes, and particularly so when we find that this British organization is . affiliated with similar organizations in the various countries I have mentioned, and that that international organization of ex-soldiers which is pledged to fight for the overthrow of the capitalistic system, has a membership of 5,000,000. Here is what the French General Secretary of the Republican Association of Ex-service Men, which is 100,000 strong, said in March -
Our first International Congress is fixed for May next. A resolution will be submitted proclaiming a preventive struggle against war; the disarming of hatred; the struggle against military “glory.” The Republican Association of Ex-service Men of France will propose that every member shall discard and destroy his medals, thus flinging into a common heap the Croix de Guerre, the Military Cross, the Black Eagle, the Legion of Honour, the ‘Distinguished Service Order.
That is in very striking contrast to the actions of those people who are ruling this country at present. Whilst those men who bore the- burden of war and who survived all the hardships - not only the soldiers who fought, but also, in France at least, their dependants, who are organized in associations . similar to our Fathers’ Association in. Australia - are working for the prevention of all future wars, and have gone so far as to discard their medals and military decorations, this Government are endeavouring to thrust their opinions down the throats of others by adopting tactics that are altogether discreditable. Legislation of this type is being enacted in a futile attempt to protect a rotten and decaying system.
– What are you going to do?
– I am going to continue to act as I have in the past. The Government can have their War Precautions Act, and can tighten upits provisions; but the result will be that they will only accentuate the animosity which at present exists. They will drive the working classes further and further, and in doing so go blindly towards their doom.
– You seem to be very sorry.
– Sometimes I am sorry for you, but I cannot help it. At other times I think it will be just what you deserve. This legislation proposes to impose penalties upon those who cause ‘ hatred or opposition “ between different classes in the community.
– What clause is that?
– I am not allowed to direct the honorable member’s attention to particular clauses, but the Bill provides a penalty for doing what I have stated. Yet the Bill itself will cause “ hatred and opposition “ between different classes in the community. It is a futile attempt, I admit, but still it is an attempt, on the part of the dictatorship in this country to impose their will upon the populace and to sit on the safety valve. I have no hesitation in saying that I am with the revolutionary international working class of the world, and this attempt on the part of the Governiment is on a par with the endeavour of the famous Mrs. Partington to sweep back the ocean with a broom. On the other side we have the Prime Minister wailing about the basic wage. This Frankenstein’s monster of his own creation is turning round and rending him. The economic conditions of this country are such that, on the Government’s own showing, it is impossible for the people to exist under them. We are told that the unfortunate employer has a margin of only 10s. 9d., or some such figure, per employee as his net profit after business costs have been defrayed, and all material and wages paid for. We are assured that the employer is at his wits’ end. I tell the Government that the working classes are at their wits’ end to know how to make ends meet. The employers of this country do not know what is ahead of them. They cannot know.
– Does the honorable member know ?
– No, I cannot “know”; but, like the honorable member who interjects, I can draw deductions from obvious facts, although
I may not draw the same deductions. Honorable members know my view, that this country ‘ cannot pull itself away economically, or in any other way, from the rest of the commercial world. The conditions for Australia cannot be determined in Australia. . We are part and parcel of the economic system of the world, and events at the other end of the world are going to determine whether the present system’ will continue in operation in this country or not. They will determine the living conditions. The conditions under which the masses toil in this country will not be determined in Australia. Nobody in this chamber who pretends to know anything about the economic system will claim that they will be determined here.
This measure, when it becomes law, will be abused in the same way as every other Act of a repressive nature has been abused during the war period against the critics of the ruling clique. It is not honorable members opposite, but the ruling clique in this country, who want this ridiculous piece of legislation. What will it do? It will not suppress discontent. It will not suppress what honorable members opposite call “ sedition “ or “ disloyalty.” It will simply drive it underground, and increase its explosive character. Make no mistake. That is what honorable members opposite are going to do. They talk about suppressing disloyalty and sedition. They use such phrases as “ bringing into contempt the Sovereign, or the Government, or either House of Parliament.” In the minds of the honest working men of this country, what is this Parliament to-day? It is held in contempt. What does the average citizen think of this parliamentary system?
– Every adult has a vote.
– Of ‘ course he has, and much good it is to him.
– The trouble is that they do not use it.
– The trouble ‘is that under cover of a “ democratic “ Constitution, we have a financial oligarchy ruling this country, and by means of the press, the pulpit, and politicians, misleading the people.
– Then, why do you mislead them?
– I am not misleading the people.
– I thought you said “politicians/’
– I am not a politician, and never intend to be. I claim to be here, as the delegate of the industrial workers of. Broken Hill. The people are misled, as I said, by politicians, and by the press most of all, with other lying agencies which play on the prejudices and passions of the people, dividing them by means of religious and national hatreds. That is the kind of thing that is utilized for the purpose of befogging the mind of the people, and playing upon their prejudices, so that the financial gang can continue to rule the country, while we play at representative government, and prate about Democracy.
– We must look into this !
– The honorable member will probably have to look into it one of these days. In my early days in this Parliament, I reminded the honorable member that he might laugh and joke now, like the French gentlemen who laughed and played and sang and drank, before the French revolution; but they were not so apt to dance and sing and laugh after the revolution came.
This Bill endeavours to prevent the working classes of this country from voicing their disapproval of the existing system. It attempts to prevent them from voicing, by word of mouth, by the press, or by any other agency, the violent discontent they feel with that system and the superstructure which is built upon it ; but I agree with the sentiments put forth by Fintan Lalor, in his Faith of a Felon.
– Who is he?
– He was a famous Irish patriot. He says -
The principle I state and mean to stand upon is this: That the entire ownership of Ireland- and what is true of Ireland is equally true of every other country - moral and material, up to the sun and down to the centre is vested of right in the people of Ireland; that they, and none but they, are the land-owners and law-makers of this island; that all laws are null and void not made by them, and all titles to land invalid not conferred or confirmed by them;’ and that this full right of ownership may and ought to be asserted and enforced by any and all means which God has put in the power of man.
– How does that apply to Australia ?
– Changing the name of the country, the sentiments expressed by that writer are mine. Honorable members opposite can pile up Statute after Statute to say that people shall not do this, that or the other; but all that they are doing, while the basic cause of the existing discontent is left intact, is to accentuate the explosive character of that discontent to such a pitch that it will sweep them and their system out of existence.
– All the laws in Australia have been passed by the people of Australia.
– A great lot the people in Australia have to do with passing this legislation. I make bold to say that the honorable member does not know a clause in the Bill. Here are twelve pages of a measure which was brought down yesterday evening, and mentions dozens of regulations. It contains provisions comprehending a great section of the industrial life of this country, and a very grave further assault upon the liberties hitherto enjoyed in this country,, even in war time. The honorable member does not know what provisions are in the Bill, but he will vote solidly for them.
– I have listened with the greatest attention to the honorable member’s speech, so how can I help knowing what is in the Bill?
– If the honorable member* will . refrain from interjecting, perhaps the honorable member who is addressing the Chair will be able to continue his speech without personal references.
– I was’ sent here to express the views and aspirations and the determination of the class to which I belong, to pursue the road they have mapped out for themselves, irrespective of these attempts on your part to sidetrack, intimidate, and . terrorize the mouth-pieces of the working classes from giving expression to their views.
– I must ask the honorable . member to address the Chair.
– I was addressing the Chair, even if I was not looking at you.
– The honorable member was not speaking in the third person.
– I have no wish to pick out any honorable member to address my remarks to. I have been here sufficiently long to understand that I have to comply with the usage of the House, or get outside. The people who sent me here sent me here to express my views, and their views. In this matter, their views andmine coincide, whatever the views of honorable members opposite or on this side may be.
What I say of this Bill is equally true of other measures that will be introduced from time to time. The idea at the back of the minds of those who framed the Bill is that it will act as a deterrent; that it will intimidate those whom honorable members supporting the Government would term disloyal, seditious, and so forth. The sedition and disloyalty of these persons consist in the fact that they object to the present system of government, and are determined to alter it, and that it is impossible to alter it constitutionally. Honorable members know that. They provide in the Bill that all alterations of the present form of government must be made in accordance with the Constitution, and to buttress up the Constitution they pro-, vide that any criticism of it, and any criticism of Parliament or of the Government, shall be deemed sedition. Legislation of this character was not in operation even during the. war, which proves that honorable members are not so much afraid of the Germans, the Bulgarians, or the people of the other nations with whom we were at war, as they are afraid of the international working-class movement, the organized workers of the world, who are attempting to make war impossible in the future. The newspapers of this country have not told the workers or the returned soldiers of Australia what their brethren have been doing at the other side of the world. They have not published statements such as that which I read this evening. Our press is more concerned, as an instrument of the capitalistic system, in deluding the populace; in entertaining the people with tit-bits regarding royal parasites, such as items concerning the likelihood of the marriage of Prince Carol with Princess Helen of Greece. They say nothing of the 5,000,000 soldiers who, having fought through the war; are now banded together to shift the present economic system. The same remarks apply to every other agency that can be used to poison the minds of the people. In last night’snewspaper we read of a terrific battle in the streets of Dublin, but in this morning’s newspapers there is no account of the battle, and what has taken place at Dublin seems more like the Indian massacre. The people are fed with lies by the press, while their passions and prejudices are played on. Legislation of this character is introduced, not to deal with those who are fooling the people, and whose interest it is to continue to fool them, so that they may the more easily be exploited, but to intimidate those who try to open the eyes of the people. I say that it will and must fail.
– You have Major-General Ryrie converted!
– I shall be better pleased to convert others nearer home. This kind of legislation must fail. It is born of the spirit that has been expressed from time to time in various publications and by various statesmen, whoare desirous of weathering the . storm themselves, saying, “ After us the deluge.” They wish to worry through as well as they can, by intimidation, and by force, if necessary, leaving it to the next generation to settle matters.
Honorable members know, or at leastanticipate, that in this country, as in other countries, the capitalistic system isgoing to pieces - that the financial system,, too, is failing. Crisis after crisis is taking place. Yesterday, in America, the other day in Japan, and, again, in Great Britain, we read of millions of unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of exservice men are out of employment, factories are closing down. Here we havethe banks tightening up, and our factories are commencing to shorten sail. My opinion is that we, too, are drifting towards an economic and financial crisis.
The workers of this country will be driven by sheer necessity to alter the present system as- they are being driven to= do it in every other country. What is the reply to make to them ?’ It is not, when they ask for bread, to give them a stone-; when they ask that you shall get off their backs, to give them a War Precautions Repeal Bill, under which a man may get three years in gaol if convicted of telling, the truth. ‘That is the way in which honorable members^ would inculcate loyalty to the Throne and person ! That is the way in which they would protect the Government from contempt and ridicule! I. do. not think that they will succeed. Personally, while I have tongue or pen at my command, these will be used against such legislation, and on the side of the working classes. They will be used to. point out the iniquities of the present system.. They will, be used to convince the people that their only hope lies in overthrowing the present system, and that can be done by their organized might alone..
– Is your party unanimous on that?
– It ‘is unanimous on that. My party is the real party representing the working class men and women of this country, and of all countries ; it is the international revolutionary working-class movement of the world.
– What do the members of the Labour party say about that?
– They may answer for themselves. Leading articles will be written, pointing out that attempts are being, made to sap the foundations of society, and honorable- members-, will quote these leading articles; and one another’s speeches, as- reasons for introducing more and more legislation of a repressive character in this land- of boasted freedom, in this land that has been “ made safe for Democracy.” Before the war persons could enter this country freely; but now that the war- has made it safe for Democracy, and Australia is enjoying the blessings of freedom- and liberty for which the war was fought, a man cannot enter the- country, whether he comes from republican Prance, or republican America, or monarchical Britain, or monarchical Italy, without first taking the oath- of allegiance to King George V.. Under this Bill every person who enters the Commonwealth must, take the oath of allegiance. The exPremier of France, who is- now travelling in the East, would, I suppose, if hewished, to visit Australia, have to take the oath of allegiance to- King George V., and if President Wilson wished to come here af ter his term of office, he, no doubt, would have to do the same thing. If the Bill does not mean that, it certainly means that Britishers coming here willbe -required to take the oath of allegiance, and if afterwards they utter “sentimenta with” which some one disagrees, they may be taken by the nape of the neck and put out again for. daring to criticise* the Government. No doubt they will then appreciate- the blessings of freedom and Democracy that the war has brought no them.
The. Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is not here this- evening.
– Don’t you draw your wages:?:
– I dot not draw that kind of wages- I am. sorry, that he is not here-, because, the Bill was introduced by him, and is; his gift, his testimonial, to the working classes of Australia. If be were here, I might be tempted to remindhim of.” Russell Lowell’s lines1 -
Humanity sweeps onward;, where to-day the martyr stands,
On the morrow crouches Judas, with. the. silver in his hands..
– Under the Standing Orders, the honorable member may not apply, terms- like those to another honorable member., and I, therefore, ask him to withdraw them..
– I did not apply any terms; I simply stated that if the Prime Minister were here I might be tempted to quote them.
– The honorable member, quoted certain lines, and I ask him to withdraw them..
– I withdraw them-, but I ami. sorry that I cannot ask Lowell to; withdraw them. They- still stand.
– I ask the. honorable member- to- withdraw them without, qualifications. ‘
– I did withdraw them,, but I regretted- that Lowell cannot withdraw them, because he is dead:.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw them without any addition.
– I withdraw them; that is for the third time. I am not surprised that Lowell’s sentiments should be contrary to the rules of this House. During the war, the Sermon on the Mount was the subject of a censor’s displeasure, and, under the proposed Bill, it will be almost impossible to quote the Holy Scriptures or the writings of Lowell, or of any other person who has endeavoured to aid the cause of liberty or to pillory those who have betrayed it. This will be then an ideal place for the exploiters.
If I may not quote Lowell, there are others, perhaps, to whom I may be permitted to refer. The workers of this country can look forward to the time depicted by the poet of revolt, Percy Bysshe Shelley, in the lines addressed to his son; and in concluding my protest against this piece of legislation. I could not give a better message to those who send me here, or to the working classes generally of Australia, than these lines -
Pear not the tyrants will rule forever,
Or the priests of the evil faith;
They stand on the brink of that raging river,
Whose waves they have tainted with death.
It is fed from the depth of a thousand dells, ‘
Around them it foams, and rages, and swells;
And their swords and their sceptres I floating see,
Like wrecks on the surge of eternity.
– Honorable members of tie Labour party were most insistent in demanding the repeal of the War Precautions Act. They would not be happy unless they got it; yet now that they have it; they do not seem to be content.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I have again to direct the attention of the House to the fact that an honorable member has risen to address himself to the subject-matter before the Chair, and has not been allowed even to complete his opening sentence without being assailed by a whole series of interjections. This is not only against the rules of the House, but “is neither fair nor courteous, and cannot be permitted. I hope the practice will be discontinued.
– This Bill purports by its eighteen or twenty clauses to take the place of some volumes of regulations made under the War Precautions Act. Those which form the subjectmatter of this Bill the Government deem it essential to retain in view of the desired completion of the activities to which they relate. I admit at once that it is regrettable that such an incongruous series of subjects should have been brought together in this one measure. I should have preferred to see them dealt within separate Bills. The Government have seen fit to bring down the Bill in this form, but I hope that when there is more time at our disposal an opportunity will be taken to properly assort these subjects, and to put in their proper place those which are to remain permanently on the statute-book. I regret that those regulations which provide that certain businesses, firms, and. corporations shall be under Government supervision have been embodied in this Bill. So far as I am able to judge, they are totally unnecessary. The time has gone by for their continued operation, and they have ceased to serve any useful purpose. There are in our midst many friendly alien subjects, who are associated with our own people in various business enterprises. It is very desirable not only that every encouragement should be given to our Allies to open businesses here, but that Allied subjects resident in our midst should be encouraged to work in unison with our own people in trading and commercial operations. I therefore object to the inclusion in this measure of the provisions relating to businesses, firms, and corporations, and shall vote against them, unless the Government can satisfy me that they are still necessary. If the Government deem that they should remain in force for the immediate present, then they should at least terminate automatically within twelve months, or at the end of the coming year. They are hampering the business enterprises of the community, and it i’ most irksome, unfair, and unreasonable that they should be continued.
– What is their purpose?
– They, served an important purpose during the war, but I fail to see why they should remain in force any longer. If the Government cannot see their way to withdraw them now, I would strongly urge them to provide that they shall terminate automatically at a very early period. There are other parts relating to various activities, and even provisions as to a Finance Council, which should be deleted.
I welcome those portions of the Bill relating to an amendment of the Crimes Act, and to precautions on entry to the Commonwealth, and in the light of our experience regard them as being absolutely essential. It is deplorable that the -test of war brought to light an outcrop of disloyalty. We sought to deal with the external enemy, but the war disclosed that there was within our gates an enemy that had to be dealt with, and if the Government had failed to recognise that fact, they would have been lacking in their duty. During the war period, they attempted, and effectively managed, to deal with those disloyal subjects who were fighting within our gates largely for the enemy without. The Government sought to deal with these individuals by regulation during the period of the war; but they realize that the enemy still remains within, and has still to be dealt with.
– Who are they?
– It is unnecessary for me to say who they are. They previously lurked in dark places, but the war. brought them into the open, and they are still insidiously working towards the destruction of the best interests of Australia and the Empire, and have still to be dealt with. The Australian soldier fought for the unity and safety of the British Empire, and is not going to stand quietly by and see Australia or the Empire assailed or menaced in the way that has been attempted.
It was our regrettable experience that efforts were made within our. midst to inflame an anti-British feeling, to spread German propaganda, and to prevent Australia from putting forth its maximum effort to assist in the. defence of the Empire. That was one of the schemes or machinations deliberately resorted to in order to bring about the disruption of the Empire. The extremity of the Mother Country was seized upon as an opportunity to put f -nva rel these efforts, and the enemy within our gates never failed to put them forward in the. most venomous and poisonous manner. If the Government failed to recognise this work of the enemy they would be lacking in their duty.
The Government do not attempt to create any new machinery to deal with offences against the Throne and the Empire. They rely upon the Criminal Code in force in what is probably one of the most democratic States of the Commonwealth. For the amendment of the Crimes Act by means of this Bill they have resorted to the legislation of Queensland for guidance, and have discovered that that legislation might fairly and properly apply to the whole of Australia. In regard to all the provisions of the Bill which deal with incitement to the commission of offences against Commonwealth law, the definitions of “ seditious intention,” “seditious enterprise,” and various offences of a seditious character, the Government have simply resorted to the legislation of Queensland for guidance.
– To legislation passed by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) when Premier of Queensland ?
– If the Queensland Criminal Code to which I refer was not passed by my honorable friend (Mr. Ryan), it was certainly sanctioned by him.
– No. I say the Government has added to the Queensland legislation referred to, and has also done away with trial by jury in the cases of charges of sedition.
– The point I am making is that for the purpose of dealing effectively with sedition and the enemies of the Empire, the Government have’ resorted to Queensland legislation. It is quite true that they have gone one step further, and a most useful and proper step it is. In the light of our experience,, I commend the Government for having introduced .the additional provision, under which any individual entering the Commonwealth may be called upon to take the oath of allegiance. I think there is an error in the clause in which that provision appears. It can be made to apply only to a British subject, but owing apparently to an oversight, it is not . so ‘limited in that sense. I imagine that the intention of the Government is that the clause shall apply only to a British subject, and it should be altered accordingly. The burden of the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) was that this was an instrument of torture ; that it was a cruel hardship to call upon a British subject about to enter Australia to swear allegiance to the Crown and Empire. The honorable member spoke of the cruelty of the provision designed to suppress disloyalty. He wants to tell us that the liberty of the subject is in this way assailed. No loyal and dutiful subject of Australia can be harmed to the extent of one hair’s breadth by this Bill; and if a man is not a loyal subject of Australia he has no right to be in Australia.
– He will take the oath all the same.
– Undoubtedly, we have to risk that.; at the same time, if a man be guilty of any misconduct which amounts to a breach of the oath, he can be punished, and this Bill provides the punishment. But what I am arguing is that the man who comes to Australia with the design and purpose of injuring Australia, of attacking the Throne, of seeking the destruction of the Empire, is not a man to reside in our midst. We have a right to protect ourselves against such an enemy by applying, if we choose, the law of Queensland to the whole of Australia.
– The point I take exception to is that the trial for these’ offences is not to be by jury - it may be summary without a jury.
– There will be an ultimate trial by jury.
– In all indictable cases there must be a trial by jury. I do not know whether there is a similar provision in this Bill, but in the Bill dealing with the admission of aliens, and in the Immigration Bill,- I think, we provide for the constitution of the tribunal to deal with cases of the kind.
– The trial must be presided ovpr by a magistrate.
– If I remember rightly, all eases of sedition must go to a jury.
Mr.Ryan. - That is notso.
– I think it is so in all cases ‘except those of summary prosecution, but I speak subject to correction. At all events, if the case does not go to a jury, it certainly goes to a Judge.
– No, it goes to a magistrate.
– Generally speaking, all these indictable offences go to a jury, but, under this Bill, the AttorneyGeneral may give his consent to a summary prosecution.
– Speaking generally, all. indictable offences go to a jury. Notwithstanding, I shall not say the misrepresentation, but notwithstanding the effort that is being made to misconstrue the aims and objects of the Bill, I repeat that no truly loyal subject of Australia can be injured one hair’s breadth by its operation. In the light of the experience of the war period the Government are justified in introducing this measure to protect the Commonwealth, and to secure that liberty which the honorable member for Barrier and others have contended for. It is by this process alone that we can hope to secure the liberty of the Commonwealth; and, therefore, without qualification, I gladly welcome the measure, except in so far as it affects the business matters to which I have referred.
.- I regret I was absent when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) moved the second, reading of this Bill yesterday. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has said that honorable members on this side desire the repeal of the War Precautions Act. That is true; but we desire a genuine repeal, and not a bogus repeal like that now proposed. The Bill simply re-enacts some of the worst features of the original Act and regulations. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), this afternoon, said that if any man is charged under this Bill, and goes to engage counsel, he will be asked what he is charged with, and that he can only reply that he is charged with a breach of the War Precautions Act. This Bill, I repeat, represents simply a gathering up of those fragments of legislation which the Government have been unable to pass this session. I object to the Bill, because the whole history of the War Precautions Act and its adminstration show that its provisions have bean used for purposes for which they were never intended. The original Act was assented to on the 29 th October, 1914. On the 28th October the Prime Minister, who was then Attorney-General, had moved the second reading.
– How will this Bill affect men on whom notices of deportation have been served?
– The Government will deport anybody whom they desire to deport, either under this Bill or some other measure. When speaking on the second reading, on the date mentioned, the Prime Minister said -
The Bill confers upon the Commonwealth power to make orders and regulations of a far-reaching character, and, as honorable members may see in clauses 4 and 5, is mainly directed to preventing the leakage of important secrets, to secure the safety of means of communication, railways, docks, harbors, or public works, and to deal effectively with aliens, and, in certain circumstances, with naturalized persons. Its aim is to prevent the disclosure of important information, to give power to deport and otherwise deal with aliens, to interrogate and obtain information in various ways, and to appoint officers to carry into effect any orders or regulations which may bc made under the Bill. The penalties arc set forth in clauses 6 and 7, the former of which sets out that-
Any person who contravenes, or fails to comply with, any provision of any regulation or order made in pursuance of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.
Penalty: One hundred pounds, or six months’ imprisonment, or both.
The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who is now a colleague of the Prime Minister, but was then in opposition to the Government led by that gentleman, said, on the same occasion -
This is in some respects an extraordinary Bill, and one intended, I presume, to meet circumstances which are extraordinary.
Further on -
– It is proposed to give, not a general, but a special, power for a special purpose.
– A special power for each case?
– Yes; limited in extent, and for each purpose.
– That does not appear here.
– Yes, it does.
– I should like that to be made clear. As a civilian, I am not prepared to place tremendous powers in the hands of the Naval and Military Board to deal with citizens for offences other than those created under our present drastic laws.
Sir William Irvine, who was then a member of the House, said -
That provision is absolutely ‘…… It invests the Executive Government of the day with the most complete power.) to legislate, whether Parliament is or is not sitting, on any matter touching the actions or conduct of any member of the community.
Then the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) said-
I believe that the Government are wise in asking for the widest powers, provided they are prepared to exercise them with discretion, and to take the fullest responsibility.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) said -
I regret that it appears to be necessary to pass this Bill through all its stages in the same day. The time allowed to consider so important a measure seems to me to be too short. The Bill proposes to establish Naval and Military Courts and courts martial. These, I imagine, will be secret tribunals. Neither the public nor the press will be allowed to be present at the trial of any person before them. . . . What may be described as something of a “panicky” feeling has taken possession of some members’ of the -community, and it is causing a great deal of cruelty to be exhibited to certain persons who are good citizens of Australia.
At that time the honorable member for Capricornia was still a member of the Labour party. Mr. Jensen, who was the Minister in charge of the amending Bill in 1915, said, on the 24th April of that year, as reported in Hansard-
This Bill will operate only so long as the war lasts.
The operation of the War Precautions Act was extended in November, 1918, after the war had terminated. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) and others were at that time very persistent in asking for a date to be fixed for the termination of the operation of the Act. Honorable members know that the Government obtained the extension on the distinct understanding that it would be for only three months after the declaration of peace. Two years have elapsed, and we are now, by this Bill, reenacting, as I say, some of the worst features of the original measure. The position may be all very well for the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who belongs to the favoured party thai Las not been “ bit “ by the War Precautions Act. But the honorable mem’ber for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) can tell the House the number of members who have been prosecuted under that Act - all members from one side, and one side only. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.- -^Mathews) was prosecuted under the Act by the present Government; the “honorable member for Cook was prosecuted no fewer than seven times; ex-Senator McDougall was prosecuted, and also Mr. J. W. Billson, a member of the Victorian State Parliament, against whose loyalty I do not think even the honorable member for Kooyong can say one word.
– What was Mr. Billson prosecuted for?
-He was prosecuted under the War Precautions Act - some charge was framed up against him; it does not take the military long to frame a’ charge of the kind. Government reporters were even sent to my meetings, and, when I observed them, I always invited them to come nearer the platform, so’ that they might hear me better. After reporting speeches, these reporters would go into the box and, in many cases, depose as to what had not been said by the person charged.
– I had. my own shorthand volunteers with me at my meetings.
– The honorable member was lucky to have the services df volunteer shorthand writers.
– I can get twenty at a time in Sydney.
– A breach of the pricefixing regulations, which were supposed to be of some value to the community, was considered to be met by a small fine. But those regulations were never intended to be of any value to the community while the present Government were in power; they were intended to be a farce and a fraud, and such they were. As I say, a breach of those regulations might be met by a fine of 10s., but a person who flew the red flag was fined £25, with the alternative of six months’ imprisonment, and sometimes was sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine. In a speech I made in this House I put I on record the .fact that Messrs. Burns, Philp and Company, who are a wholesale firm, and no doubt on this occasion were selling the commodity wholesale, were fined 10s. for a breach of the price-fixing regulation in relation to butter ; and we may take it that their offence was not that of charging too little. The Fresh Food and Ice Company was taken to Court for a similar offence, but the charge was withdrawn on payment of a guinea costs. H. Bowden, for a breach of the regulations in relation to bread, was fined 10s., and a similar fine was inflicted on L. Williamson and H. Thomas. On the other hand, the following persons were charged with exhibiting the red flag, and punished: - P. James, with a sentence of six months imprisonment; N. Jeffrey, six months; W. Elder, six months; E. C. Cahill, six months; J. G. Cahill, six months; G. Taylor, six months; L. Rosian. six months; H. Bikoff, six months; R. J. Carroll, with a fine of £25 ; and R. Long, with £25 or six months. Personally, I would sooner imprison a man who robbed the community by overcharging for bread, than I would a man flying the red flag. The newspaper from which I take these facts adds the comment, “This is a fine example of the methods of the present Government in connexion with profiteering.”
What this Government have done in the past they will do in the future - they will rig” charges under the Act against their political opponents. Of this I can cite an instance that occurred in Sydney. The Sydney Worker was charged with a breach of the censorship regulations, and was mulct in fines and costs amounting to £112 16s. Here is a piece of the evidence that was given in this case -
Is it not a fact that a report of Mr. Tudor’s speech at the Sydney Town Hall was sent to the Censor’s office and struck out, and the report had already been allowed to appear in the Herald and Telegraph? - No.
Won’t you admit that the report submitted to you was the same as appeared in the Telegraph, and that you struck out portions before you allowed it to appear in the Worker? - It is quite likely it is so.
The Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Daily Telegraph were allowed to print what the Worker was refused permission to publish. The Adelaide Herald was refused permission” to print what other papers had published. Labour papers were penalized for doing what Nationalist newspapers were allowed to do. Of course, if honorable members opposite think that that was fair treatment, they will vote to keep in operation the powers exercised in this way by. the Government to suit their own party political purposes, but I shall vote against every clause which seeks to re-enact what I regard as the worst features of the War Precautions Act. I believe that some honorable members opposite are sufficiently fair-minded not to be anxious to operate the provisions of this Bill as the War Precautions Act has been administered in the past but it is a case of-
Ye shall know them by. their fruits.
I judge the future by what has happened in the past.
Hundreds of regulations are covered by this Bill, ‘ and I venture to say no honorable member has had the opportunity of perusing them. During last Parliament, when we were considering the Commercial Activities Bill, which extended the operations of the War Precautions regulations relating to wool, butter, sugar, flax, and wheat, we dealt with each subject separately, but in this Bill we have whole measures covered by single clauses. For instance, clause 8 contains the whole of the provisions of the Unlawful Assemblies Bill, which was passed by the Senate, and read a first time here four or five months ago. In fact, we could not have dealt with it under this Bill but for the fact that the Treasurer moved to discharge it from the business-paper. I do not think it is right in the dying hours of the session to rope a whole Bill like that into one clause for a measure which embraces so many other matters to which it has no relation whatever, and when we come to clause 9 in Committee I shall deal with that aspect of the matter. I shall point out that, though we may prohibit the holding of public meetings on the Parliament House side of Spring-street it will be quite lawful to hold them fifty yards away at the top of Bourke-street.
– The municipal bylaws would prevent it.
– The holding of meetings on the Parliament House side of Spring-street could also be prevented in the . same way, instead of including all these restrictive provisions in a Bill whose purpose is to repeal the War Precautions Act. Honorable members claim that they desire to get back to normal times, but they do everything possible to stir up the community, just as the Victorian Government, which I hope will speedily return to a saner frame of mind, have been endeavouring to do in the last few days. This measure will give every opportunity to people who are trying to keep strife going. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has said, this legislation is “ Prussianism let loose.”
Clause 6 gives authority to the Commonwealth Government to maintain that control over the promotion of companies, which it has* exercised for the last three years to an extent which I pointed out a few days ago. Approval has been given to the formation of companies with a capital of £111,000,000, but, as I pointed out, of this amount £36,000,000 is “ watered “ - there are no real assets for it. The Commonwealth Government gave authority for the formation of the Badak Tin Mining Company, whose operations have formed one of the greatest scandals we have ever had inconnexion with Australian mining companies. Briefly put, the administration of the regulations relating to companies has been to shut out well-deserving projects, while allowing certain companies to be floated which ought not to have been placed on the market.
Clause 7 provides that any person arriving from overseas may be required, before being permitted to land in the Commonwealth, to make an oath of allegiance to the King. Has any other country adopted such a law? We were told in connexion with the Passports Bill, the Immigration Bill, and the Nationality Bill, that, we were following legislation adopted by Great Britain and other Dominions, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has not told us that we are doing the same in relation to this particular provision.
We are told that under clause 10 “an intention to excite disaffection against the Government “ is a seditious intention. I am against the Government’. I can say this in the House. I can get up here and describe the Government as rotten. I can say that they have no intention of. bringing in a basic wage; that it was merely a political placard for the people at election time, or, as a gentleman says in to-night’s Herald, was merely a whim of the Prime Minister to which the Government had no intention of giving effect. But if I go outside and say these things, I suppose it will he said that I am. guilty of sedition. At any rate, the Government will* be the sole judges, and no doubt the power which they are seeking in this measure will be used against their political enemies. If the press say anything against an honorable member, he cannot get the Government to pay the expenses of a prosecution, but a member of the Government is in the happy position of having his expenses paid in such a case. Not long ago, when the press said something against me, I asked the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) to launch a prosecution just as he had launched a prosecution on behalf of the Government; but I have not had an answer to that perfectly fair request of mine. In another clause, we are told that we have no right to criticise the Government; and I suppose that if the Age publishes long articles, as it has done, upon the extravagance of the present Ministry, it will be liable to prosecution, because the Government will be the sole arbiters in this matter.
– The honorable member is not saying what is correct.
– It is correct. Is it not correct that this power has been put into operation against one side, and one side only? Is it not correct to say that what was done in the past will be done in the future ?
The only regulations framed under the War Precautions Act which did give a small amount of relief - I refer to the price-fixing regulations - were swept out of existence immediately after the Armistice was signed; but all the other regulations framed under that Act we are asked to re-enact more than two years after the signing of the Armistice. I move, as an amendment -
That after the word “ now “ the following words be inserted : - “ withdrawn, redrafted, and immediately re-introduced, so as to provide for the absolute and genuine repeal of the War Precautions Act without the inclusion of provisions which amount to the re-enactment and extension of the worst features of that Act.”
– In a typical speech, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) has ..talked all round the Bill, and has, most carefully, abstained from attempting to analyze it closely or criticise it. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) promised to introduce a Bill to repeal the War Precautions Act, he said that he would bring down the necessary measure, provided that various other matters arising out” of the war, and covered by existing legislation, were dealt with at! the same time, so that the powers of the Commonwealth in relation to those matters would be preserved. There is no doubt that this Bill absolutely repeals- the War Precautions Act. It terminates it definitely, within a given period, and a very short period too. The repeal takes effect automatically immediately upon’ the passage of the Bill. Apart from this Bill the Actwould continue indefinitely, so far as I can see at the present time. Therefore, the introduction of this measure has absolutely fulfilled the promise the Prime Minister made.
Now let us look at what the honorable member, in his amendment, describes as the worst .provisions of the War Precautions Act For the conduct of the recent war, that Act was absolutely essential. In the United Kingdom it was found necessary to enact similar legislation. In fact, our measure was similar to the British Defence of the Realm Act. Both Acts were deemed absolutely essential, as every honorable member knows. What has stirred the honorable member is probably that, during the progress of the war, those who were loyally fighting for the well-being of this community and the safety of our Empire found their actions hindered and impeded, and certain regulations were passed to deal with those who were responsible for this opposition lo the national effort. Probably it is those regulations that the honorable member- regards as the worst features of the War Precautions Act.
– The honorable gentleman should be ashamed of himself.
– I said that is probably the opinion of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor).
– He is a better citizen than is the Minister for Works and Railways.
– I am not questioning that; and I am making no personal reflections.
– The honorable member is^ talking “ clap-trap.”
– I can mention the regulations preventing the flying of the red flag, to which the honorable member for Yarra himself referred. What are the worst features to which the honorable member directs attention? If this Bill is carefully considered, it will be found that nearly” every clause in it arises out of a regulation made under the War Precautions Act, and is, therefore, properly included. Later on, as the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) very properly pointed out when dealing with certain of those subjects, some of the provisions of the Bill would no doubt find a more appropriate place in separate legislative enactments. The Bill continues for a limited period the War Precautions (Coal) Regulations; it also continues the provisions of ‘the regulations dealing with the control of wharfs, for the protection particularly of the wharf at Port Pirie, the regulations providing for the Commonwealth Government entering into agreements with reference to the transportation and marketing of primary products; and, further, the regulations relating to companies, firms, and businesses which are now regulated under the War Precautions Act. The provision in this Bill dealing with entry into the Commonwealth is a new piece of legislation. Objection is taken to that, probably, on the ground that it is one of the worst features of this measure. What is proposed is simply that, if certain persons whose loyalty is suspected attempt to enter Australia, the oath of allegiance may be put to them.I say that any British subject who desires to come to Australia and be a member of this community, and who refuses to take the oath of allegiance to the Sovereign, and to observe the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia, may justifiably be excluded from this community.
A reference has been made to the provision dealing with unlawful assemblies, but in this case we are simply reenacting the War Precautions Regulation on that subject. That regulation was itself a re-enactment of a law passed by the Parliament of Victoria for its special protection when it held its sittings in this building. For the proper conduct of the proceedings of this Parliament, it is essential that it should be protected from interference by tumultuous crowds.
I suppose that the proposed amendment of the Crimes Act is also regarded as one 1 of the most objectionable features of the Bill. It is true that this Bill deals with the offence of sedition. The State Parliaments have enacted laws dealing with sedition within their jurisdiction. The Parliament of the United Kingdom has done the same. It is the duty of the Oommonwealth, under its legislative powers, to legislate for the protection of Australia against sedition. In following this course it is only doing that which every other Dominion of the Crown has done.
– It has taken the Government twenty years to find that out.
– If it took fifty years, the right thing should be done, and the Government are proposing to do it in this Bill. The legislation on the subject of sedition contained in this Bill is based upon the Queensland Criminal Code, and also on the criminal law of the United Kingdom. I shall quote from Stephen’s Digest of the Criminal Law the section dealing with sedition. In that section it is provided that -
A seditious intention is an intention to bring into hatred or contempt, or to incite disaffection against the person of His Majesty, his heirs or successors, or the Government and Constitution of the United Kingdom, as by law established, or either House of Parliament, or the administration of justice, or. to incite His Majesty’s subjects to attempt otherwise than by lawful means, the alteration of any matter in Church or State by law established, or to incite any person to commit any crime in disturbance of the peace, or to raise discontent or disaffection amongst His Majesty’s subjects, or to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of such subjects.
That is the law of the United Kingdom, and it is the law of Queensland, in accordance with the Criminal Code of that State, drafted by the late Chief Justice of the High Court Sir Samuel Griffith.
There is this provision also in British law -
An intention to show that His Majesty has been misled or mistaken in his measures, or to point out errors or defects in the Government or Constitution by law established, with a view to their reformation, or to incite His Majesty’s subjects to attempt, by lawful means, the alteration of any matter in Church or State by law established, or to point out, in order to their removal, matters which are producing, or have a tendency to produce, feelings or hatred or ill-will between classes of His Majesty’s subjects, is not a seditious intention.
The legislation we here propose follows the general principles of British legislation, and also the legislation of Queensland on the subject, and I presume that very much the same legislation has been passed in all the States of the Commonwealth.
In these circumstances, I ask where is all this dreadful “ legislation that the Leader of the Opposition is afraid of? Are we not to have a law relating to sedition? Are men to be entitled in this community to attempt to overthrow the instrumentalities of government, and the Government be powerless to take action against them ? The Leader of the Opposition has complained that under this Bill there will be no right of criticism. The Bill does not interfere with the right to criticise, but there will be no right to advocate sedition. The Bill will make it an offence for any person to seek to excite His Majesty’s subjects to attempt to procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter in the Commonwealth established by law of the Commonwealth. Docs the honorable member say that a person who makes such an attempt should not be deemed to have committed an offence? All the things that are provided against are offences against public order in the Commonwealth, and are properly made, under this Bill, crimes against the community, in like manner as such offences are provided for in the laws of other countries. There is another provision of the Bill making it an offence to excite disaffection against the connexion of the King’s Dominions’ under the Crown. That is intended to deal with attempts to disrupt the Empire. I say that those who attempt to create disaffection against the Empire and the Imperial connexion of the Dominions under the Crown should properly come within the provisions of the law.
These are the terrible offences to which the honorable member. for Yarra refers. I point out that we are not creating entirely new offences. We are simply putting on the statute-book of the Commonwealth laws which are to be found in every civilized community, for its protection against overthrow by unlawful and seditious means.
– The honorable member is doing away with trial by jury.
– I have been referring to the statement of the honorable member for Yarra that under this Bill there would be no right to criticise. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) says that we are doing away with the right of trial by jury. That statement is not correct either. If the honorable member will look at the Bill he will find that the offences referred to are made indictable offences, and as such may be prosecuted on indictment. The Bill certainly does provide that they may be proceeded with on indictment as indictable offences or as summary offences; but no summary prosecution can take place without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral. That is the position, and so I say the right of trial by jury is not taken away, whilst the right of prosecuting summarily is provided for.
– That means that the AttorneyGeneral, if he consents to his being summarily dealt with, may prevent a man having the benefit of a trial by jury?
– All that it means is that if any one desires to prosecute a person who has committed any of these offences summarily, and not on indictment by the ordinary procedure, he must obtain the consent of the AttorneyGeneral before he can do so. Generally a man will be prosecuted on indictment for an indictable offence, and before any summary prosecution can be brought the person who desires to bring it must first obtain the consent off the AttorneyGeneral.
– Then the right to a jury will be gone.
– In such cases, yes; just as it . is in the cases of a hundred and one offences in respect of which persons are dealt with summarily. It is usually regarded as a privilege to give an individual charged with an offence the right to go before a police magistrate, and be dealt with summarily, with a smaller penalty, or a shorter term of imprisonment if he be found guilty, than would be imposed if he were proceeded against on indictment. I remind honorable members that a person charged with an offence is not under the existing law in all cases given the right to go before a jury.
– The’ man who punishes him determines the tribunal that is to try him.
– No, he does not.
– That is what the honorable gentleman did with me.
– I did nothing with the honorable member.
– You, and your gang of perjurers.
– I shall not criticise the honorable member’s position.
– Will the honorable gentleman give the House a precedent for the section which has been taken exception to? Can he quote a similar provision from any British Statute taking away the right of trial by jury for sedition?
– The honorable gentleman knows there are many offences that are punishable summarily.
– I am speaking of sedition.
– I can recall no reference at the moment, but I will see if I can find such a reference for the honorable gentleman. I say that what we are proposing by this Bill is to enable sedition to be tried as a summary offence, and, as regards cases so tried, we are reducing its seriousness from the point of view of the law.
The other matters dealt with in the Bill are nearly all such as are the subject of War Precautions Regulations. We are reallv doing under this Bill what we did under previous legislation in the shape of the Commercial Activities Bill. We are grouping together a certain number of matters which we must continue to deal with, because we are taking steps under this measure to repeal the existing provisions for dealina with them. We are carrying out absolutely the promise made to repeal the War Precautions Act. We are preserving certain regulations which we must continue, and which we cannot suddenly repeal:
– Under the War Precautions Act the Government have not the power to try a man without a jury for sedition.
– I would point out that, under the War Precautions Act, sedition is an offence which is punishable summarily, but, under this Bill, we are creating , a distinct offence of sedition for the purpose of making it indictable, and it may be dealt with summarily by the consent of the Attorney-General. In the circumstances, I have no hesitation in asking the House to reject the amendment, and to. allow the Bill to proceed.
.- The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has been at great pains to point out some respects in which this Bill, from his view-point, is unobjectionable. I shall not address myself at- very great length to the consideration of the motion for its second reading. There are some honorable members in this Chamber who were here when the War Precautions Act was passed during the progress of the war, and there are others who were not members of the House at that period. Those who were here, however, will remember the apologetic terms in which the then Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), who is now the Prime Minister, submitted that measure for our consideration, and accompanied it with a most solemn assurance that, so far as its most objectionable features were concerned,. it would be employed only for special war emergencies, and then only through the instrumentality of representatives of labour. In the light of past history, and in the light especially of the fact that the war has now been ended for two years, it is easy to appreciate the view of honorable members upon this side of the chamber, when they find a Bill submitted for their acceptance, which, notwithstanding what the Minister may say to the contrary, can be shown to reproduce many of the worst features of the War Precautions Act. I can well imagine the Prime Minister saying to his colleagues, “ We shall put the Labour party in the awkward position of having to vote against a Bill which is nominally designed to repeal the War Precautions Act. They have so long advocated the repeal of that measure that they can scarcely refuse to sanction anything which purports to effect that object.” But we are not captivated by mere titles. We look to the contents of the Bill ; we judge by its contents, and not by its title. When we find that its title is inconsistent, with its substance, we have no hesitation in rejecting it, and in accepting the amendment which has just been submitted. The truth is that we now have before us not a measure which is designed in good faith to repeal the War Precautions Act, but a bunch of highly controversial and unconnected Bills. In the dying hours of the session, we are invited to pass this measure, and thus to place upon the statute-book most of the objectionable features which we are anxious to get rid of. I congratulate the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) in that he has found with regret’ that some embarrassing restrictions are still to be imposed upon his business friends. But he is greatly, if not completely, consoled, by the fact that the Bill seeks to enact many of those principles of which he is so sterling an advocate, particularly upon the platforms outside of this House, when he is in the congenial company in which he sometimes finds himself.
The Minister has pointed out that there is one feature of the Bill which is distinctly new. According to his hesitant admission, this new feature relates to the fact that any person coming to Australia may be required to sign an oath of allegiance in the form which, is set out in the schedule to the measure. The honorable member for Kooyong, with tears in his voice, asked us to say what injustice will be imposed upon any person by reason of the fact that, upon entering the Commonwealth, he is required to declare his loyalty to King and country? He pointed out - what had already been pointed out by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), and others, viz., that as the Bill is at present drafted, it will apply alike to all aliens and British subjects. If that be so, it is very curious that we should have wasted our time in discussing the question of naturalization. May I ask the Minister whether it is really intended that no alien shall enter the Commonwealth, and remain here either for a limited or lengthened period, unless he first subscribes to the oath in question? Surely that is not intended. But I do not think that inadvertence on the part of the Government is entirely responsible for the particular provision to which I refer appearing in its present form. They know that this declaration of allegiance will not be exacted generally, or even in a large number of cases, but that it will be exacted only in those special cases in which, for political purposes, the Government feel that, by exacting it, they can placate or satisfy their own supporters.
– They will trap the poor unfortunate Irishmen who seek to enter the Commonwealth.
– They may. It has been suggested that men may come here for the deliberate purpose of undermining and of ultimately overthrowing the Empire. It has been said that they may come to Australia with disloyalty in their hearts and treasonable conspiracy in their minds, and we have been asked, ‘* How is Australia to be safeguarded?” The bulwark which the Government propose to erect against a menace of this character is that these people shall subscribe to an oath. Then we may go to our beds and sleep in perfect safety.. But the taking, of this oath is intended to be not a safeguard, but an irritant.
– An irritant?
-It would be an irritant to my honorable friend if he were on. board a vessel, and an officer in uniform came to him and said, You must subscribe to this oath of allegiance.” In such circumstances the honorable member might say, “ You have not asked the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), or the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), or the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to sign it. Why do you. ask me?” To that the officer would doubtless reply, “Because I am empowered, as an officer, to make you subscribe to it; and because I am authorized to discriminate against you and in favour of others.” If it is hoped that the taking of this oath of allegiance will be a real safeguard, or if it is intended to be anything but a useless irritant, why is it not to be applied to all? Why allow an officer to make a discrimination? Why not make sure that every person coming to the Commonwealth, in addition to being armed with a passport with his photograph upon it, shall sign this oath of allegiance?
The Minister has pointed out in what respect the Bill seeks to re-enact useful legislation, which is already upon the statute-book. He has reminded us that if we search the State archives we shall find that the State Parliaments have upon their ‘ statute-books laws providing that meetings shall not be held within a certain radius of their parliamentary buildings - that they have thought it wise, if I may use the words of the ‘honorable member for Dam-pier (Mr. Gregory), to prevent the Legislature being overawed” by meetings held in their immediate neighbourhood. Evidently we are a very tender body of persons. We are very susceptible to the influences of the rabble outside. But have we not numerous guardians at our parliamentary doors, have we not a reliable police force here, and have we not also the support of a grateful public opinion, whichrecognises our services to the community? Are not these sufficient in themselves, without our having to pass special legislation in order that the holy of holies “ may not be approached, much less violated, by the common people outside? I know that there have been measures of this kind enacted. They were placed upon the statute-book many years ago. They were forgotten. They were useless. They were a concession to the prejudice- in favour of following old and worthless traditions. And now in 1920, as a concession to their political friends, and a further irritant to their political opponents, the ‘Government, merely ‘because they do not wish a few thousands of people outside to protest against what is being done here, seek to reinstate, during the dying hours of the session, certain miserable provisions which are designed to prevent persons from holding meetings within a measurable distance of Parliament House.So long as there are not more than twenty persons present at those meetings, they are lawful assemblages. But if a man should happen to find himself at a meeting at which there are twenty-one persons present, he will at once become liable to a fine of £100 or six months’ imprisonment. Upon the other hand, if when heads are counted, as they are in this chamber when the division bells ring, it is found’ that there are only nineteen, persons present, he will have committed no offence against the law. We count the heads, and if there are only nineteen, no offence has been committed against the law; but if there are twenty-one a penalty of six months’ imprisonment or a fine of £100 will be imposed. Such is the accurate measure by which moral delinquency is estimated by this exacting Government. We must not meet, at all events, outside the sacred precincts for an unlawful purpose. What is one of the unlawful purposes expressed in this Bill? I am not permitted by the Standing Orders to read the whole of the clause, but I may indicate what some of: them are. The clause includes persons who 1 ‘ make known their grievances or discuss public affairs or matters of public interest.” That is an unlawful purpose within the meaning of this Bill. To “ prepare or present any petition, memorial,, complaint,, remonstrance, declaration,, or other address to His Majesty, or the Governor-General,” is also an unlawful purpose. Thus we have called unto our aid in this matter a class, of persons whose duty it will be to fill those lamented vacancies arising from the alleged retirement of the Commonwealth Police. We have provided in this Bill that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you should be occupying the position at the time, or the President of the Senate, shall direct ah officer to arrest these men, who, being more than twenty in number, have met for the purpose of discussing public affairs within half-a-mile radius of Parliament House. It will be within the powers of Mr. Speaker or Mr. President to order one ofthe officers of the House - I hope it will not be the SerjeantatArms, because he sits near me, and I cannot spare him - to rush out of the chamber and leave us here totally unprotected, while he goes to a meeting to arrest one of these men summarily without a Commonwealth warrant, and order him to be placed in a State gaol for merely discussing public affairs.
– What would happen if twenty were present when a meeting commenced, and only nineteen when it terminated?
– That is one of the technical difficulties which this Government are quite capable of meeting.
Now I come to the phase of this Bill which the Minister referred to with bated breath, and that is the grave crime of sedition. The Minister said, “Are we not to protect ourselves against those who would uproot the foundation of the Constitution and constitutional government ?” “Are we not to have a law which we can invoke in the Federal arena as the States do - including Queensland - and as every other civilized community does?” Are we to be worse than they? The Minister then turned to the recognised text-book, and coolly informed us that what this miserable Bill pretends to do has been the common law for 100 years. Of course it is usual, when they adopt an unusual course, to point out that they are merely following the wise lead of Queensland. It is true, as the Minister knew, that the Queensland Government merely codified what was recognised as the common law on the subject - neither more nor less. But there are one or two important distinctions to which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) directed attention this afternoon. The most important part in this Bill is the grave infraction of the fundamental right of trial by jury. There are some other points of distinction which will be noticed on carefully perusing the measure which show that there is a cunning and insidious attempt on the part of the Government to prevent even its members from being castigated by public discussion and public condemnation. The desire is not to regard the foundation of the Constitution or the edifice of the Constitution, but to protect those temporary tenants, as represented by the Government, from the rush and clash of public criticism and public condemnation. I would rather go outof public life - indeed I would not value my citizenship in this country - if I had to live under conditions which prevented me from calling public attention to the misdeeds of this Government.
There is another curious feature, and one which is not to be found in the common . law. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) made feeling reference to what he called the poor Irishman.
– He is a foreigner now.
– I do not know that he is. He is putting up a great fight in his own country against the invader in spite of the propaganda of public men, and in that he has my whole-hearted support. He has done that in spite of this or any other Act which this or any other Government may place upon the statutebook. I am now referring to the clause where it provides that it is an offence to excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of any of the King’s Dominions.
– What does that mean ?
– It means, by way of example, that if the conditions of terrorization now prevailing in Ireland, and the inexcusable invasion of that country by the British Army, continue, and if after long suffering protests against those conditions the people of Ireland - who have extended in the past to the centre of the Empire the warm hand of fellowship to join them in their condemnation of being spurned and rejected in their advances - have only one alternative as independent public men, and that is to declare a Republic, if they are able to sustain it. But any citizens of the Empire, including Australians, who excuse, applaud, or attempt to condone their action become liable to imprisonment for six months, or a penalty of £100, under this Bill, which is likely to become an Act. We must not create disaffection against the Governiment, but it is very doubtful if I have not been breaking this law while we are now discussing it. My object has been to cast ridicule upon this Government. They deserve it. My object has been to hold them up to public ridicule. That is, after all, the strongest weapon which we have in our armoury. Argument is lost upon them, and appeals are useless. Ridicule is the only thing which makes them feel their position. When the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) rose in this House the other day, he gave an example of what is calculated to bring the Government into ridicule and contempt, by deliberately stating that he himself, as Acting Prime Minister, had manipulated the returned soldiers of this country, and used the public moneys for the purpose of faking a so-called public welcome to the Prime Minister when he was returning from abroad. What could more bring any Government into contempt? What could more bring into contempt any country which, will return a Government of this kind to power and keep them there ? Yet, because a public man rises in his place to scorch with biting words of condemnation these selfconfessed triflers with public duty, he is likely to be charged under the Bill which they are now asking this House to accept. All I hope is that prosecutions will proceed in a way that is fair ; that the proper persons and the worst cases will be prosecuted, and that it will not be in the future, a3 it has been in the past, a policy of might against right.
Then follows in this Bill a patronising schedule of the things we may say with perfect safety in this House of Representatives. We may, for instance, point out in good faith errors or defects of the Government or the Constitution of the United Kingdom, or of the Commonwealth as by law established, or in legislation, or in the administration of justice, with a view to the reformation of such errors or defects. This means, I suppose, that we must not attribute bad faith to any member or members of this Government. I have always outside claimed the right to point out where there was bad faith, to state the circumstances on which my case against them was based, and to expose them for public condemnation. Am I invited by this Bill to say that this Government, or any Government, or any member of it, is incapable of acting in bad faith? Am I invited to say that I admit myself prevented from suggesting any ulterior motive in any member of the Government or those who support them? I do not readily submit to a condition of that kind. I hold myself free to examine their motives - the mainsprings of their actions. I hold myself free, if the evidence is against them, to hold them guilty. I not only hold myself free to do these things, but I hold myself bound to do them by virtue of my position in this House, including the oath which I acknowledge to have taken at the table.
Enough has been said on the abrogation of trial by jury. Perhaps enough has been said so far as I am concerned on the second reading of the Bill generally. Suffice it to sum up by saying that everything that the Bill -proposes to cure is perpetuated, accentuated, and aggravated by the Bill. The Bill is an offence against itself. It does those very things which it sets up the machinery to punish. It creates that ill-will, and draws out and produces that disaffection against which it is directed, or does its best to do so, and in that aspect, as I have said, it is an offence against itself.
There is a common belief in the minds of some people that the oath of allegiance which we take in this Chamber as a condition of our membership imposes upon us an absolute bar against our suggesting some other, if we think it to be better, form df government. That is absolutely repugnant, in my opinion, to what is involved in an oath of allegiance. An oath of allegiance does involve this : That one may not secretly or furtively, or even openly, undertake by force of arms, or by any other kind of force or treachery, to overthrow an established form of government and established institutions. But I suggest that it certainly does not mean that an honorable member may not fearlessly in this House., or out of it, advocate, by peaceful means, and argue, by peaceful and regular means, in order to win over the people to any form of government which suggests itself to him as being better or more proper. The contrary of that proposition would be to stultify ourselves as a deliberative assembly, and the effect would be the same upon the people outside. No such limitation is imposed upon them by law, and I suggest that no such limitation should be imposed upon them. When we come to the consideration of the clauses of the Bill, I hope to point out a little further where some of them- at least are objectionable. In the meantime, I am content to 6ay that, as I stood from the very beginning of the war against the introduction of the War Precautions Act, as I declined to accept even the assurance of my own Attorney-General at that time, in a Labour Government, that the Bill would not be an instrument of oppression in this country, and as I have been more than justified by history and experience, I have no hesitation to-day, as then, but rather do it the more readily, in voting against the reinstatement of some of the most objectionable phases of legislation” of which we had hoped, at- long last, to get rid.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Parker. Moloney) adjourned..
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide -for the construction of a railway in the Northern ‘ Territory from the Katherine River to Mataranka.
– You do not propose to go on with, that Bill before we adjourn over Christmas 1
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.- I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public WorksCommittee Act 1913-1914, the following works proposals be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz. : - Albion - Automatic Telephone Exchange Building and Equipment; Newmarket - Automatic Telephone Exchange Building and Equipment.
I lay on the table the plans and specifications for these works. The proposals are as follow: -
Albion because of its close relation thereto,
The reasons for the proposals are: -
Albion and Newmarket Exchanges, These areas are at present served byAlbion Exchange. Owing to the location of the present telephone exchange in Albion, a considerable amount of wasteful expenditure is necessary on line plant, which will be avoided if a telephone exchange be erected on the new site. Theexisting building is a woQden structure, and the fire risk is unduly high. The accommodation for the equipment and staff is quite unsuitable. The present telephone switchboard is of the magnetononmultiple type, and is quite out of date for . a multi-exchange network like Brisbane and the- suburban exchanges. The establishment of a satellite exchange at Newmarket will enable a more economical line plant to be provided for the subscribers in that area, and better transmission will be given also.
The estimated immediate cost of the works is : -
The cost of the Albion site was £328,’ but as a post-office will be built on the site only half the costhas been charged upto the automatic exchange proposal.
The revenue derived and the revenue it is estimated will be obtained on the date of transfer, and with five years’ development is shown hereunder: -
It is proposed that the buildings for the Albion and .Newmarket exchanges shall be of simple design, and built on the latest fire-resisting principles.
Albion. The immediate installation in the exchange is for an equipment of 2,300 lines, but the building will be designed sufficiently large to accommodate an equipment of a capacity of approximately 4,500 lines.
Newmarket. The immediate installation in the exchange is for an equipment of 500 lines, but the building will be designed sufficiently large to accommodate an equipment of a capacity of approximately 1,000 lines.
Albion Exchange, including Newmarket Exchange. -
Regarding item 9 in the foregoing statement, the difference between subitems (a) and (&), viz., £14,385, is an amount which will have to be written off in the departmental accounts as representing the proportion of the capital outlay on the original assets which is irrecoverable, and is made up as follows : -
As the Albion Exchange and substation equipment and the Newmarket equipment (which are of the magneto non-multiple type) are practically obsolete, it will be necessary very shortly, whether an automatic system is established or not, to write off the amount representing these items, viz., £11,790. The amounts shown for line plant are for cable which will be thrown spare as a result of the more economical principle of erecting new exchanges at or near the theoretical telephonic centre of the areas which they are intended to serve.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, having in view existing and probable future building requirements for the Commonwealth Government in Brisbane, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works be requested to inquire into, and report generally upon, the lands, if any, which it may be advisable to acquire for that purpose; more particularly the advisableness or otherwise of acquiring certain land in Adelaide-street, Brisbane, and co-operating with the Queensland Government in a scheme for creating an Anzac memorial square.
The Commonwealth is paying about £6,000 per annum, equal to a capital value of, say, £120,000, for’ rented offices for various Federal Departments. This is for present requirements, and already more accommodation is required’, and, judged by experience in other cities, will be likely to be demanded year by year as Federal activities increase. The rented accommodation is, generally speaking, unsatisfactory, involves in some cases considerable fire risk, and the Commonwealth is put to .much expense in providing fittings and conveniences.
The question of the Federal Government purchasing some site, and building thereon, has to be considered sooner or later, as present arrangements are neither convenient nor economical, and do not tend to good administration.
The particular reason for bringing forward the matter is’ that, in connexion with the advisability of providing proper office accommodation for Federal Departments in Brisbane, a proposition was made that such offices should be located within the block bounded by Adelaide,
Ann, Edward, and Greek streets, opposite the central railway station. Part of this block, 130 feet (a drill hall site), is Commonwealth property, and the frontage to Creek-street is Presbyterian Church land, the rest of the block being State ;property.
It was suggested that the Commonwealth Government should in this matter collaborate with the State Government to give effect to a scheme by which the whole block would become a Governmentoffice one, and provide for the Commonwealth donating 40 feet, and the State 160 feet, to create an Anzac memorial square of 200 feet wide, which would give both Commonwealth and State another frontage to their properties, and much enhance the value of same, beautifying the city. The scheme, which has been recommended, by committees of officers, embraces the purchase by the Commonwealth Government of the Presbyterian Church land for about £20,000.
It may upon inquiry be found desirable to remove the General Post Office to this site, and dispose of present premises. If so, it would be well to know it before dealing with scheme now projected for remodelling the General Post Office.
The extreme urgency of the matter is that the State Government cannot wait any longer, but requires to build upon their land, and unless the Commonwealth can give an assurance forthwith in regard to donating their share of the land, the scheme will fall to the ground, and the resulting advantages to the Commonwealth be lost.
The Public Works Committee has shortly to visit Brisbane to investigate other works. It has in its printed reports expressed the view that it should be consulted in regard to acquisition of lands as sites for’ public buildings, and will almost inevitably have some time to report as to this question of proper housing for Federal activities in Brisbane. The present would seem a convenient and opportune time.
It would certainly help the Government in dealing with this proposition if the Committee took evidence and reported in regard to what as represented as a unique opportunity of providing exceptional accommodation for the housing of Federal Departments in Brisbane. The scheme for building would be undertaken gradually, and, as it is contingent upon the fixing of site, has not been worked out as to the cost and other details.
Honorable members will, of course, realize that the action of referring the matter to the Public Works Committee will not commit the Government to purchasing any property before this House again has an opportunity of dealing with the matter.
– I am entirely in favour of the reference of this matter to the Public Works Committee, and I would vote for the proposal with all the more pleasure if it included a. similar inquiry concerning all the capital cities of the States. The Commonwealth is pursuing an uneconomical policy in renting offices, scattered all over the capital cities, instead of concentrating its offices in buildings of its own in one block in each city, which need not be as central as some honorable members seem to think essential.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.’]
– I hope the Government will follow this up by making similar references with regard to all the other capital cities.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
War Precautions Act Repeal Bill - Basic Wage Commission’s Report - Compulsory Military Training : Prosecutions in the Newcastle District: Supply or Uniforms and Boots.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to state that we are adjourning rather early this evening in pursuance of an agreement which has been arrived at between the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Mcwilliams), and myself that the consideration of the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill shall be concluded to-morrow evening. It must be dealt with within a reasonably early hour, otherwise it will be of little use to send it up to another place.
– When do we renew the discussion on the report of the Basic Wage Commission?
– As soon as we have dealt with, that Sill and one ot two formal matters which should not occupy our . attention for many minutes, we shall renew the debate on the Basic Wage Commission’s report. I hope honorable members will assist us . to conclude the consideration of the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill to-morrow evening, so that we may send it up to the Senate at * reasonably early hour.
.- I desire briefly to draw attention to one or two matters relating to compulsory military training. For some reason best knownto the officer concerned, prosecutions for breaches of the compulsory training provisions of the Defence Act have been so numerous in my district as to cause a couple of the largest collieries there to lose much valuable time. So many clipper boys had to appear at Court recently that there were not sufficient hands available to work the pits, and these two mines shut down for the day. If it is necessary to summon these boys the responsible officer should so exercise his discretion as to avoid throwing out of employment hundreds of men, more especially at a time when the people are crying out for coal. It is stated in a local newspaper that -
Owing to the large number of clipper boys whohad to appear at Court on charges arising out of breaches of the Compulsory Training Act, there were not sufficient handsavail- able to work the pit, with the result that two of the largest collieries remained idle for the day. In this way the output was probably reduced by 4,000 or 5,000 tons. This is a serious matter, to which the Minister for Defence (SenatorPearce) should give some attention.
In connexion with these prosecutions I have received a letter from the father of one of the boys, who some time ago drew my attention to the fact that trainees were not being supplied with uniforms and boots. _ I brought his complaint under the notice of the Minister, and- was told by him that, with the object of practising economy, they had not been making issues, but hoped to-be able in ihe near future to supply the boys with -boots. This man is the father of a family, and’ probably is not able to’ clothe them as well as he Would like to do. His boy, while attending drill, was ordered to take off his coat. He said that for good reasons known to himself he would not do so, and for this disobedience of an order he was summoned. He was not wearing a uniform; and I do not think that such an order is reasonable. If we are to go on with compulsory military training we should supply the trainees with uniforms and boots, and, where prosecutions are initiated, care should be taken not to bring the lads before the Court under circumstances that will interfere with the general work of the community.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10,35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201123_reps_8_94/>.